Monthly Archives: May 2013

3 Tips on Eating Out With Diabetes


When you have diabetes, managing your diet can be strenuous. Managing your diet when you’re diabetic and eating away from home is even more challenging. When restaurants and fast food are the only options, how do you know what to choose? Certainly eating nothing is not an option, since that’s dangerous to any diabetic. But what’s the best choice with limited options? Here are a few tips to follow when eating out on a diabetic diet:

1. Ask What. Whenever you’re compelled to eat from a menu that you’re unfamiliar with, ask yourself what the true content of the food is. Consider what the carbohydrates are: are they complex, do they contain any fiber and if so to what extent? Fruits and veggies are the best type of carbs, but you do need to include whole grains for their unique nutritional value. Next, what type of fat is in the food you’re looking at? What oils have been used to cook this food, and how much has been used? Some oils have a higher caloric impact, while others are more processed and may be absorbed into your system more quickly. Finally, ask what type of protein is involved in what you’re eating. You want to eat lean meats, and if eating vegetarian, consider that beans, legumes, and so on aren’t complete proteins in and of themselves. Food combining becomes very important when you’re eating vegetarian to ensure that you get the right amino acids, i.e. the building blocks of protein. Eat legumes with grains, nuts or seeds, grains with legumes or dairy, and nuts and seeds with legumes.

2. Ask When. How often to eat is an essential element to eating with diabetes. When eating out, it becomes more difficult, especially if you manage your diabetes with insulin. First of all, do not take your insulin at home and then go out to a restaurant – you can’t control delays in your food delivery when you’re out, so take your medication with you. Secondly, consider portion sizes with the frequency of your meals. Try to avoid eating too much at one time, and instead take some food home with you when appropriate. You will often not know truly how big the meal you’re ordering is until it’s in front of you, so be prepared to ask for a doggie bag to avoid throwing your blood glucose levels out of whack.

3. Ask Who. Whoever’s food you’re eating, i.e. what type of cuisine it is, can present certain challenges for you if you’re diabetic. For example, Italian food often involves pasta, sauce, and occasionally free bread. Always opt for whole grain pasta, limit your bread intake to one serving, and try to order sauces that are free of fattening things like dairy, or bacon. With Tex-Mex food, it often comes loaded with cheese and/or sour cream, so be careful how much you consume. Plus, those tasty dishes can often be deep fried, so make sure you’re aware of how they’ve been prepared. Asian food is much more popular these days, but alas this cuisine has become more westernized. All-you-can-eat-buffets are common, and more and more things are being deep fried. Plus, those delicious Asian sauces often contain tons of hidden sugar.

The bottom line is simply to think before you eat. Luckily, eating out is still an option – just get educated about what you’re going to ingest, when you’re going to do it, and where some of the hidden calories might come from. You never know, you might help out some friends with your new-found knowledge!

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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3 Tips on Helping Your Teen with Diabetes


Having a teenager is tough enough trying to balance an urge to care for them constantly, with wanting to give them their space and show them trust. When your teen has diabetes, it becomes that much more difficult – how can you leave them alone and trust that they’ll take proper care of themselves? Especially when their self-care is that much more important than that of their peers? With a few key tips, you can learn to let go, while at the same time know that the ones you love are safe and prepared.

1. Let them be seen. Especially in the early teen years, your teenager will place a great deal of importance on body image and will seek more reassurance from their peers than from you. This is a good reason to promote healthy diet and exercise plans for the whole family rather than mentioning weight issues and body changes in your teen. Keep an eye out for potentially risky behaviour: some teens can be tempted to reduce or skip meals, or even their insulin injections in an effort to lose weight.

2. Let them be free. Try to give positive encouragement to your teen about their diabetes management. Even using terms like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can come across as judgemental, so try to praise them freely and at the same time focus on a plan. This won’t be easy, because being a teen also means being spontaneous, and diabetes can certainly discourage a lot of that spirit-freeing need. When there’s a next step to plan for, the current results tend to be less important, so try to encourage them to think about ‘what’s next’ regarding their diabetes management. With a plan in place, they can learn to follow it without much thought to it, so they can still go out and be spontaneous.

