Many people write asking if this or that protocol, supplement, device, diet or Tibetan singing bowl will help them manage, cure or forget their type-1 diabetes. One website’s raw vegan guru tells you to eat 30 bananas a day. A few clicks away you’ll find Dr. Bernstein restricting people to 20g of carbo a day. One book tells you to deep breathe, while Buteyko tells you to hold your breath. One podcast tells you to stick to just yoga, the other wants you running 10km each morning.
Research is certainly a valuable first step. But it’s only a first step. I think what anyone with type-1 diabetes needs to do is setup very tightly controlled experiments. Experiment on yourself. I don’t have type-1 diabetes, but conduct such experiments to help overcome my own autoimmune disease. And, of course, we are always testing on Nicole.
Many times people fall into the trap of trying something for a few days. Then they wonder if they are doing the wrong thing. So they switch to something else that looks better. When I ask why they didn’t continue, they may give a vague answer like: “It didn’t seem to be working.”
First set a criteria. How will you know if it’s helped or hurt you? Some things you can track every single day during a test period:
- tissue oxygenation level each morning
- average blood sugar each day
- highest blood sugar each day
- energy level
- symptoms you may have (e.g. inflammation level, skin rashes, indigestion, etc.)
- sugar cravings
- mental clarity
- sleep quality
- stress level
- morning blood pressure
- morning pulse
- muscle testing
- monthly HgbA1C
- hair mineral analysis
Tracking 5-7 metrics will gives me clearer results. You can quantify those less mathematical metrics (like your mood) with a scale of 1-5. That way you can tally things up at the end of the test.
Next, I decide how long the test will run. Some things can be tested quickly. Some may need longer. For example, maybe you want to see if chromium helps you have tighter blood sugars. You could take a high dose of a chromium supplement for three days. Track you average blood sugar. Then stop taking the supplement for three more days and track the results. Other items may require a longer test period. Maybe 21 days on, 7 days off.
Now you have some concrete data on paper that you can review. It’s not in your head. It’s not a vague feeling of “maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t.” You can see if there was any significant difference between adding (or taking away) something.
Maybe that $30 of chromium did absolutely nothing for your blood sugar. Plus… you had bad indigestion the whole time you took it. Okay. Now you know. Maybe try a different brand of chromium. But certainly don’t continue buying or using that one.
On the other hand, you might take chromium and find your body oxygenation level goes up 3 seconds, while your average blood sugar drops 1mmol (18mg/dL). Money well spent. Get a monthly mail order subscription. Test an even higher dose.
Likewise, people waver over whether a low-carb, high-fat diet will help them manage their blood sugar. Try it for 7 days. Track the results carefully. And find out not only if it helps your blood sugars, but your mood, sugar cravings. digestion and energy level. Reading endless books and losing yourself to YouTube won’t give you the answer. The answer lies in you. Test it on yourself. N=1.
I work with many people who have had type-1 diabetes for 20, 30, even 40 years. Yet they have never been encouraged to conduct a semi-formal experiment like this. One where you write down the results on paper (or a computer document). This way you can reference it for the rest of your life. Even if all you did was conduct one such experiment a month (e.g. 20 days on, 10 days off) that would come to 120 experiments over a ten year period. Imagine the knowledge and improved lifestyle you would have? No doctor, laboratory or scientist can give you this type of personalized direction. But you can.
Some may not like the word “experiment.” Gorey dissections may come to mind. Take note, then, that the Italian word for experience is sperimentare. That’s essentially what conducting an experiment is all about – experiencing something for yourself. So if you don’t like the sound of conducting experiments, then conduct an experience.
You can test different types of insulin. You can test whether ditching all the wireless technology in your home lowers your blood sugars at night. You can see if practicing a breathing technique like the Buteyko Method improves your mood, energy levels and blood sugars. You see whether going for a 30-mintue walk before bed each night improve your body oxygen levels and helps you sleep. You can see whether life without your smartphone makes you feel less stressed.
Instead of information being a confusing onslaught, it becomes something you master. Create a list of things you want to test to help you have tighter blood sugar control. Then pick one. Create a spreadsheet on your computer or a chart in a notebook. Start tracking, measuring and comparing results. You can’t buy this type of personalized data. Yet it will be priceless to you.
Thinking outside the type-1 matrix,
–John C. A. Manley
P.S. Nicole and I are doing more semi-formal tests. We’ll try to share more of them in future posts. Currently we’re testing how an increase in dietary salts affects her renal-challenged body. If you would like help conducting experiments on yourself, you can contact me for coaching or consulting.
P.P.S. You can read about one such experiment Nicole conducted at: 20-50g: How Low-Carb Should a Type-1 Diabetic Diet Go?