“It’s not always just what we’re eating; it’s what’s eating us.” - Kelly Schmidt
Registered dietitian Kelly Schmidt discusses individualized nutrition, gut health, and the three pillars of autoimmune disease with Shireen on this episode of the Yumlish Podcast. She shares her style of aiding her clients and her experiences with Type 1 Diabetes management. She also discusses how mindset and lifestyle changes can affect health.
Kelly Schmidt is a registered dietitian. On her website, she promotes diabetic wellness and management. Kelly is a health advocate and maintains her own private practice.
Yumlish is working to empower you to take charge of your health through diet and exercise and reproduce the risk of chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Through amplifying the voices of healthcare professionals, educators, and communities, we hope to share a unique perspective and a culturally relevant approach to managing these chronic conditions with you each week.
Registered dietician Kelly Schmidt speaks to us about her experience with type 1 diabetes, her motivation to become a registered dietician. She speaks to the importance of individualized nutrition, how hormone changes and imbalances impact blood sugar levels, and also how individuals with auto-immune and chronic illnesses can really use mindset and lifestyle changes to support their health. Stay tuned.
Kelly Schmidt is the Diabetic Dietician type one for 29 years. Helping clients with blood sugar management and gut health, designing their healthiest recipe for life in her private practice for almost a decade now, she guides clients on the art of eating and how to incorporate functional nutrition in their lives.
Kelly: Hi, thank you for having me.
Shireen: A pleasure to have you on. Kelly diving right in, I’d love to learn more about what, why a registered dietician? What really led you to this field?
Kelly: Yeah. As people could guess, or would assume they might think it’s because of my personal experience with type one diabetes.
However, the inspiration, I believe really came from my father, my dad and uncle all had type one diabetes, and of all the grandchildren, I was the only one diagnosed. Um, while that was different, it was hard at times. Um, again, I can’t say it’s what fueled me to drive me into a nutrition profession. It was later in high school when I was deciding on that major for college, and which college to go to, um, unexpectedly, my dad was, uh, called, uh, around midnight one night on February 5th, 2002. And OSU Medical Center called and said, hey, we have a transplant for you. My parents didn’t tell me that my dad was in kidney failure, because they weren’t sure if he would get an organ. So, um, in a way I was blindsided, but from their perspective, they’re trying to protect me.
But, um, as with anyone, it was shocking. And as I waited in that waiting room for 10 plus hours, um, I just felt so empowered, and scared of course, but empowered. And that’s when I made my decision that I want to use food as medicine. I want to prevent any daughter or father being in that scary spot because a disease is shutting down organs, including my father’s kidney.
Um, so that was, let’s see, year 2002, um, almost 20 years ago. And my father’s still here with us today. And he’s literally my flame that pushes me to be the best dietician. And to help anyone with any blood sugar challenges, because it’s not our fault. There’s a lot of information out there that’s confusing and there’s great podcasts like yours that help filter, um, the trends from the past.
Shireen: Thank you so much for sharing that. So how does this experience really intersect with your work as a dietician?
Kelly: Um, immensely. I believe that, um, or my style of helping clients is through stories, and I often am very transparent and use myself as stories. I’ve failed very well at type one diabetes in 29 years, including, you know, number of seizures.
I can count more than one hand. Um, Trying out various insulins, various technology from all the new CGMs to insulin pumps, um, to other medications, um, to manipulating my diet, to make autoimmune disease less hard. Um, I, I hate to put the word easy and diabetes in the same sentence. I don’t think that’s allowed, but my goal is to make type one management, type two management, blood sugar challenges, let that be PCO as a fertility, less hard.
Shireen: You talk about individualized nutrition. Can you speak to the importance of that?
