Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bitter Black Leaf Tea--Chinese Herbal Medicine

Here is the latest update on my "2012 Year of Teas" quest to find out what's good for diabetes in other parts of the world.  When I went to China this summer, I had to ask "What's a good tea for diabetes?" I asked this question at a few different locations, but overwhelmingly the response was "Bitter Black Leaf Tea." Even when someone didn't mention it, I'd bring up the name and they would say, "Oh yeah that one is better."

I'm finding a trend with teas that are good for diabetes...Bitter is better! When it comes to diabetes herbal teas this one is by far the most bitter one that I've drank yet. I wonder if that means it gets down to the cellular level of the pancreas faster or more efficiently?

The first tea I blogged about was the Bitter Melon tea.  I had it in its dry form--making it just right for tea, but when it is fresh you can cook it, stir-fried it, or boiled it. I wouldn't advise eating it raw, I tasted it raw and OMG!! it was almost as bitter as aloe). I gave the tea a score of 4 out of 5 for the bitter taste.

However, now after taking the Bitter Black Leaf tea, I am going to have to change it (Bitter Melon 3/5 for bitterness and Bitter Black Leaf tea 5/5). I cannot think of ANYTHING more bitter than this tea. After drinking the Bitter Black Leaf tea, I realized that I didn't know what the taste of bitterness was until now.

In my last post, there was a picture of me drinking the other tea. This tea, however, caused my face to contour into facial expressions I didn't know that I had (this was also the case with my mom and grandma who agreed to try the tea with me, even though they are not diabetic).  After having a cup of Bitter Black Leaf tea, I went back and drank the bitter melon tea for old times sake and it practically tasted like Kool-Aid.  LOL  It wasn't that sweet, but I realized that it wasn't as bitter as I thought compared to this tea.

I have two bags of the tea. I purchased 500g for about $15.00 USD

 This is before I put the tea in the water.

 The tea is brewing in the hot water.

When the tea was done, it unraveled (which I thought was very neat). So, while I thought the tea was just a dried piece of stick, it was actually a real bitter black leaf. In the picture above, you can see how the leave unfolded as it was brewing.

Overall Opinion:

Taste: EXTREMELY bitter.  This leaf has earned its name. 5 out of 5 for bitterness factor

Cool Factor: This tea gets a 5 out of 5 for cool factor. This is a rating I'm creating just for this tea because of how neat it is to watch the leaf unfold while it's brewing.  This is the number one reason why I'll taste the tea again.

Health Claim: Because I was in China and the translations were not always the best, I am not exactly sure HOW this tea helps diabetics and what part of the body it targets.  I'll keep trying to find an answer. So, for now there is no score.

Ability to Purchase: I have to give this tea a score of 1 out of 5 because I have not seen this tea in America.  You can get Bitter Melon tea online, but I'll have to check with the nearest Chinatown to see how accessible this tea is for us in America. I'm glad that I have about a 3 year supply of it. I was told that I could use each leaf three times.

My quest continues...
up next, a tea (or root) that I bought in the Caribbean.  I haven't gotten the courage to try it yet because it takes "organic" to a whole different place.  But I will try it in the coming months. I looked at it 2 weeks ago and it's growing out the bag.  See picture below.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about a thing growing without water for several months, but I'll try it anyone in due time.   :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August DSMA Blog Carnival

This month, DSMA asks... 

"Your pancreas is in a job interview and totally bombed the question about ______."

My pancreas would do fairly well in an interview, until a certain question is asked.  It would have no problem working on weekends, in the evening, and would even be willing to be on call 24 hours a day, if needed.  It would give up vacation to work. It would not complain too much. My pancreas would be what any employer would want, until it is asked...

 "Do you work well under stress?" 

The answer to this question would go something like this...

"Stress? (insert neck roll here) Umm, actually I don't work well under pressure.  If you want to see me cut down my production to practically zero, then you put me under stress." 

(By this time, my pancreas would probably know that it didn't have the job, so it would elaborate).  

"The last time I was under a lot of stress was most of 2010 when Doc P was finishing her dissertation. This woman put me under so much stress that by February 2011, I gave up.  If only she could have heard the things I said like, 'Chile Please, you want insulin? Get it yourself, I'm out!' 

"Sure, it took her a while to realize that I had taken myself on a much needed vacation, but when my vacation caused her to have one of her own in the hospital for six days, she understood then.  

"But I love that woman.  We're mending our relationship now that she acknowledges my presence and appreciates all that I do for her.  I learned not to work myself to the bone like I did before, so I won't be putting in as much as I use to.  She's helping compensate for that by not giving me all those carbs to process at once and she even enjoys burning a little glucose for me by going to the gym a few times a week.

"No, stress and I don't get along, ya see. If I have to handle stress to get this job, then you can keep it." 

