By Mary Beth Sweetland
I became an insulin-dependent diabetic (type 1) when I was 25. Before I figured out what was wrong, my weight dropped to 90 pounds, my vision became very blurry, I ate and drank constantly, and I was extremely lethargic. If I cut myself, the wound would not heal. My doctor told me to check my glucose twice a day with urine dipsticks and to take one injection of insulin a day. After starting pork-and-beef insulin therapy, I quickly lost muscle mass in my thighs and stomach injection areas, and my blood-sugar level was still poorly controlled.
Today, I check my glucose three to four times a day with a blood-glucose monitor that is portable and easy to operate. I also take up to four lower-dose injections of insulin a day instead of one, knowing that good blood-sugar control staves off many of the typical complications of diabetes.
Five years after my diagnosis, I discovered the real secret to being a healthy diabetic: adopting a vegan diet. The fact that I was able to cut my initial morning dose of insulin from more than 50 units to only 15 units can be directly attributed to not eating any animal products. Instead, I eat lots of beans, nuts, tofu and other soy products, whole grains, and vegetables. I also try to minimize fat consumption. With all the fat and cholesterol in animal products, it’s no wonder that my health improved when I cut meat, eggs, and dairy products out of my diet and replaced them with healthy vegan foods.
When I exercise regularly, I have to take even less insulin! Using the StairMaster or taking a 30-minute walk every day can decrease your need for insulin. Because I now use Humulin (a synthetically produced insulin that’s much more appropriate for the human body), I have regained the muscle mass that I lost when I was on animal-based insulin.
If you are diabetic, you owe it to yourself and to animals to give exercise and a vegan diet a try. Exercising regularly and going vegan have given me what nothing else could—the upper hand with a disease that we can live with if we know how to control it.
Check out the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s fantastic resources for preventing and treating diabetes.