Hey, gang. Welcome to T1Dcarnivore! My name’s Drew, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in late 2018. Today I’m managing it using a zero-carb diet that focuses on high-fat animal sources. I’m getting incredible results, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned, including successes as well as failures. I’ve been sitting around wondering how to do that, and I decided to just have a go at a website. I’m not a professional, so we’re just diving right in. I hope you’ll bear with me as I get things sorted and figure out what I want to say and how to say it.
Today I’m just going to give a bit of my background, and we’ll go from there. If you’re a type 1 diabetic, you may recognize some of my story in your own.
Irrelevant, but I love Scrabble, and I needed an image.
For starters, my mother also has type 1 diabetes. She was originally misdiagnosed as type 2 and spent two years feeling miserable on metformin before her doctors finally figured it out. So I basically grew up around finger-prick testing and insulin vials. I don’t think I ever quite fully understood what it meant though. My mom did her best to carry on as normal, and I never felt the burden that she was carrying. She followed the advice of doctors in the 1990s and 2000s, basically eat whatever you want and take insulin to cover for it. She did pretty well, all things considered. There was one scare about 15 years ago at a wedding where dancing and alcohol were involved. An overnight low nearly led to diabetic coma, and we had to give her the glucagon shot and call 911. Pretty scary stuff seeing mom on the verge of death. And then about 6 1/2 years ago, she had a heart attack. She’s doing well today, but the point is that her journey is not without some of the standard diabetes scares.
A few years ago, I started feeling pretty terrible all the time. I was dealing with intense fatigue almost every day. Digestive problems made sleeping difficult if not impossible. I found sleeping in a recliner to be more tolerable than trying to sleep horizontally in a bed. My doctor and I went down many paths seeking answers, all of which led to dead ends. I wondered about SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and we did an upper endoscopy (which is where they run a tube down your esophagus and look in your stomach). They put me on anti-depressant SSRIs to see if it was stress or anxiety, but I hated the way they made me feel. Finally one day I was in there and I said “look, just test me for everything, okay? Cancer, AIDS, diabetes, the whole gamut!” Well, as it turns out, my blood sugar was 390 mg/dl that day. I’ll never forget. I’d had two sausages wrapped in pancake on a stick (sort of a breakfast corn dog) that morning. My A1c was 9.6. I got the message with the results on Halloween while I was literally eating from a bowl of candy that I was about to hand out to eager kids in my neighborhood. I was pretty shocked. I was also a little angry. I mean, my mom has diabetes, so why the hell didn’t someone check my blood sugar at any point in the past year or two. WHY DIDN’T I?! I don’t know. I wasn’t really presenting any of the normal diabetes symptoms, except in the last month or two before diagnosis I noticed I had to pee a lot before bed.
My doctor put me on metformin, which is pretty common before a distinction has been made between type 1 or type 2. I immediately got a blood glucose meter and started lowering my carb intake to try to get my numbers lower… 220 one day… 200 the next… then 180… I also noticed around this time some foot and leg discomfort. Just the mildest reduction in sensation on the tops of my feet and in my shins/calves. And if I sat a certain way for a while, my legs seemed to fall asleep easier. And my feet seemed always unbearably cold. I was mildly alarmed by this. I love bicycling, and I started having waking nightmares of amputations and never riding again!
It was about a month later that I had the tests done to confirm what I had suspected: it was type 1. My body’s autoimmune system was attacking my pancreas and impairing its ability to produce insulin. I fit the profile in that I was relatively skinny and active (like I said, I love bicycling), as opposed to the type 2 profile which is characterized usually by being overweight and insulin resistant.
Around this time I started going down the rabbit hole of internet research on managing type 1 diabetes. The fact that I had what I considered to be early complications was a pretty huge motivating factor. My doctors would say “oh no, you don’t have complications, those happen after decades of poor control” and I’d say “yeah no it kinda seems like I have some complications.” I joined some groups on Facebook and Reddit, and I started seeing this guy Richard Bernstein mentioned a lot, and a book called “Doctor Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution.” So I bought it and read it in like… five minutes… I just absolutely devoured it. This guy was born in 1934, diagnosed type 1 in the 1940s, and by the 1960s he had developed all of the classic diabetic complications. In the 1970s he obtained one of the first blood glucose meters, and through meticulous documentation he determined that his best numbers coincided with low-carb meals. He wanted to spread the word so he wrote about it, but none of the journals would publish him without a medical degree. So this guy goes to medical school in his forties, gets his degree, and in the 1980s he finally starts publishing articles about low-carb diets for diabetes. He eventually also published a few books, and by the 1990s he’s like this underground legend gaining popularity all the time. Today he’s 85 years old, most of his complications reversed, and still runs his practice in Mamaroneck, New York. There are Facebook groups devoted entirely to the low-carb lifestyle that Dr Bernstein advocates. Let me tell you, this was my saving grace at the time. I went from distraught to relieved and confident in only a few weeks. I felt that I had the knowledge to take control of this and halt or reverse my early complications.
