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To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat

That is the question….

Almost 3 Years and No Meds

I’m glad to report that I’m coming up on 3 years with Type 1 Diabetes (“T1D”) and have yet to take any medication. Of those 3 years, the past two have been following the mostly raw vegan plant-based diet (“PBD”). As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, I truly believe a diet of this type is the only way a T1D has a prayer of staying off of medication for a prolonged period of time.

A Little Rusty on the PBD Facts

I have to admit, when it comes to my current diet, I’m a little rusty on many of the facts surrounding the great benefits that a plant-based diet can bring. When I first transitioned to the PBD, it was following at least 40+ hours of research which included me reading countless books and watching several documentaries. I remember feeling truly empowered when I first started the diet and witnessed my blood sugars dramatically drop (Fasting Blood Sugar Chart).

In One Ear and Out the Other

So, here we are 2 years later. I’ve since settled into a groove and haven’t done much research since I switched diets.

Since I began the diet in November 2014, I’ve discussed my diet with many people. Each and every person congratulates me and has nothing but positive things to say about my discipline to manage T1D the way that I do (you’d be a pretty big jerk to not support a poor guy with a chronic disease that could prove fatal if not controlled).

I thought telling my story would enlighten people and help them understand how a plant-based diet is beneficial for everyone. However, in a majority of cases, people nod, smile and praise my discipline, but then I see them crushing a juicy steak soon after and continue maintaining their habits of an animal-based diet with hardly a blip on the radar.

I’m used to this by now, but it’s one of the most astonishing things to see how little my closest family members and friends change their dietary lifestyle after understanding my story. I do admit that my diet has impacted several family members and friends, but for the most part, nothing.

Why Am I Ignored

I always wonder why this is the case. Maybe it’s because people either 1) don’t understand T1D enough to let it really sink in; 2) are so programmed with an animal based diet that it seems unrealistic to seek healthier alternatives; 3) are fully aware of the adverse health effects from animal products but are totally fine living life with higher risk of disease, or even with diseases, and the greater likelihood of an earlier death because it’s just easier and tastes good or perhaps; 4) it’s really the notion of unless yourself or your wife/children are affected by a tragic disease, then there just isn’t time in people’s busy lives to make lifestyle changes.

Is Not Eating Animal Products Really the Answer?

Who knows…but my focal point with this blog is to address the fact that even I have started to question over the past few months whether a plant-based diet is truly that much healthier than an animal based diet.

After what I’ve experienced, it will be tough to  ever convince me that animal products are beneficial for my body. However, I hear people say things like humans were born with incisor teeth to eat animal flesh or humans were intended to be hunters and gatherers.

I will admit these are good points and I can understand why people think animal products are fine. I mean, many people have grandparents that lived into their 90s on an animal based diet (I had 3), so it’s not a cut and dry answer. Also, for every one plant-based nutritionist, there are probably 3 or 4 animal product based nutritionist, so I know I’m going against the grain.

Our Generation is Far Worse Off Than Previous Ones

I will say that I think people in my generation, and possibly one above, are in far worse shape than our grandparent’s generation. Just think of all the processed foods and fast food restaurants that have been created over the past 30 to 40 years. These were hardly around when our grandparents were growing up. Also, I’m hardly an animal rights activist, but I think it’s a plausible argument to make that slaughtering animals to over feed the human population is just as weird as eating a PBD diet.

Proof, for Me At Least…

The crowning fact that truly convinces me that animal products are bad news is the fact that they meaningfully raise my blood sugars. To explain, I have a disease that has the inability to process carbohydrates effectively. It’s really all about the carbs. So it’s obvious that if I eat white bread, my blood sugars will skyrocket.

However, shouldn’t eating chicken, steak or fish that have zero to minimal carbohydrates have a nominal effect on my blood sugars? A novice on T1D theory would think so. However, this is hardly the case. There is something in animal products that is bad news that is raising my blood sugars. And there is something that is good news in low glycemic vegetables, nuts and seeds that is lowering my blood sugars. This fact alone just shows there is something carcinogenic with animal products.

