This is Part 2 of Kyle Kondoff’s incredible story. In Part 1, Kyle described how he first perceived the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes as a rescue worker on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and, after diagnosis, how inadequate medical advice and his mainstream diet conspired to make his new condition so difficult to manage. In Part 2, Kyle discovers the low-carb way.
In December of 2016 I was finally approved for my first continuous glucose monitor (CGM), the Medtronic 630G. This changed everything for me.
I had been waiting for this technology for a long time. During the first months after my diagnosis, I researched all I could about Type 1 diabetes. I joined Facebook groups and talked to my local JDRF and ADA chapters. When I finally first saw my endo, he told me that he wanted to see how well I could manually control my T1D before he let me use the latest technology. I think back to that statement, and I wonder why that’s the thought process for so many medical professionals in the diabetes world. Why wouldn’t we want a device that helps measure our blood sugar every 5 minutes?
Once I had a CGM, I was able to see what affected my blood sugar and what didn’t. I was surprised to see the types of foods that affected me the most. I discovered that most of my blood sugar spikes were caused by high carbohydrate meals.
I decided to start restricting my carbs to less than 100 grams/day. I received negative feedback right away from friends, relatives, and my medical team. I was told that I should not be restricting carbs, and that we need consistent carbs for fuel. My response was to show them how great my CGM graphs were looking.
My blood sugar control was better than ever, but I was still looking for improvement. Even eating low carb, my blood glucose fluctuated a lot. As a firefighter, I frequently deal with intense situations that cause adrenaline spikes. At the same time, working hard can bring on lows, and I need to keep glucose tablets everywhere. Reducing carbs had made all of this easier to manage, but I thought I could do even better. My A1C was 7.4. My endo was happy that I had dropped 2 points since diagnosis, but we agreed that I should try to get it lower.
The following spring I was chosen to participate in an early release trial for the Medtronic 670G, a brand-new hybrid closed loop system. I hoped that this system – with its groundbreaking “auto mode” – would help me achieve the level of control I was looking for.
The week that I began the 670G trial was a big one for me, because it was also the week that I discovered Dr. Richard Bernstein and his book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. It all started with a Facebook comment from a stranger that claimed this one doctor had changed her life with his low-carb, high-protein plan.
I got the book, and I was hooked. I began following Dr. Bernstein’s diet before I even finished the book. Because I was already eating less than 100 grams of carbs per day, the switch to only 30 grams was not difficult. And the more research I did on low carb, the more success stories I found. I never realized that I would end up being one of those success stories.
My new management plan, however, would become a problem for the Medtronic trial. In our second week with the new devices we were asked to switch onto Auto Mode, the signature feature of the new pump. I had already changed my personal blood glucose target to 83 mg/dL, according to Dr. Bernstein’s recommendations, but the Auto Mode had a target of 120.
As soon as I switched to auto mode, my blood sugars were back out of control. I was closer to 200 more often than I was to 120. I was still eating low-carb, but Auto Mode put me back on the rollercoaster. After 4 unhappy days of this, I switched back to manual mode. My blood glucose stabilized again.
During my next endo appointment, I learned that my A1C had gone down to 4.8! As soon as the doctor walked in the room, he started lecturing me about lows. I reassured him that I was not having any severe lows. He couldn’t believe my CGM graphs. Nobody really could. I was in contact with many other members of the 670G trial. Everybody else was staying consistently in Auto Mode, and nobody was coming close to the success that I was having.
Eventually Medtronic contacted me personally because they were so impressed by my data. During a long conference call they told me that they couldn’t believe what I had achieved in manual mode. It was a huge personal success, but it didn’t really help validate the technology, because I had achieved it through diet and manual insulin dosing.
Meanwhile, on Dr. Bernstein’s management plan, my job performance was better than ever. Sleep came easier, and I was amazed at how much energy I had. I stopped being so concerned about myself in emergency situations. I knew that my blood glucose would stay stable. I could totally focus on the task at hand. My worries about not making it as a professional firefighter had disappeared.