No one likes getting infected with a nasty flu – especially those living with a chronic illness such as diabetes. As someone who has lived with type 1 diabetes for almost 10 years, I take a lot of precautions during the flu season to keep myself as safe and as flu-free as possible! I know that because I live with a chronic illness I’m a lot more susceptible to catching seasonal viruses, as well as getting hit harder if I am infected with one.
Type 1 diabetes has the ability to compromise one’s immune system, especially when blood glucose levels are out of control. It’s important for immunocompromised people to take extra care to stay healthy and calm while the flu is floating around. Here are some suggestions to help you feel your strongest during the flu season so you can prevent yourself from getting sick and focus on what matters to you!
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Blood Glucose Control
As briefly mentioned above, it is extremely important to keep blood glucose within your personal green zone range (determined by your health care professionals) as often as possible. Be mindful of big glucose spikes after dinners, over-indulging and eating foods that have an adverse effect on your levels. Having high glucose causes inflammation in the body which puts it at a disadvantage when trying to fight off viruses and other illnesses.
When blood glucose is in range, the body is stronger and better at preventing the contraction of viruses. That being said, if there is a specific time of day, or an issue you’ve been experiencing where your blood glucose levels are rising, it’s more important than ever to get them sorted out. I suggest talking to your endocrinologist about the specific issue and keeping track of your food and medication doses for a week to better determine the culprit for the undesired blood glucose level.
Living with type 1 diabetes can frequently cause interrupted sleep. With all of the tech many of us are connected to (pumps and continuous glucose monitors) and the possibility of low blood glucose in the night, it’s not uncommon to get woken up by something diabetes-related. During the flu season, sleep is especially crucial for staying strong and avoiding sickness. Regularly getting less than 7-hours of sleep or frequently getting interrupted sleep will cause the body to feel weak and more prone to picking up the flu. As well as feeling less than optimal, it will cause the blood sugar to be slightly elevated from lack of proper restoration overnight.
When I have a bad sleep or don’t get enough, I have to give myself more of the hormone that regulates glucose in the blood the next day because my body is not efficiently metabolizing what I am administering. Sleep alone can be the most important factor to not getting sick during flu season. If you have trouble falling asleep, try creating an evening routine for yourself and staying off screens for 2-hours before bed. Also, keep all the supplies you would need for a low glucose episode next to you at night so you can treat it quickly and then go back to sleep.
Hydration and Nutrition
Consuming lots of fluids (especially ones high in temperature) can prevent the flu from worsening and completely wiping you out. Personally, when I feel like I could be getting sick, I start drinking lots of warm water and soup. The heat from the warm liquids, kills harmful bacteria, soothes your throat and helps flush the flu out of your system faster. Making tea throughout the day and having a big pot of soup made is a good idea if you feel the flu coming on.
In addition to consuming lots of liquids, it’s important to be mindful of what kind of foods are being eaten. Try eating nutritionally dense, whole foods and stay away from highly processed, fried food. Basically, you want to create an environment in your body to help it feel its best and strongest so it can be prepared and ready to fight if it needs to. Filling your body with lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and complete proteins is a good idea during flu season. These foods will also be great on your blood glucose levels as they are filled with micronutrients that help reduce blood glucose spikes. In some instances, taking supplements such as zinc, vitamin C or D can be a good idea but I’d consult with a healthcare professional before stocking up on them.
Do your best to create some relaxing time for yourself each day, even if it’s just 10-minutes of mediation. It is imperative that stress is reduced when the flu is going around or if you are starting to feel symptoms. If you can, work from home, take things slower and focus on giving your body the care that it needs to feel better. When living with a chronic illness, sometimes we have to take things a bit slower than others in order to heal faster and get back to feeling capable of living a busy, fulfilled life.
When it comes down to it, the best thing anyone living with diabetes can do to prevent or speed up the healing time of the flu, is to focus on nurturing overall health. Giving your body the proper care and time it needs to be as strong and able as possible to handle a virus will make managing one a lot easier as they continue to enter into our lives. When we are mindful of our blood glucose control, sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress, we give our bodies the best opportunity for good health and fast healing.