Paleo Plan

Is Paleo Safe for Type 2 Diabetics?

In a word, absolutely!

Type 2 diabetics can really benefit from this diet! Eating Paleo removes the foods that mess with your blood glucose the most, and it helps people lose weight, often effortlessly. The Paleo diet consists only of foods that are very satisfying and blood sugar balancing, so it usually leaves people feeling less hungry and having fewer cravings.

Type 2 diabetes is what happens when you eat too much sugar/carbs and your body’s cells become desensitized to insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to be taken out of your blood stream and released into your cells. In other words, the sugar just sits there in your blood stream, toxic, unable to get into storage or be used by your cells.

Why Does Eating Paleo Work?

Since eating Paleo eliminates refined sugars and grains (the foods that spike your blood sugar the most) it’s very effective for diabetics. It means you won’t have to use much insulin at all and your cells will start using it efficiently again. It’s like if you worked in a daycare and you had 25 babies crying and screaming all day long. I bet you’d get a little desensitized to all that crying after a week on the job and you’d think to yourself, ‘That baby can wait.’ And I bet some of those babies wouldn’t ever get the attention they needed. But if you send 22 or 23 of those 25 babies home, you’ll be much more sensitive to the needs of those 2 or 3 babies, right? The same goes for insulin. When you flood your body with sugar and/or other carbs every day, your cells get overwhelmed and stop caring so much whether your cells get that sugar. If you reduce the amount of sugar and carbs in your diet, you reduce the need for insulin and your body can then take care of its screaming babies. Does that make sense?

A lot of diabetics actually get off of their medications completely with this diet. In fact, it works so well that one blogger who got rid of his type 2 diabetes by eating Paleo is being threatened by dietitians for telling people to go Paleo. Yes, he reversed his diabetes. No more diabetes.

It’s a common misconception that when you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you’re doomed to then forever be “a diabetic” and take more and more pills and insulin injections as the years pass. Not true. Here’s a study that was done in the 80’s on how the Paleo diet reversed type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal men. Here’s another study done in 2009 that showed how Paleo worked better for diabetics than the normally prescribed diabetes diet.

A Little Warning

Eating good fats and lots of protein is one of the best things you can do for your blood sugar control. If you are diabetic and you do decide to make this change in your diet, you’ll want to make sure you watch your blood glucose levels very closely in the beginning, especially if you take insulin or medications for it. Do not take too much insulin or your blood sugar may get very low. There are far fewer carbohydrates on this diet, which are what make your blood sugar spike. Consult with your doctor if necessary. A lot of people are surprised by how quickly their blood glucose levels decrease and normalize after starting this way of eating. In fact, my own dad started cutting out breads and common carbs as a type 2 diabetic taking insulin and noticed a difference within one day. Yes, one day.

So if you have type 2 diabetes, the Paleo diet is safe for you. In fact this is the safest diet you possibly could be eating. Take the plunge!

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31 Comments

  1. While I agree that low-carb paleo can really help lower and stabilize blood sugar in diabetics, your oversimplification of the cause of diabetes is off-putting. First, you seem to be only talking about the cause of type 2 diabetes and you may want to clarify that is what you are talking about.

    Second, you may want to do a bit more research or at least talk to some type 2 diabetics before saying that we ate our way into this disease. I am friends with a number of diabetics (T2) who developed diabetes eating a low-sugar, high “hearthealthywholegrains” diet. I developed type 2 when I was 8. I was underweight, very active and didn’t eat sweets. It’s hurtful to make blanket statements implying that we did this to ourselves. When helping newly diagnosed diabetics, one the best resources is Jenny Ruhl’s Blood Sugar 101, specifically You did NOT eat your way to diabetes.

    The overall message that paleo can help diabetics is a great one… but the message would be easier to deliver if a few things were cleared up.

    • Daytona – Thanks for writing in. I agree completely and have updated the post to reflect my mistake. I should’ve been more specific and made it very clear that I was talking about type 2 diabetes. And I meant no disrespect to anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes – I apologize if you took it that way. I was simply talking about the excessive intake of carbohydrates being the main cause of type 2 diabetes, which it is even if you’re not eating “sugar”. Even if you’re eating a lot of grains and legumes, that could have the same effect as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, as it all turns to sugar in your body, as I’m sure you know. So again, I’m sorry if I offended you – it wasn’t my intention.

