Those following my blog might remember that, way back in June, I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2, after being virtually vegetablised for the past 8 years by CFS—if not, see Mixed Blessing of a Winter Bug.
But, apparently, diabetes type 2 is reversible. I wasn’t too confident about that when I first heard it. So 3 weeks later, at a meeting with the practice nurse, I asked about it.
The diagnoses had been by HbA1c test, which measures the level of sugar-coated
icebergs red blood cells. Because these glycated hemoglobin remain in the blood for up to 3 months, the test gives a more realistic picture of blood sugars than the fasting glucose test which provides only a snapshot of the immediate situation.
Results in hand, the nurse produced a chart, laid it on her desk where I could see it, and pointed to 5” below it. “That’s where you were on the blood test. 15. This is where you need to be, to be cured. 4.” She pointed to the cool blue section at the top of the chart. Guess that meant I had some climbing to do.
By this time—3 weeks of medication and adjusted diet—I had already lost 14lbs and experienced a glorious tsunami of energy. But as yet I was only following the guidelines on Diabetes UK website.
Basically, and briefly, Diabetes UK recommends the typical Food Pyramid (or FoodPlate) for control of diabetes, which is:
Carbohydrates—5-14 portions a day (1/3rd of daily diet)
Proteins—2-3 portions a day
Fat (and sugar)—0-4 portions a day.
My initial stratagem had been to reduce simple sugars, but to leave complex carbs alone. In so doing, in those first 3 weeks, I’d already become Jumpy Jack Flash. What I had done without realising it was to reduce my daily calorie intake by a quarter, and adopted a Low GL diet.
GL = Glycemic Load is the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream during the first 2 hours after eating—which is not the same as the Glycemic Index. Moreover, if you’re devious, and know how, the Glycemic Load can be adjusted.
Generally, GL applies only to Fruit, Veg, and Grains. You might think that odd when a picnic pork pie has a high GL. But no matter the pork and fat content, it’s only the crusty bit that hikes it up. And it’s not the lactose in dairy foods that sends the GL of yoghurt sky-rocketing; it’s the added sugar.
The GL of a food is easy to find. No charts required. Although some fruits have a high GL (dates are the worst), they’re generally low. But that doesn’t mean stuffing the face silly. Fruits, luscious as they are, thirst-quenching, heavy in vitamins and . . . things, are also big-time heavy in fructose and while the body is pretty efficient at handling glucose, it’s not so hot on effective utilisation of fructose. In fact, it’s a guaranteed hoist of the blood sugar levels. Hoist that flag, me-boy-oos, let them see the Skull and Crossbones!
Fruit had been my undoing. In the previous six months, zapped to my lowest (courtesy of that winter bug) preparing food had taken on the proportions of pyramid building. So, to keep up a healthy intake of vitamins, minerals and fibre, I’d become a frugivore (simply wash and devour, no preps required). This fruit-full diet was supplemented with microwave meals (of the healthier range), and enriched, multi-seed, whole-wheat bread. (Sounds healthy? But as I was to discover, it’s the perfect recipe for diabetes). But back to GL.
As with fruit, most vegetables have a low GL—except those grown underground. These have evolved a strategy to survive times of drought: i.e. they store up sugar thus tend towards the high GL. So, never a fan of root vegetables (and that includes white potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes as well as the more obvious carrots, swedes and parsnips), it was no hardship to root them out.
Which leaves the grains. Grains rate a medium to high GL. White and refined, brown and whole, there is no such thing as a low GL grain. Except there is: there’s the humble, nutritious, versatile oat.
Question: If grains in all their manifestations have such an elevating effect upon blood glucose levels, why do Diabetes UK recommend 5-14 portions of grain a day? (For the answer, read below)
There are tricks that, when applied, will bring the GL down. This was my second, adjusted, stratagem, gleaned from the pages of Patrick Holford’s ‘Say No To Diabetes’ (Piatkus, 2011).
Carbohydrate’s forbidding GL can be brought almost down to its knees by the simple addition of PROTEIN. So in theory, you can down a super-sized portion of Christmas pud as long as you drown it in two cartons of cream—though perhaps that’s not too wise. But adding seeds and nuts, cheese, eggs and meat to carbohydrate foods DOES reduce the GL. And a reduced GL means a reduced volume of glucose circulating in the blood, doing untold damage.
