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Jan and Kevin were starting to “get romantic” when Jan noticed that Kevin was, uncharacteristically, losing interest. His skin had become moist and clammy and his movements slowed. Jan ran for his monitor. Kevin checked his blood glucose—it was in the low 50s. Fortunately, he had some glucose tablets at the bedside and quickly treated his low.
Diabetes accompanies you everywhere, but it doesn’t have to interfere with your love life. Here are some suggestions from my book, “The Secrets of Living and Loving With Diabetes” (Surrey Books, 2004) to help keep your evening filled with romance and fun:
Use Your Blood Glucose Meter
Check your blood glucose before becoming intimate. Sexual activity, like other forms of physical exercise, can induce hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Treat abnormal levels as directed by your healthcare team.
Keep Snacks Handy
If you have an unexpected low, follow the “15/15 rule”—eat 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate (glucose tablets or juice), wait 15 minutes, then check your blood glucose again. If it’s still low, repeat. Remember, your blood glucose level will improve quicker than the unpleasant feelings that accompany it.
Enjoy Alcohol Only in Moderation
If your doctor says that drinking alcohol is safe for you, remember always to drink it with a carbohydrate-containing food or a meal. Check your blood glucose level frequently. One drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men is considered a safe limit, but your personal tolerance may differ.
Choose Alcohol-Free Creams and Oils
Products that contain alcohol dry the skin and promote cracking, so avoid them. If you like to use scented and flavored body oils, avoid using them in areas with skin folds such as the armpits, groin area, between the toes, and under the breasts. When moist, these areas are prone to the development of fungal and bacterial infections.
Take Care With the Hot Tub
A brief dip with a partner can be a relaxing experience. Check the water temperature prior to entering, especially if you have reduced sensation in your feet and legs. If you have heart disease, limit your stay to about 20 minutes; any longer than that may cause your blood pressure to drop. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor before using a hot tub. Dry your skin thoroughly after exiting the tub as excess moisture encourages the growth of infection-causing bacteria.
Enjoy a Bath or Shower
A bubble bath or shower can help you relax. But be brief. Soaking in a tub for hours in not recommended for people with diabetes as it tends to soften and dry out the skin, leaving it susceptible to bacterial growth, as mentioned above.
Keep Your Breath “Kissably Sweet”
With or without diabetes, you must take care of your dental health. Have your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year, brush after meals, floss daily and use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol, which dries out the gums. Very high glucose levels maintained over several days can also affect your breath, especially if your body begins using fat rather than glucose as its energy source. Keep your blood glucose level within your target range to reduce or eliminate this problem.