  2. Hi, thanks for writing this and for the content your blog provides. I was wondering if you have had type 1 diabetics on Paleo and experienced insulin resistance? I’ve been eating Paleo for 10 months now and have had 2 or 3 occasions where my insulin just doesn’t seem to work, no matter how much I bolus. I’m type 1 diabetic.

    • Mark – Hmmm. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of that before, but I don’t hear from that many type 1 diabetics. I’d be interested in more details, though. What were you eating? What was your blood glucose before your meal and post? There are type 1’s out there who are successful on the diet. I do know that. Here’s one of them and you can google type 1 diabetes Paleo for lots more: http://robbwolf.com/2011/11/18/sean-paleo-type-1-diabetes-endurance/

  3. I have T2Diabetes, every time I go to the doctor they up my meds and Lantus and in 13 years my A1C has never been acceptable. I want to try Paleo but am not sure how to start. There are so many books available, I’m not sure which one to begin with. Any suggestions for a book with simple recipes and basic info on how to get going with this eating plan and reversing diabetes.

    • Hi Gayle,

      We’ve written a couple books, including the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Paleo, which you can find on Amazon or in most book stores. But also our ebook here: http://www.paleoplan.com/tour/#ebooks might be what you’re looking for. Other than those, there’s the Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, and Mark Sisson’s books on the Primal Blueprint that I love.

  4. Hi. I have recently been diagnosed with T2 Diabetes. I am a 51 year old male. The diagnosis was made during an emergency room visit for a serious infection. At the time (3 weeks ago) my BS was at 510. They started me on metformin. My BS has been in the 220 to 280 range since. I am starting to wean myself from carbs and this evening I was down to 173. My question concerns your thoughts on going partially paleo. I have a milk goat that I truly love and also love dairy products (my Dad was a milk man). could I go paleo with the exception of dairy and see benefits? How about if I eliminated fluid milk and just consumed cheese and butter? My work is quite physical and I have always been in good health (considering that I have always been somewhat over weight. I started a much more physical position in my company last July and lost around 30 pounds up until I got my infection. Since then I have lost an additional 25 pounds. TIA,
    Al

    • Neely Quinn

      Al – Plenty of people go “low carb” with dairy in their diets and see amazing results with their blood sugar. I think the fact that you’re drinking milk from your own goat makes it much easier for me to say yes, keep on drinking it. However, there’s a part of me that wonders if you, like so many other people, have issues with dairy that you don’t really think are abnormal or caused by dairy (gas, diarrhea, constipation). If you don’t have any of those issues, then really, go ahead and keep consuming the goat’s milk. It’ll make going low-carb way easier :)

  5. Gayle,

    You should talk to your doctor’s about a referral to the Joslin Center practice at Southview. You may actually be Type 1. The on-set of T1 does not occur only in Juveniles… It is possible for an adult to become T-1 for a number of reasons.

    Bret

  6. Thanks Neely. I should also mention that this is raw milk. No, I’ve never experienced any gastric distress from dairy products.

    Al

  7. I too have reversed diabetes with a low carb diet. I’m looking into Paleo for a life long change, the low carbing is really getting difficult, I dream about foods can’t have. Maybe Paleo will be more satisfying.

    I lost 120 lbs. in a year and a half, my high blood pressure is gone, as well as fibromyalgia. I feel 25 again, not my current 56. Also, I no longer have protein or albumin in my urine, so I’ve reversed early kidney disease as well.

    I’m going to get the Paleo books mentioned up thread. Thanks

  8. The reason Paleo works is the same reason why raw food diet works. It is due to proper food combining. When one eats acids with starchy foods the digestive processed is neutralized which results in slower digestion that can lead to spikes in insulin.

  9. Sharmiel Swartz

    I am interested in this new lifestyle I am a Type 2 diabetic

  10. Beverly

    As a type 2 diabetic I am seriously considering the Paleo plan. However what would you suggest if there is a significant drop in blood sugars as a quick influx. Currently taking medications, no insulin, and when I can feel the physical drop in “sugars” am drinking a 12oz bottle of “Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail” which levels things out usually within 10 minutes. A simple piece of fruit tends to take too long to be absorbed.

