Wiser Living
Finding a natural solution

Green Options For Gift-Giving This Holiday Season

The holidays are a busy time, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget about being environmentally conscious. There are dozens of ways you can incorporate eco-friendly decorating, travel, and gifts into the mix to make your holiday season festive, joyful, and better for our planet.

holiday decor on white table top
Photo by Sweta Meininger on Unsplash

Eco-Friendly Travel Around the Holidays or Anytime

Holidays are a time of travel. Some families choose to vacation instead of staying home for the holidays. Not all travel, however, is kind to the environment. Thankfully, more hotels and resorts are appealing to the eco-traveler with lots of friendly options.

When researching green travel destinations, be sure to ask some questions about how far their “green standards” go and if they have any certifications from an organization like the International Ecotourism Society. Preserving water by not washing linens each day is a start, but it’s not enough to satisfy most green travelers.

Africa, South America, and Australia offer some fantastic eco-lodges with low-impact tourism. These locales are unique because they were built from the ground up with eco-friendly practices in mind. If you plan on traveling stateside, Alaska, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Montana offer locally grown food in their restaurants, cotton linens, and recycles products throughout.

Environmentally-Conscious Decorating Ideas

This year forget about that fake tree. Artificial trees damage the environment, and more than 80 percent of them are made in China burning coal and then shipped to the U.S. on diesel ships. Fake trees are non-biodegradable and will sit in landfills for years. A better solution is a real tree which is all natural, fully biodegradable, and smells great. Another option is a live tree that you can bring in each winter, wasting nothing and enjoying year after year.

Instead of using traditional holiday lights, opt for LED lights which use less electricity (33 percent); they burn cooler, so less risk of fire; and they last a long time. When decorating your house, use sprigs of real garland and pine instead of plastic. A few added bows here and there go a long way.

Green Gift-Giving

For a unique gift-giving idea for teens and young adults, consider a metal detector under the tree this year. Go treasure hunting even in winter for recyclables under the snow and cleaning up trash around neighboring lakes and ponds. A metal detector is a gift that will get used year round, while also honoring an eco-friendly mindset.

Some other great eco-friendly gift ideas are a Nalu Reusable Sun Bottle that keeps plastic away from your water, smoothie or tea. Essential oils are all natural, and a gift set of toiletries infused with scented oils is a nice present many will enjoy. For the chef in your family, consider an organic bamboo cutting board or recycled melamine bowls in festive colors.

Hand-crafted gifts are the nicest to give and receive. The EPA suggests a great eco-friendly gift such as homemade edibles as they are thoughtful and offer an opportunity to utilize locally grown foods and recyclable materials. Additionally, if you are crafty and skilled in photography, painting, knitting or jewelry-making, you can give special customized gifts to everyone on your list.

Other Tips for Eco-Friendly Holidays

Remember when cooking, not to keep opening the oven door. It uses a lot of extra energy to reheat every time you do. Instead, use the oven light to peek through the window to see if your holiday feast is ready.

Winter can be cold, and it might be tempting just to turn up the heat. Instead, wear a winter sweater or use that nice throw you got for your birthday to stay warm. Your guests may enjoy it a little cooler also. When cooking and running around with gifts and kids, houses tend to warm up naturally anyway.

By implementing a few of these small changes, your holidays can be a wonderful time to be with family, share laughs and still help to save our planet.

Your Holiday Hosting Guide: 4 Tips for Prepping Your Home for Christmas

As the holiday season is upon us, your home will be filled with friends and family to celebrate this special time of year. Hospitality is so important in this fast-paced world, and there are some super easy ways to take your home to the next level of comfort for your guests.

1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Let’s be honest. As much as we love decorating and hosting for the holidays, it is a full-time job. From a million trips to the grocery store to making sure everyone feels at home, prep for company can be exhausting. That’s why the first tip in this guide is to chip away at your to-dos little by little rather than waiting 24 hours before they get to town.


