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Ketosis & Ice Baths Reversed my Type 2 Diabetes

Updated: 1 day ago

and a carnivorous diet saved my cat from diabetic neuropathy



Ice baths and ketosis reversed my Type 2 diabetes, resolved my anorexia, and shrunk my liver tumor.

Summary

  • Although Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, it can also exist on a calorie-restricted diet too high in carbohydrates. In my case, anorexia kept me thin, but too many carbs in what I did eat resulted in chronic elevation of my blood glucose.

  • A ketogenic diet and ice baths reversed my Type 2 diabetes, helped resolve my anorexia, and shrunk a tumor on my liver -- so why was I feeding my obligate carnivore cats carbs?

  • The same mechanisms that create diabetic neuropathy in people can also exist in pets. It is often reversible in both.

  • A carnivore diet reversed diabetic neuropathy in my cats.


A ketogenic diet reversed my Type 2 diabetes

Despite being underweight, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the Fall of 2015. At the time, no one would have guessed that I was diabetic. At 6'1" and 135lbs, I did not appear to be someone at risk. I was, by all appearances, enviably fit and healthy.


Overeating was not a concern for me, but I did have a problem with what I was eating. I used to joke with my friends — who

This is what my Type 2 diabetes looked like at 135lbs — definitely not overweight — shortly after being diagnosed with an HbA1c = 7.1.

would ask me my secret to being a super skinny mother of four — that I was on the “All Carb” diet. My one meal per day consisted of something like a can of Coke and a bowl of dehydrated mashed potato flakes, and my daily caloric intake topped out at about 800cal.

Another name for my secret was “anorexia.”

When a routine blood test resulted in my first elevated HbA1c, my doctor said it was an anomaly. He didn’t believe that I could have a 6.3 without any of the obvious risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes, like obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, so he tested it again the next month.

That one came back at 6.6.

He told me to watch what I ate (which I found kind of funny) and asked me to return the next month to triple-check. When my HbA1c came back at 7.1, I officially had Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms were already appearing. I was very thirsty and peeing a lot, and I would get terrible blisters on my feet that took a long time to heal. I didn't take it too seriously at first. I'm not sure I believed the diagnosis either, and I wasn't terribly interested in modifying my behaviors. But come winter of 2017, my health took a turn for the worse, and I had no choice but to take my growing list of physical ailments seriously -- not if I wanted to be around to watch my children grow up.

Anorexic woman poses in tight black dress
At my thinnest, I was 6'-1" and 122lbs -- before ketosis eased my anorexia.

Thankfully, I was cured by the Fall of 2018. I had changed my diet to low carb/keto by increasing my animal protein and fat intake and cutting back my carbs. As my diet improved, some of the symptoms of my anorexia subsided, and I felt less compulsion to exercise. Instead, I started ice bathing and experimenting with hot yoga.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Type 2 diabetics (Bhanpuri et al. 2018). That meant that my elevated blood sugars and hyperinsulinemia were putting me at risk of heart attack, despite my low caloric intake and lean body. Had I failed to fix my metabolism -- and my eating disorder -- I would've risked leaving my four daughters motherless.


My keto diet and ice bath therapy routine dropped my HbA1c from 7.1 down to 4.8.

And both my T2D and my anorexia resolved -- but that's not the end of this story.


Carbohydrates nearly killed my cats

Four nights ago, my beloved 8-year-old cat struggled to stand up after a nap. When I saw her stumble, I laughed at first, the same way you laugh when a friend accidentally trips over their own feet. I figured her back paw was merely caught in the folds of the blanket we were sharing, but when I grabbed her leg to free her, she let out a startled yelp of pain and collapsed back down onto the couch.


JackJack (also lovingly referred to as “Chonk”) is the very picture of feline stoicism and alpha to our three other cats. In other words, JackJack is not a drama queen. The way she cried out wasn’t just unusual; it was unprecedented.

JackJack at 21lbs

Something was wrong.


I cleared the space around her feet and watched as she tried to stand again. Her front legs extended normally, but she struggled to pull her back legs underneath her. She finally succeeded, but when she tried to walk, her legs appeared too weak to support her, and she immediately collapsed back down onto the couch.


I was certain she was having some fatal medical event like a stroke or perhaps she had a brain tumor.


Unsure of what to do and wanting to be prepared for the worst, I Googled “Signs your cat is dying” and “Signs of a stroke in cats.”


Aside from her back legs not working, she was not exhibiting any of the symptoms that the internet was telling me signaled a life-threatening medical event. She was alert. Her appetite was not waning. She wasn’t exhibiting bowel or bladder control issues, nor was she moaning continuously in pain. Her back legs simply weren't working correctly.


After about an hour of online research, I confidently -- and with much relief -- concluded that our beloved kitty was suffering diabetic neuropathy. Her symptoms were too on the nose to be anything else.


And it shouldn’t have been a surprise, given that she weighed 21lbs.


For the uninitiated, a healthy weight for an adult cat is 8–10 lbs. JackJack's weight was akin to being a 5'5" human woman weighing 300lbs with a BMI of 48.


She was morbidly obese.


In the literature, I was able to identify more signs of feline diabetes mellitus she had been suffering for the prior year or so: excessive hunger and thirst, excessive urination, dandruff, oily coat, lethargy, and a decline in her activity level. I had chalked it all up to her being overweight.


JackJack used to be an outdoor cat until we moved two years ago. She was an active hunter and was beloved by the neighborhood for her sweet disposition. She brought us birds and baby bunnies as presents and would come running when we called, scaling a 6-foot cinder block wall with enviable speed and agility. Her diet at home was standard dry cat food, but she supplemented it well with the small birds and rodents she delighted in hunting.

