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How I Licked Diabetes, Part 2

The other day I was informed that a close family friend was going to undergo dialysis. He had not been feeling well lately. His last checkup was about five years ago. So when he went for a blood test the results revealed stage 4 kidney disease. At this writing, he is looking for a kidney donor.

News like this, although I receive it more often lately, always makes me sad--doubly so this time because it involves a close family friend.

When I went home to Naga last year I had the wonderful opportunity to meet several of my former HS classmates. One person I will never forget is Gus Victoria. We did not have enough time, however, to spend exchanging memories when we met up for breakfast because of his appointment for dialysis at the Provincial Hospital. When we said goodbye, little did I know that that was the last time we’d see each other. He passed away about three months later.

I have always admired Gus. At a time when almost all of us relied on our parents for our allowances and school tuition, Gus sold newspapers and cigarettes to earn his way through school. And yet he never showed any bitterness. On the contrary, he always wore a ready smile for everybody, an aura that remained in him till the last time we parted ways that morning.

I am sure many of us know of relatives, friends, or acquaintances who have been diagnosed with kidney disease leading to dialysis because of diabetes. I am sure we have also known some who lost their lives fighting this disease. I myself know a couple of close relatives who died in their 20’s as a result of complications from this disease.

When I wrote the article “How I Licked Diabetes” (BM January 10, 2019) the feedback from readers was very encouraging. I received requests for a “part two,” so here, I guess, is this present article’s reason for being. Again, I am not a medical doctor, and all of this is based on my personal experience only. For good measure, however, I made sure that my primary care doctor knew what I was doing.

Basically what happened to me was I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago. My A1C reached up to 8 at one time and my glucose tests were mostly at 250. Because I was not diligent in taking my medications and, worse, not careful with my diet, both lapses led me to complications that landed me in the hospital for triple bypass surgery.

By the grace of God, I survived the surgery. Everything went well for a while, until one day I started to feel weak again. This time I found out after my blood tests that something was wrong with my creatinine count. My primary doctor told me to stop taking metformin and sent me to a nephrologist (kidney doctor). It did not take long for both doctors to find out that the creatinine scare was caused by my diabetes medication – metformin. My creatinine level normalized immediately after I stopped taking metformin.

I went back to my primary doctor and told him I wanted to go on a special diet for diabetes instead of taking another medication to replace metformin. He agreed on the condition that he would monitor me, but only for a short period of time.

I had to make a choice. Change my lifestyle or succumb to the complications of diabetes. It was not that hard but not too easy either. A little discipline was needed. I avoided sugar, salt and fats. I love eating bread and I happily found out that rye bread, sourdough, multi-grain and pumpernickel had little effect on my sugar.

Meat and fish did not spike my sugar. Some types of brown rice were acceptable. What I did at first was to check my blood sugar after eating some types of food to see which ones affected me. Not everyone is the same. One type of food may be good for one diabetic but not good for another. I did these tests conscientiously for about 3 months. The discipline gave me an idea which foods were good (for me) and which ones were not. Believe me there are plenty of great tasting foods that you can cook and eat that do not make your sugar spike out of control. One advantage we have over our ancestors is that you can always check the internet for other foods good for diabetics.

Yesterday I had ginisang mongo with ampalaya, fried fish (fried in coconut oil) and brown rice for dinner. There are types of brown rice that taste like jasmine or wagwag if you don’t like the taste of regular brown rice.

Breakfast was egg white tortilla with mushrooms, some leftover sardines and I fried leftover brown rice (fried with garlic in olive oil). I took this with hot chocolate. For a snack I had multi-grain bread with avocado, spinach leaves and a small slice of cheese.

Lunch was chicken barbecue, brown rice and ginotaang gulay na natong. I ate purple yam (ube) for merienda.

When eating out, try going to a Mediterranean restaurant. Mediterranean diet is best for diabetics. After eating I always take a few minutes stroll. It helps lower my sugar by a few points.

In general there are simple things I always do to keep diabetes away: walk or exercise at least 25 minutes a day 5 times a week; avoid sugar and drink lots of water; and most especially--my unsolicited advice--pray to our Lord for strength to be able to fight off your diabetes.

It’s been more than 3 years now, and my A1C has been successfully lower than when I was taking medications for diabetes. Today, my A1C ranges from 6.0 to 6.4 with no medications. Most people with diabetes who are taking medications do not even get this low.

It takes patience and there will be days that you may backslide on your food intake. When this happens and you lack motivation, just think of the consequences and eventual complications of diabetes, and you will be back on the right track in no time.

Saint Augustine once said, “Si ille, cur non ego?” which, translated freely, means, if others of my circumstances, exposed to the same troubles, could do it, why could I not do the same? In a word, if I could do it, there is no reason why you could not.

I hope this helps.

Exodus 23:25 “You shall serve the Lord your God and He will bless your bread and water, and I will take sickness away from among you.”

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