We all understand that low-carb works well for managing type 1 diabetes, but how low can you go? Can you eat zero-carb (also known as carnivore) and still tame type 1? Many people now are trying a carnivore approach with amazing results, for issues such as arthritis, depression, and more. But, there’s scant anecdotes of carnivore for type 1 diabetes. Today I’ll use my example, having tried a relaxed carnivore approach for over half a year, to give the pros and cons concerning type 1 and how you can get started.
What I mean by “Relaxed” Carnivore
There are several ways to do a carnivore diet, and it’s worth making the distinction when it comes to how I’ve managed it. Some do a very strict approach where they consume nothing but meat, salt, and water. Others, such as I, follow it more loosely. I still enjoy spices, coffee, and even the occasional berries and vegetable here and there. But, in general, my meals consist entirely of animal products, thus I still consider it carnivore.
Pro #1: Carnivore is Simple
As far as taming type 1 goes, the best perk to this WOE is the simplicity of it. Your options are rather limited, so it is incredibly easy to keep things simple and consistent. Consistency is incredibly important for blood sugar control, and carnivore helps take that to the next level. I eat the same exact meal twice a day for up to a week at a time, and this has allowed me to fine-tune my bolus to near-perfection. And, surprisingly, I never get bored of it!
Con #1: Carnivore is Limited
While it is nice to keep things so consistent, some may find that lack of variety very daunting. Especially if you have diabetic children who get bored easily, eating nearly the same food every day can be a real challenge. Worse yet, many people experience heightened sensitivity to the vegetables they used to love once they cut them out for a long time. Fortunately, you can still be various on a carnivore diet. There is a whole array of animals out there, such as fish, chicken, pork, beef, eggs, etc. But carnivore can still be difficult for those of us accustomed to eating various mixed meals.
Pro #2: Improved Basal Sensitivity
For me, going carnivore was like going keto all over again. My basal needs dropped dramatically, and now I take less than half as much basal insulin as I did in my 2.5 years of keto. This means I save money on insulin. Plus, insulin sensitivity is a marker of good health, considering that insulin resistance is linked to many health disorders.
Con #2: Needing to Use More R (at least in my case)
Conversely, my R insulin needs actually went up. While I am no longer eating any carbs, I am eating far more protein in one sitting and thus need more insulin. Right now I’m eating half a pound of meat, twice a day. Consuming that much protein at once takes more R to correct. Not only do I need to dose more, but I also need to split that bolus in order to cover the longer rise from protein. Before, I could usually get away with 2 units or R per meal. Now, I take 2 units of R before I eat, and then another 2 units 2 hours later. This isn’t the case with everyone. I have heard from others who need far less basal AND bolus insulin since going carnivore, but that was not my experience.
Pro #3: Possibly Halts Beta-cell Death (in those who still have them)
There are quite a few examples of people who, going on a low-carb diet soon after diagnosis, are able to prolong their honeymoon phase and retain insulin-producing beta cells indefinitely. This is also true of several carnivore type 1’s. In fact, this approach could work better for prolonging honeymoon than keto! I have even heard from diabetics who were able to almost get off insulin entirely after following a high-fat and very strict carnivore approach dubbed the Paleolithic Ketogenic diet.
The theory behind this is that many foods, including vegetables and even dairy, contain chemicals that can irritate the lining of your gut and cause intestinal permeability. This leads to foreign material leaking from the gut into the body, causing an autoimmune response, which cascades to the autoimmune disorder that is Type 1. If you stop eating foods irritating the gut, you stop the leaking, and thus stop the autoimmune response. There is evidence to support this theory, and a few case studies concerning Type 1 Diabetes by the research group Paleomedicina. These studies show examples of newly-diagnosed diabetics trying their high-fat carnivore approach and getting off all exogenous insulin, as crazy as that sounds.
Con #3: More Research Needs to be Done
Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough evidence for me to say this is the absolute truth. There are no strong experimental studies using the carnivore diet, and Paleomedicina has received criticism for their particular methods concerning type 1 diabetes. The jury is still out on this one, so it is a very experimental approach. That said, there is plenty of evidence for carnivore diets in general outside the field of nutrition, such as research in biochemistry, anatomy, and anthropology, to support that it is a healthy and safe approach.
How to Start Carnivore as a Type 1 Diabetic
As I mentioned previously, going carnivore might require you to change your basal/bolus regimen just like you did when going low-carb. You’ll need to closely monitor your blood sugar and change your basal needs appropriately. You may also need to take more R insulin for your meals and split your dose in order to cover the higher amount of protein. Some people get around this by eating many small meals throughout the day, but I find that inconvenient. Lastly, try not to rely heavily on lean meats such as chicken, as eating a large amount of protein without fat is bound to cause a spike. Stick to fattier meats, such as beef, fish, lamb, eggs, etc. And if you are doing an OMAD approach right now, consider splitting up your meals when you go carnivore.
