Everything About Diabetes I Learned From Air Conditioning
Usually, the beginning of autumn marks the changing of the leaves and the cooling of temperatures. This year, autumn arrived with a temperature of 93 degrees, more than 10 degrees hotter than the historical average.
As I sit comfortably in front of my computer, sheltered from the heat wave, I am so thankful that I don’t have to be outside melting under the hot sun. I am thankful for the brilliant men and women that figured out how to blast cold air at my face whenever I want. I am thankful for air conditioning.
I don’t even have to get up from my chair to change the temperature. Thanks to more brilliant people, I can set the temperature from an app on my phone.
Even though the thermostat is just on the wall across the room.
Ah, the marvels of technology.
Being the geek that I am, I started thinking about how the way our homes regulate temperature is a lot like the way our bodies regulate blood sugar. The more I explored the connections, the more it all made sense.
Let me explain.
Your body is your temple
Or in this case, your body is like your house.
You can program your thermostat to keep your house within a certain temperature range. Depending on the ambient temperature, it will heat or cool the air to bring the house back within the acceptable (ahem, comfortable) range that you set. Homeostasis on demand.
When there is too much heat (glucose) in the air (blood stream) of your house (body), the thermostat (pancreas) senses that the temperature is too high, turns on the compressor and fan motors (pancreatic beta cells), which circulates refrigerant (insulin) into the system and triggers a cascade of events which ultimately leads to the heat leaving the air and into the coils (cells) through the vents (glucose transporters) until the temperature comes back down within range (homeostasis).
(Fun fact: Did you know that you can’t actually make cold air? What the air conditioner actually does is remove the heat from the air inside your home and sends it outside.)
It will all make sense soon enough. I promise.
Don’t let the motor work harder than it needs to
The motors are designed to last a long time. It’s a hard worker and is a crucial part of the system. Take care of it and don’t make it work harder than it needs to.
If your filter is dirty, the motor has to work much harder to compensate for the blockage of air flow. If it goes on long enough, eventually the motor will get damaged from debris getting into the system, or burn out and fail prematurely from overuse.
Or if your house is leaky or you leave the windows open, heat will keep coming in and your house will not cool down as efficiently and the motor will have to work longer, or even perpetually (see what I did there?), to bring the temperature down.
While you can replace your A/C unit, unfortunately, you can’t just go out and buy new pancreatic beta cells to replace the ones you burned out.
Sometimes, the fix is as simple as changing the filter
My dad is a carpenter and a handyman. He once had a customer whose house would not cool down even though the A/C was running all day. When he got there and looked at the unit, he knew what the problem was. He asked if they had ever changed the filter.
They replied, “What filter?”
He pulled out the filter and showed them how much dust and debris had caked onto the filter and was completely black. It was gross. The system could not breathe and the motor was working overtime in vain to try and suck in air through a completely clogged filter. Nobody knew the last time the filter was changed, if ever.
He changed the filter with a brand new clean filter. The motor was quieter and the house was able to cool down.
Some people have no clue how the A/C unit works as it all seems so complicated and overwhelming. They don’t know that it requires minimal maintenance like periodically replacing your filter to keep things running smoothly. If you don’t, the system doesn’t work as well and you will needlessly cause it to work harder.
Not only does the system work harder, but your utility bills are higher than they need to be, too.
Insulin resistance, like a clogged filter, makes the pancreatic beta cells work harder than they need to. Keep your filter clean and your system will run like a dream. Changing your filter regularly is probably the single most important thing you can do as a homeowner to keep your system running efficiently. Likewise, improving insulin sensitivity is probably the most important thing you can do to keep your body running smoothly. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.
We’ll talk about how to improve insulin sensitivity in an upcoming blog post. Be sure to subscribe if you want me to let you know when it goes live 😉
The system doesn’t work if you’re low on refrigerant
A few years ago, our A/C stopped blowing cold air. Having learned from my dad’s story, we regularly change our filters out and have even gone through our house to weatherize it to minimize air leaks.
The problem, though, was that there was a leak in our lines so we were low on refrigerant. Without enough refrigerant, the system cannot do its job so you have to add refrigerant to the system to make it work properly.
Likewise, type 1 diabetics need to inject insulin because their body doesn’t produce enough insulin or none at all for one reason or another. Unfortunately, there is no way for a type 1 to restore their beta cells as they have been destroyed. However, the good news is that by improving insulin sensitivity, you can minimize how much insulin you need to inject.
Whether you need to add “refrigerant” to your system or not, it doesn’t negate the importance of keeping your “filter” clean and doing what you can to help your “motor” run as efficiently as possible.
Preventive maintenance is easier, faster, and less resource intensive than dealing with a systems failure
Some people notice a problem and choose to ignore it until the problem becomes so big that they can’t ignore it.
Maybe you notice the compressor outside sounds louder than normal. Or that it seems to be taking a little longer to cool down the house than normal. Or the air doesn’t feel as cold.
But you don’t have time to be bothered with such things and you go on your merry way. Your mind quickly forgets about it and ignores it for the time being.
