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!
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.
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.
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.