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Burning Through Blood Sugar in Bangkok

Bangkok is hot as hell. Ok, it may be hotter than that, especially if the underworld is more of a dry heat. We were ready for the heat. What we weren’t ready for is the effect it would have on my blood sugar.

The goal all along was to run my numbers high. Normal blood sugar is between 80-120. I wanted my numbers somewhere between 110-160. That way, I would have a buffer of blood sugar in case it starts dropping. Simple plan, right? All I have to do is eat more sugar!!

Turns out, at least for me, this plan was nearly impossible in Bangkok because of the incredible heat. My body burned through blood sugar incredibly fast as I walked around the streets sweating profusely. Westerners are simply not accustomed to this heat, and it’s a kind of exercise as your body tries to stay cool. And exercise uses up blood sugar.

blood-sugar-food

The spiciest meal I have ever eaten.

I would eat a regular meal, take what I calculated was the required amount of insulin, then my blood sugar would come back in the 60s or 70s after 2 hours. I lowered my basal insulin three times now (from 17 units when we started our trip 2 weeks ago to 14 units now), and I’ve adjusted my bolus a couple of times, generally down. Unless, I’m eating something with loads of sugar, I don’t take more than 2 units of insulin per meal. I know I’ll burn through whatever blood sugar I haven’t accounted for just walking around. (I take my bolus at a 17 carbs:1 unit ratio.)

My point here is nothing new, especially for veteran diabetics: always be careful when completely changing your environment and be ready to adjust your insulin levels very quickly if you have to. If you’re going somewhere that’s dramatically hotter than where you are now (and it was below freezing when I left the States), be prepared to drop your insulin immediately.

We still carry around glucose tabs, gummy Lifesavers, and a 15g glucose gel pack in case my blood sugar plummets. Better safe then passed out on the floor!

BLOOD SUGAR TEST STRIPS IN BANGKOK

On our first day in Bangkok, we walked around looking for extra OneTouch test strips. They’re not that hard to find, and they cost about half of what they do in the States if you’re paying out of pocket. We could buy 100 for about $60. We snagged an extra 50 just to have them. We haven’t looked for them anywhere else, but they’re easy enough to find in Bangkok pharmacies.

THE FIRST TRAVELING WITH DIABETES TWITTER CHAT REMINDER

Just a reminder that I will be participating in a Twitter chat on traveling with diabetes with the American Diabetes Association. On May 8 at 1 p.m. EDT, their staff attorney, Katharine Gordon, will be on Twitter answering questions on travel rights and tips for diabetics. I’ll contribute in any way I can, but she is certainly the expert! We will definitely keep you updated as we get closer to the date.

BY THE NUMBERS

Diabetes Update:
2-week average: 99
1-month average: N/A (switched glucose meter before the trip – doesn’t have 30 days of readings)
Weekly high: 197
Weeky low: 65

See you on the road!

-O.L.

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