The Big Switch – a diabetic’s move from glucose to a low-carb ketogenic diet…

As the homepage of this blog informs, one member of our household (Nicholas James) is a type 1 diabetic.

My own research on the subject highlighted that a ketogenic diet can also be brilliant for diabetics. This is due to its ability to lower insulin-dependence and stabilise blood-sugars. Two weeks into my own diet, NJ also decided to take the plunge and try it for a day. The results were so good, so immediately, that he’s still going strong and hasn’t looked back!

The ‘big switch’ was a nerve-racking thing however. We did it as a process of experimentation unsanctioned by the medical profession! After all, it is not current guidance in the UK for the treatment of diabetes and there is precious little information available on the subject, particularly if you’re a type 1 diabetic.

The only way to see whether it worked therefore was to try it! We took small steps but soon found that it was far easier than we’d thought (if you’re not eating carbohydrate, you don’t need much insulin – bingo!!!). But enough from me; over to someone who can tell you more with specific regard to diabetes. Over to you NJ…

“Hello again.

Last time I wrote about my experience in the summer of 2013, when I found out I was a Type 1 diabetic. It’s funny to think that my life just 20 months ago was a time when bread, pasta, chocolate and fruit juice could be consumed without a second thought. Just over a year on, and it feels as if I’ve always been this way, and the strange thing is, I really don’t mind it.

As a nurse pointed out to me in the hospital, the good thing about diabetes is that it makes you far more aware, on a daily basis, of the things that your body doesn’t really appreciate. Of course, I can’t now have a sugary treat each day, drink apple juice with breakfast, snack on a cake between meals or be care-free with food like a ‘healthy’, ‘normal’ person can. But, in my mind, this unexpected disease that hit me in my early 30s, was a wake up call to make sure I took active care of my body into middle age and beyond. Something maybe people without diabetes wont do until it’s too late.

So for one year I followed the NHS guidelines for a diabetic diet: Low fat, healthy, carb intensive and accurately balanced out with appropriate doses of insulin.

A typical daily food intake would be:

Breakfast: Porridge with sweetener, nuts and berries.

Snack: Banana and digestive biscuit.

Lunch: Tuna Salad and oatcake biscuits, banana.

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Chicken leg, pearl barley, green beans, low fat fruit fromage frais.

It worked well and I was very pleased with my results. A 12 unit dose from an Insuman Comb25 pen before breakfast, and the same again before dinner saw my blood glucose levels maintained between 5 and 10…most of the time.

I say most of the time, because I had a daily dip at around 10.30am where my sugars crashed down to around 3.1, then post lunch I may jump up to 12.0, before dipping again in the afternoon. Pre-dinner I tended to be around 6.0, but then could be, depending on what time we ate, anything up to 10.0 before bed.

Despite being told by medical staff that “it was the blood glucose score before eating that mattered”, I just didn’t like this constant see-sawing action between lows and highs. Indeed, I later discovered that it is the fluctuations between high and low blood sugars that cause a lot of damage to the body and ultimately lead to the complications associated with diabetes.

Adam was moving towards a ketogenic diet for weight-control, so I thought I’d look into whether this could work for diabetics. In his best selling book, Dr. Richard Bernstein seemed to advocate that the LCHF diet offers a solution to this constant battle between injecting insulin and topping up glucose, that many diabetics face.

Without the advice or guidance from any of my doctors I decided to give it a go. Carefully at first, by lowering my insulin to 8, and dropping my carb intake slowly over a couple of days, until I reduced it to no carbs at all. The immediate effect was that my insulin dose was far too high, and I went quickly into hypoglycaemia. By adjusting this down to a dose of 3, I plateaued to a constant reading of 5 on my blood metre. Not just 5 before food, but a consistent and constant reading of between 5 and 6 no matter what time I tested my blood, which I did so frequently during this trial. This was proving a success!

