We spent five frightening days in a South American hospital at the end of March 2018 after a family friend recognized the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes in our 4-year-old son. Our day which had begun as any other, ended with our entire world upside down.
My husband and I, along with our children, ages 16, 14, and 4 had spent two years living and volunteering in Loja, Ecuador. On the hour-long bus ride through the winding Andes Mountains to the hospital on the day we received our son’s lab results, we discussed what seemed like simple logic: our son had diabetes and could no longer metabolize carbohydrates, therefore, we planned to cut out carbs. I lamented and my heart sank for a moment. I would have to give up bread. Making bread was a skill I not only prided myself on, but it had taken years to evolve and perfect and one my family immensely enjoyed. I even had a bread blog. But now, for our son, all of my bread recipes were bad. So bread had to go.
Despite the chaos and confusion that met us at the hospital, we remained firm in our resolve: no carbs. We refused to let our son eat the pile of white rice served to him every meal during his stay. Three days into our hospital stay I phoned my sister in the U.S., who was desperate to do something to help, and asked her to research low carb management of diabetes. There had to be a book or online resource. Enter Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. I devoured the book, and two things stood out: the law of small numbers and that this disease was far more complex than we had originally thought. We decided to move back home because we needed the help of the doctors there.
I loved our diabetes care team instantly. I still do. I’m grateful for their support then and now. They commended us on our hard work during a scary time. We cried, but a wave of warmth swept over us. We were safe. We dried our tears and we were ready to be educated.
One of the first things our health care team taught us was that we didn’t need to follow a special diet. They explained that insulin was so advanced now that all we needed to do was eat as we normally did and cover our son’s carbs with insulin. When I asked questions about low carb, they assured us that it wasn’t necessary, and my heart was full of hope.. My mind went back to bread. For me, bread was so much more than just bread. I’m fascinated with the whole beautiful process of baking bread. I wrote about bread for crying out loud. What if I could have my bread and eat it too? What if my son could have diabetes and still eat bread?
Three months later, at my son’s next doctor’s appointment, the team was thrilled with his A1C. But, I wasn’t. I was furious at myself. I had given my full-time focus to managing his diabetes, trying to believe that I could just cover everything with insulin. I’d watched my son spiral from angry and emotional high episodes down to extreme lows that riddled him with chills and exhaustion. I had counted, calculated, and dosed for every carb. I corrected every high, treated every low, but his blood sugars were still not in the range of someone without diabetes.
No! Not on my watch.
That day is more significant to me than his diagnosis. It’s the day we took back control and turned our world right-side-up. We went home and returned to the simple logic we had discussed months earlier as people who knew nothing about diabetes. Our son can’t metabolize carbs so we cut the carbs. Almost instantly the sun broke through the dark cloud that had been over our son. As his sugars normalized, he did too. We went from hysteria to happiness and the carb rollercoaster was over.
Almond flour, xanthan gum, and psyllium husks became staples in our house. I learned to make low carb pancakes, muffins, brownies, cake and yes, even bread. My son can have diabetes and eat low carb bread. And my son can have the normal blood sugars and the sweet life he deserves.