A couple weeks before their arrival, carve out a weekend to get your house in order. Get your Christmas decorations up, hang the wreaths, and get your cleaning done. Next, think through easy meals to fix for your guests—things like chili and soup you can cook and freeze ahead of time. Head to the store a few days before your guests arrive and meal prep anything you can. Opt for paper and plastic so there is less to clean! The goal here is to plan ahead so hosting is as low-maintenance as possible and you can enjoy your guest’s company over their stay (rather than feeling like a slave).

2. Get Your Guest Bedroom in Order

Speaking of your guests, you are probably panicking a little thinking about the current state of your guest bedroom—aka the never complete house project. If you are like most people, your guest bedroom has become a dumping ground for all the items in your home you no longer have a place for. But considering you’ll have plenty of guests coming through over the holidays, you may want to give this space a little TLC.


Spending the holidays away from home isn’t always easy. So while you are working on your guest room, think of the people who will be sleeping there. Find a balance between hotel-like order and a welcoming, cozy ambiance. Make sure the bed has crisp, clean sheets, the bathroom is stocked with toiletries (and a couple of Christmas tree scented candles), and there are a plethora of clean towels in the linen closet. And although you may be tempted to focus on cosmetic touch-ups, focus on the bed. After all, that’s where your guests will be spending most of their time.

Let’s face it: no one likes sleeping on the 20-year old mattress that’s been passed down in the family for decades. And there is nothing worse than getting bad sleep consistently while on the road. Not to mention, sleep deprivation and in-laws is not a good combo.

The best way to ensure fun holiday memories with guests in your home is to make sure they get a good night’s sleep consistently. If it’s time for the mattress in the guest room to be upgraded, you are in luck! With the launch of online mattress companies like Leesa, Saatva, Nectar, and Casper, you can get a quality mattress for a very reasonable price! If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to begin your search, try reading reviews from real customers or side-by-side comparisons of different brands to see which suits your space the best.

3. Make Your Space Conducive For Company

If you have company coming for the holidays, your home is probably already an ideal space for hosting, but that doesn’t mean 40 family members won’t feel cramped in the living room trying to get in on the conversation.


When hosting for the holidays, taking a few small steps to create a welcoming environment goes a long way. Even the smallest spaces can be transformed into great hangout rooms for family and friends. Don’t be afraid to move around some larger pieces of furniture to make room for some extra seating. One way to create more than one hangout space is by placing extra chairs in different rooms so people will naturally congregate in those areas. It’s amazing how putting a little extra thought into the flow of your space can create a much more enjoyable experience.

4. Remember, It’s the Small Things That Make All the Difference

Keep in mind that it’s tough to be on the road for the holidays. Being a great host means thinking of all the little things your guests may have forgotten—extra toothbrushes, washcloths, deodorant, extra twin sheets for the air mattress.


It also means keeping things fun, especially if you have kids coming to stay with you! Keep board games easily accessible, make reminders for local holiday events around your town, and don’t be afraid of a little mess (whether it’s a million puzzle pieces on the floor or flour all over the counter from baking)! And always remember, the best way to a kid’s heart is WiFi! Create a small sign on your fridge with the WiFi password and network name. They will text you “thx 4 the pswrd” with at least four emojis.

Prepping your home for the holidays may take a lot of work on the front-end, but it will be worth the pay-off. You and your guests will both enjoy the company much more!

4 Thoughtful (and Unexpected) Gifts to Give this Year

Shopping for gifts is nothing less than frustrating and overwhelming. The recipient, whoever they may be, already has everything or doesn’t want anything. Talk about a pickle!

Forget giving them something they like, what about the pressure of giving something both creative and thoughtful? You probably already have a headache. That’s why we have done the brainstorming for you by coming up with four thoughtful, creative, and original gifts you should consider giving this year:


1. The Gift of an Experience: A Weekend Getaway

If there is one thing our culture is obsessed with, it’s experiences. So why not give on for Christmas? Since the launch of companies like Airbnb, weekend getaways are now more affordable than ever.

From mother-daughter trips to romantic getaways with your significant other, Airbnb has locations all over the country (and world for that matter) for just about any occasion. Not to mention, the prices outperform most hotels and create a more personal and private experience.


Pick a weekend and place and surprise your loved ones with a trip. Here is a list of some of the top Airbnbs in the U.S. Did you know you can even stay in a treehouse? How cool is that?!

