My pancreas is an overachiever

Long time, no blog. Been busy. Work. Now-19-month-old. Accidentally started a business, as you do.

But none of that is what I want to talk about today. No, this is another health post, also known as “my body is a bit shit, really”.

So, my shoulder is coming along nicely. I’m mostly out of the sling, except for when I jar it (n.b. when stepping down from the bottom rung of a stepladder, make sure you are, actually, on the bottom rung), and I have a lot more movement back. I still can’t wear t-shirts, which, as I discovered just yesterday, is nothing at all to do with getting them on (“this is so easy! Why have I been avoiding it?) and everything to do with getting them off again (“… oh bugger”). Yeah. Can’t do that without stretching your arms over your head to some degree.

But, on the whole, it’s getting much better, and is having far less impact on my life now, which is great!

The rest of my body, however, is struggling. Starting karate was so great, for a multitude of reasons, but one of the less-great things about it (and exercise in general) is that my body can’t physically keep up with how much energy I burn. I’ve had issues with low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) since I was a teenager, and the only medical advice I got on it was “just don’t eat sugar”, advice which was noted and duly ignored.

If it was a once-in-awhile thing, it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s pretty much all the time. I need to eat really regularly, and if I don’t then I start to get low. Shaky hands, foggy brain, slurring words, losing my balance, lots of other fun things. I also get grouchy, which the good Captain can attest to. Poor guy.

I can mostly manage it by eating as regularly as I can manage, and as healthily as I can manage, and bolstering it artificially with sugar when I need to. I’m not saying this is a good thing to do, because it’s really not. If you have similar issues then DO NOT DO WHAT I DO! Seek medical advice that goes beyond “don’t eat sugar”.

But with more regular exercise, and particularly muscle-building exercise, it was getting out of control. I couldn’t sleep at night, because I was hungry and my body won’t let me sleep until I eat (this is possibly a defence mechanism to stop me from slipping into a coma overnight due to low blood sugar). Eating at 2am is not generally considered healthy, but not sleeping all night is also unhealthy, so I picked the lesser of two evils.

I was constantly losing focus at work as my blood sugar dropped between meals or even snacks, and the shared Milky Way bars in the back fridge were disappearing at an alarming rate as I desperately tried to keep myself going.

It just wasn’t working.

The last time I went to karate, I had run out of time to eat breakfast in the morning, and as a result, I didn’t even make it through half the class before I started to crash and had to stagger across the dojo to sit down. It sucked.

So, today, I saw a dietician. She is amazing, I’ve seen her before when I was pregnant, but with what turned out to be hyperemesis, she was really fighting a losing battle. But this time, I think we can win!

As it turns out, there are a couple of potential causes of hypoglycaemia, but in my case the most likely one is the overproduction of insulin. Basically, any time I eat, my pancreas gets a little excited and produces too much insulin, which makes my blood sugar drop lower than it was before I ate. As a result, I get low, and need to eat more to bring it up again… but pancreas, insulin, blood sugar falling… you can see how it can be a vicious cycle.

This is a problem, not just because of my blood sugar fluctuating and making me feel icky (plus the slight risk of coma, death etc), but because it means my pancreas is overworking, which can cause it to wear out sooner than the rest of me. That puts me at an increased risk of diabetes later on in life, which I’d much rather avoid, if possible.

On a slightly more superficial level, it also makes it difficult to lose weight, because my body doesn’t need all the calories I’m consuming, but I have to eat to keep from crashing.

It needs to be fixed.

After some discussion, the dietician and I (I’ll share her name once I have a chance to ask her permission to do so) agreed to focus on diet and lifestyle, and if we don’t see any results, then follow up with my super-awesome GP for *shudder* a fasting blood glucose and insulin test.

(I did the two-hour fasting BGL test when pregnant and thought I was going to have a seizure because I crashed and my body went out of control. I was spasming and nauseous and nearly collapsed altogether. By the time the two hours was up I was back to a normal level, but it was awful. I’d rather not do that again if I don’t need to.)

In the meantime, I am on a low-GI, low-GL, low-fat, protein rich, everything else good for you-rich diet that will hopefully keep my pancreas under control and retrain it to only release the insulin that’s needed. I am also contemplating praise and a sticker chart, to reinforce the message.

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