So far, I have greatly enjoyed the relaxed carnivore approach. I have better blood sugars than in any of my previous years, and I actually spend less on food despite eating tons of meat! I also find myself more satiated throughout the day. If the regular low-carb approach is not working for you, or if you’re suffering from other issues that carnivore could help with, I’d definitely recommend giving it a try for a month. Low-carb or no-carb, if you know what you’re doing you can always tame your type 1!
Nice article! I did 3 months of carnivore and found it a marvelous way to eat but also had to use more R, which I didn’t see as a bad thing, just kind of startling, however, on the zero carb diet, what was most hard for me was my complete intolerance of alcohol.
I’ve always had a small glass of wine with dinner or after dinner and on this diet, I couldn’t do it! I would throw up repeatedly for hours or nearly throw up. Felt really awful. So I had to limit myself to an ounce or two max. Otherwise I felt great and my blood sugars were super nice, plus with fewer lows (of course, law of small numbers would suggest that zero carbs does this more than very low carb). I added in a few carbs and can now drink a 4 oz glass of wine again–but no more than that or I’m a goner, and I don’t mean drunk or tipsy, I mean throwing up. Why is that I wonder? Anyway, keep up the great work! 🙂
I find the carnivore vs wine comments interesting. I also love a small glass of red wine after dinner usually with a piece of dark chocolate. My problem is sleep. Have experimented and find my sleep is deeper without wine. My three things that I love red wine chocolate and Diet Coke are not in my usual diet anymore. May have a glass of wine at lunch if I am out. Sometimes chocolate after dinner. But never any Diet Coke. Poor me. So back on mostly meat diet. My BG has been rising during the night sit I just cover with insulin. Hoping it levels out. Lots of
Work. This Type 1.
I’ve been searching for an answer on what to do in a hypoglycemic situation while in a carnivore diet. Any insight? Thank you.
When I was low, I used a little bit of raw honey to correct it. Not quite as accurate or convenient as glucose tabs, but it seems to not affect intestinal permeability.
Great article Justin. I have been looking into going Carnivore for some time and doing some extensive research on it, but I always found it hard to find articles about T1 Diabetics doing it. I noticed most articles were focused around T2 Diabetics trying Carnivore to try and eliminate the medication they needed to take. Was wondering if you took any supplements, like multivitamins, minerals, fish-oils, fibre, etc to help cover the nutrients you weren’t getting from other plants and foods?
I do not! I’ll eat eggs, grass-fed butter, and liberally salt my food in order to better cover my bases, and I’ll occasionally be more various and have sashimi or something with friends. But that’s the most as I do as far as “multivitamins” goes. I’m a full believer in getting everything you need from what you eat. That said, some people recommend eating offal (organ meat), and I’m not opposed to that.
Great post! Thank you for the insightful article. I would like to include a little bit more information that long-term hyperglycemia during diabetes causes chronic damage and dysfunction of various tissues, especially the eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves.
I’m beginning my carnivore way of life as of 2/2020 as a type 1. I’m a total carb addict and tired of over eating even so called healthy carbs. I have a CGM and closely watch my sugars. This is day 5-6 and I’m so sluggish and naseaus. I’ve stayed close to under 20-30 carbs, have been salting food, drinking Gatorade Zero, working out too. This seems to happen when I try keto…feel so crappy. Any suggestions?
What you’re experiencing is known as keto flu. It seems based on what you’re doing, that you’re already aware of this! What you need to do is simply ride it out, keep staying hydrated and getting electrolytes, and be sure to be eating a decent amount of animal fats. Fat is energy, and if you’re just eating lean chicken or something, you won’t be getting all of the energy you need. So be sure to get enough energy, let your body adjust, adjust your insulin as you go, and you’ll be fine before you know it.
I’ve had diabetes for 12 years now and have only recently found The carnivore diet, but it’s impact has been tremendous. Though I usually have the problem of my blood glucose dropping all the time and I’m not really sure what I can eat to correct it while staying on the carnivore diet. I’ve adjusted my insulin intake to the right amounts, but I still deal with serious drops and I’m not sure how to counter those drops. Any idea what the best fast acting and/or carb compromise there is for this? Thanks!
If I were to take a guess, I’d say there’s a good chance that you’ve become more insulin sensitive and your basal insulin dosage is now too high. I’d try to re-configure that basal first. And if you experiment and find your basal is at the right place, but you’re still going low, I’d then look at experimenting with your meal dosing. Here’s a video on ways to do that: