Back on the Low Carb!

picture of chorizo sausage, the Diabetes Diet
I could probably eat this Every. Single. Day.

Goodbye carbs. It was fun while it lasted, particularly that beef mac and cheese*, but you and I need to rethink our relationship…

While practising for a half-marathon, I upped my carb intakes. Some type 1s have managed endurance training on a low-carb diet, but I wasn’t one of them. My body refused to put one step in front of another without fruit, bread, protein flapjacks or potatoes, but now I’m fed of blood sugar levels that rollercoaster all over the place, and the particularly nasty lows you get thanks to too much rapid-acting insulin where you eventually surface from mental fog surrounded by sweetie packets and the sinking feeling, ‘Blast. I’ve completely over-treated that hypo.’

Hello cheese, meat, eggs and fish! Welcome back butter, cream and mayo in lavish amounts. And planning of course—the writing of endless lists, shopping, menu plans, revisiting old low-carb favourites. I haven’t eaten chorizo for a few months and my mouth waters at the thought of it, dry-fried crispy in the pan, oozing red oil that coats mushrooms and salad leaves… yum.

a picture of a blood testing machine on The Diabetes Diet
This will be my blood sugar levels from now on. All the time. Yes sirree.

I’ve eaten low-carb on/off (and mostly on) now for almost ten years. Whenever I come back to it after spells on the bread, a few weeks of super-strict low-carbing make me feel I can conquer the world. I get a rush of energy and mental clarity. Give it a month or so and I’ll be banging on the door of Number 10. Step aside, Theresa May. I’ll deal with Brexit for you!

[Perhaps I should write to Theresa, a type 1 herself, and suggest she try 14 days on a keto diet to help with the thorny issue of how the UK exits the EU. Or keto clarity might give her the strength to say, ‘Citizens! Remain calm. We’re staying in.’]

Then there’s the other thing. Between you and me, reader, the digestive issues of the higher carb diet are a LOT to contend with. We’re talking bloating, rumbling noises and let’s not be coy here—gas. After one race, I ate fish and chips and delicious as it was, the heartburn was horrific. Low carb, high-fat meals don’t make me uncomfortable most of the time. A sore, bloated stomach or having to spend a lot of time trying to hold in gas make a person tired and very grumpy. One of the case studies in our book, the Diabetes Diet reported that several months on a low-carb diet cut out the farting issue for her, much to the relief of everyone around her…

So, full charge forward on the low-carb meal making front. Moussaka via the Diet Doctor, cauliflower cheese, peanut butter cookies via Fit to Serve, lamb with hummus, low carb chicken wings via Yummy Lummy, and crust-less pizza.

Good times!

 

*For the love of food, good people, please try this. Ragu sauce, macaroni and cheese, topped with bread crumbs and yet more cheese. What’s not to love?

#Type1Runs—Race Report

Paisley 10k medal at The Diabetes DietAh, Instagram abounds with diabetics who perform superhuman feats of athleticism while battling their blood sugar levels at the same time.

Not me. I’m here as your bog-standard ordinary gel whose only prize ever will be persistence. Did you note I got a massive disclaimer in there before going on to write about my latest race?! I like to make sure I’ve lowered the audience’s expectations before I start.

Anyhoos, for those of you still reading, here it is. On Sunday, I ran another 10k in preparation for the BIG ONE (the half-marathon) next month. Conditions were much more promising than the last time. Back in June, Scotland experienced an unprecedented spell of warm weather. Plus, that course was hilly. And I woke up that morning with a blood glucose reading of 13.1.

Scottish summer

In theory, the Paisley 10k should have heralded a vast improvement. I’ve been running for longer, the back-to-usual Scottish summer conditions (dreich, grey and cool) were present, and the course is flatter.

Still sensing that disclaimer?

Bah, humbug dear readers. I added three minutes to my previous time. Not only that, the online system was cruel enough to remember I took part in the Paisley 10k ten years ago when I achieved my personal best. There it was, my 2008 time taunting me with its nine minutes faster brilliance.

Sprint finish

For those who want the numbers, I awoke on Sunday morning with a blood sugar of 8.5 (I’d knocked one unit off my basal rate the night before). Half an hour before the race, I was 8.1. I ate half a Hike bar before starting (10-15g carbs) and I finished the race at 11.1, possibly because I put on a sprint finish. Nothing like pretending your race pace is much faster than it really is.

I didn’t take insulin afterwards, ate the second half of the Hike bar and went off for a session in the sauna. An hour later, my blood sugar level was 4.9. A massive portion of battered fish and mushy peas later (I know, NOT low-carb), further low blood sugars and indigestion kicked in*… 3.3 one hour after the meal, 5.8 two and half hours later.

Lessons to take—eat more. Try something other than a Hike bar. Drop the daytime basal injection rate. Keep practising. Keep experimenting. Expect fluctuations and weirdness.

All shapes and sizes

Mass running events are special though. I’d recommend everyone takes part in at least one if they are able to—and these days there are loads of 5ks and even 3ks you can do. You see all shapes, sizes and abilities (and the two former don’t predict the latter), the crowds cheer you like a champ and even a slowcoach like me will overtake enough people to feel gratified**. The runners’ high exists.

Now, time to take off my medal. It is two days later after all.

Low carb diets ‘could shorten your life’

diabetes diet by Emma Baird
Avocado, mushrooms, bacon and salad – plant-based.

And now for something completely different… Last week, headline news suggested low-carb diets were dangerous—more likely to lead to an earlier death.

As it’s a rare week, some nutritional or lifestyle study doesn’t hit the news, I sighed. “Oh, whatever.”

I don’t have the skills or knowledge to interpret the data, but two websites I trust have commented on the studies (and more importantly, the way they were reported). You can read them here:

https://www.dietdoctor.com/all-over-media-low-carb-diets-could-shorten-life

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2018/aug/new-low-carb-link-to-life-expectancy-should-be-interpreted-with-caution-99971624.html

 

*Was worth it.

**One of whom wore a tee shirt saying Vegan Runners. Just sayin’.

Aubergine and Pepper Parmigiana

The Diabetes Diet picture of an aubergine and cheese dishIf you read your way through my weeping and wailing post about meat-eating and ethics last week (congratulations, by the way), then this recipe will seem a natural follow-up.

To recap, I’m reading The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat by Louise Gray and hoping for easy-to-follow guidelines that assuage my conscience about eating meat, falling short of killing it myself as I’m pretty sure I can’t do that.

In the meantime, there is always low-carb vegetarianism. I know vegans argue that vegetarianism is little better than meat-eating given what goes on in the dairy industry, but it’s a start. Besides, I can’t imagine a life without cheese.

Low-carb veggie

Here’s a low-carb veggie recipe for you—a bastardised version of aubergine parmigiana. Allow roughly 10g of carbs per portion.

Aubergine and Pepper Parmigiana

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • A large aubergine
  • One red pepper
  • One yellow pepper
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 75g grated parmesan cheese
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C.

Chop the aubergine and pepper into equal-sized pieces and toss in one tbsp of the oil. Cook on a griddle until softened—about ten minutes.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and add the chopped tomatoes, garlic and lemon rind. Allow to come to a boil and turn down to a simmer, stirring from time to time. Cook for about ten minutes to, allowing the sauce to become thick and concentrated.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper and sprinkle some on the cooked aubergine and peppers.

Layer up the vegetables, sauce and cheese in a gratin or rectangular casserole dish finishing with cheese. Cook for twenty minutes.

For other low-carb vegetable recipes, see:

 

 

Low Carb Diet Study

diabetes diet
You don’t want to know what’s going in here…

So, you get to take all sorts of measurements and I need to answer lots of questions about what I eat? Sign me up!

Reader, I adore a study and even more so when it relates to lifestyle. I started work at Glasgow University in April and spotted a poster looking for participants in a low-carb study.

“Aha!” I said to myself. “I’m your woman! A low-carber for years, diabetic to boot and a person well-versed in the filling in of a form.”

While certain aspects of the low-carbohydrate diet have been well researched, such as weight loss, there has been little focus on testing how this way of eating affects micronutrient levels in the body. The Glasgow Uni study, Nutritional and Cardiovascular Risk Factors associated with Long-Term Adherence to Low-Carbohydrate/Gluten-Avoidance Diets, funded by the Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand, concentrates on this.

What is the purpose of the study? Low carbohydrate diets (LCD) such as the Atkins Diet have become common dietary approaches for weight management, and aiming to avoid starchy foods such as bread, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes which are major dietary sources of B-vitamins, magnesium, and fibre.

The researcher is investigating the contribution of starchy / sweet foods in body composition, micronutrient status and cardiovascular risk factors. To do this, they seek people who either exclude or include these foods in their diet.

I’m not one hundred percent low-carb compliant. Who is? But when I filled in the forms for the study, I realised that I follow a low-carb diet much more closely than I thought. How often do I eat potatoes, rice and pasta, the survey wanted to know—the answer, never or less than once a month for rice and pasta and about twice a month for potatoes.

I eat bread more often (LOVE bread), and ditto chocolate, but I don’t bother with most of the other high-carb foods listed in the questionnaire.

The outline of the survey had said they’d do urine testing. I assumed that meant a sample in one of those little tubes. Not so! The doctor sent me off with two large flasks (pictured) and asked me to collect all my pee over a 24-hour period.

