Tips and tricks for surviving the Amazon Rainforest with type 1 diabetes. From dealing with the heat, counting the carbs, to keeping insulin cold.....
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I had the opportunity to not only float down the Amazon river, but stay in the Amazon Rainforest for two nights when I was visiting Brazil. This was an amazing experience, and something that had been on my bucket list for years. But, with type 1 diabetes, there were challenges ahead and things I needed to prepare for. So, here if you ever get the chance (which hopefully one day you will), then check out these tips for surviving the amazon rainforest with type 1 diabetes.
The biggest challenges:
No Fridge For Insulin
The Amazon rainforest is hot hot hot. So, you are presented with the classic “How do I keep my insulin cold” in hot temperatures scenario. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think. When you head out to the Amazon, you typically do it with a guide, and you will be staying in some form of “basic” accommodation. Unless you are paying big money, it’s unlikely that the room will have a fridge, but your accommodation will have a kitchen. Simply ask your guide if you can leave your insulin in the fridge. My guide had no issues with this and was happy to accommodate my diabetes in any way. This is also a good place to use the Medangel one sensor, as fridges is the Amazon be a little unpredictable.
Your next option is to simply keep all your insulin in Frio bags. It’s definitely necessary to bring a frio bag with you if you are camping in the jungle one or two nights. It will keep your insulin cool, but only bring with you exactly what you need. There is no point bringing all your supplies into the jungle if they can be kept in a fridge safely,
The Heat and Low Blood Sugars
For most people, the heat can drag our blood sugars down which can easily drop us into hypo. I’ve spoken in detail about how to manage diabetes in the heat in a separate blog post and lots of detail in my eBook, but I will pop some details here too.
Start by reducing your background insulin/ basal rate by around 10-20%. This will vary depending on each individual. But, it’s best to reduce little and work your way up.
Reduce your bolus/fast acting insulin if you are eating and trekking, or sitting in the heat etc
Remember if you are trekking in the jungle or doing any sort of physical activity (Climbing trees is always fun!), then you will need to reduce your insulin further, or take extra snacks to ensure you don’t drop into hypo.
Remember that the heat can lead us into dehydration quicker, so make sure that you STAY hydrated in the jungle.
It’s not going to be a choice of different meals when you are dining at your lodge in the remote and vast Amazon Jungle. Basically it’s a case of you eat what’s available. If you have dietary requirements, or food intolerances, then I would mentioned that before you head out there and they can cater for you. I forgot to mention I can’t eat rice, and rice is a staple food out in the jungle, but thankfully, they made eggs for me instead!
You can’t really get the food packaging from meals when in the jungle, so you will need to take your best guest from the knowledge you have of other foods. Remember, there is no WiFi in the jungle, so unless you’ve got the Carbs & Cals ready on your phone, some guesswork may be in order.
Typical foods served at accommodation includes: rice, bread, beans, lots of fish, chicken, noodles, banana, apples, other fruits, coffee, juices. (that tends to be as adventurous as it gets!)
If you are eating in the actual jungle, the dish tends to be roasting a chicken on a spit roast you’ve built yourself, with rice. So you can carb free this if you want ( I did, and it was the best chicken I have ever had)--- quite an experience too!
Tips and Tricks
If you are worried about foods and carb counting you can bring snacks with you too. OR if you are really worried, you can ask the hostess to cook something that you have brought with you. Locals in Brazil are kind and friendly, I can’t see them saying no.
Don’t expect ice. Just a random thing to note. You can get ice, but very little. So, don’t rely on that for your insulin.
It’s easy to fall ill, so take precautions. Being ill isn’t ideal for a type 1 diabetic. It can push your blood sugars up, so try to avoid bites by covering up and wearing deet, and wash your hands frequently!
Tell the people you are with you are diabetic. If you wanna have an authentic Amazon experience, then you’ll stay with people who live in the jungle too (that’s what we did). It’s best you let them know you have a medical condition, just in case something happened when you are there. I would have a little note translated in Portuguese explaining what to do in an emergency.
Wear diabetic ID.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Amazon rainforest then DO IT. It's beautiful, peaceful, intriguing and filled with amazing pink dolphins. It's the experience of a lifetime, and something you never have to miss out on because of type 1 diabetes. If you've been, comment below and tell me all about it!
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As the type 1 diabetic half of Dream Big, Travel Far, I'm passionate about encouraging fellow type 1's to travel the world and not let their diabetes hold them back. I'm proud to now be a full-time digital nomad. Meaning I live my life working and travelling all over the world and am here to help you achieve your dreams as well in any way I can.
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