As I clung to the driftwood float of my low-carb diet recipes, I started to think about the future. What was my long-term prognosis? Had I actually changed anything? I had so many questions!
Of major concern to me was the long-term consequences of a low-carb diet. Was it good for me? Would I have to stick to it forever? If I continued it, would I be able to stop taking medication? It was clear, to me at least, that more study and research was needed.
The other day, a relative of mine in China asked me anxiously on WeChat (a Chinese social media app) why the protection period of a COVID-19 vaccine is only half a year. Was it because the virus is particularly tenacious, or because the Chinese vaccines are just not good enough.
Of course, neither of these things are true. At present, the medical consensus on the COVID-19 vaccine is that its protection period is half a year. That’s because it's been only one year since the vaccines were launched, and the relative data started to be available about half a year ago. Essentially, based on data, all we can say is that the protection period of the vaccine is at least half a year. As time passes, the data will be amended, and the medical consensus on the protection period of the vaccine will likely change.
Reliable medical conclusions can only be made based on the data we get from continuous testing.
My health situation tells a similar story. Like the validity of the COVID-19 vaccine, my claim that the low-carb diet has reversed my diabetes is based on continuous monitoring of data: my own blood glucose levels over the years.
In 2014, when I started on my doctor’s prescription of metformin, I also began to follow a low-carb diet. I just wanted to see if this would work, and I didn't expect it to produce a significant effect. When my blood glucose level began to plummet, it really was beyond my expectation. Within three months, my the hemoglobin A1c level dropped from 10.4 to below 6.
What does below 6 mean? It is classed as a perfectly normal the hemoglobin A1c level for a non-diabetic person. If it stayed this way, I would never have to worry about any of the possible complications of diabetes, ever. If you looked at my blood circulation I was as healthy and vigorous as a teenager!
Excited about this improvement, I left the doctor’s office at a brisk pace. However, when I calmed down a little, I realized that to be sure that the low-carb diet has played a role, I would need more evidence. First of all, three months is not long enough to draw any firm conclusions. Diabetics can experience ups and downs in blood glucose levels, and many factors can make blood glucose levels soar or drop in the short term. Second of all, I was taking metformin, which is a hypoglycemic agent. I needed to find a way to determine the respective effects of the medication and the diet. This would be tricky.
When some of my fellow diabetics got to know that my levels had been plummeting, they wanted to know if I had found some sort of magic cure. They wanted to know everything I was doing. I totally understood their feelings, but there were limits to the conclusions I could draw. All I could explain to them was that, as well as taking metformin, I had completely removed rice, foods made of flour and sugar from my diet, and taken Brazilian propolis regularly.
There were reasons for my nervousness.
I didn't know enough about the low-carb diet. I had only been living this way for three months. Sure, I had seen positive results, but I didn’t know all the complex symptoms and complications of diabetes.
My piece of driftwood was not a lifeboat.
If my seven years of learning about nutrition and the low-carb diet and my certification from Dr. Berg can be regarded as a bachelor's degree certificate, back then I was only a naive primary school student. I believed what my headteacher wrote in my graduation memorial book: What you say must be based on facts. I didn’t want to give my fellow diabetics any advice that might be harmful. For example, one of my employees in the Toronto branch had macular oedema (a relatively serious retina condition), when he was diagnosed with diabetes. He had to go to the hospital for fundus injections every three months to prevent his eyesight from deteriorating. Given my knowledge about diabetes, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the guilt if my advice had made his condition worse.
Luckily, my diabetes was discovered at an early stage. Although my blood glucose level was very high, no complications had occurred. This allowed me to have more freedom in testing the low-carb diet so that I could keep correcting what I ate. The human body is an extremely wonderful and complex system, and my learning curve was more of a spiral, sometimes seeming to go backwards before correcting itself.
I like quoting Gibran: “One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night. Adversity is the inevitable gateway to go through before becoming the strong. Without the suffering of adversity, where does the strong emerge from? Without overcoming difficulties, how can there be the joy of success? There can only two results for meeting with adversity, one being failure, and the other success. Once you overcome adversity, you will step on the road to success. If you retreat in the face of adversity, you will fail and regret it for the rest of your life.”
Knowing that my fellow diabetics were interested in my experiments inspired me to learn as much as I could about the low-carb diet and how it could help people like us. Their questions kept me searching for deeper answers.
