Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Journey: Diabetes

Let food be thy medicine.

Hey y'all! Hope everyone is doing well. I'm back with some information regarding diabetes. Now, let me just say that even though my doctor did not diagnose me with diabetes, I feel sure I have a problem. Or should I say...had a problem. My sugars are staying down close to 100 and I feel like they will go even lower over the course of the next 2 months.  It is truly amazing how quickly your health can go south and how just as quickly, you can see major improvements.  I'm excited to tell you a little of what I've been learning about diabetes. 
What, exactly, is diabetes? Most people will tell you that you have too much sugar in your blood and they would be right to a degree. But, it actually goes further. Yes, you have too much sugar in your blood and when it sits there, it can cause damage to your blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, legs, feet, etc. Usually, when a person is diagnosed with diabetes, they are put on medication to bring the sugar levels down. Medicine works for that purpose, although, over time your condition can worsen and even more medications are needed. This line of defense, in my opinion, is no defense at all. That treatment plan treats the symptoms - too much sugar. 

What we need to do is treat the root cause. The problem is with our insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps our cells take up glucose (sugar) to use as energy. If you eat a diet high in fats (animal products....meat, dairy and oils), over time your cells start storing that fat, taking up space that is designed for glucose. Now that your cells are gummed up with fat, your insulin can't unlock the door, so to speak, to allow glucose to enter. Therefore, the glucose just hangs out in your blood. This is called insulin resistance and we may end up having to take insulin just to keep up.

So, what's the solution? Well, if eating animal fats gummed up your cells to start with, then wouldn't it be wise to stop eating the fats? Yes! Not only should we stop eating animal fats, but olive oil, avocado oils, and vegetable oils, etc. Oils, whether considered healthy or not, are still 100% fat.

Not only does eating animal fats affect how our insulin works, but eating animal fats and oils also raises your cholesterol levels, in particular your LDL cholesterol, which puts you at a greater risk for heart disease.

Popular diets are low in carbs and high in protein. Initially these diets will work to help you lose weight. Losing weight will bring your cholesterol and sugar levels down, but eventually they stop working and you regain some of the weight, if not all. Because of the high fat content, they will raise your LDL cholesterol levels. And because they are high in protein, these diets can be hard on your kidneys.

The better option, a low-fat plant based diet with no oils.....this includes carbs.

So, let's talk about carbs. Our body uses carbohydrates for fuel. That's what it's designed to do. If you don't have diabetes, after eating, your pancreas secretes insulin to go grab those sugars from your blood and help them into your muscle cells. Everything works fine, insulin does a great job and now you have all the energy you need to go about your day.

I have been reading Dr. Neal Barnard's book for reversing diabetes and I don't know all the science behind it, although he explains things very well. I think anyone concerned about diabetes would benefit from reading his book. I'll give you the title at the end of this post.  Dr. Barnard says that eating carbs is not the problem, we need carbs, he encourages them. I'm not talking about simple carbs like sugar, cookies, cakes, etc., but complex carbs. By eating complex carbohydrate rich foods, we are not putting the fats into our cells that gums them up and makes insulin's job nearly impossible. We are putting fuel into our cells. Examples of complex carbs are, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, oatmeal, fruits and veggies.

Dr. Barnard's guidelines are this:
Choose foods from plant sources. Avoid all animal products and keep vegetable oils to a bare minimum. Favor food with a low glycemic index (GI).

He focuses on what he calls the 'New Four Food Groups':
Whole Grains: Whole grain pasta, brown rice, bran cereal, oatmeal, pumpernickel or rye bread, couscous, bulgur wheat, millet, barley, etc.  Suggested servings: 8 per day.

Legumes: Beans (black, pinto, or kidney beans, chickpeas, baked beans, soybeans, etc.), peas, split peas, lentils, fat-free soy products (fat-free veggie burgers, fat-free tofu), etc. Suggested servings: 3 per day

Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, squash, green beans, bok choy, etc. Choose those with a low GI. Suggested servings: 4 or more per day.

Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, oranges, kiwifruit, berries, etc. Choose those with a low GI. Suggested servings: 3 or more per day.

Other permitted foods:
  • Fat-free dressings and other fat-free condiments
  • Coffee (with fat-free nondairy creamer, if desired)
  • Occasionally, alcoholic beverages
  • Rarely: sugar, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate (made without milk), full-fat soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy cheese, etc.

