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T1 Diabetes

Cindy, age 49, Sacramento, California, USA, Type 1 Diabetes

Getting diagnosed

I was sick a lot as a kid and I was on antibiotics a ton as a result. I got pneumonia like every other year until I was thirteen, and I got strep throat at least twice every year (if not three or four times!). I almost died of influenza when I was three. I didn’t have a great immune system, even as a child, but the doctors never suggested an autoimmune issue.

When I was seventeen, there was this period of time when I was really tired a lot and fairly lethargic. My mum (who was a nurse at the time) noticed that I was really slow to heal from getting my wisdom teeth removed. Besides that, I was drinking a lot of water but seemed to have an unquenchable thirst. And then I also started losing some weight for unknown reasons.

So my mum picked up on all of this and was kind of concerned, so she talked to one of the doctors at work and asked them to order a lab test. I got to go into the lab without seeing a doctor first, and I had the blood work done. My fasting blood sugars were over 400 at the time, and normal 70-120. So they were kind of high! So at that point I was finally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I think it was that same day that I was sent over to an endocrinologist in town and out on an insulin shot regimens he had me give myself my first shot. I remember that appointment so well because he told me to act like I was throwing a dart at my leg.

I thought, “Well that’s not normal! I don’t typically want to throw darts at myself… but ok.”

Progressing

When I was a junior in college, I struggled a bit to keep my blood sugar down in the “ideal” range with just an insulin regimen. I ended up transferring home and taking some outpatient workshops to help me with healthy eating and managing my diabetes.

I was eventually put on an insulin pump and that helped a lot with my insulin levels, especially in the morning. The pump allows you to program changes to the insulin levels every hour if needed.

Food and Exercise with an Insulin Pump

I had managed with insulin shots for a long time, but when I was 31, I finally got my first insulin pump. It was the same year I got married. And then I had kids a few years after that.

The thing that is great about the pump is it gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility in terms of when you eat – and even how much you eat. Prior to going on the pump I could have never skipped a meal, not had a real big meal and then not eaten later. I do think it is healthier to have moderate sized meals throughout the day, but the pump has given me more freedom to skip or delay meals if I want.

Exercise prior to being on the pump? Well, even if my blood sugars were in a decent range, I would need to have a snack right before exercising to keep them from crashing during a workout.

On the insulin pump? Now if my blood sugars are in a certain range before I exercise, I can now turn my pump down or off and then go exercise.

Bikram Yoga with an Insulin Pump

So I started Bikram Yoga around 2008, because I had gotten a knee injury from running. I had done a few Bikram classes here and there before that, but my doctor told me I had to stop running. So that led me to go back to Bikram, because nothing else quite felt the same. Plus, because of my diabetes, I knew that the consistency would help me a lot.

I have also struggled with depression, and it has always gotten worse when I stop exercising. So I was wanting to prevent that from happening.

When I committed to doing Bikram, the biggest thing for me regarding my diabetes was how I was going to deal with my insulin. With a pump it is definitely easier because you can turn the pump down (or off) during exercise and then go back to monitoring it without having high spikes or lows. So that was a benefit to having a pump.

However, extreme temperatures can make insulin go bad. So at the time when I was consistently practicing Bikram Yoga (four to five times a week), I knew practicing that often could make my insulin go bad. So I decided to disconnect the pump pretty much every time I went into the hot room.

Prior to going into class I would test my blood sugars. Depending on where they were, I would usually disconnect. Then after the class I would reconnect and make any adjustments needed.

It was very rare that it was too low for me to do class. The times where it was really low, I would just need a little snack before class.

First Impressions

When I first started Bikram classes, I definitely thought it was hard. There were times when the heat would get to me and I really wanted to leave the room. The mindset of thinking, “This is too much,” was there. But it was a good practice to work on controlling my focus and breathing, realising it is okay to just be present in the room. Once I started practicing consistently that anxiety for much easier to deal with.

One instructor told me to stop wiping the sweat off myself so much, which is just so contrary to what we feel like doing. It was amazing to learn to let my body sweat like that, to let the sweat help your body to cool down, and just be ok with it.