3. Let them be a boss. Have them be involved in the decision making process: when they have worked with you and their diabetes team, together you’ve all decided on the right goals. These goals include safe glucose levels, the right diet plan, and the right medication plan, and so then reminding them about what they helped to decide means a lot. It certainly has more impact than telling them what you think or what the doctor told them – giving them a say in their own health and then holding them to their word will go a long way.

Ultimately, there’s going to come a point where you just have to let go – you can’t be around your teen every minute of every day, and you have to accept that the disease really is their disease, and not yours. Sometimes being a good parent means being there for your child, and sometimes it means just being there in case they need you. Keep the lines of communication open, and when they do approach you, be supportive.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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5 Tips About Your Ageing Parent and Diabetes


With the growing epidemic of diabetes in our society, it’s no wonder that many people are finding they have an ageing parent with the disease. If you’re one of this burgeoning group of people, you may be discovering that this parent who once took such good care of you is now not taking very good care of themselves. And with a diagnosis of diabetes, them taking care of themselves is an even greater concern for you. No diagnosis yet? Here are the signs to look for that might indicate your parent is diabetic:

  • extreme thirst

  • extreme hunger

  • frequent need to urinate

  • nausea

  • blurred vision

  • shaking or tremors

  • anxiety or irritability

  • fatigue

  • dizziness and/or confusion

  • irregular or fast heart beat

Once you’re sure that your parent needs your help, there’s no going back. But don’t feel overwhelmed just yet – there are a lot of ways that you can help them, and a lot of resources out there to help support you in your efforts. Here are some tips:

1. Get educated. Knowing about the risks, the warning signs, and treatment options for diabetes can go a long way to helping you be prepared. And being prepared will help give you a better feeling of control and reassurance that everything is going to be okay with your loved one.

2. Manage the team. You, your parent, and the doctor(s) involved are a team now. Make sure that you’re involved in communicating with your parent and their medical professionals so you can not only see that all the bases are being covered, but so that you can have some peace of mind about it too.

3. Get active. If your parent is not very active, invite him/her out on outings with you, even that just means a walk after dinner. Try to get them involved in activities that they might enjoy as well. Some examples are gardening, mall-walking, art classes, Tai Chi or light yoga. Even spending more time with the rest of their family doing things can help them move those muscles more. Click here for more tips about exercising with diabetes.

4. Get cooking. Help your parent plan meals by cooking for them and showing them how delicious healthy food can be! It’s one thing to tell them what to eat – it’s another to show them. Click here for more tips on eating with diabetes.

5. Find support. Join a support group that will help you cope – you’re not alone and there are tons of people online and in person who want to show you just that. Being proactive and discovering that you have someone there when you need them can make you that much more helpful to that parent who loves you.

Switching roles and becoming the care-giver can be a scary process. Sometimes it’s gradual, while other times it comes along quite quickly. Try to be patient with yourself and your parent through this process: avoid using words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with the both of you. You’re both learning and growing, so adapting to diabetes doesn’t have to be a torturous ordeal. It can simply be something that you do together.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

These links may also be helpful:

Massage Therapy as a Treatment for Diabetes

Treating Diabetes with Acupuncture

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Pregnancy: Massage Therapy and Acupuncture


Whether or not you should have massage or acupuncture when you’re pregnant has been debated in some circles, causing confusion with some pregnant women. When you’re pregnant, you of course only want the best for your growing baby! As a result you’ll do, or not do, whatever it takes. Since acupuncture and massage therapy can both provide great relief from some of the discomforts that come along with carrying a child (including aches and pains, as well as nausea, headaches, sleep issues, and more), it would be a shame to have to suffer through those nine months without some support from these natural health care modalities. Luckily, there is good evidence to support the fact that both massage therapy and acupuncture are safe while you’re pregnant – just make sure that whomever is treating you has the proper training.

