Living the Paleo Lifestyle with Type 1 Diabetes

Posted by lindsay on Wed, 02/06/2013 - 18:55 in

Podder Talk will be featuring content that provides insightful nutritional information from a diabetes perspective. In this first entry, read about the impact following a paleo lifestyle has had on Lindsay Swanson’s life and on her diabetes. 

Lindsay Swanson lives in San Diego, CA with her active-duty sailor husband Seth.They have been happily married for 10 years and have two “furbabies”: a golden retriever Lucy and Siamese cat Izzy. Lindsay sits on the JDRF San Diego Board of Directors and is the Volunteer Outreach Chair for the Chapter, and is a Greatist Ambassador for She writes a blog about her journey at

Going Paleo with DiabetesWhat is the paleo lifestyle? Also known as the hunter-gatherer or caveman lifestyle, it promotes optimal health and wellness by removing refined and processed foods, such as grains and dairy. Basically, if cavemen didn’t eat it, we shouldn’t either. It is not a fad or a diet – it’s a way of life. But what each person can or cannot tolerate, or believes, they need to explore for themselves. Although it has and continues to be a challenging journey of self-discovery, one-and-a-half years later, I’m getting more into paleo than I ever thought I would. For me, it encompasses so many more things than simply changing the way I eat.

When I first learned of the paleo lifestyle, I thought there was no way I could do it with type 1 diabetes – because as we all know, type 1 diabetes doesn’t always leave room for freedom with regard to food. I started by removing one thing that was non-paleo and supplementing it with something else paleo friendly, if possible. Smarties® and Skittles® were replaced with Naked® Juice and honey packs (for lows), granola bars were replaced with Lara Bars® (for snacks), beans were replaced with (digestible) protein, and peanut butter replaced with raw almond butter.

I removed all artificial sweeteners, cake, cookies, chips, bread, pasta, candy and replaced them with healthy, naturally-occurring carbs found in vegetables, fruits and nuts. I ate the healthier carbs before in addition to the not-so-healthy, but with the removal of the refined junk, my body reacts completely differently to the healthier carbs. Before, a banana would spike me to 300. Now a banana spikes me to around 150.

Complete Diabetes Transformation

Seeing these dramatic effects on my body, and therefore my blood sugar (or is it the other way around?), has been eye opening. I’m not sure I would fully appreciate the negative effect that processed and refined foods have on my body if I couldn’t visibly see the direct effect on my blood sugar. What began as an attempt to maintain a healthy weight and feel better, has resulted in a complete diabetes transformation.

Of course, I had reservations making such drastic changes to my diet living with type 1 diabetes. I kept thinking I’d become insulin deficient, produce starvation ketones, wouldn’t be able to find proper fast-acting carbs to treat a severe low blood sugar, etc., but it really hasn’t happened the way I anticipated. I always have fruit with me and that raises my blood sugar plenty quick enough. Lara Bars® do too if I catch my blood sugar before I’m low – and Naked® juices or almond milk are always in the fridge at work. I carry honey and agave with me for the fastest-acting low blood sugar treatment everywhere I go. But to be honest, the lows are so far and few between from eating this way; it’s shocking.

Paleo has transformed my life and continues to do so in numerous ways, but the best thing about it is knowing what I’m putting in my body and how it affects my blood sugar. The stability and consistency have helped me reach new heights with my health, wellness and exercise. I think a lot of individuals are opposed to or overwhelmed by the paleo lifestyle, or any diet for that matter, because of what you “cannot have.” But paleo isn’t about deprivation – it’s about feeling your best. I eat more now than I ever did and it’s easy, flavorful and properly nourishes my body.











One of Lindsay’s specialties – fried red tomatoes. The recipe calls for 2-3 red beefsteak tomatoes,4 eggs beat, 1-1 1/2 cups coconut flour seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, 1 avocado, 4 slices cooked bacon, sliced red onion rings and butter.