Type 1 Diabetes & Food as Medicine
I still recall it all so clearly. I had lost 12 pounds (from my relatively lean build), I was eating like crazy (a whole large pizza to myself and wanting more) and my entire mouth and tongue had turned white. I was chugging gallons of orange juice every day (I had never bought orange juice until that Fall, upon major cravings for it) – and I was thirsty all the time. I was often dizzy. I had an ongoing yeast infection for 5 straight months. I had to clean my toilet constantly, because there was a weird ring of mold around the waterline of the bowl that appeared every day. And I was peeing all the time – like every hour – for nearly 45 seconds at a time. What I didn’t know was that part of my body had shut down and I was heading into very dangerous territory.
Thankfully, it was the Fall of 2008 and I had gone back home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Upon arrival, I caught up with my identical twin sister, who mentioned how skinny I was (and I could visibly tell now comparing my normally identical body to hers). She then took one look at my white mouth and made a call to her friend, a doctor. Upon describing my mouth and my weight loss, her friend suggested I go for a blood test.
As I sat on the table of an urgent care hospital in our neighborhood, my blood was tested and I had 2 doctors come in and tell me I needed to take better care of myself so that I wouldn’t get yeast infections. And they sent me away with a general antibiotic – not having yet looked at all my blood test readings.
And then a call came 15 minutes later. “You need to return to our facility as soon as possible.” “Why?”, I asked. They wouldn’t give me an answer. I headed back. Was I dying?
I returned, and the doctor kindly placed his hand on my shoulder, “Sometimes people are touched by angels in special ways,” he shared. “Your blood sugar numbers are in the 500’s which tells me you have a very rare disease – Type 1 Diabetes.” I appreciated his kindness and was rushed to the hospital where I spent 3 days, regulating my sugar levels and learning how to sustain my life moving forward.
Life with Type 1 Diabetes
For the following 6 months, I struggled with depression, fear, anger, sadness – all the things you should feel when life as you know it…is gone. I learned to read nutritional labels, count carbs, inject insulin, prick my finger, and do it all again 2 hours later to try to keep my blood sugar as close to 100 as I could. It was a nightmare.
On top of this, I randomly had a girlfriend who had Type 1 Diabetes. To my knowledge, she managed it well and we were buddies - enjoying our single life in New York City together. About a year into my Type 1 diagnosis, she died from a diabetic coma. My fear continued to rule.
Thriving with Type 1 Diabetes
Over the course of the next 10 years, with growing perspective and new technologies, I learned to manage my disease pretty easily and pretty well. As my husband and I struggled with infertility, it was recommended to me to ditch my pen needles and glucose monitor for higher tech devices – an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM). I pushed it off for 2 years, not wanting to have anything attached to me that would show people I was sick. Eventually, in hopes of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and child, I gave in and began using an Omnipod pump and Dexcom CGM.
We have many customers who buy our eat G.A.N.G.S.T.E.R. products, who are able to manage their autoimmune disease through diet. What a gift. And what perseverance for those people who stick to this fully to ensure their health. For me, I must use both food and medicine to heal my body and keep it alive and well!
I am attached to two devices all the time – usually one on my thigh and one on my love handle. One has a tiny wire sensor that sticks into my skin at all times, reads my blood sugar and sends my sugar levels straight to my phone (no more finger pricks!). The other has a catheter on it that feeds my body's insulin needs every minute or two and can be controlled by a remote control. While I absolutely go into anger and frustration modes with Type 1 Disease, I am grateful that I have a disease that as long as I stay on top of it, I can manage it, for a full and abundant life of motherhood, triathlons, dinners out and running my own business.
Many people will ask, “Wait, you are diabetic and you have a baking mix company? How does that work?” ☺ Well, it's pretty simple! I LOVE desserts. I always have, always will. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, the ability to enjoy those types of foods was stripped from me. Now that I understand the deeper rooted cause of my disease (leaky gut) and the role that certain foods have on my body (in particular, sugar, dairy, eggs and grains), in moderation, I allow myself to enjoy our products as a treat (provided I plan ahead with increased insulin). I also use our products, instead of something “junky”, in order to fix any low sugar issues I may have.
How your gut health can help you fight Type 1 Diabetes
If you or a loved one has Type 1 Diabetes, there is a leaky gut issue. Yes, us diabetics have to watch our sugars, but more and more, doctors are finding it's not just about sugar – it's about the health of our guts. The unhealthiness of our guts (mainly our small intestines) is what they are finding may actually cause Type 1 diabetes and it certainly makes us more apt to have other autoimmune issues. Protecting and strengthening our guts with the food we eat, can help us avoid these…and thrive. The biggest thing with this is avoiding inflammatory foods – the key ones being refined sugars, grains, dairy, nuts and eggs. I love that with our products I can enjoy fun treats, while protecting my insides and doing my best to avoid future autoimmune disease or complications!