I had some nausea at the beginning and I heard that was typical. And that got better.

People can tell you about these things – the struggles when you start Bikram Yoga, and then how it all changes – but it doesn’t mean as much until you experience them all yourself.

Effects of Class on My Blood Sugar

Pretty soon into my practice, I started to notice that often times when I came out of the hot room, not only were my blood sugars pretty normal, but I found that the effects of the class would keep working in my body for several hours after class was over.

So I would try not to adjust anything with my insulin pump, because I didn’t want to overcorrect.

I was amazed that Bikram Yoga helped regulate my blood sugars for more than just the time I was in the hot room. It helped for hours after the class was over!

It was totally different from running or other intense cardio workouts.

The blood test that measure your overall blood sugars is called A1C; when was swimming or doing Bikram Yoga regularly, I would see my numbers drop without a lot of extra effort. But it was definitely introducing Bikram into my life that helped a lot.

Then vs. Now

I’m not currently practicing Bikram because I started working full time, and I have kids… and life is busy. But I’d really like to start practicing again on a semi-consistent level because it makes my overall health, my knee issues, and so many other things feel better. Even just talking or thinking about it, I know I should probably go back to the hot room.

“Side Effects” of Bikram vs. No Bikram

Sleep was easier when I was practicing Bikram. And sleep is very important for those with type 1 diabetes.

It also helped me tolerate temperatures and the outdoor heat in Sacramento.

The flexibility I gained was remarkable, and that is probably what I miss the most. Mainly in my legs and my hip flexors. My left knee doesn’t have any cartilage in it, and since I haven’t been in the hot room in a while, my one knee won’t bend all the way.

And right now my hip flexors are so tight that I can’t sit cross-legged. I also have a shoulder injury from a frozen shoulder I had years ago. It was doing much better when I was in the hot room on a regular basis.

I felt like I had more consistent energy when I was practicing Bikram regularly l. I wasn’t tired all the time. I could stay focused on things. The practice of emptying your mind and not having to think about things while you are in the hot room was a really helpful and good practice.

I had struggled with depression back in my late 20s and then again around the time when I stopped doing Bikram. I had overcommitted my life to too many things, and I let Bikram fall out of my life. That really was detrimental.

I ended up being hospitalised with another depressive episode. I really think Bikram Yoga had helped me manage that well – maybe because the physical activity released the endorphins and allows so many good things to happen.

Some people can be busy all the time and not suffer for it. But I am not one of those people. I have leather that I suffer greatly when I try to do too much. My first depressive episode came about six months after I had trained and run a marathon. The second episode happened after I was overworked, had stopped practicing Bikram Yoga, and had stopped taking a few medications. I didn’t realise how much the yoga was helping me manage.

Currently

I was DJs first to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in my extended family. Since then, though, I have had cousins on both sides of my family diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. And my sister has been diagnosed with a few things, including rheumatoid arthritis snd thyroid issues. I also have thyroid issues, and the doctors go back and forth thinking that it is connected to my autoimmune issues.

I haven’t been officially diagnosed with celiac disease, but I definitely have an immune response to gluten. I did the Alcat screening test (measures food sensitivities linked to inflammation and chronic activation of the immune system) about ten years ago. TbT helped identify foods that I have a strong negative response to. I am gluten free. I have removed dairy from my diet, but I do eat animal protein. I feel like I follow more of a Keto diet (which is low carbohydrates). This way my blood sugars are easier to manage, and my digestive issues are almost nonexistent.

Lately – although I know I want to get back to Bikram Yoga – I’ve been doing some vinyasa hot yoga at my local gym, walking, and doing some swimming. The challenge with Bikram is trying to make it happen with a busy life. Trying to find 90 minutes can be hard, but I know it will be worth it. Doing yoga in a regular room at a gym is nice, but I haven’t had the gains that I had with doing Bikram Yoga in the hot rooms.

With Bikram Yoga, I felt like I was really starting to help myself overcome some of my ailments, but it was one of those situations where I was working a lot, decided to go back to schools plus I was working to manage life with two young kids. Bikram Yoga was the things that got dropped, but I should go back