The Keto Diet Wasn’t Enough To Reverse My Type 2 Diabetes

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There is no single diet to help you manage your blood sugar. I’ve learned that the best diet is the one that works for you.

If you live with type 2 diabetes, you have undoubtedly heard of the ketogenic (keto) diet, which has been praised for its potential to prevent or cure various illnesses, including Diabetes. Multitudes of fans swear by her for good blood sugar management.

As a recovering dieter, I never thought I would be drawn to what seemed like another fad diet. But my mother died of a heart attack caused by congestive heart failure, a complication of type 2 diabetes.

Although I had already been living with my own type 2 diabetes for almost a decade, his death at the relatively young age of 66 was a wake-up call that sparked my own health journey.

After hearing claims that people had reversed their diabetes and were able to quit medication while on the keto diet, I decided to give it a try.

The keto diet is a low-carb diet that limits your carb intake to around 5% of your overall daily calories. The rest is made up of 10 to 20 percent protein and 75 to 85 percent fat.

By severely limiting carbohydrates, you force your body to burn fat for fuel rather than glucose, the body’s main source of energy. The byproduct of this fat burning process is ketones, hence the name of the diet.

This is also what makes it attractive to people with type 2 diabetes. After all, logic dictates that if one does not consume a lot of dietary glucose (carbohydrates), his blood sugar should be kept relatively low.

According to a 2020 meta-analysis in the journal, many people with type 2 diabetes who follow the keto diet see their blood sugar and A1C levels drop. Nutrition and diabetes.

This is also what happened to me. However, my A1C did not drop enough to reverse my diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes cannot be cured. Even if no symptoms appear, the disease is still present and may recur.

However, it is possible to put it in full or partial remission. This is achieved by reaching the A1C levels of the nondiabetic or prediabetic ranges without the use of drugs.

According to the ADA, a non-diabetic A1C is less than 5.7 percent. The prediabetic range is between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent.

Although following the keto diet helped me cut back on my meds, I couldn’t stop taking them. Therefore, I cannot count myself among those capable of bringing their diabetes into remission.

However, I have learned a lot about the nature of diabetes, including how much I can affect my own health by changing my lifestyle.

After dieting for almost 2 years, I think the reasons why keto wasn’t more effective for me boils down to three main factors.

Deregulated gluconogenesis

Most of us logically think that if we don’t eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar will drop. Unfortunately, when it comes to diabetes, things are not that simple. Although my blood sugar did drop on keto, it didn’t drop significantly and I still needed medication to stay in target range.

At first, I thought the solution was to eat even less carbs, as if 20 grams per day (the average consumed on a keto diet) weren’t low enough!

So I experimented with fasting as well as the carnivorous diet. It was then that I finally found out what was really going on.

I had one of the highest blood sugar levels in my life while on the carnivorous diet and while fasting, despite not consuming carbohydrates. This is because my liver was making glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.

Although the human body is designed to make ketones for fuel when glucose is scarce, it cannot function on ketones alone. Thus, the liver gets its supplies of glucose during periods of famine (especially in the absence of carbohydrates) by synthesizing it from proteins.

It is believed that increased gluconeogenesis is a major factor in type 2 diabetes and a cause of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Insulin is a key hormone that inhibits gluconeogenesis, but insulin resistance (the body’s inability to use insulin properly) results in impaired insulin signaling.

Clearly the carnivorous diet was a bad choice for me, but I had hyperglycemia even while fasting – with no carbohydrates or protein for my liver to synthesize into glucose.

In a person without diabetes, fasting stimulates the hormone glucagon, which tells the liver to release its stores of glucose, a process called glycogenolysis. Their body then produces insulin to rebalance their glucose levels.

But a person with type 2 diabetes may not be able to make enough insulin to compensate for the increased glucose, especially if insulin resistance means they need more of it. So when I fasted (or ate too few carbs), my blood sugar skyrocketed.

Over time, I learned that I had a “candy” for carbs. Too many carbohydrates raise my blood sugar, but too little too. For me, keto was too little.

Altered gut microbiome

After a bad reaction to a diabetes medication that causes slow gastric emptying, I was determined to see if I could cure my gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disease I had had for over 2 decades. I believe GERD was primarily responsible for the reaction.

