Navigating Wellness Trends with Type 1 Diabetes

11/9/17
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Swanberg, M.S., LAc
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Paleo. Bulletproof. Soulcycle. Infrared Sauna. Crossfit. Meditation. Turmeric. Ketogenic. Breathwork. Floating pools. Kombucha. Salt Caves. Moondust. Hemp Oil. Cryotherapy. Adaptogens. These are just some of the popular wellness “buzzwords,” and if your head isn’t already spinning, try adding in Type 1 diabetes, and it surely will.

As an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist and wellness guide, I am so excited by the growing interest in wellness, prevention, and the commitment that so many people are making to take their health into their own hands — but as a T1D for almost 30 years, I also know how overwhelming all this “health” talk can feel when also considering safety.

Here are some tricks I use to navigate this world:

Don’t believe the hype

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Cultivating a truly “well” body takes time and effort, much like tending to a garden. Quick fixes rarely work, so be cautious of Internet hype, especially when a product is being sold (this should always raise a red flag) or when there’s vague mention of a “study.” Just because a study exists doesn’t make it good. For studies to hold any weight, they need to be well-designed, peer-reviewed, and published in a reputable journal.

Pay attention to how YOU feel

This one sounds so simple, but it’s a huge missing piece for a lot of people. Your BFF might LOVE hot yoga, but if you feel woozy and nauseous after it, it might not be right for you. If you start a new diet, track how you feel, how your digestion and sleep change, and how your mood changes. Most importantly, track your BGs! This might be easier if you’re on a glucose sensor, but even then it’s worth keeping a journal for a few days after adding something into your routine.

For example, I used to think it was a fluke that my blood sugar would drop a bit after an acupuncture session, but I started tracking it and realized it wasn’t a fluke at all. Some workouts cause instant lows, while others can cause lows overnight or even major spikes afterwards. There are some guidelines available out there, but everyone is different, so tracking your own personal reactions to different types of exercise can be really helpful in preventing spikes or lows in the future.

Talk to your endo

Before starting ANYTHING new, discuss it with your healthcare provider. Okay, it may not be necessary if we’re talking about meditation, but your endo can help you figure out strategies for new workout plans or diets. They may also have insight that you hadn’t thought of that will help keep you safe.

Beware of Type Wrong

Make sure your healthcare practitioners or coaches are well versed in Type 1. This one probably goes without saying, but DON’T take diabetes advice from someone who isn’t well versed in Type 1. This is a very different disease than Type 2, so things that are helpful in managing Type 2 might not work for us, and can even be harmful.

Proceed with caution

As T1Ds, we are at a higher risk for certain complications than our insulin-producing friends, and although we can live lives that are just as full, happy, and healthy, it’s worthwhile to always be aware of this. I tend to avoid nutrition trends that could add to my risk factors. I love butter, but will be cautious until it’s clear how much saturated fat is healthy, since I know that I am at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease thanks to T1D and family history. Juices might be really trendy, but they can be REALLY high in sugar and cause a really quick spike without the fiber that is a really important part of whole fruits and veggies.

Find a healthy diabuddy 

Yup, we have a lot more to think about than our “pancreatically lucky” friends, but with a little extra planning we can have just as much fun and feel just as great! Positivity goes a long way, so when I meet another active, happy, and healthy T1D, I befriend them! We can all inspire each other, lift each other up when things get tough, and learn from each other. I am so grateful to Beyond Type 1 for creating a way for us all to connect!



Sarah Swanberg, M.S., LAc

Sarah Swanberg is a Licensed Acupuncturist and board-certified Chinese Herbologist who has lived and thrived with T1D for 28 years. She lives in Stamford, CT, with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not busy managing her acupuncture practice and her T1D, Sarah loves to travel, cook, hike, and hang out with her family and friends. Visit her website to learn more about Chinese medicine: www.fairfieldfamilyacu.com.