It is a mystery for me. The mainstream medical theories deny such a thing as the ambient weather impact on complex diseases such as type I diabetes and prescribe blood glucose fluctuations and insulin resistance to less exercise or more food intake. I actually can and want to argue with that. Whenever the outside temperature drops to minus 15 to minus 30, the insulin injections I take stop working. I keep insulin in a proper place, I double the dose, I drink excessive amounts of water, I take a walk whenever possible. No change. There is practically no change. I keep taking more insulin until the dose reaches scary amount and then it would slightly lower the blood glucose. That would be using three times the normal dose. This also means a lot of finger sticking and using a lot of test stripes, up to 15 times day, so that finger tips become very painful after a while.
As soon as the outside temperature returns to minus 5 to zero Celsius, I have no problem with my insulin. I return to a normal dose and everything returns to normal levels. That is my ongoing problem with the terribly low temperatures during Canadian winter. The biggest issue that comes with it is damage to the body, fatigue and an absolute lack of energy. Doctors say: you are doing something wrong. Well, I am not. I am doing all the same. The only variable in this equation is very low temperature outdoors.
Seasonal menu as a factor?
I have simplified my menu to the point that it does not take too much time for me to cook and it doesn’t play too hard into my blood glucose sensitivity. I am having oat porridge every morning whether it is summer, spring, winter or fall. I cook it while doing something else and eat it with some butter. It isn’t sweet. I am somebody who always prefers salty dishes to sweets or desserts. I was always that way. I do not have cravings for chocolate or ice cream; in fact, I have chocolate very rarely and in very small amounts. I simply do not like it too much. I can still remember the wonderful taste of the 100% real and chemically unimproved and unprocessed ice cream while I got it rarely in summer when I was a kid, some 50 years ago. This ice cream cannot compare to that one, so, I pretty much do not consume any.
I keep my lunches very simple: some eggs, some cheese, some cottage cheese (the Latvian type of it which is available as unprocessed blocks of half a pound), berries or vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, avocado and similar. I do consume lots of onions and garlic. I am adding garlic and onions to practically anything I cook. I love onions and garlic.
For dinners, I would mostly have potatoes (Latvian style, whether with skin or peeled and boiled in salted water with some garlic or as mashed potatoes) with simple salads and fish, meat or chicken. We rarely have rice or pasta. Very rarely. I always cook from scratch, practically every single meal, 3 times a day, every day of the year. I do that because I know that way what is on my plate and what it contains.
I personally cannot eat more than 3 times a day; I cannot eat snacks between my meals because I am simply not that hungry. If I would not have to take injection with my meals, I could easily survive on 2 meals a day. I still do sometimes, but skipping one meal and one injection isn’t that great, that affects the schedule and overall blood glucose level. I do not put food first, it usually comes after to whatever I have to do, and food is just something inevitable for me.
Food as fuel and 3 meals seem like a lot
I am trying to use only such foods that are practically not processed. That is the reason I am only using real butter (I always was) and 35% whipping cream because the sour cream isn’t a cream in Canada, it is something which has a lot of ingredients, a lot of added and free stuff, which means it is heavily modified. I am almost 60, and I haven’t ever been overweight. In fact, my weight and size haven’t changed since I was 21. I do not go to the gym (I simply cannot for the most time) and my exercise is physical work, work in the garden or walking. I frequently cannot walk at all, and there have been periods like after a surgery when I am totally unable to cross even the room.
I am listing this to simply show that my menu is pretty much the same throughout the year. I grow my own greens, herbs and vegetables, so, I would have these in summer and fall. I use herbs and greens a lot regardless of season because parsley, dill, green onions, water cress sprouts, rosemary, celery and basil are available now all year round.
Physical exercise and workload
My blood sugar does not comply with my good intentions. After having some very harsh and very cold winters in Canada, I came to conclusion that when the weather reaches some certain minus temperature, I get insulin resistance. I take walks or shovel snow when I can and, strangely, that does not affect the blood glucose. In summer, if I am not really cautious with physical loads, even walking to the store, my blood glucose is always low and frequently drops like a stone, so, I have to use pure sugar or glucose pills, a lot of them to bring the blood glucose level up to normal.
My workload is also mostly the same: typing at computer medical research works and translations, painting and giving art classes. That is the same regardless of season.
