“Overall, I Now Have a Completely New Life”

P-O Heidling

P-O Heidling

P-O Heidling from Linköping, Sweden, has had type 1 diabetes since childhood. Despite being a “very good” patient, his blood sugar levels increased with the years. He was tired constantly and many more health problems started to sneak up on him.

He emailed me about what happened when he – despite resistance from health care professionals – started eating LCHF about five years ago.

Here’s his story:

The Email Translated from Swedish

I want to share my success story. I feel that there are too few success stories about people with type 1 diabetes.

My diabetes debuted when I was 10 and so this is something I’ve had for almost 35 years. Around 6–7 years ago I began to worry about my health. I suffered from minor ailments that never seemed to end. Taken separately none of these were that serious, but I felt that my sick episodes were becoming longer than my healthy episodes; one episode of dry cough – one week of “well” – followed by two weeks of having a cold – a few days of “well” – followed by an enormous fatigue etc.

When it comes to my diabetes, I’ve always been a very good patient. Super strict with diet and testing, all according to the recommendations from health-care professionals. My blood work results were relatively good for the first 15 years, which I think is because  at the time I was very active in sports, and I was still growing. After university, when I started working, I became more sedentary and soon my HbA1c gradually increased. In the late 90’s the numbers were between 9–10 % (73 and 83), but with some focussed efforts I succeeded in keeping my numbers between 8–9 % (63 and 73) during most of the 00’s. Diabetics are advised to keep levels between 7–8 % (52 and 63) so my levels weren’t extremely high, but still a bit too high, over a period of 15 years. Numbers within parenthesis are according to the new IFCC standard, mmol/l.

Eye exams began to show “minor changes”, i.e. no changes that demanded any action there and then, but I found them worrisome.

At this point I started to monitor my blood sugar very frequently. During my testing periods I tested hourly for two weeks, the only exception being night time. I wrote down what I ate with every meal. My thought was to try to understand why my blood sugar wasn’t regulated with all the insulin that I was taking. This has resulted in thousands of blood sugar readings saved from many years back. An ordinary day could look like this:

  • Breakfast (low-fat yogurt with muesli, 2 sandwiches), about 16 units of insulin
  • Snack (2 slices of crisp-bread with Swedish caviar and a cup of tea)
  • Lunch (“working lunch” at a nearby restaurant, 14 units of insulin
  • Snack (1 slice of crisp-bread with cream cheese and a cup of tea)
  • Dinner (following “my plate” and the dietitian’s recommendation), 16 units of insulin
  • Evening sandwich (2 sandwiches with cheese or ham and a glass of milk)
  • Basal insulin, 30 units per day
  • Sometimes another sandwich before going to bed if I had exercised in the evening, which made me feel a little “sugar low”

This is what my numbers looked like on two typical days in April 2006. Many years ago, I set an upper and lower limit of 9 and 4 %, and the goal was to keep as many readings as possible within this range. In those days this was difficult.

2006Apr

The last years before LCHF, food was a big problem. I was often hungry, but didn’t think the food tasted good. I couldn’t name one single favorite dish, because I had none. It’s actually a terrible curse that I don’t wish upon anyone – craving food, but feeling no joy when eating. Beef tenderloin or plain sausages, it was all the same in my mouth. My own interpretation is that this was my body’s way of telling me to “stop eating all this food, I don’t want it”.

In the fall of 2009 I had to remove an infected wisdom tooth. After the surgery I was prescribed “liquid and light foods” for six weeks so that “the jaw wouldn’t break” (doctor’s words). “What was I to eat then?”, I thought, with all my sandwiches?

I had to radically reduce my insulin doses to avoid my blood sugar going too low. To my big surprise I wasn’t hungry during the day, despite the fact that I ate less. I started to lower several doses and got the same effect, i.e. I ate less, but wasn’t hungry in the same way as before. Before, high insulin doses probably “chemically” convinced my body that I was hungry, which it wasn’t. To me this was an eye opener. I then decided that the goal should be to keep insulin levels as low as possible and adjust food intake accordingly, and not the other way around, which had been the case during all of my previous years of diabetes.

In December 2009 I heard about LCHF from a friend, and after having read up on information at Diet Doctor and Annika Dahlqvist’s blog, I started to eat a strict LCHF diet in January 2010. In April the same year I went in for a routine check-up. My HbA1c number was then at 6.7 %. For the first time in almost 10 years it was within the recommended range. Since then I’ve never had a number “too high” at any of my check-ups.

