‘How a gut friendly approach helped my type 1 diabetes and my family’ – a patient’s perspective

I have been following a gut-friendly lifestyle for the last 3 years, most consistently in the last year, with very positive results. I have Type 1 Diabetes: a complex and potentially devastating disease that has demanded my attention each day and night of the last 10 years since I was diagnosed. Without regular injections of insulin, I could not survive. Every day is a day of learning.

However, I am surprisingly grateful for my diabetes. They say pain is a great teacher and chronic illness is no different. It is fair to say that diabetes has taught me much: most importantly it has taught me how live as a human being. 

What do I mean by that? Well, I often have blood sugar levels that swing wildly between high (symptoms: huge thirst, fatigue and irritability) to low (symptoms: insatiable carb cravings, shakes, slurring and irritability). Each extreme takes time to recover from. It is exhausting and chronic fatigue can quickly set in. It is easy to understand why I would be keen to avoid being in such a state and I have worked hard to avoid the triggers. Over time I have discovered that most of my personal triggers are intrinsically linked to the ‘norm’ of modern living such as irregular eating, processed and convenience foods, stress, excess alcohol, snacking, limited exercise, poor quality sleep, lack of water. The more I looked at this ‘norm’ the more I realised it wasn’t just me, the diabetic, that was affected by such a lifestyle – friends and family were suffering their fair share of ill health, allergies, weight problems, depression and anxiety. The message started to become overwhelmingly loud and clear: this was not a lifestyle for long term good health.

By luck, at the same time I was making these discoveries, the science into gut health was getting traction in the mainstream media and it caught my attention. I read as much as I was able into the subject and started to make changes to my diet. The immediate effects were a more stable blood sugar requiring a reduction in insulin. Long term my energy levels not only returned to normal but exceeded my pre-diabetic normal. My allergies started to dissipate and my mood was more balanced – happier even. I lost weight as well which is a challenge for anyone injecting insulin and good blood sugar control.  I felt better than myself again! It was – and still is – thrilling. 

My husband offered to sign up to my way of eating both as a gesture of support and because he was so impressed by the positive changes in me. Neither of us anticipated the profound impact on his health: after 3 months, he had lost 3 stone of his excess weight and his cholesterol went from high to normal. Incredible! Then… my mother-in-law took on my dietary advice and lost 3 stone over 2 years. Both have maintained that loss to this day, saying they would never return to their former diets.

So, no special Type 1 diabetic diet required – just a gut-friendly approach that benefited not only myself but my nearest and dearest – including my dog!

Today I am happier and fitter than I have ever been and confident about my day to day health. My blood sugars still challenge me occasionally but are overall very consistent and in target. I have the energy to live a fulfilling and meaningful life to the extent that if a doctor were to cure me tomorrow, I would be delighted of course… but I wouldn’t change a thing about my lifestyle.

VITTY RECOMMENDS:

  • Sleep health: a good night’s sleep is essential to making good decisions – particularly food ones!
  • ‘More of the good, less of the bad’ – a very useful mantra when choosing what to eat.
  • Reducing or even eliminating refined sugars and flours.
  • Water – never underestimate the power of a hydrated body.
  • Include fibre rich foods at each meal – manna from Heaven for gut flora
  • Find an exercise that fits into your lifestyle.
  • Make time for the things that give you joy.
  • Plan for life – introduce changes gradually, maybe as a 30-day challenge, to give yourself the very best chance of long term success.

Vitty Robinson

 

 

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January 21st, 2017

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