Dancers with diabetes

My fifteen-year-old son was diagnosed with type 1 two weeks ago.  He has been dancing for ten years.  He loves contact improv, takes ballet, modern tech, tap, zumba, hiphop, is a member of a community multi-generational dance company, and is the teaching assistant to a creative movement class for six year olds.  The dance studio is his second home.

If you are a dancer with diabetes, I'd love to hear from you.  What special issues have you found?  Tips?

He's still recovering from being quite ill and we're working with the endocrinologists and nurses to find what works snackwise, carb ratio-wise, etc. for dance nights.  He keeps going low and then running high during the night (we're doing midnight and 3 a.m. checks for now).  The new thing for tonight was trying snacks with lower protein (not peanut butter and crackers) so maybe he won't go high during the night.

He's already wanting a pump.  Who can blame him?  But the more I read, I feel I should read more.  What the best pump so far for dancers?  What are considerations and issues?  Are you a dancer who has gone OFF a pump because of dancing?  This is months down the road for us, but I want to explore and learn.

This site is great.  He may want to join later.  Right now he is too busy going to school, doing make-up work, dancing, and being a newbie at managing his diabetes.  Me, I'm just not getting enough sleep in order to do this.  I won't let him do that. ;-)

Hi Angie,

That's so awesome of your son to be so passionate about something like that at a young age.  I wish him the best.  As for dancing with diabetes, I'm not as avid of a dancer as your son, but I have been on a local dance team when I was in HS after I was first diagnosed and I was introduced to the Minimed Paradigm 511 pump then.  It was such a challenge to use it while dancing as I had to find places to clip it too and sometimes the tubing was a little hard to deal with with all the movements.  However, the OmniPod seems like the best way to go if your son wants to be on a pump while dancing.  It has a remote and the reservoir is attached directly onto the body with no tubing required.  I don't personally use it, as I'm so attached to my Purple Minimed Paradigm 522.  I'm sure there are others on here who can give you their opinions and more info about the OmniPod.

As for snacks...Protein shouldn't affect his sugars that much.  It would be the carbs that are affecting them.  Maybe he can have the peanut butter without the crackers or less crackers.  Usually, a glass of milk helped me out at night.  When I'm intensively active such as when dancing or surfing, I'll eat a mini meal or bigger snack which includes more complex carbs, then take less insulin for the ratio.  Like I do 1u to 10g carbs on the regular, but for heavy workouts I'll reduce it to .8u to 10g carbs.  So, that's something you definitely should ask the endo about.  Your endo should also suggest a dietician to help you with the snack issues.

Good luck!

Hi there Angie! I'm a diabetic dancer as well.  I have been dancing for 21 years, 15 of which which diabetes.  Currently I am teaching for fun at local studio but dance used to be my life. Between the ages of 8 and 15 I was a competitive dancer, dancing at regional and national competitions.  I do ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and even some contact improv in college (which I LOVED!!!!!!).  

On the side of diabetes it has never really gotten in my way.  To some classes I can wear my pump and just tuck it into the waist band, classes like tap, or hip hop.  The classes where i'm usually rolling on the ground or touching other people (like contact improv, jazz, or ballet) i'd just detach it for the class (usually people don't miss much insulin in an hour or so).  If I have more than one class in a row i'd just click it on between the classes and take the missed insulin.  It's really not a big deal, and WELL worth it in my opinion. 

I'm very excited for your son, dance is so wonderful for the mind body and soul, dance and diabetes can definitely be part of a team!  ...boy I sound cheesy...  well it's the truth :)

I wear the onmipod and it is great. although i can dance, i dont do it all the time. It is awesome with the omnipod not to have to disconect it. but on the other hand, not beeing able to disconnect it might be a problem. esperially if some of the dances include contact.

Aww, you guys make me miss it :(
I quit dancing not even 6 months before I was diagnosed. Why? Feeling those symptoms, and dancing on top of all that uck didn't help. All I was looking for was a way out at the time, to stop having to exert myself so much. I remember when I'd come out of the 3 hour dance class and be shaking; I barely moved after class, I just slumped over the car and lay there until I had to go back in for the next class. It was awful. But if I'd known I could fix it, and feel this good, I never would have stopped. I miss it, and I think letting diabetes get in the way of dancing (even if I didn't know it at the time) is one of my biggest regrets.

Alyssa, can you get back into dance?  I certainly hope so, seeing how strongly you feel about it!  Good luck!

First off.. please, take a HUGE deep breath because you CAN do this.  It really will be OK.  I remember how depressing and absolutely daunting it was at first.  My daughter was 2.5 when she was diagnosed, and we were very lucky that we caught it quite early and she wasn't extremely sick.  That said, she started dancing two years ago and was already on the pump.. we have a paradigm, but honestly, i am not sure which one it is.  she wears her pump in a pump pack that just hooks around her waste so there is no issue with finding a place to clip it.  it can be tucked insider her leotards/tights etc so it fits snuggly and isn't flopping around and getting in her way.  We have had no problems with it.  I did however, see in the drs office the last time we were there a new "port" kind of device that allows one stick like a site for a pump, but then each "bolus" is done with a syringe to the port.  it keeps them from being poked multiple times but allows them the control of a pump.  I could NEVER EVER go back to shots after going on the pump.  She has so many more options and since all of the insulin is short acting I find it much easier to keep her from going low/high etc.  for example, your son now is on a long acting insulin (probably one shot ever 24 hrs if its lantus and maybe two a day if its novolin/humolin)...that insulin will kick itself in throughout the course of a day regardless of what his activities are, but with a pump you can really really control how much insulin he gets with modifying the basal rate.  all of the insulin is the fast acting kind (novolog for us) and her basal rate adjusts throughout the day.  if there is a time that we know she will be more active, it is much easier to lower that basal for that time.  you also have the option to just suspend any insulin if you are more active etc and you weren't expecting to be. 

Now, for the going low and then high.  I'd say you're probably giving the right number of carbs, but if you are giving pbutter it is very fatty.  The fat will help it hold with you longer. I think I'd try some juice or milk (lowfat) to bring up the low.  The milk especially will still have the protein in it, but the fat will be less.  Pizza is a really difficult food for us.  The same number of carbs of pizza are going to require more insulin, than other foods because the fat will metabolize slower and cause her blood sugar to stay high longer. 

I'm truly sorry you are having to go through this too.  You will get through it though.  Good luck to you


angie my name is molly i m 13 and ive been danceing since i was three. it is my life  i take six classes a week that take up most of my time i also demonstrater for younger kids at my studio. im sorry to hear about your son but as life goes on from experience it gets eaiser i should know i have been dancing as long as i have had diabetes. there have only been a few minor things with diabetes that have effected my dance career. i find that i have to lower my insulin depending on how long the work out is and how long im going to be preforming in front of a audience. i also say dancing with a pump has never been a problem for me and probibally never will i have been on a pump for about five years now and i love there are also four other students at my dance studio who are currently on pumps i have never regreted being put on a pump and i will never stop using it just because i dance. With dance it is an art form and u learn to respect your body in so many ways i feel that it has helped me control my diabetes for the most part. if i could be of any more help just add me as a friend i would always love to help another diabetic dancer!!

Diabetic dancers: (I know this thread is dead like 2.5 years.... but I need help!) I need opinions. I'm in winter guard, and we do looooots of modern/ballet/jazz/etc. Typically bare foot. Is this a bad idea? Should I invest in dance paws or something? I know new shoes run the risk of blisters as well... Opinions! Thanks :)