Here’s a story from a reader with Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS). She writes:
In 1999, I was diagnosed with PCOS, a condition caused by insulin resistance, which includes other horrible symptoms such as weight gain, hirsutism and acanthosis nigricans, and early development of diabetes. I tried lots of things to fix the PCOS, natural herbs, progesterone therapy, etc. Nothing worked. When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I had been using progesterone for the previous 6 months so that I could have a period. Before that time, I had gone for 1.5 years without a period – a perfect situation for developing endometrial cancer.
The same thing that resolved my type 2 diabetes has also resolved the PCOS. The fact is, I have not been this healthy – EVER! Even when I was 20 years old in the military with 21% body fat, running 3 to 5 miles per day 5 days per week, I was not this healthy. I may still be overweight, but oddly enough, my health is still better! Even when I was thin and even as a teenager, my cycle was at least 45 days long as a result of estrogen dominance and insulin resistance.
In May 2015, my fasting blood sugar was 195, my cholesterol was high and I was clearly overweight. An A1C test of 9.0% confirmed the diagnosis of T2D. I was only 37 years old. I had been trying to prevent this, and here it was anyway. My grandmother suffered with it for years with massive blood clots, loss of the use of her hands and eyes, and she eventually died from its complications. My husband’s mother dropped dead as a result of a diabetes related massive heart attack at age 62. Two elderly neighbors had already lost their legs to it. My ex-husband’s grandmother went blind as a result of it. I knew diabetes to be evil and unmerciful. Type 2 diabetes stole from you every day, made your life miserable, was incurable and then killed you. At only 37 years old, I figured I’d be dead by 60, maybe 70 if I was lucky.
My doctor didn’t give me any hope either. She said, “Diabetes is a progressive disease. The medication I’m going to prescribe you will help delay the consequences of having diabetes for about 10 years, but after that, you will develop some or all of these symptoms: loss of your eye sight, loss of the use or actual loss of your legs and/or feet, loss of sensation in your hands, high blood pressure which could result in stroke or heart attack, pain in different areas of your body…” I kind of stopped hearing from that point. I guess that’s shock. I got my thoughts together and asked her if I could resolve this with diet and exercise. At this point, I was 256 lbs. wearing a women’s size 20W. She repeated in response, “Diabetes is a progressive disease.”
I was just looking for any hope, even a slim chance that I could beat this. Instead, she gave me 4 prescriptions for: a) Metformin 1000mg; b) Atorvastatin Calcium (a.k.a. Lipitor) 40mg; c) Glipizide (this is a sulfonylurea) 5mg; and d) Lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor) 10mg. I had no intention of taking any medication. I hadn’t even heard of a natural way of curing diabetes, but I knew one thing for sure…everyone who got on diabetes medication that I knew still died and lived miserably before they died.
My thought was, I will fight this however the hell I can. I asked her again, but in a different way, about my diet. I asked what should I eat or not eat. She told me to avoid potatoes, rice, bread, pasta, flour, any starches, sugar, desserts, etc., and told me I could see the nutritionist assigned to the hospital.
I spent several hours that night on YouTube watching any video which looked even remotely legitimate and related to reversing or curing diabetes. Dr. Jason Fung is the only person, let alone doctor, that I found who: 1) wasn’t just trying to just sell his book by giving tidbits of information but not the full picture; 2) used real research, charts, graphs and studies to support his methods; 3) actually dealt with real people and had proof of helping real people; 4) advocated not just a diet change but pinpointed fasting as the key; 5) told the truth that insulin resistance is the real issue and everything else is just symptoms or effects; 6) said that diabetes could be cured (this by itself is a bold claim); and 7) made himself available to anyone via email, etc. Although Dr. Fung advocated any whole food approach that limited processed foods (this may be an oversimplification), he didn’t reallly dictate which diet was best. I chose to do low carb. I also spent the next several weeks watching all of the videos on his channel – some of them twice!
HOW I ATE ON A REGULAR BASIS
I ate uncured bacon, real eggs, butter, 80/20 ground meat, unprocessed meats, wild salmon and mackerel, coconut oil, any green vegetable, cauliflower, tomatoes, any nuts, tomatoes, cherries, limes, Himalayan pink salt, xylitol, hard cheeses and strawberries all the time. Occasionally (meaning once every 2 weeks or more) I had beans, grapefruit, plums, popcorn (yes, I had real popcorn made with coconut oil and butter cooked on the stove top). Very rarely (maybe 1 out of 30 meals), I ate restaurant food, and even then, I skipped the soda and went with diet or sweet tea with real sugar that I limited to 2 packets.
I found that if I ate carbs, they had to have half of the grams of carbohydrates they contain to come from fiber in order for them not to negatively affect my 2-hr after meal blood sugar reading. About 2 months into my diet, I added cracked bulgur wheat (a version from Haiti) which has 24g carbs and 13g of fiber per serving. I recently started using fufu flour to bread and fry (in lard or palm oil) chicken and fish. Fufu flour is made from plantains and also has a 2 to 1 ratio of carbs to fiber (4g carbs and 2g fiber). It crisps perfectly with a great taste. I occasionally use coconut flour to fill out recipes such as meatballs or crab-stuffed mushrooms which need a starch to tie the oil and meat together. Coconut flour has a ratio of 9g carbs to 6g fiber. I use hulled hemp seeds which have 3g carbs and 3 g fiber and put them on anything because they just taste good and are cheap.