My diabetes office hasn’t been very supportive during this time. There has been talk about the dangers of saturated fats, statins for the “dangerously high” cholesterol levels, “nobody knows what happens in the long run” etc. I’ve always had to argue back, and by being informed about the latest research that is available at the Diet Doctor’s blog and other blogs, I’ve been able to insist. As my HbA1c is always fine now they don’t have anything to complain about, so my feeling is that they’re letting me be.

What has surprised me the most is that if I were a physician/nurse with a patient that had presented with somewhat elevated levels for 10–15 years, and suddenly discovered that levels were now normal at all check-ups; shouldn’t I then be a little curious and ask “What has happened? What have you done?” Nobody has asked me this. The levels are good, therefore I’m not an interesting case. From all my own readings, all they want to see is often just the levels from “the two last weeks”. This is what they’ve said for 35 years. Looking at series of numbers after breakfast, comparing them to numbers from 2–3 years ago, looking at confidence intervals for numbers between specific hours etc., which is very informative and fairly easy to produce in Excel, has never been interesting to any of my doctors.

Today, a typical day looks like this:

  • Breakfast (bacon and an omelet with heavy whipping cream and cheese), 27 units of basal insulin per day
  • A snack at late lunch time (a couple of cheese slices with butter, a boiled egg with mayonnaise, tea with coconut oil)
  • Dinner (real LCHF food), 2 units of insulin

These are my numbers from two typical days in February 2014.

Feb2014

The latest cholesterol profile showed an Apo B/AI ratio of 0.75, HDL 104 (2.7), total cholesterol/HDL 3.29, which according to good sources is considered good.

So, I’ve gone from being constantly hungry, eating 6–7 times a day, with 4 insulin injections and 76 units of insulin, to always feeling satisfied, eating 3 times a day, with 2 insulin injections and 29 units of insulin. I can also easily list several dishes that I enjoy, as my taste for food has returned. I’m presently taking so little mealtime insulin that I have to return some insulin as the “best before” date has expired. This is because the smallest package contains 5 insulin-injection syringes and that’s more than I use in a year, unfortunately for the health care system.

I’ve lost about 33 lbs (15 kg) and am currently weight-stable at a weight that I’m satisfied with. I lost all this weight without any exercising at all. After the weight loss my energy returned and now I run/walk about 50 minutes a day, but depending on my work schedule I sometimes go for long periods without exercising. Whether I exercise or not my blood sugar stays stable, so supplementing with sugar after exercise is no longer needed.

I haven’t had a sick day since February 2010. I’ve almost stopped monitoring my blood sugar as every time I do a test period my levels are stable. My latest eye exam showed that there were no longer any changes and I was classified “as completely symptom-free”. Others have reported the same thing happening to them.

Overall, I now have a completely different life. A change that not only affects me, but also my family, who instead of a tired, overweight and “food and injection-driven” old man, has gotten an energetic husband /dad, who doesn’t have a problem with waiting to eat for a couple of hours.

Because my blood sugar is always stable.

Once again, thank you for the work you and your team are doing, and for helping me to a new and healthier life.

Sincerely,

P-O Heidling
Linköping, Sweden

More

Diabetes – How to Normalize Your Blood Sugar

LCHF for Beginners

One Year on an LCHF Diet with Type 1 Diabetes

Previously on Type 1 Diabetes

Previos health and weight success stories

PS

Do you have a success story you want to share on this blog? Send it (photos appreciated) toandreas@dietdoctor.com. Let me know if it’s OK to publish your photo and name or if you’d rather remain anonymous.

23 Comments

Top Comment

  1. Aila
    Congratulations! Inspiring journey, indeed! It is good to see that people with type 1 diabetes are also starting to take health in their own hands. With all the regular check ups (and brain washing) in the health care system, I can imagine it may be difficult. Until you see the results.

    The funniest comment regarding the LCHF diet from the health care personnel is: “nobody knows what happens in the long run”. But we sure know what happens in the long run with the grain based high carbohydrate diet. So why should we go on eating that? Makes no sense.

    Read more →

All Comments

  1. Mark
    Congratulations. Epic journey for you and thankyou for your story.
  2. FrankG
    This is fantastic! I am really happy for you and your family. Angry that it took so long and that you had to find this out for yourself and grateful that you shared your story here. Thank-you.
  3. Dan
    Good on you! Pharmaceutical companies clearly have a chokehold on the guidelines, and that's real a shame when lives could be completely transformed by the truth!

