The Plant-Based Diet and Diabetes
On my 49th birthday (02/22/18), I had blood work drawn in anticipation of a doctor’s visit the following day. Around December, I noticed that I was having continuous heart flutters, severe insomnia, extreme thirst, urinating about every hour, not being able to mentally focus, and fatigue and low energy levels. I could take a nap during the day and still never got “rested”. My intent was to get to the doctor to at least beg for some Ambien to help with the sleep issue.
The following day, I met with the nurse practitioner in my doctor’s office; she listened patiently to my complaints, then she replied that my symptoms were part of a more severe problem — Type II Diabetes, adult onset. I didn’t freak out on the spot, but I felt like I had been given a death sentence. My wife sat in a chair in the room and as the nurse and assistant walked out of the room, my wife looked me in the eye and said, “We’re going to get through this.” The NP came back in the room and told me she was going to prescribe Lipitor (atorvistatin) for high triglycerides/cholesterol, Glucophage (metformin) for high blood glucose, some Ambien (zolpidem) for sleep, and Lisinopril for borderline high blood pressure.
My lab work that day showed the following highlights:
- Glucose →301 mg/dL
- Triglycerides →2,500 (normal high is around 200)
I explained to the NP that I did not do fasting lab work, so they checked my blood sugar with a “finger stick” device and my fasting glucose that mid-morning was 286 mg/dL. Diabetes confirmed.
After I left the doctor’s office with a basic two-page print-out of how I need to prepare my meals, a handful of scripts, and finger-stick (glucometer) device, I drove to a nearby lab where they tested my Hemoglobin A1c (long-term diabetes indicator). The results came back the next day as:
*11.0 (5.5 and lower is normal, 5.7 is considered pre-diabetic).
I called my father a couple of days later to let him know. He had had his first heart attack at the age of 52, and was then diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He said he passed on some bad genes to me and my brothers. I was staring these potential long-term diabetic complications in the face and was heading for the same heart attack and cardiovascular problems that my dad had faced when he was around my age.
The following week, a friend of my wife suggested we watch a documentary titled “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix. He then asked if I would be willing to see a health care professional who worked with their patients on a ‘whole food plant based’ diet.
After watching the documentary and seeing some of the choices I had been making all of my life in regards to diet and lack of exercise and how that had affected my well-being, I searched for “whole food plant based doctor” and got results near the area where I am currently working in Colorado. I made an appointment and within two weeks, my wife and I were sitting in front of a natural health doctor going over my labs and lifestyle. She said she could get me back on track and that it was very possible I could get off of my medications completely. I was absolutely shocked and stunned to hear those words, but I bought into the program wholeheartedly.
By the end of the week, we had visited a Whole Foods Market in the area, worked our way through the shopping list, and started on a vegan diet.
It took me a month to figure out how to shop for the right foods; it took another month to learn how to cook and prepare meals properly. We stopped using oils in cooking, completely got off of dairy products and meat, and quit eating eggs. All the while, this new doctor was drawing lab work about every two weeks. And we watched as my daily average glucose levels began to drop. My HbA1c began to lower. My triglycerides and cholesterol came down drastically.
RESULTS — Since March 14, 2018 to present, my results are as follows:
- HbA1c →currently at 5.5 (non-diabetic range)
- Triglycerides →currently at 170
- Cholesterol → currently at 150
- Avg. Daily Glucose → 130 mg/dL (down from avg. of 215 mg/dL when I first started)
- Completely went off all medications middle of May 2018.
- Dropped 35 lbs.
- Went from 42 waist size to currently 34. From XXL shirts to Large (and some mediums).
- More energy, better sleep, better mental focus, blurry vision not as worse as it was and better, better stamina. I feel as good now as I did in my early 30’s. People told me I would feel better than I have in years — and they were right!
- Walking for exercise daily.
Every person’s body is different and acts differently on different diets. I know some diabetics who take medication and are on a ketogenic diet or paleo type diet and it works for them. It’s important to know what will work for your own body type. For instance, I can now eat whole grain foods (unprocessed grains), but I am still sensitive to things such as steel cut oats. I have to watch the carbs still but I have not had to count carbs or calories the whole time I’ve been on this diet. Yes, I eat tons of vegetables, cooked and raw, along with raw fruits. On occasion, I will throw a couple of teaspoons of coconut or palm sugar in a cup of coffee with almond milk creamer and enjoy it for “old times sake”.
If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, heck, even if you have a family history of diabetes and haven’t been concerned about your diet for the past 10–20 years, I want to encourage you to look into this for your health. If you have no predisposition for cardiovascular disease or diabetes, I cannot even imagine how great going vegan could make you feel!!!
So, check out “Forks Over Knives”, available on Netflix and iOS through iTunes. Forks Over Knives has their own website and tons of materials, books, recipes, etc. to help you get started. I also subscribe to Engine 2 which has some great resources on changing your diet and lifestyle to enhance your quality of life.
Take a chance to make a change that will improve your life dramatically!
If you have any questions that I can answer, fire your question to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a reply, and I’ll get back to you.