Foods to Avoid:
  • Meats, poultry, fish, eggs (whites and yolks), and all dairy products (regular and fat-free), including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, cream, sour cream, butter, etc.
  • Added oils, such as margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, cooking oils, etc.
  • Fried foods, such as potato chips, french fries, onion rings, doughnuts, etc.
  • Avocados, olives, and peanut butter
  • Refined foods and/or foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread and white potatoes. 
He also recommends taking a daily multivitamin as a source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which you may need if you rarely get exposure to natural sunlight.

He speaks of low and high glycemic index (GI) foods. The GI is a number that indicates how rapidly any given food releases sugar into the bloodstream. A food with a high GI releases sugar into the blood quickly. A lower GI food has less effect. You can easily google those. Examples of a high GI would be: white bread...a lower GI option would be pumpernickel or rye bread. Examples of low GI foods would be: beans, green leafy vegetables, nearly all fruits with a few exceptions and even pasta. Choose lower GI foods. I'll admit, I have eaten white potatoes a couple of times, but it was before I read about the GI Index. And I eat rice, but it is brown or wild rice as opposed to white rice. I haven't been eating bread except for whole wheat pita pockets, occasionally. I bought a loaf of rye today to try, though.

So, my diet is high in complex carbs. And the only fats I'm getting are what occurs naturally in plant based foods. Plant based fats don't gum up your cells like animal fats and the fat content in plants is very, very low. Yet, it is enough to give us the amount of fat our body needs.

The other day, I mentioned that my beverages are water and coffee. But today, I remembered to tell you that if you drink milk, an excellent alternative to cow's milk is Almond milk, Soy milk, Rice milk, etc. Make sure it's fat content is no more than 2 to 3 grams per serving. The milk I choose is Almond milk. Rarely do I drink it and I'm not a cold cereal eater. But Cliff does, so I buy it for him. The brand I buy is Silk, the unsweetened one. It's NON-GMO, has no saturated fats, no cholesterol, no added sugars and has 1 gram of protein and 50% more calcium than cow's milk with only 30 calories per cup.

Whew, that was a lot of information. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask or comment. Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this. In my next post, I'll tell you where to get other key nutrients, such as protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is a lot of information, but the more you read, the easier it gets to understand and retain.

How am I doing? Fantastic! I have so much more energy than before I started eating vegan.  I've already ridden my bike 25.74 miles this week and I've walked 3.05 miles. I don't dread getting out there and exercising at all. And as far as my diet, it's not hard at all. I love the foods I'm eating. I don't feel deprived and I don't have cravings. I feel completely in control and I know that the end result will be complete health.

Take care and we'll talk soon!

Book recommendation of the day: Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes


  1. Wow, you've really been doing your research! I can't compliment you enough, Laurie, for how you're taking improving your health in your own hands . . . and especially not going down the path of using pharmaceuticals as bandaids. Keep it up and I'm very interested in continuing to read your posts.

    1. Thank you, Judy! I really have been doing lots of research. I started last summer, before I knew I was having issues. Everything happens for a reason, I believe.

  2. Laurie, I am coming back to read this again. I like what you are saying....because I have always said ....take care of your health with diet and exercise as to taking meds. I am on cholesterol meds and wish I had never taken them....I think our bodies become accustomed to meds and then leans on them ....instead of us ever getting off the meds. Good for you. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

    1. Thank you, Susie. I'll be writing more over the next few weeks....until I go back for repeat blood work in May. Hopefully, you'll find more useful information in future posts. I believe this lifestyle can help you lower your cholesterol levels and if what I'm reading is true, perhaps you might even be able to get off your meds.

  3. Now thats some stuff to think about. My Dad is diabetic and always fighting it. Sugar is high one minute and low another. He has to give himslef insulins and Of course he does not eat right. You seem to hav ea good focus on things here and know what your doing. Im gonna keep watching your jouney here. Good luck.
    I love almond milk (silk). I use it in overnight oats, cereal and smoothies.

    1. My father was the same way. It just wasn't in him to completely change his lifestyle. I know for sure he didn't get any of this information from his doctors. When I tried to get him to make some healthy changes, he would listen, but if his doctor didn't say it then he didn't do it. That's another problem. Doctors don't get much nutritional training in medical school. I've heard maybe 17 hours. Thanks for following! Oh, I love overnight oats and I do use Almond milk for that.

  4. Very interesting. I do have to say, though, that not all high protein low carb diets are "high fat content". My proteins are very lean or fat free. I haven't regained any weight I lost, either.

    I considered almond milk or soy milk but the additives scared me...and the high estrogen dangers.

