keto diet and type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), approximately 1.25 million Americans live with this diagnosis. With diabetes, it is imperative to understand how changes in your diet might help. You likely know people that have had great success with the ketogenic (referred to as “keto”) diet. Perhaps you wonder how this diet might help to ease some of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes. We will take a quick look at autoimmune diseases, so you can better understand how diabetes affects your body. Then we will learn about type 1 diabetes, causes, symptoms and then explore the keto diet and type 1 diabetes.

What Are Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body is attacked by the immune system in response to something going on inside the body. The immune system should keep you healthy by attacking bacteria and viruses that do not belong in your body. It is supposed to tell the difference between cells that don’t belong (foreign cells) and cells that belong (your own cells). In the case of autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, the immune system is trying to protect you from illness but instead causes it. It is not crystal clear what causes autoimmune diseases. There are a few things that medical professionals believe may be contributing to autoimmune diseases. This includes diet, infections, and exposure to chemicals but researchers cannot be entirely sure. Several problems can occur when your immune system decides to attack cells within your body. Some of them can be managed by diet while others need more serious medical intervention. Here we will be focusing on type 1 diabetes and the relationship between the keto diet and type 1 diabetes.

type 1 diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. We will be focusing on type 1. According to the ADA, approximately 5 percent of all diabetes diagnoses are type 1. It is an immune system disorder where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are attacked. This means the body can no longer make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes called juvenile diabetes because many people are diagnosed as a child or young adult. It can also be called insulin-dependent diabetes because once diagnosed, one must take insulin in order to live. Insulin is a hormone that helps create energy from glucose. Glucose is a natural sugar that comes from the food you eat. The glucose passes from your blood into your body’s cells because of insulin. The glucose in your body is used when you need more energy (i.e. between meals, when exercising or sleeping). Individuals with type 1 diabetes cannot process glucose for energy as there is a lack of insulin. This creates high levels of blood sugar and can cause many problems.


As with many of the autoimmune diseases, the symptoms of type 1 diabetes are not exclusive. You cannot assign some of the symptoms specifically to type 1 diabetes as they are precursors to many other health ailments. The symptoms include excessive urination, unintended weight loss, fatigue, excessive thirst, excessive hunger. It is important to be aware of any of these symptoms and talk with your doctor should you experience them. One complication of diabetes to be aware of is ketoacidosis, which is very serious and should receive medical attention immediately if it occurs. This condition occurs when blood sugar levels are dangerously high. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include dry mouth and skin, rapid breathing, flushed face, nausea, and stomach pain or vomiting.

Other complications can occur as part of unmanaged high blood sugar levels in the body. These include risk for heart attack, eye problems, nerve pain, infections on the skin, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.


Like many other autoimmune diseases, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known. There are a few risk factors to be cognizant of:

  • Family history – several genes have been connected to type 1 diabetes. This does not mean that everyone with a family history will be diagnosed with it. There are other factors not yet identified.
  • Race – type 1 diabetes is more prevalent in white individuals than in people of other races. Again, this does not mean that every white individual will be diagnosed with it. There are other factors not yet identified.

keto diet and type 1 diabetes

Your risk for an autoimmune disease, such as type 1 diabetes will decrease if you focus on overall body health. We advise that you eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients.There is not necessarily a “best” diet for type 1 diabetes. Each person must learn how their body responds to different foods. The most important thing for people with type 1 diabetes to do is to monitor blood sugar levels. It is not recommended to skip meals. It is suggested to eat around the same time every day and pay attention to food labels.Your level of activity plays a role in managing diabetes. You will want to make sure you check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after you exercise. Your doctor will also work with you to monitor your insulin. The two types of insulin coverage are:

  • bolus, which is prescribed as an insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio and represents how many grams of carbohydrates are covered by 1 unit of insulin
  • basal, which is a background insulin dose that replaces insulin overnight, when you are fasting, or in between meals

Ketogenic Diet

While the keto diet has been gaining popularity, it is not a new diet, nor is it a “fad” diet.Scientific and medical research is now showing so many more benefits to the keto diet that serve most of the population.The ketogenic diet is focused on increasing your fat intake, decreasing carb intake, and moderating your protein intake.This type of eating is fueled on ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are produced in the liver, which causes your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars).Ketosis is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet encourages your body to become efficient at burning fat.

