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Prepping as a Diabetic

There are many ways to store and prepare, many of which are cheap and easy. However there are so many different things to try and prepare for and seems like an endless list of variables to contend with. However some people have special circumstances that makes things even trickier, and one of those are people with diabetes.

Diabetics often take a number of medications, eat a restrictive diet, and exercise regularly in order to help regulate their blood sugar and maintain their health. Diabetic medication is often a complicated system of balance, but can include:

  • Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, others). Generally, metformin is the first medication prescribed for type 2 diabetes. …
  • Sulfonylureas…
  • Meglitinides…
  • Thiazolidinediones…
  • DPP-4 inhibitors. …
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists. …
  • SGLT2 inhibitors. …
  • Insulin therapy.

A situation where medicine is not available, food is limited, and even movement may be restricted, could severely alter the health conditions of a diabetic. However there are some things you can do to help prep as a diabetic, both for short term incidents and total SHTF.

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I am a type 2 diabetic and was diagnosed in 2009. I have went through many different types of therapy and was insulin dependent at one point. My experience in living with, and preparing to continue living with this condition is the basis for this article, and not specific medical training. You need to speak with your doctor before adding or altering your prescriptions and supplement intake. Again this is for information purposes, and should not be construed in any fashion as medical advice.

What are the Obstacles?

There are several obstacles that need to be overcame when it comes to prepping as a diabetic. First and foremost is going to be access to medication. Whether you are currently on medication or not, the unknown circumstances that may develop during an emergency may alter your current situation to where medication is needed.

It’s important to remember that even if you are a Type 2 that controls blood glucose levels with diet and exercise only, everything we do now is at the benefit of calm surroundings. It may not be so easy to maintain blood sugars during an actual emergency event. The added stress of an emergency can also wreak havoc on our bodies, and that includes instability in blood glucose.

The second is going to be diet. Normal diabetic diets are sugar free and carb restrictive. Most food stores are sugar laden and carb heavy. This is obviously not going to work very well. We must either alter the food that we store, or learn how to somehow change the way we eat and utilize our food stores to better suit our dietary needs.

A third is going to be exercise. Most all diabetics need to exercise on a daily basis to not only assist with stabilizing blood sugars, but also to combat the numerous complications that comes along with diabetes. Depending on the emergency at hand, getting further than your living room may be difficult or dangerous. We have to again look to alter the way we manage our bodies, or find alternative ways to get the exercise that we need in the space that we have available.

Finally we have refrigeration. Insulin needs to be kept chilled because it begins to breakdown at room temperature, which lowers its effectiveness at reducing glucose in the blood. Without the ability to chill the medication, we face harming the very medicine we need to live.

Medication

Generally we all store various medications as part of our preps, but if you take any prescription medications, they obviously need to take a priority. The main problem is that prescription medications are restricted, limiting the amount you can get access to, and stock up on. There are some tips and tricks that can help you get a little extra meds stocked up.

The biggest one is making sure you refill your prescription as soon as you possibly can. Most insurance companies will allow you to process your refill between twenty one and twenty eight days after you pick up your meds. Getting it a few days early each month can allow you to slowly build a small supply. Another trick that is often discussed is claiming that you lost your medications. Now obviously how this is handled by your insurance company and/or pharmacy will vary greatly, but could help you get some extra meds.

Another popular option is buying medications from outside the US. Mexico and Canada both have much different rules governing prescription medicine. Many drugs that are controlled in the US are available over the counter in Canada. People claim to have success ordering from Canadian pharmacies online and having it shipped across the border.

You can also get medications from friends and family. It seems doctors are often changing people’s medications, especially when trying to adjust a patient’s therapy. Often people end up with a thirty day supply of meds, and only take a few before being switched to something new. These medications are obviously still good, just make sure that they are the same medication and strengths you need.

Refrigeration

As most diabetics know insulin must be kept refrigerated for storage. Once it comes to room temperature it has at max 28 days, maybe less, depending on the specific insulin. Any plan for a long term survival for an insulin dependent diabetic, including all Type 1’s, will have to account for some type of long term refrigeration.

One popular method is to use special propane (LPG) powered refrigerators. These appliances use propane to cool and many use less than 1lb of propane per 24hr period, depending on your climate. Propane is very stable and easy to store. This method may be the most effective, of course it is also the most expensive.

Another option is to use the ground. The ground is a great insulator, and if you get can down inside the earth at least three feet, you can use it to help maintain cooler temperatures. This option will not get you temps as cool and an electric or propane refrigerator, but it will help significantly extend the storage life of insulin.

