Saturday, February 5, 2011

Guest Post: My Experience with Type 1 Diabetes and The Paleo Diet

The week Kyp was diagnosed

In response to my asking if he would talk to some relatives of mine who are dealing with Type 1 Diabetes, a friend of mine, Kyp Kotzikas, went above and beyond, and chronicled his entire experience in detail, and shared it with the world.

Here, is his story:

My Experience with Type 1 Diabetes and The Paleo Diet


My name is Kyp and I am a type 1 diabetic born on the 5th of May 1990 and diagnosed early August 2009.
I consider myself to be a friend of Drew Barquist's and he has asked me to write in regards to how eating a low carb paleo diet has helped me with my type 1 diabetes.

I guess I'll start from the beginning.

August 2009. Over the course of the past nine months I had changed from a chubby 102 kilogram teenager who plays too many video games and ate too many Big Macs to several months later becoming a muscular and active (6 gym sessions per week) 92 kilogram young man who thought that by adhering to the nutritional recommendations I was doing everything in my power to achieve an enlightened state of health whilst simultaneously continuing to lean out to a further six months later becoming a frail and disturbingly lean 70 kilogram male who looked like he needed to be sat down, force fed and watched to ensure he did not try to regurgitate what he had just swallowed.

I had been losing weight at a steady pace, somewhere in the vicinity of none at all to half a kilo per week until June. Once June hit my weight began to drop at an alarming rate, anywhere from 1 to 2 and a half kilos per week. Me being me I put this down to my increased effort with my highly intensive physical labour in the mornings, eating a ‘healthy’ diet full of whole grains, milk for calcium and protein, lots of potatoes and pasta in the evenings with some red or white meat, and an increased frequency of cardio vascular exercise. I was drinking gallons of water per day which I thought was due to the amount of exercise I was doing and I had began to grow increasingly tired in the evenings so I was slowly going to bed earlier and earlier getting an extra 2 to 2 and a half hours of sleep per night. I would wake constantly (every hour on the hour) and need to urinate. I would drink a half a glass of water and go back to sleep thinking nothing more of it as I thought that water is simply good for the body and the more you can drink the better.

August 2009 rolled around and my parents had invited myself to go on a week long holiday with them to Fiji. I was exhausted from exerting myself so hard with work (or so at the time I thought was the reason) and took them up on their offer. On the flight over I drunk something like four cans of coke (it was holiday time so I was relaxing on the diet and enjoying myself) and a bottle or two of water. My parents commented on the amount of liquid I was consuming with my father even telling me it was disgusting whilst having a dirty look on his face.

I had an unquenchable thirst.

If losing 30 kilograms in nine months with the majority of it coming in the past several wasn’t  clue enough this certainly should have been.

We arrived at our hotel in Fiji. I had my own room and I started going to town on the ice cream, burgers and fries whilst having pina colada or two. After a day or two, food started to taste rotten, I still could not quench my thirst and I had lost all appetite. It was at this stage my mother asked if I’d like her to book me an appointment with a doctor. I agreed and the first available time was two or three days away.

I continued to try to force food down my throat as it tasted more and more rotten. I was growing increasingly exhausted despite being on holiday and I was still unable to quench my thirst.

The last night before the doctor’s appointment rolled around and it was HORRIBLE. I would wake every couple of hours with crippling stomach cramps. Now I’ve never broken a bone or had a tattoo or anything but these things were some of the worst pain I’d ever felt. I would wake in the pitch black and end up rolling off of my bed onto the floor due to not being able to get a break. These things were killing me. I have no idea why they happened. They’d never done so before and they never have since so I never bothered asking.

Morning time came and my father came to get me to take me to the doctor. I was unable to walk at this stage from being so weak so I had one arm over his shoulder whilst I slowly hobbled out to reception so we could get a taxi.

