Can Over-the-Counter Meds Affect Your Blood Glucose Level?

Valerie Burton, RN, CDE

If you have diabetes, you may take prescription medications that help control your blood glucose levels. You undoubtedly know the importance of using these medications as directed. But you also need to be aware of any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you take. Some OTC products contain sugar, which may affect your blood glucose level. Others have ingredients that may interfere with your diabetes medication. Here are OTC medicines you should handle with care when you have diabetes.

Cough and Cold Medicines

Some OTC cough and cold medicines contain sugar. Check the ingredients for sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Taking a product that contains a small amount of sugar is often OK, but talk with your doctor first to be sure.
If you take certain diabetes drugs, such as sulfonylureas, you may also need to avoid alcohol in cold medicines. Your pharmacist can help with this as well.

Decongestants

Over-the-counter decongestants come in nasal spray, nose drop, pill and liquid form. They can help unblock a stuffy nose. But they may also raise your blood glucose and blood pressure levels. Consult with your doctor before using a decongestant.

Dietary Supplements

Research has not been able to prove that dietary supplements help to manage diabetes so make sure you get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Supplements may appear to be safe, but they may have serious side effects or interact with medications you are already take. Talk with your health care provider before taking dietary supplements.

Aspirin in Large Amounts

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a low dose of aspirin every day to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. But be careful. Taking a higher dose of aspirin may affect your blood glucose level. Talk with your doctor before taking aspirin, and don’t exceed the recommended amount.

In fact, if you have diabetes, it’s smart to check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new OTC medicine. When it comes to your health, safe is better than sorry.

Diabetes Center at Touro Infirmary

If you have diabetes, the Diabetes Center is here to help! Every day you make decisions and choices that affect your diabetes and your health. So, it is important to know as much as possible. The Touro Diabetes Center provides a comprehensive program of educational services and support to individuals and groups. The Diabetes Center works closely with physicians to identify each patient’s specific needs and helps them develop the self-management skills needed to control their disease.

For more information, go to touro.com/diabetes or call (504) 897-8813.

burton, ValerieValerie Burton, RN, CDE is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator who serves as Program Coordinator for the Touro Diabetes Center. She has worked at Touro for 21 years and has been counseling people with diabetes since 2006. Her goal is to help individuals learn how to effectively manage diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

How to Make Healthy Food Choices with Diabetes

Laurie Murphy, RDN

A diagnosis of diabetes can be very scary. Most people think they can never eat carbohydrates again, or they might have to give up their favorite food. Once a person with a diagnosis of diabetes seeks nutrition counseling, they are pleasantly surprised at what they can eat.

One of the most important concepts to understand about nutrition for diabetes is that you need to eat carbs at every meal. Foods with carbs turn into glucose in our blood stream. As a result, they help regulate blood sugar and give us enough energy to get to the next meal. If we do not eat carbs or wait too long to eat, the liver senses your blood sugar dropping, and it will make glucose and put it into your bloodstream. Our bodies cannot control how much glucose the liver makes, and it could make more glucose than we need, which increases our blood sugar. We have better control of our blood sugar by eating carbs. And isn’t that the best news ever for someone with diabetes to hear!

Let’s talk about foods that contain carbs:

  • Anything made of flour such as bread, crackers, and wraps
  • Anything made of corn including grits, popcorn and cornbread
  • Rice and pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Starchy veggies such as beans, peas, potatoes and corn
  • Dairy products
  • Fruit

There are plenty of food that are not off limits when it comes to diabetes. Sugar and sugary beverages are the only two that we do not recommend. Even if you are on insulin, it can still be hard to get your blood sugar under control if you continue to sprinkle sugar on foods and drink sugary drinks, which includes fruit juice, smoothies and daiquiris.

Whole grain food are better options than food made of processed flour because there is more fiber. Choose whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta instead of white bread, white rice, and regular pasta. Science has shown that fiber slows down digestion, which slows down how fast the carbs we eat get into our bloodstream and turn into sugar. Whole grains also tend to have more flavor than their processed counterparts, which can make eating more enjoyable.

