Type 2 Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. The way to improve the condition, and eventually get rid of it altogether, is to improve eating habits, exercise and lose weight. The ketogenic lifestyle covers two of those bases, so it would seem an obvious choice for Type 2 Diabetics.
However, there are risks involved. In this article, we examine the cost / benefit ratio when it comes to the ketogenic diet for Type 2 Diabetics. We’ll also provide some invaluable tips to help Type 2 Diabetics gain mastery over their blood glucose levels.
What is Diabetes?
When someone has diabetes, it means that they have too much glucose in their blood. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. We get glucose from the food we eat into energy. Our bodies need energy to grow and repair themselves, and we need energy for everything we do. We all take in energy from many different foods, including pasta, bread and potatoes. As our bodies digest this food it is broken down into glucose. We all need glucose because our bodies turn it into energy.
The build-up of glucose in the bloodstream leads to the release of extra insulin, for the purpose of directing the glucose into our cells.
The glucose is absorbed by the cells and the level of glucose in the blood drops. Our hunger hormones then kick in in order to restock our energy levels. At the same time, the liver releases some stored glucose while, simultaneously, signaling the pancreas to release less insulin. In this way, the various parts of the body work together to achieve a state of homeostasis, or balance.
In people who have diabetes, the body is unable to turn glucose into energy. Instead of being used up, the glucose builds up in their blood. It also means that they are unable to get the energy they need from the food they eat. This can make them feel weak and tired.
Diabetics are unable to make the best use of a chemical called insulin. The body makes insulin in a gland called the pancreas, which lies across the back of the stomach. Insulin is needed to use the sugar in the blood for energy. It also controls the level of glucose in the blood.
In people with Type-1 Diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin. With Type-2 Diabetes, the pancreas can still make insulin but the rest of the body can’t use it properly. The result is the same as with Type-1 diabetes – there is too much glucose in the blood. This excess glucose makes its way to the various parts of your body, where it is stored and clogs up the function of those body areas. Meanwhile, the cells are starving for glucose but can’t get it. The result – the person feels, weak, lethargic and generally horrible.
Diabetes is often referred to as a lifestyle disease. That is because the main factors that lead to it are able to be controlled.
These are the 3 key causes of Type 2 Diabetes:
- Obesity – The fat cells that are located in the abdomen are responsible for the secretion of hormones, the regulators of all of our bodily functions. When we have too many fat cells located around the abdominal region, we tend to secrete more hormones and chemicals that slow down our metabolism. And the result of that is likely to be an inefficient insulin metabolism process. This hormone induced insulin resistance is directly related to high blood pressure, abnormal blood fats and Type-2 Diabetes.
- Lack of Exercise – Exercise not only burns calories, it offsets insulin. Exercise increases the uptake of glucose, both during and after exercise, meaning less work for insulin and other medications.
- Diet – an unhealthy diet – that is, one high in sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats – increases the work of the pancreas and leads to obesity.
How Keto Can Help?
The ketogenic diet switches your body’s energy system from glucose to fat. Research shows that the keto diet can dramatically improve blood glucose while also reducing the need for insulin. One study found that while using a ketogenic diet, insulin sensitivity improved by an incredible 75%. In another study, the keto diet participants lost roughly 24lbs (11.0 kg), this was incredible compared to the roughly 15.0 lbs (7.0 kg) lost in the higher-carb group. If that wasn’t enough, about 95% of the ketogenic dieters were able to reduce or stop their diabetes medication.
A major study was undertaken in 2008 to see how a low carb diet impacted upon people with Type 2 Diabetes. The study took place over a period of 24 weeks. Eighty-four volunteers were put into one of two groups:
- Low carb / Keto
- Low glycemic, reduced calorie
The keto diet followers shows a significantly greater improvement in glycemic control and medication reduction compared to the low glycemic group. The study authors concluded . . .
The diet lower in carbohydrate led to greater improvements in glycemic control, and more frequent medication reduction/elimination than the low glycemic index diet. Lifestyle modification using low carbohydrate interventions is effective for improving and reversing type 2 diabetes.
Another study, this one conducted in 2013, found that the keto diet was able to make significant improvements to blood sugar control, weight loss and a reduced need to take exogenous insulin.
A 32-week study conducted in 2017 saw the keto diet to be far superior to a low fat diabetes diet in helping diabetics to lose weight and reduce blood glucose levels.
What About All That Fat?
The first piece of advice that is given to people with Type 2 Diabetes is to stop eating fat. Yet, the keto diet is a high fat diet. So, what gives?
The type of fat that you are encouraged to eat on a keto diet focuses on monounsaturated fats, not the polyunsaturated fats that contribute to fat accumulation. These are the types of fats that you should focus on when going keto . .
