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  1. #1
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Treating Diabetes with a Low-Carb diet

    Paging Dr. Steve!

    Just got word that I officially have type 2 diabetes. It may or may not be a result of the medication that I've been taking for the past 4 months (the one from my breakfast thread). One of the possible side effects of this med is diabetes, as well as liver and kidney damage, plus some other equally nasty stuff.

    My previous two readings in the past 10 years have been 86 and 90, with 60-99 being the normal range. My glucose reading came back yesterday at 359. I just about fell out of my chair. I'm convinced this is from the medication as it has also made my ALT and AST numbers (liver and kidney) go through the roof. The doctors seem unconvinced and want to put me on medication right away without checking to see if the medication has anything to do with it. I'm going to insist that we do a 2 week trial to see if reducing or temporarily stopping the medication has any effect on my numbers. I'm also going to do a strict low-carb diet.

    Anywho, I remember that Steve posted some time ago about successfully treating his diabetes with a low-carb diet and I wanted to learn more about that in the hopes that I can do the same.


    A bit of a vent and some feeling sorry for myself-ness:
    This diabetes is the latest in a long list of ailments that have come down on me this past 12 months and it's not the last one; my liver, kidneys, and triglycerides are also negatively impacted at this time and I need to do some more blood work to see what's going on there.

  2. #2
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I'm not Dr. Steve, but DH has been in and out of T2D.

    I've talked about this before, but one of the astounding "experiments" we undertook (DH and I) was a low carb diet. We cut out bread, pasta, rice, etc. Our motivation was: a) ME: fitting into a size 6 mother-of-the groom dress and b) DH: fitting into his Royal Stewart kilt for the same wedding in October.

    We started in July 2015 and DH had a regular doctor's appointment in November 2015 (post-wedding). He had gone from full-blown diabetes in July to an HbA1c of "pre-diabetic" norms in November. All his bloodwork (LDL, triglycerides) was drastically improved.

    I went from 135 lbs. to 117 lbs. I fit into my size 6, and people told my daughter that after my DIL, I was ....(well.. I don't want to brag--just saying, I guess the dress looked good on me).

    Food is medicine, and I do think avoiding processed carbs is key.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Might I suggest another alternative? Eating - to put a general term on it - a vegan diet could also give the results you are seeking. Be right back, off to Google.

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    Try this: https://type2diabetes.com/nutrition/...es-management/

    Also, Forks over Knives on Netflix.

    I wish I could find the link I had that stated IT'S not carbs but fat that influences glucose metabolism.

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    My husband has type 2 that is not controlled. The doctor told him to double his medication until the numbers go down. Doctor told him to go on low carb diet and he is trying. Geila, I would definitely try to see if quitting the nasty medication works.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Catherine - this is so good to hear! How amazing that your husband saw such results. Of course, looking good in your dress is great too! But this does give me hope. Has your DH maintained his prediabetic state? Is he still on medication? My next step is to research the meds as my doc wants to put me on them asap.

    lmerullo - I don't think I would do well on a vegan diet. I can't eat nuts so my protein sources would be very limited, and if I had to avoid fat, that would make things even harder. I think most of the research has shown that it is carbs that affect glucose. Even my doctor, the only dietary changes she has mentioned is limiting carbs. I've also been referred to a diabetes clinician.

    TT - do you know what medication your husband is on? Re my nasty medication, I do need to try to stay on that med for at least another 6 months, but hopefully I can do so at a much reduced dosage and still gain the benefits with out the side effects.

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    Medfortin. He had to stop exercising so much because his knee and foot were hurting so bad.

  8. #8
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Dr. Steve can see you now...

    First, my sympathy on the diagnosis. Despite the absolute chemistry of diabetes (insulin in the body doesn't match carb intake) there are numerous risk factors and yet many people with even several of those risk factors don't always become diabetic. Someday we'll know more about that; not today.

    I'm T2 but my numbers are those of a non-diabetic without any medication or insulin. A1c well under 6 and cholesterol numbers which are positive relative to where I was even when I was "low-carbing" it. Way before the era of diabetes medications advertised heavily on TV and way before insulin was widely available, diabetics used to be treated with a very-low-carbohydrate diet. It works. (A vegan diet likely will not work because it will be hard to find enough low-carb sources of vegetables to provide enough protein and, honestly, variety to keep you on the diet.)