Your dietitian can help you determine how many carbs you need. Generally, it is 2-3 carbs per meal for women, and 3-4 for men. One serving of carbs equals 15 grams. So, if you have three carbs at one meal, that would be 45 grams of carbs for that meal (15 x 3 = 45). If your next meal is more than five hours away, eating three meals per day and a snack between meals will help keep your blood glucose steady throughout the day and night.

When determining a serving of carbs, a general rule of thumb is ½ cup of a food with carbs equals one carb serving. For rice and pasta, one carb serving equals 1/3 cup. One slice of sandwich bread is one carb, while the bread in a 6-inch poboy is four carbs.

Eating balanced meals is the best way to control blood sugar, hypertension, cholesterol, and induce weight loss. Balanced meals consists of the proper servings of carbs, lean protein, and lots of colorful, nonstarchy vegetables. Counting fruit as carbs for some meals will increase the amount of good nutrition that your body craves to help it run smoothly.

Where do you start? Start with your favorite meal. Determine the number of carbs, and then adjust the amount of carbs until it fits into your carb range for that meal. Remember, eat food that you enjoy.

Laurie received her B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Nicholls State University, and completed her internship at LA Tech University. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics at LA Tech. Her previous experience includes working as a clinical dietitian, and as a health coach in a weight-loss research study. Laurie is a member of the New Orleans Dietetic Association, and the state and national associations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Season

Valerie Burton, RN, CDE

Being diagnosed with diabetes is difficult but managing diabetes during the holidays can be even more difficult. It’s important to plan ahead so you can enjoy your day with your family and friends. The American Diabetes Association has tips to help you control your diabetes during the holiday season.

Family With Grandparents Enjoying Thanksgiving Meal At Table

  • Focus on family and friends instead of food. The holidays are a time to relax, slow down, and catch up with those you love. Instead of allowing food to be the focus, play games, volunteer at a community center, or spend time outdoors with your family.
  • Enjoy the celebration, but don’t overdo it. Eat slowly and savor the foods that you would only have once or twice a year. If the holiday meal is being served at your usual meal time, try to eat the same amount of carbohydrate that you would normally eat for a meal. If you plan to have dessert, cut back on another carbohydrate food during dinner. If you desire a second helping, choose a non-carbohydrate food.
  • Eat before you eat. Do not skip meals or snacks earlier in the day to “save up” carbs or calories for your holiday meal later on. It’s hard to keep your blood sugar in control when you skip meals. You are also more likely to overeat if you are very hungry.
  • Drink Alcohol in moderation. You should only drink alcohol if your diabetes is in good control. If you drink alcohol, have it with a meal to prevent low blood sugar. The general guidelines are 1 to 2 servings with a meal.
  • Keep it moving! During the holidays our activity levels usually change or exercise routines get interrupted. Even though the holidays can be distracting to our normal routines we can still take time to be active.
    • Go for a walk with your family after dinner.
    • Play a family game that involves physical activity.
    • Offer to help clean up after the meal to get you moving around.
  • If you overindulge, get back on track. Don’t consider yourself a failure if you eat more food than you anticipated. Focus your attention on the people around you. Stop eating and make sure you hydrate with water. Increase your activity level and monitor your blood sugar. Get back on track with your healthy eating habits the next day.

Thanksgiving: Family, friends gather for dinner at senior woman's home

Diabetes Center at Touro Infirmary

If you have diabetes, the Diabetes Center is here to help! Every day you make decisions and choices that affect your diabetes and your health. So, it is important to know as much as possible. The Touro Diabetes Center provides a comprehensive program of educational services and support to individuals and groups. The Diabetes Center works closely with physicians to identify each patient’s specific needs and helps them develop the self-management skills needed to control their disease.

For more information, go to touro.com/diabetes or call (504) 897-8813.

burton, ValerieValerie Burton, RN, CDE is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator who serves as Program Coordinator for the Touro Diabetes Center. She has worked at Touro for 21 years and has been counseling people with diabetes since 2006. Her goal is to help individuals learn how to effectively manage diabetes by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Gestational Diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes Mellitus or GDM?