However, the effects were not all positive – but I had been reading ahead and was expecting the consequences of chyanging to a keto-regime. The increased thirst, headaches, queasy feelings and nausea lasted for a couple of weeks. I also started losing weight more rapidly than Adam, which worried me as I thought I was re-entering a state of ketoacidosis. However, my weight then plateaued at 12 stone, which was my ideal weight according to the BMI.

So far, so good! I’m delighted with my blood sugars, I’ve lost a bit of weight and I feel that I have more energy, particularly when I’m running. What’s not to love about this take on healthy diabetic eating – I just hope my doctor agrees.

I wonder what he will say…”

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

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The Low Carb Christmas – A Kitchen Carol

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The old radio in the corner is constantly on at Christmas – it’s my loyal companion as I stand, stir & chop; slowly pottering round the kitchen, preparing the dinner. One by one, the joyous chorus of carols builds to a crescendo, and I lift my voice in cheery accompaniment to familiar favourites, old and new.

Behind this seeming harmony; the wireless and I have a grudging respect for each-other. Whenever I get too close, it lets out a wild crackle of protest, which grumblingly fades away as I hastily withdraw back to the table. The radio-set is like a much loved, but cantankerous old relative. The casing is timeworn, and the aerial long gone (it was replaced years ago by a bent and wobbly old coathanger). Since then, the tuning has never really worked properly and only four stations play-out reliably.

Despite the old radio’s protests, I could never get rid of it. It’s worked too long & too hard to simply abandon it the moment a little TLC is required. It simply needs patience and understanding. And besides; the rich music it emits would never quite sound the same from anything else. We’re used to each-other now, the radio and I. It’s a relationship that works, albeit haltingly at times…

But as I chop, stir and pare, I’m aware of other sounds which surround me. From all around comes the bustling hubbub of cookery at work – a rich kitchen carol that’s as joyous and full as the ringing chords of the radio itself.

Hark the herald angels sing… The kettle pipes up and joins in the chorus. It too sings along with its bright cheery whistle. Its voice soars high in descant to tell me the water’s boiled for teapot and stockpot. As I gently lift it from the hob, its song slowly fades as the carol’s last chords reverberate round the kitchen, then echo & die away.

The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood… Bright red cranberries pop and fizz in their gleaming copper-pan, slowly simmering on the hob. I reach into the large wicker vegetable-basket which lives under the table. Dry, papery onion-skins rustle like leaves as I rummage around, searching for ginger, thyme and sage. As I shred and slice cabbage, it crunches like footprints in fresh, pure white snow. The leg of lamb roasting in the oven spits and splutters; mushrooms squeak in the pan and bacon sizzles as it fries in hot butter.

When the glass of red-wine hits the hot pan; a huge steamy sigh billows up to the heavens. We’re walking in the air…  Each ingredient has its own special song. They all converge in unison; a fine, diverse choir of mysterious voices, high and low.

But it’s not just the ingredients which sing along to the Christmas chorus. Other sounds in the background join & accompany my soft hum.  As iron hits hotplate, it creaks, gasps & groans; cold metal expanding with sharp instant heat.

The copper saucepans on the hob bubble and chatter excitedly; each one anxious to get their own voice heard above the crowd, like schoolboys. Their bright copper lids clatter in clouds of steam, and water hisses as it boils over onto the stovetop. From a distance, they seem to gossip, huddled together in a simmering gaggle of whispers and pranks.

As I peel, grate and dice, my knife hits the board in rhythmic time to the music. The nutcracker cracks to the Sleighride song’s whip; pestle and mortar grind and scrape like a sledge over ice. With each strike of my whisk, the copper bowl rings out like a chime. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way blares the radio… Rolling-pins rumble and wine-bottles crunch into crushed ice. In the bleak midwinter… carols the choir.

I close my eyes and listen to the sounds of this kitchen carol.  Its unique, discordant chorus is music to my ears.