Previously everything was underpinned with rice or pasta. Now I learned that meat and vegetables were fine. I underpin my foods with bulgur wheat, finely chopped and sautéed cauliflower, spaghetti squash or just well buttered and seasoned vegetables. I try to mix cheese and nuts into every meal because they fill me up. I even learned how to make sweet and spicy hot wings using Cholula hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, xylitol and oil from the renderings from baking the wings or just using fried (unbreaded) wings.
HOW I EXERCISED
I just went to the local park and walked as fast as I could, 6 days per week. After 2 months, I got a gym membership and started doing the elliptical for 30 minutes at between 325 and 350 calories 2-3 days per week. I also tried my best to add in upper body strength training. However, I kept my walking routine because it became habit, and I pretty much got to know every person and their dogs at the park.
HOW I FASTED
I’m just going to give you the days I fasted straight out. I do water-only fasting. I started my diet and exercise 27 May 2015, and I fasted as follows:
1) 22-24 June 2015 (exactly 72 hours)
2) 8-11 July 2015 (started night of 7 July and ended at breakfast 11 July)
3) 20 July 2015 (about 20 hours and then ate dinner with a friend)
4) 21 – 23 July 2015 (started night of 20 July and ended at 2pm on 23 July)
5) 29 July 2015 (exactly 24 hours – I did this fast because I ate fast food with a client)
6) 3-5 August 2015 (about 2.5 days)
7) 7 August 2015 (ate around noon the following day so 1.5 days)
8) 16 August 2015 (about 20 hours)
9) 20 August 2015 (ate around noon the following day so 1.5 days)
10) 7-11 September 2015 (ate at 2pm 11 September) *This was the first time I ever got a blood sugar reading in the 70s. It also hit 73 one day after I ended this fast. This reading was so unusual for me that I had to go back and look up what was normal!
HOW I LOST WEIGHT
I lost 12 lbs. the first month and then 6 lbs. per month thereafter for a total of 30 lbs. going from 256 to 226 in 4 months. I had a goal of 48 lbs. and didn’t make it. I used mostly 3-5 day fasts because I wanted quick results that I couldn’t undo by eating wrong. I wasn’t focused on weight loss but on beating diabetes. So although alternative day fasting doesn’t slow your metabolism, multiple day fasts do seem to slow it a little. However, the benefit you get from insulin sensitivity is well worth a long fast over a short one.
THE EFFECTS OF MY LIFESTYLE CHANGE
I was having a lot of tingling, numbness, swelling and some burning in my left foot. That went away immediately. A burning in my left upper thigh near my hip took longer to go away. Honestly, I had to pray on it, and I believe the prayer was more effective than anything because the burning was keeping me from sleeping. It’s hard to sleep when you are on fire. Now, I have no pain in that area. However, it took almost the full 4 months to get complete relief, and even as I sit here, there is a slight tingling but nothing painful or uncomfortable enough to concern me. My fingers would go to sleep, and now that happens rarely and is limited to only my left pinky finger.
I suffered with chronic yeast and bacterial infections which are now gone completely. The hair on my face from the PCOS-related hirsutism is disappearing and what’s left is finer and softer. The hair on my head is softer and naturally oiled instead of dry and flaking. I have a smaller waistline and a nicer butt – so says my husband! My period has returned on time each month starting at the beginning of July. My husband and I actually have an expectation of being pregnant sooner than later; before this, we just had faith and prayer with no physical evidence that things were going in the right direction.
HOW MY BLOOD PRESSURE CHANGED
a) 27 May 2015 it was 142/92
b) 29 June 2015 it was 128/83
c) 28 Sep 2015 it was 101/75
DID I USE ANY MEDICATIONS OR SUPPLEMENTS?
I used no prescription medications except for those prescribed for the yeast infection and bacterial vaginosis. The ones the doctor sent me are still in the envelopes. I did take a multi-vitamin, magnesium, B-complex and vitamin D every day for the first month. While fasting during the first two months, I used only magnesium, B-complex, potassium and Himalayan pink salt. It helped reduce the coldness in my feet and hands for some reason. I started supplementing with 500 to 1000 mcg of chromium per day starting in month 3 (August). It really helped me to get my blood sugars to fall within 2 hours of eating a meal instead of waiting 4 hours for them to fall to pre-meal (pre-prandial) levels. I put cinnamon on some foods.
HOW I CHECKED MY BLOOD SUGAR
I’m a nerd. I love charts and graphs and believe in fact-based decision making. I’m also a programmer, so I love data. I put all my blood sugar reading in Microsoft Excel and examined the trends and patterns.
I took approximately 5 to 8 readings per day, and almost never missed taking my morning reading. My morning reading is always over 100 (dawn phenomenon?) but can be lowered based on the amount and time that I consumed carbs the previous day. So I try to eat less carbs in the evening as a rule of thumb.
The key thing I noticed is that after a 3 day fast, my averages would drop about 10 points for at least 2 weeks. I guess that represents increased sensitivity. The thing about taking your blood sugar often is that you get a feel for what you did right or wrong. It can make you anxious especially when things seem to go wrong, and you can’t figure out why. However, most often, if I looked back at my meals, time between meals, exercise, rest and other factors, I could figure out what was happening. For example, I noticed that a hard 1-hour workout would lower my blood sugar, but a medium one would raise it. However, if I didn’t work out at all, all my numbers that day and the following morning were higher.
WHAT WILL I DO NOW?
Continue doing low carb. Check my A1C once per month with the over-the-counter test you can buy at Walmart for like $23 for 2 tests. Focus on weight loss by adding in strength training. I may go back to cardio-kickboxing too. I quit the class just before I was diagnosed because I used to get dizzy and nauseous. That was definitely the undiagnosed diabetes!
I can confidently say I beat diabetes and prediabetes in 4 months