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Guest Post: Living the Paleo Lifestyle with Type 1 Diabetes.

Lindsay lives with type 1 diabetes and has guest blogged here before about her diagnosis.  But today she's talking about living the Paleo lifestyle while managing diabetes, and I find her journey fascinating.  I'm fortunate enough to call Lindsay (ahem ... I mean Linds!) a friend, and I encourage you to check out her blog or her Twitter feed for more information on how Paleo fits into her diabetes management.  She's pretty freaking awesome.

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When I first learned about the Paleo Lifestyle, I was intrigued, as I have become with food and the effects it has on the human body since my late in life diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to fully live the Paleo Lifestyle having type 1 diabetes. Type 1 requires fast acting sugar at a moment’s notice, careful planning of schedules and exercise, and the ability to be flexible constantly. Glucose tablets, smarties, and Skittles, are not Paleo. More so, kale and carrots don’t exactly raise my blood sugar quick, so I was skeptical.

What is the Paleo Lifestyle? Paleo stands for Paleolithic, also dubbed the "Caveman Diet," or the "Hunter/Gatherer" diet. In short, if it wasn't around when cavemen were, our bodies weren't meant to eat it and can't properly break it down. If you have to process, breakdown, refine the food from its original state, then it isn't Paleo. For me a good rule of thumb to go by is that if it wasn't around 100 years ago, don't eat it. Think about your grandparents or great grandparents, who lived on lard, meat, potatoes, chicken, bacon…they lived to be 70s, 80s and 90s, why? Because they walked out their front door and sourced their meal from the barn, coop, etc. Think about it.

The more research I conducted, books I read, blogs I followed, the more I thought, there really is something to this Paleo thing, because it just plain makes sense. I decided that I’d give it a go, and see how it fit into my life with type 1 diabetes. Disclaimer: I didn’t “go Paleo” to try to be low carb (because of my type 1 diabetes), I went Paleo to take control of my overall health and feel better, not just from a diabetes perspective. Paleo has reversed and cured a lot of individuals from a variety of chronic health issues, which is amazing, however, I never went Paleo thinking I would cure myself of type 1 diabetes and go off insulin, and I know that won’t happen. BUT, I feel better (and different), so many things have changed, disappeared, or have become manageable that I didn’t even realize were an issue. One of the most common misconceptions that I’m sure a lot of individuals with type 1 diabetes can relate to, is this “oh, that’s right, you can’t eat that,” FALSE. I choose NOT to eat that, but thanks for assuming you know me and my disease!

Over a year into living the Paleo Lifestyle, I’ve lost weight (and can easily maintain the loss), my skin is clear, I sleep better, I feel better and the most important benefit for me, I like who I am. It’s been a learning process, still is, but I’m extremely passionate about it. I started a blog to share with others what I learn, and to try to help others feel better too. I’ve tried to find ways to share how being Paleo is easy, flavorful, and rewarding. In all of the benefits I’ve seen, my blood sugar is amazing I’d say 90% of the time. Hard to believe, but I see it with my own eyes, so, yet another reason why Paleo has been wonderful for me. My body behaves entirely differently when I eat real food vs. fake food.

What’s more awesome about being Paleo, is that I don’t have cravings (well, sometimes, but RARE), never feel starved, and eat more than I ever have! Everyone has to find the Paleo that’s right for them. Each person’s Paleo is different, but it’s about learning about your body, how you’re feeling, and eating clean. My definition of eating clean, is knowing what I'm putting in my body through reading and educating myself, what ingredients are (if there are any), properly washing fruits and vegetables, buying organic when possible, and eating grassfed/pastured, hormone, antibiotic free meats. I try to eat as fresh of food as possible, nothing boxed or with an ingredient list. Eating food that our bodies were meant to eat and digest properly fuels us and we receive the most nourishment and benefit from what we're putting in our bodies as a result.

