Diabetes: How to Prepare for Travel and Still Live a Happy Life

Posted by Jared delbo on

Although diabetes has no cure, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and still enjoy traveling and be healthy at the same time. We will tackle more on this article in just a moment but first, we need to understand what is diabetes and its signs and symptoms.


What is Diabetes?


Diabetes is a chronic, incurable illness that occurs when your blood sugar is high. Blood sugar is your key source of energy and comes from the food you intake. A hormone made by pancreas called Insulin, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. At times your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin – or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.


Symptoms & Signs of diabetes

As of 2015, 9.4 percent or 30.3 million people in the United States had diabetes. Diabetes affects 1 in 4 people over the age of 65. About 90-95 percent of cases in adults are type 2 diabetes.

Who is more likely to have type 2 diabetes?

If you are age 45 or older you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. If you have a family history of diabetes or are overweight. Physical inactivity, race, and certain health problems such as high blood pressure also affect your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.


Diabetes is a serious problem and over time having high blood glucose may cause health problems such as:

  • Stroke
  • Kidney Disease   
  • Heart Disease
  • Dental Disease
  • Eye Problems
  • Foot Problems
  • Nerve Damage

Types of Diabetes

The most popular types of diabetes are type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

  •       Type 1 Diabetes

If someone has type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin pretty much every day to stay alive. Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age.

  •       Type 2 Diabetes

The most popular type of diabetes is perhaps the type 2 diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs at any age. But mostly it occurs in middle-aged and older people.

  •       Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in some women when they are pregnant. Most of the time, this type of diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, if you’ve had gestational diabetes, you have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Sometimes diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy is actually type 2 diabetes.

  •       Other types of diabetes

Less common types include monogenic diabetes, which is an inherited form of diabetes, and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes Diet

Picking the right foods to eat when you have diabetes can help lower your blood sugar or keep it stable.

Following a type 2 diabetes diet doesn’t mean you have to surrender all the things you love and it's not the end of the world for you-you can still enjoy a wide range of foods. Creating a diet for diabetes includes various healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The trick to enjoying your food is choosing the right combination of it.

Find out what to put on the menu when planning your diabetes diet.

Eat Foods Containing Protein, Fiber, And Healthy Fat on every Meal

Eat lean Proteins such as meats, eggs, legumes, fish, nuts and seeds provide building blocks for the most components in the body.

Add in as many vegetables as you can at every meal and snack on them too, include loads of colors and variety. Vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber.

Fiber from vegetables, seeds, nuts, and legumes plays a big part in keeping you full (without loads of calories), supports detoxification and helps balance blood glucose by slowing the rush of sugar into your bloodstream. Additionally, these foods provide the carbohydrates your body needs without the empty calories of processed grains and sugars.

Healthy Fats such as fish, avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, eggs, coconut oil, butter and ghee increase satiety and balance blood glucose.

Stay Away From Sugar

If you have type 2 diabetes it necessary that you avoid sugars. Sugar from foods and drinks such as confectionery, soda, flavored milk, fruit juices, biscuits and cakes enters the bloodstream rapidly and causes extreme elevations in blood glucose. If you need a sweetener you can try stevia or a small amount of pure honey.

Avoid Processed Grains In Your Diet For Diabetes Type 2

Avoid gluten-containing grains and white wheat flour products such as bread, bagels, pretzels, cereals, and crackers.  All grains break down into sugars and have the potential to severely spike blood glucose. The gluten in these foods causes the gut to become inflamed and can have an effect on hormones that regulate blood glucose.

By removing all grains initially, you are steering your diet toward the foods that won’t spike blood glucose – proteins, fats and high-fiber foods. Whole grains can be slowly added back in after a few weeks once your blood sugar is back under control.

You can find daily and weekly breakfast, lunch and dinner plans and diabetic meal recipes using the tips on our website and enjoy wholesome eating without compromising on taste and a little bit of indulgence.

How to prepare for travel if you have diabetes

Having diabetes does not mean you should be confined to your home. By doing some planning ahead of time and preparation, you can go anywhere whether it is a camping, a cross-country adventure, luxurious cruising, or a trip to different countries. Although vacations can be fun and exciting, you have to be aware that traveling can be stressful for your body as which can disrupt your daily routine and diet plan.

So how do you prepare for travel, which can disrupt your diabetes care routine?

Here are 10 tips for traveling when you have diabetes.

Keep your supplies close at bay

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, make sure your diabetes supplies and comforts are easily accessible. If you’re flying, be sure to put all of your supplies in your carry-on bags. Backup insulin should also be kept in your carry-on because checked baggage can be exposed to extreme cold or heat that can spoil insulin, and ruin glucometers. If you're using a device to keep your insulin cool, be sure it is a cold pack, and not a freezer pack--freezing insulin destroys its efficacy. The same rules apply for storing supplies while driving or on a train.

