What’s your Upper of Choice? – By Helen May


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A few years before I had diabetes, I went on a walking holiday around the South East coast of Crete. The weather was great. The scenery was beautiful. The food was amazing. The walking was perfect. The company was American. I have nothing against our friends from across The Pond and I always try not to generalise on national characteristics. They were a good cross-section: from as far North as Washington state to as far South as Georgia; they were aged from their twenties to sixties. About all you could say they had in common was they liked walking.

However, I did notice one difference between this group of ramblers and others I have met. They all liked frequent discussion about illness and medication. This characteristic surprised me. Maybe it had nothing to do with our nationalities but just about our upbringing. I grew up in a household where, if we had a family motto, it would “Don’t make a fuss”. And my family have always been pretty fit: my parents who, now, are both in their seventies, include the gym and horse-riding as regular hobbies and take no medication.

Whatever the reason, I was surprised to listen to their drug comparisons for migraines and sciatica and… My experience has always been to take the drugs I am prescribed and ask for something stronger/different only if they don’t work or if you experience a nasty side-effect. Perhaps the US health-insurance system encourages more ownership of the problem and the prescription.

Until I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had nothing to compare medical notes with. Since being diagnosed, I still keep to the family motto and get on with it: the insulins I am on keep my sugar levels well controlled and I have no side-effects that I can attribute to them.

That is until I started blogging. I have had compared pens with pumps and gained a great insight thanks to readers of the Diabetes UK blogs. So, I thought it was time to find out about options for another component of my diabetes kit.

When I was diagnosed, the diabetes nurse told to keep dextrose with me to treat hypos. Once I found the blackcurrant ones (there is something about fake orange flavour I find difficult to stomach), they have worked for me: their size is easy to carry in my pocket or small bag and I can choose how many to take knowing, approximately, the affect one tablet has on my blood sugar. Unfortunately, my hypos come in waves: I can go for weeks with nothing and then my blood sugars bounce between 2.5 and 5.5 for a few days. Over these times, I have become bored with dextrose and I have been known to dabble in dried apricots but I always come back to my trusty dextrose. And at night, these are supplemented by a muesli bar to maintain my levels.

But I realised recently many people blog about Lucozade to treat their hypos. Olly wrote about his son’s school office looking after a supply, Jen wrote about searching for her bottle in the bottom of her bag and quite a few people suggested Lucozade to top up my blood sugars before going to bed. I can understand that a drink can be easier to swallow than tablets and not as filling. But is that true when it’s fizzy like Lucozade? Or do you mean the non-fizzy Lucozade Sport? And is the benefit of liquid worth the hassle of carrying around a bottle?

Is it time to change my “Upper of choice”? Are there other sweet delights out there to right my insulin wrongs?

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There is nothing better than some chocolate to treat the hypos or 5 (could be a different amount for you) Jelly Babies/Haribos… I can’t stomach any Dextrose, I hate them, so I figured a treat that will up my sugars in my time of need, will satisfy every craving!