2. The Gift of Sleep: A New Mattress

Did you know, your sleep is most likely to suffer around the holidays? That’s a scary thought considering proper rest is what gives us the strength we need to face the shopping center parking lot, our children’s ever-changing Christmas list, and god-knows, the in-laws.

Yet, lack of sleep is an epidemic taking the country by storm—research shows 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. And lack of sleep comes with slew of health issues, like an increased risk of high blood pressure, immunodeficiency, diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.


Your mattress has a huge impact on sleep quality. You might say it’s the performance tool for getting your best sleep. But if your bed is over 10 years old, it’s likely hurting your sleep more than helping it. Although a mattress is a more expensive gift, the good news is the launch of online companies like Leesa, Nectar, Casper, and many more give you access to quality mattress for under $1,000. The best part is it’s shipped right to your door!

Don’t know where to start in your search? Here’s an awesome quiz to help you find the perfect mattress for yourself or the person you are shopping for! (P.S. there are some KILLER holiday deals going on right now.)

3. The Gift of One Less Thing to Do: A Meal Subscription Service

If you have a friend who works full-time, a mom, or a neighbor with children that’s close to you, this next gift might just be their saving grace.

After a long day at work, shuttling the kids around, or even running errands, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. By the time you go to the store, cook the meal, eat, and clean up, your evening is shot. Giving the gift of a meal subscription service might just be the best gift your love ones have ever received. Why? Because it gives them more than food—it gives them time back in their day.


A gift like this is made possible through companies like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Although you have to assemble the meal, there is no prep work or grocery store runs involved. You’ll have everything you need ready to throw in the pan! Subscriptions are customizable to how many mouths there are that need feeding and how many meals a week you’d like to order. Prices range anywhere from $48 to $119 depending on the frequency and size of your meals.

Even two meals a week for four weeks could be a wonderful gift and a huge blessing to friends and family.

4. The Gift of Quality Time: Date Night

The last one is for all you lovebirds out there.

Date night is important in any relationship, especially if you are married or in a serious relationship. Research shows going on dates frequently improves commitment, relationship satisfaction, communication, and parental stability. Yet, date night can often feel like a chore.

Can you imagine going on an amazing date that is affordable, creative, and requires little planning? You are probably such a thing doesn’t exist. Well, believe it or not, it does!

Date Night in a Box is a company that brings fun and affordable dates right to your door each month. No planning required. All you need is your significant other and the contents that come in the box. Amazing!

The average date night out costs around $100. Compared to a single date night in provided by Date Night in a Box which only costs $40. You can purchase anywhere from one date ($40) to a 12-month subscription ($464). Date night for 2019: check!

Hopefully you now have a good place to start on your holiday shopping! If now of these gift ideas fit the bill, hopefully they at least got your creative juices flowing. Happy shopping!

Conner Hats: Helpful Headgear for Your Outdoor Adventures

Nature just seems closer to your doorstep when you live in Kansas. And whether it’s a sunny, warm day or a gray-sky winter afternoon, there’s nothing like taking an outdoor adventure across the prairie, up a flinty hill, or in the creek bottoms. But before you take a step, it’s important to travel prepared. This includes packing a hat, an overlooked essential that many of us forget.

Conner Hats, an Australia-based eco-friendly company, knows the importance of a well-made outdoor hat. They’ve crafted numerous ones that keep your noggin protected and looking good for any adventure you may take, whether you’re at the beach or up in the mountains. We had the chance to experience Conner Hats’ well-made products for ourselves: on a rainy day in the woods, day-to-day work on the farm, and a blustery afternoon on the wetlands. conner-hat

Why Wear a Hat

Before jumping into our Conner Hats experience, here are a couple reminders on why it’s important to bring some headgear on your next trip:

Prevents heat from escaping: It is important to keep your body heat, and a hat does just that for your head. Conner Hats are made of high-quality materials made for the outdoors, and are able to keep your head warm during those cold days.

