Traveling with Type 2 Diabetes
Tips from my dietitian.
December 2011 —
I don't have the words to express the loss of a dear friend, and I hope he knows that even in my deepest of thoughts (and responsibilities) I think of him always. This column is dedicated to David Blair — writer, wonderer, slam poet, songwriter, and all-around great guy.
In a few days I will be on my way to Ghana, West Africa and I am exceptionally hurried, trying to make sure that I have everything I need to take care of my diabetes while abroad. In the past week, I have been to Chicago, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland, and I must admit that I have not given much thought to my type 2 diabetes. I love to travel, but I find it a bit of a challenge having to manage my blood sugar while doing so.
While traveling this past week, I ate late at night, didn't test in the mornings, and I ate too many carbohydrates during the day. I have, however, maintained my oral medicine regiment and was certain to take my long-acting insulin at the same time everyday. I also took long walks after lunch and dinner in an effort to balance out some of the sugary snacks provided at the conference that I was attending. Although I wish that I had enough willpower not to eat the things I know will wreak havoc on my blood sugar, that is another story altogether.
I wrote about traveling abroad and managing my type 2 diabetes in a past column, and I remember talking about Ghanaians and how diabetes affects the people of Ghana. My visit to the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial site reminded me to be diligent about testing and taking care of myself, because our tour guide stated that his wife had died from complications of type 2 diabetes. What a wake up call!
I want to share with you all the advice I have received since the last trip, and really neat ideas about managing my blood sugar in light of the truth, which is that I really did not have a solid plan for managing my sugar levels when I was in Africa. The dilemma is that we (as in U.S. citizens) don't have the similar flora in our stomachs as Ghanaians do to deal with the bacteria in the water, or to properly digest any food that has come into contact with the water, unless it has been deep-fried or cooked at really high temperatures. Therefore, fresh fruits and vegetables should not be consumed unless the food has been cooked to death, whereby having no nutritional value to the human body. Additionally, if fruits and vegetables are cooled off, they may carry bacteria that have the potential to make one quite ill.
I contacted my dietitian to discuss this matter in detail and she gave me some really great tips for eating a diabetic-friendly diet while in Ghana. I am so excited about it that I thought I would share it with you. It is my hope that you can use these ideas while traveling near or far, and benefit from what she shared with me.
First and foremost, protein is extremely important for diabetics, so she suggested that I try to eat protein at every meal. Boiled eggs, beef or turkey jerky, tuna in the aluminum packets, and almonds are all good sources of protein. Protein sources usually do not cause blood sugar spikes and can help with curving your hunger throughout the day. She also stated that I could try to eat grilled fish and chicken during my stay.
Second, she stated that bottled water would be available everywhere and that I should pack Crystal Light and other sugar free electrolyte-type water flavoring products with me to help keep it interesting. She added that having a familiar taste available during my stay can make for a more pleasant experience.
Finally, she told me that I should take dried fruit with me, but eat it scarcely because of the sugar content. It will help with my sugar cravings, considering that I won't be eating any fruit for almost two weeks.
In addition to these suggestions, she also encouraged me to get in a two- to five-mile walk daily to help me burn the calories that I will be taking in as I eat my favorite Ghanaian dishes such as jollof rice, beef stew, kelewele (which are sweet and spicy fried plantains), and other foods I have yet to try. But best believe I plan on it while traveling!
I am so excited and honored to be the co-leader of this trip to Ghana, West Africa, a travel abroad service learning experience for twelve women from Marygrove College in Detroit. Now that I have packed my meter, insulin pen, test strips, orals, alcohol pads, and proper snacks, there is only one thing left to do — complete this article with my usual valediction!
Got it Sugar?
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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