Forks Over Knives Refresher

Anyway, I digress…I thought a good way to refresh my memory on the benefits of the plant-based diet would be to watch the documentary Forks Over Knives again.

This documentary had a huge impact on my perspective about why my body is able to live medication free with a plant-based diet. I would suggest everyone watch this documentary as it has some great information that can make everyone live a healthier life. I thought it would be beneficial to put some quick facts that I learned after watching the documentary in this blog just to illustrate how profound the difference in health outcomes can be from choosing between a plant and animal based diet.

Heart Disease

Every minute in the U.S. someone dies of heart disease. Yes, every minute! This disease could essentially be eliminated from the human population if everyone ate a plant-based diet.

Eating a Plant-Based Diet is Extreme

Some people think that eating a plant-based diet is unrealistic and consider it extreme. Maybe they are right, but let’s say you have open heart surgery or stents put in your arteries. Some say that would be extreme.

Sugar Consumption

Sugar consumption in today’s society is absolutely out of control. This blog focuses on animal products, but sugar is destroying people’s health at arguably a greater rate. In 1912, the average person consumed 40 lbs of sugar per year and by 2012 this increase to nearly 130 lbs.

Genetic Cancers

It’s estimated that only 2 to 3% of cancer diagnoses are the result of genetics. The other 97 to 98% are the result of lifestyle factors (i.e. eating animal products, processed foods, sugar and not exercising).

Where Do I Get Protein in a Plant-Based Diet

I too was guilty of thinking this before I got T1D. If you ask 10 people what is the main reason humans eat meat, 9 will say it’s to get enough protein. Actually, you can get the same amount of protein from vegetables/nuts/seeds and other items like beans, and they are healthier forms of protein.

Vegan MMA Fighters

The documentary showed a successful mixed martial arts fighter that lives with a plant based diet. If a professional fighter can be vegan, then probably anyone can. There are also countless other professional athletes who competed at the highest level while on a vegan diet (Famous 10). I hope you like Mike Tyson.

Health Stats Pre and Post Plant Based Diet

A central part of the documentary centered around a gentleman who switched from a animal based / processed food / sugar filled diet to an organic plant-based diet. Here are his health stats before and after:

Weight 231 to 211

Blood Pressure 142/80 to 112/70

Resting Pulse 92 to 60

Total Cholesterol 241 to 154

LDL 157 to 80

Wow!

Finally the China Study

This essentially is to date the most detailed and thorough study between the consumption of animal products and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers, etc. The co-authors concluded that those who eat a whole-food, plant-based vegan diet-avoiding all animal products and reducing their intake of processed foods will escape, reduce or reverse the development of numerous diseases.

Conclusion

After my refresher with Forks Over Knives, I once again feel completely at ease about my decision to live a life that is centered around a plant-based diet.

I understand that most individuals in our society would rather eat an animal based diet and significantly increase their risk of disease and a shorter life span than switch to a plant-based diet. However, I hope my blog can continue to enlighten people about what the right dietary choices are and just how profoundly they can impact one’s health.

My Annual Endocrinologist Visit

Each June, I have my annual visit with my endocrinologist. For those who may not know, endocrinologists are the specialist doctors that diabetics typically go to once they are officially diagnosed with the disease.

I thought an interesting blog post would be to describe what my visits are like considering I’m a type 1 diabetic (“T1D”) living medication free for nearly 2.5 years. Obviously this is contrary to what most doctors understand, so this should be interesting, right?

My Personal Routine

I visit with my endocrinologist once per year, and it’s typically in June. Since I’m not on medication, there is no need to visit more frequently unless my fasting blood sugars or A1c readings start climbing to higher levels.

In August, November and February of each year, I only get an A1c test. This is the standard benchmark to test how well a diabetic is controlling their disease. So, for 1Q, 3Q and 4Q, I really only worry about my A1c.

In May of each year (2Q), I typically get my A1c test done along with several other T1D specific blood tests to measure the antibody levels in my body. Since I visit with my doctor in June, we are able to have a more comprehensive discussion about my current state, which is the reason for the extra tests in May.