  • Protects skin from sun: Protecting your face from sun exposure is very important; aside from wearing sunscreen, a hat can prevent sun damage during a long hike. Conner Hats are designed for the outdoors and provide a good amount of shade.
  • Protects from bugs and debris: Hats have the very practical advantage of protecting your hair and head from any tumbling branches while outdoors, or from the curious insect who wants to say hello.
  • Extra storage space: Some hats come with small pockets built into the material, as you’ll read later about one of our Conner Hats, in which you can keep small belongings while outdoors. When you’re traveling, a hat is an additional storage space, too. You can tuck gloves, scarves, or other traveling objects into the hat when you're not wearing it.
  • Preserves visibility: Whether it’s your hair dangling in your eyes, rain splashing in your face, or the sun keeping you from seeing the trail, a hat helps with all of that. You can tuck hairs up to keep them from escaping; a brimmed hat will act like an umbrella and shield your face from rain; and just like if you were to hold a hand up to block the sun, a hat brim will do the same thing-- without the added strain on your arm.
  • Fun style: It might sound like the least important point, but feeling comfortable while hiking is important, and wearing a hat can look great and provide that overall hiking look.

Rainy Days on the Job

If you’ve watched our video, Hiking for Beginners, you probably noticed all the rain we had to battle while filming. Yes, we were cold and wet, but we were also pleased by how well our Conner Hats did in the rain! To give you an idea, the rainfall began almost immediately into our filming project and didn’t stop until after we left, which was about three hours in total. And throughout that whole time, we kept our hats tightly on our heads, letting the rain roll off the brims instead of soaking our hair. Despite it being a difficult day for outdoor filming, we had such a fun time delivering content to our viewers, and also appreciating how well our hats shielded our heads and faces.


Life on the Kansas Prairie

Living out in the Kansas prairie requires a lot of time outdoors, and having the right type of hat is an essential part of my routine. I find myself hiking, gardening, and doing other outdoor chores, exposing me to the elements. Finding the right hat-wear that could be versatile for all of the activities I enjoy was accomplished with Conner Hats. The Country Wool Outdoor Hat, made  from 100 percent Australian waterproof wool, is UPF 50+, and it was made responsibly with our planet in mind.

My country hat is a fun wardrobe piece that I have worn out in the rain and during our Thanksgiving gatherings. I am certain this is a classic piece made to last and ready for the many adventures I have coming up. Conner Hats has thought about everything, including a secret pocket inside the hat, where you can hide a key or an important small item you might need to keep dry and out of your hands.

I have worn my hat for several weeks now, and I can trust the handmade quality of Conner Hats. From the leather hat band and chin chords, to the warmth it provided during our hiking video for Mother Earth Living. I’m looking forward to the use of my hat on my next hiking adventure!

Successful Hike on the Windy Wetlands

A wide expanse of wetlands exist south of my home in Kansas, and on days when I need to spend some time in nature by myself, I’ll drive out there and hike the trails. Recently, I brought my Conner Hat along to test it out in the elements. The Bounty Hunter Water Resistant Cotton Hat definitely looks the part: a wide-brimmed, durable hat made to look weather-worn with its faded brown surface. I can just picture someone effortlessly slipping it onto their head with one hand and walking off into the sunset. It’s a hat that screams “adventure.” Additionally, it’s responsibly made, thanks to Conner Hats’ deep belief in planet-friendly production.

This bounty hunter hat came with me on the wetland trails. With all the pictures I took that day, it’s hard to forget how cold and cloudy it was, especially with the wind whipping around and changing directions. Not long after I started walking, I found the cold air making things difficult for my ears and neck especially, but this hat provided the solution. With its adjustable brim, the bounty hunter hat could bend its back brim over my exposed neck area and fold its sides down over my ears to keep both areas protected. Even when the wind picked up, I didn’t feel a threat of losing my hat, thanks to its snug hold on my head and the added assurance of the adjustable chin cord.

After spending a great afternoon hiking the wetlands, I was pleased to find that my Conner Hat kept my head warm and protected on that blustery day — and it’s definitely coming with me on my next outdoor adventure!