    Thank You

  11. Hi there! Just starting on Paleo. Lost weight on Atkins, but it just became another part of yo-yo-ing for me. I am now NOT using any artificial sweeteners – loved my Equal and heavy cream in my coffee! (Although, Atkins doesn’t like you using the aspartamine either.) Anyway, my question is: I’m scared about eating fruit! It tastes so good to me! I NEVER allowed myself any fruit on Atkins because I was always on Phase I (I have alot of weight to lose!) I do believe that dairy causes inflammation, and even after 2 days of no heavy cream and artificial sweetener, I really am starting to feel better and a higher energy level. I am a Type II diabetic also – on Metformin. I know this will work. I just really need a definitive fruit list. Especially where watermelon is concerned, for example. I remember I once ate alot of watermelon and the next morning my sugar was 252! I’m sure portion control is a part of it. Another question is carrots? (I understand about potatoes and corn being no-no’s, but I have been seeing sweet potatoes on food lists as being okay on Paleo!) Any clarifications and/or advice would be so greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  12. After a year of me being paleo and having excellent results my diabetic mother is trying it. She has has it about 20 years and was taking a lot of meds. She has drastically cut most of them out and is taking less than half the insulin she was 6 months ago. However she has gotten a bit stuck. She is quite low at night, about 2.8 (In Australia so I think units are different) she doesn’t know wether to eat to up the level before bed and inject or just let it be. Any suggestions?

    • Neely Quinn

      Julia – Does she feel bad? Light-headed, etc? I’m not familiar with Australian units, so I can’t really say. I’d tell her to experiment and see what works best for her. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  13. jeff wedekind

    I can tell you from my experience that by eating Paleo ….and low glycemic I have reduced my blood sugar count .,…lost 90 pounds and have set a goal to lose 100 more….I have been fighting this battle for ten years….took awhile to learn about food and it’s effect on me ….Paleo makes a big difference….thank you for all the help you provide.
    Thank you
    Jeff

  14. I feel like I must leave my (honestly) very first blog comment ever. It is true that there are genetic/hereditary conditions that can be responsible for developing type 2 diabetes. For those people I have the utmost sympathy because they certainly didn’t “eat their way” into becoming diabetic. In my case, however; I have no excuse. It is obvious to me that is exactly what I did.
    I have NEVER had low blood sugar (that I know of). I started the Paleo diet just a couple days ago. I took my normal Lantus dose for my bedtime blood sugar of 160 the first night after starting the diet. OMG! I had my first ever experience with low blood sugar. I started sweating profusely while lying in bed reading about the diet. I was shaking and getting nauseous. I checked my glucose level…….59! It had been less than an hour from taking my insulin. I thought that stuff was supposed to be slow acting. Well, needless to say, being inexperienced with low blood sugar, I ended up going off the Paleo wagon and ate too much sugar. So I am starting fresh.
    Well, the next night with a bedtime glucose of 141, I took 1/3 dose of Lantus. I woke up at 3am to go to the bathroom, checked my glucose level (out of curiosity) and it was 112. Got up at 6:30, checked it again and it was 131. Damn liver!
    So, it’s a work in progress.

  15. Julia, 2.8 is quite low. I would advise her to give her blood sugar a bump before taking insulin and going to bed. Also maybe she needs to have a reveiw

  16. I’d like to know if there is such a thing as a MODIFIED, or SEMI-PALEO diet for a 70 year old Type 2 diabetic (lady) on long acting insulin (28 units nightly).
    I’ve been having frequent bouts of LOW BLOOD SUGAR, and wish to get the BENEFITS of the Paleo diet, WITHOUT risking dangerously LOW
    BLOOD SUGAR EPISODES! Thank you.

  17. As a type 2 diabetic, should I worry about eating to much fruit on paleo?

    • Denise – Yes, I wouldn’t eat too much fruit if I were you. My dad, for instance, is type 2, and he just eats a bit of watermelon every morning or else his blood glucose goes wonky all day. I’d try to figure out what your tolerance for it is by monitoring your glucose before and after you eat it. Eating it with some fat will help the bg spike, though.

  18. The problem is that diets like this are great but they are “designed” for the “average” T2 diabetic as an example, one that is considered treatable within the confines of the “playbook.” Those who are the outliers (lie outside of the statistical main body Ts diabetics due to statistical anomalies), well who knows. I am one who does not gain or lose weight along conventional lines. It takes a “body shock” of some sort in which a “switch” seems to “trip” and then I lose 20 pounds. I work out heavily 3 to 5 days a week. My blood sugar rises and falls not matter how little I eat or what I eat. This is common with former endurance athletes, long-term military folks, and even actors like Tom Hanks. I have tried paleo and it no effect plus any sugars or carbs (even a small amount of yams without anything) causes my BS to rise to astronomical limits. Any fruits blows this out of the water. Micro meals…..well, I eventually gain some weight (a few pounds) and has no effect on blood sugar. My doctor’s advice…well, maybe it is time to raise the Metformin level a little bit (or just shrugs his shoulders). So frustrating as the doctors do not listen! So while diets like this may work, they do not work for all. I am retired military…can we say Agent Orange or DDT exposure but the VA runs away from that issue too from what I see. I hope this works for some. It did not for me.

