I'm no longer diabetic. That's a somewhat controversial and, to some, inflammatory statement.

colin.JPGView full size
PORTLAND, OREGON – January 27, 2012 – Ken Gordon, owner of Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, was diagnosed with diabetes early this year. He will keep a diary of his efforts to help improve his condition with diet and exercise. Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian. Diary of a diabetic chef: Ken Gordon

I’m no longer diabetic.

That’s a somewhat controversial and, to some, inflammatory statement. But it’s what my doctor says, and that’s good enough for me. More about that in a minute.

My visit to naturopath Dr. Martin Milner’s office last week was my most important yet. The purpose: to analyze and discuss my third series of blood tests, and to assess the progress in my condition of Type 2 diabetes.

I had mixed feelings about the meeting. On the one hand, with the exception of occasional “treats” such as a bagel or sticky rice with my Pok Pok Fish Sauce Wings (oh, come on! I’m not a saint!), I’d been pretty good about holding to my eating and exercise regimens. I was still pretty attentive to and consistent with what I was eating. I took my vitamins daily.

And I hadn’t gone a day without exercising — rain or shine, through a bad cold, and even when I just didn’t feel like it. I had made tremendous progress and had no reason to doubt this would continue. I was hopeful that my body was like a vending machine: You put your money in and the candy bar drops out.

Except sometimes the candy bar doesn’t drop, or gets stuck. Or you unwrap it and it’s stale, or just not as good as you were expecting.

The body’s a complicated thing and doesn’t always respond as you expect, or hope. There was a part of me that feared my body — which had betrayed me already by developing diabetes in the first place — would ignore my positive steps toward healing and betray me once again.

But despite Milner’s meager attempt at concealing his delight at my latest test results, it became immediately clear that I needn’t have worried. The great early progress I had shown in reversing my diabetes had continued, to the point where all my numbers were now clearly out of diabetic range, in every category. So were all the figures that constituted Metabolic Syndrome.

The results:
First test 1/12/12: 239
Second 3/22/12: 219
Latest 6/14/12: 205
Body fat
First test 2/8/12: 21.6 percent
Latest 6/6/12: 15.9
Waist size
1/12/12: 39 inches
3/22/12: 36
Latest 6/14/12: 34
Blood pressure
First test 1/12/12: 166/89
Second 3/22/12: 144/84
Latest 6/14/12: 134/78
Cholesterol (desirable under 200)
First test 1/12/12: 265
Second 3/22/12: 214
Latest 6/14/12: 193
Cholesterol ratio (total cholesterol to HDL; optimal is under 3.6)
First test 1/12/12: 5.1
Second 3/22/12: 4.3
Latest 6/14/12: 3.6
Blood glucose level (diabetic over 100)
First test 1/12/12: 185
Second 3/22/12: 107
Latest 6/14/12: 96
Triglycerides (desirable under 150)
First test 1/12/12: 343
Second 3/22/12: 126
Latest 6/14/12: 68
Hemoglobin A1C (desirable under 6.0)
First test 1/12/12: 8.1
Second 3/22/12: 6.9
Latest 6/14/12: 6.0

And finally, the all-important two-hour fasting glucose and insulin test. This is a test during which your blood is drawn after a 12-hour fast and your insulin and glucose levels are measured. You then drink a glucose solution and your blood is drawn again in an hour, then an hour after that. The insulin and glucose levels are measured at each test to determine how your body reacts to the infusion of glucose.

The results:
insulin 6, glucose 143
1 hour: insulin 18, glucose 238
2 hour: insulin 19, glucose 239
Insulin 3, glucose 96
1 hour: insulin 14, glucose 159
2 hour: insulin 24, glucose 151

The key benchmark here is that my glucose level — to be in the normal range and not diabetic — needed to stay under 200 after one hour and two hours after drinking the solution. Clearly, it had. My body was responding normally to the infusion of sugar.

It was clear from the numbers that whether or not I was “cured” of diabetes, for all intents and purposes I was free of any signs of it. And my body was functioning as though I was not diabetic. Had I walked into the doctor’s office today, without any real history of tests or examinations — much like I did five months ago — there would be no diagnosis of diabetes.

I don’t know if that qualifies as a “cure” or not. I’m not sure it really matters.

There were questions, of course. How likely was I to become diabetic again? Should I be doing anything different to try to avoid that? And, as it would appear, my insulin level was still pretty low. Should I be concerned about this and is there something I should be doing to try to raise it?

The doctor said that, yes, there’s a chance that, if I’m not careful, my diabetes can recur. The clearest indicator of that is that I was diabetic before. And while my insulin level is low, it seems that my pancreas and body are working extremely efficiently with that level. Could my level go lower? Yes, if my pancreas were to become exhausted and start wearing out, which can happen.

But the doctor reassured me that I was doing everything I should be doing right now, my test results being the clearest indication of that. We discussed the possibility of some natural supplements and vitamins down the road if my insulin level starts to slip, but that there is no need for that now. Just keep doing what you’re doing, he insisted.

The doctor called me a “medical wonder.” I didn’t really feel like it. More like I’d dodged a bullet. But the fact is that I did this without drugs, stubbornly holding to common sense: that bad diet and lack of physical fitness got me into this, and that good diet and exercise were the way out. Combined with some moderation so that they can fit into my lifestyle and toleration levels.

In the next few weeks, I’ll divulge some favorite recipes and foods that have gotten me through all this, as well as some favorite places to eat and tips for eating in and out.

In my swan song, on July 25, I’ll summarize where I’ve been, where I’m going, and give credit where credit is due.

Ken Gordon