why is good blood glucose control so important?

When my wife Monica was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at ten she was advised to eat at least 130g of carbohydrates with every meal.

The insulin dose was kept fixed to cover this fixed amount of carbohydrates.  If she went low she had to eat more carbs to bring her blood glucose back up.

Welcome to the everyday blood sugar roller coaster that takes over your life when you have diabetes!

1-150131150046303

It wasn’t till after we were married in 2002 and started thinking about having kids that she found a doctor with an interest in diabetes who told her that she could tailor her insulin dose to what she wanted to eat.

Up until this time even the visits to the endocrinologist were to get more scripts for insulin and thyroid medication.  No useful advice was provided about how to manage diabetes.

It’s amazing that the concept of carbohydrate counting was new and shiny in 2003 when Richard Bernstein developed the concepts back in 1970s!

Today, the standard of care for diabetes seems to have incorporated Bernstein’s carbohydrate counting, however the nutritionists and diabetes associations still advises that diabetics should not have to deprive themselves of any food in the pursuit of health.  And like everyone else, they should eat a diet full of “healthy whole grains”.

It wasn’t until we discovered Paleo and then low carb through family members and social media that she found that she could improve blood sugar control through diet.

More recently by refining our diet to prioritise low insulin load, high fibre and high nutrient density foods I’m pleased to say that she has been able to find another level of improved blood sugar control, increased energy and reduced depression and anxiety that so often comes with blood sugar dis-regulation.

Real-Food-Pyramid1 (1)

It is still not easy and we are still learning, however she is now able to enjoy working as a supply teacher rather than just getting through the morning and needing to sleep during the afternoon before picking up the kids from school.

Her big regret is that she did not discover this earlier, which would have saved her from spending decades living in a fog with limited energy.

The chart below shows the difference diet can make in the management of blood glucose, particularly for a type 1 diabetic (notice that these plots are only two months apart!).  People who find success with this dietary approach find a substantial improvement in quality of life and their state of well being that makes it well worth the effort.

image017

Below is a recent post on the TYPEONEGRIT Facebook group from a mother of a type 1 diabetic child describing their interaction with her health care team.  It’s still not simple to go against the main stream dietary advice.

We had our team meeting today to discuss LCHF…  they are so terrified of this, even though we have great BG readings, behaviour improvements and learning improvements (noted by us, family, friends and his school) which they didn’t even acknowledge.

The nutritionist is concerned that he won’t be getting the micronutrients that only come from grains and the higher carb vegetables (grains are fortified), then her concern was the B vitamins 1, 3 and 6. 

Then the concern about Iron (what?! have you seen the meat and spinach listed?). Then it was calcium and magnesium (clearly they don’t have a clue about LCHF).

They said they are afraid this diet may cause future developmental harm. We said your diet WILL cause future harm and way more than developmental. Back and forth and on it went. We addressed their concerns with peer reviewed research, and respect to their limited knowledge.

We will be an open book and comply because I want them to learn that T1D care can be so much better than it has been up to now, and pave the way for the next families that wishes to do LCHF.

They will check for vitamins and minerals at his 3 month blood work (again special for our case, which we have to pay for).

The good news here is that after running an intense battery of tests they decided to use this child as Canada’s first case study in LCHF paediatrics for the management of type 1 diabetes.

This post inspired me to run some numbers on a range of diets to see whether there was any issue with the nutritional content of higher fat diets.   It turns out that diets with higher levels of fat can be very nutritious while the grain based diet that everyone is recommended does very poorly, particularly when you take the insulin of these higher carbohydrate diets into account (see the Diet Wars… Which One is  Optimal article for more details).

It breaks my heart to see diabetics living with a highly diminished quality when there is the potential to greatly reduce the impact of diabetes by more informed food choices.

For people with diabetes and their carers diet is important and maybe a matter of life and death, or at least a decision that will greatly affect their quality and length of life.

15 thoughts on “why is good blood glucose control so important?”