New research links GERD to gut microbiome dysfunction, including a 2019 study in the Journal of Chest Disease and a 2021 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. So I tried a gut healing program.

By a happy “accident”, not only did I manage to cure my GERD, but my blood sugar also improved dramatically – more significantly than on keto!

I didn’t follow the bowel program for my diabetes, so I would never have believed the effect if I hadn’t experienced it myself. But ultimately, it was the healing of my gut microbiome, not keto, that made the biggest difference to me.

This lowered my A1C enough that I could switch from two drugs to one – metformin, a drug that does not affect insulin production. This means that I have altered my insulin sensitivity enough for my body to produce enough of its own insulin to manage my blood sugar.

What was most surprising was that I ate more carbohydrates in the intestinal diet which allowed starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash, high fiber beans, whole grains like quinoa and rice. black, and even low-carb fruits like green apples – none of which are allowed on the keto diet.

That’s when I finally found out that I do best on a moderately low-carb diet, as long as I have a healthy gut microbiome. In fact, a greater amount of carbohydrates allows me to nourish my gut flora with a great plant diversity, which allows me to maintain the good bacteria with prebiotics.

New research supports this for type 2 diabetes. A 2021 study in Life Sciences found that gut dysbiosis (a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut) may be responsible for 90% of type 2 diabetes cases. Indeed, the regulation of metabolism, insulin sensitivity and blood sugar begins in the intestine.

When I was disappointed that Keto didn’t do more for my diabetes, my GP reminded me, as the ADA points out, that there are more genetic factors involved in type 2 diabetes than even in type 1 diabetes.

In reality, research shows that if a parent has type 2 diabetes, an individual has a 40 percent chance of developing the disease in their lifetime. If both parents have type 2 diabetes, this risk increases to 70%.

Sometimes we can’t influence much.

This was the most important lesson Keto taught me because it allowed me to finally stop blaming myself. Society constantly tells us that type 2 diabetes is an eating disorder when in fact genetics play a huge role.

Although knowing that diabetes exists in my family, I have blamed myself for years for being diabetic. During this time, I watched everything I ate, while my diabetes-free friends and family ate all the candy and carbs they wanted.

Self-blaming didn’t make much sense, considering how hard I was trying to take care of myself.

Type 2 diabetes is a multifactorial disease, involving both insulin resistance and deficient insulin production, research shows.

Many point to insulin resistance as the main contributor to type 2 diabetes, but that doesn’t say the whole story. Yet research shows that even the development of insulin resistance, often attributed solely to lifestyle factors, may have a genetic component.

Additionally, due to these genetic factors, a 2016 study in Diabetes Care shows that only about 40 percent of people with type 2 diabetes will be able to reverse it through diet and exercise. . That leaves about 60 percent of us who can’t.

That doesn’t mean, however, that adopting a healthy lifestyle isn’t worth it. Although I cannot cure my genetics through diet and exercise, my efforts have shown that I can influence my insulin resistance.

The work I have done to heal my gut microbiome and find the right amount of carbs that work for me has kept my A1C below 7% on metformin alone. For me, this is a major step forward, as I have already taken three diabetes medications.

While keto isn’t the best fit for me, I’m grateful for what it taught me about my type 2 diabetes. It started me on a journey that made me healthier than I was. haven’t been for over a decade.

While our health is not always in our 100 percent control, it has taught me that there are at least a few things that we can affecting.

It’s also important to remember that everyone is different. My experience with keto may not be the same as yours. There are thousands of people with type 2 diabetes who swear by the keto diet because it works for them.

My sister is one of them. She also has type 2 diabetes, but unlike me, she was able to put her diabetes into remission by following the keto diet.

There is no ADA recommended diabetes diet, and there are many types of diets that can help you successfully manage your blood sugar. You just have to experiment to see what works best for you.


Sarah Graves, PhD, lives in Ohio with her husband and son. His work has been featured in print and online publications including USA Today, Money Crashers, Red Tricycle, and others. In addition to writing about personal development, parenting, education, personal finance, and creative entrepreneurship, she enjoys reading and writing science fiction and fantasy, especially with her super amazing child. Follow her on Twitter.

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