Inspiring Others with Type 1 – My Interview with Hanna

Hanna first caught my eye on Instagram, under the name @HannaDiabetesExpert, as she seemed like an eager soul to help others across the world. She has an unconventional approach to managing her type 1 diabetes and I believe her story is not only inspiring others but helping make bold changes too. I am excited to share this interview with you, and please let us know your thoughts on Hanna’s story. Thank you, Hanna!

  • Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a public speaker, writer, and advocate who loves to help fellow people with diabetes to feel healthier and happier with their own care. I’m passionate to find motivational and inspiring ways to bring about a change in diabetes management, and I’ve developed a profound understanding of how things like nutrition and lifestyle choices can balance diabetes. I also co-organise Europe’s first 100% low carb events, called The Low Carb Universe.   

How long have you had diabetes?

I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 33 years, since 1985.

What eating style have you found to be most helpful in managing blood sugars? What hasn’t worked?

I was eating a “normal diabetic diet” for the first 26 years after diagnosis, including skimmed milk with meals and extra points for fruits as dessert, not to forget the 45-60% other carbs on my plate. Throughout these years, I could never manage my diabetes like I was expected to, my A1c was always way too high, too many fluctuations in my blood sugar, I was overweight and using insulin like it was water. I quickly got the label of “brittle diabetic” in my file. When I did my education to become a nutrition coach, my teacher, who is not a medical professional, but has more common sense than most, saved my life. When we were learning about carbs, insulin and how they work in the body, he pointed me out in front of the class and said “Hanna, you don’t even make any insulin. If I were you, I’d think once and twice about what I was eating”. That was my aha-moment, and I started cutting down on carbs soon after that. Today I eat very low carb, protein-rich and healthy fat, as I’ve found it works the absolute best for me, my diabetes and my lifestyle.

What type insulin do you use and what insulin dosage method work best for you and your lifestyle?

I went through a lifestyle transformation when I finally said yes to the pump 5 years ago. It’s vastly improved my life, and I love that I can be so spontaneous with it, for example with basal rates. I use Novorapid (Novolog) and have gone from taking about 100 units a day to 15-25.

How do you treat a low blood sugar?

Always, always, always with glucose tablets. I treat them like medicine and they are the most exact way to get to a safe, healthy range again without overshooting. Treating hypos with food never worked for me.

Do you exercise? What do you like to do for exercise? How do you handle activity with controlling your blood sugar? 

I hate exercise, but I love movement! I do a lot of walking, yoga, and body weight exercises, for example. For these movement forms, I don’t feel any pressure, like having the right gear paying expensive memberships, which is also good because I travel quite often. I personally rarely have problems with blood sugar and activity, and if I do, I can quickly correct it back into range again as I don’t have masses of active insulin. But I do know it is a huge struggle for many others.

What tips would you rattle off for someone who is trying to improve their blood sugar control? Or even for someone who is newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?

There is always a way! You need to find YOUR way of managing diabetes, which takes some researching. And it definitely doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s or what your healthcare professionals tell you. That being said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. If you want to change your health, you need to be ready and willing to take it into your own hands.

What does a typical day of food look like to you? 

I get up, have a few glasses of water, as well as a giant cup of herbal tea to rehydrate my body after a long nights sleep. I very rarely have breakfast, as I’m generally not hungry then and don’t see the point of stressing my body with food if it doesn’t signal for it. It also gives my blood sugar a chance to stay stable for a few more hours. I wait with eating until lunchtime, 12-1pm, when I have vegetables, protein and fat, such as an omelet with vegetables and ham, smoked salmon and avocado, or just the leftovers from dinner the night before. I don’t typically snack unless my body tells me to. Then, around 7-8pm, I have dinner, which is again vegetables, protein, and fats, like a burger patty with spinach sautéed in bacon fat, chicken with cauliflower rice or salmon with pesto and broccoli.

To some, eating like this might sound boring. To me it means freedom not to feel constant hunger, being able to push meals around according to my schedule, as well as stable blood sugars.

What is the hardest part of being diabetic? What is the best part?

The hardest part for me is worrying about the future, possible complications, and limitations in life diabetes may bring me. Even if I’ve found my way of dealing well with the emotional and mental part of living with a chronic illness, it still gets to me sometimes.

The best part is that I know my body so much better than many others and can tell quickly if something isn’t right somewhere.

Any closing thoughts?