Katie Schlemer, RD, LDN

Beautiful pregnant woman holding a bowl of salad while standing

Gestational diabetes occurs when people who have never been diagnosed with diabetes have high blood glucose (blood sugar) during their pregnancy. This condition affects nearly 1 in 10 pregnancies. Women who may be at a higher risk for developing GDM include:

• Women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy
• Women who have delivered a large-for-gestational-age infant in a prior pregnancy
• Women who have had several pregnancies
• Women with a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes

Women with GDM have higher-than-normal blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance in the second and third trimesters. This insulin resistance is caused by surges in placental hormones, in particular lactogen, prolactin, estrogen, and cortisol. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. If there is not enough insulin available, then the blood glucose levels will rise. Diagnosis of gestational diabetes commonly involves administration of an oral glucose tolerance test, which provides a drinkable dose of glucose and monitors the body’s blood glucose response before the test, 1 hour after, 2 hours after, and 3 hours after. If two of those four results are high, the diagnosis of GDM is made.

Treatment for GDM

Treatment includes following a carbohydrate-controlled meal plan, incorporating physical activity, monitoring blood glucose levels, and medication in some cases. Women with GDM will need to work with a healthcare team to manage the blood glucose levels.

Each woman should work with a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to create a personalized meal plan. Some general tips for controlling blood glucose include the following:

1. Maximize water intake: Make water your primary source of fluids during your pregnancy. Beverages such as fruit punches, lemonades, sodas, and sweet teas contain a surplus of sugar or carbohydrate without providing any nutrition. Milk and fruit juices also contain carbohydrates, so be mindful of the portion size that you drink.

2. Eat regularly: Give yourself and your baby the nutrition to be healthy! Have a balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day with 1-3 small snacks in between. Your healthcare team can give you specific advice on when to eat and how much.

3. “Eating for two” is less than you may think: Even though pregnancy does require additional nutrients, it does not mean to eat double portions of everything! Calorie requirements in the second trimester increase by about 340 calories, and by the third trimester increase by about 450 calories. Total weight gain during pregnancy should be about 25-35 pounds (for pre-pregnancy BMI 18.5-25) or about 15-25 pounds (for pre-pregnancy BMI >25).

4. Get moving: Participating in exercises such as walking, swimming, or yoga can help lower blood glucose levels and relieve stress. As long as your doctor has not restricted your activity level, try to take part in these activities daily.

5. Keep calm and carry on: Pregnancy can be a stressful time in a woman’s life, and stress hormones can negatively impact health and quality of life. Deal with stress in a positive way, such as exercising, journal writing, or laughing. Seek the support of family, friends, or your healthcare team if you feel overwhelmed.

Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do for both yourself and baby during pregnancy and after delivery. Join Touro dietitian Julie Fortenberry and special guest Genevieve Douglass, owner of Kindred Studios, for an informative class on nutrition and wellness for expectant and new mothers on Wednesday, August 17th from 6pm to 8pm in the Foucher Room. The class will cover basics of healthy meal planning, eating for two, healthy weight gain, important nutrients, foods to avoid, fitness during pregnancy, breastfeeding nutrition, healthy weight loss post baby, body image, meal planning for a busy lifestyle, finding time for fitness after baby and more.

This class is free of charge. Registration is required. Click here to register or call 504-897-7319.

Complimentary parking will be available for all classes in Touro’s parking garage on Delachaise Street across from the Emergency Department.

Katie Schlemer, RD, LDN, is a Registered Dietitian and a Diabetes Educator in the Touro Diabetes Center. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Saint Louis University and completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane University. Katie has been counseling individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and gestational diabetes for the past 3 years. Her goal is to help individuals learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to live well with diabetes.

Enjoying a Healthy Holiday Season with Diabetes

Managing Diabetes during the Holidays

Katie Schlemer, RD, LDN

You know what time of year it is – it’s the holiday season! Many celebrations take place over the next few months, each offering an array of food and drink. This tends to be the hardest time of year for anyone trying to maintain healthy eating habits.

People with diabetes have the added burden of taking and timing medications appropriately; monitoring blood sugar levels; exercising; carbohydrate counting; and keeping up with medical appointments (yikes!).

With all of these medical demands plus the normal stressors of the holidays, it can be difficult to find the balance between enjoying yourself and taking care of your health. If you decide completely ignore taking medications while enjoying holiday festivities, for example, consequences such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or other severe health issues could occur.

On the other hand, if you obsess over every little thing you eat or skip events altogether, you may cause yourself more stress than necessary or might end up missing out. It’s all about finding the right balance.

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