If you can’t use the ground or are traveling you can use running water. Flowing water has a greater contact with air and therefore increased evaporation. This evaporation helps to lower the temperature of the water which can then be used to store the insulin. Same as the ground storage method it will most likely not achieve optimum temperatures depending on your location, but it will extend the storage life.

Diet

As I mentioned above the majority of food that is often stored as preps is centered around carbohydrates. This is the component of food that is turned into glucose in the body and creates spikes in diabetics, when their bodies doesn’t store it properly.

One of the major considerations that will need to be dealt with is access to fresh produce. Most diabetic diets consist of significant amounts of vegetables to make up two thirds of the intake, with protein being the other third. This is extremely problematic when access to anything fresh could be difficult.

Protein is easier to deal with. You can store canned meats, just make sure that it is just canned, and doesn’t have any fillers, gravies, or sauces added to it. The best choice is going to be canned or “pouched” fish. Fish like tuna and salmon offer an incredible amount of healthy nutrients. When you are having to survive on stored food, the extra boost of nutrients will help keep you running as close to one hundred percent as possible.

Vegetables will be a different story altogether. Canned vegetables, as well as dehydrated vegetables are going to be the easiest to store and will be what you will  rely on during the first part of most emergencies. However the ability to acquire fresh produce will need to be addressed for anything like a long term incident.

When it comes to canned vegetables not all are created equal. Commercially available canned vegetables are processed very differently than home canned produce. The difference in the processing and the materials used are there to increase the shelf life of the product. On the same principles, commercially canned vegetables often contain added sodium, additives, and preservatives to extend their shelf life and improve their taste.

Home canned food does have a shorter shelf life, but is usually much less processed, and therefore closer to the fresh vegetable when compared to commercially prepared food. Generally home canned also does not have any additives other than some recipes calling for a small amount of salt. The other advantage to home canned is that it is done by hand, and not a machine. This means that there is a better control over exactly what goes into the jars, where a machine simply processes without prejudice. You generally end up with a cleaner and higher quality product with home canning.

Dehydration is another popular option for storing vegetables long term and can be a fantastic resource, however most long term storage of dehydrated vegetables includes storing them in the freezer. While you can store an incredible amount of dehydrated vegetables in a rather small space using this method, keeping the freezer running when SHTF will not be easy if electricity is lost. This will be an OK method for the short term, but long term options still need to be in place.

One possible solution is to store seeds and to prep your property to be able to put out a garden without making extreme changes. The best option is to have a patch of ground cleared of all grasses and brush, tilled and turned, and then sown with a beneficial cover crop. In the event it is needed you can clear the cover crop and turn the soil with hand tools, then you are ready to plant your seeds. Grass is very hard to remove by hand and robs the ground of large amounts of nutrients, so this step will give you a much better starting point.

The second option would be to have materials to set up a small grow station. Seed starting materials, potting soil, seeds, containers, fertilizer, and other supplies can be stored together and pulled out for use when needed. It would be wise to keep a good rotation on your potting soil, fertilizer, and seeds however. A prime container is a five gallon bucket, which can also double to store you materials in.

Exercise

Exercise is a major portion of any diabetic’s lifestyle. Exercise lowers insulin resistance which means the natural insulin, if there is any, that is being produced in the body, as well as any injected insulin, can be more effective and reduce more glucose. Secondly exercise allows the muscles to uptake glucose for energy, which lowers the overall glucose as well.

Depending on the situation, getting out and going to the gym or walking around your neighborhood might not be simple or safe to do. Therefore we need to make sure we have taken provisions to be able to exercise with unknown restrictions.

One of the easiest ways to exercise in these conditions  is by doing what is known and “body weight exercises”, where you use your own body weight as the resistance for your workout. Squats, push-ups, lying hip raises, lunges, side-lunges, crab walks, leg raises, any many others can be done with no equipment.

Another possibility is finding a manual style treadmill that does not require electricity and turns the belt with just your movement. You can also buy a small and lightweight set of resistance bands and together you would have what is needed to get a complete workout in very limited space, without generating any noise or using any electricity.

Alternative Preparations

Now we have looked at the obstacles that a diabetic would face maintaining their current lifestyles and medications. But what can we do, prepare for, or store that would also help? Truth is there are many products on the market that is supposed to help with controlling high blood sugar. While it is very important to remember that this is not to be construed as medical advice and you should talk with your physician before altering your medications and supplements, we can look at some of the most popular and readily available items.

