Living with Type 1 Diabetes | How to Lower A1c to 5.3%

Article written and reviewed by Jamie Koonce, DACM, L.Ac, Dipl.OM
Published August 30, 2018

If you're curious about how to lower A1c living with any form of diabetes, this article is for you.

Regina Snell is a volleyball coach who was physically active, ate a whole food diet with some meat and eggs, and had never been overweight. 

For many years, Regina has tried to get her husband to make healthier food choices because type 2 diabetes runs in his family, and she was afraid that he would eventually develop it as well.  

But at age 44, Regina began to experience symptoms of diabetes. During a volleyball tournament, she found herself with unbearable leg cramps that kept her awake for two nights in a row, and was very confused about what may be causing this problem.

Knowing something wasn’t right, she told her husband it was time to go to the ER.

In the hospital, her doctors measured her fasting blood glucose, and found it to be 276 mg/dL. In addition, her A1c was 12.3%, and she was shocked to say the least. 

Regina was immediately admitted into the hospital, and the first doctor she spoke with recommended that she begin running to reduce her blood glucose.

This advice seemed very odd, given that she was already quite active and extremely careful with her diet, avoiding all processed and sugary foods.

After 24 hours in the hospital, Regina was finally sent home with insulin. She was very confused about how she could have developed diabetes, but was determined to reverse it by being even more strict with her diet.

Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis at Age 44

It wasn’t until Regina visited with a third doctor that she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (not type 2 diabetes like her previous doctors had suspected), and would require exogenous insulin.

She consulted with a dietician about the right way to eat for type 1 diabetes, and was recommended a conventional low-carbohydrate diet to manage her blood glucose.

Regina endured the low-carbohydrate diet for about 1 month, but quickly she began gaining weight, and started to think that there must be a better way to live and thrive with type 1 diabetes. Not long after, she found Mastering Diabetes online.

Immediately, Regina joined the Mastering Diabetes Program and began following a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet.

How to Lower A1c with Type 1 Diabetes

Regina made some drastic changes to her diet and saw immediate results.  She changed from eating about 50 grams of carbohydrate per day to eating upwards of 400 grams of carbohydrate per day and reduced her insulin use from 15 to 13 units per day.

At her next doctor’s visit, Regina's A1c decreased from 12.3% to 5.3%, while eating more carbohydrate energy. In addition, her total cholesterol dropped from 215 mg/dL to 124 mg/dL and her blood pressure decreased from 150/90 mmHg to 120/70 mmHg.

Take a look at her blood work between 2017 and 2018 to see how her nutrition habits affected her overall health:




Hemoglobin A1c (%)



Carbohydrate Intake (grams/day)



Total Insulin (U/day) 



Total Cholesterol (mg/dL)



Blood Pressure (mmHg)



Regina stays physically active and on-the-go as both a teacher and a coach, but by following a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet she says she “doesn’t even feel like she has a disease.”

Regina is truly an example of how to lower A1c using a simple approach that has been backed by more than 85 years of evidence-based science. 

Her story shows just how easy it is to feel great eating a low-fat, plant-based, whole-food diet living with type 1 diabetes, and verify that this lifestyle works after receiving excellent laboratory blood work.

Best of all, Regina has a progressive mentality that is sure to keep her incredibly healthy for years to come. She finally understands how to lower A1c using a low-fat, plant-based diet and minimize her risk for chronic diseases in the long-term – a powerful gift she wish she had learned many years ago.

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About the author 

Jamie Koonce, DACM, L.Ac, Dipl.OM

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.