In January, I finally got started on injected insulin. I had great control by eating small to moderate-sized low-carb meals about four hours apart with 1 unit of insulin. At the end of January, I had an endocrinologist appointment, and we tested my C-peptide. This is a byproduct of insulin manufacture in the pancreas, and so it’s an indirect way of assessing someone’s insulin capability. Normal is defined as 1.1 to 4.4. I tested 0.3, which is pretty low, but not quite zero. This meant I was still in the “honeymoon” phase, when managing blood sugar is made slightly easier because I can still utilize what’s left of my own insulin.
I basically continued in this fashion through February and March. I’d have good days and bad days. On good days, I could easily bike 30 miles and feel ready to do 10 more even after returning home. On bad days, it felt like I didn’t have enough energy to get up and cook dinner, and I hated everything and everyone. I was pretty familiar with the common pitfalls of low-carb dieting, including being mindful of dehydration and electrolytes. So the bad days were a little disappointing sometimes. But still my blood sugar numbers were really incredible, and I was satisfied with that.
Throughout March, though, I kept seeing people talk about eating zero carbs, or carnivore, just animal foods, no vegetables of any kind. I thought, y’know, that sounds kinda wild, but I read about it with an open mind and a good deal of curiosity. I joined some more Facebook and Reddit groups and just lurked for a while. I bought a book called “Primal Fat Burner” by Nora Gedgaudas that I was completely fascinated by. It’s kind of a philosophical look at what might have been the diet of early homo sapiens hundreds of thousands of years ago. I thought it was really neat, but I basically forgot about it for a bit.
By now you’re wondering when I’m gonna get to the good stuff. Well, here it is. I came across a study from some doctors in Hungary. They put a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic on a particular diet called “paleolithic ketogenic carnivore”. It’s basically only food from animal sources, with a focus on high fat, generally two or three times as much fat (by weight in grams) than protein. They found that the subject’s C-peptide actually increased over time. This is basically unheard of. When you’re diagnosed type 1, even if you’re still honeymooning, your C-peptide is gonna go down and eventually reach zero. But they got this guy’s C-peptide to go up! I thought man that’s… bonkers!
So at the beginning of April, I figured hey why not! I’m already pretty close anyway. So I cut out the leafy greens and the olives and the almonds and all the other standard “keto” fare, and I took it down to just meat! Ground beef, ribeye, jowl bacon, chuck roast, and so on. I had to kind of figure out what worked well for me, the best places to buy, and all that stuff. But here’s the incredible part… I stopped injecting insulin. Well, I had to use it occasionally, like for the random odd 120 or 130, I’d correct with half a unit. But for the most part, I was just letting my pancreas do its own thing.
Well, at the end of April, I had another endocrinologist appointment, and I insisted that we test C-peptide again. Guess what… 0.8! That was more than double, nearly triple, what it was in January. And that was only one month of purely PK carnivore. I was pretty stoked to see that number.
It’s June now. I did quite a bit of travel in May, but with the support of helpful friends and family I was able to stay mostly PK carnivore. The compromises I had to make resulted in some blood sugars that weren’t great. I had to use a bit more insulin than I would have liked. But I’ve been back home for a few days now, got things back to exactly how I want them. And my blood sugars have been phenomenal!
So there’s a relatively brief summary of my diagnosis and how I came to be here today eating this kinda strange diet. In future posts, I’ll get into much more detail about the diet, the makeup of my meals, what my days are like, looking at what things worked well, what didn’t, and so on. I’m just kind of winging it here, so if you’ve got questions, don’t hesitate to ask and maybe I can address it in a future post.
Thanks for reading. I’m Drew, the type 1 diabetic carnivore, and I’ll see you next time.