Type 1 Diabetes and Inflammation

It is believed that the microbiome of the gut could be a key in managing autoimmune diseases. Research ( has found that healthy people have a different combination of bacteria in their intestines than those with some of these autoimmune diseases.There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. Some bacteria are good and play a role in improving digestive health. Some bacteria are bad and hinder it. Your overall health is impacted by the bacteria in the intestines, which is also known as intestinal or gut flora.

One key to living with any autoimmune diseases is to minimize outside instigators of inflammation. There are many common foods that cause inflammation including high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, genetically modified foods, artificial sweeteners, vegetable and seed oils, sugar, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, and processed meat. Keeping a close eye on the consumption of these products will help you avoid inflammation and promote healthy gut bacteria growth. You will find that many of the foods that cause inflammation will be removed or dramatically reduced if you are following a ketogenic diet. Due to this, many people naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in their body!

The following foods are on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet, they are also recommended to improve your gut health! This includes:

  • Vegetables: Broccoli, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
  • Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut.
  • Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
  • Fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout, herring.
  • Fruit: Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
  • Beverages: Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
  • Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
  • Meats and eggs: Chicken, lamb, turkey, eggs.
  • Nuts: Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.

The healthy bacteria can be negatively impacted by some foods including wheat-based products, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), grains with gluten, baked goods, and artificial sweeteners. Most of these foods will also be removed or cut considerably if you are following a ketogenic diet and you will promote healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and promoting this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of autoimmune disease including type 1 diabetes.

Keto diet and type 1 diabetes

The keto diet focuses on increasing fat intake and minimizing sugar intake. Some people have experienced a decrease in blood sugar when using a keto diet and type 1 diabetes. If there is too much glucose in the body, diabetics have high blood sugar, which can be dangerous. This often happens after consuming carbohydrates (starches, fiber, and sugar). Minimizing carbohydrates could help diabetics keep their blood sugar low. With that being said, you should pay close attention to be sure that you are getting enough carbohydrates. You do not want your blood sugar to drop too low either. Your doctor may want you to monitor glucose and ketone levels to make sure you are on the right track. It can be overwhelming to find that balance and, at times, it can be very frustrating. Keeping a food journal to see how your body responds to your diet can also be tremendously helpful.

live a healthy lifestyle

What else can you do to lower your risk of an autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes? We’ve already looked at how to make your diet part of a healthy lifestyle. We suggest that you make positive changes that will improve your well-being. Your body is up against many negative things externally that are beyond your control. For this reason, it is imperative to remove things within your control that can negatively impact your health. It is important to acknowledge these things that encourage good health in your body:

  • Reduce stress – stress can take a huge toll on the body. Take time to unwind and release stress. Some examples are to: meditate, yoga, go for a walk, read a book, etc.
  • Sleep more – allow enough time for sleep. This is the time that your body rests and repairs itself.
  • Exercise – move your body on a regular basis. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to a plethora of problems.
  • Supplements – make sure that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals into your body. Sometimes it is hard to find all of it in your diet.
  • Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, illegal substances – these things can wreak havoc on your body and cause many other problems.

Reducing stress, exercise, supplementing your nutrition, improving diet and getting enough rest can all improve the health of your body, which then lowers the risk of autoimmune disease.

to summarize what we have learned here

Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and plays a huge role in the possibility of dealing with autoimmune diseases especially type 1 diabetes. It is essential to be aware of what can contribute to autoimmune diseases and be proactive if you are having problems. A lot of work goes into finding a diet that will not only produce results but also help in managing type 1 diabetes. We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your health history, overall goals and in consultation with your doctor. Many people have found increased well-being, better health, and improved energy when following keto protocol. Our goal is to help you evaluate the possibilities regarding keto and type 1 diabetes so that you can make an educated decision when it comes to your health journey. In knowing the potential causes and issues that may be triggered within your body, you can be proactive and potentially minimize the possibility of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

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