Medical and non-medical causes of insulin resistance
I have been researching this phenomenon a lot, but it was mostly attributed to drinking less water, exercising less (I don’t do it ever, not in summer, not in winter or in any other season) and eating more or eating comfort foods. As I mentioned before I do not eat more in winter. I never change my meal schedule when I am at my place, and it keeps my condition pretty stable. The only exception is a very cold weather. For this to happen, the temperature has to drop below minus 10 or so. We have had recently minus 24 to minus 27 for a few weeks and I have been in a lot of trouble.
I have found that there are more people complaining about this issue. The only advice they are given is: move more and eat less. In my case, the blood sugar level stays high even if I skip a meal and eat nothing. It stays high even if I go outside and do a lot of snow shoveling (our sidewalk is very long, it is a huge lot) or walking fast. When it is really bad I am trying to eat more proteins, especially eggs and drink a lot of water. That slightly helps; however, I would not say it helps significantly.
In a very hot weather, I sometimes have to eat lots of sweet things to keep the blood glucose level up and proceed extremely carefully with physical activity. If I have taken insulin at a normal dose, but I suddenly have to walk somewhere, the blood glucose drops heavily and I have terrible low blood sugar symptoms from which it is hard to recover.
Therefore, I tend to disagree with the fact that the ambient temperatures and weather conditions have no impact on us and on diseases such as type I diabetes. Well, type II diabetes is very different in many ways, so I am not talking about type II diabetes which is also most often not-insulin dependent while I live on 2 insulins: the basal and the fast acting.
Seasonal affective disorder
I am very sensitive to anything, however. I feel a lot of pressure on joints which were fractured (that is a lot of joints: left shoulder, left hip, left ankle and right wrist plus vertebrae fracture) in rainy weather; my low blood pressure goes even lower when it is cloudy and foggy, I do experience lack of energy and fatigue with cold and hot weather: I would say I can relate a lot the seasonal affective disorder. Does that explain the insulin resistance in very low temperatures? It is hard to say because all scientific advice tends to make everybody the same: if 100 people eat too much and do not move at all one must be the same and that explains their high blood sugar levels. I do disagree with that also. There are many type I diabetics who are rather skinny, who have low and very low blood pressure like me, but there is definitely something within my body which causes my blood sugar and insulin metabolism and its release react the way they do. Maybe that is a slow-down of any metabolism? Maybe that is less active immune system altogether? Or over-active immune system? Maybe that is a leftover of a genetic phenomenon which most medical specialists absolutely disagree with?
Globalization of medical treatments
Well, we are all so different. Therefore, one treatment, one advice and the same drugs will never help a condition which has the same name, but occurs in different people with distinctive genetics and many variables in their personal and medical history, as well with different places of origin, race, gender and life style. The general medical approach misses that. We are evaluated by using clinically studied results and values which are STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT. When somebody does not fit in any statistically significant category, their doctor will say: that cannot be. That’s exactly what they will say. Why? It cannot be because it cannot be. Don’t we know other things which cannot be, but they are?
With globalization of everything, treatments tend to become global, too: if this was working in 100K people, it must be working in you, as well. Is it? No, it frequently isn’t working.
I find that the individual aspect of any condition and disease is the one that is neglected and missed most often. It is so easy to go by the text-book. It takes a lot of courage and extraordinary thinking to get beyond that and start treating every patient as an individual which we are.
Therefore, I am very sure there are more people whose blood glucose levels ARE AFFECTED by the ambient weather and temperature. It could be a more sensitive immune system, their personal metabolism, metabolism of minerals, vitamins, salts and water, sensitivity of blood circulation and blood composition, as well as glandular activity, hormonal balance and genetic settings which play a role.
Individual differences in clinical conditions
The only different article which reviews the insulin resistance in extremely cold weather was this one: https://www.healthline.com/diabetesmine/diabetes-and-the-ice-age#3
Comments under this article showed that most people either did not read it carefully, or did not understand what this article was about. As I mentioned before, type II diabetes is very different from type I diabetes, and methods of treatment and ways of maintaining healthy glucose levels are different, too. Plus, etymology of type I diabetes should be taken into account also, but nobody ever does that. I find that most doctors will view a patient as one of many similar cases. It is very rare when individual specific issues are addressed because the excuse always is: it just cannot be! It sometimes is, even when the cause is unknown or unclear. If there is somebody type I diabetic reading this who has experienced something similar, I’d love to hear from you!
It is terribly cold still. The weather forecast promises milder week ahead, so, I’m very much looking forward to it. I cannot even keep sitting at computer because I am frozen stiff. If I do not respond right away it is because it is too cold to stay on the first floor.