    There are many resources on the Internet which can point you toward eating a low-carb or even a ketogenic diet. One site I think lays things out well is Blood Sugar 101. I'd recommend taking a look at that site for a good background on the illness and the effects of diet and medication on it as well as pointers on how to start eating ultra-low-carb.

    Some other points I would make at the moment:

    - If you're going low-carb or even keto, you must bump up your fat intake. Most people consume a high number of their daily calories in carbs; you can't cut them out without replacing them calorically or you will be hungry (or hangry) constantly and you'll fall off the wagon. Increasing protein eventually will result in rising blood glucose levels because, in the absence of ready carbohydrate stores, the body will glycolize protein. So the old Atkins joke about eating as much bacon as you want does not apply. On this kind of eating plan your protein intake is moderate.

    - When you start you will want to keep up your fluid and sodium intake as your body adjusts to its new diet. People who don't keep drinking water and salting their food get what's coloquially called "keto flu" for some days when they start; fluid and salt shorten that timeframe considerably.

    - At least in the beginning, you'll want to test your blood glucose levels very frequently. Solid endocrinological studies show that organ damage can occur at any level above 140 (the American Diabetes Association, for some reason, is okay with 180). Most diabetics find there is some food that will cause a surprising spike in blood glucose, but it's not the same food for all of us. For instance, I can eat a handful of berries (any kind) without seeing a big rise in my BG levels. Others cannot. Some diabetics are okay eating beans; some of us <raises hand> are not. To know, though, you have to test, ideally just before you eat, an hour after you eat, and two hours after you eat.

    Watch out for food labeled "for diabetics". It usually has artificial sweeteners in it or "sugar alcohols" (maltitol, etc.). Products like Dreamfields pasta is another one to watch out for -- I've seen numerous posts on-line from diabetics who noticed either unwanted digestive side effects or that their BG increased even three hours after they ate that particular food. As in most other diets, whole foods are best. Want chocolate? Find yourself some good 80-90% dark chocolate and have a square or two and scratch the itch. Don't buy "chocolate for diabetics".

    Your doctor may already have given you a BG meter. You can use that one but check the price of strips; that's what costs the most. I use an inexpensive meter that uses inexpensive strips (about 25 cents apiece mail order) so I can test pretty much all I want without worrying that my Rx doesn't cover all the strips I need. You can petition your doctor for an Rx for more strips or you can just buy them out of pocket like I do. That way no one can tell me what meter to use or how often I can test. If you don't test, you don't know. As you can attest, even a BG of 350 doesn't feel much different from "normal".

    - You might think that increasing your fat intake will wreak havoc on your cholesterol numbers. Aside from good studies that indicate a wide fluctuation in blood glucose/insulin levels is more responsible than fats for cholesterol issues, after several months (to maybe a year) on a very-low-carb/keto diet, the cholesterol in your body will change shape from tiny particles to larger cloud-shaped masses that don't get into cells the way the tiny particles do. So don't let your doctor rush you into a statin or such because your cholesterol numbers don't meet their protocol. Insist on a "pattern test" to assess your true risk for cholesterol/arterial issues and make sure your doctor knows how to read the results.

    I've already written a book , but this will get you started. Feel free to ask questions (or PM if you prefer); happy to answer them or point you in the direction of greater assistance.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  9. #9
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    So glad you can see me today Dr. Steve!

    I will check out that website and also reread your comments to make sure everything sinks in. I'm a bit overwhelmed right now because in addition to just taking in what this BG number means (possible organ damage! etc), my doctor sent me a long list of stuff she wants to me do. Lots of tests, appts with diabetes clinician, appts with her, etc...

    I guess the biggest thing I need right now is hope.

    How long have you been able to maintain your healthy numbers without using medication? Did you ever even try medication or did you just treat it with diet? Could you share a typical eating day?

    I suspect that with my astoundingly high number my doctor will put me on meds right away, and I understand. Safety is a big issue right now. But I also want to do everything I can diet-wise to help things along.

    p.s. books are welcome! Big books!!!

  10. #10
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    my doctor sent me a long list of stuff she wants to me do. Lots of tests, appts with diabetes clinician, appts with her, etc...

    I guess the biggest thing I need right now is hope.
    There is hope! Diabetes may be a progressive illness, but it can be managed and managed well. And doing that can push off the traditional (and well-known) complications for years and years.

    You simply have to want to be the master of your diabetes. I know that might seem really hard right now, but I would recommend taking a deep breath and diving in. You'll need to change what you eat (but if what you're eating is making you sick, it's easier to change). You may need to manage time or money a little differently to make sure you have time to exercise or to prepare (or buy) what you eat. You may need to work on changing your view of food (for many people there is a significant social component to eating).