Q: How’s this possible?
Carbohydrates prefer to be digested in an alkaline environment. To suggest they might perform their digestive-strips in anything even slightly acidic is like asking the Queen to appear in a greasy boilersuit! They get real sluggish and shy about it. Most unreasonable—but rather handy for we diabetics. Making the digestive environment more acidic automatically slows the digestion. Slow digestion = slow release into system = Low GL.
And what is protein made of? Amino acids. And that alone will lower the GL.
But why stop there? If protein’s amino acids will apply the brake and reduce the sugar bobbing about in the blood, so then will any acid. Think lemon juice. Think vinegar. Think a nice crisp salad served with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Think lowest of low Glycemic Load! Think very-very low blood sugars.
So without ever counting a calorie I was able to lower the circulating blood sugar—by some 64% (but I was using more weapons than just that one).
The Low GL Diet advocated by Holford is just an itsy bitsy too severe for me, though I did adopt a few more of his recommendations.
Chromium does the same job as Metformin, i.e. it sensitises the insulin resistant cells, thereby allowing the insulin to do its job—to release the locked up sugar in the form of energy. And as I’ve said, that energy was released. My problem was how to use it, since the years of CFS had left my body seriously weakened.
Cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of a day.
Cinnamon reduces blood sugar and reduces insulin resistance. I have my half-teaspoon on my breakfast cereal (porridge oats, made with cold milk and left overnight in the fridge to swell. I also add Chia Seeds, a rich source of protein and omega 3.)
Oats help balance the blood sugar AND lowers LDL cholesterol AND they provide essential fibre. Though many advocates of the Low Carb Diet recommend the complete removal of grains, to me the benefits out-weigh the carbs. So, for me, this grain remains. Having said that, my breakfast weighs in at:
Oats 6 grams
Chia seeds 6 grams
Blueberries 8 grams (I like my fruit)
Plus whatever the carbs in the milk.
20 grams for breakfast to set me up for the day (morning being my busiest time).
Holford doesn’t explain in any depth why wheat is so damaging. For that I needed to read Wheat Belly by William Davies. I had already discovered Wheat Belly on YouTube, and visited his site, but the book fills in the gaps.
It’s not merely the GL, though the comparative GLs of these three common items do help to drive the message home:
Table Sugar = 59
White Bread = 69
Wholegrain Bread = 72
And to pull it into even sharper focus:
Mars Bar = 68
Surprised? Though of course, the GL can be reduced when packed around protein, or additives are added during the baking process.
This high (native) GL is the result of a specific sugar found in today’s modern strains of wheat, Amylopectin A. Davies calls it an exorphin: an introduced substance that locks onto the brain’s endorphin receptors. Working in exactly the same way as all addictive substances, it begins by enhancing the feel-good factor, then produces a must-have gnawing crave that can only be satisfied with more of the substance. Pretty soon the consumer is hooked, without even knowing it. AND, the sneaky exorphin, it also increases the appetite so you have to eat more, and more. And more.
Thing is, this modern-strain wheat isn’t just in bread. It’s in almost every processed food. It’s in condiments, it’s in candy. It’s even in cosmetics. Chances are high there’s not a solitary person in the West who hasn’t been hooked. It’s more ubiquitous than High Fructose Corn Syrup, and that has a bad enough press. And it’s silently pushing up our blood sugars—by recommendation of such organisations as Diabetes UK! Seriously, I’m not picking on them. They only follow the guidelines put out by the countries’ medical associations.
Although I had already reduced my wheat intake—kicked my favourite sarnies into the bin (bo-ho), even up to early this week I was still eating a (very) small amount. But that now has gone, every last speck.
As with any addiction, there are withdrawal symptoms. Flu-like, I’d been warned. I’ve another term for it. CFS-like, and real bad—which is why I’ve called off my walk this week. The symptoms generally last up to 5 days. Yippee, for next week. But for now, my fingers are hurting, just typing.
However, it is not only the GL factor of wheat that’s the problem. It’s the gluten.
Yea, everyone knows about gluten and coeliac disease. But gluten can also set up hundreds of reactions all through the body with hardly a symptom to show until it’s too late. Until you’re falling over, balance lost. Until you’re diagnosed with dementia. Until . . . a hundred other things, none of them pleasant. Wheat’s best kept secrets are only now coming to light.