Let me dispel a couple myths for you:
  • I am not starving; people think because the list of foods I don't eat is much longer than the list of foods I do eat, that I'm always hungry. People also assume that I am dieting when I say no thank you to cake or bagels, when in reality; I choose not to put those foods in my body for health reasons, not because I'm dieting, OR because I have type 1 diabetes.
  • I am not deprived; I CHOOSE to live this way, and am happy with my choice, so I don't feel deprived. After removing wheat/grains from my diet altogether, my mental health is much more on point, and I can actually correlate not eating those things with a healthier feeling in my body. Wheat has the same effect as meth in your brain on dopamine receptors, so you're not exactly thinking clearly when you eat grains, which is why they’re so addictive.
  • I eat more than I ever have; I am always munching on fresh fruit, nuts, healthy meats, vegetables, etc. I feel like I'm always eating, and yet I don't gain weight. Realizing that the fewer the ingredients, the more flavorful the actual food is. My tastebuds have evolved with the removal of things like artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, grains, etc.
  • I feel better than I ever have; I sleep more soundly, so I'm more rested. My blood sugar is so consistent; the lack of fluctuation helps my focus and concentration. My skin has cleared tremendously. Living Paleo and exercising regularly, I feel healthy and lean. I've actually had several individuals tell me that I look healthy, and I'd much rather hear that than “you’re skinny.”
  • Living Paleo is easy and affordable; common misconception like with any diet or lifestyle that eating Paleo (or healthy) has to be expensive health foods, and that is not the case at all. There are a lot of posts on my blog about very simple recipes that can be made with very few ingredients that are Paleo. They’re all inexpensive. The next time you are making a recipe, try substituting a few key ingredients with more Paloe-friendly options, and then think about what else you could add for beneficial nutrients and minerals. Most of the time, I make something, then think, “oh that’d be good if I added that, and I have it on hand.”
Paleo, pretty much rocks my world. I love it. I’m passionate about it. I will help anyone that has questions about it, type 1 diabetes or not. I love cooking, but try to make things easy. I love experimenting. I love learning, and sharing what I learn. I started a blog, Living Like Linds, which includes posts about my journey to health among other things.

Here are some Paleo posts that might be helpful:
Here’s to improved health, beyond what I ever imagined ... and diabetes can suck it.


Hi Lindsay,

Great post. My T1D husband has been eating Paleo for a few years. It's led to huge improvements. We're always happy to meet other P(aleo)PWDs

This is VERY interesting. I am going to research this some more and consider this for my family.

One of the "advantages" (if I may call it that) of eating a diet full of artificially-processed junk is that it all comes in a cardboard box with a "Nutrition Facts" label on the side. To be honest, I feel more comfortable eating a bowl of Apple Jacks than fresh fruit because I know (I think I know!) exactly what's in it and I can precisely measure the carbs and bolus for them. I can't do that with the natural stuff.

I'm not implying that a "modern" food diet is healthier for the average person than a Paleo diet; not at all. I'm sure the natural stuff is better. But as a Type 1 PWD, I sacrifice the healthier food for the "countable" food because it seems to make managing diabetes easier. From all you've written, perhaps I'm wrong.

I'm glad Linds found something that works for her, but I really can't get behind some of her reasoning. Living into your 90's 100 years ago was certainly not the norm... in fact, life expectancy in 1900 was short of 50 years old. In addition, it wasn't just food that was different then... the vast majority of people did manual labor, which burned more calories than the office jobs most of us have now.

Again, I'm glad this is what works for you right now, but I'd be leary of some of the points you've tried to make here. I'm not sure Paleo is the "best" solution, though it may be a small part of it.

Love this post. I was contemplating starting Crossfit which, I believe pushes eating Paleo. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to do the program, and I'm glad to see that it's a possibility. Thanks!

I've been doing the Paleo diet more and more. I do feel better when I do it. Apparently it's a growing trend as our Costco has several Paleo cookbooks out now. Thanks for the post. I found a great cauliflower recipe I'm trying tonight!

Agreed! There's a tendency in the T1 world to insist that we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and, while it's true that I CAN eat the slice of chocolate cake that's pictured on my insulin pump box (ie. I can, in theory, come up with an insulin dose that will match the cake), that doesn't mean it's a healthy thing to attempt. My BGs have been significantly better since I ditched non-vegetable carbs and all "Frankenfood." Not perfect, but I rarely have lows, and I can't remember the last time I saw a number over 10 mmol/L (180 mg/dl). And I feel better.