We arrived at the doctors and I had to be wheel chaired in at this stage. I sat waiting in the lobby until it was my turn to see the doctor. We discussed with them the symptoms and they then put an IV drip into my arm. Oh my god!! I don’t know if it actually works this way but I could just feel my arm being refreshed slowly upwards from the point at which it was inserted. The doctor then told me I had type 1 diabetes. At this stage I didn’t care. Just keep the damn drip in!!

They then put me into an ambulance and took me to their hospital where I had to wait some more. This place was FILTHY. Dirt everywhere, blood dripping all over the floor, no real privacy.

I got put into a room there where my parents waited with me. The nurse came and asked me to give her a urine sample (testing for ketones I suspect?) which I did. I laid back down and slept for I believe what was an hour or two which was absolutely great for me but must have been a rather nerve wrecking time for my parents as I don’t believe any of us knew what diabetes actually was at this stage.

The doctor finally came through, explained to us what diabetes is and how to manage it and that there is no known cause, preventative action or cure for it. “It could be genetic or it could just be something in the wind.”

We got back to the hotel what must have been that afternoon and I had the best sleep of my life. My father came and woke me for dinner, gave me my injection and then I was out to it for another 15 or so hours. I awoke hungry, without thirst and, thanks to the medication the doctors had given me for a tongue infection I’d contracted (apparently due in part to the diabetes), able to breath without a rotten taste in my mouth.

Fast forward six months I was back up to a healthy and muscular 82 kilos. I had put on 10 kilo of muscle in that first six weeks after being diagnosed and things were starting to look good. I began to eat OSM bars (because they gave one third of all your recommended daily requirements of nutrients), Subway twice a day (because bread is a staple food so it must be good for you), and changing my weetbix for rolled oats (because whole grains are healthy right?). The diabetic clinic called me a “star patient” due to my exercising six days per week and following such a healthy diet coupled in fact with my rigorous high frequency of injections and low volume of insulin.

Then I found CrossFit.

CrossFit would be what I would consider to be a revolution in exercise. No more two to three hour gym sessions. No more doing cardio 5 times per week for 45 minutes to 2 hours at a time. No more arm curls. No more leg press. No more machines.

No, CrossFit was different. All these exercises I’d been told was dangerous I was being taught. They taught me how to clean. They taught me how to snatch. They taught me how to jerk. They taught me how to squat, and I mean REALLY squat. No more of this knee bending, no further than parallel stuff (as if I ever got anywhere close!). We were going RIGHT down. Hips bellow parallel, toes pointed out, arms and chest up, tight lumbar curve and pushing the knees outward whilst always being able to wiggle our toes due to having the “weight through the heels”.

CrossFit was all about being ready for the unknown and the unknowable. About increasing you work capacity and your power out put over short periods of time as well as longer periods of time. And it did this by giving you a constant variety of functional movements, teaching you the mechanics of such movements to the point you can do them consistently and then increasing the intensity to a high, unsustainable level. You had to learn not to be afraid of failure. If you fail, so what? You have nothing to prove to anybody but yourself. Just throw the weight on the bar and see what happens. See if you can’t do another rep before dropping off the pull up bar. See if you can’t run that little bit faster, or do fifty unbroken double-unders instead of five sets of ten.

CrossFit changed my perspective on a lot of things in life. Things weren’t as black and white as what I had been led to believe and this caused me to open my eyes and mind to all sides of any given story.

Enter Paleo.

There was a top tier of athletes starting to emerge at the CrossFit box I was currently attending and we were getting through some work, but as is the case with all aspects of my life I always want to be the best so I started researching the top CrossFit athletes in the world and what they were eating to fuel their efforts. I found a common link amongst many of them that they were eating this thing called ‘Paleo’. “What’s a ‘Paleo’?” I wondered so I googled it. Turns out that this was the way cavemen ate in Paleolithic times. “But cavemen lived short brutish lives did they not?” Yes they did and this was due in part to the fact that you either hunt or you be hunted. You break a leg from falling off a cliff and you might as well be dead. There were no hospitals back then. There were no doctors. And there was nobody telling them they should be eating “healthy whole grains and plenty of calcium” everyday.

