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Jun 17

Using the Paleo Diet to Manage Type 1 Diabetes & Hypothyroid

alexiskimphotoMost recently I have conversed with some lovely individuals about how we use diet to stabilize blood sugars. Today, I have captured a Q & A with Alexis to inspire others to focus on diet to gain health.

How long have you had diabetes? I was diagnosed in 2012 at the age of 28.  I had gestational diabetes with my daughter the year before and when I initially found out they insisted I was Type 2 (even though both of my uncles found out they were Type 1 in their 30s).  They wanted me to take medication as a Type 2 but after 3 weeks of having blood sugars in the 200s and 300s I insisted they put me on an insulin regimen. More bloodwork was done and type 1 diabetes was confirmed along with hypothyroid. Haven’t looked back since

What eating regime have you found to be most helpful in managing stable blood sugars and how did you come to find this diet? I was extremely proactive about managing my diabetes after I found out. Sure I was upset at first but at the time I had a 2 ½ year old and a 1 year old and all I could think of was how horrible it would be for me to leave my children with no mom. I discovered paleo early on by doing online research and intentions to keep carbs to a minimum.  My A1c went from 8.3 when diagnosed to 5.5 in just a few months. If that’s not proof I don’t know what is!

What main improvements in your health have you observed, diabetic-related or not? Overall health has improved. I have much better mental clarity.  I feel less moody and irritable. I also notice a difference in my hair, skin and nails. I have tons of baby hair growing and I no longer have strange ridges in my nails. After being diagnosed I also discovered that I am definitely gluten intolerant and cannot eat legumes.  I used to think I had acne in high school but in retrospect it was these things manifesting themselves. My skin is perfectly clear after going paleo. Paleo has also helped me maintain my weight. I weighed 103 when diagnosed and looked very malnourished. I gained some weight back but have been able to maintain it by eating this way. I also have to add that my dental health has improved ten fold. After many years of terrible dental visits I haven’t had one cavity and in fact, the last time I went for a cleaning my dentist said my teeth were so clean he didn’t even need to clean them!

Do you find the diet realistic and something to maintain long term? Would you recommend it to others managing their diabetes? I don’t consider paleo a diet. It is a lifestyle. In my case I had been eating and doing things a certain way for 28 years and then all of a sudden was told that I had to change. I was forced to make a change because of my diabetes and I consider that a blessing but others who want to make a change without being forced to may have difficulty in the beginning. With that said, after small steps, it is definitely realistic and easy to maintain long term. I recommend this way of eating to everyone not just diabetics. It is my opinion that if it is good for a diabetic then it is probably good for you too!

What does a typical day of food look like to you? I am so lucky to be married to a Korean man! I love Korean food, especially authentic Korean food. My mother in law is one of the last generations to ferment her own kimchi (not just cabbage either, this woman knows how to ferment ANYTHING).  She also ferments her own soybean paste which is a lost art even in Korea these days. We eat some sort of soup at least once everyday. My kids really like Korean seaweed soups and bone broth. My favorite dish is Korean style braised pork belly (super easy!). I never take a grocery list to the market. I buy what looks good or is in season and then I work with that. In general as my mother in law has taught me, I try to cook with what I have without having a structured menu. My carbs mainly come from vegetables unless I treat and have some roasted sweet potato.

What is the best thing about the diet? The best thing about eating this way for me is the mental clarity and amazing amount of energy I now have. I feel so much more alive like I am actually living after eating this way. One can take being diagnosed as diabetic as an early death sentence but managing my diabetes this way makes me feel so much more appreciative and satisfied with the life I am living.

Any tips for someone getting started on this type of diet? The first book I read was Mark Sisson’s the Primal Blueprint. I loved that it was written simple enough for everyone to understand. When it is easy for us to understand it is much easier for us to make a change. Also, it is easy to want to feel like you need to dive right in, but really what helped me in the beginning was taking small baby steps. For example, at first, I didn’t eat rice (blasphemous in a Korean house!). I still would have a piece of bread but no rice. Then, no more bread, after that, no oatmeal,. then eliminated grains, then legumes, then I started focusing on the quality of meat I was eating, etc.  If I hadn’t done it that way I am sure I would have felt overwhelmed and deprived.  At some point I decided on what number of carbs I wanted to eat everyday as well. That definitely helped the transition.

Anything in addition you’d like to say? There is a lot of misconceptions about what paleo is. It is more about what it is not.  It is also not one size fits all and others should keep in mind that there is an experimentation period. I believe this is necessary. You have to eat everything and then listen to your body. It may say “I don’t like that but I love this!”  Although the word paleo is often used I personally like to use the word primal. If you look up the word primal in the dictionary it also means important. And that is what my health and well being is to me! I have created this beta website www.modernprimalexchange.com to encourage this health movement to grow!