My name is Daria and I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes for over 15 years, since I was a kid of just 5 years-old. I’d like to share with you how I keep fit with T1D (and yes, that is me in the photo above, in case you were wondering!). So, living with an autoimmune disease is no joke. You have no choice other than to take care of yourself and manage your condition 24/7, with no chance for a break from it all. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition where your body attacks the pancreatic beta cells and stops producing the hormone, insulin. This hormone allows our body to access energy, and without it, our blood gets very acidic from too many ketones, and the body poisons itself. Sounds drastic right? Read my story in Diabetes: My Fitness Journey as a Type 1 Diabetic!
How Do You Get Type 1 Diabetes and What are its Symptoms?
Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a genetic condition that does not as yet have a known cause. It is not caused by eating too much sugar or an unhealthy lifestyle. It is important to distinguish between Type 2 (lifestyle-induced) and Type 1 (genetic). In Type 2, cells stop accepting insulin, but in Type 1 the insulin stops being produced.
Common symptoms of diabetes include, but are not limited to: thirst, excessive urination, severe stomach pains, unintended weight loss, and fatigue.
How Does Type 1 Diabetes Affect Your Fitness and Lifestyle?
Since I’ve been living with Type 1 Diabetes for over 15 years, (since I was a kid of 5 years-old), I do not really know a life without it. Every day I think carefully about what I eat, how stressed I am, how much I am going to move, what kind of physical activity I will do and how much sleep I’ve had. It all impacts how much insulin I will need to inject.
All the small things a non-diabetic would not normally pay attention to (or simply take for granted) are extremely important for good blood glucose control. For me, paying attention to my body’s signals is essential to keep well and safe.
The Role of Fitness and Exercise
Fitness and exercise play a huge role in Type 1 care as it makes you more sensitive to insulin. When you need less insulin, you will be less prone to hypoglycaemia and have better weight management.
Successful exercise management is almost an art form for a T1D. Cardiovascular activity drops our blood sugars, HIIT or weight training are likely to raise it, due to stress hormone production.
Different exercises require different management interventions. Besides during the actual session itself, your blood glucose will also be affected for 6-28 hours post-workout, which also requires appropriate insulin dose adjustments.
Exercise is not ‘hard’ per se with Type 1, but it comes with certain experience of knowing how your body works and reacts best to various kinds of training.
The Role of Diet and Effective Blood Glucose Management
Diet of course also plays a major part in blood glucose management.
Although a T1D can eat anything they want, (as long as they know how to correctly manage their medication) it is much easier to achieve great glucose control consuming a diet full of fibre, protein and whole carbohydrates. The slower the release of glucose into the body, the easier the control.
If you’re a non-diabetic, you can also learn a lot about how your body works from a T1D, as most people do not even realise how much their body does for them on a daily basis, until something goes wrong!