Since a low blood sugar can hit unexpectedly at any time, we insulin-dependents know that it's imperative to have some quick-acting sugar on hand just in case.
For me, lows have often been known to hit when I am in the middle of something that doesn't lend itself to a break -- especially when I'm not with my wife, who carries a large enough purse to keep my supplies on hand for quick help if needed.
As a daily newspaper reporter and then a legal reporter for many years before joining the 'Mine, I had to be quick on my feet and often found myself going low while out on assignment or sitting in a courtroom trying to comprehend complex legal arguments.
Glucose tabs have always been a favorite of mine because they are quick and easy to consume. (My wife has had to remind me they aren't candy, too, because I'm that fond of eating them...)
The trouble is, as a guy, I struggle with "portable" glucose options. I don't like toting bags or extra items along with me. And let's face it: a tube of 10 tabs or yet bulkier items aren't the most discreet for any man, especially in summer when you're not wearing a jacket and it's all going into the pants pockets.
Years ago, I used to like those individually-packaged white BD glucose tabs that were thin enough so I could toss 'em in my pocket or even my wallet. But since those were discontinued, I've been searching for a suitable replacement.
Three new options are on my radar as good choices, these days. All are fully stocked in my home, desk, car, golf bag, and places I might be at when they're needed:
LEVEL LIFE Glucose Gel
You might know this product by another name, too.
Remember GlucoBrands and the GlucoPouch? We wrote about company founder Ethan Lewis back in August 2011, and I had fallen in love with the easy-to-open glucose packets when they hit the market.
Ethan — a fellow PWD (person with diabetes) diagnosed at age 12 back in the 90s — wasn't satisfied with the start of GlucoBrands, which launched at the July 2011 annual Children with Diabetes Friends for Life event and, at the time, had just one flavor, mandarin orange.
After reviewing the marketing and consumer feedback, Ethan decided they could use a brand refresh less than a year in.
So he changed the name to Level Foods LLC, relocated from Tampa, FL, to Denver, CO, and set up shop. The company now makes a revised glucose gel pouch available in a variety of flavors.
Ethan tells us that he didn't think about diabetes stigmas when he started his business, but that's what led to these changes.
He found many people don't like shopping in health aisles at stores or want to put D-products in their carts because it was too obvious and potentially embarrassing.
"At the end of the day, I want to be like everyone else and not be singled out because of my diabetes," he said. "I was looking for a brand that spoke to people and had no stigma attached to it, and we wanted a cool name that didn't have that gluco-aspect -- a brand devoted to me that doesn't scream, 'Hey, I have a disease!'"
So the name changed, but the product concept pretty much stayed the same. Same pouch format, although with a glossier and easier-to-tear open package. And four flavors are now available — two "crazy" choices in vanilla and caramel, and two fruity flavors because as Ethan says "we all grew up on those tabs."
Now found in thousands of Walmart stores nationwide, the mass production led to a price drop, so pouches are now selling at half the initial price, currently $2.88 for a three-pack .
In fact, LEVEL LIFE is even creating a new flavor with the help of the DOC... on World Diabetes Day, the company announced a contest to pick the next glucose gel flavor. You too can enter the "Fuel a Cure" campaign, which is open for flavor nominations through Feb. 13, 2013. Once the new winning flavor hits the shelves, $1 of every pouch sale will be donated to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and JDRF. Any fans of the company's Facebook page can submit flavor ideas there!
And Ethan says his company is in the final stages of developing a whole new line of products that go beyond treating low blood sugars. "They are super-cool, and I say that as a person with diabetes!" he told us, remaining tight-lipped about the upcoming mystery product that will soon debut in 2013. "We are not just focused on lows, but managing blood sugars," he says.
If the new line of D-products is anything like this glucose gel, I expect to be a fan.
My assessment of the glucose gel:
Portability: The thin and light package is easy to transport pretty much anywhere, in briefcases, golf bags, pants pockets to suit coats or outside jackets. And not long ago when I sat down with the pouch in my back pocket, I was happily surprised to see it hadn't exploded in a messy goo!
Ease of Opening (key during an actual hypo): There's no clear plastic seal that makes it extra difficult to access when you're low, so that's a rare bonus! The pouch top comes off with a quick tear, and the gel inside comes out pretty easily when you squeeze it like a push-up pop. A little remained in the package, but a toothpaste rolling effect made sure I got all 15 grams without missing any left inside.
Really, I love this glucose gel, am hard-pressed to find anything not to like about it. Would recommend it to any PWD.
That is what QuickSticks is all about. The Dallas, TX, company (owned by QS Holdings) makes these fast-acting sugar sticks as the latest options for PWDs, designed as little packets of gluten-free (!) dextrose that look and feel like the traditional Pixy Stick! They come in watermelon and sour apple flavors, and they're very easy to open and consume. Each packet contains 10 grams of carbs.
Word of warning, though: be careful how you open the packet, as an entire mouthful of either flavor is a little too much all at once...
They can be found in retailer stores like Walgreens, Walmart, Costco and Kroger (among others), and even are available online via Amazon.com for $4.25 for a box of a dozen sticks.
In November, QS Holdings teamed up with basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal to help raise awareness about diabetes and promote their product. Shaq has family members living with diabetes, news reported, and as part of the campaign he's doing national media appearances and educational videos.
"My goal with Quick Sticks is to provide a safe, fun and effective product, as well as inform people of the benefits of utilizing resources like Certified Diabetes Educators, the American Diabetes Association and the JDRF," Shaq said in a statement back in November.
That's cool, except we're left wondering why PWDs can't just buy real Pixy Sticks, which sell on Amazon for about $2.30 for 10-count. Hmm...
Another new quick-acting glucose option, the GlucoLift tabs have a certain appeal for those looking for the all-natural glucose tab variety. Gluten-free, these tabs are flavored naturally with cherries, berries, and orange and cream in the respective varieties and have no artificial dyes or chemicals.
We wrote about this company back in 2011 and its awesome founder Chris Angell, a fellow PWD who was initially misdiagnosed with type 2 at age 30 before learning he had type 1.
These alternative tabs have become quite popular, gaining the first-ever product seal of approval from diabetes conference group TCOYD. Also, a percentage of the profits goes toward athletic group InsulinDependence and its "1% for the Planet" campaign.
Taste: Some say this product doesn't feel chalky like traditional glucose tabs, but that doesn't really phase me, because I like them all and think they can double-up as candy-like treats. Yum.
Portability/Packaging: To me, the jars and tubes are just like any other brand of glucose tab out there. But what I really like is the portable little sample baggies they offer that have a pair of tabs inside. I can grab two or three of these and be on my way! Very guy-friendly, GlucoLift!
And the price is reasonable, too: The sample packs are actually not for resale and are just that (a sample), but I can buy a jar of 40 orange cream tabs for $8.99 online and then just restock my little baggies as often needed, while keeping the larger jar in my car or desk drawer.
These are just three of the many gluco-products out there on the market for us PWDs. What others have you tried?
Which do you all prefer, and how do you handle the portability if you're not up for carrying a purse or bag around? (Ladies - does this ever apply to you as well)?