TBH, I wasn’t sure the two flasks would be enough. We diabetics tend to wee more than ordinary folks, anyway. When you add in my daily diet coke, water and peppermint tea intake, a lot of fluid swishes around inside me.

And what goes in must come out!

The survey will be followed up in six months’ time, then another six months after that and so on until two years are up.

At the time of writing, the researchers hadn’t found that many people to take part—nine out of a necessary eighty. If you live in the Glasgow area and follow a low-carb diet (you don’t need to be diabetic and you don’t have to follow it all the time), then they’d love to hear from you—lowcarbstudy@gmail.com

The Plunge

diabetes dietHello fellow and female diabetics, and the friends who support us. This week, I’d like to talk about The Plunge.

If you are on insulin or other blood glucose-lowering medications, you’ll know The Plunge. It’s where your blood sugar drops at an alarmingly rapid rate usually because of insulin or other medicines. It feels very unpleasant.

What’s it like? Explaining diabetes feelings to non-diabetics is tricky, and it needs a lot of imagination. You search your vocabulary and powers of observation for ways to describe it and still come up short. Metaphors work the best, but they are still hard to think up.

The Plunge works well for me because it signifies a roller-coaster. There you are at the top; then suddenly, you’re heading to the bottom at super-fast speed.

Signs of fast-dropping blood sugars include tiredness, a lot of yawning, shakiness and confusion. They are also all symptoms of hypos.

One of the reasons we promote The Diabetes Diet (low-carb eating) is that it makes The Plunge easier to avoid. This is because you won’t need to take as much fast-acting insulin with your meals. Using fast-acting insulin can be a be a bit like picking up a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It isn’t subtle stuff, that’s for sure.

This isn’t a guarantee. Sometimes, you’ll need extra insulin to cover unexpected high blood sugar levels, and The Plunge may result.

But overall, using lower levels of insulin to cover meals means steadier blood sugar levels overall. Dips up and down are far less dramatic and therefore don’t feel as yucky. (This is a technical term.)

How do you experience The Plunge, and can you think up better ways to describe than I can?

Hypo or Not?

diabetes diet
A “serious and important” hypo.

When do you feel the symptoms of a hypo?

The November/December issue of Balance, Diabetes UK’s magazine, reported that researchers have proposed that we need to take a fresh look at defining low blood glucose levels.

At present, a ‘hypo’ (low blood glucose level) is 3.9mmol and below (70.2mg/dL in the US), which the researchers feel isn’t all that low.

A severe hypo is one where someone needs help from another person to recover, something that rarely happens in clinical trials. Rightly so, as letting someone go so low without help wouldn’t be ethical.

Researchers suggest that there should be three levels of hypo – low, lower and oh f*****g shit. I’m kidding, obviously, but they are looking for the level that, below this point, a person’s health is seriously affected, i.e. where their brain, blood and cardiovascular systems are compromised, the risk of death begins to rise, and the level that has an impact on mental health.

Current research suggests these begin to take effect at about 3.0mmol (54mg/dL in the US). The team’s three definitions are:

  • Level 1: 3.9mmol or less –a hypo alert
  • Level 2: less than 3.0mmol – serious and important hypo
  • Level 3: serious hypo, requiring external assistance, even if none is available.

Like all of us, hypos are individual. One person’s “I’m fine at 3.9” is another’s “oh shit”. I sometimes feel the symptoms of a hypo coming on at 4.6, say. Other times, I’ll prick my fingers, get a 3.9 and wonder where it’s come from.

As you can see from the picture, I had a “serious and important hypo” this morning, thanks to undereating and walking too enthusiastically yesterday. Oof. It happens.

Keeping your blood sugar levels stable without going too low is a huge challenge. One of the reasons we promote low-carb eating for type 1s in particular is that the risk of hypos can be reduced because you don’t need to take as much insulin.

If the researchers could include advice about how to avoid hypos, while also achieving good HbA1c results in the long-term, we will cheer them on…

 

*Some good news! The NHS has approved flash glucose monitoring technology – i.e. systems such as the FreeStyle Libre. I’m off to investigate the possibilities of getting one. Also, big love to the NHS, a wondrous, wondrous institution.

 

 

The Diabetes Diet – A Request

We are updating The Diabetes Diet! Our book has been on Amazon for a while now, and we’ve decided to give it a makeover (as well as get it ready for print).

We will be expanding the recipe section, and we wondered if any of our followers would like to contribute to this? Or, if you would like to provide a testimonial about how low-carb eating and matching insulin to your meals works for you, we would welcome that too.

We can’t offer you any money, but we will publicise your own blog or anything else. If you want to tell us about your success following low carb but would prefer to do it anonymously, that’s fine too.

You can find the book here.

To send us recipes or testimonials, please email: lowcarbdiabetesdiet@gmail.com

Thanks in advance!