Real Life: Russell Stamets On Quitting

Russell Stamets is a 52 year old author and digital publisher who used his 2009 diagnosis of Type 1 LADA as a catalyst to re-model his life. He took a less traveled road, refusing insulin. He designed a regimen for himself that kept his pancreas alive, contrary to all prognosis. His lean diet, supplements, constant activity, and extensive stress reduction have brought him to the best physical shape of his life. On the one hand, beer and ice cream are gone. On the other, he’s traded an unhealthy management job for a life writing and speaking from aboard the sailing ketch Beluga. He says these questions of balance are paramount. You can read more at his blog:

As an adult-onset Type 1, I’m in the unique position of having decades of drinking under my belt before Diabetes came to town. By the age of 49 when I was diagnosed, I had amassed a wealth of knowledge and personal research on the subjects of beer and rum. The decision to quit drinking is as great a quality of life question as any other diabetes-spawned choices.

Please note that my non-insulin approach is rare and so these questions are framed slightly differently from where I stand. Drinking is still a no-brainer to be in the “quit” list via my road though. I have tested this one extensively, and for me (repeat the mantra… we are all different), it’s clear that the deal I made with my body is violated by alcohol.  Violated not just by the shot of fine rum, but also by the exquisite IPAs, ESBs or pale ales that were ever present the first half of my adult life.

As a skinny LADA maintaining pancreas function partly due to an extremely lean diet, it’s not the carbs and sugar in alcohol, or any immediate effect that puts it on the chopping block. It’s a long term effect directly on the health of the pancreatic beta cells that is my concern. Weeks to months after each of several experiments with up to 3 beers in a week, my morning fasting numbers (I only test once a week) would begin to rise. Upon quitting each time, it took the same weeks to months time frame of no alcohol (and the rest of my regimen) for my body to trust me again and settle down.

My explanation is the one from my acupuncturist. Several years ago, when I made the first diet adjustments, my physician said quitting alcohol would be great, but that at least cutting it down to a little wine would do a lot. My acupuncturist begged to differ. She said “your liver’s fine, but it and the pancreas are part of a tightly integrated system. Any stress to your liver is stress to your pancreas. Quit it all.” It made sense. Darn it.


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About is a resource for young adult Type 1 diabetics and their support networks to help navigate interactions around alcohol. Alcohol is often an integral part of social life on college campuses and while all students face risks, there are a number of unique and serious ones specific to insulin-using diabetics. Learning how to navigate those risks and make informed decisions for themselves about the role alcohol plays in their lives.

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