Some people who massage are concerned with treating, or in fact ‘over-treating’ pregnant women, and so you may find that some will either refuse to treat you at all, or will only treat you under certain conditions. For example, some are under the belief that low-back massage during pregnancy is dangerous because it can potentially dislodge your placenta. This is, of course, scientifically untrue as your placenta attaches to your uterine wall, and not anywhere on your back muscles or spine. A registered massage therapist is a properly trained and regulated health care provider who knows not only how to treat you when you’re pregnant, but is also very well trained in helping relieve some of those sore spots that have been bugging you of late. You will even find some who have taken extra courses to hone their skills.

During pregnancy, acupuncture is in fact contraindicated for points on your sacrum, your abdomen, and also a few other points on your body, including a couple on your ankles, hands, and shoulders. These points encourage contractions, and so should not be used until you are ready to go into labour (or need some help moving things along when the time comes!). Acupuncture points on your low back can be used during pregnancy, but the needles should be inserted only very shallowly. Bottom line: make sure that when you have acupuncture that it’s performed by someone properly trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These days, several professions are permitted to do acupuncture, but it is really only the TCM practitioners who have the full training in all the details of more sensitive issues, such as pregnancy.

So there really is no good reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy either acupuncture or massage therapy while you’re pregnant. Just do your due diligence and make sure that your masseuse is a registered massage therapist, and that your acupuncture is being performed by a TCM practitioner. And then have a happy and healthy pregnancy!

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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4 Tips on Dieting with Diabetes


If you have diabetes, you may be finding that, well, it’s a lot of work! And if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, you’re going to want to know what the consequences of the full-blown illness are. You’ll have to monitor your blood sugar levels, time your meals, maybe take insulin, definitely exercise, and generally be aware of everything that you’re doing (and about to do!) at any given time of day. That can add up to a lot of time spent doing things that the average person doesn’t need to do. And with diabetes on the rise, you won’t be alone for much longer when it comes to needing a plan to get everything done. Here are some important food points to focus on:

1. Cut out the refined. No, I don’t mean the refined people – you guys can still be friends. But stay away from those refined carbohydrates (aka ‘sugars’) that are everywhere, like in white breads, pastas, cereals, rice and even white potatoes. Instead, focus on whole-grains in your breads, etc., and eat starchy foods like potatoes in moderation. The more refined the carbohydrate, the quicker it’s broken down, and thus the higher your blood glucose (once again, aka ‘sugar’) levels will rise, since your cells can use insulin receptors only so well. And with diabetes, that’s serious! Whole-grains will also help to make sure that you get enough fiber, and consequently help to reduce your risk of heart disease, which is closely linked to diabetes.

2. Shrink it and spread it. No, this isn’t your tummy I’m talking about here! (Although, you do want to try and rid yourself of any abdominal fat that you might have accumulated – it will help lower your risk of heart disease – see the reference to fiber, above). I’m talking about your meals: smaller meals that are consumed throughout the day at more frequent intervals will help keep your blood sugar levels in check. Try to take in the same amount of food that you’d normally eat, say in three meals, and then split it in half and eat six smaller meals instead.

3. Get fat. Good fat, that is! Avoid saturated fats, not because of potential heart issues (that’s right, overwhelming evidence shows that sat-fats are not directly linked to ticker trouble), but because these fats are high in calories. Limit your intake of fatty beef, hot dogs, sausage, bacon… you see where I’m going with this. But don’t fret – you can still eat that stuff, just do it in moderation! Most of the time, swap these foods for others like avocados and nuts, which have the good fats. And eat fish or take fish oil supplements, as these are your best sources for omega fatty acids.