The Seated Woman of Çatal Hüyük (Source: Wikipedia)
A Neolithic sculpture dated c. 6000 BCE
A body typical of wheat consumption.
Problem: I’ve now reduced those sugar-coating carbohydrates. But what has replaced them?
Protein, yes, to a degree. Protein is needed to lower the remaining carbs’ GL. I needed more than is usually recommended. I had muscles to build.
The UK recommendation for a diet of 2000 calories is 45 g protein. Unless my arithmetic is seriously wrong, 45 g @ 4 cals/g = 180 calories. In the recommended diet of 2000 calories, that’s 9% of total calories. My own protein consumption works out at 20-25% of total calories (which was 1500, but is now 1700).
The day I sat down to calculate that—remembering, I’m not counting calories on a daily basis—it also occurred to me how much fat I was eating.
Total carbs (40 g @ 4 cals/g = 160 calories) = 9.4% of total calories
Total protein = 25% total calories
Whatever is left must be the fats. What’s left is an astounding 65.6%! (Actually, carbs might be closer to 15% once vegetable are factored in, giving C=15, P=25, F=60.) Though I hasten to add, having a long-standing dislike of the more obvious animal fats, this colossal percentage is comprised mostly of vegetable fats.
Even so, to me this seemed very, very wrong. What happened to the Food Pyramid, Food Plate, or whatever you want to call it. What about Diabetes UK’s recommendations?
That’s when I found an interview on YouTube, with Denise Minger, author of Death By Food Pyramid by ‘Fat-Burning Man’, Abel James.
I watched with open mouth. (See the YouTube video below.)
Until recently Denise was an advocate of the Raw Food Vegan Diet. But when her dentist tutted at the appalling state of her teeth, she became so alarmed that she subsequently researched into exactly what is good for the health.
What was wrong with her teeth? The same thing that’s been ‘wrong’ with my bones. The same deficiency that’s now rife throughout the Western world—i.e. the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D & K2. Without them the bones and teeth crumble. And that’s not all. The arteries clog, leading to heart attacks. I’m not using this blog to say more about that. I prefer to do humour, not horror. All I’ll say is, check it out.
Fat is Bad! We’ve all heard it. Some of us have even encountered a GP who wants—nay, insists—on prescribing a statin drug to lower the blood cholesterol. Some wise ones (me!) have refused it.
Eat a low fat diet, and take drugs that lower the naturally-produced cholesterol—it’s good for your heart, you know it makes sense. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. That advice, now sufficiently proven incorrect, was based on conjectural evidence, not clinical research.
But so much for my bones, and Denise Minger’s teeth. What else did her research reveal?
In 1970 the USDA contracted a Ms Louise Lake, who then was teaching at NYU, to update and replace the ‘Basic 4’ food groups which had been in general promotion since WWII.
After a year of researching the literature relating to nutrition, Ms Lake produced the Food Pyramid. Although it has since undergone several minor adjustments, the concept is well known to everyone. Britain has copied it. Diabetes UK bases their recommendations upon it.
But the familiar Food Pyramid isn’t the one produced by Louise Lake. In fact, it’s nothing like it.
1: Lake recommended cold pressed oils—e.g. extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil. NOT Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, and the rest of that ilk.
2: Lake recommended TWO to THREE servings of grain a day (less for less active people), and they to be unrefined, i.e. wholegrain.
Lake further stated that more than these 2-3 servings would be conducive to a mass epidemic of OBESITY and DIABETES. (Yet Diabetes UK recommends 5-14 portions of grain a day.)
3: Lake recommended the bottom of the pyramid to be FATS and PROTEIN (No comment)
4: Lake further recommended the middle of the Pyramid to be FRUIT and VEG .
So what happened to change it?
For a start, the fruit and veg servings were reduced for fear that a high intake would result in CANCER! (No, there are no typos in that sentence.)
Then the grains were increased to replace the proteins and fats because, as Louise Lake was told by US Congress
“WE NEED TO KEEP COSTS DOWN ON THE FOOD STAMP PROGRAMME.”
Okay, you can close your mouths now and see the YouTube video below for the relevant interview.
