Hi there! I’m so glad you are checking in on what’s happening at Flawed yet Functional today! I’m Emily, an adult-onset, type 1 diabetic (after 2 pregnancies with gestational diabetes). After my T1D diagnosis, I began pursuing better blood sugar control and overall health by changing my diet. I’ve been at this for just over two years! Today I’d like to share my results of a healthy diet for diabetes. Spoiler alert: it’s SUCH good news!
Diet Change Timeline
To catch you all up, here’s a brief timeline explaining my diet changes. Just in case it isn’t clear, my changes were not overnight. Overhauling one’s diet takes time and lots of work. If you are just beginning this journey, take encouragement from my results but give yourself time to see results yourself!
- April 2017 – Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a 33-year-old
- End of April 2017 – Began eating gluten-free
- September 2017 – Began first elimination diet, removing dairy, all grains, eggs, soy, and nightshades from my diet
- November 2017 – Reintroduced all foods (except gluten) very quickly
- February 2018 – Began the Autoimmune Protocol, blood glucose had been higher and generally unstable since the holidays. I couldn’t identify the exact problem because my reintroduction was fast and undocumented, so I had to start all over.
- Mid-March 2018 – First reintroduction of egg yolks was a FAIL…back to the elimination period.
- April 2018 – September 2019 – Slow reintroduction of many foods, all with success! (almonds, chocolate, wine, cashews, legumes, nightshades, and coffee)
Past Health Reports
Now you know where my diet has been, let’s take a look at how a healthy diet (one based in whole, unprocessed food and free from allergies/sensitivities) has affected my health beyond simple blood sugar levels.
Every year, I get annual bloodwork to monitor other conditions that could go along with diabetes. At the beginning of my health journey, I did not have high enough HDL, vitamin D, and my thyroid was not functioning as normal. Let’s see how all that has changed!
Just as in May of 2018, my thyroid function continues to be in normal range. This is a relief and confirmation that gluten (and possibly other sensitivities trigger autoimmune diseases) played a major role in my elevated thyroid levels. My thyroid was outside of normal range when on the standard American diet, and it is now in normal range with my Paleo minus eggs diet.
Endocrinologists monitor the thyroid function of diabetics because autoimmune diseases run together. Although the whole range of autoimmune diseases is possible, everything from eczema to Hashimotos to MS, type 1 diabetes plus thyroid disease is an especially common combination. Multiple autoimmune diseases are especially common in adult-onset type 1 diabetics. (source).
I do not take medication for my thyroid. The results you see above are strictly a result of changing my diet. Incredible!
Cholesterol & Triglycerides
Unfortunately, I do not have a baseline to compare my cholesterol to pre-diagnosis. I know I did not have a high enough level of HDL because I did not qualify for the highest tier of life insurance. Ha! My husband never lets me live that down!
Even though I don’t know my starting point for HDL, my current levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are all in range. Woot!
In May 2018, I had my first annual blood work done which showed a lot of improvement in thyroid function, blood sugar, and cholesterol, but it showed I had very low levels of vitamin D. As my doctor put it, “everyone north of Atlanta is low on vitamin D.” Well, that may be, but vitamin D is important to proper body functioning. It aids absorption of calcium by the bones, works with the nervous and immune system, and muscles need it to move. (source)
Vitamin D sounds important to me! So even if most of the US is deficient, I don’t want to be! I began taking a vitamin D supplement in May 2018, and it worked! My vitamin D levels are now in range!
GAD65 is the antibody whose presence predicts the development of type 1 diabetes (source). In April 2017 and May 2018, I was not taking insulin, and I was curious if my diet would decrease the level of GAD65 in my system. It did not. I forgot to ask that it be checked this year. GAD65 is probably going to be in my system for good, but I am curious if the levels will ever change which I why I request this test.
Emily’s Medical Conjectures (that means guess): Since my pancreas did die a bit more in December 2018, causing me to go back on insulin, the diet change did not eliminate the presence of the antibody GAD65 nor did it stop it completely. BUT it did slow it down, way down.
My A1c continues to be right on track for a type 1 diabetic. While a normal A1c is in the 5’s, the goal for a type 1 diabetic is <7.0. From the time of my diagnosis, I have never had an A1c reach 7.0 either while on or off insulin.
It is interesting to note that after 30 days on the AIP elimination diet, my A1c was 5.8, and that was without artificial insulin in my system. Food has amazing power!
I have mentioned in other posts that I put on 10 pounds immediately after resuming insulin injections. That total is now closer to +6 or +7, and it appears I cannot shake the additional weight. For right now, I’m choosing to live with it and not obsess over it. I continue to work on living a healthy life with a healthy diet for diabetes, exercise, and good daily habits. I strongly believe this is the right path regardless of those few pounds.
My diet began as only gluten-free in April 2017, morphed into the Autoimmune Protocol by February 2018, and now with many reintroductions under my belt, my diet is Paleo without eggs. While my diet changes were overwhelming and a huge burden at times, I am used to it now. Really, I use “diet” to refer to the food that I eat, but Paleo is really a lifestyle. I have figured out how to eat at a restaurant, travel, and eat on-the-go with barely any additional stress.
If you are just starting out, keep at it. There will be times when you want to give up (I’ve had those days too!), but press on. It will get easier, and the end result is worth it!
My doctors are amazed by what I’m able to do. While they are happy with the outcomes, they are skeptical that I will be able to stick to my diet long-term. In their eyes, it is stressful to eat and live the way I do.
I suppose if you are entrenched in the standard American diet and purchasing mostly pre-packaged convenience food, then yes, preparing food fresh does seem overwhelming. As I stated earlier, this is my new lifestyle. The results are worth it beyond the specific measurements of blood sugar and lipid panels.
- I have energy.
- I sleep well (when my kids don’t wake me up!).
- My skin is fresh and blemish-free.
- I have a regular menstrual cycle.
- My emotions are MUCH more stable.
- I rarely feel overwhelmed.
Bottom line I believe I eat as our bodies were designed to be fed. We were not made to eat Twinkies and Fruit Loops or copious amounts of sugar. Our bodies were designed for meat, fruit, and vegetables. Yes, I believe we were also made to eat grains, but American agriculture has ruined that for many of us. Perhaps with major revolution, grains would not be a problem for many Americans. Maybe…
Plan for the Future
If you’ve made it this far in my report, kudos to you! I tend to be long-winded, but I want you to know all the bits and pieces so you can make informed decisions about your health!
You may have guessed it, but my plan, for now, is to continue on with the lifestyle I’ve created. I will challenge new food when I can, although I’m nearing the end of possible foods to reintroduce. For now, I press on!
A healthy diet for diabetes is absolutely necessary to obtain the blood sugar control and overall good health. The benefits I’ve seen from changing my diet pervade my whole life. My emotional, physical, mental, and even spiritual health are greatly improved. You don’t have to be a diabetic to see the positive health impacts of changing your diet. These amazing results can be yours too!