This is a monthly update on my glycemic management of type 1 diabetes (T1DM) using Humalog and Lantus insulin injections with resistance exercise and a ketogenic whole-food diet as described in my book, The Ketogenic Diet for Type 1 Diabetes also available on Amazon in print. My other book, Conquer Type 2 Diabetes with a Ketogenic Diet, is also available on Amazon in print.
Although glycemic management in T1DM will always be challenging, the low carbohydrate ketogenic whole-food diet definitely improves it and just as importantly reduces insulin requirements and can reduce the frequency of symptomatic hypoglycemia. Many of the diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many more) associated with T2DM and “double diabetes” as part of T1DM are due to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. The low carbohydrate ketogenic whole-food diet directly improves both insulin resistance and endogenous hyperinsulinemia in T2DM and exogenous insulin requirements in T1DM (i.e. reduced insulin doses).
In February, I was able to increase the dose of metformin to 500 mg four times daily. I am tolerating it without any side effects. As you may know metformin is the first-line medication for T2DM, but can also be useful for those with T1DM. Metformin acts on the liver to reduce glucose production by suppressing both glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis. This is particularly useful for those with T1DM on a low carbohydrate diet, because the reduction in dietary carbohydrate reduces the insulin requirements and the reduction in insulin elevates glucagon levels reaching the liver from the alpha cells in the pancreas. It is glucagon that stimulates both glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis. In addition, metformin stimulates muscle uptake of glucose independent of insulin. Hopefully over time, I will be able to determine if taking metformin either reduces my blood glucose (BG), insulin requirements, or both.
For the past several months I have detailed my treatment plan for my presumed left shoulder rotator cuff injury. Although it seems to be slow to recover, it has improved significantly. I continue doing snatch overhead, front, and back squats, snatch, clean & jerk, and deadlifts. In February, I continued once daily weightlifting workouts with two compound exercises per day and added a third exercise specifically to strengthen my shoulders. I have previously discussed the change in BG with exercise. I still experience a significant, but variable, rise in BG during weightlifting. This rise in BG requires a correction dose of rapid-acting insulin (Humalog). This past month I added a small post-workout (lunch) meal of meat (1/4 lb.) after my workouts to increase my protein intake to 1.6 grams/kg/day which may promote some additional muscle growth. According to research done by Stuart Phillips, PhD and others, as one ages a “resistance” to building muscle develops which can be overcome somewhat by resistance exercise and increasing dietary protein intake to least 0.4 grams/kg/meal and 1.6 grams/kg/day.
Glycemic Management Results for February 2018
My February glycemic results were similar to previous time periods with more spikes in BG (hyperglycemia) and hypoglycemia than I would have liked. I had more hypoglycemia this month that required steady reductions in insulin doses. My total daily insulin dose decreased from 41 to 31.5 IU/day during the month of February. I had one episode of symptomatic hypoglycemia on Feb. 16, 2018. The only symptom was sweating for which I took 8 grams of glucose (2 glucose tablets). My post-treatment BG was 83 mg/dl and it was 137 mg/dl the following morning.
Below are my mean BG values, mean insulin doses, and BG frequency distribution for February 2018 compared to previous time periods. I have changed two columns to indicate the AUC mean BG and predicted HbA1c. AUC mean BG is the mean BG by calculating the area under the curve (AUC) of BG versus time. The predicted HbA1c uses the formula: AUC mean BG plus 88.55 divided 33.298. This formula is the least squares fit using my own personal mean BG versus measured HbA1c over many years. My particular HbA1c values are higher than many other individuals with the same mean BG. This is referred to as being a “high glycator.”
