During my 32 years of living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), I figure I’ve jabbed myself more than 100,000 times. Sounds nasty, yes, but in truth the shots and finger pokes are no big deal. The worst part of the condition, for me, has been roller-coaster blood sugars—persistent highs and lows that have done everything from disrupting my sleep to landing me in the emergency room (not to mention increasing my risk of long-term complications).
For most people with T1D, the main source of such instability is the near-impossibility of matching insulin doses to the “doses” of dietary carbohydrates commonly recommended for diabetics.
Finally learning that substantial doses of carbs aren’t—surprise!—essential and that I could nourish myself with foods requiring very little insulin was a life-changing discovery. Bucking the standard recommendations, I slashed my carbohydrate intake to roughly 30 g per day, cut way back on my insulin doses as a result, and transitioned from a glucose-dependent metabolism to a mainly fat-burning one (nutritional ketosis).
Fast-forward a few months, and for the first time in my diabetic life, my hemoglobin A1c (a measure of average blood sugar over about three months) came back normal. I almost cried.
As for my food, it’s delicious. I enjoy a wide variety of animal proteins (from suppliers committed to ethical, sustainable practices), plenty of low-carb veggies, all the essential fats, and occasional keto desserts. I have energy for regular intense workouts, my lab results are all in-range, and I’m at a healthy weight.
The ketogenic diet isn’t a cure for type 1 diabetes. Since exogenous insulin is still needed and blood sugar levels are affected by variables other than food, I do still experience mild fluctuations (picture a carousel ride instead of a roller coaster). But as a therapeutic intervention, low-carb eating is, I believe, second only to insulin.