Welcome to Flawed yet Functional! My name is Emily, and I’m an adult-onset, Type 1 Diabetic forging a new path for diabetes management by controlling my blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and healthy habits. If you’re new here, hop on over to my Insulin Free Type 1 Diabetes Resource Page to get more information on what I’m doing, how I discovered it, and how I manage diabetes. Today, I’m going to get on my soapbox a bit and flesh out some of the positive impacts of managing chronic health conditions without medication. Obviously, my focus is Type 1 Diabetes, but these ideas apply to any lifelong disease.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the other impacts of how I’m managing my health. What is the impact beyond my personal health and well-being? A common sentiment I hear is “Why are you trying so hard? Why not just take insulin?” In other words, “Why bother?” Well, I’m so glad you asked! Here are my thoughts on this seemingly simple issue that I believe is not simple at all in practice.
Offending you is not my goal but rather to get you thinking. Your health and how you manage it affects more than just you. Changing how you manage your long term health could positively impact your life and the lives of so many others. While this may not be easy reading, I think these are things those of us with long-term health issues have to think about.
Reduce Environmental Waste
I don’t consider myself to be a tree hugger type, but I do believe this beautiful world God created is ours to care for responsibly. Diabetic supplies are primarily made out of plastic and metal. The industry intends each syringe, lancet, or pen needle to be single use. If we’re being honest, I don’t know anyone, including myself that changes their lancets every use. So that’s less waste than the industry is instructing us to make, but still, TONS of materials making it into landfills to sit there for eternity.
By managing my Type 1 Diabetes through diet, exercise, and healthy habits, I have produced one 16 oz. bubble bottle full of sharps in one year. Yep, that’s it. It’s filled with about 20 pen needles and the rest of the bottle is lancets from checking my blood sugar every day, a lot of testing and not too much waste.
Food for thought: How is your health care affecting the environment? Are there non-medical steps you could be taking to reduce the use of these consumable medical supplies? If you changed your diet, could you throw away fewer pill bottles or order fewer prescriptions (paper and plastic galore!).
Reduce Health Insurance Cost
Diabetes is expensive for you, the insurance company, and your fellow insurance pool participants. The constant need for testing supplies (lancets, test strips, continuous glucose monitor supplies) and insulin supplies (vials, needles, pens, pen needles, or pump supplies) is costly. Other chronic illnesses require more frequent doctors visits, daily (sometimes multiples a day!) prescriptions, and other health management tools that are covered by health insurance plans.
So why should I care how much these supplies cost if I hit my deductible every year and the insurance company ends up covering it?
The health insurance company is a business not a benefactor. They are spreading the cost of your medical supplies over a large group of people, and you are one of the people in the group, including the amount that is spent above the deductible.
If your deductible is $1,000, but in a year the actual cost of medical supplies is $5,000, the insurance company keeps track of the overage! When the premium rates (the amount you pay out of each paycheck) are calculated the following year, the extra $4,000 is going to be factored in and spread throughout the pool of insureds. The company will raise deductibles for everyone in the pool and/or raise the premiums everyone pays to cover that $4,000. (This is very simplified, pricing is much more complicated but know that there is no such thing as free money, even for medical supplies.)
Food for thought: Have you considered your personal health management when it comes to insurance rates? What could you do to take control of your health, reduce your healthcare costs and reduce everyone’s health insurance rates?
Reduce Out Of Pocket Expense
Health insurance does cover some of the medical expenses for those of us with long-term health issues, but there is always a bit that will be out of pocket.
When I was first diagnosed, I had to hunt high and low for blood glucose monitors and strips that would be covered by my insurance. It was a nightmare, and in the end, I never did find a location that I could pick up test strips that would be covered (I failed at mail order too!).
My solution was to shop around and pay out of my Health Savings Account, so tax free but not run against my insurance. Did you know there are subscription services for diabetes testing supplies? I have an unlimited One Drop plan that is about $400/year. Many people compare per strip costs, so this is around $.22/strip. (Note: It looks like the cost went up this year to $480/year for unlimited strips. That’s from people like me using tons of strips! Again, business not benefactor!).
Even with paying for my test strips and lancets out of pocket and covering labs work and doctor visits, I came nowhere near hitting my annual deductible. That’s good news for my budget and your health insurance rates! You’re welcome!
Food for thought: Have you shopped around for the daily medical supplies you need? What about switching to different brands that costs less? Would you be willing to pay out of pocket for things your insurance company would pay for to save yourself and other insureds money?
Improve the Health (Current & Future) of Those in Your Household
As you’ve heard me speak about before, I believe the whole family should eat the same food. Not only for the support of the family member with health problems or food sensitivities, but it will improve the health of the whole family.
I should point out, I’m assuming that changing the diet leads the family toward fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit and less Cheeze-Its. What will not be good for anyone is switching from Cheeze-its to gluten-free Cheeze-its. Are you with me?
Short-term effects like stronger immune system, more energy, and more alertness/focus are huge perks. Likewise, there are long-term health benefits, from preventing diabetes to Alzheimer’s (now called Type 3 diabetes!), what we eat impacts the entire body from head to toe.
Food for thought: If you knew what would happen to your children/spouse down the road, health-wise, would you go through the effort to change now?
Improve Your Long-Term Health
Managing long-term health conditions without medication will improve your long-term health more than just taking medicine. This seems obvious to me, but it may not to you.
If you look for other solutions to your health issues than medication, you will be looking for and finding the root cause of your condition. When the root cause of the condition is discovered (gluten sensitivity, too much processed food, sugar intake, etc.), then real, true healing can begin. Not just relief/masking of symptoms, but actual healing of the body. Medicine does not heal. Medicine masks symptoms.
One area specific to diabetics is c-peptide levels. You body produces c-peptide as long as the pancreas produces insulin. When the insulin production stops, so does the c-peptide. Why does this matter? C-peptide improves circulation (a serious problem for lifelong diabetics!), improves kidney and nerve function, and more. Keeping the pancreas alive impacts more than just beta cells and blood sugar levels. Making an effort to keep the pancreas producing insulin will result in the kidneys continuing to produce c-peptide (I’ve spoken about this before) which is of long-term value to your health.
Food for thought: Would you be willing to put in the time and effort to discover the root cause of your health condition? Once discovered, are you willing to make radical changes to heal your body and change your long-term health?
As I write these thoughts out, I do see how this can seem offensive. I am not attacking you or your health. I only want to encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to managing your health, especially with a lifelong condition. Will it be possible for every person to get off all medication? Maybe not, but many could. Can every diabetic stop taking insulin? No! Not at all, if the pancreas has stopped producing insulin, the body must have insulin to function. Therefore, it must come from injections. What I am saying is if you are eating a whole foods diet that addresses any sensitivities you may have, there will be huge positive ramifications (even if you are still on some medication) beyond just your current health right now.
Are you offended? Did I make you think? What are your thoughts on health care management for lifelong conditions? If you have a lifelong condition, I’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss!