Editor’s Note: Kerri Sparling is our featured blogger for March. We love the frank and hopeful way she chronicles her experiences living with type 1 diabetes at SixUntilMe.com. This is the fifth in a series of guest posts for Whole Living.
Carbs are something that people with diabetes are constantly grappling with. Are carbs good for us? Should we be avoiding carbs at all costs? If we have too many carbs in our diet, will our A1c go up? What's the official recommendation for diabetics as it pertains to carbs? Has anyone ever really tamed the wild carbs? Is anyone eating carbs, right now, as they read this?
(Note: Spellcheck is my nemesis right now. It always, always wants to change "carbs" to "crabs." As though I have anything against Sebastian and his little sea foul friends. Spellcheck also likes changing "bolusing" to "blousing," as if wearing a puffy shirt is a verb. For the record, I have nothing against crabs. Crabs are fine. And, in my opinion, carbs are fine, too. Spellcheck is a bit of a stickler, though. /digression)
In all seriousness (sort of), I've been told, time and time again, that carbs are evil. That if I maintain a diet that's reasonably low-carb, my diabetes will thank me for it. But I don't think that carbohydrates are the enemy. In fact, they're my best molecular friend when my blood sugar is hanging out in the trenches. (See also: Reese's)
I did notice, as I was gearing up for my wedding and working out more than usual, that my very low carb diet and my consistent exercise regimen made for minimal spikes in my blood sugar. It wasn't a perfect system, but subbing in vegetables for mashed potatoes at dinner time made for a post-prandial under 200 mg/dl, which (pre-baby), was a solid goal for me. Granted, I didn't avoid carbs all the time, but I actively avoided high carb diet choices because I knew both my weight and my A1c would pay the price somehow.
And now, post-baby, I'm trying to go back to that lower carb lifestyle, because that helped keep me at a weight I was more comfortable with. (Not that I'm actively avoiding carbs now, thanks to the epic breastfeeding lows that crop up every few hours, so I'm giving myself a big ol' bell curve on getting back into shape.)
For me, part of the carbohydrate conundrum is user error. Pre-B.Sparl, I was a bit of a lazy boluser. I never bolused well in advance of a meal, and my post-prandials (and my overall A1C) definitely paid the price over and over again. It seems that I need to get my insulin pushed through my system at least 25 minutes before I sit down to eat, not five minutes before. I learned this lesson (23 years too late, eh?) while I was planning for my baby, and during the course of the pregnancy, it was definitely the case. Bolusing well before the meal worked better for me.
To each diabetic their own, I think, when it comes to carbohydrate intake. Some people are able to manage high piles of carbs without the messy spikes. Other people, like me, might be clumsy with their insulin. Or sometimes the decision not to carb has nothing to do with diabetes (as in my case, and in the case of my husband)—we go lower carb for weight management reasons. But there's no set magical diabetes diet that cures all that ails ya. Eating carbs, or not eating carbs, is a personal decision that each individual diabetic needs to figure out for themselves.
In the Sparling house, we tend to avoid the carbs.
And we also arm ourselves against the crabs. Because seriously, you never know.