Diabetes runs in my family, and it runs through both sides of it. As such, years ago, when a doctor told me that I had Diabetes, type II, I wasn’t really surprised. I was put on medications, and the doctor I had at the time was of the mindset that I would be staying on those medications for the rest of my life. A few years later, much to his surprise, my blood sugar numbers started dropping – they dropped to, and remained at a point where he said I could come off the medication, I had ‘beaten’ diabetes.
This year, as I wrote in two earlier posts (here, and here), I decided to switch my diet to a vegetarian diet. I was brought up eating meat – where I grew up, steak for breakfast was not uncommon, and bacon & eggs were normal – and I have always greatly enjoyed the taste of well-prepared meat. Due to shifts in my mind and conscience, I felt compelled to pull away from this way of eating and nourishing myself. In doing so, I changed my primary calorie source from protein, to carbohydrates; and while I felt really good about this for a while, about a month and a half ago, the music stopped and I started to feel really bad.
A month ago, I finally went to my new doctor, with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I knew what the diagnosis would be. I was right: diabetes, type II. I had a long and insightful conversation with the doctor – a man who has earned my respect for not just his high competence, but his willingness to step from behind his doctor title and speak practically about things. We talked about my history, my recent diet changes, and how I was feeling. My weight and activity levels were not the problem. To be safe, he put me on medications, and suggested that I might want to rethink my carbohydrate intake. In the meantime, I was given a gadget that measures blood sugar.
I wrestled with this for a few days, then decided to switch back to a more protein-driven diet. My blood sugar measurements had dropped a little with just the introduction to the medication – they started to really drop fast once my diet changed over. Half a month ago, my doctor told me to hold off on increasing my medication dosage. Today, he told me I can stop taking the medication – I have ‘beaten’ diabetes once again. He said he was astonished, because he’s never had a patient recover from diabetes so quickly in all his years of practice. But he thinks he understands how this may have happened ….
According to my doctor, as a species, we humans are omnivorous – we can eat animal and plant matter. However, according to him and his pet theory, as individuals, we may be more prone to one source or the other, with other individuals being ‘true’ omnivores. From what he knows of my history, his best guess is that my body is simply more suited to taking in meat, and less suited to taking in carbohydrates. My Irish ancestors are probably wailing in despair: ‘no whiskey? no potatoes?!?‘ But I know enough to listen to my body, and my body tells me that it feels better, now – the energy is balanced and plentiful, my strength is what it should be, my head is clear.
As for my conscience, it is now also strangely clear. I tried the other way; and my choice was to either switch back to meat, or be dependent on medication for the rest of my life, and eventually watch my pancreas fail. I am not eating meat now out of a disregard for the animals who will die so I might live further, I am eating meat with a genuine and renewed appreciation for what I eat, and why I am eating it. I am still keeping my meat intake as low as I can: I’m using natural, home-made protein smoothies to supplement some meals, keeping the artificial sugars down to a minimum, and only having one cooked meal per day. In this way, I continue to do what I can to reduce the amount of animals that have to die for my nourishment. I also try to buy meat from local hunters when I can – I consider hunting (especially if I know and trust the hunter’s ability to make a quick kill) to be more ethical than slaughterhouse meat, as a hunted animal at least has had a chance to live life outside a feed lot. I also see the support for ethical hunting to be a potential gain for wildlife; as a strong lobby for ethical hunting tends to promote the health and growth of wilderness areas. I am also trying to live with foods that are not too heavily based in chemistry … although, now that I’m free from the diabetes, I would make an exception for just a little Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!