Wednesday, July 25, 2007


On Monday, I went to see my doctor. I had some back door work done a little while ago and was diagnosed with diverticulosis. No polyps though, and that's a good thing for a guy who's soon to be 55. I've got to go on a higher fiber diet. That's the good news.

The nurse took a blood glucose test and my sugar came in at 208. That didn't make me, the nurse, nor the doctor happy at all. What happened? Here, I was boasting about my proud numbers in my last diabetes post. My A1c had dropped from 8.0 to 5.5. I have no idea what it would be today and I'm not scheduled for more blood work until the beginning of October. I had been crowing about the supplements I truly felt were working in my favor. Today, I'm not too sure. This afternoon, the magic number was 227. I'm certainly not going to stop taking what I do because he had told me on my last visit that everything was safe, that none of the supplements would harm me. Now, if I run out of something, I won't be so quick to jump in my car to replenish supplies. Besides, everything adds up in cost. I read a lot and listen to plenty of advice from people who have all sorts of natural cures. As a matter of fact, one commenter addressed gymnema sylvestre as an herbal alternative to the prescription drug I take now. It looks promising, but it doesn't come cheap. It's about the same price and until I do further research, I'll stick to my present plan. When I went to pick up some prescriptions recently, I bragged to my pharmacist about my A1c number and how the supplements might have helped. She told me to keep in mind that when I was diagnosed, I stopped eating sugar and that probably had a lot more to do with that number than what I was taking on my own. If I can get my number down to 4.0, then she'll start listening. By the way, she has faith in supplements.

The doctor instructed me to double up on the Glucotrol (Glipizide) XL if my numbers are high. He wrote out a prescription for 60 pills instead of the usual 30. Unfortunately, that also doubled the price. When I tested my sugar last night, I checked in at a much more comfortable 110. The double dose seems to be doing the trick. I took one in the morning and one in the mid-afternoon.

The same person who mentioned gymnema sylvestre also told me about taking niacin to reduce cholesterol. From what I have learned, it does help. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is that it has a tendency to raise blood sugar. One of the things of much concern to my doctor was that my good cholesterol (HDL) was very low. Overall, all my choesterol and triglycerides have gone way down from the Lovastain I've been taking, but it seemed to have lowered the good stuff, too. Initially, I was taking 40mg daily, but he reduced it to 20mg. Because of the low HDL number, he decided to take me off straight Lovastatin immediately and put me on Advicor, a combination of 500mg niacin and 20mg Lovastatin. He says this will raise my good cholesterol. Unfortunately, it doesn't come without side effects, some of which can be pretty nasty. It's the niacin. They include feeling flush, itching, tingling, dizziness, rapid or pronounced heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, chills, swelling, rashes, abdominal pain, back pain, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea and vomiting. Oh, I did mention high blood sugar, didn't I? About 45 minutes before popping one of these pills, I took a couple of Tylenol to help minimize some of the side effects. Then, I took it, ate a pear and went to bed. I quickly fell asleep and woke up this morning with no ill effects. Maybe, I was a little groggier than normal, a little more light headed, but that was all.

I don't take issue with natural remedies. In many cases, they can be quite effective and beneficial in treating different ailments, but I question their reliability. The FDA does not clinically test supplements for safety, effectiveness and problems if taken in conjunction with other supplements. For example, you shouldn't mix ginkgo biloba with St. John's wort. Sure, the Chinese have been dispensing this root and that herb for thousands of years, but can we say for sure they work better than prescribed medications that have been tested? Without the knowledge of someone well trained, such as a medical doctor, can we be our own physician? If you get a bad toothache, are you going to make tea out of a powdered root or go to a dentist? In many cases, there is no real alternative to traditional treatment. Certainly, in the case of diabetes, every person with the disease has their own fingerprint. Watermelon spikes my sugar. My mother, on the other hand, can eat it and it doesn't bother her the same way. She has been diabetic for 26 years and has been taking prescribed medicines a long time. To think that doctors and pharmaceutical companies have been conspiring with the FDA in order to fool the public is just pure bunk to me. Of course, crooks exist in every profession, but a vast conspiracy? Come on, now. When billions of dollars are pumped into research and development of drugs that are quite effective in the end, what is wrong with taking them? In my case, every prescribed medication has a generic alternative. How is the doctor getting rich off me or the millions of other diabetics taking the same things? It is my decision to ask the pharmacist to give me the generic version and I don't think a doctor would tell a patient you can't do that.

I will continue to explore other treatments and maintain a very open mind, but in the meantime, I will stick with the tried and true. I really don't think I am as qualified as those who have spent thousands of dollars and many years studying to become the doctors and specialists they are. Most pharmaceutical companies offer free medicines to people below a certain income level. Advances in today's medicines are absolutely amazing and I am not going to jeopardize my life because of conspiracy theories. Besides, I think some of the complainers are ones without health insurance. If they had it, they wouldn't have to pay much for their drugs, so they might not be as compelled to seek out alternatives. Think about that next time you bite into your fresh baked cookie made with refined sugar and bleached, enriched flour, something I can't and won't eat anymore.

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