Our Paleolithic ancestors were strong, tall, lean and muscular. They had minimal signs, if any; of the many diseases we now face today. Why? Because there were no legumes back then. There was no dairy, and there were certainly no grains. It wasn’t until the advent of agriculture that the problems of these many diseases started to become apparent. The things we consider staples in our diet today (breads, cereals, pastas, milk, potatoes) just weren’t around until agriculture. We became too smart for our own good and as such the likes of our agricultural ancestors began to shrink in size. The density of their bones was so much less and the likes of tooth cavities became so much more frequent.

So what does this have to do with me? Well I then googled ‘Paleo Diabetes Type 1’ and came across a site and a post from a man by the name of Robb Wolf. It read
I emailed you about a month or so ago.  I just want to give you an update on my situation:  I’ve lost about 15-20lbs.  I’ve taken no insulin for 5 weeks and I’m type 1 Diabetic!.  Because of my strict paleo diet(gluten and dairy free) my a1c is not going to be much higher than when I was taking crap load of insulin.  My glucose has really stabilized in the low 100s (100-125) and I haven’t had a low at all during this time nor have I had extreme highs like when I was taking so much insulin.  My blood pressure has dropped tremendously and my Internist thinks that my pancreas has jumped started again, because even when I have had a cheat meal my blood is responding in a completely different manner.  We are going to do a c-peptide test again.  I’ve also started to incorporate better sleeping patterns (trying to get 9-10 hours) and my fasting glucose is even better (lower) than before.”

I now had every reason to start and no reason not to. So I gave it a go. And as is always the case with myself, I threw myself straight into the deep end. Beef sausages with salad and olive oil for breakfast. Lamb chops and almonds for mid morning meal. Steak and almonds for lunch. Protein shake with banana both pre and post workout. Chicken breast with salad and olive oil for dinner.

Monday to Friday. Minimal insulin requirements, increased energy levels and sense of awareness, and several kilograms of weight loss.

Saturday morning. I finish training. Take my half a unit of insulin to account for the banana I’m about to consume. Half an hour late I’m hypoglycaemic. Take another banana. Ten minutes later still hypo. Consume another banana. Ten minutes later still hypo. One more banana. Ten minutes later my blood glucose has returned to a more level and I start to get excited with the prospect that I may have just had a remission in my supposedly incurable Type 1 diabetes.

Since then I have increased my work output dramatically, my numbers with the lifts are going up and my weight seems to be steady at a healthy, muscular and lean 83kg whilst being 6’

Now I’m not saying that I am cured. Nor am I saying that everybody will get the same results (Robb Wolf stating that only 5% of his Type 1 Diabetic patients see a return in pancreatic function). What I am saying is that so long as I adhere to the conditions of a Paleolithic diet (Grain, Dairy and Legume free), train with a smart amount of frequency (Four to Five times per week. Anything more begins to become a bit much) and get good amounts of sleep (aiming for 8 – 9 and a half hours per night in a pitch black room) then my pancreas seems to produce insulin and prevent me from having to depend upon external sources.

I have strayed from this diet in the past and sometimes my pancreas stops creating insulin for a week, other times it has stopped for several months on end (the most recent case being the longest). My pancreas has of two days ago started to create insulin again and this time I am not going to abuse it by experimenting with different foods to the extent and volume I have in the past. One thing I have noticed with myself though is that my body HATES the sweetener ‘Malitol’ and I will be trying to stay away from this at all costs (It is a major ingredient in a lot of sugar free items along with ‘Sorbitol’)

All I can recommend for others is to just try it for thirty days, see how you look, feel and perform and go from there. It’s not a hard diet, you just don’t eat specific things. And hey, if you come to find that it works for you then that’s great, if not, then all you’ve missed out on is specific foods for thirty days.

What have you got to lose?

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