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A lot has happened to me recently. I have discovered, or perhaps I have seen the light finally.
My health has followed the path of a global pandemic over the past years. I'd say my sedentary life lead to me gaining weight over time. Then came the high blood pressure, followed by diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Over the years, I got heavier, and my doctor put me on progressively more and more prescription drugs to compensate for the symptoms. I could do lots of exercise, but it made little or no difference. Then my doctor started talking about me going on insulin to help control my blood glucose level.
My head was in a fog, due to a bad flu, and it took me another 2 weeks for things to sink in. (Did you notice how much stronger flu strains are these years, compared to the past? Or perhaps I am more susceptible?) My doctor had said that my diabetes condition was worsening, and about to enter a new level that included daily injections. I did not want to go in that direction. As I eventually recovered from the flu, I decided that was what I wanted to do with diabetes. I wanted to recover from diabetes. I was unclear how or how long it would take, but that would come later. I had set a goal.
I went out to my local bookshop, which I had not done for a long time. And I came away with a book on diabetes, which was in the bestseller section. I needed to learn more about my condition, and fortunately I had struck gold.
The book I got was The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally by Dr. Jason Fung, link to amazon.ca. I am not selling this book, and I get nothing if you buy it. I paid for my copy, and it was worth it many times over. A key that I got from this is that we are all eating too much sugars and carbohydrates. We flood our body with it, causing glucose toxicity. If you cut back dramatically, the symptoms will reverse.
The book supplied a big piece of the puzzle. Another key was frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels. I have a blood glucose meter, and lots of test strips and those stabby things called lancets. I needed to see how what I ate and did during the day affected my blood glucose level. My body became a test lab. I can eat something, and test both before and after to see the effect on my blood glucose level.
I know you probably are thinking this sounds all straightforward, but I was like many people, suffering from what I call boiled frog syndrome. If the changes come on gradually, it is hard to notice the cause and effect. Many people would argue that they had ate this food or that food for years, and it could not be the cause of their condition.
Driving With My Eyes Closed
In the past, I used a blood glucose meter, taking one reading or two a day. It was depressing, and the solution at the time was to stop measuring. I could see it was not good, and it gave no clue what was going on.I compare that to driving down the freeway with your eyes closed, and perhaps peeking at times. You don't see anything good, so you close your eyes again. Now, 8-10 readings a day are the norm for me. Before a meal, 2 hours after, and then every 2-3 hours until it drops. I can see the spike to my blood glucose level, and how long it takes to come back down to normal. My eyes are now open.
Cut The Carbs
My new diet, which is still evolving is focused exclusively on reducing my intake of carbohydrates. You can find lots of resources online for low carb diets, and how to add up the carbs in a meal. I immediately cut out things like rice, potatoes, bread and flour. I enjoy eating more fish, meat and green vegetables. Fruit is out, plain yoghurt, some nuts etc.
Carbs are digested into sugar, and they go into the blood. This is OK, if you need it for energy, and your cells just burn it up. If not, the liver will turn the sugar into fat, in order to store the energy for future use. I had to reduce my intake of carbs so that my need for energy exceeds the intake. When that happens, fat is converted back into sugar and the cells burn it up.
If I am not sure if a food is safe for me, I test before and 2 hours after. I learned the hard way that Special K and Pho (noodle soup) spike my blood glucose level severely.
Eat When Safe To Do So
This is a basic flowchart for deciding when to eat. I measure my blood glucose level and if it is already high, then it is not safe to eat. Any carbs will just push my blood glucose level even higher. My goal is to keep low. I wait 2 hours, test again and see if my blood glucose level is lower. Eventually it drops to a safe level, then I can eat something.
This is part of my driving with my eyes open. I want to be in the middle of the range, (Overall 3.9-10.0 mmol/L Before Meal 3.9-7.2 mmol/L After Meal 3.9-10.0 mmol/L) or for the USA (Overall 70-180 mg/dl Before Meal 70-130 mg/dl After Meal 70-180 mg/dl). I don't want to go too low, and I don't want to go too high. This is how I steer: Eating moves my blood glucose level up, and not eating lets it go down again. Testing my blood glucose level is how I can see which way to steer.
I can see why dieting without testing my blood glucose level is bound to fail. It is like drinking alcohol and not knowing you have already had enough. I can see from the numbers if I have ate enough carbs, and so I stop eating and wait until I am back in the zone. See below, and imagine the green horizontal area is the road. The dots are the readings, telling me when it is ok to eat and when to wait.
Throughout all of this, I am making note of what I eat, how many carbs, and how much it pushes my blood glucose level up. I am building up a personal library of what foods affect me, and how much. I can mitigate the affect of some foods by reducing portion size, or I can stop eating something all together. I want to drive down the middle of the road, and as you can see it is possible. At first I was so amazed that I could do this. Now I am trying really hard to drive in a straight line and not bump the curb on either side of the road. Each day I can do this is a great day!
Progress So Far
So far I have only been at this a few weeks. I know it may seem arrogant to talk about something, but the proof is in the results. I learned to keep my blood glucose level in range. To me, it is a miracle. In fact at times, the hypoglycemic drugs (ones to lower blood glucose level) combined with my new diet were too much. I have had to reduce the amount of drugs to avoid my blood glucose level going too low. As I get better, I hope to reduce my drugs (in consultation with my doctor) even further.
I have to continue this for the rest of my life, but I am very motivated. Seeing results every day is amazing! My wife is doing the same and is equally committed. She is my best supporter in this.
I measured and tracked my blood pressure. See below. It went down as a side effect. Before it was about 160/110, and now it is 114/76. That is below the target of 120/80. I am able to stop one of my blood pressure medications (in consultation with my doctor).
I saw my doctor again this week. A month on, my weight dropped 6Kg or 13lbs in one month. My doctor and I are delighted.
On the downside, I have noticed being a bit more cranky at times. Messing with your blood sugar level can affect you that way. A few times when my blood glucose level drops really low, I get cold sweats and it can be hard to think straight. I have to keep calm and eat a modest amount to raise my blood glucose level back up a bit, and not panic and binge something rich in carbs. Overall the downside is small in comparison to the real benefits thus far.
I am continuing this daily. Stay tuned for updates. NEXT UPDATE
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This is based on my own experience. Your mileage may vary. Check with your doctor before doing anything drastic based on what I wrote above.