Can we always take away a diagnosis by simply changing our diet? No. But so often making important dietary and lifestyle changes makes a great deal of difference in our quality of life and in controlling disease and metabolic disorders. Today Andrea shares an inspiring story on how real food made a big difference in their lives – especially in her son with type 1 diabetes. — Kimi
By Andrea, from It Takes Time
With no family history of type 1 diabetes, we were shocked when our seven-year-old son Colin was diagnosed in July of 2007. His diagnosis came six weeks after we discovered toxic mold in our home, which would prove pivotal in the months ahead, but our focus was on managing what seemed to be an unmanageable disease. (Read our toxic mold saga here.)
At the time of diagnosis we were living the typical American lifestyle. The pantry was full of boxed foods and over-the-counter medications. We ate fast food several times a week. When the hospital staff assured us that nothing needed to change for Colin in terms of his diet, we breathed a sigh of relief.
The key to managing his disease, according to the doctor, was to count his carbs and cover them with insulin.
The directive seemed simple enough. I gravitated even more to processed foods. Juice boxes and Doritos had the carb content clearly stated. Lunchables were a huge draw.
What I didn’t know at the time was that food producers are permitted a margin of error of 20 percent up or down when it comes to their nutrition labels. When trying to count carbs and dose accordingly, we were playing a virtual guessing game—especially when dealing with high-carb foods.
Despite our best efforts, Colin’s health spiraled downward in the year following his diagnosis. Migraines and abdominal pain escalated. His A1C (average blood sugar) continued to rise. Simultaneously, the health of our entire familiar deteriorated. We found ourselves constantly in the emergency room. By the winter of 2008 all four of our younger children were debilitated and unable to function, and I was quickly declining.
In May of 2008 we found mold again and made the connection between the toxicity of our home and our serious health issues. We vacated the home and started over. It became clear we would need to alter our entire lifestyle, including our diet.
We relocated to the desert, found farmers markets, and embraced a diet of real food (food that is unadulterated). I began to think differently about Colin’s diabetes.
I focused on nutrient-dense food rather than carb counting. I read everything I could about health and food. After beginning the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet in August 2010, Colin’s insulin needs decreased dramatically. His abdominal pain vanished and his overall health improved. As we added more foods back into our diet, we stayed away from anything processed.
To this day Colin eats real food and truly enjoys it! (Read Colin’s Real Food Journey here.)
Of course, carb counting is still necessary, but with a real-food approach, Colin can enjoy a salad, raw-milk cheese, and nitrate-free bacon with minimal impact to his blood sugar. We follow the recommended “Law of Small Numbers” approach outlined in Dr. Richard Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution book. As one who has survived for almost 70 years with type 1 diabetes, Dr. Bernstein abides by the principle that “big inputs make big mistakes; small inputs make small mistakes.” Keeping carb consumption low, Dr. Bernstein says, minimizes the risk of fluctuations in blood sugar which can lead to complications down the road.
Much has changed for us since Colin was diagnosed in 2007. This devastating disease no longer defines us. Colin is 15, works out at the gym three times a week, and is enrolled in the local online high school program. Managing his type 1 diabetes remains a challenge, but neither Colin nor I would trade the lessons learned or the discovery of the joy of real food.
Andrea is a former journalist and the mother of nine children ranging in age from 30 to 13. Certified in the field of Building Biology, Andrea has a passion to help others live healthy in a toxic world. Andrea is founder and president of momsAWARE, an educational organization dedicated to raise awareness about the connection between environment and health. She blogs at It Takes Time and is the owner of Just So Natural Products.