    Impressive as your story is, I speculate with little doubt that 10-20 years from now the lifestyle gap between your insulin driven life and LCHF life would've been considerably wider.

  4. Corrie
    Amazing saga! What a testament to taking charge of one's own health... congratulations to you!
  5. Eli
    fantastic! Thank you for your story. I hope that other type 1 diabetes sufferers read your inspirational story and begin their own journey to managing their disease with diet and reducing insulin to a degree. Well done!
  6. Onlooker
    What an inspiring story. Well done!

    And congratulations on having the courage to stand up to the ignorant and destructive "professionals" who were giving you such terrible advice. Many don't have that courage and continue to suffer for that. It's all very tragic.

  7. Thomas E.
    Thank you for the success story! Amazing, very happy to read your story.

    But on the flip side, I am really disappointed, how someone of science, who a doctor is supposed to be, right, can so flippantly disregard data that goes against his preconceived notions.

    Keep it up, and thanks for the motivation!

  8. Theresa
    Wonderful! We have the same doctor / nurse problem here in the USA.... tell us to eat lots of carbs and "whole grains" and low fat products. Even our diabetes association (American) tells us... even tells us to eat sugar.
    Thank you for sharing your story!
  9. Mary Beauchamp
    This is so awesome!! An inspiration and total validation for me in my work with LCHF Diets here in the US. Thank you so much for sharing this!!
  10. Nate
    Thanks for your story. Also as a Type 1, my story is similar except that I learned about LCHF by reading Diabetes Solutions by Dr. Bernstein. I am very impressed that you more or less figured it out on your own. Dr. Bernstein's story is very similar to your's in that he figured out himself that the LCHF diet is the best diabetic diet. He made his discovery in the '70's. He also was the first diabetic to use a blood glucose tester at home and not in a hospital setting.

    I also want to comment on Theresa's comment about the American Diabetes Association's recommendation to eat sugar. In the 1970's, I read this headline story in my local newspaper: 'Diabetics Can Eat Sugar'. The ADA had determined that it was safe for diabetics to eat sugar by just taking more drugs. And yes I started doing that with the sad outcome of becoming blind in the left eye about ten years later. It is sadly ironic that I started eating more refined carbs at the same time that Dr. Bernstein was eating far fewer carbs.

    To end this comment on a positive note, I started eating a LCHF diet in 2004. My frozen shoulders immediately thawed. My trigger fingers went back to normal. I lost 20 pounds, gained new energy, improved my lipid profile, cut my insulin use in half, etc.

  11. Donna
    I am type 1 also I have been following the LCHF diet since August this year and I've managed to GAIN a stone in weight :( to say I'm devastated is an understatement. It will take me forever to lose that weight again. Strangely my blood sugars are now nearly always perfect, I do struggle to find and keep enough foods to eat as it has to be fresh veg, salad, chicken, yogurt etc and i stay nowhere near a large accessible chain supermarket or decent shop and I do not drive, so it has been a struggle... Am in a worse state than before...

    I notice today that when it talks about ketosis it states "not suitable for type 1 diabetics as it's dangerous" I never noticed this and am now worried I've put myself at risk!

    So I'm very interested to know...how did P O Heidling manage it please?

    Reply: #13
  12. P-O H
    Many thanks to you all for your nice comments. I hope I can inspire others to give the LCHF diet a try. Especially diabetics, both type 1 & 2. There's hopefully a new life waiting for you.
  13. Boundless
    re: about ketosis it states "not suitable for type 1 diabetics as it's dangerous"

    People who produce no insulin at all are at risk of nutritional ketosis (NK) turning into diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is one reason why many consensus MDs aren't keen on managing T1D with diet.

    But Bernstein has shown the way ("The Diabetes Solution") and in my view, diet is the main thing to focus on, if the T1D victim is disciplined enough to follow the protocol.

  14. Anthony
    Champion effort !
  15. Aila
    Congratulations! Inspiring journey, indeed! It is good to see that people with type 1 diabetes are also starting to take health in their own hands. With all the regular check ups (and brain washing) in the health care system, I can imagine it may be difficult. Until you see the results.

    The funniest comment regarding the LCHF diet from the health care personnel is: “nobody knows what happens in the long run”. But we sure know what happens in the long run with the grain based high carbohydrate diet. So why should we go on eating that? Makes no sense.