  19. My mother recently had a triple bypass and is also recently diagnosed as type 2. She is on the pill not the insulin. What I would like to know is this diet okay for her? ALso I would like to try it as well. My only issues are severe chronic migraines and kidney stones. WOuld this be beneficial for both of us? Is it easy to follow? I have ADD so I lose interest kind of quickly. And mom has no patience for calorie count and what not. We wanted to do Atkins but that was calorie counting. We wanted to do Weight Watchers but that was too much for our budget. Even Quick Weight Lose was too much of a hassle. Sensing a theme here? We are broke and not in the mood for counting each and every little calorie. I need to loose around 40lbs and mom needs to loose around 50.

  20. Hi Denise . . . I was diagnosed as being a ‘pre diabetic’ almost 2 years ago. My doctor immediately put me on Metformin when my blood work showed an A1C reading of 7.0. I took the Metformin for about 1 month and then took myself off of it after reading about all the terrible side-affects it can cause. The same thing goes for statin drugs as well. I did a lot of research about how natural supplements and diet (low carb) can reverse and cure diabetes! Long story short, I’ve lost 68 pounds! I see my doctor every 3 months to check my A1C levels and my results have ranged between 5.2 to 6.2, depending on how well I ate during those 3 months. I’m a work in progress and after an immense amount of research reading, I do think the Paleo Diet will be my diet of choice for the rest of my life! I urge you to do a thorough research of how vitamins, herbal supplements and a low carb diet (such as the Paleo Diet) could help your Mom cure her diabetes. One word of caution for your Mom~! Natural supplements DO NOT mix with Metformin or statin drugs. For me, the side affects from Metformin and statin drugs were not worth my life. Even my doctor is beginning to see that my path to fighting diabetes is better than the ‘drug route’. I am so glad I found this website!

  21. I would like to know if Paleo Diet can prevent Type 2 diabetic, please let me know asap

    Karen Hardisty

  22. I started the Paleo two weeks ago. Already, I have seen a dramatic reduction in my blood glucose….I have sworn off refined sugar, carbs (bread, rice, pasta, and white potatoes….etc). I do approx 30-60 minutes of cardio every day.

    My A1C has constantly been over 8 for the past 5 months. I can’t wait until my next month check up

  23. I started my Paleo Diet and Exercise program 8 months ago when my glucose reading soared above 500. Since that scary day I have gotten my blood sugar below 90, lost 45 lbs of fat and gained 15 lbs of muscle. Yea, Paleo works for type II diabetes. And yes, the reason I have type II diabetes is because I did it to myself. I overworked my pancreas almost to the point of shut down with so called “healthy grains”.

  24. I was diagnosed as a T1 diabetic about 18 months ago at the age of 41 after presenting with dangerously high blood sugar levels and spending a week in hospital. In a nutshell, my body just had enough. I have been injecting insulin ever since, at night and before every meal. I have recently started following the Paleo eating guidelines, basically eliminating all grain and starchy carbs, and have noticed such a dramatic effect on my bsl that I have stopped taking insulin completely! It’s still early days for me but I have found that the key is to continue with regular blood sugar monitoring, just for peace of mind.

    • Kinsey Jackson

      Geoff~

      We are thrilled to hear that you found the Paleo diet! (Not thrilled to hear about your recent T1D diagnosis though, but glad to hear that you are taking good care of yourself). As you’re discovering, the elimination of grains, legumes, and starchy carbs (as well as some other problematic foods) is absolutely key in overcoming virtually any autoimmune disease. I wrote my thesis on the topic of how the foods we avoid on the Paleo diet contribute to autoimmune diseases (via a leaky gut), including T1D. In fact, most of the research connecting a “leaky gut” with autoimmunity is based on type 1 diabetics! If you want to learn more about this, I recently wrote 3 different blog posts about the autoimmune epidemic, the connection between a leaky gut and autoimmunity, and how to overcome autoimmune disease via the autoimmune protocol of the Paleo diet.

      Please keep up posted on how you are doing, and a HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU for taking your health into your own hands! :-)

      Best wishes,
      Kinsey Jackson, MS, CN
      Paleo Plan

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