Catching a cold or the flu with type 1 diabetes is inevitable. Diabetes or not, getting sick inevitable. But you’re not a sitting duck; even with diabetes! Here’s how I keep the cold & flu at bay with type 1 diabetes.
How to Treat the Cold & Flu If You Have Diabetes
I am a firm believer that early intervention is key when it comes to fighting off illness.
I will typically start an illness protocol at the first sign of a sniffle. This is why it’s so important to know your body.
Know when it’s right, and know when it’s off.
Get To Know Your First Signs of Illness
Being able to pick up on your body’s first sings of illness are so important in regards to early intervention.
I know that when I get sick the first signs for me are either itchy ears (inside – like a need a q-tip) or sensitive skin (especially the forearms). Nine times out of ten I will experience those symptom at the start of anything… even something like the stomach bug – which has nothing to do with your ears or skin.
So next time you get sick try to pick up on the first and earliest signs. How does your skin feel? Your bones/muscles? Do your teeth/jaw hurt? Are you irritable? How’s your sleep?
Really try to notice your body’s patterns.
Cold & Flu Diabetes Illness Protocol
Once you notice your immune system revving it, it’s time to support it.
Zinc – Critical for a healthy immune response and healthy functioning immune cells. Zinc helps to stop the virus from replicating itself. Without viral replication the virus dies rather quickly. So the sooner you take it the better. This is the brand I use.
Liver – Natures multi vitamin. An incredibly dense superfood. Can be taken raw, cooked, or in supplemental form. When I can’t get it from my local farmer, this is the supplement brand I take.
Whole Food Vitamin C – It’s always best to get vitmain C from whole foods; broccoli is an excellent source. I also supplement with this whole food vitamin C capsule.
Modified Adrenal Cocktail – Adrenal cocktails will help your cells from all the stress of the illness. You can find lots of recipes for this online, but a basic one is OJ (vitamin C) + pinch of salt (sodium) + pinch of cream of tartar (potassium). Since insulin resistance is already at a high I omit the OJ and take a whole food vitamin C capsule instead. If you don’t have cream of tartar you can always use coconut water.
Magnesium – You can read all about the importance of magnesium for people with T1D in my article here. There is an even higher demand for it when we’re sick and dealing with high blood sugars. Sometimes I make my own magnesium lotion and sometimes I supplement with this brand.
Bone Broth – This is super easy to make yourself! After you’re done cooking a whole chicken (whether crock-pot cooked, oven roasted, etc), pick off the meat the best you can and throw everything else (skin, bones, cartilage, etc) into a crockpot. Completely cover with water, add a couple “glugs” of raw apple cider vinegar, and several shakes of salt. Let cook on low for 12 hours. After it’s done cooking, strain and store broth in mason jars in fridge. If you have too many you can freeze them – just make sure they have an inch of head space so they don’t crack.
Herbal Teas – Depending on what my ailment is, I will sip on an herbal tea to match. For sore throats I love Throat Coat. For respiratory/sinus bugs I love Breathe Easy.
Mushrooms – You can read all about the healing power of mushroom in the book Healing Mushrooms. My favorites to use when sick or trying to balance my immune system are Reishi Elixir Mix and Cacao Mix.
Fire Cider – I make my own but you can also find this at your local farmers market. This book has the best recipes and a great explanation of fire cider and its benefits.
Raw Garlic – This one will be easy for all my garlic lovers out there. I like to mince it up real fine and then let it sit for 10 minutes to get all the benefits. Then I’ll mix it in with my breakfast, lunch or dinner. I typically use 1-2 cloves per meal, so 3x daily.
I consume all of these things simultaneously through the day.
Another thing to prioritize is sleep (8-9hrs a day), at least 20 minutes of time outdoors to breath in fresh air, and depending on how you feel, movement.
Wet socks is another treatment I like to do when sick. The idea is to warm up your body real good, then put on a pair of frozen socks, and get into a cozy warm bed with lots of blankets so you don’t get chills. Your body will try to use your warm body heat to warm up your cold feet – activating your lymph system. Here’s the step-by-step plan on how to do it:
Before you go to sleep run a pair of socks under water, ring out and set in the freezer.
While your wet socks are freezing in the freezer jump in a hot shower for about 10 minutes.
After your shower put on comfy warm clothes, get your frozen socks out of the freezer, put them on your feet and then put another pair of socks (dry socks) over them (this is so your bed doesn’t get soaked. Wool socks are best for this, but any sock will do). Get into bed and layer on the blankets and go to sleep.
During this time I also take this saying very seriously,
Everything you put into your body is either fighting disease or creating it.
What to Look Out For
Sick days with type 1 diabetes do carry a little bit more weight. With T1D, most of time you’re going to see a rise in insulin resistance when you’re sick – or right after you’ve fought off the illness. Meaning you’re going to need more insulin.
This is because the way the body fights off illness is with inflammation and stress hormones. This acute inflammation & stress is good. We need it to fight off the illness – that’s how the body is designed to work. So give your body a pat on the back!
Insulin resistance leads to high sugar levels – particularly ones that have a hard time coming down. This is where the vigilance for DKA comes in. It’s a lot easier to fall into DKA when your insulin doesn’t have the same blood sugar lowering effect as it usually does. The body also produces ketones when sick, which doesn’t help the situation.
A quick note on DKA – DKA symptoms can sometimes mirror cold symptoms. That’s why I like to have ketone strips on hand. You can get these through your insurance/pharmacy or order them off amazon. Your body WILL create ketones when you’re sick. And if your sugar is high you’ll also have ketones, so don’t be surprised if you have some – that is very common and normal. Most of the time ketones can be taken care of at home with extra insulin and hydration. At the hospital they will just give you mega doses of insulin and an IV that contains potassium and other minerals to help lower your sugar. But if you feel like you can’t handle the situation or it’s getting out of control then that’s what the hospital is there for. They will likely hold you there for 24-48 hours so pack your hospital bag accordingly.
So what does help the situation?
Minerals like magnesium and potassium help insulin to better get into your cells. That’s why I include them in my illness protocol. Most electrolyte drinks also contain these minerals.
Some other tips to getting your blood sugar under control are to increase your background insulin. On a pump you can set an increase in temp basal. Depending on how intense my insulin resistance is I’ll increase by 30-60%, but test it out and see what works best for you. If you’re using MDI then do the math and figure out what a 30-60% increase in your long acting insulin would be. I always like to start small and work my way up.
You can check out some of my other tips for lowering blood sugar in my article here.
Let me know in the comments
How do you handle the cold or flu with diabetes?