Kelly: Yeah. So I’m very focused on gut health, and there’s a physician that really lit my eyes up, Dr. Fasano. And he was one of, he was an endocrinologist in pediatrics and he found, um, research suggesting that anyone with an autoimmune disease has some form of a fragile gut or something that’s commonly heard as, as leaky gut and therefore to protect – to make auto-immune less, to bring it down in the body. We need to protect the gut. And you know, he’s not the first physician to say something along these lines. Of course, all disease begins in the gut and his stats really brought this to life in my world. And therefore I have really shined a light on tools and methods of improving one’s diet by knowing how their gut tolerates certain things.
In my practice, I do use functional labs, included food sensitivity, inflammatory testing, um, but not all clients need to start there. Our guts are as unique as our fingerprint and my gut to you as even just 5% alike. So while we know most, whole real food is healthy, but, um, what is healthy to one person’s body may not help the others. And I always use the example on a recent test I did on myself. I don’t tolerate spinach very well, and I should have known this when I first made a garden in our new home. Now it’s five years later. Um, I planted spinach and I went to pluck it, to eat it for lunch, and my hands and wrists got a rash from the spinach, but I continued to eat anyways, cause it’s an air quote, It’s very healthy. Um, but we need to look beyond what a food is and how it really makes us feel. And how it affects our blood sugar. That spinach, as most of us know, is not full of sugar nor carbohydrates, but it will cause inflammation in my body. And I will see a spike in blood sugar control. And I look at that in my clients.
I help them identify foods that are quite healthy, but may not work for them, um, from symptoms or test, um, as such.
Shireen: Yeah. So how can individualize nutrition be used for blood sugar control and then also for the management of autoimmune and chronic illnesses?
Kelly: Yes. So a specialized diet that’s unique to me can help prevent those spiked blood sugars. Like I use my example of spinach. Um, of course I also want to avoid commonly known foods that spike blood sugars, like straight sugar or rice by itself. I always tell clients don’t eat naked carbs. You want to have a food that’s high in carbohydrate with protein and fat to help slow down that digestion of glucose going into the bloodstream.
But identifying foods that may incident inflame the body is very helpful at controlling the diabetes management. But also if we take care of our gut, we can prevent further autoimmune disease diagnoses as someone with type one diabetes. I’m at a very high risk of other autoimmune conditions, especially thyroid rheumatoid arthritis, um, are very common correlated conditions.
But again, if the gut integrity is strong and good and healthy, those further diagnosis can’t happen. Know that an autoimmune disease has three pillars. It has some sort of genetic disposition. It has a stressor. And then it has, um, a leaky gut. And personally, my stressor, I was diagnosed when I was going into second grade, or I was in second grade going into my eighth birthday.
It was the day before I had a really bad virus at a very sick, a sickening flu virus before my diagnosis. And that was the stressor and the stressor doesn’t need to be a virus. Although, unfortunately, the COVID-19 is exponentially increasing the diagnoses of type one diabetes. Um, but it could be something as simple or benign as a stressful job.
It could be moving, it can be getting married, it could be getting divorced. So, um, I guess I’m going on the arm of, you know, it’s not always just what we’re eating. It’s, what’s eating us, and we need to make sure we’re processing huge feelings. Um, But someone with an autoimmune disease, there’s some stats that suggest I can gain an autoimmune condition every decade.
And by the end of a healthy long lifeline, I could have up to seven conditions. So that’s where I’m not only helping my clients today with blood sugar management and living a high quality life with good energy, but I’m taking care of their gut because I want to prevent those stats.
Shireen: How can individuals with chronic illnesses use mindset and lifestyle changes to support their health?
Kelly: Mindset. Um, I once had a friend who was type one diabetic and he goes, what do you think is, um, more important with diabetes management. Is it, is it physical exercise? Is it what we’re eating, or is it mindset? And I think from the get-go, maybe with the new diagnosis, we put all our energy into food, but it really comes back to mindset, because I can eat the healthiest diet, but my body can be very sick if I’m completely, um, you know, upset with my circumstances. And I think I’m a much more resilient person because of diabetes, um, that our mindset slowly, but surely we need to, uh, be more embraceful of the challenge, um, give ourself more grace overall, because it’s a learning curve and every day is a slight and experiment. Um, so mindset is so important, um, for sure.
