Since Madeline was diagnosed, she has been described as “insulin resistant.” In the first months, her endocrinologist told me that he had never seen a child her age need as much insulin as she did. And while she has steadily needed less insulin over time, that pesky resistance issue comes back with regular frequency, and is quite stubborn to manage when it strikes.
At the beginning of last summer, I consulted again with our CDE about the issue. She told me that in the endocrinology team’s experience, the only effective strategy for combating insulin resistance was the use of a low-carb approach to nutrition. At the time, this recommendation frustrated me; we had long ago adopted a “real food” approach to nutrition in our family, and this included eating foods made from whole grains. I could not fathom that eliminating an essential component of a real food lifestyle was a good idea, and so although I did work to cut down on the amount of carbs Madeline was eating, I did not adopt the low-carb recommendation.
However, because of significant gastrointestinal issues emerging among other family members, I started doing research and <gasp> learned some things I did not know. The information led to experimentation with our food choices, which then yielded interesting and beneficial results. Long story short: I decided to eliminate all grains and processed sugar from my diet, and have been taking steps to drastically reduce the grain and insidious sugar intake for my family. At the same time, we’ve all been working on increasing our intake of healthy fats. Reduced grains and sugar + increased healthy fats = lower carb happiness. Meaning: Vaporized cravings. Stable blood glucose. Drastically reduced and even eliminated GERD symptoms. Increased insulin sensitivity. And let me tell you, when we cheat, our bodies feel miserable.
At Madeline’s most recent endocrinology appointment in June, I shared our efforts with her CDE—you know, the one who recommended a low-carb approach in the first place. I explained to her that our approach is not so much low-carb Atkins Diet as it is Real Food Minus Grains. She then threw back Madeline’s A1C: 5.9%. We were both astonished.
I also shared our efforts and their results with my son’s gastrointestinal specialist; her response was most unexpected and illuminated for me, once again, that being a medical specialist does not mean that one keeps up with the latest medical and health research. Rian was tested for Celiac disease (a relative of T1D), and the results were negative. She reasoned, therefore, that because he does not have Celiac disease, he does not require this nutritional approach. And, even better: she encouraged me to make sure that Rian is getting a proper source of vitamins and minerals if I am going to reduce his intake of fortified grains, because, well, “fortified grains are a key component of a balanced diet.”
Say what? Here we have a GI specialist from a world-renowned children’s hospital clearly indicating that she has no functional understanding of the link between ingestion of grains/sugar and GI disease. So what if her fancy test did not turn up Celiac! He has been free of GERD symptoms since reducing grains and sugar. I thanked her for her consultation and told her that we did not need to make a follow-up appointment.
Anyway. The transition has not been easy, but it’s not been insurmountable either. It’s still a work in progress and I am realistic enough to know that while I may be able to achieve full “compliance” with this nutritional approach, grains and sugars will make their way into my children’s diets every now and then. I’m experimenting with new recipes and finding ways to convert the favorite standards. I’m also educating Madeline and her siblings about the science behind these choices and helping them to recognize how their bodies feel after eating both “good” and “bad” foods. Their observations have been astonishing, and have been shaping their choices perhaps even more than anything I’ve taught them.
If you’ve been experimenting with grain and sugar reduction in your T1D’s daily diet, I’d love to hear about your experiences!