Friday, December 20, 2019

Retrospective #307: My Personal Story (N = 1)

In 1986, at age 45, I was diagnosed a Type 2 diabetic. The standard at the time was 2 consecutive fasting blood sugars ≥140mg/dl. In 1997 the standard was lowered to ≥126mg/dl, so I had probably been diabetic for at least 10 years, from age 35. My doctor suspected I might be diabetic because in 1986 I weighed 300 pounds, up from 250 in 1974.
Of course, my doctor told me to lose weight. He also began to treat me with a sulfonylurea (micronase, later glyburide), an oral antidiabetic medication that forced my already stressed pancreas to secrete more insulin whenever I ate carbohydrates, especially simple sugars and highly processed carbs.
I had tried many times to lose weight. My doctor, and his staff nutritionist, a Registered Dietitian (RD) had recommended a “balanced, calorie restricted” diet, and exercise. I was always hungry, but from time to time I did lose weight and always gained it back. Net result: over the years I continued to gain weight, and my diabetes worsened. In the mid 1990s, after I was “maxed out” on glyburide, my doctor prescribed metformin, a new medication (in the U.S.). In a few years I was maxed out on metformin too, and my blood sugars still out of control, so my doctor started me on a third class of diabetes meds. Soon, I feared, I would be injecting insulin once a day or maybe even with each meal.
By 2002, I was the heaviest I had ever been. In fact, at several office visits I had been too heavy to be weighed on the office scale. So, one day in early August, before a scheduled appointment, I stopped at the Fulton Fish Market on the way to work and weighed myself on a commercial scale. I weighed 375 pounds. That was really scary. So, when I walked into the doctor’s office later that day, I was motivated to lose weight.
“Have I got a diet for you!” my doctor greeted me from the nurse’s station as I walked into the office. Serendipity had created a moment where my doctor had a specific recommendation for me, and I was totally receptive. He told me that he had personally tried a diet that he had read about in The New York Times! It was the cover story of July 7, 2002, Sunday Magazine, “What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?” written by Gary Taubes, an award-winning science writer. This ground breaking article that was to change many lives, including mine.
My doctor and I were both interested in this diet because we both wanted me to lose weight – a lot of weight. That was his and my primary motivation. But as he walked me down the hall to schedule my next appointment, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Dan, this may help your diabetes too.” Boy was that an understatement!
Strictly following this new diet, late in the afternoon of the first day I experienced a “hypo” or hypoglycemic episode – a low blood sugar with “sweats.” I knew something was wrong so I tested my blood and then went to the news stand in the lobby and bought a candy bar…and after 15 minutes, called my doctor. He told me to stop taking the 3rd oral medication, but the next afternoon, I had another hypo. I ate another candy bar and called him again. This time he said to cut the other 2 oral meds in half, and a couple of days later, when I had my 3rd hypo, he told me to cut the meds in half again. In less than a week of strictly following this diet, I was taking just 1/9th the meds as before.
In the next 9 months, I lost 60 pounds and, to avoid low blood sugars, had to eliminate the 5mg of glyburide I was still taking. A few years later, I started cheating (bedtime ice cream) and regained 12 pounds. I rededicated myself to strict adherence and eventually lost well over 100 pounds more. Today, 17 years later, I maintain a 150+ pound weight loss.
But my Type 2 diabetes went into “remission” before I lost a single pound. I’m NOT “cured.” I NEVER will be, but neither is my Type 2 Diabetes still “a progressive disease,” with worsening health, taking expensive oral meds and at risk of injected insulin. Nobody, besides me, was more surprised by these developments than my doctor. We learned that, quite simply, TYPE 2 DIABETES IS A DIETARY DISEASE. And the most effective treatment is to eat Very Low Carb.
* My lipid (cholesterol) profile also improved dramatically: My HDL more than doubled and my triglycerides dropped by 2/3rds. Also, my hsCRP inflammation marker plummeted to <1.0. My blood pressure, of course, is now “normal.”

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