Carolyn’s Story: This Doesn’t Happen!

I got a type 2 diabetes diagnosis in December of 2016. I started on Metformin and was told to increase my dose until I got to 2000 mg, two pills in the morning and two at dinner. There had been some warnings, but as the mother of kids with special needs, my needs were not a priority. I was erratic and subject to emotional outbursts. Sometimes I got so tired in the afternoon, I’d fall asleep if I let myself sit down. I would lose 10 pounds and gain back 20. All of these can be warning signs that someone is headed for diabetes, but even with my doctor telling me, “you’re going to become diabetic if you don’t lose weight,” I couldn’t do what I needed to do consistently and I was scared of the effects of too high blood sugar.. So I took the drug.

As soon as I started the medication, I struggled with stomach issues and diarrhea which increased for a while and then stabilized a bit. But overall I couldn’t eat raw vegetables or salads without having to run to the bathroom. 

I knew about suppers from a vendor event and even signed up for a dinner meeting but never made it. Getting out of the house at 5:30 with three boys at home and a husband who works in NYC wasn’t easy. My friend then mentioned that she was going to a Suppers meeting at lunch time and I was ELATED. I could do a lunch time meeting !!!!. As I experimented with my eating, I realized that dairy was not working for me either. I even started having issues with fermented foods. By August my diarrhea was so bad that I started to feel the effects on the rest of my body. I felt like an emotional wreck: crying all the time, emotionally and hormonally unstable. In the middle of this, I continued to go to Suppers meetings where my presence was wanted, even as I was weeping from the pain and not able to eat. After a full work up following a trip to urgent care because we thought I might have a gall bladder issue, a gastroenterologist couldn’t find anything except evidence of lower bowel damage and inflammation consistent with diarrhea. 

I started eating very small amounts of food. I didn’t know what else to do. I had broiled chicken and a little rice or oatmeal. I ate tiny portions of a few cooked vegetables four times a day. I was losing weight –which was very nice -- but I still felt terrible.

I ended up deciding to go to a functional medicine practice to see if they could help me understand why I couldn’t eat without pain. The doctor reviewed all the lab work and then actually apologized that no one had identified earlier that the metformin was the cause. 

So he took me off metformin and put me on a low dose, 2.5 mg, of glipizide XR. He told me I would have to be really careful and continue eating “the Suppers way”.

After the switch, my blood sugars were OK and I could eat almost anything I wanted, including raw veggies and salad. Eventually I was able to handle a little kraut too. I didn’t get dairy back; that just wasn’t working for me.

Fast forward three months. My diabetes labs had gone down from a firmly diabetic 7.0 A1c to a much improved 6.3, and I had lost another 15 pounds. I went back to my original endocrinologist, mostly because of the cost of the functional medicine doctor. 

I fessed up and told her I was taking different meds than she had prescribed. I was waiting for a stern response, and it never happened. I truly think she was so shocked and excited that I had lost more weight and reduced my A1c that she didn’t even get offended. 

She proclaimed excitedly, “This doesn’t happen on 2.5 mg of glipizide XR”. 

Probably not. Or let’s wager it’s safe to say that she hasn’t seen it happen on 2.5 mg of glipizide. She hasn’t seen it because most of her patients aren’t getting the support, love and encouragement I get at Suppers, accepting me as I fumble through my experiments with food to identify my personal best, non-inflaming, blood-sugar-normalizing foods.

I can’t express how it felt to be wanted and accepted while I felt wretched. I can’t calculate the value of being asked “Is there something we can do to help?” when my sense of self-worth left me feeling no one would want to be with me in that condition. I’m grateful for the meds that bought me time and gave me a chance to turn around the ship of our family eating. But that doctor was right, “This doesn’t happen” on a low dose of diabetes medication. But it does so happen when combined with high doses of acceptance, support and especially safe spaces to experiment and find one’s personal best way of eating.