Type 1 diabetes, insulin pump and headaches
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
A while ago a young 16 year-old lady visited my clinic (with her mum) to see me about recurrent daily headaches. Her case history showed that she was a Type 1 diabetic and she was also on an insulin pump. The insulin pump gave her the freedom to not worry about how much insulin to inject into herself as it ‘self-regulated’ according to what she ate.
She was normally bright and full of life, but headaches were crippling her. Knowing that a person without diabetes who eats inappropriately can get headaches when blood sugar levels go up and down, I questioned her more about her ‘pump’ and her diet.
It seemed that before she had the pump, she found that she had to be very cautious of her diet and have a good balance of proteins, good quality fats, and carbs from vegetables and fruit (rather than starchy sugary foods). This diet kept her blood sugar level reasonably stable and each time she needed a dose of insulin the level was consistent.
Then she was offered an insulin pump, which is a small electronic device, about the size of a mobile phone that is carried on a belt, inside a pocket, or even attached to a bra allowing a very discreet therapy. The pump helps a diabetic more closely mimic the way a healthy pancreas functions.
The pump, through a Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion (CSII), replaces the need for frequent injections by delivering precise doses of rapid-acting insulin 24 hours a day to closely match the body’s needs.
With this in place, she was told that she could then eat and do whatever she liked because the pump would automatically adjust the dose of insulin needed, thus giving her more freedom and peace of mind.
Unfortunately, she took this literally and started to eat a carb rich diet, with loads of sweet foods, bread, pastas, chocolate, ice-creams, soft-drinks (soda) and so on.
There was no protein and not much in the way of good fats or healthy vegetables. I asked if her insulin use with the pump was higher than previously and she admitted it was a lot higher. I suggested a trial for the next week of going back to her previous healthy diet.
She returned in 10 days and reported not one headache since the dietary change, along with lots more energy and vitality and a clearer complexion, which she was also very excited about.
I wanted to present this case study, because many people think that type 1 diabetes can’t be treated with diet. Although it cannot be cured by diet, it can help to have better health and more vitality.
There have been many cases of reported ‘cures’ of the other types of diabetes with diet, weight control and exercise. But these really should be called ‘remissions’ because once diabetes has been triggered it is more about balance and maintenance, and if there is a return to the old unhealthy diet then diabetes will surely return hastily.