This is chapter 2 of my book “DIABETES. A world of possibilities”, which I’m publishing here for free. You can access all the chapters published until now here.
When I had written about half of this book, I came across a book (Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars) that, until then, had not called my attention. I remember reading years ago, when I started with diabetes, the name Dr. Bernstein. I think I read something, but I did not investigate further.
There is a saying or proverb that says “the teacher appears when the student is ready.” That’s exactly what happened to me with Dr. Bernstein. Years ago, I was not prepared for his theory or treatment. Now, I am.
For those who do not know who this doctor is, I put it here in a nutshell. Richard K. Bernstein was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12, back in 1946. Back then, the treatment of diabetes, especially type 1, was rather rudimentary and archaic.
Years passed, and he began to experience symptoms of poorly controlled diabetes. But being an engineer, he needed to know the why of things: how one type of food affects your blood sugar; if doing sports affects your overall health and your glucose levels, etc. So he began to experiment with himself. After a few years of experimenting, and greatly improving his own health, eliminating some of the symptoms related to diabetes, and drawing conclusions that seemed very revealing, he wanted to publish his findings.
He contacted major diabetes associations, such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA), which provides the official guidelines to follow and suggests what is good or not for people with diabetes. He wasn’t taken seriously, mainly because he believed that the diet recommended by the ADA is the cause of many of the ills of this society. In his own words, the conventional wisdom about diabetes almost killed him.
So he decided to study medicine in order to help, with a degree in hand, many other people with diabetes. At the age of 45, he began a career in medicine. During his early career years, he wrote books on the treatment of diabetes. And since then, there has been no turning back for him. He has been helping thousands of people from his office and through his books.
For those concerned about how many years they can live with type 1 diabetes, we have with Dr. Bernstein a role model. With 78 years he is very fit!
Why did I mention this brief biography of Dr. Bernstein here? It has to do with the title of this chapter: Putting it all in perspective.
One of the things that called my attention when I started reading the book was the knowledge of the care and treatment of diabetes in the middle of the last century.
Needles and glass syringes needed to be sterilized, putting them in boiling water every day. Moreover, needles had to be sharpened with abrasive stones. If he wanted to know if he had high blood glucose regularly (which he did by self-interest, not because it was recommended by doctors), he had to use a glass tube and a spirit lamp (with flame) to check glucose in urine.
In 1969, the first glucose tester (glucometer) appeared. It weighed 2.8 pounds and cost $650. But patients couldn’t buy it. It was only sold to doctors and hospitals.
Information was also very hard to get. In 1972, if someone wanted to know if sport can prevent complications of diabetes, he had to ask the local medical library, and it had to be sent by mail to Washington DC, where the order was processed. After two weeks and about $75, the report arrived.
At that time, it was not allowed for patients to self-treat or self-manage their disease. At the end of the day, according to doctors, patients knew nothing about medicine. And of course, if patients learnt to control their glucose with a glucometer, how would doctors earn their money? At that time, patients visited their doctor once a month for a blood glucose check.
In 1980, glucometers began to be comercialized to patients for their own use at home. How many lives could have been saved if some “power” had been given to patients, allowing them to control their own glucose with glucometers from home, in a more easy and regular way!
Reading about the past treatment of diabetes makes me extremely grateful for the time that I am living. We may agree or disagree with official treatments for diabetes, use of insulin, frequent blood glucose checks, etc. But we should not forget, and we should continuously be thankful, that we live in an age in which we know the blood sugar in a couple of seconds. We can use thin, disposable needles, which usually do not harm when you use them (if done right). We have within our reach virtually all medical knowledge by just pressing a few buttons and waiting 0.0000012 seconds.
Observing in perspective helps to relativize a lot of things, and helps you to not complain so much and to be thankful, at least in part, for what you have.
I wanted to start the book from this state of appreciation, which will open our minds much more to what comes next.
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