This post is my August entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2012/august-dsma-blog-carnival-2/

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Life of a Med-free Diabetic (7 facts, parts 1)

I can't remember where I read about a man who was a diabetic and living without medication, but I do remember when I read about it.  It was shortly after I was diagnosed and left hospital. Discovering the information gave me a glimmer of hope (especially after someone replied to my blog "there is no cure for diabetes").

I started searching for more information about diabetics living a med-free life.  I even posted in a diabetes chat once..."Hey, can anyone tell me about life as a med-free diabetic?" Sadly, I got one reply from a very kind lady, "I don't think med-free diabetics tell their stories like the rest of us."  With that answer, I didn't know where to turn, but I figured that I would find out once I became a med-free diabetic.

I remember in one online group, there was a guy who decided that he would quit his meds cold turkey and update us daily.  He had read something about the horrible effects of medication and how it's a prison, blah, blah, blah. It made as much sense as anything else to me at the time, so I cheered him on while others called him a fool. I figured if he could make it, then maybe I could too. He survived about 4 days before his glucose skyrocketed. Unfortunately, he did binge on regular coke and every unhealthy food choice he could find. His failure taught me something important...if I was going to try it, I better do it the right way.

With my goal set to become a med-free diabetic before the year ended, I was ready! Frankly, I wasn't quite sure if it was even possible for me to become a med-free diabetic (It is not always possible for Type 2s to live without medication), but I was certainly going to try.  I became strict about my carb intake, meal times, and my exercise routines. Then, it happened.  One by one my medications started being reduced then eliminated and in December 2011, ten months after being diagnosed, I was given the green light to stop all medication. I first stopped taking the short lasting insulin, then the long-lasting. I was put on Metformin and Byetta after being taken off insulin. Then I said goodbye to Byetta and lastly the Metformin. The determining factor in getting the green light to stop all meds was having three consecutive A1C scores that were less than 5.6.

So, I write this blog for the people who were like me--curious about life in the med-free category.

Here are 7 factors that I experience as a med-free diabetic.

1. My Mind is Less Consumed with Diabetes. I honestly didn't think this would be possible when I was first diagnosed. Although people kept telling me that it would be, I didn't see a way out of ALWAYS thinking about carbs, medication, needles, etc. The decrease consumption probably can be attributed to the fact that the longer you are diabetic, the less you panic about something going horribly wrong.  But, I also listed this first because perhaps this is the reason med-free diabetics aren't as active in Diabetes Online Communities. I am a part of  a group on Tudiabetes called "A1C Below 6.0 on Diet and Exercise ONLY" and the group is very quiet. When I had my first low as a med-free diabetic, I posted in the group for insight to no avail. I think the woman was right, med-free diabetics just aren't as talkative as people who take medication and have to think about diabetes more frequently. So, while I think about diabetes daily, it doesn't consume me hourly like it did when I was on medication (especially injections). I am less consumed, but still consumed.

2. I Still Have Lows. Having a low is my biggest fear as a diabetic. I thought that being med-free would eliminate lows altogether, but it doesn't. I don't get as low as I did while taking insulin, but I've had a couple lows around 68, 70, 72 since I quit my meds. I now that 70 and above is not low, but it's on the border and I experience the onset of certain symptoms (clammy hands, shakes, irritated) all the same.

3. I Still Count Carbs. Being off medication does not give me a license to eat like I use to eat before being a diabetic. I'm still a lean mean crab-counting machine. My thoughts are: what I did to get here is what I have to do to stay here.

4. I Don't Have Room to Cheat. We all have done it, right? We've had too many carbs when our numbers were in the right place. We have drank the orange juice that is in the back of the fridge saved for ONLY those times when we are experiencing low glucose. We have more than our portion of our favorite dessert. And what do we do when this happens...crank up the insulin. We counter our indulgence with the medications we're taking.  But, what happens when their is no medication??
This has perhaps been the most challenging part of being a med-free diabetic.  I have to keep being a lean mean crab-counting machine even when I don't feel like it. I guess I could go run a mile in 14 minutes and burn off the extra glucose...but that idea seems like torture. I'd find that I have to avoid the extra carbs altogether.

5. The Hole is My Wallet MUCH Smaller. Managing diabetes is expensive! Between the co-payments for doctor visits (I pay 70.00 for each visit), the strips, the needles, the pills, the pens, the medical alert bracelets, etc....I felt like my wallet had a hole it.  As quickly as a dollar was placed into my wallet, it went out. Now that I am no longer on meds, I can save a few bucks. And, I'm SO very thankful that the 200.00 a month I was spending on diabetic medication can go toward other things...like the credit card bills I used to purchase medication when I didn't have the funds.

