Managing Your Diabetes and Mesothelioma Together

Health & Wellness

When you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar is a challenge in itself. But add to that a diagnosis of mesothelioma and the challenge becomes even greater. There are many factors that can affect your blood glucose numbers.  

Factors Affecting Blood Sugar
  1. Stress: Hormones released during times of stress can raise blood sugar levels. Many of us also eat more when stressed, which in turn can increase blood glucose. Some experience the opposite and cannot eat during stressful times. They may find their blood sugar dropping from insufficient food.
  2. Surgery side effects: The physical toll on the body from surgery can affect our ability to eat. Pain medicines can also cause constipation, which can reduce appetite. This can then lower our blood glucose.
  3. Chemo/radiation side effects: Nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and dehydration are common side effects. These can all affect our ability to eat, which in turn can lower our blood glucose. Alternatively, some chemotherapies can cause a rise in blood sugar. You may find smoothies, fruits and other sweet foods more appealing, which can also raise blood glucose levels.
  4. Steroids: Chemotherapy patients are often given steroids to help with some side effects. (They’re also called corticosteroids or glucocorticoids.) Unfortunately, a side effect of this drug is high blood glucose levels.

Careful management of mesothelioma and co-existing conditions is essential. It’s important to follow your mesothelioma doctor’s instructions for all conditions you may have and be sure to discuss all medications you’re currently taking. 

Comorbidity, or having two or more conditions or diseases at the same time is fairly common. Among pleural mesothelioma patients, 38% have been diagnosed with comorbid conditions.

Managing My Diabetes During Treatment

It’s helpful to check your blood glucose levels several times a day if you know they’re not in control.  If you don’t already have a monitor with test strips, talk to your doctor about getting set up with one and make sure you’re comfortable using it.

A food diary or nutrition journal can be helpful. It can give your doctor or dietitian insights into what is going on with your body. 

5 Tips for Nutrition Journaling
  1. Write down what time you ate.
  2. Note roughly how much you ate.
  3. Record any blood glucose tests done and the time.
  4. Document any physical activity done.
  5. Discuss your food diary with your healthcare team.

This information will be particularly useful to your healthcare team if your sugars are running too low or too high. You can also note how you feel after meals and exercise and you may begin to see patterns emerge you can discuss with your doctor.

What Should I Do If My Blood Glucose Is Running Low?

Once treatment starts and you’re experiencing side effects that cause you to eat less, you may be at risk for low blood sugar. As mentioned, check your numbers a few times a day.

Keep some high sugar foods on hand, in case you find yourself dropping too low (<70 mg/dL). Discuss the best options for you with your doctor or nutritionist.

5 Tips for Managing Low Glucose
  1. Add a little honey to tea, toast or other foods like oatmeal.
  2. Drink ½ a cup of juice or a small smoothie made with some protein powder.
  3. Eat a little something every 4 hours, having 6 small meals vs. 3 large meals.
  4. Have a few hard candies or any type of candy.
  5. Try eating ½ a sandwich, some apples with peanut butter or Greek yogurt with fruit.

Request a free copy of our nutrition guide that provides comprehensive information and recipe suggestions. The CDC also provides more information on raising low blood sugar.

What Should I Do If My Blood Glucose Is Running High?

Some medications can cause our bodies to develop insulin resistance. This is when our cells can’t respond as well as normal to excess sugar in our blood.  

This causes high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia. Checking your numbers regularly will help your doctor determine if your medications for diabetes need to be temporarily adjusted.  

5 Tips for Managing High Glucose
  1. Avoid concentrated sweets such as desserts, candies, soda and dried fruits. All of these can raise your blood sugar very quickly.
  2. Eat small meals every 4 hours.
  3. Focus on eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  4. Include a protein source with each meal such as lean meat, chicken, fish, tofu, beans, dairy, nuts or eggs. Protein and fat both help to slow down sugar absorption in the body.
  5. Walk briskly after a meal, which can help reduce your blood glucose levels.

Not only can exercise help reduce blood sugar, getting out and enjoying the fresh air can also help manage stress. Be as active as possible. Discuss any new exercise regimens with your healthcare team before starting.

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