Shireen: Any, any actionable steps under mindset that we should, uh, we should undertake, or we should adopt?
Kelly: Very simple things. I’m glad you’re asking this because it, what I’m about to say sounds like common sense. But mindful thing is, um, research will show if people are stressed, they breathe very shallowly and I love nothing more than, you know, I tell clients, put reminders in your calendars, which will, you know, light up on your phone.
Or if you have an apple watch to just breathe and apple watches, um, specifically, it’s a great tool if people can purchase them because most individuals type one diabetes, or a lot of individuals have a CGM on their arm or stomach or body. And it talks to the watch. So I’m constantly looking at my watch, but there’s a.
Um, an app on there that also reminds us to breathe, but just breath work, maybe it’s before you get out of bed and you take a few deep breaths before you fall asleep. It’s a few deep breaths, maybe tag along some gratitude, um, list running through your mind as you’re doing that breath work. And even if you wake up in the middle of the night, I have clients that are like, oh, I wake up.
And sometimes I get up and read or sometimes I get up and watch TV and I’m like, oh, let’s create a protocol. Protocol is you need to sit there and do breath work and only think about a gratitude list, or if you’re spiritual, just pray and utilize only those two things. And don’t let your mind go elsewhere until the phone comes up.
Um, but breathing is so, so important. And one of my favorite tools or lessons to tell people is box breathing. Have you ever heard of box breathing?
Shireen: I have not.
Kelly: So it’s simple to remember, cause the box has four sides and you want to inhale for four breasts. So. Four breaths or four seconds. And then you pause for four seconds.
So at each side of the square box, um, you pause for four and then you exhale for four. You pause for four, inhale for four, pause for four, exhale for four. So you try to do that four times, but it really relaxed the mind. Um, Because if we’re stressed, there’s a hormone called cortisol that competes with insulin, and next thing you know, our blood sugars high, and then we’re craving foods and it’s all related.
So again, it’s not just what we’re eating, it’s what’s eating us, and that we process big emotions the best we can. Um, and there’s no magic like walking. I think walking is the best exercise. I think it’s a great form of some kind of meditation and, um, it’s just really good for the mind.
Shireen: So I’m going to take a deep breath before I ask you this next question. Um, that’s going to say, how can a hormone changes and imbalances really impact blood sugar levels, uh, specifically for individuals with type one?
Kelly: Yeah, so I love just enlightening people on hormones because we think about the variables of how to control blood sugar. And a lot of people with type one will immediately think, okay.
The amount of insulin I’m on, and the amount of carbs I’m eating. And, you know, I can go through a list of limitations of carbohydrates, um, one being, okay, does the carbs, are they white rice that have minimal fiber or we eat something like black beans? Um, so you need to understand carbs in a unique way, but, um, hormones are such a strong variable on how they control and affect blood sugar management, including the cortisol that I just talked about in mindfulness. That’s so huge. Also, if we are sleep deprived, um, that also relates to other stress hormones, including cortisol, but that makes us insulin resistant.
It makes our medication and makes our blood sugar harder to control. There’s a study done in Chicago, and it was on a small group of healthy men, and they put them in a sleep lab for eight nights. The first four nights they slept abundantly, took lab measures, had a controlled diet and slept adequately.
The last four nights, they sleep deprived them in less than a little less than five hours, which you know, is, is, is realistic for some people, you know, who were on night shift or have new children, or just under a lot of pressure. And after those four nights of these very healthy 20 something year old males, um, they woke up with an increase of 30% insulin resistance.
They woke up as healthy individuals, but now type two diabetic because of that sleep deprivation. So. Hormones affect everything. And then for a female who’s cycling. I know personally, um, I’m still of childbearing age. Each week of the month, I have to tweak my insulin dose because of my progesterone and estrogen.
They affect insulin sensitivity. So that’s something I really tune in with my clients. As most of my clients are female. Um, But that’s so important to address, to understand, to learn better. And those hormones might even be more exaggerated on blood sugar control. If someone’s lifestyle, isn’t very balanced.
