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I notice that whenever I go on vacation, as mindful as I try to be with my food choices, I still can’t seem to have a normal day and keep my blood sugars in range. These rollercoaster days really put a damper on my time away. Why do they happen? For quite a few reasons, some of which could have been avoided, and others that are mysterious.
You already know all the obvious reasons for our blood sugar spiking, such as a high-carb meal, skipping medication, or not taking enough insulin. But there are so many factors that affect blood sugar, some of which come into play on vacation more than you might expect.
Here are some surprising reasons for erratic blood sugars and what you can do about it.
Did you know hotels and restaurants add pancake batter to their scrambled eggs?
I’ll never forget my first diabetes trip, Bolus & Barbells, where a bunch of like-minded folks living with type 1 diabetes got together for a weekend of learning, lifting, and a lot of laughs! It was surreal to see so many people wearing devices, taking shots, and hearing Dexcom alarms that didn’t belong to me. One thing we all noticed: despite our efforts to eat a low-carb breakfast, our blood sugars kept on rising. After speaking to the hotel manager, we learned it is commonplace to add pancake batter to scrambled eggs. Apparently, it helps with the structure, consistency, and taste.
Opt for freshly cooked eggs if it’s an option, and rest assured they are not adding any secret carbohydrates.
If the bacon is extra sweet, it’s doused in sugar!
Bacon is a delicious, low-carb, and high-protein food that shouldn’t raise your blood sugars. However, when bacon is cured with salt it needs to be offset with some sugar, which also helps add some flavor. Some restaurants and hotels use sugar more liberally than others. If your bacon tastes extra sweet and succulent, this is probably why! Not sure about your bacon? Make sure to ask.
Climate can affect blood sugars, transform accordingly!
Extreme temperatures in either direction can play a major role in how your blood sugar behaves. Ben Tzeel, a registered dietician and founder of Your Diabetes Insider, explains: “In cold weather, some people experience a drop in insulin sensitivity, so their numbers may run higher. Many also experience a greater number of lows when they’re active in the cold since their bodies have to work harder to keep them warm and provide fuel for activity.”
Hot weather can have the same unpredictable effect: blood sugar can spike, especially if you’re dehydrated, but it can also plummet if the heat increases your speed of insulin absorption.
Whether you’re skiing in the French Alps or lying on a beach in Tahiti, you should be aware of the possible fluctuations and adjust your medication and/or insulin accordingly.
Hydration is key
It’s hard enough to remember to drink enough water when we are home and in our routines, let alone when we are away and distracted. On vacation, you may be walking more, sitting in the sun, and also enjoy a few more alcoholic beverages than usual, all of which can lead to further dehydration. When we are dehydrated, the sugar in our blood becomes more concentrated and can cause high blood sugars. Dr. Mike Natter, MD, recommends “stay well hydrated and consider basal and insulin-to-carb ratio adjustments in conjunction with your doctor.”
Try and remember to stay hydrated – it can assist you keep away from elevated numbers, and you’ll feel better too!
Stick to your schedule
Vacation means a break from the routines you depend on to make healthful decisions. For me, my last trip had me up at 4:00 am, which is three hours before I usually take my long-lasting insulin. Oops! I completely forgot my morning dose, and it was another five hours before I realized it. Had I set a reminder, I would have avoided a steady blood sugar climb, and the annoying troubleshooting I had to do during the plane ride. Also, be mindful of time zone changes and try to take all medication and insulin at the same time as usual.
Vacation is supposed to be a time to relax and leave your worries behind. Unfortunately, we never get a break from managing our diabetes. But if you remain vigilant you can avoid some of the blood sugar spikes and drops, allowing you to be present and enjoy the moment!