Finally… Type 1 Diabetes, Exercise & High Blood Sugars – Beginning To Understand Why… !

OK; so here’s the thing that has been bugging me for *quite some time* – whenever I exercise, my blood sugars go up….

This has been *completely* baffling me: as everything I read around exercise and diabetes, is generally about how great it is, how it improves insulin sensitivity, and generally it’s groove-tastic-ness

Which overall makes sense… so, every so often I try to “get into” exercise – I’ve tried long distance running, very short sprints, some of the more intense styles of yoga, spin classes, body pump, hill walking… *all* of which lead to a significant rise in my blood sugars. I’ve tried “sticking at it” – in the hope my body just needs to get used to it – all to no avail – my blood sugars still rise high post whatever latest stint I’m trying.

As you can probably imagine; this is not terribly motivating…

What I COULD NOT fathom though; was why…

I mean, if my blood sugar reading was relatively low pre workout; I would understand that my liver was chucking out glycogen (essentially glucose) to stop me dropping too low… but most of the time I would be starting at a 6 or 7 – i.e. not that low… but after exercise I’m a 9 or 10… not cool.

What I also didn’t get; was why I could go on a relatively brisk, but not too intense walk, for at least an hour, most days, and that would give me lower readings post walk… but three or four, 30 second sprints would give me at least a two point hike in blood sugar readings? So even two minutes intense exercise would cause a rise?!

This, in combination with the fact that I wasn’t starting low, was totally confusing me… and gradually through more reading, I came to learn that it seemed it was my lack of insulin that was to blame: though this still made no sense – why would my insulin production matter when it’s a rise in blood glucose, at a time when I should be burning out the glucose from my system, that is the end result…?

This has literally been puzzling me for the last twelve months – hence why I keep re-trying – what did Einstein say, again…

… anyway, fast forward to today; and through the wonders of my Facebook page, plus some very clever friends, I’m *finally* getting my head around what’s going on…!

Basically, here’s my very layman’s terms explanation: gentle exercise is fine, as it causes a gradual usage of the glucose in my system, without causing any need for my body to panic… but… when I do any type of “hard” exercise (well, not just me; anyone – diabetic or no), it causes the body to release stress hormones, and those stress hormones demand more glycogen (glucose), as the stress hormones cause the body to think it’s in a “fight or flight” situation.

Essentially what that means is it thinks its going to need extra energy to battle, or run… sooo, the liver then produces (again, in everyone – not just diabetics) and chucks out extra glycogen; which converts to glucose, ready to be used as extra energy for the impending “emergency” – but – the liver isn’t very good at judging how much glycogen to release, and often over compensates…

This is the bit where the amount of insulin I’m producing matters: in non-diabetics, or t2 diabetics, or t1 diabetics on insulin injections, then the body will release (or you’ve injected) extra insulin to mop up the extra glycogen (glucose) the liver has thrown out… as an aside, this also explains the reason that low blood sugars are common post exercise: because sometimes the body has chucked out too much insulin to mop up the glycogen, or you’ve injected too much insulin… either way, there’s been too much insulin circulated so blood sugars are then forced to be low. Or, ideally, there’s been just enough insulin released / injected – and blood sugars are normalised.

The problem with me is I’m not t2 (who produce insulin; but need more of it), nor am I non-diabetic (who produce normal amounts of insulin to correct / normalise the glycogen the liver has chucked out – albeit possible they may ‘over correct’ and then feel low) – nor am I a t1 who can use insulin injections to normalise the higher blood sugars from the liver dump of glycogen… I am t1 who doesn’t produce enough insulin, and also doesn’t have a way to cover that: so I don’t have enough insulin to cover/mop up the liver dump of glycogen/glucose when I induce a “fight or flight” stress response in my body through any form of above average exercise: hence why my blood sugars then become, and stay high…. phew!

Still with me, SP’s?!

I hope so; as this now *finally* makes some sort of sense to me – which is a step in the right direction – though I’m still none the wiser really on how to get the liver dump of glycogen back out my system unless I a) use insulin or b) don’t exercise “hard”…

Sooo, that’s where I am with that – still a work in progress…. and I still have to experiment – I’m going to try a few things to try to stop my liver dumping glycogen in the first place – but now I understand it’s a hormonal stress response which causes the liver release – and the importance of the insulin need to correct that; rather than the probability / necessity / ability to stop the liver dump, I’m not sure what to expect… still, it’s worth a try…

Any thoughts SP’s? Any of you experience the same – and if so, how did you overcome it…? Would LOVE to hear from you :-)

As ever, with sweet love…
Nadia xo


6 thoughts on “Finally… Type 1 Diabetes, Exercise & High Blood Sugars – Beginning To Understand Why… !

  1. Hey Nadia, nice article. It sounds like you are getting a good grasp of how it works. One thing – the liver does not dump glycogen into the blood, it breaks down stored glycogen and releases glucose into the blood. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose that the liver and muscle both have. Only the liver is capable of exporting glucose from glycogen breakdown.

    You say that you are a type 1 but you don’t take insulin? It sounds like you don’t use insulin to regulate blood sugar – is that true?

    • Hey Cyrus;

      Thanks so much for the clarification on the glycogen / glucose / liver relationship… I am still getting my head around it all so every bit of the jigsaw helps :-)

      To answer your question – yes; that’s absolutely where I am: I was diagnosed diabetic in Feb last year – then they ran some extra tests and discovered my GAD antibodies were off the charts and insulin production was on the floor… so yes, I am a type 1. Through choice I haven’t used insulin: though they were keen to get me on it straight away – I figured as I was fortunate enough to have caught it before my pancreas had completely conked out, that I wanted to try a few things on my body first and see how it responds… so the last year has been continuous research and self experimentation: it’s not easy to keep my blood sugars balanced; but my last A1c was 6.1 – not bad all things considered.

      I am now (just this last fortnight) very fortunate to be under the care of a Professor who specialises in t1; and he was the first person who was actually interested and supported my choices – rather than just dismissing me as foolish and extreme – so that was nice :-)

      … so you can see why I’m keen to crack this exercise thing – and maybe can see why I keep getting stuck with the lack of insulin making me “high”…

      – would absolutely love to hear any other thoughts or suggestions you might now have to add; now you’re fully in the loop: and either way – thanks so much for the tips so far :-)

  2. Hi Nadia:) It’s good to see you analyzing and trying to make sense of things. The thing is, medical science only confuses us with their opinions that they label “facts”. They do not cure diabetes so it may help to throw away their rationale for a while as you analyze.(e.g: What would happen if the words insulin, glucose and glycogen did not exist?) Food for thought.

    I love the fact that you do not take the insulin. You are too young and beautiful to allow yourself to waste away like that. I hope to see more people I know refuse the insulin. I wrote a diabetes post not long ago and meant to alert you. Hopefully you noticed it. xo!

  3. Pingback: A confession of sorts… A change… A new journey… | My Sweet Life

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