Other than this annual visit, I really have no other interaction with the medical community in a given year. The annual visits are more of a formality at this point so I can stay registered as a T1D in order to get my testing strips to check my fasting blood sugar each morning.

My Most Recent A1c and Historical Fasting Blood Sugars

As promised in my earlier posts, I will continue to post my most updated A1c results and most recent fasting blood sugar charts each quarter.  As you can see below, my May 2016 A1c was 5.5, which was actually down from 5.6 in February 2016.

Historic Fasting Blood Sugar and A1c Readings Through June 2016

As a refresher, the general guidelines for A1c readings are A1c < 5.7 = non diabetic, A1c > 5.7 but < 6.5 = pre-diabetic and A1c > 6.5 = diabetic. So, according to my A1c, I’m classified as a non-diabetic.

My average fasting blood sugars over the past 30 and 90 days were 109 and 107, respectively. Now, I do fail this test, because non-diabetics have a fasting blood sugar < 100, pre-diabetics > 100 but < 125 and diabetics are > 125.

My Goal

My overall goal each quarter is to keep my A1c reading below 5.7 and have a trailing last 30 day average fasting blood sugar reading below 110. I could get my sugars lower if I really wanted, but that level of dietary strictness and discipline is something that even I find difficult to follow.

Yes, I am Confirmed as Type 1 Diabetic…Again

The other two tests I received were the IA-2 Autoantibody and the GAD-65 Autoantibody. My IA-2 came back at 4.2 and a T1D reading is anything above 1.0. My GAD-65 came back at 9.0 and anything too much greater than 0.0 is a reading of T1D.

I realize some people / doctors out there may think that I’m a Type 2 Diabetic or perhaps the mythical Type 1.5 / LADA diabetic. But these tests prove that I have an auto-immune disease, and I am indeed a T1D.

Progress with My Endocrinologist

I personally like my endocrinologist. He’s a nice guy, and I know that he wants the best for me. That said, he is still the typical medical professional that, from a disease management standpoint, is highly trained from a medication perspective, but nominally trained from a dietary perspective.

1st Visit – 2014 (6 Months Post Diagnosis)

My first visit back in 2014 was about 6 months after I was diagnosed. This was when I was still figuring out the disease. I was off medication, but my blood sugars were rising, and he gave me the typical dooms day scenario that medication was in my near future.

2nd Visit – 2015 (18 Months Post Diagnosis)

My second visit in 2015 was after I was off medication for nearly 1.5 years. This was after I implemented the mostly raw, plant-based diet that caused my blood sugars to rapidly drop. I explained to him in decent detail about the documentaries I watched and the teachings of Dr. Gabriel Cousins.

He was happy for me, but my general impression of our interactions were 1) he thought my diet was weird and unrealistic and 2) that this was only temporarily helping and my body would fail and require medication soon. He did not say any of this, but it was just the general vibe I got from our visit.

3rd Visit – 2016 (30 Months Post Diagnosis) – Now I Have Your Attention

Fast forward to June 2016 for our 3rd meeting. At this point, I felt like now I had his attention. We had our typical conversations, but this time he actually pulled up the internet in the room, and we briefly looked at Gabriel Cousins website together. He also jotted down the name Kirt Tyson, who was the first T1D that I identified that has been off medication for an extended period of time.

My doctor openly admitted that he does not have any other, nor knew of any other, T1D patients that have been able to avoid medication for the length of time that I have while still maintaining non-diabetic readings. To me, this was major progress.

Light Bulb Going Off

We both agreed that my diet is not realistic for most people, and that not all T1Ds could achieve my blood sugar levels with this diet. However, I could tell I was starting to change his thinking about the different strategies at managing this disease. He openly admits that there is still alot of unknowns about the disease, and people like me are perfect examples of that.

As I mentioned in other blog posts, I think a majority of doctors are truly out there to help people and give them the best advice possible. My grudge is with the medical schools and even the pharmaceutical companies and why they do not educate doctors about people like me.