For example, in order to get the most detailed data and ensure the information I provided for myself and fellow diabetics was reliable, I purchased a FreeStyle Libre, a continuous glucose monitoring sensor. This device measures blood sugar levels 24 hours a day for two consecutive weeks. It gave me a more accurate understanding of how my glucose reacted to food, exercise and other factors, and therefore further improved my skills of glucose control.
Continuous monitoring is an important part of the life of all diabetics. Usually, this would involve a hospital blood test every three months or so to check their haemoglobin A1c level, and pricking their fingers at least daily to test their blood glucose levels. When a diabetic shakes hands with you, you might see their dark fingertips. This is not a symptom of some kind of disease, but the results of countless finger pricks. I rarely pricked my fingers, except when I went to the laboratory to check my haemoglobin A1c level. I only used my FreeStyle Libre and could check the data on a mobile phone app.
At the age of 30, Li Chunping was sitting in a Beijing hotel, nursing the one cup of coffee he could afford when a Hollywood movie star 39 years his senior noticed him and fell in love.
Li Chunping went to the United States with her and they lived together for 13 years. After the death of the actress, Li Chunping inherited her substantial property. He owns three top Rolls Royce caravans, a luxury mansion modelled after Buckingham Palace worth $80 million, and a large quantity of real estate in Manhattan and the Overseas Chinese Village in Beijing. Apart from those, he also has four oil paintings by Van Gogh and Picasso, one of which is soon to be auctioned with an estimated worth of$200 million.
Why am I telling you his story? Because Li Chunping is also a diabetic. Even with his immeasurable wealth, he still has to regularly collect blood from his fingertips to check his blood sugar level. Eventually, there wasn’t a single piece of intact skin on any of his fingertips from which to take blood. Everyone is equal in the face of disease.
In fact, scientific research confirmed that Alzheimer's disease is also caused by hyperglycemia, so it is also known as type III diabetes.
I'm lucky, compared to him. By the time of my own diagnosis, someone had invented a continuous glucose monitoring sensor. I can track my blood glucose level changes on my mobile phone app anytime anywhere. Normally, the blood glucose level is measured once immediately before and one hour after meals, once two hours after meals, and once on an empty stomach in the morning. If you have any drinks or eat any snacks between meals, you can also take a measurement. Now, instead of guesswork about what foods affect glucose levels, you have on hand real-time data.
After that joyous visit to my doctor when my blood glucose level dropped back to normal, my test results stayed around that level. I began to consciously reduce my dosage of metformin. From my prescription of one tablet three times a day I dropped down to twice a day, once a day, one tablet every other day, one tablet only when I felt dizzy. In January 2016, the doctor prescribed me metformin for the last time. I took some intermittently for a while, and then completely stopped. Since then, I have been off medication and relied on the low-carb diet to manage my condition.
In a world where anyone can write a web page, and where you can buy the top place in a search engine, it is difficult to trust anyone. There are so many theories and “magical cures” touted on the internet that it can be overwhelming for someone who is just trying to find the best way to manage their limiting disease.
My advice is: you don't need to trust anyone, you just need to believe in yourself, and in your own body. No matter what kind of food, product or treatment you decide to try, you can use a continuous glucose sensor to monitor any change in your blood sugar. Your body will tell you what is effective, and it works 24/7. This machine is a rumor quasher, silencing false cures and snake-oil treatments. also easily verify the effect of a low-carb diet on reducing and stabilizing glucose levels.
The more my fellow diabetics asked for my advice, the more they pushed me to study further, and learn more deeply. They have helped me as much, if not more, as I have helped them.
From this perspective, I think I understand Li Chunping. In his later years, he has become a rich philanthropist, donating 70,000 yuan on average to all kinds of causes every day, 630 million yuan in total. Therefore, he was recognized as a philanthropist by the Red Cross of China and alike.
What impressed me most was the reason he gave for his donations. During his service in the army in Guizhou Province, he almost died when he and all the soldiers of his squad were buried in a cave. The local people scattered all over the hill to dig them out little by little, with their hands bleeding from the sharp rocks. Every time he talks about how grateful he is to these people, the billionaire cannot help shedding a tear.
I often think to myself that not everyone will have Li Chunping's unbelievable experiences, and not everyone can have his wealth. But being grateful has nothing to do with wealth. It is a quality available to everyone and is the source of happiness.