    It may not be easy or immediate (I will admit some aspects of changing my attitudes toward food and my health were not a snap for me). But there are many many people living just fine with diabetes. You can be one of them.

    One piece of advice: do not let yourself be railroaded into the medical system. Not to sound conspiratorial, but there seems to be a machine into which most healthcare providers feed new diabetics. The battery of tests your doctor mentioned may be warranted in light of other medical concerns of yours. But there seems to me to be a weird emphasis on protocols that treat every diabetic the same, a distinct lack of interest in investigating alternatives to the way things always have been done, and a heavily-marketed world of products made specially for diabetics, many of which are unnecessary ("diabetic candy") and some of which even are injurious in the long run.

    Another piece of advice: when you see the "diabetes educator", smile and nod a lot and disregard anything (s)he has to say. Don't waste your time telling that person you're going low-carb or keto; you'll hear all kinds of old information and horror stories about how difficult and dangerous that is. All I have to say, though, is that looking at my next-door neighbor and friends of mine and DW's, all of whom did just as they were told, have (in some cases, had) the traditional complications of diabetes. It's easy to get the impression that there's more money in managing the disease than there is in addressing it sensibly and inexpensively (think of all the insulin and Janumet they haven't sold me).

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    How long have you been able to maintain your healthy numbers without using medication? Did you ever even try medication or did you just treat it with diet? Could you share a typical eating day?
    I'm going on 2-1/2 years of "normal" A1cs with just diet and exercise. I never tried medication; didn't even want to start with it. My doctor offered to put me on Metformin right away but I wanted to try without it first. Success; no Met needed. That may not last forever and there won't be any shame in starting on it if/when I need to, but I figure the fewer meds I'm on, the better off I am.

    Typical eating day:
    Breakfast: 2 eggs and 2-4 ounces of bacon/sausage/cheese (build up the fat without overdoing the protein)

    Lunch: mixed green salad with 4-5 ounces of protein (often fish because it's good for me and DW is not a huge fan but sometimes leftover chicken or pork roast or...). I may put some salad dressing on to bump up the fat level but not if the protein came with enough fat of its own. Sometimes some pork rinds or nuts for crunch. Sometimes I'll have, say, greens (collards, spinach, etc.) with some protein. Or a sandwich wrap with the bread replaced by lettuce leaves or a keto wrap.

    Dinner: typically another 3-4 ounces of a protein and a couple of cups of a side vegetable (greens, string beans, etc.). Sometimes a leftovers soup assembled to clean out the fridge. There are Web sites and books with low-carb and keto recipes, too.

    I'm not (never was) much on desserts or sweet stuff so I don't miss them much. I can snack on a little piece of cheese or a handful of nuts or some pork rinds. But, as Jane mentioned, you're better off eating well at meals and skipping snacks if you can. The exception may be eating some sort of snack before bedtime as it may help you manage your blood glucose better. But that will come later

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    I suspect that with my astoundingly high number my doctor will put me on meds right away, and I understand. Safety is a big issue right now. But I also want to do everything I can diet-wise to help things along.
    If you choose that route (I won't say it's a bad choice), know that:

    1) those medications expect you to be eating a certain amount of carbs at every meal. Reducing your carb intake while on these meds (or insulin) may cause hypoglycemic incidents, which can be very serious. You'll have to reduce your doses or stop taking the meds; it will be complicated to do that at the same time your body is getting used to differing insulin production/resistance levels. Both low-carb and exercise levels will change the effect of insulin so don't try to manage too many variables at once.

    If it were me, I'd try to get two weeks meds-free while you start with diet and exercise. Even if the doctor insists on giving you the Rx or even the pills themselves, you don't have to take them. It'll be cleaner to try to manage your diabetes without the meds. One thing which could help is to keep a record of your blood glucose readings (after you wake but before you eat food, before each meal, and one and two hours after your first bite of a meal). This will tell you what your blood glucose is with the new steps you're taking and will be a negotiating tool for use with your doctor.

    2) once you start taking the meds, there may be a fair amount of resistance from your doctor to discontinuing them. Some doctors won't have the time or interest to help you manage titrating doses down as your body's use of insulin improves. Again, try not to become part of the machine.

    Hope that helps!
    Last edited by SteveinMN; 1-25-19 at 7:18pm. Reason: ETA "typical eating day"
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

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