Dawn Phenomenon; My Liver Is Too Lively!

Don’t ask me why, but whenever I type “dawn phenomenon” – my brain automatically switches to this song by The Muppets…?! It’s the word phenomenon I think that does it… ;-)

Which is kinda ironic, as if only the dawn phenomenon was as cheery!

Ah, yes, sweet peeps – I have recently been experiencing that joy that will future forth (in this post at least) be referred to as the DP.

As I have mentioned previously, my blood sugars have been rising of late – and so it was back to the researching board for me – as I was trying to figure out why I was waking with high fasting blood sugars; was it lack of background insulin* that was the culprit, or the lovely DP?

(*Very, very simply put, our bodies release two types of insulin, background and fast acting. 24/7 our bodies are continuously dosing us up with small amount of insulin to keep our blood sugars stable – which is referred to as background insulin. The fast acting type is the one that kicks in when you eat. A diabetic can have functioning fast acting, but no background, and vice versa.)

Well, to cut a long story short, through a series of self experimentation, I’m pretty sure it’s DP that’s the culprit – the most conclusive test I used was this:  lets say I had my dinner at 6pm, and went to bed at 10pm with a blood sugar reading of 6… then at this point the fasting insulin has also gone to sleep, as it woke up and did it’s job at 6pm when I had dinner… so if it was (lack of) background insulin at play, in the middle of the night we would expect it to be higher, and then at fasting – i.e. breakfast – higher again. Make sense?

Joyfully, the only way to know which one my body was doing was to set an alarm and test myself at around 3am… but thankfully, my blood sugars were coming in at a lower 3am reading, than the reading I got into bed with – which strongly implies it’s DP that’s pushing them up in the morning, not that my levels are just rising and rising throughout the night because my background insulin is conking out.

I say thankfully, as DP, whilst isn’t fantastic, is better than losing more of my insulin production.

So what is DP? Well the liver sorta steps in as a blood sugar releasing knight in shining armour if your blood sugar drops too low… and it does this especially enthusiastically at times when you’ve not eaten for a while – i.e. when you’re sleeping.

In all of us, the liver will release a little glycogen in the early hours to help you feel all up and at ’em when you wake… but sometimes it gets confused, and thinks your blood sugar is too low when it really isn’t – and as it’s a bit random in the amount of glycogen it “guesstimates” you might need, it can be prone to chucking out way more than you need: resulting in high blood sugars.
This can happen at anyone – diabetic or not – at any time of the day (and is one of the reasons it’s a *terrible* idea to skip breakfast) but most commonly happens at dawn, as its to help you after your period of fasting – hence the “dawn phenomenon”.

So, having done the 3am test a few times, I’m pretty sure DP’s what’s been happening to me the past few weeks – it’s like I’ve been going to bed all low carb and sugar free, then whilst I’m *sleeping* my liver has been sneaking out to party at the 24hr supermarkets and sitting in the aisles with a very large tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one hand and a bag of pick n’ mix in the other… and washing the whole lot down with full sugar coke.

… and it’s über annoying to wake with a high blood sugar when you weren’t invited to the midnight feast…

What’s doubly annoying is that once you’re in the pattern of waking up with a high blood sugar, it’s pretty tricky to get back in check that day. Y’can’t not eat as that just causes the liver to panic even more and chuck out even more glycogen; and anything you do eat – no matter how low carb – will put you up a point or two afterwards, at least.

So if you’re starting at, say 8, you’re going to be 10 after breakfast… then maybe you’ll do some exercise and drop a couple of points back down to 8 for lunch, but you’re going to go back to 10 after lunch… and so that fun cycle continues…

So I’ve been having a little chat with my liver, and here’s the agreement we’ve come up with this far to keep it from wandering off in the night to places it shouldn’t:

  • Berberine; I started taking this just over a week ago, and I’m pretty sure it’s starting to help.
  • Well, it’s either that or the red wine I had with dinner. Red wine is a bit bonkers as you’d think that it might be one of the worse things for a health warrior to drink – but in this case, it’s wondrous for high blood sugars. Basically if you have a glass with dinner your liver is so preoccupied with clearing it out that it forgets to chuck out all the unnecessary glycogen at dawn.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar is well know to help blood sugars, so I’ve been having generous amounts with dinner.
  • Green tea is also known to be beneficial to blood sugars, so I’ve been virtually bathing in the stuff this past week!
  • Some people swear by a small snack just before bed too; though I haven’t tried this…

Anyway, the result is thus: these were my fasting reading’s last week – when I was starting to *really* worry…
photo 1-3photo 2-3photo 3-2

And this was it the morning after some red wine at dinner the night before:
photo 4-2

And then yesterdays and this morning’s…
photo 5photo-5

Which is far from ideal (a non diabetic would be below 5.9; most of my friends I’ve tested are 4.5ish fasting), but it also isn’t terrible for a type 1 diabetic, and which I think we can safely agree is a darn site better than the 10.8 that is was a week before hand. *thank goodness*

In case you’re in America and wondering what these figures are, there’s a useful blood sugar converter here.

The better readings are a culmination, *I think*, of resetting it a little with the red wine – as that then let me start the day off from a good starting point, meaning I would only rise and fall a couple of points or so from there… 
(btw I am not suggesting we all need to start drinking loads of red wine – but I *had* to do something!)
… and also the other bits n’ bobs starting to kick in that I mentioned in the bullet pointed list above.

And so, sweet peeps – that’s my self diagnosis of the DP… and my surrounding theories of how to deal with it, thus far… as ever, if you have any tips or tricks to share, I’d *love* to hear from you – and in the meantime, here’s hoping my liver stops playing around like a naughty member of the Muppet family…! ;-)

Much love xo

PS – like this? I read stuff *all the time*, but can’t write posts on all I find cos there just aren’t enough hour in the day to do both! So I regularly post snippets of info and articles I’ve found useful on my Facebook page – come join me so you don’t miss them!

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