Diabetes


Damn, my bodies "Carburettor" needs tuning!!

Most people back home know that I'm a Diabetic, have been now for 18 years. I thought I'd put this page together to share a bit about diabetes and maybe help out with some info on how I manage with the travelling.

Diabetes is a problem with insulin which is a hormone produced by the Pancreas to regulate sugar levels in our blood. There's two types of Diabetics, type one and type two. Type two is by far the most common and is becoming a major health issue in many country's. In type two Insulin is still produced but needs help with medication to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Type one Diabetics like myself are less common (10% of Diabetics) and is an Autoimmune disorder where the Pancreas is no longer producing any insulin and insulin injections are necessary. Type one Diabetes usually develops at a young age and is a serious condition relying on injections to survive.

Here's some of the kit I need to carry around. One of the main hassles with the insulin is that it needs to be kept cool. The Frio cooling bags seem to work well enough in all but the hottest environments and simply work on evaporative cooling and latent heat of transformation. When travelling for six months I need two or three of these bags to hold enough insulin. You can also see the injection pens, blood glucose meter and a new Dexcom cgm

Understanding Diabetes can be a bit confusing, It still confuses me at times and is no easy task to manage. But here's a neat way to describe it; the bodies pancreas works a bit like the carburettor on my motorbike. The carb mixes petrol with air at just right ratios to allow the engine to run smoothly, too much fuel and the motor will run rough ( this happened when I crossed some passes on the Andes at 5000m because the carb doesn't recognise that the air density has dropped and there is less oxygen). And the opposite is not good either, not enough petrol and the engine can run hot and lead to damage. The mixture has to be just right.

The Pancreas releases insulin into our blood stream to maintain a sugar to insulin ratio in much the same way as the carburettor works. Not enough sugar in the mix and we run bad, like being too lean on fuel, and the opposite as well, too much sugar and we run rich, no good either. The sugar in the blood comes from the carbohydrates that we digest and when the Pancreas is working it does an amazing job of regulating insulin to match the variations of blood sugar available after eat something.

So this is the problem with type one diabetes, the pancreas no longer works so the insulin is injected manually and getting the dose size right can be difficult at times. You have to consider the amount and type of food you are eating, your exercise levels and even your emotions have an effect on your insulin demands. It's a balancing act, when blood sugar levels are high over time it leads to nerve damage and complications later in life, when blood sugar levels are too low too often you can pass out and become unconscious and would be unsafe as an independent traveller.

So what this means for me on a daily basis is that I test my blood sugar about 4 -6 times a day with a blood drop taken from a finger. This tells me what my current blood sugar level is. Using these readings I make decisions on how much insulin is injected at my stomach. I have to inject with every meal and sometimes more often to cover snacks and the odd ale or two. This year I am trying a continuous glucose monitor which as the name suggests gives readings at all times and should prove to be a great aid in seeing trends, preventing high and low levels and overall help with my diabetes control.

Travelling with diabetes shouldn't be a restriction, yes there are risks but just like the risks of riding a motorcycle you can manage them to reduce the likelihood and consequences of an incident. I don't set off on a ride without having some idea of how much petrol I have on board and where the next petrol can be found, it's the same with my Diabetic supplies including insulin, glucose monitor and testing strips and importantly food and a sugar supply to treat low blood sugar levels. It's important to always have some sugar handy to treat any hypos as fast as possible. If you can't treat this situation it can be life threatening. So this means that often I have to carry around quite a bit of extra kit which on the bike can be annoying.

Here's a link for more info on Diabetes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus


My new Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. Mounted up on the dash of the bike I can with the push of a button see what my sugar level is, awesome. Only thing is it's not as accurate as a finger prick test and I could have brought a new motorbike for the price of it!!! .... will see how it goes. think it will be a big help. 

This is the sensor and transmitter that talks to the receiver shown above




Dexcom Continuous glucose monitor mounted with Ram X grip phone holder. Added a lanyard to the dexocm just in case the ram looses grip.

One thing I don't like about the Dexcom is that each new sensor (they usually only last about 10 days) has a big bulky applicator which means even more stuff to try and fit on the bike

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