Thank you, Dr. Bernstein

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. Really! I don’t worry that Obama was born in Kenya, and I don’t think anyone is listening to my cell phone calls, because if they were, they would have fallen asleep a long time ago. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes and started reading all of the standard literature put out by the American Diabetes Association, I knew that something was amiss.

Suppose you’ve been diagnosed with a liver disease. Do you expect your doctor to tell you it’s fine to drink alcohol? If you have diverticulitis, does your physician tell you, “No more than one cup of nuts and seeds per day?” Of course not! So, when your pancreas is sick or broken, should you eat foods that overtax your pancreas? According to the ADA, the answer is yes.

As you know by now if you’ve been paying attention, I’m a librarian, and the first thing people like me do when life throws us a curve is to find a book. Many books, if possible. In my research, I found the book Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, which really changed my life. Richard Bernstein’s story makes for fascinating reading. He is a type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetic, and as a 20-something engineer, he was very sick. He knew that what his doctor was telling him to do for his diabetes was slowly killing him.  So, like a typical engineer, he decided to set up some experiments and chart the results in order to find solutions. He had an advantage over most patients in those days, because while the only way to measure your blood sugar was to go to the doctor’s office every three months, Dr. Bernstein’s wife was a doctor, and she brought a big, clunky glucometer home from the hospital for him to use. Since he was then able to test his blood all day long, he began to see patterns emerging from his tests when fasting, after meals, before bed, and after exercise.

Dr. Bernstein became very excited by his findings, drew all sorts of charts, and wrote up articles for the medical journals. No one would publish them. After all, he was just a lowly engineer, not a medical doctor! So this very determined man decided to go to medical school at a late age, after which the journals began to publish his reports. Now Dr. Bernstein runs a diabetes-only practice in Mamaroneck, New York. If you are a diabetic, you can thank Dr. Bernstein for his tireless campaign to make small, affordable glucometers available for every patient to have at home.

Dr. Bernstein’s basic message is: Don’t eat carbs! Your pancreas can’t handle it, and if you are a Type 2 diabetic, you will have insulin rushing out to your resistant cells, sending your blood sugar into a roller-coaster response, which leads to all of those nasty by-products of diabetes, like heart disease, blindness, and nerve damage. If you keep your blood sugar steady, you can stay healthy. He is in his seventies now and is in much better health than when he was in his twenties.

Since I had been on a low-carb diet before in my life, I knew the basic principles, and they seemed to make sense. I started right away, and have been blessed that my husband goes along with me, so that I don’t have to make two dinners or worry that he’s unhappy with the food choices. We work hard to eat real, healthy food, and avoid processed or artificial food. Our only fake food is Splenda, and I try not to overindulge in that. I lost weight in the beginning, but got stuck, and have not been good at exercising—which is another of Dr. Bernstein’s rules—but even though I am well overweight and certainly not a poster child, things are going very well. It’s been five years since I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, and now I have to go to the doctor twice a year for bloodwork and follow-ups. Within six months of my diagnosis, my A1C (long-term diabetes test) fell below diabetic level, and I was able to go off my medication and have never gone back. My test results still fall below the diabetic range. My cholesterol and all those other lipids are very good, too, so no side-effects are showing up.

I would never tell anyone to stop doing what their doctor told them to do, so please don’t jump out there and go off your medication. However, I do think that patients should be well-informed so that they can help themselves. The latest edition of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution was just published, so why not read it for yourself and then discuss it with your doctor? It’s probably at your local library. My own doctor was skeptical at first, but after my test results for those first six months and every six months since, including my visit last week, she has always said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

In the meantime, check out the ADA’s corporate sponsor page here. Would these people profit at all from keeping you a little bit—and progressively more—sick? Just a question. The ADA diet is obviously designed to help you to deal with the side effects of diabetes: a low fat diet for those with heart disease. If you never have high blood sugar, though, you don’t get side effects. One thing that both the ADA and Dr. Bernstein recommend is vigorous exercise. They are just determined to get me out of my chair; it’s so annoying. Maybe I can do it—tomorrow.

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