In addition, diabetes experts recommend that people with diabetes don’t require specific 'diabetic' meals on board; however, the non-diabetic meals may include sweet puddings.

Eating the right food can be even more difficult when you are stuck on an aircraft with a restricted menu.

If in doubt, it may be worth contacting the airline in advance.

Airline meal portions do have a tendency to be quite small and this, together with the long wait times between meals on long-haul flights, means that people with diabetes should go prepared.

Although, some airlines may provide a ‘diabetic’ meal option. If the airline does not specify what the options are, you may need to call the airline in advance or take the best guess at which option will be better for you.

When it comes to dessert, the diabetic option may provide fruit instead of a sweet dessert.

For the main meal, the diabetic option may be lower in fat which may or may not be a better option depending on which diet you follow.

stick to your routine plan

Traveling can really throw people with diabetes off schedule, and at no fault of their own. The delay of a flight may mean sitting on the runway for hours, or if you’re traveling out of your time zone, it may mean feeling hungry when you should be asleep. When you have diabetes, you need to think ahead and stick to your routine.

If you pack extra snacks for the plane, you may want to store them in an insulated bag with an ice pack.

Get documentation prepared

Carry a note from your doctor stating that you have diabetes, and need to have your medication with you at all times. If you’re going to a country where they speak a language other than your own, translate the note into that language. Make a few copies of the note and distribute to those traveling with you, so you will have documentation at all times.

Inform airport security you have diabetes

When flying, remember to put your diabetes supplies in a quart size plastic container that is separate from the other non-diabetes liquids you’re bringing on board; this way, screeners can immediately separate diabetes medications from other liquid items in your carry-on baggage. Sometimes it is helpful to carry your insulin bottles or pens in their original packaging to prove the prescription is your own. Lastly, always check out the site of the Transportation Safety Administration.

Always be prepared to treat low glucose

When you travel, you may disrupt your normal routine for both eating and dosing insulin; you may also be sightseeing or increasing your physical activity in general. Because of these changes, you need to be prepared for low glucose whenever it strikes, so pack plenty of glucose tablets—these are usually the best because they won’t melt, explode in heat, or leak and become sticky.

Check the food you eat

"If you take mealtime insulin, do your best to figure out the carbohydrate grams in the foods you’re eating so that you take the right pre-meal insulin," advises from the report on the myths of diabetes type 2. This free report (click here) allows you to search for the nutrition information for foods you may not know a great deal about prior to your trip.

In addition, test your blood glucose before and after meals to see how new foods are affecting your control. It's crucial to keep your glucose numbers in check to avoid problems.

Airline food tends to be highly processed and may include added sugars and other additives. In truth, they usually don’t taste great and they’re generally not that good for you. You may, therefore, want to consider bring your own healthy food with you.

If you are following a low carb diet, you can, therefore, choose to bring a meal with minimal starch (e.g. bread, cereal, rice, crackers, pasta) and consume only modest amounts of fruit and only in the form of berries, (which contain the least amount of fructose).

Increase your stash of supplies

You may be traveling to Hawaii for only a week, but it’s wise to pack diabetes supplies as if you were staying twice as long. Check out the list at left for what you should bring. If you're using a pump, should also remember to bring extra supplies. Andrea Penney, RN, CDE, suggests asking for a back-up loaner pump for your trip in case there's a problem with the one you're wearing. "Simply call the pump company [you use]. You might have to leave a credit card number as a deposit, or you may have to pay a 'rental fee'. The arrangement differs with each company."

Consider time zone changes

If you’re wearing an insulin pump and will be traveling to a location that is in another time zone, be sure to adjust your insulin pump’s clock to reflect the change. If you have questions about how to handle the change, be certain to speak with your diabetes care team beforehand.

Test your blood sugar

Travel can have all sorts of effects on diabetes management. For example, when en route to your destination, you may be sitting for prolonged periods of time. Keep in mind that the lack of activity may prompt your blood glucose levels to become elevated; conversely, sightseeing and other physical activity may lower glucose. 

Because of the changes in your schedule, it is very important to test glucose before and after meals. If you're unsure how to correct for highs, ask your healthcare team for more information.


Tell others that you have diabetes

While it may not always be comfortable, it is important to tell the people with whom you are traveling that you have diabetes. Let them know what you have to do to stay healthy and active on your journey, and what they should do in case there is an emergency. Always wear a medical identification bracelet when you’re traveling (although you should be wearing one all of the time anyway)—and be certain that it states you have diabetes if you take insulin, and if possible, list an emergency contact number. If you’re bringing your cell phone with you on vacation, be sure to enter a contact in your phone book entitled, "Emergency Contact"—many first responders are trained to look for this in a cell phone in the event that you are unable to communicate due to an emergency situation.

Even if you have diabetes, it is good to know the ways to prepare for travel. By doing some planning ahead of time and preparation, you can live a happier life with your family, friends and loved ones. Be happy and be sure to keep safe :).

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