12 thoughts on “Mysteries of cold weather, type I diabetes and insulin resistance”
😒 Sending warm thoughts your way! 🌞 🔥 💥 ☄️
While I haven’t any helpful advice to give, I do agree that every person is different and most medical and clinical solutions are statistically based. Medicine is rarely practiced on an individual patient basis, perhaps because most doctors do not have enough time. Best of luck with your continued research into the temperature issue and hopefully you will find a solution that works just right for you.
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Thanks! I was simply curious how many other people are out there who have noticed similar blood glucose fluctuations. It is true that doctors practically spend no time with patient and pay no regard to any differences. While most people would complain that winter time is more challenging for controlling blood glucose levels, I don’t think many have such dramatic changes. Thanks again for your comment and I will keep looking for people with similar symptoms!
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Nobody knows our body and how it functions except ourselves.There are some factors that affect our health which are even beyond science.Each person is singular.All the best to you.
That’s exactly the point.
I wanted to illustrate with this story how distinctive one and the same condition can be and how the general medical widely accepted approach won’t be suitable.
Yet, that is most often the only way patient is treated in Canada: as one of many cases which have to fit in the same parameters even if they absolutely do not.
After spending 35 years in medical research and writing , I find a lot of nonsense in the ways patients are treated here. It is sometimes mind-blowing how wrong this can be.
University degree recognition is a very expensive and lengthy thing, so, I cannot work practically in the fields of my specialization in Canada. It’s sad, but reality. Therefore, I am treated as a patient who has absolutely no clue about anything here.
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I read with interest what you had to say about Canadian winters and being diabetic, I too am diabetic, but a 2, at first I was totally miffed about it all, and the medical “way” of dealing with it really annoyed me, but I finally figured it out for myself, how and what worked best for me. After years of pills, I asked for insulin and I have never been happier. Born and raised here the weather is not a bother for me. I adjust. AND important, I have come to appreciate my diabetic symptoms, they help me monitor my “body” and “self”. I sincerely hope you find a way to live happily with your symptoms, they are yours, belong to you, and only YOU know what to do with them.. =^_^= Have a good day!
Thanks! Well, I am seeing symptoms of pancreatic dysfunction, low or high blood glucose levels, the effects on kidneys, liver, blood vessels and eyes as very disturbing.
While one has to be very cautious with long periods of low glucose episodes not to get in coma or lose the brain because all cells in our body need glucose, it is an essential fuel, the frequent finger sticking is an issue. It sometimes becomes a big issue. I have to type a lot when current medical job comes in, it is tens of pages just in a day, having really painful fingertips is a big issue also with painting or sewing. I find the alcohol which is sold at pharmacy not always strong enough, so fingertips become inflamed or infected. So does the injection site. There are new devices available which are applied into the skin and they allow for scanning without sticking fingers for 12 times a day, but these are not covered yet. Strips are expensive, it is a dollar each time when one has to test. In winter, anything is more difficult, probably because of blood itself and probably because of changes in metabolism.
Type II is somewhat more flexible and not that life threatening. Any deviation from a very strict schedule in type I diabetes results in aftereffects. Skipping meal will cause problems, skipping injection will cause problems, walking around with very high or very low blood glucose is simply difficult because there is potential of falling or fainting because of dizziness, blurred vision, tachycardia which causes insane anxiety and so on. These symptoms cause one being very dysfunctional. If it is impossible to lay down or sit down (we here have no benches on streets here most often), one could fall straight on the street and in minus twenty Celsius that is not a good outlook. I cannot leave house without all devices, syringes and glucose pills and even disinfection liquids, etc. because the situation can change extremely rapidly. Well, and type I diabetes is not that predictable, too. Plus, the pancreatic sensitivity which practically does not allow eating out anything since these foods contain a lot of chemicals.
Basically, I get interrupted in the middle of whatever I do. The least I like it when I have to stop painting in the middle of a brush stroke or in the middle of whatever I wanted to finish.
The only positive thing is that one controls what they eat. However, I frequently have to eat pure sugar in spoons or glucose pills when the glucose level drops It is annoying when I have mixed up injections and accidentally taken the fast acting injection instead of slow acting before bedtime. So, I sit up until some 3 or sometimes 4 am, sleep wants to put me out, but I am trying to raise the glucose level. I do not think I am any happier because of these symptoms because it is first of all always being very restricted and tied up with a strict schedule. I plan any smallest walk, I cannot just go somewhere when I want or work physically when it hits my mind. I have to adjust everything. So, it’s a long preparation for simple things.