As discussed previously, exogenous insulin cannot mimic normal insulin secretion, so persons with T1DM should not expect to have truly normal BG values at all times. They just need to be low enough to prevent long-term complications and not so low as to cause unpleasant hypoglycemic symptoms or less common, yet more dangerous, consequences including brain damage, seizure, injury, coma, or death. I have set my target BG range at 61-110 mg/dl because values in this range are not likely to lead to harm or complications of T1DM. Your target BG range should be determined with your physician because one size does not fit all. Normal BG is 96 ± 12 mg/dl (mean ± standard deviation (SD)) and coefficient of variation is 13% which is the weighted mean from two studies of continuous glucose monitoring in healthy subjects. The standard deviation and coefficient of variation are measures of BG variability which I believe are important in T1DM. Clinical outcomes in T1DM (i.e. microvascular and macrovascular complications) have only been documented to correlate with measures of mean BG, particularly HbA1c. This does not mean that BG variability is not important, but it just has not been documented to correlate with outcomes and complications of T1DM. Achieving a normal standard deviation or coefficient of variation in T1DM would be difficult, if not impossible, with current exogenous insulin therapy (injected or pumped). Monitoring the standard deviation and/or coefficient of variation and finding ways to improve them to the best of one’s ability is desirable in my opinion. Following a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is one such method of reducing BG variability, mean BG, insulin doses, and hypoglycemia. A ketogenic diet may also provide an alternate/additional brain fuel in the form of ketones to protect the brain when BG does go low. The alternative energy that ketones supply to the brain may prevent or blunt the sympathoadrenal response to hypoglycemia which in turn reduces or eliminates the symptoms of and harm from hypoglycemia. This hypothesis needs to be tested before it can be stated as fact. Having mild asymptomatic hypoglycemia adapts the brain to lower BG and reduces the symptoms of mild hypoglycemia and potentially the harm from hypoglycemia due to lack of activation of the sympathetic nervous system by reducing sympathoadrenal-induced fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
Below are my BG readings along with the Humalog (rapid-acting insulin) doses in February 2018. I adjust the breakfast (blue circles), post-workout lunch (black circles), and dinner (purple circles) meal-time doses based on the pre-meal BG reading and take extra correction Humalog doses (red circles) for high BG readings as needed. I continued my previous pattern of high BG readings after weightlifting (at 2 PM) although was less frequent. This is primarily controlled by the basal insulin (Lantus) dose taken at dinnertime but that dose is determined by the fasting BG reading and thus cannot be adjusted to optimize BG at all times of day. In those with T1DM the basal insulin dose may be enough to compensate for the increase in BG with intense exercise, but may also require a rapid-acting insulin dose to lower a high post-exercise BG.
The table below shows the BG variability results for current and previous time periods. The percentiles (10th, 25th, 75th, 90th) on the right show the spread of the BG readings about the median. The interquartile range, the difference between the 75th and 25th percentiles, is a measure of BG variability. In the middle of the table are the %Time in three BG ranges: %Time BG < 61 mg/dl (hypo) and the mean BG during that time, then %Time BG 61-110 mg/dl (target) and the mean BG during that time, and %Time BG > 110 mg/dl (hyper) and the mean BG during that time. Both the %Time with hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia are probably overestimates because they do not account for the corrections with glucose tablets (for hypoglycemia) or rapid-acting insulin (Humalog) (for hyperglycemia). Measuring my BG more frequently or using a CGM would likely result in a more accurate estimate.
The daily insulin dose totals and BG readings for February 2018 are shown in the graphs below. You can see a steady decrease in total daily insulin dose during the month to address hypoglycemia.
The daily insulin dose totals for 2018 are shown in the graph below. You can see a steady reduction in insulin doses since the peak at the beginning of January 2018. The measures I have taken to reduce this variation in insulin dose has included keeping meals and exercise constant and have added metformin to suppress liver glucose production. Specifically, I try to keep all meals constant in terms of portion size, macronutrient composition and timing of my meals. In addition, I try to keep exercise constant including frequency (daily), type (the type of weightlifting exercises, mainly compound movements), intensity (gradually increasing weight over time as tolerated), and volume (repetitions). I have tolerated a metformin dose of 500 mg four times a day since Feb. 15, 2018 which I think is high enough to understand if it will have any beneficial effects.
The graph below is a new illustration of the distribution of BG values in the ranges indicated at various times of day. This could be useful to point out problems (hypoglycemia and/or hyperglycemia) at different times of day.
The graph below is also new and illustrates the percentage of time spent in three BG ranges for each day of the month of February. The numeric percentage is shown for the % of time BG was between 61 and 110 mg/dl.
In March, I will continue olympic weightlifting every day with two compound exercises and one isolated shoulder exercise per day. I will also continue metformin 500 mg four times daily.