The Venus of Petřkovice dated to c. 23,000 BCE
An excellent example of the Paleo Diet (Source: Wikipedia)
While I was with the nurse, back at the beginning of July, she printed out a form to take to Pathology at the end of September/beginning of October for a follow-up HbA1c blood test.
Back in July, the nurse had said my blood glucose was ‘15’, and I needed to be ‘4’.
Beginning of October, my results came back as ‘41’. Apparently ‘41’ is at the top of her chart, in the same general area as the previous ‘4’.
But now she tells me the previous test (when it was off the chart at the bottom) was ‘115’.
You might begin to see my confusion. But this is my fault. I should have asked her what units were used. Too late, I was at home before I realised. So I checked out the ‘HbA1c test and results’ on Wikipedia. This is where I got tangled in numbers but I think I’ve grasped it now.
5.5 mmol/l is considered the normal reading for blood glucose level. While this equates to an ‘estimated average glucose’ (eAG) of 7.0, it also equates to the HbA1c reading of 42 mmol/mol. (126 eAG, or 100–152 mg/dL on the American scales.)
So my ecstatic ‘41’ is only marginally beneath ‘Normal’. I had already reduced it by 64%, but now I need to drop another 10 mmol/mol (25% of present reading) to reach the magical ‘4—you’re cured.’
Am I devastated? No, I’m chuffed. I’ve lost 28 lbs—offset against the re-acquisition of much heavier muscle and bone. My waist has shrunk by 5”, my hips by 4”. And after years of CFS, I’m bursting with energy. My blood pressure is down—and I mean DOWN (101/59), so I’m weaning off the medication. This medication has kept me a more or less constant at 135/70 for years, and whenever I said to the GP of weaning off it I’d be told my bp was only steady because of the med. Now I need to come off it to stop me from falling over!
Also, when looking at the HbA1c reading, and the fact I haven’t yet reached Target, I have to remember for the first month I was following Diabetes UK’s advice—in other words I was still eating plenty big servings of carbs; in the second month I was on Low GL, but there was still wheat in my diet. It wasn’t until this last month that I’ve really got down to it.
And there’s also the Exercise Factor.
Until I had built up the muscle and bone, particularly in the legs, I wasn’t able to gain the full benefit from that E-word. When I started the dance aerobics again I could only manage 5 minutes. The reason I chose dance over the much-recommended brisk walk, is because I just couldn’t walk. Now I am walking 5-6 miles, up hills, against strong blustering winds, and on the beach. I am now back to 30-35 minutes dance aerobics alternating with days of brisk walks.
So what’s the relevance of dance—or any other exercise? Exercise uses stored glucose, thus making way for the next input. Without sufficient exercise to burn the carbs I had eaten, they were just getting stored away as fat, never again to move. So, until I could dance, I couldn’t shift it.
YouTube is full of dance workouts, but I follow my own choreography. The thing is to use all the muscles, or as many as possible, to thoroughly empty the stores.
My current playlist:
1: New York City – T Rex (4:22 mins warm up)
2: Nutbush City Limits – Tina Turner (2:51 mins, stretch and tone)
3: Mony Mony – Billy Idol (5:02 mins, interval training)
4: Born to Boogie – T Rex (2:27 mins, keeping the pace)
5: Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf (9:49 mins, interval training, manic)
6: The Groover – T Rex (3:20 mins, coming down)
7: I Hear You Knocking – Dave Edmunds (2:48 mins, cool down)
It’s heavy on T Rex simply because it has a real good dance beat. And that Bat Out Of Hell? It’s not for the un-fit.
On top of this, I’m back to weight training. For so many years those nice shiny weights and bars have glared at me from the bedroom floor. I’ve asked everyone I meet if they’d like them. I hate binning things. I would have taken them to the nearest charity shop—except I couldn’t carry them. The bars are 2 kgs each, with ankle weights at 1.2 kg apiece. I haven’t yet started adding more weights; I want to get used to this first. The thing about doing weights is it’s the quickest way to an endorphin rush (without using drugs). It quicker even then sex. And when you get there, you fly. (Ok, it’s my new addiction.)
I’m not seeing the nurse again for another six months. She’s happy that I’m controlling the sugar levels. But ‘control’ isn’t enough for me. I want to hit that magic ‘4’. And I am determined to do it.
What’s the alternative? Deterioration. Amputation. Early death.
No. Now I have my life back, I want to keep it for as long as humanly possible.