When we moved into an urban loft in July of 2018, she no longer had access to the outdoors and begrudgingly became an indoor-only cat. With the move, she lost both her active lifestyle and an important component of her diet. I felt sorry for her but I also figured she simply had to acclimate because I wasn’t going to give her away. In our house, pets aren’t something you get rid of just because your circumstances change.


That move is when she began really overeating. As I watched her waistline grow over the course of several months, I figured she was bored and probably a bit depressed. Of course, I noticed her weight gain, but I rationalized that I was glad she had something to make her feel good since she was now trapped indoors. I told myself that she was lucky to be living the Garfield lifestyle — that it was a kind of retirement that she had earned. I wanted her to curl up in her kitty barcalounger, binge watch Netflix, and live a life of leisure.


I was, regrettably, very wrong.


A carnivore diet, not insulin, resolves feline diabetes

Despite reading, by overwhelming consensus, that the first-line treatment for feline diabetes is insulin, my own experience and research told me otherwise. She was not a Type 1 diabetic. She was Type 2.


Like me, JackJack had acquired her insulin resistance via her lifestyle and diet. For that, and several other less important reasons, insulin injections were not an option for her.


I would either be successful at reversing her diabetes and neuropathy with diet, or she would die.

That same night that her diabetic neuropathy became apparent, I made a critical choice. Upon learning through my hours of research that dry food is actually horrible for cats because they are obligate carnivores -- a fact her vet had never once disclosed -- I threw out the dry cat food she had been eating her entire life and ordered a large case of wet food that contained only animal-based proteins and fats. I picked up the cats' shared food bowl, from which they had been free feeding their whole lives, and switched to serving them two scheduled meals per day, individualizing the amount of food each received based on their respective current vs. ideal body weights.

As the sun rose on Day #2 — the morning after her collapse — JackJack struggled to walk, and, honestly, it scared me to watch. She didn’t want to stand for very long, and jumping — whether it be onto the couch or the table or my daughter’s bed where she loved to sleep — was absolutely out of the question. She had also begun to walk on her hind hocks, which was additional confirmation that diabetic neuropathy was indeed the source of her dysfunction.

She was still alert and did not exhibit any other concerning symptoms so I decided to dote on her, keep her close, persist in the dietary changes, and wait it out.


JackJack, on Day #5 of her carnivore diet, already looking slimmer and feeling much better.

As I type this, today is the end of Day #5, and I just watched her quickly jump to her feet from a lying down position and scurry out of the way of our persistently antagonistic Roomba.


There is zero chance she could have done that four days ago. Her back legs were simply too weak.


And her progress on the carnivore diet is undeniable.

Earlier today, she jumped 18 inches or so onto my daughter’s bed to take a nap with her — another thing she has not done since the collapse. She also made her way to the top of a table by way of a mid-height chair. She didn’t used to need to use the intermediary height of the seat to get to the table, but two small, successive jumps still represent a solid improvement over her low point just four days ago.

In addition to the increase in her mobility, the inflammation in her body and her GI system seem all but gone and, in retrospect, I’m disturbed at just how much of it there was. She is no longer puffy and bloated. Her coat is shinier. She has fewer dandruff flakes, and she spent several hours today laying out on the terrace, grooming herself — yet another thing she has lacked the ability to do for these past few days.

I had planned on writing this article when I began to notice improvement, but I didn’t expect to write it less than a week into initiating her dietary changes. Every improvement that I am now watching in real-time runs counter to what veterinarians told me would happen if I didn't immediately put her on insulin. Everything I read told me that my cat wouldn’t recover from diabetes without daily injections. Fortunately for her, I refused to take that route in large part because of my own experience, described above, of reversing my T2D with dietary changes.


My body healed by changing my lifestyle, so I believed my cat could heal as well.

So far, I’m pleased with the experiment.

Mind you, it is only Day #5, and I am not declaring victory just yet. However, my giant, obese cat has already lost 2 lbs (probably most of it water weight), is moving well, and seems to be feeling better than she did even before the neuropathy became apparent.

The insulin promoters assured me that with full compliance, lots of blood tests and vet visits, and adherence to strict medical protocol, JackJack's neuropathy would reverse in 6–12 months. All I’ve done so far is reject the standard insulin protocol, cut out carbs, and restrict her calories — and I’ve seen dramatic improvement in 5 days.

I’m going to stick with my plan.

And not just for my cats. My kitty’s diabetic neuropathy was a wake-up call for me. None of my four daughters are overweight, and despite eating more whole foods than they used to, the content of those choices is still fairly carb-heavy. Watching the improvement in JackJack’s health after eliminating carbs from her diet has convinced me that I need to make further changes in what food I bring into my house and feed to my family.


 

UPDATE: 3 May 2020 (5 months since the last post) — JackJack is thriving. She is now 15.3 lbs and an incredibly active, happy cat with no signs of the diabetic neuropathy that triggered her health crisis.


Five months on a carnivorous diet did more than save my cat’s life. It restored her to health.

As an added bonus, our less severely overweight cat, Buffy, who was 16lbs when I changed their diets, is now 12lbs, which is within the normal/healthy weight range for a cat. Our other two cats have maintained their weights and are more active and healthy, as well.


Our other cats are also thriving on the same diet.

 

About the Author

AJ Kay is an independent writer of narrative non-fiction and an advocate for children's health rights. Following the publication of this article, she worked as a science writer at Collateral Global and the Hillsdale College Academy for Science & Freedom. You can read more from AJ Kay at https://twitter.com/AJKayWriter and https://substack.com/@ajkay.



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