In this beloved, warm & familiar place; I smile and am happy. For it is home.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the run-up to Christmas,

Adam.

Timeless Asiatic Pheasants… A dish fit for a king!

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A number of readers have emailed me to ask about the pale blue-&-white china, pictured in so many of my recipes. Well, those questions couldn’t have been posed a more willing recipient! I’ve been collecting this pattern for years and truly treasure it; not just for its timeless elegance, but also on account of its historical & cultural importance.

The print is named Asiatic Pheasants and first went into production in Staffordshire circa 1834. To understand its significance, it’s important to learn a little bit about its predecessor; the Willow print.

Up until the mid-18th century, Chinese porcelain was unrivalled in its delicacy and quality. Due to importation-costs, this made the china prohibitively expensive; and it therefore remained the sole preserve of the rich and aristocracy.

Was local English pottery no good at the time? The problem was that it was all ‘reddish and earthen’ in colour, more like clay than china. Then in 1720, a Staffordshire potter by the name of John Astbury, made a ground-breaking discovery! He learnt that the application of ground flint powder to the clay transformed it, giving the ware a white or cream background onto which patterns could be applied. Hey presto, the English pottery-industry was born!

How does this apply to Willow, as mentioned above? If something is expensive and popular, what’s the first thing one does if given the opportunity? That’s right; copy it! Because blue Chinese-print imports were all the rage at that time; the English potters aimed to reproduce something that had an existing market and they could be sure would sell. This explains the blue colour and oriental patterning of the Willow plate, which retained its popularity until well into the 1850s.

The English potteries went from strength to strength, and suddenly everybody could afford what had previously been the sole domain of the elite. This led that elite to crave something different, and experimentation with new patterns ensued to achieve a ‘point of difference’ from the mass-market.

In addition to increasing demand for exclusivity, the English potters soon found their skill and quality were such that they no longer needed to rely on copies of Chinese designs; they were amply capable of coming up with their own!

Innovation is always reactive. Where previously all pottery had been dark in colour, people wanted something different; something lighter & fresh. Pale blue was the perfect shade, as it strongly referenced the hues which had preceded it, yet offered a cleaner, less cluttered look than the stately Willow. From there the Asiatic Pheasant print was born, soon to become the most popular pattern of the Victorian age.

The design has been in continual production since 1834. Much like the Victorians, our tastes today err towards the simple and ‘pared down’. The current trend in all restaurants and food-journals is for unpatterned white-china. This allows the food to take centre stage and not compete in visual terms with the receptacle that holds it.

Personally speaking however, I’m far too old-fashioned and outdated to cope with plain white.  Give me a bit of history any day! What’s so perfect about Asiatic Pheasants, is that the tones are light enough to not ‘fight the food’; yet delicate enough to convey that timeless sense of classic elegance which will never date.

I feel strongly that we must support our few surviving potteries. Such skill and tradition should not be allowed to die out. We must secure this art-form for future generations. I love the thought that my china might one day be in use on somebody else’s dining-table, another 180 years from now.

Let’s drink to that!

Thank you for reading,

Adam.

Meet & Greet Part 2 – Nicholas James; our type 1 diabetic…

This blog’s homepage entreats you to ‘picture a house of three: one type-1 diabetic, one carb-intolerant who needs to shift a couple of stone; and a spoilt Burmese cat’.

My name is Adam, and we have already been introduced in my earlier post: Meet & GreetIn the above description, I am the one who is ‘carb-intolerant’ and needs to shift a couple of stone! (In case you were wondering…).

You have also encountered the third member of our household, Zadok (the spoilt Burmese cat). You’ll have met him in my post Mascots.

Now it is time to meet the second; Nicholas James; who will also be contributing to this blog from time to time.

In case the process of elimination hadn’t quite managed to signpost the fact; Nicholas James (NJ) is our type-1 diabetic.

