Keto Diet and Type Diabetes
Some people experience autoimmune diseases while others do not. Maybe you have tried to understand how changes in your diet might help an autoimmune disease. Or maybe you are worried that what you are eating is contributing to it? Perhaps you are someone that is suffering from type 1 diabetes and wonder how the ketogenic (referred to as “keto”) diet might help to ease some of the symptoms. We want to assist you in choosing fuel for your body that will help you not only achieve your goals but also be sustainable, and help you be successful in remedying these issues. We will learn about what autoimmune diseases are and what causes them. We will then explore the keto diet and type 1 diabetes.
It is not entirely clear what causes autoimmune diseases. There are a few things being studied, that medical professionals believe may be contributing to autoimmune diseases. This includes: diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals but researchers cannot be entirely sure. Research (https://www.healthline.com/health-news/gut-flora-treatment-for-autoimmune-diseases#3) has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases. It is believed that the microbiome of the gut could be a key in managing them.
There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. Some of these bacteria are good and promote healthy digestion and others can be problematic and make your gut unhealthy. Your overall health is impacted by the bacteria in the intestines, which is also known as intestinal or gut flora. It is essential to be aware of what can contribute to autoimmune diseases and be proactive if you are having problems. Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of dealing with an autoimmune disease.
Common autoimmune diseases
First, we need to understand what the immune system does. It is designed to attack bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body to help keep you healthy. It is expected to tell the difference between foreign cells (those that don’t belong) and your own cells (ones that belong). Autoimmune diseases occur when the body is attacked by the immune system in response to something going on inside it. It is working, trying to protect you from illness but instead causes it. Some cells will be attacked in certain areas of the body and others can impact the body as a whole.
Some common autoimmune diseases:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Celiac disease
It is clear, by looking at this list, that there are several problems that can occur when your immune system decides to attack cells within your body. Some of them can be managed by diet while others need more serious medical intervention. From this list, we will be focusing on type 1 diabetes symptoms, keto diet and type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes:
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. We will be focusing on type 1. It is an immune system disorder where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are attacked. This means the body can no longer make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because many people are diagnosed as a child or young adult. It can also be called insulin dependent diabetes because, once diagnosed, one must take insulin in order to live. Insulin is a hormone that helps create energy from glucose. Glucose is a natural sugar that comes from the food you eat. The glucose passes from your blood into your body’s cells because of insulin. The glucose in your body is used when you need more energy (i.e. between meals, when exercising or sleeping). Individuals with type 1 diabetes cannot process glucose for energy as there is a lack of insulin. This creates high levels of blood sugar and can cause many problems.
As with many of the autoimmune diseases, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes are not exclusive. You cannot assign some of the symptoms specifically to type 1 diabetes as they are precursors to many other health ailments. The symptoms include: excessive urination, unintended weight loss, fatigue, excessive thirst, excessive hunger. It is important to be aware of any of these symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them.
Other complications can occur as part of unmanaged high blood sugar levels in the body. These include: risk for heart attack, eye problems, nerve pain, infections on the skin, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Like many other autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known. There are a few risk factors to be cognizant of:
- Family history – several genes have been connected to type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that everyone with a family history will be diagnosed with it. There are other factors not yet identified.
- Race – type 1 diabetes is more prevalent in white individuals than in people of other races. Again, this does not mean that every white individual will be diagnosed with it. There are other factors not yet identified.
Keto diet and type 1 diabetes:
If you focus on overall body health, the risk for an autoimmune disease will likely decrease. You should eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. Food is very powerful in keeping your body in optimum health. There is not a “one size fits all” diet for type 1 diabetes. Each person must learn how their body responds to different foods. The most important thing for people with type 1 diabetes to do is to monitor blood sugar levels. It is not recommended to skip meals. It is suggested to eat around the same time every day and pay attention to food labels. Your level of activity plays a role in managing diabetes. You will want to make sure you check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after you exercise. Your doctor will also work with you to monitor your insulin. The two types of insulin coverage are:
- bolus, which is prescribed as an insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio and represents how many grams of carbohydrates are covered by 1 unit of insulin
- basal, which is a background insulin dose that replaces insulin overnight, when you are fasting, or in between meals
In a ketogenic diet you will be eliminating the carbohydrates that your body burns first for energy. In doing this, your body will begin to burn fat for energy. This is known as ketosis which is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. The basis of the keto diet is to devise an eating plan that helps your body reach ketosis. More simply put, it is a low carbohydrate and high fat diet. It consists of very little carbohydrates, moderate protein and focuses on healthy fats.
Inflammation of the body can happen as a result of autoimmune disease. One key is to minimize other instigators of it. You could have inflammation in your gut, your joints, your digestive tract; or you may have allergies, food sensitivities, or any other chronic inflammation issue. Here are common foods that cause inflammation: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat. It is wise to watch consumption of these products not only to avoid inflammation but also to promote healthy gut bacteria growth. Most of the foods that cause inflammation will be removed or dramatically reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in your body which could promote a healthy intestinal tract.
The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health, they are also on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet:
- Vegetables: Broccoli, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
- Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
- Fruit: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
- Sprouted seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
- Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
- Meats and eggs: chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
- Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
- Nuts: pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.
There are many foods that can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your body. They include: wheat based products, grains with gluten, baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), and artificial sweeteners. Most of these foods will also be removed or cut considerably if you are following a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you will be promoting healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and promoting this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of an autoimmune disease including type 1 diabetes.
Keto diet and type 1 diabetes
The keto diet focuses on increasing fat intake and minimizing sugar intake. Some people have experienced a decrease in blood sugar when using keto diet and type 1 diabetes. If there is too much glucose in the body, diabetics have high blood sugar, which can be dangerous. This often happens after consuming carbohydrates (starches, fiber and sugar). Minimizing carbohydrates could help diabetics keep their blood sugar low. With that being said, you should pay close attention to be sure that you are getting enough carbohydrates. You do not want your blood sugar to drop too low either. Your doctor may want you to monitor glucose and ketone levels to make sure you are on the right track. It can be overwhelming to find that balance and, at times, it can be very frustrating. Keeping a food journal to see how your body responds to your diet can also be tremendously helpful.
What else can you do to lower your risk of an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes? As with any issue your body faces, including chronic illnesses, it is imperative to make sure you remove things that negatively impact your health. It is just as significant to make sure you move your body as often as possible, allow enough time for your body to rest and repair itself, and supplement your nutrition. Most diets today are lacking some nutritional value. Make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet, so supplements aid in making up the difference. These are other things that you can do to reduce inflammation and encourage healthy bacteria growth:
- Reduce stress
- Avoid smoking
- Sleep more
Reducing stress, exercise, supplementing your nutrition, improving diet and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which then lowers the risk of autoimmune disease.
As with any dietary change, especially if you have other health concerns, it is important to discuss this subject with your primary care physician. Remember that choosing the right products to enhance your ketogenic plan can help you create a sustainable diet that will produce results. A major factor to evaluate is finding a plan where whole foods, particularly ones that you enjoy consuming, can be incorporated. A lot of focus should be put on the quality of food consumed. Other lifestyle changes such as increased physical activity and improving sleep can also contribute and improve overall results. Setting yourself up to be successful with keto diet and type 1 diabetes will assist you in improving the health of your whole body.
Regardless of your diet choice, remember to stay hydrated by drinking water. It is also suggested to avoid soda, drinks with added sugars, and alcoholic beverages. We want to help by making sure that you have the information needed to make informed decisions regarding a keto diet and type 1 diabetes to support your diet and your health. In knowing the potential causes and issues triggered within your body, you can take steps to balance your diet while living with type 1 diabetes.