#4: The Paleo Diet

In the previous post, I described three strategies I tried to improve my blood glucose (BG) control and decrease the frequency of hypoglycemia. These included carbohydrate counting, use of insulin analogs, and exercise. Carbohydrate counting was not helpful, the change to insulin analogs (Humalog and Lantus insulins) was helpful, and exercise improved my insulin sensitivity, decreased insulin doses, but the sugar I consumed along with it caused more hyperglycemia. In this post, I’ll detail The Paleo Diet and the effect it had on my BG and insulin doses.

The Paleo Diet

I will briefly list the highlights of The Paleo Diet (TPH) as conceived by S. Boyd Eaton, M.D. and Melvin Konner, Ph.D. and popularized by Loren Cordain, PhD. The concept originates from trying to replicate the diet of our ancient ancestors prior to the beginnings of agriculture (the paleolithic period, thus the name Paleo Diet) about 10,000 years ago. Dr. Cordain researched this extensively and made his best approximation. Of course, since people were living in vastly different areas on earth, the foods they ate varied extensively. So the first thing to understand is that TPD is not really one diet. It is mainly a list of foods that humans could not possibly have eaten (e.g., refined sugar, refined grains, vegetable (seed) oils) because the technology to produce them just did not exist. This aspect of TPD is really unchallengeable and in my opinion is the most important. After that, Dr. Cordain, states that it would not be possible to obtain milk from wild animals and points out features of dairy products that produce intolerances (e.g., lactose intolerance, and others) thus dairy products are to be eliminated. I found some data to suggest, but not definitely prove, that including cow’s milk and either gluten or non-gluten containing cereals in infant’s diets may lead to the development of T1D. Dr. Cordain also eliminates legumes based on certain anti-nutrients and some other foods which I won’t go into in this discussion. He also rightly points out that many if not almost all of the foods we eat have been significantly genetically altered by either crossbreeding or direct genetic modification (GMOs) to enhance whatever characteristics were felt to be favorable at the time. This makes fruit, for example,  larger and sweeter than in ancient times. I’ll stop here and let those wishing to learn more about TPD get it directly from the source, The Paleo Diet. I would conclude this section by saying that learning how food affects your health is important, but to be careful about taking every exact detail too literally. Humans are quite diverse in how they respond to foods and whereas some may do just fine with a particular food or group of foods, others may be deathly intolerant of it. (e.g. peanut allergy causing anaphylactic shock. Peanuts are legumes by the way).

The Effects of The Paleo Diet on My BG and Insulin Doses

The table below summarizes the effects of TPD on my BG and insulin doses over a 5 week period from January 1, 2012 to February 8, 2012. I followed TPD as prescribed, while understanding that the macronutrient distribution is not exactly enumerated. I do recall increasing my fruit intake to replace some of the caloric void created by eliminating grains and dairy. I never consumed vegetable oils in the first place. So my diet was eaten at home, cooked by me, meat, fish, non-starchy vegetables, and fresh raw fruit (not necessary naturally low in sugar). From the table below, you can see my mean BG improved slightly from 152 to 145 mg/dl and the percentage of what I call acceptable BG values (between 51 and 120 mg/dl) increased from 36 to 45%. Remember, I was still consuming sugary sports products as needed to prevent hypoglycemia while exercising. The mean total daily insulin dose decreased from 52.2 to 38.2 IU/day. The majority of that decrease was due to a reduction in mealtime insulin from 28.9 to 16.0 IU/day. SAD Diet means Standard American Diet. That’s not a very good description, My Baseline Diet would probably be a better term. I understand that some may not consider a BG of 51 mg/dl to be “acceptable” and would call that hypoglycemia, but I will be doing an entire post on hypoglycemia in the near future and it will be clear why I used this cutoff point.

Keith Runyan, MD Results 2007-Paleo


Many people find numerous health improvements when adopting TPD. In my case, I was not having any medical problems other than T1D. I did not notice feeling any better or worse after starting TPD.

While giving TPD a try, I continued reading and listening to podcasts. And although I was pleased with the reductions in BG and insulin requirements, I continued to have symptomatic hypoglycemic episodes about 2-5 times/week. I came across another podcast by Jimmy Moore of the Livin La Vida Low Carb Show in which he interviewed Richard K. Bernstein, MD on June 22, 2009. I was very intrigued since he stated that as an engineer he determined by trial and error that carbohydrates had the greatest influence on his BG and simply eliminated most of them from his diet. After one year, he essentially normalized his BG and over the next few years he was able to reverse multiple serious diabetic complications including cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy. I’ll let you hear his story directly from him as I found it to be very inspiring! I bought his book and followed his protocol. I had to make some minor modifications to suit my lifestyle and exercise goals which I’ll mention in future posts. In the next blog post, I’ll talk about the low carbohydrate diet and the further improvements I experienced as a result.