As we have discussed, a real food based, lower carbohydrate, higher fat (LCHF) approach should be the first line of treatment for Type II Diabetes (T2D) (catch up on the research here), but what about Type 1 Diabetes (T1D)? We explore the facts and set the record straight on the management of T1D and LCHF.
T1D is an auto-immune condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin1. The onset begins when the pancreas stops producing insulin, which means that the body’s cells can no longer turn glucose (i.e. sugar) into energy. Without insulin, fat stores are turned to for fuel and a life-threatening state of ketoacidosis will occur. (It is important to distinguish ketoacidosis from controlled, nutritional ketosis and you can learn about the difference here2).
While we know T2D in largely a lifestyle disease with strong connections to poor dietary intake and obesity, the cause of type 1 is not yet known, but hereditary in nature. T1D more commonly affects children who are quite lean. It is lifelong condition with no known cure, although in Australia the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in on a mission to find one (find out more here and here). T1D needs to be managed with either insulin injections several times a day and/or the use of an insulin pump1.
From the outset, T1D and T2D appear to be completely opposite diseases – T1D is a disease of too little insulin and T2D is a disease of too much insulin. Due to the insulin lowering benefits of LCHF, the prescription of LCHF for T2D patients makes logical sense, but how does lowering insulin in the case of too little insulin (in the case of T1D) stand to reason?
The answer: blood sugar stabilisation.
Type 1 diabetics must continuously calculate their insulin requirements, both in the form of a basal dose (the entire day) and additional doses (meal dependent). Calculations are extremely sensitive – even four grams of carbohydrates can raise blood sugar by 1 mmol/L, but one unit of injected insulin can lower blood sugar by 2 mmol/L, and these numbers vary greatly between individuals3. Taking into consideration that the largest number of Type I Diabetics are children, who need to be injected and pricked (to measure blood sugar levels) multiple times per day, the risk of error is considerable. The larger the amount of carbohydrates consumed, the greater the insulin required, and the greater the risk of these potentially fatal errors. When blood sugars are lowered too much, hypoglycaemia and unconsciousness can occur. This is a direct cause of death for 6-10% of T1D patients3.
With LCHF, the consumption of quality dietary fats significantly reduces the blood sugar spike from food and in the case of T1D, the need for added insulin. Small amounts of whole food carbohydrates will control the risk of major blood sugar swings and therefore, the risk of hypoglycemia caused by incorrectly estimated insulin dosages. Real food plays the most important role in our optimal health and wellness and the management of all auto-immune conditions.
While simple in concept, it is extremely important that Type 1 Diabetics seek professional guidance before embarking on this dietary change. Blood sugars must be monitored extremely closely with the initial introduction of LCHF, as a lower carbohydrate intake will greatly reduce the need for insulin, and doses must be adjusted sufficiently to prevent hypoglycemia and the associated complications.
Have you had success following a LCHF approach for T1D? Post below or email firstname.lastname@example.org as we would love to hear more about your experience.
Passionate about finding a cure for T1D? A group of TNN clients are completing endurance events following our High Performance Fat Loss program and raising money to cure T1D. Follow their journey by liking their page on Facebook and Instagram and donate here: www.toomanypricks.com
1 Type 1 Diabetes. Diabetes Australia. https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/type-1-diabetes. Accessed 18 November 2016.
2 Is ketosis dangerous? Peter Attia. http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/is-ketosis-dangerous. Accessed 18 November 2016.
3 Type 1 Diabetes and LCHF – A Great Combination. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt. https://www.dietdoctor.com/type-1-diabetes-and-lchf-a-great-combination. Accessed 18 November 2016.
4 Improved diabetes control with new diet. CSIRO. http://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2016/Improved-diabetes-control-with-new-diet. Accessed 18 November 2016.
Image credit here.