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Gluten-free — Diabetic — Keto connection

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Gluten-free. Diabetic friendly. Keto.  If you’ve ever visited our stall at the Farmers market, you’ll be sure to notice our big green sign that states our food is Gluten-free, Diabetic friendly, and keto. 

We get many questions on this, with many wondering how these three health regimes can be connected.  I mean they’re all totally different, right? 

They ARE different, sort of, but not so much when you look closely. 

What is diabetes? 

My mother was diabetic, so this topic strikes a nerve with me. I grew up watching her either go without, eat tasteless ‘diet’ food, or eat foods that were ‘normal’ and put up with being sick after — this often resulted in an unscheduled trip to Emerg.

Not fit. 

This is a big reason (along with my own expanding waistline and health concerns) why I started on my food journey. There had to be a better way. There had to be foods that were fit to suit a diabetic (or GF) way of living that still tasted great and satisfied cravings. 

In a diabetic world, your body has difficulty regulating your blood glucose (BG is also known as blood sugars). When your BG is too high, your body recognizes this as not safe, and your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to try and correct this dangerous state.  When your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate the blood sugar or can’t use the released insulin optimally it is known as diabetes. There are two types of diabetes. 

Type 1 Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes (T1D), the immune system attacks the mechanism in the pancreas that produces insulin. In this case, the body no longer produces insulin and the resulting chronically high BG levels (hyperglycemia) cause blood vessel and nerve damage.

Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes (T2D) still have insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, but they don’t produce enough insulin, or they may be insulin resistant, where cells do not respond to insulin. This results in high BG levels similar to T1D. Both can lead to serious complications, such as stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and even amputation.

Diabetes is food driven as carbohydrates — grains, sugars, starches — that we eat get broken down into sugar (glucose) by the body and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar rises, it signals your pancreas to release insulin — which in turn drops your BG down lower than it should be — creating a yo-yo effect with every carb you eat. 

It’s key for diabetics to learn to stabilize their blood glucose and avoid dips and spikes throughout the day. 

Let’s now look at gluten-free living. 

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye grains. When celiacs (CD or Celiac disease is an illness caused by an immune reaction to eating gluten) or people who are gluten intolerant eat food items that contain gluten, their immune system responds by attacking the gluten, which quickly causes gastrointestinal distress. 

Unfortunately, this autoimmune attack can also cause damage to the small intestine, which can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients properly and lead to malnutrition.

Any person who eliminates wheat, flour, and other food items with gluten from their diet also has the opportunity to enjoy a more regulated and even blood sugar control. That’s because most products containing gluten are also high in carbohydrates and therefore, create glycemic management challenges for any person.  Avoid the gluten, you’re also avoiding those sugar-spiking carbs. 

Because of this, it’s easy to reason that a celiac gluten-free diet could also result in better diabetes management. 

The link

The link between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease was first established in the 1960s. The estimated connection of celiac disease in patients with T1D is approximately 10%, while only about 1% in the general population. But these numbers are increasing and that’s because of some GF food choices. 

The caution

Most of us are aware that we should limit sugar. Oftentimes foods labeled gluten-free are generally still junk food. Especially when you consider that many of the gluten-free products use starches to replace the grains. Starches which spike your BG worse than sugar. 

There is much research into how these starch-loaded gluten-free products are contributing to other health concerns. The reality is that these processed foods, gluten-free or not, are NOT part of a balanced/healthy, and can contribute to diabetes by raising blood sugar and also to insulin resistance.

Rather than seeking out ‘products’ with gluten-free labels, seek out healthy whole foods that don’t come with a huge ingredient list that you can’t pronounce or understand. Seek out foods that are naturally gluten-free and don’t come with a label and they are far better options than products intended to replace a full octane counterpart.

Enter Ketogenic living 

The premise behind ketogenic living is to maintain a low and even blood glucose level throughout the day. This means we avoid those same carbohydrates that diabetics avoid as we also don’t want that heightened BG level. We also avoid inflammatory foods such as soy, and we try to avoid chemicals and additives as much as possible.

Keto is also naturally gluten-free. Ketogenic living done correctly does not include gluten. Gluten is inflammatory and can cause an irritated gut. Something most humans try to avoid.  

The Nutshell

So in reality, keto foods are not only diabetic friendly — focusing on a low event BG level —the foods are also gluten-free. 

My mother would have done quite well on a well-formulated ketogenic diet.  It would have removed both the gluten and the carbs from her diet. 

We lost Mom in 2013 so never had the opportunity to share our healthified food with her. I can’t tell you how many times I made a new ‘mom-friendly’ creation and got a little misty-eyed. 

‘What I wouldn’t give to pass a plate of this over to Mom to enjoy.’ 

My hope is somewhere out there, somebody’s Mom or even Dad, is sitting down right now and enjoying one of my recipes. After the fact, there are no BG spikes. There is no upset stomach because of gluten. There are only smiles and love and good food. 

So it should be. 

That’s it for this time! Thanks for joining me for another East Coast Culinary Life Lesson. There’s still a lot to learn and we’re glad you’re along for the ride!

Keep Going with one foot in front of the other. Healthy seconds lead to healthy moments, healthy moments lead to healthy days. Healthy days will take you on a successful health journey for a life time. We’ll meet you THERE!!

Our before and after
Our before and after

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