We want to send Conner Hats a huge thank-you for making this experience possible. We have enjoyed our hat adventures and hope you can take our hiking tips out on your next outing! We encourage beginners to plan accordingly and remember to have fun. Even if you are surprised by a little bit of rain! We made the most of our time, and our proper gear made our experience that much better. Until next time!

Make Memories Not Waste

Studies show that experiences bring more happiness to people than stuff. Anticipating an experience—a trip, an upcoming concert, dinner with friends—makes us happy before the actual event. In other words, we benefit from the experience before we actually experience the experience. Afterward, we have fond memories. And even if the experience goes badly, we still have a good story to tell, which also brings happiness when we regale people with it later: “Remember the time I caught poison oak on our camping trip because I made out in the bushes with that Richard guy?”

With the holidays—and holiday shopping—kicking off, here’s a list of experiences that some of your loved ones may appreciate. No wrapping required.

Entertainment and Leisure

Yosemite getaway
A weekend getaway in Yosemite

Sports: Tickets to a sporting event, lift tickets, skating rink passes, yoga class passes, gym memberships

Cultural: Tickets to the symphony, ballet, opera, museum

TLC: Spa day, massage, haircut and style

Travel: Weekend getaway, campsite fees, train tickets

Online subscriptions: Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, the New York Times


You can never really go wrong with a food gift:

  • Give homemade anything: cookies, cookie mix, candy, cake, kombucha
  • Create “coupons” for favorite dishes that the recipient can redeem at a future date
  • Invite friends out for dinner and pick up the tab
  • Throw a dinner party as your gift
  • Make a reservation at your dream restaurant. Friends of mine ate at The French Laundry this summer to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

The Gift of Learning

kimchi workshop
Fermentation workshop

I came up with lots of ideas for this section and want to do most of them now:

  • Dance lessons: tango, salsa, ballet, jazz
  • Music lessons: piano, violin, voice, drums, guitar
  • Photography lessons
  • Knitting classes
  • Sewing classes
  • Weaving classes
  • Pottery classes
  • Painting and drawing classes
  • Meditation classes
  • Cooking classes, including fermentation classes
  • Horseback riding lessons
  • Skating lessons
  • Surfing lessons
  • Flying lessons
  • Skydiving lessons (okay I have zero desire to do this but my brother used to enjoy it)
  • Scuba diving lessons
  • Sailing lessons
  • Lecture series

hockey skates
Skating lessons for a new skater or a rusty skater

Gifts ONLY for Someone You Know Extremely Well

Personal trainer. I wouldn’t suggest you spring this on a friend or family member out of the blue, but if you know someone who would like to get started with a personal trainer and perhaps can’t afford it, consider setting this up for them.

Session with a dietician. I would love this as a gift. Also, it may help me convince the people close to me to eat better. The advice would come from the dietician, not me, so they may actually listen.

Session with a financial advisor. As with most of the suggestions in this section, know the recipient well. If someone close to you has said, “My financial life is a mess. What shall I do?” or “I can’t get out of debt, for the love of God please help me,” you could help.

Session with a business planner. Know someone who wants to start a business and needs help getting started? Pay for a meeting with a business planner.

Personal organizer. Whether they have piles of papers everywhere that need to be filed away, or haven’t had time to arrange for a handyman to fix the broken shower drain or simply need someone to go grocery shopping for them, the overwhelmed, overworked and harried person on your list may love this one.

House cleaners. You don’t want to insult your messy hoarder brother but his apartment is filthy. Hire housecleaners for the day to clean it up. Try to find independents rather than use a service that pimps out housecleaners, pays them next to nothing and keeps all the profits. If you’re a better person than I, clean your brother’s bathroom yourself.

Therapist. Reading this suggestion, you may think I need therapy for suggesting it but please hear me out. A lot of people are worried about losing their healthcare coverage. If you know someone who can no longer afford therapy and wants to continue, you could pay for a session or two if you can afford it (therapy isn’t cheap).

7 Essentials for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Making it through the holiday season stress-free is nearly impossible. However, there are ways to lessen your stress and enjoy this special time of year! If your to-do list already has you pulling your hair out, here are seven ways to stay sane through the end of the year:

 rawpixel-445788-unsplash (1)
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

1. More Sleep

Here’s the deal: Lack of sleep amplifies stress. Before you can even fathom taking care of others this holiday season, you must learn to take care of yourself first. That means, as difficult as it is, you need to prioritize sleep.