My own research on the subject highlighted that a ketogenic diet can also be brilliant for diabetics, due to its ability to lower insulin-dependence and stabilise blood-sugars. Two weeks into my own diet, NJ decided to take the plunge and try it for a day. The results were so good, so immediately, that a week later he is still going strong and hasn’t looked back!

But this is supposed to be his introduction, not mine. So over to him…

“Now, time for a different voice on this blog.

A voice that, unlike Adam’s, is not so much concerned with early morning walks, dewy cobwebs and planks. My name is Nick, and as much as I love living in the countryside and the outdoor pursuits it offers, my real interest in contributing to this blog comes from the fact that I am a Type 1 diabetic. As I’m already in fairly good shape and not wanting to shift pounds, I am keen to investigate the effects of a ketogenic diet on blood glucose levels rather than weight loss.

nick

Here I am cooking dinner on one of our camping trips BK (Before Ketosis). If memory serves me well, it was a pork and bean casserole with pak choi and basmati rice, which is typical of the wholesome, carbohydrate centred food both Adam and I would eat BK.

I’m very excited to be making this journey into the unknown with regards my blood-glucose, not because they are currently drastically out of control, but because I know they could be just that bit more stable.

I know the idea of low carb diets for diabetics is not a new concept, a dieticians manual from 1917 advocated just that, but today no diabetics I know seem to be following it, and it has never been suggested to me by any medical professional.  Maybe I’m about to find out why, but I truly hope by the end of this journey I’ll be able to ask them ‘why not’?”

As time goes on, we’ll be hearing from NJ with his own thoughts, views and findings on how a ketogenic diet works for diabetics. This is not something I can personally comment on because I (thankfully) do not suffer from that affliction.

NJ has coped with it brilliantly and we are all proud of his progress (no more than he himself, I am sure). I am just grateful that he can join me for the ride, and provide a little light relief along the way, for when you get bored of my own repetitive ramblings….

Well, you have now met all three of us. As always, thank you for reading and we’ll update you on soon on our progress!

Fond regards,

A.

Meet & Greet

A little bit about me…

My name is Adam. If you are reading this; “how do you do?” It is a pleasure to meet you.

I am 35 years old (36 in November!) and I live in rural Norfolk. The below photo is me ‘in ruins’ (literally – the ruins of a Roman villa in Gloucestershire in fact). The photo is a couple of years old, but it will do for the time being.

They say “one’s body is a temple”; well since then, my temple’s gone a little to rack and ruin! I was a lot slimmer then, and it’s to this (and a good whack less) that I wish to return, through my ketogenic voyage.

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My principal loves are cooking, literature, history, architecture, and roaming the countryside being ‘Byronic’. Of all these passions, food is at the fore. I’m never happier than standing over my Rayburn, with a glass of something; listening to classical music and cooking up a storm! I suppose that makes me rather dull, but we can’t all be the life and soul…

It’s my pleasure to guide you along this journey, as I personally investigate what a ketogenic diet has to offer. What will be will be… Hopefully it will pave the way to a new me!

Thank you again for reading. More to follow,

Adam.

Mascots

Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple http://www.marksdailyapple.com/ has his Grok…

Dr Andreas Eenfeldt at Diet Doctor https://www.dietdoctor.com/ has an inexplicably attractive self-styled cartoon-avatar with a frying-pan and broccoli…

Abel James at Fat-Burning Man http://fatburningman.com/ has the definitive Cheshire-Cat grin and a torso (everywhere)…

It seems that in the ketogenic community, you are no-one unless you have a mascot. ‘Country Walks in Ketosis’ is therefore jumping on this band-wagon! Introducing… ‘Keto-Kat’!

Sad, I know; but he is over-weight, needs to move to a LCHF diet (watch this space, subject to research on feline dietary-requirements) and is one of the three main protagonists in this blog.

Introductions done, now for a picture (yes, I am ashamed of this; but not enough to stop me doing it!)…

Back Camera

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