My name is Bala Kamallakharan and I am a Type 2 Diabetic. I don’t have any symptoms of diabetes anymore, actually I am in the best shape of my life. It was not always the case. It has been a long road, almost a 14 year journey when I was tagged a Pre-diabetic in the year 2006. I have catalogued my journey as a pre-diabetic and then a full blown diabetic and also the struggles of trying to figure out why does this condition exists in me and how do I fix it. One of the least talked about condition when someone goes through a diabetes prognosis and treatment is Depression. I was depressed and stressed and in a perfect storm, no different than many founders, artists and creatives go through, when they are manifesting their internal struggle. I am happy to say that I have won the battle with depression and I am in a much better place than when I wrote about my struggles with depression. I am also happy to tell you that I did this on my own with no medication but with a lot of help from my wife, therapist and an army of friends who rallied behind me through Social Media. I am also happy to say that I don’t take any medication now other than a multivitamin and Lýsi (Icelandic Cod Liver Oil filled with Vitamin D and Omega 3 Fatty Acids).
I think it is important to set the context for the condition, I am not a doctor or play one on the internet and I am not being prescriptive with this blog post. I want to be reflective and share the first person story of beating diabetes. Stress is a major influencer of the onset of diabetes. I think we can probably extend that statement to say for most diseases. In my case stress was a major factor, don’t believe me? All you need to do is a scholarly search in Google for 3 words, Stress, Inflammation and Diabetes. I have read through many of these articles and it was also clear to me that no medication or miracle pill was going to solve my condition. What was even more baffling to me was the exact opposite advice that I was getting from all the doctors and professionals whom I was consulting. All of them were eager to prescribe a pill to fix my condition. I refused with all due respect and I had to take a hard stance much to the chagrin of my Cardiologist and Endocrinologist. I vowed to fix this problem once and for all for myself, I was going to become a human guinea pig and I was going to put myself through a battery of experiments. I gave my word to my wife that I will not put myself in danger in this self discovery.
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Obsession with measuring and tracking
I got myself tools that helped me quantify my current state. The obvious things that one can measure are:
- Our body weight
- Our Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Glucose levels
I asked my wife to give me the Withings Smart Scale for Christmas to measure my weight. In the year 2015, the cost of these scales were 3 times as what they are now, so the request as a christmas gift was warranted. I have no connection with Withings or Nokia and I am not endorsing the product but this scale served my purpose to measure my weight and body fat%. Next device was a Fitbit Charge 2, I wanted to track my heart rate and my resting heart rate. It was a perfect device again I got this as another christmas gift. I went to the pharmacy and got myself a professional blood pressure measuring device. It would have been strange to ask anyone to give me a blood pressure measuring device as a gift for christmas so I got this one myself :). Last but not least I got a Blood Glucose measuring device. In Iceland the strips that you use to grab your blood drop is subsidized only if you have a prescription so there I was able to request my endocrinologist to prescribe the strips. It also helped that my wife was pregnant at that time and she was asked to test her blood sugar to watch out for gestational diabetes. Rest assured I had plenty of blood glucose measuring strips and an endless supply of diabetes pen needles.
Stress causes inflammation in your body and metabolic stress read “food that you eat is not absorbed properly by your body” causes more stress in your body. It is a circular condition, Stress causes Inflammation which in turn causes Stress in other metabolic systems. So I wanted to see which food items were causing my blood sugar levels to spike, why did I want to that you ask? Well most of the articles that I read about diabetes referred to metabolic syndrome and leaky gut syndrome, so I thought so if the food I eat which I control causes a condition then I should measure what happens after I eat that food. The easiest way to check this is to measure your blood sugar level an hour after you eat. I catalogued what I ate and then measured the corresponding blood sugar level. For those who are interested, here is the data, it is not complete, as I did this for personal analysis. The food that I was eating was not that complicated so it was easy to see after about 2 weeks what was going on in my body. Simple sugars or foods that broke into simple sugars caused my blood sugar levels to spike. I stopped eating simple carbohydrates, processed food and anything with processed simple carbohydrates like sugar. Within a few days my blood glucose levels were normal and a full blood test showed that my HbA1c (3 month average blood glucose level) was in the normal range. It really shocked my endocrinologist and my cardiologist, they were asking me what I was doing. I did not think what I was doing was anything dramatic. This is simple stuff anyone should be able to see the problem with diabetes is a problem of food, stress and lifestyle. I changed my food and one major marker changed.
I plan to write a follow up to this post on all the other lifestyle changes that fundamentally changed my physiology.