Not to mention, sleep might just be one of the most underrated gifts out there. Your mom already has a thousand candles but I bet she’d die for better shut-eye. Whether that means gifting her a relaxing night to herself or actually purchasing her a new mattress (because let’s face it, hers is probably 20 years old), we often underestimate just how valuable a good night of sleep can be for our physical, mental and emotional health. My advice to you—don’t only prioritize sleep this season, consider gifting it to others.

P.S. Did you know mattresses now come compressed and rolled in a box? AMAZING. Who would have thought you could actually wrap a mattress?!

2. A Confidant

Speaking of your mom, get yourself a confidant. Of course, it doesn’t have to be your mom, but who else willingly and patiently listens to you rant?!

All jokes aside, whether it’s your best friend, sister, partner, or mom, talk through your anxieties with someone your trust. There is truth in the saying you need to get something off your chest. Endless to-dos have a way of pressing on us, so much so, that it actually feels like we carry the weight of them on our backs. The first step in relieving the pressure weighing on you is to verbalize them. In fact, once you speak your anxieties they seem to lose their power.

Rather than letting issues get blown out of proportion or letting your mind start racing the second your head hits the pillow, get it out of your mind and off your chest!

3. The Perfect Brew(s)

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

The best part of my day: pouring a piping hot cup of coffee and adding my peppermint mocha creamer. Come holiday season, that morning cup of coffee might be the only thing to get me through the day. If you aren’t a coffee person, maybe a hot cup of tea will do the trick.

Regardless of your brew, the secret to the perfect cup of coffee is allowing yourself to enjoy it. Even 5 minutes of stillness each morning can have profound effects on your mental and emotional state throughout the day. In fact, you can even find stillness on your morning commute. Crazy as it sounds, all you have to do is turn off the radio and enjoy the silence.

Not a morning person? Have a cup of tea or beer before bed. Your sanity is something you should protect. That means giving your mind and body a moment of stillness each day.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

As humans, we like to think we have it all together. Newsflash: none of us have it together. And that’s okay! As much as you’d like to be the perfect host in the perfect house with the perfect holiday dishes,  it’s okay to ask for help if you are baking or decorating yourself into the ground.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

5. Christmas Candle Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a wonderful natural remedy to de-stress. What better excuse to have a Christmas candle burning in every room of the house? Here I am going to add a shameless plug for Woodwick Candles. Seriously, people, these things crackle while they burn! Talk about festive. Not to mention, they make the perfect gift.

This is in no way sponsored, I’m just their number one fan.

6. Take a Weekly Sabbath

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to pick one day every week and treat it as a Sabbath. Historically, a sabbath is a day of rest observed by abstaining from work. For this exercise, you get to define when and what that looks like for you.

For example, your sabbath doesn’t have to be a whole day. It can be one evening a week or a couple hours on a weekend morning. Once you’ve decided when your sabbath will be, then you can set the parameters for what your sabbath looks like. During the holidays, perhaps your sabbath means absolutely no shopping, cooking, or holiday planning for one whole day each week. Maybe it means taking a break from social media for an afternoon. The key here is to identify what activities cause you to stress and then vow to not do them on your sabbath.

The key is to establish your sabbath and then protect it! Even if only for this season.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

7. A Spirit of Thanksgiving

Last but not least, you’ll need a positive mindset to get you through the holidays without being miserable. Regardless of whether you are religious, remember what this season is for—celebrating family, friends, and all of life’s blessings! Don’t let it pass by in a frenzied blur, but remember to stop and appreciate the reason why you are doing the activities you are doing—hosting meals to commune with the ones you love, giving gifts to family to express your love in a tangible way, and reflecting on just how blessed we are.

Diabetes Awareness Month: Doing Our Part

November marks Diabetes Awareness Month, a time to reflect on a variation of pancreatic disorders that greatly affect our world. Around 422 million adults are living with some form of diabetes, and the number is growing. Every year, 40,000 children and adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes alone. With occurrences becoming more prevalent, we must all increase our awareness of the disease.