  16. Donna
    Boundless.. I'm reading Dr Bernstein books right now, some difficulty in obtaining some items similar due to him being in America, and in the UK they just love to pack everything with hidden sugars and virtually everything you buy pre-packaged is ridiculously high carb! Scares me what will happen to my friends and family who eat all this junk!

    At least my sugars are good now, so I can go on from that and up my fitness and stay focused.

    Was not trying to be negative, just desperate to understand and a bit confused as the only change was to cut out carbs and sugar and yet I have gained weight, while everyone (including my partner) the weight just falls off!!

    Being T1 always makes it a challenge to lose weight, guess I just have to be more determined.

    Congratulations! I really hope I can achieve the same results :) Onwards and Upwards!

    Replies: #17, #18
  17. François
    Donna,

    though the type of calories (i.e. what macronutrient do they come from) is most important the total calorie count is also important, more so in some people than others. Some can eat seemingly endless number of calories without putting on a single pound while others will gain weight by looking at food too long... I'm only half joking.

    One thing that is rather common in women is hypothyroidism. Less common but still possible would be Cushing's syndrome (adrenal hyperfunction). Have you had a recent check-up? I would suggest you go to your physician and ask for a thorough blood work, looking also at hormone levels. This may help.

    PS. Diet-wise, I totally agree with Boundless. May I suggest that you also take a look at Dr Jason Fung's youtube videos? He's a Canadian nephrologist who has a remarkable diet approch to diabetes. He is great to explain complicated things in simple terms and you may find a lot of answers there.

    Good luck to you.

  18. Glen
    Donna,

    There's little concern a proper LCHF diet can lead ketoacidosis, even as a Type I.

    If done properly (High fat, moderate protein, very-low-carbohydrate and sufficient calories), Nutritional Ketosis (NK) leading to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is almost impossible.

    *if* you're truly limiting carbohydrate (and taking bolus as required for what little you do ingest), eating moderate protein (sufficient for needs without excess consumption) and still taking basal insulin, the risk of ketoacidosis is mitigated.

    Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) results from lack of insulin and elevated ketones, true - but it's much more complicated than just low-insulin/elevated-ketones: In DKA elevation of glucagon also increases release of glucose by the liver (whether from glycogen via glycogenolysis or from gluconeogenesis).

    However, in nutritional ketosis the intake of carbohydrate (CHO) is minimal and therefore shouldn't be raising blood glucose (BG) levels much. Also, the idea is to take in higher fat and moderate protein, which further keeps BG levels from increasing (moderate protein sufficient for needs isn't converted into glucose).

    Also, the body is generally keto-adapted, which means it's using those ketones for fuel. Levels of glycogen are greatly depleted meaning there's less to to be converted via gycogenolysis.

    When you look at the whole picture, the LCHF diet itself will keep glucose levels moderate. Without high blood glucose levels, elevated ketones simply do not lead to DKA.

    As for the weight-gain ... For me personally, I found that I still needed to watch caloric intake in order to lose weight. Not everybody does, but I have an appetite that continues into excess without counting.

    Many can lose weight on an LCHF diet without counting calories. I'm not one of them, and you may not be one either. Food for thought, pun-intended.

  19. Jennifer
    Stories like this one are so great to read about. What an amazing impact a low carb diet has on diabetes and weight loss as well.
    If you are diabetic, or simply interested in how this diet helps with weight loss, a great resource is http://healclinics.com/forums . HEAL Clinics is a startup company whose focus is on these topics. The website has a forum and it would be great to grow the community and start some discussions!
  20. Hazel
    Congrats P-O Heidling. So glad for you. I've been through it, it's not easy but the result is good. I'm just passed five years and never will go off this great health-supporting lifestyle.
  21. Emory
    What a great story. I've never understood why doctor's recommend eating the very foods that cause the disease...to treat the disease.
    Reply: #22
  22. Boundless
    re: ... why doctors recommend eating the very foods that cause the disease ...

    For some hints on that see:
    What's Up With My Doctor?
    on Wheat Free Forum:
    http://wheatfreeforum.com/index.php/topic,275.0.html

  23. Tamarah
    Awesome success story,, I believe this story should be reviewed by a Team of doctors that deal with T1 Diabetes ,, the results are amazing,, I just don't understand why this is not more of a eye opener to these Professionals . It makes me so mad that they just turn their heads and look away . this is life saving !!

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