Who gets to talk about Type I diabetes?
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Re: And why it isn't you and me.
The word diabetes has become more commonplace these days than ever before. From the nutrient poor foods of the grocery store, to the incessant medication commercials and advertisements blasting you in between bouts of your nightly entertainment.
Entire markets exist for the management of diabetes: diabetic nutrition, diabetic technology for each and every symptom it comes with.
Behind each and every invention or product is a legally-sanctioned governing body. Licensed doctors, nutritionists and engineers. And rightfully so, no? Endocrinologists have 7 extra years of study (med school and residency) after your basic 4 year degree. That automatically makes them more qualified to hand out advice and recommendations for your condition. Nutritionists need a four year degree, sometimes a Master’s and an additional 1200 hours of study and experience to qualify for registering to practice.
This time-invested strategy is interesting to me. Endocrinologists know everything there is to know about diabetes that has been recorded and tested in literature and common practice. That can be reassuring but also an important caveat. I’ve written before on how our current outlook on diabetes is not comprehensive to the true problem. Modern medicine has time and time again shown that it is not interested in healing but rather treating your condition. So when it comes to respecting the time invested and expertise of those legally allowed to counsel you, understand their jurisdiction and their intent.
The average med school currently includes less than a semester of nutrition content in their 4 year curriculum. So what happens when, you, a diabetic, start to look into and experiment with things outside of that scope of practice your endocrinologist provides?
I'll tell you because I have. You get a few "oh, that's interesting" and "well I don't think the research behind that is very robust". Not very uplifting, I know.
From those two responses alone I can gather that A) You haven't heard of it and/or B) You don't trust it. And yet given my endocrinologist's understanding and training in nutrition, those responses didn't bother me. In fact, I was excited!
But Bowie, validity in the scientific community is hard to come by. The amount of time and energy that goes into clinical research is astounding. It can take upwards of 10 years for drugs to be tested and approved for use on humans. Why wouldn't you take your doctor at their word?
A few reasons:
1) I am my very own case study. I require no grants, no formal legal action or approval to try whatever it is I decide to pursue. I know myself well enough to track my values, formalize a plan and execute safely. I don't need your approval.
2) I'll keep harping on this: your doctor doesn't know how to cure diabetes. You share that quality with him/her. And, like I alluded to in point #1, they are legally bound by very specific guidelines on treatments. The very same education that empowers them, is the same thing that holds them hostage.
3) "Fish don't know anything about water". That's to say, your doctor is so embedded in the medical system they may not see anything outside of that. And it's a system that, arguably, is not very good at what it does. So while your doctor is incredibly smart and an excellent swimmer, you're the one with eye's outside the bowl.
4) An overarching theme, and a mantra that I've come to embrace, is harnessing the power of self. Prescriptions, mandatory check-ups, and medical insurance all serve to keep you healthy, yes, but also dependent. So why am I looking into something else, doctor? Because I never want to have to see you again!
That begs the question: then who? Who are you to follow? Whose word trumps whose?
Even if someone outside of medicine were to cure diabetes, would they be considered qualified to share that information? Can I get a "I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice" chant?!
Ultimately, you decide. You have the power. Do your research. Check and double check sources.
The whereabouts to ask intelligent questions and develop bodily intuition stems from experience and self-awareness. To check under every stone, in as many fields as necessary.
It has always seemed funny to me that for a disease that directly influenced your diet and lifestyle, no one ever questioned the diet and lifestyle nature of T1D.
OK. What if our concept of health or what we think health looks like is wrong? We are aware of the depth of knowledge in the medical field but it's subject breadth is becoming questionable.
Who would you turn to for help? What questions do you start to ask?