Apparently Novo Nordisk is the largest manufacturer of insulin in the world. I bet their executives know all about people like me, however, what is their incentive to educate doctors on how diet can potentially allow thousands of T1Ds to live medication free? This would only decrease their profit.

Final Thoughts at my Appointment

We ended our meeting with a couple things. I first wanted to re-confirm that I am indeed a T1D, and he said yes with absolute certainty.

Potential Cures On the Horizon?

I then asked him whether there were any cures on the horizon for T1Ds. He’s been pretty consistent over the years on this one saying that strides are being made, but it’s most like 10-20 years away until we see something that could truly be considered a cure.

I’m really not overly concerned about a cure at this point because I don’t believe I would change my diet much if I was cured anyhow. However, my fasting blood sugars are definitely at levels that are adversely impacting my body, so I would like to find a way to get these down lower without me having to eat a 100% raw vegan diet.

We always part ways with him saying that he hopes we don’t see each other for another year, because that means I’m still off of medication and managing the disease well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s been a tough 2.5 years dealing with this disease, but I’ve settled into a groove with my diet. I’ve been able to put some weight back on, and I’ve started to enjoy a greater variety of healthy foods now that I understand my body better.

I realize my blood sugars aren’t perfect, but I believe they are better than most T1Ds managing the disease with medication. If I can keep my A1c below 5.7, I feel like that is a win in my book, and I’m content with my management of the disease.

In the News (New this Blog)

I also wanted to start something new with each blog by putting in any interesting articles I read over the course of the last month. This post is from CNN that talks about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shifting towards a mostly plant-based diet. He was educated by his trainers about how this diet can extend his career by making his body healthier and reducing inflammation.

He also notes that other QBs in the NFL follow a similar diet like Tom Brady. Kind of makes you think there is something to this diet if some of the wealthiest, top athletes in the world are shifting away from an animal based diet and towards a plant-based diet.

Aaron Rodgers Comments on Changes to Diet, Impact on His Health

Fighting Type 1 Diabetes Naturally – My Story

Hello everyone! This is my first blog. I am a 34 year guy from Pittsburgh with Type 1 diabetes. I wanted to use this first blog to provide a summary of my background and what my purpose is for blogging.  I anticipate doing a monthly blog around the 15th of every month. This blog runs a little long, but I thought it was necessary to try and tell my story with the first post.

My Blog Mission Statement

Create public awareness among Type 1 diabetics (“T1Ds”) that it is absolutely possible to manage their disease naturally without the use of any medication for an extended period of time while still maintaining a healthy quality of life.

My Story

Nearly two years ago in January of 2014, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I had a fasting blood sugar of 300 and an A1c of 8.4. As a reference, a non-diabetic has a fasting blood sugar below 100 and an A1c below 6.0.

My father is a Type 1 diabetic and was diagnosed in his late 20’s with the disease, so it certainly runs in the family. I had always gotten an A1c test (standard test in diabetic world) semi-annually since I was 22 because of my family history with the disease.

Over the years, my readings were hovering around the 6.0 mark, which some doctors would call this pre-diabetes. However, my doctor wasn’t pushing the panic button so I wasn’t overly concerned.

The Initial Shock

When I was diagnosed, it was difficult news to grasp. It’s depressing when a doctor tells you that you now have a chronic disease for the rest of your life and you will undoubtedly have to start taking multiple insulin injections on daily basis just to survive. On the bright side, there are much worse diseases to get. Also, I was very fortunate I didn’t live during the early 1900s before insulin was introduced. Back then Type 1 diabetes was essentially a death sentence. It was a total life changer though. Imagine what it’s like one day to wake up and now have to worry about everything you put into your body, especially when I was completely uneducated about the glycemic index at the time.

During my first couple months following diagnosis, I had many doctor appointments. Ultimately, each and every doctor gave me a doom’s day scenario telling me as a TID, I’ll have a short “Honeymoon” period (6 to 15 months) where my pancreas will still work, but this eventually fades over time and I’ll then have to start on insulin injections.

No doctor told me of any type of possibility to live medication free for an extended period of time.

In fact, the initial doctors I went to literally tried to put me on medication immediately…totally ridiculous.