4. Watch the sugar. That’s a no-brainer when it comes to diabetes, but be aware of the fact that there’s a lot of sugar in alcohol (click here to read more), and pretty much anything that you drink that isn’t water, even when it says it’s ‘made with real juice’. Read the nutrition labels and look at caloric content as well as the amount of sugar in what you’re consuming. And when you crave something sweet, go for things like fruit, nuts, yogurt, ricotta cheese, and other things that don’t have sugar added to them. If you really need that piece of cake, try just half a slice, and eat it slowly, savouring every bite. That little trick makes your mind feel like it’s getting the whole thing!

If you follow this advice about eating well, and get some exercise (click here for some tips on exercising with diabetes), you should be able to lead a relatively normal life.  So do the little extra that it takes to manage or prevent this potentially deadly illness, and you’ll still live a long, healthy and happy life.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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6 Tips for Losing Weight and Eating Healthy


Losing weight is easy, right? Just eat less and exercise more! If only it were that simple. Sadly, it’s not, as you only have so much time in the day to exercise, and certainly just the thought of looking up the caloric input of everything you consume can be daunting, to say the least. It seems that the best you can do is to get the exercise you can manage to squeeze in, and just do your best to be efficient and smart when planning meals. Here are some good tips for getting the most out of your meals:

1. Adjust your focus. Because counting calories is so much work, forget it. That’s right – forget it! Instead of putting a focus on how much you’re consuming (and like many, also on how many calories you’re burning), shift your focus to how much colour, freshness and variety you can put into the food you’re eating. This is certainly a challenge in and of itself, so spend your energy here instead. You’ll find that you’re making all kinds of new recipes, replete with fresh and tasty ingredients. And eating healthier will become that much more enjoyable! Try starting with a variety of greens, reds, yellows, and whatever other colours you can throw in!

2. Get wet. Drinking lots of water helps in many ways, including satisfying cravings, flushing out your system of unwanted byproducts of exercise (and life), and even energizing your muscles by keeping their electrolyte/fluid balance in check. And make sure that you eat lots of fruit and vegetables as well, which themselves contain a lot of water. Start out by getting your own water bottle that you carry everywhere with you (but wash out daily). Keep it full, and keep draining it throughout the day.  Soon it will be like second nature.

3. Speaking of fruits and vegetables… That’s right, eat ’em! In fact, aim for 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies each day. A serving, by the way, is about one of your own handfuls, so it’s not an impossible amount to achieve. And because they contain so much water, eating more of these nutritional-powerhouses will make you feel fuller for longer. Try making them the center of your diet – make at least half your plate veg, and for snacks and desserts, have fruit as the main element.

4. Eat hungry. This isn’t always easy, but try to eat when you’re hungry, not just when you think you should be eating. This is tough when you have a strict exercise plan, because you need energy to get you through a workout and energy to refuel after. But overall you might be taking in more than you really need, as your body is built to survive on less than you might think. If you’re not hungry, avoid eating a while longer. And when you do eat, try to eat enough to just satisfy you until hunger comes again.

5. Eat whatever you want. Don’t believe it? It’s true! If you follow the above advice, you can eat whatever you’d like, without having to check an app first to make sure that it’s okay. And above all, enjoy your food – chew it slowly and taste it. Try to eat with others and talk about what you’re eating so that you’re aware of what you’re actually consuming. And when you do eat by yourself, don’t multi-task – it can make you feel like you haven’t eaten anything. Next time you eat, try to focus only on your food, chewing slowly, savoring every bite. After only a few bites, you’ll be amazed at the difference a little attention can make.

6. Be an omnivore. I know that many of my patients will scoff at this, but a little meat is okay, unless you’re a true animal rights activist. However, our society does indeed consume much more meat than we really need to. 50,000 years ago when the human race stopped evolving, how much meat do you think we were getting? Not much, for sure. So look to eggs and a little dairy for vitamin B-12, and otherwise try to eat vegetarian the rest of the time. Other meat once or twice a week is fine, but daily is unnecessary, and can add a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet. Try to get your protein instead from beans, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Just make sure that you get a good variety, as they’re not complete proteins on their own.