Cinnamon Capsules

Cinnamon capsules are sold far and wide and have been touted to have a host of medicinal benefits. The most often advertised is that it can be used to lower blood glucose and to help manage diabetes complications. The capsules can be purchased at most big box stores for less than $10 per bottle.

The most common recommendation is to take a 500mg to 1000mg dose with each meal. There are a lot of studies and reports that seem to show the effects of cinnamon, but none have been evaluated by the FDA. A person could easily store a significant amount of the supplements for use post SHTF to help with blood sugar.

Chromium

Chromium is another supplement that is recommended for diabetics. Chromium helps the body to lower blood sugar levels by reducing the overall glucose in the body. Well not as many studies exist for chromium as there are for  cinnamon, there are still a lot of claims of people significantly reducing their blood sugar with chromium supplements. Chromium is another one that is readily available and could easily be stocked for later use.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D lowers insulin resistance and helps the body uptake glucose from the bloodstream. More importantly though, vitamin D helps the body fight against kidney and heart failure, which are two common and deadly complications of diabetes. Vitamin D supplementation is generally considered safe, and the supplements are easily available and low cost, which makes it one that could easily be stocked.

Berberine

Berberine is a supplement that has gained popularity in the US in the last ten years or so, but has been used in Asia for generations. Supporters claim that is does all sorts of beneficial things in the body, but most notably

It reduces insulin resistance and can help decrease glucose production in the liver. It also  slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive system, which helps with spikes in blood glucose. It is becoming easier to purchase, but it might still take some looking and studying. Always make sure when you are buying something ingestible from foreign areas that you make sure it is high quality.

Magnesium

Magnesium is recommended for all diabetics. It is a particularly helpful substance and is used by a majority of processes in the body. Specifically though it lowers blood glucose in the blood, helps with tired and stresses muscles, and can help protect against heart complications and stokes.

Magnesium is one of the major nutrients that you get from leafy vegetables, berries and other fresh produce, so taking this supplement can help if your diet is suffering from a lack of vegetables. It is readily available, affordable, and easy to store.

Thinking Long Term

With all of these obstacles considered it is obvious that attempting to survive post SHTF for a diabetic will indeed be possible, but it will be much more difficult. If we are truly looking to sustain ourselves for the long term the most important thing we can do is improve our health now. While this does not apply to Type 1 diabetics, Type 2’s can take steps now to reduce the severity of their diabetes.

Losing weight is one of the most important things for any Type 2 diabetic. Just losing weight a lot of times can take away most of the symptoms of diabetes, and could potentially take you to the point where you are controlled with diet and exercise only.

Having a good solid workout regimen can not only help you lose weight and lower your blood glucose, it can also help your build muscle mass if it includes proper strength training. Muscle is important because it uptakes glucose to use as fuel, lowering your overall blood glucose levels. Muscle also burns more calories than fat, which continues to help you lose weight.

Taking care of our bodies during a SHTF will be a difficult thing to do. Taking the extra steps now to help us get into the best possible physical condition will only help us more when times are the darkest.

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About Steve Hensley

Steve Hensley
Steve Hensley is a professional writer and photographer that lives in Richmond, KY. Steve have been writing for around 5 years professionally, and has contributed to numerous websites and blogs, as well as his work with creating professional content. Born and raised in Kentucky, Steve spent over 15 years working in public service, and has experience in Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement. He has also worked with training and deploying rescue and service dogs, that are utilized in a variety of services. Steve has worked with a taught firearms and self defense in multiple venues, from tactical applications to long range shooting, and also has extensive training in first aid and wilderness first aid. An active prepper, Steve has devoted hundreds of hours to mastering and teaching skills and techniques for use in survival and homesteading.

8 comments

  1. First things first: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist.

    Second thing is my ‘take’ on the single most important thing I saw in this essay.
    ***Losing weight is one of the most important things for any Type 2 diabetic. Just losing weight a lot of times can take away most of the symptoms of diabetes, and could potentially take you to the point where you are controlled with diet and exercise only.***

    That jibes with everything I’ve ever heard or read. LOSE WEIGHT – get down to what you ‘ought’ to be and work hard to stay there. (This means going cold-turkey on corn fructose in every form, for starters.)