Interesting that it helps. Makes sense to me because of the inherent low carb implications. I eat about 300 carbs a day, and am thus not a low carb proponent, but it makes sense that low carb makes achieving target easier.

Also, I'm not sure that 'suck it' is the term you were looking for. The etymology of 'suck it' infers you're telling someone to give you oral sex, AND that this is a bad, submissive thing. Maybe that's what you meant, but I doubt it.

Thank you for posting! I felt like the only Paleo T1 out there!

I've been able to stay away from grains, pasta, rice pretty good. Artificial sweeteners too.

But sugary treats? That's where I need work. Have you done any sugar detoxes before?

Whoa, Alex. Some things are best left unsaid! Geez.

So glad you've found something that is working so well for you! This post is extremely well-timed for me - I'm currently giving a much lower carb diet a try, while increasing meat and healthy fats. So far I've been amazed at the improved stability of my bloodsugars. Can't wait to check out your blog!

Lindsay, what strikes me most about your diet is that, paleo aside, you're just eating good food. Good for you. Ain't it nice to feel good?

Timely post. I'm very interested. I'm wondering, though, if you can go Paleo if you don't eat meat, only fish? Is there dairy on the diet? I guess I'll need to learn more. Thanks!

Also, Alex, I don't think "infers" is the term you were looking for. The correct word in your sentence is "implies." Too many carbs for lunch, maybe? ;-)

I would like to jump on this bandwagon BUT for health reasons we stay away from red meat...Paleo has you eating this stuff a lot. There is lots of science linking red meat intake and disease. Also, there are just too many health benefits to eating beans/legumes that I could not embrace this diet. However, I am glad it works for you, just be aware that not all of the other food choices out there are "bad"

I am a vegetarian T1D. While I agree wholeheartedly on the notion that one must eat a whole foods diet, I am just simply not a meat-eater. I feel less clear and less responsible when I do it.

Have you come across many Paleo-types who choose not to eat meat?

Is it possible to email you with more specific questions, about how this works with your blood sugars etc ? I'm trying very hard to get myself "fine tuned", so am very interested in your information. It was a great article, many thanks !

Paleo without meat is Forks Over Knives. Google it. It's backed by amazing nutritional science.

Interesting thoughts, Scott E. However, I've found that I don't really count much what I eat anymore, as my body processes real food more efficiently that even if I have something exactly weighed/counted with carb content.
Hi Kim-it is the best solution for me :-) I do understand though that life expectency has changed, my view is more that we have approved all of the processed/fake food, without truly testing or knowing what it does to our body, and I think we're beginning to see the ramifications of it now with autoimmunity through the roof.
Alex-no, that is not what I meant at all.
Rachel-no sugar detoxes, really that I know of...I just don't eat it!
Seth-yes, it does feel good, and so does my body. You're right, paleo aside, healthy, yummy food!
Suki-I suppose you could? Maybe try it and see how it works for you? Some paleo eat dairy and some do not. Those that I know try for pastured dairy, or raw milk, maybe kefir, just depends.
Laura-I don't eat red meat a lot, I vary it with all kinds :-) Paleo doesn't mean eating cow every day, there is still the idea of moderation, and that's important.
Kellie-I have not...but I'd be very curious to hear if you give it a try or find some?
Alice-yes, please email me at livinglikelinds@gmail.com.

Right on! I've been T1 for 20 some years and paleo for 2. Never felt better. EVER. So glad you are getting the word out there. Folks across the pond have been testing T1s for celiac routinely, but we still don't make the connection. While I'd eat paleo for other reasons, having my second autoimmune disease diagnosed four years ago, I'm thankful to have found a way to stop the autoimmune list from growing. Oh, and I produce grass fed beef and eat red meat nearly every day. My cholesterol has never been better, thank you skeptics:). Love to subscribe to your blog...

It's so refreshing to see these posts! My husband is a type 1 diabetic and has been for 27 years. We've discovered Paleo and love it. Can you tell us what are the best veggies/fruits to maintain his blood sugar? He is also trying to lose about 50 pounds, and the whole limit nuts, bananas and whatnot has us confused!

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