Above all, trust your instincts, and learn to listen to your body.  If you’re craving something sweet, you probably instinctively want some fruit.  All of these refined sugars didn’t exist 50,000 years ago right?  So then your genes aren’t really built to crave them.  No matter what the food industry wants you to believe.

Remember, natural is always best!

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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Diabetes and Pregnancy – What You Need to Know


Diabetes is a serious condition and should be treated seriously. Having a child if you’re already diabetic requires some preparation beforehand, and even if you don’t already have diabetes you should know some facts about how diabetes can develop once you do become pregnant.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes and are thinking of conceiving, you will need to ensure, first of all, that you get your blood sugar levels under control beforehand. Make sure that you’re following all of your doctor’s advice in this regard (including exercising, losing some weight if necessary, and abstaining from drinking alcohol). Secondly, once you do become pregnant, make sure that you carefully monitor your blood sugar levels throughout, to help ensure that you and your baby avoid any potential (and rare) complications. Since women with diabetes are more likely to miscarry, consider acupuncture as a natural method of preventing this from happening.

If you don’t presently have diabetes, there is little to worry about in this regard before conceiving. However, when you do become pregnant, especially into your third trimester, a temporary form of diabetes called ‘gestational diabetes‘ can become a real concern for any moms-to-be. Your doctor will tell you if you are in danger of developing this condition, which can remain temporary or can sometimes become permanent, even passed on to your child. Here are some tips on what you need to know about gestational diabetes, and what you can do to prevent and/or manage it to keep it from becoming more serious.

1. Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes means that you have abnormally high levels of sugar in your blood. Normally, this happens because of your genetics combined with other factors, such as diet, exercise, and how much abdominal fat you carry on your waistline. But with pregnancy, your hormones make your cells less responsive to insulin, which is fine if your pancreas can secrete more to compensate. It’s when your pancreas can’t keep up with the extra workload that your blood sugar levels get too high and you develop gestational diabetes.

2. Because there are often no signs for gestational diabetes, you will need to be tested around week 24 of your pregnancy, unless you already are at high risk for diabetes, in which case you may be tested as early as your first prenatal visit, and then again later on. Because of variables on these types of tests, you may need a follow-up test even though there is likely nothing to be concerned about.

3. The risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include the following:

  • you have a BMI over 30
  • you’ve had gestational diabetes previously
  • you have a family history of diabetes
  • you’ve previously given birth to a baby over 9 pounds in weight
  • you have high blood pressure
  • you’re over 35 years old

4. If you do happen to develop gestational diabetes, don’t be too alarmed. Most likely your baby will still be perfectly healthy. Nonetheless, if you do get diagnosed, do try to make some dietary changes and exercise (such as prenatal yoga) so that you can get your blood sugar levels under control. Doing this will help ensure that you and your baby avoid any complications, including permanent diabetes for both of you, as well as issues with delivery.

Essentially, when it comes to pregnancy, it’s a great idea to take folic acid and other recommended supplements such as calcium and multivitamins. Follow your doctor’s advice. Do try acupuncture to keep things under control, and try it as a complement to good health habits such as following a proper diet plan and exercising regularly.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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3 Feng Shui Tips to Improve Your Health


If you’ve read a little or heard a little about feng shui, you may know that it applies the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory of Qi (energy) flow to the world outside your body. So where you can use herbs and acupuncture for your body’s energy flow, you can use feng shui in your home and work spaces to enhance your health. Sound good? Of course it does!

Feng shui has become more and more popular as people find ways to make their lives more comfortable. The principles of feng shui can actually get quite complicated and can take a true master of the art to make a significant impact in your life, but if you’re looking for just a few tips on how to add some feng shui to your life, then this article will help.