- olives and olive oil
- nuts and nut butters
- fatty fish
What’s more, there has been a huge reversal in the last decade or so regarding what actually causes weight gain. For more than half a century, it was thought that fat was what causes fat. As a result, the fat was removed from all the foods we ate. However, that also removed the flavor. To compensate the genius food manufacturers pumped sugar into everything. The only problem was that people didn’t get any thinner – in fact, just the opposite occurred. They got fatter – with many of them becoming obese and contracting Type 2 Diabetes.
It has only been in the last twenty or so years that the scientific community have come to appreciate that it is actually sugar that is causing us to get fat. That sugar is contained in the macronutrient carbohydrate. Carbs cause a massive amount of glucose, or blood sugar, to surge into the bloodstream. It also causes the pancreas to release the hormone insulin which has the job of clearing the glucose from the bloodstream and transporting it either to the muscle cells or to be stored as excess body fat.
In people with diabetes, this insulin clearing of glucose process does not work properly.
With this understanding, we can see how beneficial the keto diet really can be for Type 2 Diabetics. When we severely restrict our intake of carbohydrates, the amount of blood sugar that is released into the bloodstream is dramatically reduced. That negates the need for the pancreas to release insulin and so the problem of insulin not being able to effectively clear blood glucose from the blood is also negated.
What are the Dangers?
When you switch from a glucose based to a fat based energy system your body will produce more ketones, which end up in the bloodstream. But an excessive amount of ketones in the bloodstream can lead to a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This condition occurs more in Type 1 Diabetics but it is also possible with Type 2 Diabetics. It is rare that keto levels would get so high as to bring on DKA.
Type 2 Diabetics should consult their doctor before going on a keto diet. They should also carefully monitor both their blood sugar and blood ketone levels.
The American Diabetes Association has recommended that diabetics test ketone levels in their blood sugar level is higher than 240 mg/dL. Testing can be done with blood or urine strips or with a keto breath analyzer
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition. If you feel that you have it, you should immediately seek medical attention. Here are the signs to look out for:
- high blood sugar
- dry mouth
- constant urination
- fruity breath
- trouble breathing
Sugar: Sweet but Deadly
Sugar is the world’s most popular sweetener. It’s ascendancy, however, has been relatively recent. Prior to the 18th Century it was a luxury item, available only to the wealthy. In 1700 the average person was eating just 4 pounds of sugar a year. It was only with the opening up of the West Indian and Brazilian sugar cane markets, built on the back of the slave trade, that sugar became affordable to the masses. Today, the average person is eating 4 pounds of sugar every two weeks. During the ‘fat is the enemy’ era of the 90’s, thousands of food products were pumped full of sugar to provide the flavor that was lost when the fat was removed. All of those sugars, however can be categorized 4 ways:
- GA lactose
Let’s zoom in on them one at a time:
During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, or blood sugar. These are the body’s main source of energy. The glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream where it is transported to the body’s cells. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. Without it, out body and our brain will be unable to function properly.
Glucose is made by plants and stored in the form of sap. Food manufacturers use plant based glucose in the form of such starches as rice, maize, cassava and potatoes to add glucose to their products.
GA lactose is a type of sugar that provides a compact form of energy in a small package. It is also referred to as ‘brain sugar’.
The human body manufactures GA lactose and it occurs naturally in products such as:
- Dairy Products
- Sugar Beets
- A variety of gums
GA lactose is not very sweet, so is not a popular alternative to other types of sugar.
A simple sugar that is naturally present in foods, fructose is also known as fruit sugar. It gives fruit and other foods their sweet taste. In this natural state, fructose is healthy and safe. The problem occurs when we consume products that have had fructose added to them in the form of high fructose corn-syrup or similar products.
Fructose is metabolized through a different pathway than fructose, namely the liver. During this process uric acid is generated which infiltrates into the cells as well as circulating in the blood. Uric acid is not a friend of your body. In fact, it is toxic. In addition, these fructose added products don’t contain the added vitamins to counter the effects of the fructose that would be present in fruits and vegetables.
In addition to building up uric acid, fructose will also:
- Increase triglycerides, which stimulate midsection fat deposits
- Stimulate your appetite
- Increase your LDL (bad) fat levels
- Increase blood pressure
- Increase your risk of heart disease
- Increase the risk of gout
In addition, drinking fruit juice provides fructose without the addition of vitamins and antioxidants.
When glucose and fructose combine, we get sucrose. The sucrose that proliferates in most household kitchens today has been processed. The consumption of sucrose has exploded since the 1970’s. It’s no surprise that this has been mirrored by an equally explosive obesity epidemic. Over that same 50 years a host of artificial sweeteners have also emerged onto the marketplace.
- High fructose corn syrup
Sugar is a great food preservative, which is one reason why it gets added to virtually every type of food you can possibly imagine. Combine that with the proven, scientific fact that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and its little wonder that were all drowning in a cesspool of obesity and its associated problems.
