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It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

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Buying Time Before Insulin

Last week I wrote about my high blood glucose levels and my doctor’s recommendation that I begin taking insulin.

I agreed and signed up to take a course on how to prepare insulin and use a syringe. As I write this, I’m waiting to confirm my course date and for news from the pharmacy to come on over and pick up my first doses of insulin.

But before I start on insulin, I’ve decided to try one more thing to stop or even reverse my progression toward ever higher blood glucose readings. A day after my doctor’s request, I decided to go on a 2,000-calories-per-day diet with an extremely low carbohydrate count.

We’re talking about 40 grams of carbs per day versus the 300 grams per day that the Feds say is OK, and the minimum 130 grams daily that the American Diabetes Association recommends.*

My decision was based on data I’ve been accumulating since late 2007 when I took on an editorial position at Diabetes Health magazine. That gave me access to diabetes information from all over the world. Even then it was apparent to me that the diabetes community was splitting over the issue of carbohydrates in the diabetic diet.

As evidence has increased that carbs, not fat, are the main culprit in such inflammatory diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it seemed to make more and more sense for me to cut back on them.

I know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to how each of us deals with controlling our blood sugars. So I can only report on my own progress: Over a six-day span, my fasting blood glucose level has gone from 211 to 143. The only medication I’m taking is metformin, which I’ve been on for five years, so that is not a variable I have to take into account.

In short, cutting back on my carbs seems to be giving my body a chance to much better metabolize the glucose in my bloodstream. If the trend continues—and I have every hope that it will—I may be able to defer taking insulin for a while longer.

I have mixed emotions about what I’m doing. I’m aware that I see taking insulin as a sign of having failed to do enough to defend my body against diabetes. So this glomming on to a low-calorie/low-carb diet is like a rearguard action, much like the defenders of a city who must now fight in their own suburbs rather than in places safely removed and far away. 

Perhaps mine will be as forlorn as such last-ditch defenses usually turn out to be. But I’m willing to settle for numbers that will allow me to use far less insulin than the standard therapy may call for.

Long Island-based Dr. Richard Bernstein, a type 1 diabetic who has been a brilliant low-carb advocate for years, takes insulin because he must. But his low-carb lifestyle means that his insulin dosages are only fractions of what most diabetics have been told are reasonable doses. That makes sense to me.

Time will tell whether it continues to make sense. I’ll let you know how this experiment goes.

*The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming between 45 and 60 grams of carbs per meal. My current daily routine calls for 10 to 15 grams per meal.

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Tags: Emotions , Drugs , Struggle, Pain, Fear, and Doubt , Food

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About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.