Your utility bill creeps higher and you justify the increase because the days have been getting hotter. Eventually your motor dies because your filter was clogged and some debris got into the motor housing and damaged it beyond repair. Or the pressure from the motor working so hard caused the refrigerant line to crack and develop a leak so there is no more refrigerant to keep the system working.
You could have replaced the filter and be done with it for less than $30.
Now, you have to get a new motor, but the labor to open it up and replace it costs almost as much as getting a whole new system. Now, you have to figure out how you are going to come up with the money to pay the hefty bill.
Or you can’t afford to fix it or just don’t have the time to take care of it and decide to try and live with it.
Your house gets unbearably hot. You can’t sleep at night. It’s hard to breathe because the air is so thick. Everything feels sticky. Even the furniture and your cabinets start sweating from all the humidity. And you develop a mold problem in your house because the humidity created the perfect environment for mold to grow and spread.
The problem doesn’t go away if you don’t deal with it. It’s just going to keep getting bigger until you finally pay attention. I just hope you don’t wait until it’s too late.
Listen to the small voice instead of ignoring it and hoping it will all go away. Most of the time, we’re afraid that if we investigate an issue, it will unravel a much larger problem. So we don’t want to deal with it as long as possible as we already have enough on our plate as it is.
In actuality, most of the time, it ends up being nothing at all or an easy fix and you can nip the problem in the bud, or at least have peace of mind that you are taking care of your stuff.
If it does end up being a bigger problem than you thought, you’ll be glad you caught it before it manifested into something really bad and you are stuck with no A/C during a heat wave and there are no A/C technicians available because everyone else is having problems with their unit, too.
You can’t change the weather
Nature is a part of life. There are seasons when it is hotter and also when it gets colder. Try as you might, you can’t keep your house from getting hotter during the summer. You can move to a different geographical location, plant lots of trees to keep your house in the shade, or downsize to a smaller home to make it more manageable, all in the hopes of keeping your house from getting too hot.
But ultimately, you can’t change the weather.
Some people get stuck and fixated on trying to keep their glucose levels from going up by limiting carb consumption. But your body expects blood sugar to rise. It is perfectly capable and has systems in place to deal with the fluctuations of sugar in your blood to keep things in homeostasis. Your body needs sugar.
The medical industry seems focused on developing medications that manipulate the body’s normal processes to try to force it to behave differently against its nature. Whether blocking the liver’s ability to produce glucose, stimulating more insulin production to overcome insulin resistance, blocking certain enzymes to keep sugar from being absorbed into the bloodstream, or even surgically removing your stomach so that you physically can’t eat much food; medicine continues to look for new and “innovative” ways to manage your blood sugar levels.
This is like trying to change the weather. It is extremely resource intensive and the effects to the overall environment are unknowable, unpredictable, and create a lot of undesirable side effects.
When instead, the fix could be as simple as keeping your filters clean.
Stop focusing on the things you can’t change. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, reversed, and kept at bay by improving insulin sensitivity. It is much less expensive, much less invasive, and much more effective than trying to change the immutable laws of nature. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
You don’t care until something goes wrong
When your air conditioning unit is working properly, your house stays within a comfortable range and you don’t give it a second thought. Working from home, I’ve gone days without ever stepping foot outside.
But if you’ve ever had A/C issues in the middle of a hot and humid summer, it’s all you can think about. Being used to modern comforts, the heat and humidity become unbearable and you can’t focus on anything else or get any work done. All you care about is who you can call to get it fixed and how soon they can get here.
It’s the same way with our body. When everything is working fine and you are healthy, we don’t notice and take our health for granted. When we get sick or injured, though, it is hard to think about anything (or anyone) else, it is hard to focus on our work, and we quickly realize how good things were when we were healthy.
I never truly appreciated air conditioning until ours broke down. I never cared about or learned so much about how the body worked until I got injured and wanted to figure out how I could prevent it from happening again. I never learned about the devastating side effects of medications until someone I cared about got sick and was exploring different treatment options.
Please don’t wait until things get so bad that you can’t ignore it. Our bodies were made to keep us healthy, not to be in a chronic state of illness. Listen and heed your body’s warnings while they are still small and before things get out of hand. Our bodies will work extra hard and compensate when things aren’t working optimally, but it can’t keep it up forever.
So please, please, please take care of yourself. No one will ever take care of or care about your stuff as much as you. Your physical body is just temporary and houses you, but if you take good care of it, it will take care of you and be around for a long time.
When you treat your body as a temple (or house) and take care of it, not only do you avoid unnecessary and costly repairs, but you come to actually enjoy it and find peace and rest from a crazy, hectic world.
We all know someone who hates going home because of the turmoil or stress they encounter there. But when your home is kept clean and in order, there is no place like home. You can look in the face of a heat wave and laugh without fear, knowing that you have diligently taken care of your home.
And that you can always set the temperature with your smartphone.
As long as the WiFi is working.
Did you find this helpful? Does this analogy help you to understand diabetes better? Or did it make it more confusing? Let me know in the comments below.
If you know any handy people who might find this enlightening or entertaining, please like and share this with them and see if they get as much of a kick out of it like I did.
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Until next time, never stop doing good!