My Thoughts About Management of Type 1 Diabetes With A Ketogenic Diet
My goal of glycemic management in T1DM with a ketogenic diet is to keep BG as close to normal i.e. 96 ± 12 mg/dl (mean ± SD) as is safely possible (i.e. avoiding hypoglycemia) to avoid diabetic complications, a reduction in lifespan, and unpleasant symptoms of as well as injury and death from hypoglycemia. For me, a well-formulated whole-food nutrient-dense ketogenic diet, daily exercise, frequent BG measurements, and lower insulin-analog doses (Humalog/Lantus) have improved my glycemic control, hypoglycemic reactions, and quality of life. My basic diet philosophy is to avoid processed foods especially those containing refined carbohydrates, sugar, and vegetable (seed) oils while enjoying whole foods (with just one ingredient) as close to their original state as possible. I think just knowing the guidelines in this paragraph would be a good start for those wanting to improve their diet. To treat diabetes, the additional step is to eliminate all foods with significant amounts of carbohydrate to keep the net carbohydrate total < 50 grams/day. Some may do better with < 30 grams/day, while others who exercise a lot may do well with < 100 grams/day.
My current version of ketogenic diet is as follows:
What I Cook & Eat
- Beef, grass-fed, including meat (85% lean), heart, liver, and kidney (liverwurst)
- Fish, mainly wild Alaskan salmon
- Canadian bacon (uncured pork loin)
- Lamb occasionally
- Chicken & Turkey occasionally
- Chicken Eggs
- Non-starchy vegetables (about 5% carbohydrate content by weight) including Cabbage (Red, Green, Napa), Kale, Collard Greens, Leeks, Onions, Home-made Sauerkraut from Red Cabbage, Bok-Choy, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Cucumber, Lettuce (Iceberg & Romaine), and some others.
- Fruit – Avocado, Tomatoes, Olives, lemon juice on fish and salads
- Root Vegetable: Raw Carrots
- Nuts & Seeds – Pepitas, Macadamia, Brazil, Pecan, Walnut, Pistachio, Cashew.
- MCT oil – a few tablespoons on salads or cooked vegetables till current supply is finished.
- Note: I developed an intolerance to milk prior to my diagnosis of T1D. I did try heavy whipping cream after starting my KLCHF diet, but am also intolerant of it. I do tolerate butter, but wanted to decrease my fat intake, so eliminated all dairy including cheese and yogurt.
What I Drink
Water (filtered by reverse osmosis), Unsweetened Tea & Coffee
What I Don’t Eat
- Grains – Wheat, Corn, Rice, Oats (there are many more) or anything made from them, which is too numerous to list here. Gluten is a protein present in a number of grains (all varieties of wheat including spelt, kamut, and triticale as well as barley and rye.) which can cause a number of medical problems for a significant portion of the population with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. In my case, I avoid them due to their carbohydrate content.
- Starchy and most root vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
- Legumes – peas, beans, lentils, peanuts, soybeans
- High sugar fruits – includes most fruits except berries, see above.
- Sugar and the fifty other names used to disguise sugar.
- Vegetable Oils – Canola, Corn, Soybean, Peanut, Sunflower, Safflower, Cottonseed, Grape seed, Margarine & Butter substitutes, Shortening.
- All Processed Foods.
- I avoid restaurants except when traveling, and then order fish or steak with plain steamed non-starchy vegetables (no gravy or sauces that typically contain sugar, cornstarch, or flour) or salad.
- Refined, but healthy, fats – Although there is nothing bad about including butter, coconut & olive oil in a ketogenic diet, I have eliminated refined fats (except a small amount of MCT oil until my current supply runs out) from my diet to improve my body composition.
What I Don’t Drink
- Colas (both sweetened and artificially sweetened).
- Fruit Juice except small amounts of lemon juice occasionally.
- Alcohol (can cause hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia in persons with diabetes).
- No artificial sweeteners, don’t want or like them.
My exercise regimen often results in post-exercise hyperglycemia which is a normal response to intense exercise. However due to having T1DM, my body is unable to correct this without taking exogenous rapid-acting insulin (Humalog) which negatively affects my glycemic control. I’m sure I could find an exercise that has less impact on glycemia, but I enjoy weightlifting and feel it has health-span and life-span extending benefits which may compensate for the temporary increase in BG during/after exercise. Hopefully my BG values and variability as well as the relatively lower insulin doses that result from my ketogenic diet, exercise, and hopefully metformin (yet to be determined) are close enough to optimal to avoid any reduction in lifespan, diabetic complications, and harm from hypoglycemia, but only time will tell.
Efficacy and safety of metformin for patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis – here
A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults – here
Continuous Glucose Profiles in Healthy Subjects under Everyday Life Conditions and after Different Meals – here