Adult Onset Type 1 Diabetes and Thriving – Kim’s Story

Kim was misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was 34 years old, and for 18 years she struggled with extreme blood glucose highs and lows. 

Her blood glucose was unpredictable and she constantly felt exhausted and unable to exercise.

As Kim got older, she began to experience symptoms of neuropathy – tingling and numbness in her hands and feet, as well as a burning sensation in her feet at night. 

In addition, her lack of energy worsened to the point where managing diabetes became a full-time job that wasn’t producing any tangible results.

She joined the Mastering Diabetes Program as a last resort because she was reluctant to give up some of her favorite foods including peanut butter, nuts, avocados, pizza, chicken, and occasional fried foods.

Kim started following our recommendations, increasing her carbohydrate intake, and eliminating added fats and oils from her meals. 

Despite this, her blood glucose meter remained a random number generator and she still experienced erratic blood glucose.

In the small group coaching program, Kim learned about the importance of knowing her C-peptide value, in order to determine whether exogenous insulin was required to help her control her blood glucose with precision.

C-peptide is a polypeptide that we have written about extensively and is one of the most important blood tests for achieving an accurate diabetes diagnosis. It is produced in the pancreatic beta cells in equal amounts as insulin, and is used as a marker of your endogenous insulin production.

Since the half-life of C-peptide is 5 times that of insulin, C-peptide remains in your blood for a longer period of time and is a better indicator of endogenous insulin production than testing insulin directly.

It’s important for all diabetes patients to get their C-peptide tested to gauge how effectively the pancreas is producing insulin. Many doctors weren’t taught in medical school about the importance of ordering this test in order to establish an accurate differential diagnosis in diabetes patients, so asking for it at your next doctor’s appointment could add valuable information to your diabetes diagnosis.

After much prodding, Kim advocated for a C-peptide test, and what happened next was life-changing.

Kim found out that she was actually living with adult-onset type 1 diabetes, and not type 2 diabetes. This diagnosis explained exactly why her blood glucose had been so difficult to control for many years, and why she felt lethargic most of the time. 

She discovered that her pancreas was barely making any insulin, and that exogenous insulin was required in order to control her blood glucose with precision.

After beginning insulin therapy as well as increasing her carbohydrate intake from a mere 70 grams per day to over 300 grams per day (mostly from fruit), Kim began feeling more energetic than she had felt before she was misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The tingling and numbness in her hands and feet decreased significantly, and she began to feel normal sensations as she had before neuropathy had set in.

What Does Kim Eat Now?

A typical breakfast for Kim contains steel cut oats with fruit or a large salad with 4 - 5 servings of fruit.

For lunch, Kim enjoys eating potatoes and a big bowl of bean soup, or another enormous salad with fruit.

For dinner, she consistently enjoys a salad with more fruit.

Kim loves finding seasonal fruits and vegetables that she’s never tried before, and then discovering exciting ways to prepare each new ingredient. This culinary adventure ensures that Kim doesn’t miss the foods she used to eat before the Mastering Diabetes Program.

After following a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet for a year and starting insulin therapy, Kim’s fasting blood glucose has decreased from 140 mg/dL to 70 - 80 mg/dL and her A1c has dropped from 6.1% to 5.7%.

She has also lost nearly 30 pounds, from 125 pounds to 96 pounds. At first, the weight loss confused Kim because she did not consider herself overweight prior to the program, and had heard that injecting insulin would make her gain weight.

A “normal” BMI is considered to be between 18.5 - 24.9, so a weight of 125 pounds placed her right in the middle, at 22.9. A weight of 96 pounds places her at 19.6 on the BMI scale, which is considered to be slightly underweight.

Take a look at the change in Kim’s blood work between May of 2017 and August of 2018:

Biomarker

May 2017

August 2018

Fasting Blood Glucose (mg/dL)

140

70 - 80

A1c (%)

6.1

5.7

Weight (lbs)

125

96

Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)

150

131

LDL Cholesterol (mg/dL)

69

69

HDL Cholesterol (mg/dL)

64

45

Triglycerides (mg/dL)

87

84

While conventional weight charts and BMI measurements can be a great way to indicate population averages in epidemiology, they aren’t particularly a good way of indicating whether an individual is at their ideal weight or not.

A healthy weight for an individual is not about a number on a bathroom scale or a BMI chart. What’s more important is your ability to be free of chronic illness, chronic pain, your ability to exercise vigorously without feeling exhausted, and eating until you feel satiated and comfortably full.

At 52 years old, Kim says she feels like she’s in her twenties again. In addition to her newfound love for mangos and berries, she has also discovered that she enjoys exercise now that she can do it regularly without feeling exhausted!

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About the Author

Jamie Koonce, DACM, L.Ac, Dipl.OM is the Digital Content Manager at Mastering Diabetes. She holds a Doctorate degree in Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology & Anthropology from Hendrix College, and Certification in Plant-Based Nutrition through eCornell. Jamie has been enjoying a plant-based lifestyle since 1999. In addition to writing at Mastering Diabetes, she teaches continuing education courses to other health professionals on the science behind a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food lifestyle for specific medical conditions.