Because sugar is in everything, we often don’t even realize when we’re consuming it. That’s what we call hidden sugars. Here are some common items that contain alarming levels of hidden sucrose:
- Canned vegetables
- “Low Fat” products
- Fruit Yogurt
- Chinese Takeaways
- Dried Fruit
- Granola Bars
- Energy Drinks
Becoming Sugar Aware
As a diabetic, sugar is your enemy. To defeat diabetes, you must gain mastery over it. In order to gain mastery over sugar, you need to learn to observe how your body reacts to this sweet poison.
Becoming sugar aware involves:
- Reading the labels: Become aware of the various names for sugar. Keep aware of the fact that the nearer an item is to the top of the list, the more of it there is in the product.
- Know what everyday foods you eat that are sugar loaded.
- Observing how your body reacts to sugar, especially fructose and high fructose corn syrup.
- Monitoring how you feel upon waking – do you feel like springing out of bed or like rolling over and going back to sleep?
- Monitoring your sense of taste and smell
- Check the color of your urine – the lighter the better
- Getting a journal and recording your observations regarding sugar and how your body reacts to it
- Going through your pantry and separating all the foods that contain an unhealthy level of sugar. Mark these items with colored tape.
- Make a list of all the artificial sweeteners that you use. Mark these with another colored tape. If it contains both sugar and artificial sweeteners put both pieces of tape on it.
- Recruit the other members of your family to support you in your quest to gain mastery over sugar.
SPOTLIGHT ON: GLYCEMIC INDEX
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates from 0 to 100 in accordance with how much they elevate blood sugar levels after food is consumed. High GI foods cause marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
Focusing on low GI foods will lower insulin levels as well as insulin resistance.
Fructose has a lower GI than table sugar (sucrose), despite being a lot sweeter.
4 Smart Sugar Alternatives
By now, there’s no doubt that sugar, both real and artificial, is toxic to your body. But, unless you can find a replacement in order to satisfy your sweet tooth, you are destined to failure. Fortunately, there are alternatives available that are safe, healthy and, above all, tasty. These are your new friends. So, let’s get you acquainted:
Stevia is an herb that originates in South America. It has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. Three hundred times stronger sweeter than sugar, the leaves of this small green plant has a delicious and refreshing taste.
Because the body does not break down the glycosides contained in stevia, it has no calories. In addition, stevia enhances insulin secretion without adversely affecting blood glucose levels. It also produces anti-hyperglycemic properties.
Stevia can be purchased as whole or broken leaves. It is also available in powder form and as a liquid extract. Dried stevia keeps its flavor for months. Use one teaspoon in place of one cup of sugar. It is available under such brand names such as Truvia, Nu Naturals and Sweetleaf. You can buy pure stevia as a dietary supplement. Many brands of stevia have added flavorings, indicating that they have been highly processed. Make sure that you check the label!
Because stevia is so potent, you don’t have to use very much of it. Purchase it in small amounts until you find a brand that you enjoy. Often the taste is disagreeable because people use too much of it. If you need more sweetness add one drop at a time and then taste it.
Stevia has no side effects. Studies investigating any potential links between liver disorders and cancer have concluded that, unless used excessively, stevia is safe.
However, it may lower your blood sugar. That’s why it’s important that your use of stevia goes hand- in-hand with a clean, healthy diet in which sugar has been eliminated. You should be consuming plenty of natural carbs, proteins and fats.
Honey is nature’s healthy alternative to sugar. Not only is it safe and delicious but it contains some major health benefits. It is an anti-bacterial, antiviral superfood. It can also help you to fight allergies, improve your immune system, fight cancer and even lower cholesterol. Studies have also shown that honey helps to fight diabetes. It turns out that honey contains a perfect one-to-one ratio of glucose to fructose, facilitating glucose intake into the liver and overcoming excess blood sugar.
Natural, whole fruits contain all of the sweetness you need, without any of the toxic chemicals that will poison your body. Oranges contain a delectable juiciness, ripe strawberries create a sweet symphony in your mouth and blended frozen bananas serve up all the richness of ice-cream – without the guilt. Dried fruit offers sweetness plus fiber.
It’s all a matter of mindset. Once you step away from the mindset of having to add artificial flavorings to your foods, a whole new world of healthy food appreciation will open to you. And you’ll finally be able to gain mastery over your taste buds.
Follow these tips to ensure that your pantry and refrigerator are always stocked with safe, healthy, delicious food options:
- Buy fresh organic food whenever possible
- Use Farmer’s Markets to buy locally
- Only purchase organic poultry, fish and eggs
- Only buy organic versions of the following:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Hot Peppers
- Make sure that organic foods purchased are labelled “certified organically grown.”
- Shop only on the outside aisles of the grocery store
- Don’t buy anything that would last more than 3 days on your counter