Pre-diabetic or Carbohydrate Intolerant……..?
If you are wondering about this or have had a diagnosis that suggest you may be heading for a diagnosis of being pre-diabetic, showing the signs of metabolic syndrome, and you want to consider your dietary options, then here is HOW TO GET STARTED:
First – please do not despair!
By acknowledging your situation, you are already on the way to recovery and finding solutions. And you are not alone. There are plenty of people dealing with the same or similar challenges, for sure many much worse than you. And you CAN solve it, if you are prepared to make some pretty radical changes to your lifestyle choices.
First a few basic facts about your situation:
What is likely to have happened is the following:
Your body has overdosed on carbs and, not only is your pancreas exhausted having to produce so much insulin to deal with getting the sugars out of your blood stream, but all your cells are screaming out ‘enough is enough’ and are refusing to be sensitive to insulin any more, and therefore do not allow it (insulin) to deliver the sugars to them (the cells) as a source of energy. But at the same time, because the sugars remain in your blood, your body continues telling your pancreas to produce more insulin to get rid of the accumulating and poisonous sugar! A vicious circle has begun…..
The visible results are as follows. See also the chart for reference:
– your blood sugars are too high
– you may carry excess weight, especially around the middle
– you have lots of insulin in your blood but your body can’t use it anymore
– you have less energy even after eating carbohydrate rich meals, because the sugar can’t be used for energy (as reasoned above) and it is therefore turned to more fat
– you may show signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
These are all symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance, insulin resistance, risks of developing (or having developed) diabetes type 2 and a pancreas in overload mode.
So – what do you do when you are intolerant of a food?
You cut it out.
Some of the best results from treating Type 2 Diabetes (DT2) and preventing pre-diabetes from turning in to DT2, are achieved simply by this prescription:
Cutting out carbohydrates or, in reality, eating as few carbs as possible.
Physicians such as Diabetes expert Dr Eric Westman or Duke University in the USA, prescribe carb levels of as low as 20g per day. Compare this to the UK dietary guidelines that recommend around 250g of Carbs per day for individuals who need a daily energy supply of around 2000kcal!
Why does cutting out carbohydrates work?
Because by removing the carbs from your diet, you no longer need anywhere near as much insulin, because there is no sugar in your blood that needs to be transported to the power station withins your cells to provide energy. As a result, your pancreas can take a breather and relax, and your cells no longer have to fight off the insulin that was continuously knocking to be let in, with its cargo of sugar……. So, your cells can also relax and start to enjoy finding other less stressful sources of energy like….. yes, you guessed it, fat!
And guess what? In case you didn’t notice; you have plenty of fat stores that can release their fatty acids into the blood stream and allow the cells to use this fat for energy instead of the sugar they were previously using.
This is when it is useful to remember that the reason they have not been able to use your fat stores for energy, (which is the same reason your fat stores have simply been building up), is that fat (in the form of fatty acids) cannot be released into the blood stream if there is insulin present……..
So, not only have you managed to get your cells to relax and start using fat for energy instead of the sugar you are no longer eating, but by giving your cells this breathing space and ‘re-education’, you may well be able to rebuild their ability to be sensitive to insulin again, so that you can digest and use small amounts of carbohydrates from food in the future.
Bingo! Carb intolerance sorted!
So how do you do this?
That is where it gets a little tougher.
Cutting out carbs means, to most people on our planet, a total re-think of what and how they eat. In reality it is impossible to cut out carbs altogether, since all vegetable matter contains some sugars (alias carbohydrates). But it is very possible to reduce them to such an extent that you no longer react to them as a source of intolerance.
The tough message I am now about to deliver is that it means cutting out all sweets, cakes, pasta, bread and other mainly grain products. In fact, to most people it will mean removing a large proportion of what they normally eat and changing their diets completely.
No potatoes, pasta, couscous, quinoa or rice with dinner….or at best very small portions.
No bread, rolls, wraps, cakes or biscuits
No grain based cereals (oats, granola, cornflakes, muesli etc) for breakfast.
No pastries, sweet desserts or treats.
No sweet drinks or sweet fruits.
No processed foods or ready meals.
But please don’t despair………… This is a matter of changing habits of what you like and dislike. It is very possible and it will work to make you healthy again…….. And you will be able to enjoy your food again. So please continue reading. Your health is worth it!
At the same time, it means eating lots of delicious healthy and densely nutritious foods, like:
Meat, fish, eggs, cream, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, avocados, mushrooms, etc etc. In other words any fruit and vegetable that is not full of starch (potatoes) or sugar (bananas and apples), any full fat cheeses, berries, nuts, seeds etc.
By eating these natural foods and ensuring you have a variety that includes different coloured vegetables and some protein from a non-vegetarian source every day, and avoiding too much of any vegetables and fruit that are sweet and / or full of starch (carrots), you will reduce the amount of carbs you are consuming dramatically and start teaching your body to get its energy needs from fat instead.
I am not saying it is easy, but it is possible and it is surely worth it.
But do ask for help.
It is important that you get a balance of nutrients and that you do not lose all the fibre you were previously getting from your whole grain bread or breakfast cereals for example.
That means eating lots of vegetables (not including potatoes) but ideally not too much of the sweet and starchy ones as these obviously contain sugar……..that is why they are sweet.
It is also important that you do not go wild on proteins and don’t eat more than you need of these. Excess protein is also converted to sugars for energy (or fat storage) if you have too much, and you also tax your kidneys unnecessarily by asking them to remove the Nitrogen attached to every protein molecule you do not need. So if you are not vegetarian, eat moderate amounts of meats and try to get some of your protein also from fatty fish sources and eggs. For more information, please refer to my blog on proteins.
However – if you follow the list I gave you above, but don’t give yourself the diversity of foods that I always try to encourage, then you could still risk having too many carbs overall…..for example if you only eat berries. Whilst berries are full of antioxidants and very good for us – eating only berries would of course mean you consumed high proportions of sugars (simply because there are no appreciable fats or proteins in berries)…..exactly what you want to avoid. So, you would not get the protein or fats you need for a healthy body and brain, nor the variety of vitamins and minerals you would from a more varied diet.
Finally – my advice does not replace that provided by a GP who is trained in nutrition, so make sure you discuss your concerns and intentions with your GP if you are intending to embark on a low carb diet and especially if you are worried about any of this.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or need any help to discuss what to eat and how to prepare quick and nutritious low carb foods, please contact me. I would love to hear from you and I want to help.