Photo by T1International

Know the Facts

Understanding diabetes, and debunking myths, are among the most important things we can do this month.

Type 1 and 2 Diabetes

There are different types of diabetes—type 1 and 2 are so different in fact, that many argue the conditions should have completely different names. Both are to be taken seriously, but the intertwining of references can pose dangerous situations for those who deal with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes can occur as a result of many things, not just diet or lifestyle. Ultimately, the body doesn’t make as much life essential insulin as it needs to convert sugar into energy, or the body doesn’t respond to the insulin it does make, resulting in high blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is as different as night and day, because it’s an autoimmune disease. The immune system attacks the insulin making cells in the pancreas, rendering a person completely dependent on insulin injections, which can be equally comparable to life necessities such as water or air. It’s a tight rope walk managing the disease—too little insulin leads to dangerous high blood sugar numbers, and too much to extreme low blood sugar numbers, both of which can be fatal.

A few interesting notes....

  • There is no current cure for type 1 diabetes.
  • Insulin is essential for survival because it brings consumed sugar or carbs (which are eventually broken down into sugar), or glucose made from the liver, into the cells for energy. We all would die without insulin, so it’s not as simple as “quitting sugar” for diabetics.
  • Diabetes dates back as far as 1500 BC, when mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus.
  • Treatment for diabetes, before the discovery of insulin, was often a starvation diet. The diagnosed were considered terminally ill, and rarely lived over a few months.
  • Insulin literally brought ill patients back to life upon its discovery in the 1920s.
  • Although cheap to make, insulin is unjustly a very expensive drug, ranging up to thousands of dollars for a month's supply. Patient’s lives are greatly altered by this, and many have died.
  • Sometimes it’s okay for a diabetic to have a cupcake—insulin has to be injected to convert the food to energy, just like a normal functioning body does after eating something. 
  • Diabetes can lead to depression, making management more difficult.
  • Gestational diabetes is a third type which occurs during pregnancy and will likely go away.
  • Common symptoms of diabetes include headaches, thirst, exhaustion, irritability, nausea and frequent urination.
  • It’s a great idea for all households to keep a glucose monitor on hand for intermittent testing—they can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy.

Photo by T1International

What We Can Do in the Community

Diabetes, in general, affects one out of three Americans, so it’s likely most people are impacted in one way or another. There are things we can do to make this disease a little easier for those who have to endure it.

Take time to understand the disease, or any condition for that matter. Knowing that people understand is therapeutic and encouraging. If you own a restaurant, consider offering special alternatives for those with diabetes or other needs. Eating out is fun, but can be depressing when restricted in any way. Perhaps offer an almond flour biscuit in place of carb rich, gluten-based ones. Substitute herb steamed veggies for rice or pasta— provide hummus and carrots for those who can’t indulge in pre-meal chips and salsa. Having reasonable available options can make all the difference in the world for someone.

 Encourage your school system to implement awareness days—this could help kids feel less alone while at school, while also laying a foundation of compassion for our youth.

 Hold a fundraiser for a charity benefiting those with the disease, or someone specific in your town who may need a little help.

Photo by Karyn Wofford

Charities Doing Good

T1International is a UK based, type 1 diabetic operated organization helping those all over the world stand up for their rights, and access the things they need to live with disease. You can sign the access charter online, which details the things diabetics should never have to worry about—by signing in agreeance, you’re giving the movement strength, ultimately changing lives.

PFAM is not a directly diabetes related organization, but has made strides in helping with insulin affordability movements. They believe “access to essential medicines is a moral imperative and a fully-realized human right.”  I-MAK and Patients for Affordable Drugs work toward the same worthy cause.

Contributing to, or just spreading the word about, any of these organizations allows them to further their world changing work.

There are many ways we can make a difference this Diabetes Awareness Month. As a type 1 myself, I can say at times it feels like no one in the world understands. But if we all took the time to extend our compassion not only to those with diabetes, and not only during November, we’d find our world to be an even more beautiful place.

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