Having this surgery gone wrong put me on strong pills for 3 years. These pills cause nausea, loss of appetite, pain, pancreas pain, sometimes cramps, so this was a bad addition to type I diabetic symptoms. They also make one want to cry a lot, be depressed, well, anything toxic will do that. On the other hand, as soon as I stop these pills, swelling and pain returns. Well, I would not say it is easy. Cold weather makes these symptoms worse.
I have done so much research in type I diabetes that I could write volumes about it. Differences between type I and type II diabetes are huge, so are ways to cope and keep spikes at the bay. It is because of the cause and loss of function of hormone releasing beta cells. They can be dead, affected or absent as after surgery.
I am working currently on a research in brain activity and fine motor movements, as well as the role of drawing from life creating new synapses and new neurons.
Thanks for stopping by!
I’m glad to hear you’re not skipping meals as that’s not good for the body. As for snacking, I do so as I get hungry, such as mid-afternoon. Stay warm inside xo
Thanks, Christi! I am working very much at the moment. I have a lot of medical writing.
With all the work, I go sometimes with eating 2 times a day. I need a lot of injections, so, that messes up the schedule. I cannot eat too much, so, I am only having glucose pills or sugar when I get hypoglycemia. As you know, that is the worst side effect with type I diabetes because getting to 1 or staying for too long very low causes brain death and coma, not what one wants. That’s why we have to be always alert and stick fingers as soon as there is some terrible dizziness or nausea, etc.
While I like having delicious meals, I cook exclusively Latvian style: very tasty, minimum ingredients, minimum work and time, but absolutely always from scratch. It is 3 meals a day, normally, I do not have snacks when everything goes smoothly.
I think people devote too big part of life to food. Less ingredients is way better than sandwich with 50 different things on it. Sandwich by nature should be contraindicated. We are having topped bread, but I don’t like bread too much.
Ok, going back to work, it’s a lot of pages I have to write every day.
I have class at night, too, have to save some energy because the fatigue is really disturbing.
Thanks for stopping by!
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I found your blog from a search on the exact same topic. I am type I, living in Finland and it is currently the coldest time. I’ve been wondering for a week what is going wrong with me, that BG is around 15 (mmol/l) at any time time of the day. I eat extremely low-carb and my body is just not used anymore to levels above 10 mmol/l. (x18 for US units)
It feels terrible to wake up in that kind of state, body overheated from the high BG levels and ensuing inflammation.
I’m going to Lapland tomorrow for a skiing holiday and am really scared of the consequences on my body. I did that same thing a year ago and remember back then being completely clueless as to what caused it. Now I know and thanks for the post! All the best!
Btw my search also yielded an interesting article related to this subject:
Thank you! I am having such effect every time when the temperature drops below 6-8 degrees Celsius. If minus 10 and lower temperature stays longer, it is a real trouble. I have been actually dealing with medical research, but it feels that every source and every other reference says: it cannot be. It is. The raise in blood glucose has been driving me crazy.
I would say this is characteristic in some European origin people with type I. Most likely, this could be due to a genetic composition and/or specific features. Lots of things are not explained or researched to a decent level. The worst is, however, that general medical advice will not deal with exceptions. Instead of finding the answer, they will say: it cannot be.
The newest hypothesis is actually that our levels of different substances like amino acids, hormones and others are not and never meant to be the same. I will do more work in this regard.
However, I totally understand your frustration.
I have been thinking about that: I would avoid practically any raises in BG in winter if I spent it in an area where temperature is between 0 Celsius and up. I was unable to do this, but it solves my problem: as soon as I am in a warm environment or as soon as the temperature goes up, everything normalizes.
Good luck and stay warm!
I am not diabetic, but do know many environmental factors affect general health. Doctors are not trained to be good listeners these days, and there seem to be precious few good diagnosticians out there.
You are so right: my experience in Canada is that no doctor wants to listen to patient at all. This is profoundly wrong. It goes like this: many months waiting to get to a specialist, long sitting in the waiting room and literally 3-5 minutes with a doctor. Recently, husband was waiting for me outside in a car, and as I appeared literally a few minutes later since the moment I walked into the clinic, he asked: was the appointment cancelled? To which I said: no, I already saw the doctor. Yes, they quickly misdiagnose the issue because even the magician couldn’t treat somebody that fast, and there I go: to the next waiting. Meanwhile, there is no treatment, it is just pretending that some cure is happening.
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