    Third thing: ***Chromium is another supplement that is recommended for diabetics.***
    Years ago I read a book titled “The Trace Elements and Man” by Henry Schroeder. This man had discovered his lab rats with Chromium-deficient diets were prone to diabetes, and those who had adequate amounts were not. But beware – too much of a good thing is NOT good, and Chromium is one of those things. It’s a necessary component in humans in microscopic amounts, but is a heavy-metal poison when those amounts are exceeded. Therefore you’d be better off getting your Chromium from foods, but that’s hard in this “processed foods” age. In fact, Schroeder attributed the low levels of Chromium in Americans to our use of highly processed white flour. On the flip side, how do you know you’re getting the claimed amounts of any minerals in this “libertarian” environment where manufacturers must NOT be “regulated”? Try to find a reliable supplier and stick with it.

    Fourth thing: ***As most diabetics know insulin must be kept refrigerated for storage.***
    The author doesn’t mention thermoelectric coolers. In the past they were damned for being electricity hogs on account of their inefficiency. That’s still true, but these days people can purchase inexpensive photovoltaic (solar) cells to generate their own 12v. electricity. A quick check at Amazon told me the current problem is the freaking digital circuitry they now stick on the dumb-as-a-brick coolers. THAT’s often what breaks these days. You’d definitely want the simple types – there is basically nothing to go wrong with them. I’m guessing with “nested” cooling boxes a person could build a core unit producing and holding substantial amounts of ice to get through nights and extended overcast periods.

    Fifth thing: ***The main problem is that prescription medications are restricted, limiting the amount you can get access to, and stock up on.***
    Those same “libertarians” who demand the end of regulations and who are greasing the skids for Big Corporations in every way don’t bat an eye at destroying the liberty of individuals by enacting crap like the medication restrictions. Or using their legislative clout to destroy access to contraception. Heck, here in Indiana if I want to buy a single baby chicken at the Farm Store, I first have to fill out a multiple-page form! For a brief while (lots and lots of reaction!) a 92-year-old guy or gal in a walker had to dig out an ID to prove they were over drinking age in this state. So yes, I’m very unhappy with the faux “libertarians”. (Rant over.)

    Finally, diabetics who anticipate disaster might consider the events in Lucifer’s Hammer, a novel where the Earth is hit by a large comet and everything comes unglued. The diabetic Scientist Hero sacrifices himself building weapons to defeat a horde of Black Cannibals (!!) because there wasn’t time to also extract insulin from the pancreas of farm animals. This was done in the past, and could be done again….

    http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/2013/11/two-tons-of-pig-parts-making-insulin-in-the-1920s.html

  2. Great article Steve!! My hubby is a Type 2 diabetic that is also on insulin type meds. I have wondered about other alternative ways to keep his insulin type meds cool, and you mentioned ways I hadn’t thought about.
    I’ve done some research on Zeer pots, which was one way I was going to go, but they aren’t what we could use here in the summer in Central Illinois to keep much of anything cool. They are evaporation coolers, and, with 90% humidity we can get here, there isn’t going to be much evaporation going on!! I need to work on maybe digging a hole in our back yard and checking out how cool it gets in the hole with a “cover” on it so we can get to it if we have to go that route during a summer black out. Maybe hiding the hole under a big potting container with tomatoes in it would work? 😉
    Thank You for the informative article!!

    • That is great to hear! I am glad that it helped you. I had researched Zeer pots for this article but chose not to include them for that very reason. They seem to be very dependent on weather. I love the idea of hiding your “cellar” under a plant though.

  3. This article has opened my eyes about being a type 2 diabetic. Many of the things mentioned (importance of daily exercise and the type of diet) are things not stressed by my PCP. They’ve only added more and more medications. Talk of exercise has been as an after thought.
    I now have the ability to attack my medical condition and possibly, probably reverse it.
    Thank you very much for all the information provided!

    • Glad I could help. I too have had “prescription pad” doctors, but you have to take control of your own health. The doctor is just a tool to do that with.

  4. it is my understanding that a vaccine is being developed for type 1 diabetics that is produced from T.B. genetic material, it is in testing right now.

  5. I read that there have been studies that prove Capsaicin can actually REVERSE diabetes. Lord knows that if this got out, big pharma would stand to lose BILLIONS of dollars on the treatment. Might wanna look into that….

  6. I’ve been on keto to control my T2 with no diabetic meds for five years now. I keep lots of coconut oil, canned fish and salami around. They will keep without refrigeration, and I know that in case of a disaster I can live on fat with just enough protein for tissue maintenance. I know many T2s who have been able to reduce their meds by eating keto, and many who have been able to eliminate them. T1s of course can never give up insulin, but they can reduce their requirement that way.

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