Dare to go out there and find what works for you and your diabetes management. It’s a difficult illness to handle, but it’s entirely possible to live and thrive with it on a daily basis.

This is one of the hopefully many interviews I will be showcasing on my site. If you have type 1 diabetes and are interested in sharing your story and strategies, please send me an email at [email protected]

Gut Health + Multiple Autoimmune Diseases

It’s late September and I am driving through the backroads of Indiana listening to a podcast as we head home from a very fun weekend in Chicago. It was so much fun, in fact, my husband had me drive as he was reclined in the passenger seat.

Either way, I wasn’t fussed as I spent the time reviewing information for an upcoming presentation I had on the books related to gut health and diabetes. Yet, with my intention to polish up on the facts, I nearly had to pull over as I had an “ah-ha” moment when tuning-in to “The Paleo View” hearing Dr. Sarah Ballantyne discuss the risk of getting additional autoimmune diseases for those who already have an existing one. As if 1 disease wasn’t enough, right?! Thankfully, there is something we can do to halt this from happening, but a little information first.

Autoimmune disease affects over 50 million Americans, and if you have an autoimmune disease, you have genetic predisposition to have an overactive immune system. With this, the risk of getting an additional autoimmune disease, according to Sarah Ballantyne’s literature review, is 1 every decade.

Hitting close to home, I felt it in my gut when I read how type 1 diabetes (T1D) is associated with autoimmune thyroid disease (AIT), celiac disease (CD), Addison’s disease (AD), and other autoimmune diseases. This isn’t common sense, nor is the information of how to prevent it from happening, but there is hope.

Looking back on my 26+ years of having type 1 diabetes I sense a relationship with this research. In 2009, my life changed when I did a gluten-free experiment. Multiple endocrinologists thought I was wasting my time, as I have proved multiple celiac diseases negative. Yet, my A1C and blood sugar control were immediately and continue to be more predictable and better than ever. Not to mention, my eczema, insomnia and female hormones are better off. Just last July I did a food sensitivity test on myself, and my reaction to wheat was off the charts, followed by gluten. An allergy (celiac) is very different than a sensitivity, and taking my food sensitivity results seriously is improving my overall well-being and help reduce my risk of acquiring more diagnoses. In the last 2 years, I’ve experimented more with my diet, and am now working to wean down or off my thyroid medication (my thyroid tanked with the onset of pregnancy with my second child). It will be a slow process, but I just had to make a decrease in my thryoid medicine dose. No doubt, food is powerful. Slower than medicine, but powerful.

In the least, it’s a good thing the progression of an autoimmune disease is not entirely determined by genetics. Reseach concludes there are 3 parts:

  1. genetics,
  2. environmental factors (from everything from a heavy metal toxicity, to a stressful emotional event), and
  3. a leaky gut. (Here Dr. Axe does a good job defining Leaky Gut, and below I highlight how to take care of your gut).

It’s valuable to understand that an autoimmune disease can sit brewing in the body for years before a diagnosis occurs and the great news is we can do a lot to prevent the last “straw” from reaching the camels back.

While there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, the best way to be your healthiest and prevent any further autoimmune diseases from occurring or progressing is to focus on 1) what we eat, 2) what we absorb and 3) how we take care of our body/lifestyle. 

Diet/What We Eat:

  1. The AIP is a good starting point for anyone dealing with one or more autoimmune diseases. Not only does it exclude grains, dairy, and legumes like the basic paleo template, it also eliminates nightshades, nuts, seeds, eggs, alcohol, and sugar, leaving a pure and basic diet of meats, seafood, certain vegetables, certain fruits, healthy fats and spices that help to promote anti-inflammatory reactions within the body. Upfront, I want to highlight that while this diet can be a very low-carb diet, it can also be a high carb diet sourcing healthy foods including plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, fruit, yucca, taro, etc. This approach can be tough. Thankfully there are great resources, from books to websites and podcasts. Pheonix Helix is a leader in communicating effective ways of living this lifestyle. Her website is a wealth of information as is her podcasts and guests.
  2. A few other paths to take to make sure someone is eating the right things for their gut is they can do an elimination diet, removing the biggest offenders: gluten, wheat, sugar, eggs, soy, dairy, seed/man-made oils (think corn, canola, soy, safflower seed oils) and corn. Like I did in 2009, begin avoiding one or all of these food groups and take notes on how you feel.
  3. Increasing vegetables and fruit in the diet,
  4. Diversify meals,
  5. Incorporate good spices and herbs,

