Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Great Cinnamon Experiment

Ivan is still hanging in there. In fact, I now have the opposite issue with him. After months of his glucose being way too high (400-600 range) I'm now having to watch to make sure it's not too low! How's that for a kick in the gut?

(Above, Ivan sinking down to rest between lunch sessions).

As a person who works/lives on a computer, I could not help squirreling around on the Internet looking for info on insulin resistance in cats. First off, let me stress: The best option for a cat in this situation would be an extended (day or more) stay at a 24-hour clinic where he could be properly regulated, if possible, with an addition of short-acting insulin.

(I deleted paragraphs about why some people might not be able to pay additional thousands for this option depending on the cost of 24-hour care in their area--we've been there before and don't need to visit it again)

Let's proceed to why people resort to hair-brained Internet options.

Let's talk --- Cinnamon.

If you Google around on "cinnamon and diabetes" you'll discover there was an initial flurry of excitement over this common household spice possibly making people more sensitive to insulin. Then there was discussion over the dangers of too much cinnamon, which contains coumarin (toxic to the liver), and the unfortunate apparent fact that less-toxic cinnamon (ceylon) did not have the same benefits as the more-toxic common cinnamon (cassia). Then there was discussion that, after all, cinnamon of any sort really was not recommended for diabetics.

What the hell. Ivan is at end-of-life anyway, and increasing insulin dosages did not appear to be helping. Previously I made a decision of this sort with my dog, Sadie. Put her on pain-relief for her arthritis and risk kidney/liver damage and grant her a shorter but less painful life? Or leave her without pain relief and grant her a longer but more painful life? We went with the pain relief.

Would a week of cinnamon kill Ivan? I doubted it. I mixed 1/16th (approx) of cinnamon in Fancy Feast wet that was run through a blender, and gave it to him via syringe. (For the record--I did call my veterinarian about this issue on Day Two of the experiment to let her know I was doing it. Bless her--she actually researches these things for me. Seriously, she should get a hourly payment for the time she puts into my hair-brained schemes).

Ivan didn't think much of the taste. He didn't spit it out or froth at the mouth, but clearly he was giving me "what the hell?" looks. However, since it was just once a day and the rest of the time anything I put in his mouth was tasty, he grudgingly allowed me to continue. Grudgingly.

I didn't have much hope, but again, what could it hurt? I tested his glucose 4 hours later. 314. That was promising. However, his following levels blew me away:

230, 254, 238, 259, 248. This from a cat who was bouncing between 400s and 600s for weeks. Dinnertime: 186. Midnight: 207. Holy crap!

Next day: 254, 398, 356, 284, 229, 304.
Following day: 304, 292, 268

However, he once again began to "creep up," hitting over 400 one day, and I figured that if cinnamon had initially worked to make him more insulin sensitive, it appeared his system was still compensating against it. In addition, Ivan was becoming increasingly resistant to eating it. The "go to hell" looks were becoming "let me see how far I can fling this stuff out by flicking my tongue" actions. It's possible the increasing glucose numbers were because he was ingesting less cinnamon. He began eyeing me balefully when I approached. Ivan's happiness is more important to me than keeping him alive, unhappy. I figured if the cinnamon had had an initial impact, it was still losing ground. So I pushed the insulin up one more unit and stopped the cinnamon.

Right after this decision, I also had a couple things occur that lowered my personal stress quite a bit. Between having "accepted" that Ivan was soon going to pass, plus two other major stress-reducers, my level of calm increased exponentially.

I had stopped testing Ivan a day or so after upping his insulin and cutting the cinnamon. I figured I would judge his time to go by his actions rather than his glucose level, to give him some last days of relaxation without me looming over him with a lancet. I expected him to deteriorate, but he remained about the same.

About a week after stopping the cinnamon, he was acting just a bit odd, so I figured I'd test him.

63. Yikes!

I began testing him three times a day to make sure he didn't get too low. He was running just below to just over 100. He never got over 220. I began having to feed him more. Home glucose meters are not accurate, and 100 could be 50, or 150, so very low levels can be a bit scary. Yesterday I heard crunching, and he was at the dry food bowl, which he hadn't touched in a month.

So currently I have a diabetic cat who is running decent glucose numbers, who has almost zero muscle mass, serious neuropathy, but last night somehow managed to leap up 3 feet onto my bed, ignoring the ottoman I have for him as a step-up. He still walks away from wet food after eating only a tablespoon, and has to be syringe-fed.

Let's be clear. I am not saying his current low glucose level are due to the initial knock-down by cinnamon. Keep in mind:

A) I did kick his insulin up a whole unit. Maybe he finally reached the correct level. Maybe the big jump gave his system a kick in the ass. Don't you love my highly technical terminology? That doesn't explain the initial drop before I increased the insulin, but it could account for the current low levels.

B) I have been exhibiting considerably less stress around the house after emotionally deciding to put him down. I have been testing him less (fewer ear pricks) and have been acting more relaxed around him. I may have been stressing him out with my previous actions. Cats are far more sensitive than we are, and Ivan's whole world pretty much revolves around me. Me being stressed could equal Ivan being stressed. More stress could equal increased illness. Less stress might allow his body to react more normally to insulin.

C) He is nearing end-of-life. He could have systemic changes (increased organ/gland activity out of the body's alarm mode to keep alive, keep alive!) that have made him more insulin sensitive.

D) A combination of all of these.

I'm absolutely not convinced a week and a half of cinnamon, which was then discontinued, would have a continued long-lasting impact on a living creature's insulin sensitivity. However it did seem to have an initial impact on his glucose levels.

I am not a "magical thinker" but I do believe that animals--who cannot articulate their every concern in words--are so incredibly sensitive to body language and tone of voice, that their powers of observation would seem nearly magical to us if we could actually comprehend it.

When you think about all of the anecdotal evidence about pets who perk up immediately after an owner has finally let go and decided "it's time," you do have to wonder how much of our pets' well-being is influenced by the stress they pick up for us.


  1. We are glad to see Ivan. I think it's right about just accepting and relaxing. When I decided not to continue with Megat's chemo treatments , he was more relaxed and calm and that was hem I decided that his comfort should be the only criteria for whatever we needed to do.

  2. That's such wonderful news. I hope the cinnamon can make him feel better for whatever time he has left.

    I'm totally with you on this approach. Last December (2012, that is) my eldest kitty, who is somewhere around 15-16 years old was diagnosed with an inoperable bladder tumor and given just a few weeks to live. There really wasn't much the vets could do for him other than pain killers to keep him comfortable, so I decided to try some herbal stuff. More than a year later he's still with me. He's lost some weight and certainly has issues, but he's still enjoying his little life - looking out the window and rolling in the catnip. I don't know if the herbs helped or not - some of them sure seem to have - but I just figured at that point we didn't have much to lose.

    I also think you're right about them picking up on our emotions. In the end all we can do is the best we can do. It helps me to remember that ultimately this is his journey, not mine, and it really isn't my job to fix everything - I just have to love him and do the best I can with the info and resources I've got.

    Hugs to you and Ivan