  1. Marty, I am a Mother of a son with T1. I’ve been following your blog for some months now and just want to let you know how grateful I am to you, for sharing your research and experience. We quickly realised LCHF was a much easier and obvious way to manage our son’s diet (it’s been good for the whole family!). I naievely thought I could discuss this with the Hospital dieticians. Not a good idea! Sadly, they were not at all receptive and became quite defensive. They told me I was placing my child’s life in danger! Now, we just attend his appointments, nod politely, bask in their amazement of his stable BSL’s and leave as quickly as possible. I feel they still give me a suspicious look occassionally but as he is thriving at school, sport and is growing and full of energy, they’ve stopped challenging me. I despair for other families who haven’t discovered this way of life. Thank you for the effort you put into your blog. It vindicates everything I instinctively felt and have learnt (and still learning) since the shock of his diagnosis.

    1. It certainly is not easy and I commend your fortitude. Of course you would not intentionally hurt your child but the know-it-all, paternalistic health care system and schools, too. While I don’t have to cope with TD1, I had the same frustrations many years ago regarding mental health and am convinced that knowing about the dietary/gut factors I now know about would have been beneficial, though not likely supported by the establishment. Stay strong to your convictions and maternal knowledge.

    2. Cate, I could have written your comment myself! I had the same reaction from the “dietician/diabetes educator” (scare quotes because the recommendations were HORRIFIC) and left the office feeling like I was a child abuser.
      Let me say, my child in just a short few weeks on this way of eating (our whole family took the plunge), has moved past his former sensory issues with food, he is eating protein (!!!!), he is eating more vegetables than EVER, he is eating healthy fats, is more satisfied, moods are leveling, activity is UP, his skin is clearing up (he had dry, itchy skin bumps likely from wheat), he’s sleeping better, he has color in his face, gone is the paleness and dark circles under his eyes…and best of all, his bg levels are high 70s to low 100 consistently with only 3 units of insulin at night. No bolus. He is thriving. I know he is probably honeymooning, sure, but this is THE way to eat and live fully and no bogus dietician advocating 100s of carbs PER MEAL (it still makes me angry), can tell me otherwise. As Bernstein put it, my son deserves normal bg levels too!

      Thank you, Marty, for this great page I am only now finding thanks to Jason Fung’s article on Diet Doctor—I hate that I didn’t have it when I switched to lchf for my own health. It is now changing our whole family for the better and regardless where T1D takes us, this is our way of eating for life!

  2. I am truly appreciative of the work that you do for the greater good. I look forward to your posts and emails and am so much better both physically and mentally for the information you provide. I no longer feel victim to an uncontrollable process as I have managed to obtain normal glucose levels (F 75-85 P uner 100) and reversal of symptoms. Thank You!

    1. Awesome! Thanks Kathy! I’m so chuffed that people seem to be enjoying the posts and following along. The interaction continues to inspire questions and research so there a few more posts in the pipeline. 🙂

  3. The problem with health professionals is most, not all, are arrogant. They believe what they were told in training and everything else is B.S.
    There are open minded health professionals who truly learn from their patients. Find one and be happy. You don’t need the stress of dealing with arrogance.

    1. One of the challenges for doctors is that they are bound to work within their ‘standard of care’ which means that, even if they believe something themselves, take a risk giving advice outside what is formally endorsed by the institution. Medical advice is changing but slowly. Doctors tend to therefore defer to dieticians who tend to give cookie cutter advice that may or may not be influenced by their donors.

  4. Its crazy right? I used to say to the doc when he asked “how is your control?” , “as good as it can get I suppose”. But Dr B’s WOE has shown me otherwise, I too am sad I did not find it 15 years ago when I was DX.

  5. Doesn’t this type of medical care make you furious? It’s so sad that the medical community for decades treated diabetes with just adding more carbs. Today is seems outrageous but it just goes to show that we cannot blindly follow what the medical community has to say. So thrilled to hear that she is getting the proper care and gaining better health.

    1. Cheers. Lots to learn from diabetes for us all. It’s great to be able to direct the frustration and anger into something like this that can have a positive benefit.

Leave a Reply