    How fun that you have so much energy now. I found that, too, when I changed my diet last year!

    Can't really comment on the diabetes part....don't have any experience with that in our family. But I do agree that diet changes sure would be preferred over meds!

    1. Was curious about the no fat diet...not even good fats.... If you google "dangers of low fat diet" they list dangers to your heart, brain and higher risk of insulin resistance...hmm....would love to know your thoughts.

    2. Keep in mind that I'm coming from the standpoint of high cholesterol and blood sugars and that the plant-based diet is what's recommended by leading doctors in this field. And their recommendation is minimal fats. Dr Caldwell Esselstyn is a renowned doctor at the Cleveland Institute of Health and conducted a study on something like 18 people who had some sort of heart disease, some of which had already undergone bypass surgeries and some had had heart attacks. They willingly followed this plan and he closely monitored them over the course of about 14 years. They all reversed their heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn along with others like Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Dean Ornish to name a few have conducted their own studies and have also come to the conclusion that a low-fat plant based diet reverses disease. Dr. Campbell is the author of the China Study. He states that the Chinese people who have eaten like this their whole lives have little incidence of heart disease, cancers, diabetes, etc. Eating vegan isn't entirely no fat. There are plant-based fats in beans and veggies. According to Dr. Barnard, the plant based fats are enough to give us what we need. I've haven't read anything that says a low fat diet puts you at a greater risk of insulin resistance. According to Doctors Esselstyn and Barnard, by eating a low-fat diet, we get rid of fat from our cells allowing insulin to work properly. I can't speak of soy milk, but almond milk doesn't have any additives, especially estrogen. Hope this helps. I know that everyone is different and that we each have to research to find what we feel in our hearts is the right thing to do. Please, if you have doubts, do some research. Don't take my word on it, if it doesn't feel right to you.

  5. Great post, I will also come back to read this again!
    Keep up the good work and stay healthy!

  6. I am so happy you are feeling so much better, Laurie. I think we all have to find what feels right for our bodies. The Wahl Protocol by Terry Wahl M.D. really hit home for me. (Not that I adhere, but I do feel best when practicing) It is 180 degrees from Dr. Barnard's. I think the most important thing is that we lose the extra weight and MOVE. Congratulations on taking control of your health!! You are an inspiration!! blessings and hugs ~ tanna

    1. Thank you, Tanna! I agree, we each need to chart our own course. Losing weight is key, for sure. I haven't heard of Dr. Wahl, but am interested in hearing his point of view. Thanks again!

  7. Wow, good for you, Laurie! I have been doing Weight Watchers since late September and lost over 25 lbs - I feel great, have tons more energy, and fit into all my old clothes again! I plan to keep it up and see if I can lose another ten, get back to my high school weight :) Plus I don't feel deprived since I can eat whatever I want....perhaps in smaller portions, but that's ok!

    1. Thanks, Debbie! And congratulations to you as well. 25 lbs is a great accomplishments and your success just shows there is more than one way to skin a horse. Hope you reach your goals! I'm sure you will. Talk soon!

  8. Wow.... well done with your research and sticking to the plan.
    When I had my TIA I went through a bunch of tests and was told that my B-12 was very low and that I was "pre-diabetic". I didn't go to the extreme that you have but I did cut back on my carb sugar intake....and I became more loyal to a walking regiment. Not sure if it was a good thing (definitely not planned) I lost 20 lbs in 6 weeks. I did find that I also became more mindful of my portions and I think that helped. Just as a side diabetes was handed down from can be hereditary :-/
    Good luck...keep up the good work!
    diane @ thoughts&shots

    1. Wow, Diane! Your weight loss is impressive in that span of time. And it's important for those with diabetes or pre-diabetic. B-12 is one of the vitamins that recommended if you're following a vegan diet. That and Vit D. Hope you're continuing doing well. And, I can relate on the hereditary issues with diabetes, heart disease also. Thanks again and take care!

  9. Good for you, Laurie. I do think each person has to find what works for them and I am glad you found something that works for you. I was a vegetarian for quite a while but have added a few things back in here and there. I was not having any problems with sugar/etc...just decided to do it because I was tired of feeling tired all the times. Years and years ago I took off A LOT of weight following Dr. Atkin's diet and, basically, kept it off for about 15 years. I think once we get in the 'swing' of eating what works for us and STICK TO IT we can cure just about anything that is wrong with us.
    God bless you- I am so proud of you!!!! xo Diana

    1. Thank you, Diana! I agree, each person needs to find what works for them. One things for sure, I is definitely the best medicine.