Friday, October 24, 2014

Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetes: Is Sugar Better?

Ever since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, about 12 years ago with my first child, I've attempted to watch my sugar intake. I switched to Diet Coke ('cause Lord knows I can't live without some kind of soda, or at least I wouldn't want to), cut a lot of sweets (candy, etc.) out of my diet, and so on. But is any of that helping? Or is it only making matters worse?

When I was a child, my mother (who was practically addicted to Diet Coke) told me that studies came out when she was a teenager regarding the potential cancer-causing effects of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners of the time. She was endeavoring to cut down on her usage of aspartame, even years later, thanks to these studies.

Although she made it clear to me that she understood this research was based on lab rats having been pumped with more aspartame in a few days than any normal human being could consume in a decade, she felt that her artificial sweetener habit was probably pushing the boundaries of what could be considered safe. She not only drank about a six-pack of Diet Coke every day, she also had 2+ cups of coffee with 4+ pink packets of artificial sweetener per day. She never ate much sugar, and rarely had breakfast other than the coffee.

A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. And about a year ago, she was told she's now allergic to caffeine. She has also had to have her gallbladder removed, and is on a very strict diet that I'm positive I would never have the discipline to stick to myself.

A few months ago, my former mother in law (who is a Dr.) started telling me about how horrible artificial sweeteners were for the body, and made a point of saying the aspartame in particular could lead to diabetes, or make it worse. These statements from her, combined with the above events trapped in my memory, have prompted me to do a little research into the subject.

Upon a Google search for "aspartame and diabetes" I have found a number of articles on both sides of the argument. There are those who are claiming that aspartame is plenty safe and certainly better for diabetics, some who point to the latest research and claim that artificial sweeteners are positively detrimental for the body (especially in regards to diabetics), and plenty who fall somewhere in between with their take on it.

The premise behind homeopathy says, "like cures like." If caffeine keeps a sleepy person awake, for instance, it will calm someone who is already wired. Based on that ideology, I may lean more toward the idea that sugar is better and safer for those suffering with, or at risk for, diabetes than an artificial sweetener would be. This article I found on The Guardian points to a recent scientific study regarding the issue, and indicates that current studies suggest these sweeteners may actually be quite bad for the person worried about diabetes.

As for my own opinion? I'm leaning more toward the side that says artificial sweeteners are bad for you, and worse for diabetics. But I'm also drinking a Diet Coke right now, as I write this, so I obviously haven't officially crossed over to that mindset.

What do you think about the subject?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Accepting a Diabetic Fate

My first experience with diabetes actually happened while I was pregnant with my first child. Just a few months from my expected delivery date, they wanted to take a sugar tolerance test. Turns out my sugar tolerance sucked!

They told me that Gestational Diabetes Melitus (GDM) would go away after I delivered the baby, but there were a slew of possible complications as the result of having it. She could be too large to fit through the birth canal and require an emergency c-section, I could wind up being unable to control it with diet and have to give myself shots of insulin (I don't think I could do that - I told my husband he would have to sneak up behind me with the needle, get me while I was unprepared, and run before I could swing), she could wind up with diabetes or low bloodsugar herself as the result of my condition, she could even be stillborn.

A little advice to medical people - don't say these things to an emotional pregnant woman until there's some kind of evidence that any of them may be of immediate concern. I know you want us to be well-informed, usually I would appreciate that, but I was just coming to terms with the test results I had been given minutes before... give me a little time before you send my overly-hormonal butt into panic mode.

Another little complication of this condition is that it would raise my risk of getting type II diabetes within 5 years from the delivery, although it would certainly "go away" as soon as I did deliver. That was over 12 years ago now, and I have been pregnant 4 more times since, having GDM each and every time. Frankly I didn't see the point in even testing me with that super sugar syrup from Hades the last couple times. I just looked at the Dr. and said, "can we just assume I have GDM and move on with the daily sugar testing thing."

If I was more likely to get type II diabetes after having GDM one time, I can only imagine what my risk factor is after 5 times. I try to limit my sugar, but the childish part of my brain likes to argue that I haven't got much time left before sugar may be completely off the menu for good. "Get it while you can," is what I imagine its argument is.

Considering that my mother was diagnosed with type II diabetes only a couple of years ago (she's the first on that side of the family), and both type II and type I run on my father's side of the family, perhaps I should learn to become slightly more comfortable with the idea of sticking a needle in my own butt on a daily basis... just in case.

When was your first experience with diabetes in some fashion? What was it like for you to find out that this disease may be part of your own, or a loved one's, fate? Does diabetes run on either side of your family? How long have you been living with it?