6. The Pharmacist Doesn't Know My Name Anymore. Before becoming a diabetic, I couldn't name a pharmacist for a million dollars. However, diabetes changed all that. I found myself on a first name basis with my local pharmacists. This took some adjusting, but after a while it felt oddly good to be one of those people that is asked about my weekend and other things. I was what is called, "a regular." Now, I am not. I come in only to get strips and the relationship I once had with my local pharmacists is fading.

7. My Fingertips Don't Feel Like Sandpaper. As a diabetic on meds, I would often test my glucose 5 times a day. Five times, Five fingers on one hand, equals a hand a day. My fingertips were ROUGH. I actually hated shaking people's hands because of it too. I'm not a total germ-a-phobe, but as a former nursing student, I can't help but realize that each prick is a hole in my hand and that gives me a different exposure level to the things I touch. Now, I don't have to test so often, so my fingers get a chance to heal. There was a time when I thought that my fingers would always feel like a Brillo Pad.
Each day I wake, I consider my ability to manage diabetes with diet and exercise only a TREMENDOUSLY blessing. I understand that many diabetics will not experience a med-free life before a cure is found. Type 1s require insulin and many Type 2s cannot live without medication for various reasons.

I don't know how long I will be able to live like this. I have an older cousin who was med-free for 15 years; Bob (another type 2 blogger) shared with me that his brother was med-free for over 40 years; and a younger cousin of mine was med-free for 5 years.  My goal is to make it one year and then another and then another and perhaps I'll be med-free for the rest of my life. It might be possible. I'm hopeful. With each new story I hear about a med-free diabetic, I become inspired.

At times, however, I get anxious. Because I feel like I'm in a race to see just how long I can remain off medication. I've already been warned that diabetics have weaker immune systems which makes us more susceptible to catching the flu and the flu can cause require insulin injections. Most days I don't worry about that, I take it one meal at a time because in the end I understand that whether I am on or off meds, I'm still a blessed diabetic that is diagnosed, but NOT defeated!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I Subscribe to Diabetic Magazines and I'm Not Ashamed (anymore)

Yesterday, I retrieved my mail after having it on hold for summer vacation. Among the bills and junk mail were a variety of things about diabetes.  I have the latest issues of Diabetes Forecast, invitations for the upcoming diabetes walk, two bright red envelops with helpful information about managing diabetes from the American Diabetes Association, and I even have 10 free strips for my new iBGStar glucometer.

I smiled. I smiled for a couple of reasons. First, Elizabeth Profit's smile on the cover holding the tennis racket is infectious. Tennis is my favorite sport and I haven't played since being diagnosed--she gives me hope. Secondly, Ms. Taylor's level of advocacy and commitment to demanding fair treatment for her daughter is impressive. And, collectively, these two magazines provide me with three new images of black womanhood--a girl, a teenager, and a woman all at various stages of diabetes management.

I have often seen black women on the cover of magazines like Essence, Ebony, Jet, etc...but I feel connected to these women in a different way.  We each, in our own way, are advocates for diabetes health and that makes me smile.

Then I had a flash back to when I was newly diagnosed and I was in the "I'm not going to tell anyone" stage. I realized that I would have missed out on this moment to smile and feel connected to other diabetics (even though I may never meet these women in person). I would not have gotten the wonderful recipes sent by ADA or know about the upcoming Diabetes Walk. Why? Because I was too afraid that someone might see me reading a diabetic magazine and know that I am diabetic. I thought that someone, even if it was only the postal worker whom I rarely saw, would know that someone at my address is diabetic. I didn't want diabetic mail coming to my house or be seen reading diabetic magazines. I was simply too afraid.

Then the opportunity came. I was in the local grocery store and saw Diabetic Living. Since no one was behind me, I was able to grab a copy, turn it face down on the counter next to my groceries (so no one could see the title if they did walk behind me before the cashier rang it up), and exit with ease.  I read the magazine in the comfort of my own home and gained more than I expected.

 I read about an opportunity to have my picture in Diabetic Living magazine holding up my glucometer. I figured that I would be brave, like the other smiling faces holding their glucometers with pride, and take a picture with my glucometer. It was only suppose to be one brave moment captured and frozen in time (because I was still hiding in bathrooms if I was in public when it was time to give myself an injection of insulin), but it turned out to be one of the first major steps towards breaking the silence I swaddled myself in.  I was so overjoyed that I was actually in the magazine that I told EVERYONE I could. I even told a few strangers in the check-out line while waiting. And with telling people about the magazine, it meant that I had to expose myself. And if I could expose myself, then I could surely receive mail at my home.

And now, I sit with two months of mail on my coffee table thinking about all the wonderful information at my fingertips. I'm so glad that I moved beyond that phase because within these magazines, newsletter, pamphlets, and brochures is a treasure-trove of information. I doubt there are any strangers who care what magazines I'm reading and if they do, oh well, I am not ashamed (anymore).