Diabetes is one of those diseases that is all consuming and travelling while managing your diabetes can seem overwhelming. It requires management 24/7, whether you’re type 1 or type 2. Taking care of ourselves is a never ending job and we sometimes fall victim to not wanting to venture out of our normal routine because we know that any little thing can upset the apple cart and cause problems that may take days to recover from.
I understand this mindset. I am a type 1 diabetic, but I’m determined to not let that stop me from experiencing amazing and wonderful things around the world through travelling. There are several things I’ve learned through my travels that help me stay healthy and feeling great throughout my trip.
Dealing with a time change. For insulin dependent diabetics, we also have the challenge of resetting our insulin needs be that through a pump or shots. I have an Omnipod pump with varying basal settings depending on the time of day. I leave my settings exactly the same until bedtime my first night in the new location. I then reset my pump to the new time. This allows my pump settings to be similar to my body clock settings and will help avoid a low blood sugar.
Decreased insulin for increased activity. Traveling usually means you’re moving more than normal. Any activity reduces the need for insulin, even pulling your suitcase through the airport. This is one I often forget in the rush of getting to the airport, checking in, going through security, etc. I also tend to walk a lot while I’m traveling. It’s my favorite way to explore a new city and get a feel for the heartbeat of the culture. On a day in Paris, I walked over 10 miles and didn’t require any insulin all day. Not even for meals.
Test often. If you’ve changed time zones and have a different activity level than normal, you’re blood sugar readings are going to fluctuate. Test at least every two hours until you feel you’ve settled into a new rhythm in your new destination. Testing often allows you to deal with a high or a low before it becomes a critical situation.
Carry rescue sugar. I have no idea if ‘rescue sugar’ is a generally accepted term or not but at some point, that’s what we started calling it in our family. My kids knew they couldn’t eat the skittles out of mom’s purse because that was the ‘rescue sugar’. Keep something with a high sugar content with you at all times for any unexpected lows. Skittles, jelly beans, Mike & Ike’s, or even the glucose packets (blech) work well.
Experience new foods. One of the things I love about my travels is because I’m walking so much more (usually all day), I can eat things I would never eat at home, pizza and pasta in Italy or pastries in France. However, I am cautious when researching a destination to make sure that healthy foods are readily available. Most countries outside of America use local ingredients and real foods, making it easy to stay healthy while travelling.
I don’t have a medical background but I’m happy to share my experiences of managing my diabetes while I explore the world. Just leave a comment with your questions!