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Book Review: "Think Like a Pancreas" by Gary Scheiner

Posted: 29 November 2014 at 05:56:17

I just finished reading Think Like a Pancreas by Gary Scheiner, a certified Diabetes educator and owner of Integrated Diabetes Services, a firm of Diabetes clinicians who all have Diabetes themselves and work to help their clients improve their ability to live with the disease.

I would label this book MUST-HAVE for all Type-1 Diabetics and parents of young (under 12) Diabetic children. If you fit into one of these categories, not only must you have this book, you must READ it as well.

Scheiner addresses some aspects of Type-2 Diabetes in the book as well, but it's mostly relevant to Type-2 Diabetics who have progressed to being at least somewhat dependent on insulin.

Scheiner breaks the book up into ten chapters. The tenth chapter is really just a large collection of references to resources such as manufacturers, vendors, organizations, and websites. An appendix includes some handy log sheets for photocopying to get you started in keeping written records.

Scheiner's candor and humor makes the book a lot less clinical and stuffy than it could be. But, some of his humor, I would say, isn't necessarily appropriate for children. I think I only ran across a couple of instances of this and they weren't throw-the-book-against-the-wall bad, they just felt slightly off-color for a young (under 14) reader.

For many Diabetics, the physiology of Diabetes is confusing. If someone asks them why they're Diabetic, they just say "My pancreas doesn't work... right" and leave it at that. This book will give the reader a very good understanding of what role the pancreas plays in a non-Diabetic body and how insulin therapy can be used to restore the balance a healthy pancreas provides.

The book goes over the pros and cons of using insulin pumps, multiple daily injections (MDI), continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), and multiple types of insulins (normal, NPH, fast-acting like Humalog and Novolog, and long-acting like Lantus and Levemir.)

It also covers many non-insulin medications that different types of Diabetics may wish to consider. Most non-insulin medications are primarily for Type-2 Diabetics, but it seems research is finding Type-1 Diabetics can benefit from them as well.

For example, my endocrinologist gave me samples of Symlin, Byetta, and Victoza injectables to try. These are all targeted for Type-2 Diabetics, but have shown some positive results for Type-1 Diabetics as well, especially for those trying to lose weight. I didn't like Symlin, Byetta, or Victoza. I either felt the nausea side effect was too much or that my blood sugars were becoming too unpredictable.

Having read more about how these medications work and what typical experiences are for people who use them, I'm more inclined to give them another go.

All in all, I think this book will save you a lot of time at the doctor's or endocrinologist's office because you will cease being the ignorant patient who just wants a list of things to do and medications to take and, instead, will become an informed partner in your Diabetes treatment plan. You can ask educated questions and even bring up reasonable arguments why you question a doctor's recommendations.

I recommend reading the book one chapter at a time. There's a lot of information in each chapter, so give it time to sink in before moving on to the next chunk.

I consider myself a pretty well-informed Type-1 Diabetic, but I learned several important things from this book. I've never given much thought to how high my post-meal spikes went as long as my average blood sugar was reasonably close to being on-target. Scheiner points out that, for adults, frequent post-meal spike over 180 mg/dL can contibute to stress on your kidneys and accelerate complications in your eyes. That caught my attention and I started adjusting my meal boluses so that my post-meal spikes don't go so high. It's only been a few days, but I've already noticed a significant difference in my blood sugar readings from this simple change.