Every time a doctor, or anyone for that matter, told me insulin was in my near future, it just fueled my desire to stay off meds and prove them wrong. Just the thought of having to give myself 4/5/6 shots a day made me cringe. Not to mention having to prick my finger 4/5/6 times a day to test my blood sugar. Sound pretty annoying, right? Also, you now have to worry about low blood sugar if you inject too much insulin in your body (risk of diabetic comas – bad stuff!).

Meeting The Nutritionist

Following those doctor visits, my brother-in-law recommended a nutritionist that helps with diabetic diets. In fact, my brother-in-law told me that this nutritionist had worked with T1Ds that have been off medication for years. I’m talking 10+ years and no meds. This was the glimmer of hope I was looking for!

I was diagnosed in early January 2014, and I started doing sessions with this nutritionist later that month. It was probably a 2-3 month process with the nutritionist, but following his diet had dramatically reduced my fasting blood sugars. His sessions did give me hope that somehow/someway, there were other T1Ds out there managing this disease 100% through diet and exercise, and I was focused on figuring out the tricks.

Initial Diet

As for the initial diet (Jan 2014-Oct 2014). I pretty much cut out all sugars/sweets, breads, soda, etc. I was still eating what I would call an “animal based” diet, but I cut out the carb heavy things like bread, cereal, pasta and things of that sort. I was able to bring back down my blood sugars and achieve A1c readings of that of a non-diabetic person. I became more comfortable with my body and diet, and I began only testing my blood sugars once per day first thing in the morning (fasting blood sugar). As long as these readings were within a certain range (90-115), I didn’t even think about medication. My endocrinologist told me that when my fasting blood sugar gets above 140 for 3 straight days, then I need to start using insulin, so I began using this as my basis. Things were going great from February 2014 through September 2014, but I noticed my blood sugars were gradually creeping up. My fasting blood sugars started getting around 120 to 140 with some consistency and I started to think insulin was in my near future.

Intense Research

In October 2014, I started doing some heavy research to try and find some alternatives. I started reading sites about how a mostly raw vegan diet has “cured” T1Ds in certain cases. I’m a guy from Pittsburgh that has been eating dairy, chicken, beef, fish my entire life. I don’t think I even knew what a vegan was at the time when I initially started reading about this. I’m going to elaborate further in later blogs on my resources and food choices, but I ended up adopting a raw vegan diet for 2 weeks in early November 2014.

The results were astonishing. Over the course of these two weeks, my average fasting blood sugar dropped to 99. As a reference, my average fasting blood sugar the 30 days prior to me starting the raw vegan diet was 117.

Fasting Blood Sugar Chart.

Benefits From Proper Diet

Over the next 2-3 months, I did a tremendous amount of research on the positive benefits that a raw vegan diet can have not only on diabetics (Type 1 and 2), but on all people. I am now writing this in December 2015, and I’ve been completely off medication for nearly 2 full years (9 months longer than any doctor gave me a chance for).

My blood sugars aren’t perfect, but they are within a range I’m comfortable with. My average fasting blood sugar over the past 30 days has been 107, and my last three A1c tests have been at 5.6 (non-diabetic readings). I now eat a plant-based diet, with ~85% of what I eat being low glycemic vegetables, nuts and seeds (mostly uncooked), and I try to minimize consumption of all animal products (chicken, beef, fish, dairy).

I can say with confidence that it’s almost like I don’t even have the disease to a certain extent.

The Future

I anticipate writing a blog once a month to continue telling my story. I want to be a resource for other T1Ds out there so you too can try to stay off medication and combat this disease naturally. I only wish I could have found a resource like this early in my diagnosis to give me more hope and guidance. I won’t lie though, you have to be extremely disciplined and motivated with your diet/exercise routine to stay off meds as a T1D…there’s not much wiggle room.

If I can help just one person from this blog, then it’s worth it for me. Stayed tuned for my next post in January 2016, and please spread the word if you know other T1Ds out there that could benefit from this post. Also, please contact me with any questions/comments you have. After all, this is the reason I’m doing this!

Thanks – Matt