Gut/What We Absorb:

  1. First REMOVE inflammatory foods and chronic stressors, REPLACE the problem foods with healing foods, such as items listed below, REPAIR the gut with specific supplements, and REBALANCE and nurture the gut, ongoing with probiotics. This is known as the 4 R Protocol.
  2. Research suggests the gut can take on average 2-12 weeks to heal, and likely longer for this of us with an autoimmune disease. For anyone with an autoimmune disease who is also sensitive to gluten and consuming it, it can take closer to 6 months for the gut to heal. And there is little benefit in a “gluten-light” diet. A fraction of a crumb can inflame the body, and I know this first handed when the cook in a cafe I used to work in, would cut my chicken breast with the same knife he was cutting chicken sandwiches with, I’d get ill. I also think of my mother who has osteoporosis, Hashimoto’s and rheumatoid arthritis, but still gets non-gluten free communion at church every weekend. Bottomline, it’s important to be 100% gluten-free when experimenting and if implementing when a results are positive.
  3. Increase fermented foods in the diet along with coconut products, bone broth, and collagen,
  4. Avoid food sensitivities – Get tested using Cyrex Labs, MRT LEAP, or KBMO. (I can be a resource in acquiring a test). Learn how well you tolerate FODMAPs
  5. Moderate saturated fat as it can impair the microbiota,
  6. Replenish nutrient stores with potent supplements, and ask for advice from a health professional to find a high-quality product and the right product for your needs and background.

Lifestyle/How We Take Care of Ourselves:

  1. Prioritize sleep, both quantity, and quality, Did you know in 1965 we got on average of an hour and a half more of sleep per night than compared to today? That’s a big difference, and females need more sleep than males. Here is a list of how to tweak your environment to improve the quality
  2. Engage in adventure and hobbies. If you don’t have the time, shift things around so you do.
  3. Not that you don’t already, but prioritize blood sugar control. The swings cause inflammation and disturb the peace in our gut.
  4. React better to stress. It’s common to say reduce stress, but that thought only makes me a little more strung out. Instead, I put my energy on my response to challenges and tough tasks.
  5. Work on communication so you can be heard and respected.



  • 5 At Home Test Gut:

Winning with Diabetes

When I say “winning,” please don’t think it means I have perfect blood sugars, or I am skipping through this journey with bliss. Hella no. This disease is hard BUT in the last 26 years, I have unknowingly grown to love it.

You see, I was diagnosed in second grade, which is also where most of my memories begin, and I have always expressed, written and stated we need to live life to the fullest. I believe with every single one of my doctor’s appointments, shoot blood sugar tests/pricks, I fear death, and with that fear, I want to live and appreciate every minute I have in my life.

Am I alone with this thought? I don’t think so. Last month at the Weekend for Women, Diabetes Sister’s conference I attended in DC, the keynote came from Shawn Shepheard, who happened to also have type 1 diabetes. He shared that on Christmas, many moons ago, when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he needed to immediately “squeeze every minute out of life.” What an honest thought, and I recognized that he too doesn’t want to downplay the health statistics that are not in our favor, but rather he wants to use this fuel to seek happiness.

Like Shawn – I am “winning with diabetes” because it has given me the opportunity to be more connected to my soul, my purpose, my passion and serves as a reminder to seek happiness and adventure.

I have accepted my limitations and I continue to push beyond them and I thank gratitude for the solution.

How are you winning in life?

National Apple Pie Day

This past weekend wasn’t only Mother’s Day, but it was also National Apple Pie Day. On this very day, May 13th, I had the pleasure of demonstrating an allergen-friendly recipe on the local Columbus, OH 10TV News. 

Allergen Friendly Apple Pie

• 2 Wholly Wholesome 9″ Gluten Free Pie Shell
• 6 medium sized granny smith apples, sliced
• 1/2 cup coconut sugar – or reduce total amount and use maple syrup
• 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
• 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1. Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice apples, and place in a Wholly Wholesome Gluten Free Pie Shell. The apples will be piled high but will cook down in the oven. Sprinkle sugar/cinnamon mixture over apples.
2. Spoon coconut oil and place on top of apples. Add second pie shell over apples and crimp pie edges. Poke a hole in top crust to allow air to escape during baking. Place pie on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 30 minutes or until top is browned. You will know the pie is done when a paring knife can be easily inserted into the center and the apples are tender.