Editors Note: Paleo eating appears to benefit quite an array of health conditions. Many are autoimmune in nature, all appear to share characteristics of systemic inflammation. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most devilish conditions to address because of the dual activity of autoimmune disease and increased systemic inflammation due to glucose dysregualtion. Standard of Care dictates that one should eat ample carbohydrates and “steer the boat” with insulin. A perusal of the morbidity/mortality for Type 1 diabetes should raise a red flag or two as to the efficacy of this approach. There ARE better ways, but folks need to take accountability for their situation and be willing to tinker. Having a doctor who is supportive and curious can sure as hell help!
A HUGE thank-you goes out to Dave Wendel for sharing his story and results. There are several research projects underway that will help to “prove” the power of an evolutionary medicine approach. In the mean time we have (I think) ample N=1 results which seem compelling to give an ancestral diet and life-way a shot. Well, if you think your ass is worth saving…
Why I chose to go Paleo by Dave Wendel
I am the type of person who doesn’t just buy into any old idea, thought or lifestyle. Even though I move fast and accomplish a lot, with an almost laser like focus, I have to believe 100% in what I am doing before I start. It took some time for me to even consider going Paleo.
I have always been athletic, enjoying downhill skiing, biking and hiking. I have always had a lean body and the ability to eat anything I wanted without concern that I would gain weight. I received my undergraduate degree in History and Psychology and then headed off to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Needless to say I love food and can often be heard saying butter makes it better!! Upon Graduating from the CIA, I moved to Washington, DC where I worked in several different restaurants. Realizing that I wanted a more grounded life, I left the restaurant industry and went to work for a specialty food distributor at age 32.
Shortly after starting this job I got sick. I thought I was going crazy because my vision was off, things were blurry, I couldn’t concentrate, I lost a ton of weight, I had a white tongue and was drinking boat loads of water. I had this sinking feeling that I knew the cause, but really didn’t think it could happen to me. Well, it did. I went to the doctor for blood work and my blood glucose came back around 479 mg/dl (normal is 70-126mg/dl), while my A1C was 12. The original (incorrect) diagnosis was Type 2 diabetes. In fact, I really had Type 1 diabetes, caused by an autoimmune attack on my pancreas. When I went to my eye doctor they said that because of my uncontrolled high blood sugar that my ocular pressure had changed, resulting in my vision actually getting better, but certainly not for the right reasons. After getting on insulin, my blood sugar came back down and my eyes went back to their original state of needing contacts.
It took several months to find a good endocrinologist, but after I succeeded I was able to get even better control over my diabetes. I started pumping insulin instead of taking shots and really was able to control my BG very well. When I would have blood work done my A1C was usually around 5.6 to a 5.8, and my endo was very pleased with the results. As time went on my cholesterol starting going up along with my blood pressure and my once fabulous A1C started to go up as my overall control was getting worse. This could have been attributed to my pancreas still putting out a little insulin, but I am skeptical of that being the cause because it was about 4-5 years since I had been diagnosed. During that time period I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
As time went on my weight slowly crept upwards even though I did a lot of training for century bike rides. I really was dumfounded by this because I rode at least 100 miles a week! I also had to start taking blood pressure and cholesterol medication which did not please me at all. I really didn’t want to be taking 5 different medications before I even hit 40.
My wife, Ann, (a physical therapist) has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and both of us have had blood testing for celiac disease. Even though we both tested negative, Ann decided two years ago to go gluten free in an effort to manage her muscle and joint pain due to inflammation. This was before she knew about Paleo or the benefits; all she knew was that if she skipped the gluten her digestive track was much happier and she had less pain. Six months ago she discovered Paleo and stopped eating rice, grains and legumes and focused on healthy fats, grass-fed beef, proteins and vegetables. Me, I still loved my carbs because after all, I could just pump insulin to cover the carbs I ate.
For the last two years I had been modifying our meals so she would not eat gluten (or she would just skip the bun/bread, etc.). The kids and I went on our merry way, but slowly this gluten free life style was sinking into my thick, stubborn skull. When Ann decided to go Paleo she also started eating a lot more coconut milk and salads – two things I really enjoy – so if there was some extra I would eat it. In the mean time she was doing Primal workouts and looking and feeling really good. I had lost weight from the year prior but even with that and really working hard to control what I was eating I still looked puffy and my blood glucose results sucked. It was time for a change. The thought of giving up my beloved carbs, pizza, beer, bread and so on was terrifying. Carbs are really like a drug; they just keep you coming back for more and are probably why America keeps getting fatter. I hate to admit it but I am slightly vain, I want to look good. I don’t need to be huge and muscular, but I like looking fit; so if giving up gluten, grains and legumes would help reduce inflammation and get me off the roller coaster with my BG then it was worth a shot.
I bought Robb’s book The Paleo Solution and started reading through it. I was amazed to learn so much about the root causes of the problems that I dealt with as a T1. After 2 years of resistance, I decided to stop eating gluten. I credit my wife and Robb with this feat. It’s actually easier than you think it will be because there are still so many good foods to eat. Once you stop eating lots of bread and high carb foods your body forgets and you actually don’t feel like you are missing anything at all.
Since I stopped eating gluten and got off the carb roller coaster (and began eating protein and good fats) I don’t get that major hunger that leads to binge eating. My intestinal track also seems to be happier. As a very visual person, seeing my blood glucose results in a graph really knocked the Paleo Lifestyle out of the park.
When looking at the graph you can see that when I checked my BG it was all over the place. The most desirable result is between 80-120 mg/dl. Prior to September 19th my average total insulin usage for a day was around 37-48 units, with 24 of those units coming from my basal dose. After September 19th you can see my carbs went from 100-200 g/per day to almost nothing. Instead of my numbers being way out of range when I check my BG, I was now consistently hitting the 80-120 mg/dl mark. Additionally, my insulin usage had dropped by almost 50% to around 24 units a day.
The other huge drop was in my standard deviation (the deviation between BG results). Say I checked my blood and it was 80 and then I check two hours later and it was 230, and then again later and it was 140, the deviation is difference between the results which are then averaged. Many doctors believe a low deviation number is more important than your actual BG number because a large deviation means that your control isn’t very good and that your blood sugar levels are all over the place which is BAD!!
For people who are skeptical, look at my data – it shows what the Paleo Solution can do for you. I have been doing this for 3 weeks and I think the results are amazing. I can’t wait to get my blood work done because my ultimate goal is to get off the cholesterol and blood pressure medication along with having a fabulous A1C. To go from huge BG swings to a consistent BG in three weeks is nothing short of amazing. The numbers don’t lie, and I feel better than I have in years.