1. Clarity. Feng shui teaches that room to move, breath and also see are essential to healthy living. Organization is a key element to this, so be sure that there is a spot for everything in your home and workspace. Resist the urge to dump everything in a drawer, but rather make space for things that you use often, and keep hallways and rooms free from clutter. Make sure that you also throw out as much unused items as possible – keeping a clean, clear home and workspace will keep your mind and your body clean and clear as well.

2. Air. In TCM it is believed that you obtain your own Qi and nutrients from food, of course, but also from the air that you breath. So it is important in feng shui that your air quality is healthy and fresh. Use plants in your home and workspace to help clean the air, as well as air purifiers and even some essential oils. Use an air purifier that is of decent quality, so be sure to do some research. And keep the window open when you can, letting fresh air clear things out. Sometimes clutter exists in the air – we just can’t see it!

3. Nature. It’s vitally important that there is a real connect to nature where you live and work. Try to maximize the amount of natural light coming into your space, and choose colours that are soothing and/or grounding, such as blues, greens, soft browns and other earth tones. Also try to choose material that you touch and wear to be comfortable and soothing as well. Finally, your pillow and bed should be made of natural materials where possible. You spend a great deal of time in bed, so make it a pleasant experience!

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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5 Tips on Exercising with Diabetes


If you have diabetes or are even borderline diabetic, exercise can be very beneficial to keeping your blood sugar levels in the ‘safe zone’, and also lowering your risk of heart disease. Of course, it’s not always so easy to start up a new exercise routine when you’re not used to it. And if you’re like many people just recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may be very reluctant to start something new. But the combination of medication, diet, and exercise can go a long way – so consider these tips as a way to get you moving. You’ll be glad that you did!

1. Keep it short. Try exercising at first in small increments, such as 10-minute walks. Just make sure that you do them as part of a schedule, i.e. commit to going for a walk 5 days a week. Then make sure that you stick to this easy schedule for at least 3 weeks. Once you get there, decide if you think you can handle longer walks. This adherence to a simple plan will help make exercise a habit, and once it’s a habit, you’ll start to enjoy the benefits. The increased energy and balanced blood sugar levels will make you feel younger and stronger.

2. Stay active. 10-minute walks only 5 of 7 days a week really isn’t much, so what do you do the rest of the time? Well, try staying active by doing things that don’t feel like exercise, such as spending more time with family, or taking up a hobby like art classes, Tai Chi, or light yoga. Also, consider getting yourself a pedometer, so that you can accurately measure how many steps you take each day. This will help you ensure that you’re getting enough exercise, and can make you feel assured when you do.

3. Call a buddy. Working out with a friend can make all the difference in keeping you motivated. Even better, join a walking group to make sure that there’s always someone there to walk with you. Besides motivation, it’s nice to have someone along so that you don’t get bored!

4. Set some goals. It’s great to be committed to exercise and certainly getting out there will help you shed a few pounds and gain some energy. But add a goal to that equation, and you’ll not only stay motivated, you’ll feel more of a sincere sense of accomplishment. Rather than just saying ‘okay, I’ll get more exercise’, set a goal of something like the above suggested ‘walking for 10 minutes, 5 days a week’. You could also add in ‘lose 20 pounds’ or better yet, how about ‘being able to fit into those clothes I haven’t worn in ten years’?!

5. Reward yourself. Having a reward to give yourself when you’ve accomplished your goal will also help tremendously. Use something other than food so that you don’t sabotage what you’ve attained. Something like a planned vacation, getting a spa treatment, or going out to a movie can all be easy ways to remind yourself that what you’re doing is a good thing. Best of all, take the time when you’re exercising to enjoy what you’re doing – feeling your heart pumping or smelling the fresh air can make attaining a goal as easy as… sugar-free pie?

Writing down your goals and tracking them as you go will help tremendously. Remember that you’re not alone in this fight: every year more and more people in Canada and the U.S. are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and the best thing you can do for yourself is to begin a new chapter on life – one with a good diet plan, and a fun, attainable exercise plan as well.

By Richard Lobbenberg, Acupuncturist and TCM Practitioner

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