“I had been suffering nocturnal leg cramps for two months when I made an appointment to see my primary care physician at another clinic. He said: ‘We really don’t know what causes leg cramps,’ then prescribed Valium despite my reluctance to take such an aggressive drug for something with an unknown cause.
“When the leg cramps continued, I decided to find out if there was an underlying cause, and quickly made an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health with Sarah Acosta-Smith, ND.
“This might sound like an overstatement, but she saved my life. She was so thorough and asked so many questions, it was the difference between night and day. She ordered a complete lab work up, and then called me immediately when the results came in.
“‘The good news is you don’t have type 1 diabetes,’ Dr. Acosta-Smith told me. ‘The bad news is you have type 2 diabetes.’
“My levels were also the highest she had ever seen, with an A1c blood glucose of 16.2 (normal is 5.6, according to the American Diabetes Association). If not for Dr. Acosta-Smith’s diagnosis, I could have lapsed into a diabetic coma. I fired my conventional medical doctor and got a new one who understands nutritional and cultural differences. She’s been 100 percent supportive about my progress due to complimentary medicine.
“Diabetes hadn’t even been on my radar even though I’d seen firsthand its effects when my aunt died of complications of the disease. Even though I am considered overweight, I’ve always been active: I walk, I hike, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs and I rarely drink.
“Dr. Acosta-Smith said there were additional lifestyle changes I could make to help control my blood sugar. She advised me to boost my magnesium intake and to eat as many leafy greens as possible, so I started eating 9-10 servings of greens every day in every way I could get it: spinach, kale, broccoli and Brussel sprouts.
“Just that one change took away my leg cramps, so I started investigating the ways in which food acts as medicine. I found support through the website Diabetic Connect, which is a great resource for learning about the typical drugs prescribed for diabetes.
“Through members' own stories, I learned about very real and serious side effects of statins and other protocol drugs that caused some to require kidney dialysis and others to develop hair loss and a persistent cough. I also found several members practicing the ketogenic diet and other low-carb eating lifestyles to control and reverse diabetes successfully. Their glucose numbers were impressive.
“At first it was really trial and error, like going back to college. By reading lots of studies and books on reversing diabetes, and testing my glucose multiple times a day while tracking my food intake, I discovered grains and dairy caused inflammation, so I took them out of my diet.
“I added cruciferous foods like cauliflower; fermented foods like sauerkraut; healthy fats such as organic ghee and coconut oil; and cold-water fish including sardines and salmon; bone broth; and non-GMO organ meats.
“I also started working out like a demon, lifting weights, and doing stairs, hills and cardio burst workouts. In six months, I lost 40 pounds and 6 inches off my waist. I also just got the good news that my A1c blood glucose level was down from a peak of 16.2 to 5.7, which is just one-tenth of a point above normal.
“As an African-American woman of certain age, with a family history of diabetes, conventional medicine had me stereotyped as someone who couldn’t reverse diabetes and who would be on multiple medications for the rest of my life. After all, 64 percent of diagnosed type 2 diabetics stay that way.
“But they didn’t know me. I’m considered controlled diabetes now. Even though my blood sugar levels were among the highest any of my doctors had seen, I never took insulin, and the only medication I take now for diabetes is Metformin. My doctor plans on taking me off all drugs by December.
“If I can do it, other people can do it, too. You don’t have to go blind or lose a limb or be on kidney dialysis. This is a way of life, it’s not about a diet. The real trick is that I know I have to do this for the rest of my life.”