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Living with Diabetes

How to manage your weight and your diabetes like a boss

3/29/2018 by Scott Johnson

How to manage your weight and your diabetes like a boss

Looking for more info about ketogenic diets and diabetes? Today we have Alicia from mySugr's U.S. office explaining why it's an important part of her diabetes management toolkit. Take it away, Alicia!

Alicia: You’ve probably heard quite a bit about the ketogenic diet lately. It seems to be quite the fad with celebrities of late. While it may be trendy for a time, I’ve been living this way for about a year and as someone living with type 1, it’s been a great way to manage my blood sugar, as well as my weight.

So, what is a ketogenic diet?

Generally speaking, ketogenic diets are moderate in protein, high in fat, and very low in carbohydrates. Studies have shown ketogenic diets yield impressive benefits for weight loss and diabetes, more so than a calorie-restricted diet. Ketogenic diets can cause massive reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels.There is also further evidence that suggests keto diets may be beneficial for acne, some cancers, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), cardiovascular disease and some neurological diseases. In fact, since the 1920s, doctors have prescribed ketogenic diets as a therapy for epilepsy and they can, in some cases, completely remove the need for medication. Keto diets were also used for all persons with diabetes prior to the discovery of insulin in 1921.
I learned more in depth about this way of eating (which is how I like to think of it, instead of the connotations of the word “diet”) through my chiropractor. We were talking about the root of my digestive problems and a keto diet came up as a solution that could be fairly simple for me and didn’t involve any more pharmaceuticals. As a person living with diabetes, if I want to eat carbohydrates I have to count them and take the appropriate amount of insulin, and after 30 years it gets pretty old. Insulin, although we all have to take it as type 1 diabetics, is still a drug with side effects. (Have you looked at the side effects or your insulin lately? My brand includes things like allergic reactions, body fat redistribution, runny nose, upper respiratory tract infection, headaches, sinusitis, upset stomach or stomach pain, and diarrhea. Not to mention low blood sugars!) In my opinion, the less insulin I have to take...the better. Let me be clear, I’m not a doctor, nurse or diabetic educator. I simply want to share what has been working for me. Living with type 1 diabetes, I follow this eating plan to help me manage my blood sugar, keep my weight in check, and feel my best.
Neon sign about possibilities

Not all ketos are the same

Ketones, ketogenic diets and ketoacidosis are not the same thing. I know that most of us have a fear of ketoacidosis (aka DKA). Our doctors have scared us (and our parents) since this is a life-threatening condition resulting from dangerously high levels of ketones and blood sugar. When this happens your blood is too acidic and stops organs from functioning properly. This can be brought on by not taking appropriate doses of insulin, illness or an improper diet. A ketogenic diet promotes the state of nutritional ketosis, not ketoacidosis. Ketosis is a normal metabolic process and denotes the presence of ketones. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones. In a state of nutritional ketosis, our bodies learn to use healthy fats for energy as opposed to carbohydrates. Additionally, fat turns into ketones in the liver, which can supply energy for the brain, and the brain uses more energy than any other human organ.

What do you eat on a ketogenic diet?

With a ketogenic diet, the idea is to keep your net carbohydrate intake 20-30 grams per day, with a high intake of healthy fats and moderate protein. Think of it in percentages 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. I know this sounds extreme but once your body is used to it, you’ll feel great. In fact, you’ll be surprised how great you feel and the effect that it has on your body. As an example, my A1c went from 10 to 7.5 using this diet AND taking LESS insulin! But you should know the “keto flu” is the name given to a set of symptoms some people experience when first starting this way of eating. It's not actually the flu and it is definitely not contagious, but the symptoms can be similar. It’s a sign that your body is adjusting. It may be the biggest challenge and appear like a deal breaker since it can last 3-10 days, but it is important to persevere to get to the other side. Something to get used to is an increased fat intake. This is what your body will learn to use for fuel rather than carbs, so keep it healthy! Monounsaturated fats such as avocado, medium chain triglyceride coconut oil (MCT coconut oil), coconut butter and organic grass-fed butter or heavy cream work great. When it comes to vegetables, try to keep it green...broccoli, leafy greens, zucchini, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetable are low in carbs and super versatile within recipes. Meat should be grass-fed as well as hormone and antibiotic free. Fish is always an awesome option providing you with Omega-3 fatty acids and feeding your brain function. Keep fruit to a minimum and try to stick to dark colored fruits with plenty of antioxidants. Fruits high in fiber and on the less sweet side are your best option. Blueberries, blackberries and pseudo fruits work well. You can find these easily at your local healthy grocery store...no matter where you live.

Educate yourself and learn what works for your body

Keep in mind that we’re not all the same and we each have very different genetic makeups. Different things work for different people. It’s important to educate yourself and see what works for you. I don’t claim that this is the perfect eating plan for people living with diabetes, but I know it has worked successfully for me and there is a vast amount of research to support this as well. It takes a personal commitment to eat this way, but for me, it has helped me manage life with diabetes and has kept my weight stable. Don’t get me wrong, every so often I have to take a break from this and simply try to keep within “low carb” instead of ketogenic. No one is perfect! Be kind and patient with yourself if you want to take this on. There is so much we already have to deal with living with diabetes. However, if you can stick with it, you may also reap the benefits of stable blood sugars and weight management. There are plenty of websites that have free, easy and delicious recipes that will work with this diet, as well as tips and tricks to make it work for you. Here are a few of my favorites: Have you ever tried a Keto diet? What works well for you? Antonio Barroro Josh Couch

Scott Johnson

Almost famous for being a Diet Coke fanatic, Scott is the Patient Success Manager, North America for mySugr and has lived well with diabetes for over forty years. He's an active pioneer in the diabetes social media space and along with his work at mySugr, he manages his award-winning blog, scottsdiabetes.com when time allows.

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