Eating Healthy with Diabetes

Too many people have diabetes these days, don’t you think? For some Veterans, diabetes is the result of exposure to Agent Orange or other toxic substances. Whatever the reason, having diabetes can mean watching what you eat as well as how much.

The VA Health Care Center puts out some excellent fact sheets on a variety of topics, and one of those topics is about how to eat healthy when you have diabetes. Some of their suggestions include:

  • Eat three meals a day. Skipping meals and cause blood sugars to drop. Eat your meals at about the same time every day, about 4 to 5 hours apart.
  • Limit the sugar and sweets you eat. I know this one is hard for a lot of us, but it’s important to limit the sugar you eat. Try diet soda, water, Crystal Light or unsweetened tea instead of sweetened beverages. Use sugar substitutes instead of sugar.
  • Watch your carbohydrates. Carbs affect blood sugar levels. Eat 45 to 75 grams of carb per meal based on your weight goals. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include whole fruits, whole grain breads, cereal, and crackers, starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, potatoes, lentils, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Use reduced fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Eat whole grain pasta, rice, and beans. Unhealthy sources of carbs include desserts, candy, ice cream, doughnuts, cookies, or pies. Be aware that some “sugar-free” or “no sugar added” foods are still made with sugar alcohol and may raise your blood sugar.
  • Reduce the amount of fat foods you eat, such as fried foods, bacon, sausage, cold cuts, sour cream, cheese, egg yolks, stick margarine, butter, and whole milk.
  • Increase the amount of non-starch vegetables you eat. Examples are asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, yellow squash, cabbage, onions, zucchini, carrots, spinach, and lettuce.
  • Eat more fiber, at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

Having diabetes increases the risk of your developing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums caused by plaque and tartar build up. With diabetes, periodontal disease may be more severe and more difficult to cure.

The best way to cure periodontal disease is to not let it start in the first place. Preventive measures include brushing after every meal using an electric toothbrush, if possible. Include brushing your tongue as it also harbors bacteria. Floss your teeth every day. Visit your dentist on a regular basis; how often depends on how severe your periodontal disease is. Work to control your blood sugar as it helps your body fight infections, and take your diabetes medication as instructed.

Diabetes can leave you more susceptible to periodontal disease. You can best take care of yourself by not letting periodontal disease get started in the first place.

Winter Depression

Depression often comes during the holidays when our expectations are higher than our reality. Sometimes we can get through the holidays and find depression has settled in after they are over. I often have that problem. The holidays help me cope with winter, but when the holidays are over, I’m stuck facing the bad roads, and the cold, blustery weather. I hate winter mostly because I’m so afraid of falling. It is worst in January and February when I don’t have the lights and sounds of Christmas to distract me, and when spring still seems so far away.

If depression settles in to stay, you may well need professional help to pull out of it, but there are many things you can do to help yourself get through. First, don’t isolate yourself. Those of us with PTSD tend to want to isolate in the first place; we don’t like having to deal with a lot of people. But getting out and interacting with others can help get your focus off yourself.

Don’t expect to feel better immediately. Depression takes a while to get over. Don’t forget (as people often do), that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Those chemicals don’t just turn on again in a day. It takes a while for your body to heal, so give yourself some time.

Get moving. Now is the time to follow through on your New Year’s resolution to get more exercise! Exercise gets the good chemicals in your brain flowing.

Avoid drugs and alcohol – they are not the solution to your problems. Your body is dealing with enough negatives without your adding more.

Try to keep your stress levels down. I know this one can be difficult as none of us can stop the stressful events of life from happening, but we can limit our response so it is not an ongoing thing. Use those tools you have for reducing stress such as music, relaxation techniques, massage, or whatever it is that works for you.

Take care of the basics. Eat well, get enough sleep and be gentle with yourself. Depression can settle in during these cold, dreary months. Don’t let it win. Remember, spring is right around the corner!



Reducing Stress

As I work to clean up the debris following the fire in my kennel, I find that the very smell of smoke triggers memories that cause stress. Odd, isn’t it, how smells, sounds, and other input from our senses can take us right back to the very moment of trauma? Smell seems to be quite a trigger for me. Anything that smells remotely of smoke will trigger the stress response and my heart races, my respiration increases, and I feel sick to my stomach. No fun.

I recently went to the PTSD Coach On-Line to work on my reaction to smoke. Using one of their worksheets, I examined exactly what it is that is triggering my reactions, then assessed the validity of that response and looked at what else I could do in similar situations. It did make it easier to deal with.

There are many different tools out there for handling your PTSD, but you have to use them to find which ones will work for you. Not every tool you try will have the desired effect, but some of them will. Even if you done get the exact response you want, if it moves you at all, it may be worth keeping and spending some time working with it to see if you can fine tune it so it’s even more effective.

PTSD is a life-long disorder that will take special skills to overcome. You can win though, you have to remember that! Try different ways of responding until you find something that reduces your stress. Then work at refining it until it becomes a tool you can have on hand to use whenever it is needed.