If you have type 1 diabetes, you know that your body rarely reacts to changes the way you hope it will. There is an endless amount of factors that can affect your blood glucose unpredictably and simultaneously— some of which are scientifically-established, some that are based on personal experiences, and some that are inexplicable. Living harmoniously with type 1 diabetes requires you to learn your body: how it responds to different foods, to different exercises, to sleep, to stress, to illness, to menstruation, to coffee, to altitude— the seemingly unrelated list goes on. Undoubtedly, it’s a round-the-clock commitment, and a full-time job.
I recently met with my endocrinologist to modify my basal rates after a long period of recurring low blood sugars. It was obvious to me that my basal program was too aggressive, but I dreaded the period of trial and error I would have to experience in order to find my rhythm again. I dreaded the meticulous tracking it would demand, the numbers I would have to gather from my different devices, and the daunting task of connecting the dots in an effort to make sense of it all. I knew this would require new insulin-to-carb ratios, different dosing around exercise, and above all an extra diligence, persistent exertion of mind, and continual analysis (beyond what diabetes already demands in its semi-dormant state) of how my body was reacting to the world around me.
There are plenty of applications that offer ways to help people with diabetes, or health enthusiasts, keep track of what they are eating. But as you know, food alone, albeit a dominant factor, is not enough to paint a full picture. Since food affects and is affected by almost everything we do, its full influence can only be understood by taking a more comprehensive viewpoint. This is where Nutrino comes in.
Apart from the features it offers to all users, including personalized meal recommendations, suggestions on where to eat out, and daily health tips that are based on individual taste preferences and dietary restrictions, Nutrino also has a selection of features that are especially useful for diabetes management. For one, beyond an extensive food database, Nutrino also allows you to log insulin boluses, physical activity, sleep quality, and body measurements either manually or by syncing your wearable devices (HealthKit, Apple Watch, FitBit, Moves, etc.).
However, perhaps the most valuable part about Nutrino for diabetes is that it connects directly to your insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. Nutrino then contextualizes your day by combining your logged food items and their nutritional breakdown, along with any other activities, with your blood sugar and insulin doses. This unique overlay permits the creation of what is called your “FoodPrint,” a digital signature of how food affects your body.
The beauty of Nutrino is not merely in the way it helps keep track of crucial details, but rather the way it enables the user to see connections that are otherwise invisible. The insights that come as a result of this fuller picture can be used in order to fine-tune insulin dosing and fully understand (at a high-level) how food affects your blood sugar and body.
How Nutrino Helped Me Understand the Full Effects of My Food
Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day. I always start my day by crafting a nutrient-dense smoothie that typically contains 3-4 fruit, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and various spices. The carbohydrates in fruit supply me with energy for my day, the hemp seeds are full of protein, the chia seeds are full of healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acids) and fiber, and the spices are my dose of antioxidants. The thing is, even if I eat the exact same amount of carbs, the amount of insulin I take and my post-meal blood sugar readings are variable. This variability depends on more than one factor, but one key observation I have noticed is that the more fiber I add to my smoothie, the smoother my blood sugar curve is. Fiber is technically a carbohydrate; however, during the process of digestion it remains intact and slows the rate at which glucose is emptied from your intestine into the bloodstream. Using Nutrino to compare the effect of fiber in my morning meal allowed me to understand the importance of nutrient composition (beyond just carb count) and modify my future meals to prevent rapid blood sugar spikes.
How Nutrino Helped Me Get the Most out of my Workouts
Exercise is an essential component of managing blood glucose. It mimics the role of insulin by redirecting glucose out of the bloodstream to supply energy for muscles, resulting in lower blood glucose values. However, dosing insulin in order to stay in range while exercising and avoiding hypoglycemia is tricky and requires a lot of trial and error.
For me, it’s all about knowing how to get myself to the optimal pre‐workout blood glucose value, and to keep my blood glucose values from dropping rapidly during my workout. That means either setting the appropriate temporary basal in advance or knowing how many carbs to eat beforehand (and how far in advance), depending on my starting blood glucose, the type of exercise, and other factors. If I consume too many carbs before a workout, I may be too high above range during and after the workout. However, if I consume too few, I may go low during the exercise. Needless to say, this calculation is delicate and highly individual.
With Nutrino I was able to experiment with my pre-workout exercise dosing and snacking in order to reach the optimal number. I found that combining a moderate amount of carbs with a little bit of fat kept me in range because of the way fat slows down carb absorption.
How Nutrino Helped me Understand the Importance of Sleep
There have been several studies that have linked poor sleep quality to a reduction in insulin sensitivity. Personally, I have always noticed that my blood glucose readings are higher if I did not sleep well the previous night. A 2010 study in DiabetesCare showed that “a single night of partial sleep restriction reduces insulin sensitivity of insulin-stimulated glucose uptake by 14–21%.” This means that a single night of poor sleep could raise your blood glucose by up to 20%.
This variability in control can make dosing trickier and more frustrating than on an average day. I used Nutrino to track the correlation between my sleep quality and my subsequent blood sugar readings to better understand my insulin requirements. What I learned was that after a poor night’s sleep (less than 7 hours for me), I always needed a larger bolus for my morning meal and sometimes even an increased temporary basal rate to combat higher blood sugar readings.
The human body is complex— especially in the case of diabetes, when your body is missing insulin: one of the most physiologically dynamic hormones. However, diabetes or not, every body is different. All are beautiful and enigmatic in their own way, and most importantly, worth getting to know. Every person has the right to explore their health and find the food, activities, and lifestyle that make them feel good. The above findings reflect my personal experimentation, but these insights are variable and personal. Nutrino is a tool to help you uncover your own insights. It not only empowers you to explore the way your habits affect your body, but it allows you to derive meaningful and actionable results to design your own health.