If they are exposed to a lot of toxins, if they’re sleep deprived, dehydrated, um, et cetera. So I love talking hormones.
Shireen: And as you should, um, what suggestions do you have for individuals seeking to have fun with cooking in the kitchen with, uh, adapting sort of new recipes, on really helping them meet their health needs?
Kelly: Yeah. Cooking, um, can be a form of meditation if, if you allow it, and it’s a form of self care, no doubt. So do the best you can at flipping the script, if you view cooking as a chore, um, and have fun, you know, if you’re creative or artistic, like see what you can do with food, with spices, with color. Um, and nonetheless keep things very simple.
You know, you can Google, um, you know, we all have Google at our fingertips, but you can Google easy lunch, five ingredients, um, you know, and have very basic meals and start small. I do recommend clients, um, once I hear their food preferences and tastes, um, certain cookbooks. I, one of my favorite cookbooks is an older one.
It’s by Diane Sanfilippo. And it’s called Practical Paleo. And although I’m not, um, you know, tied into a hundred percent paleo diet, most of the recipes are made with whole real food, but the recipes are absolutely delicious. And as a mom of two little kids who are pretty picky, and a husband who grew up, grew up with very Southern comfort food.
Um, that cookbook has worked very well for our family. So that’s usually one cookbook, I recommend to people, but utilize Google, keep recipes simple, um, have some very basic spices in your kitchens and some really good cooking tools. Like a blender to make a great smoothie, um, a skillet, so you can make an omelet.
And of course, some good knives, a good knife makes all the difference on efficiency and ease, for sure.
Shireen: I agree. I second that a good knife part. I need to actually sharpen mine cause I’m going, you know, you go back and forth and you’re, you’re spending so much time chopping otherwise. Um, it talking about, uh, you know, of having fun in the kitchen, um, how can individualized nutrition plans be used to incorporate cultural foods, um, in our day to day?
Kelly: Um, I mean cultural foods is you can still, so with blood sugar control, Uh, blood sugar controlled diet varies with each person. Um, personally I do best on a moderate carbohydrate diet, but some individuals do much better with more carbs. So whatever the cultural food may be, I’m thinking, you know, on an Asian spectrum, there’ll be more rice.
And I would make sure you’re monitoring your blood sugar control to identify what portions you do well on. It doesn’t mean you need to avoid those authentic foods that you truly love, but maybe it’s adjusting the portions. And I always tell clients when you build a meal or even a snack, I mentioned my no naked carbs rule.
But with a meal, you always want three parts. And the three parts to a meal is a basic protein, um, half the plate of fiber and some form of healthy fat to slow down the digestion provides satiety to the meal. So it’s a playground. There’s so many things that can fit into those things, um, and choose foods you like, because if you eat foods that you don’t enjoy, you’re going to eat more of it to have some form of satisfaction. So eat the things you like. Um, Watch your blood sugar. So you know what portions you do well on. Um, And go from there.
Shireen: Sounds great. Um, so with that, uh, we’re toward the end of the episode, however, I would love for listeners to stay connected with you. So where can they find you? How can they learn more about your work, Kelly?
Kelly: Aw, thank you. Um, I am rather active on Instagram. I am one word “diabetic dietician,” and dietician, funny enough, is spelled two ways, but it’s diet. I. T. I. A. N. Um, European way is spelled with a C. So Diabeticdietician is me on Instagram. And then my website is chock full of resources. I have a freebies tab of, um, great worksheets handouts.
I have a recipes tab, and that website is KellySchmidtwellness.com.
Shireen: Yep. And for listeners on here today, we have a special treat for you. So Kelly’s offering to create her free 21 day meal plan for you, um, head over to our social media, to get more details on how you can be entered into that raffle. Um, so again, this is, uh, the 21 day meal plan that Kelly has created and will be creating with you, but you can head over to our social media to understand how exactly to enter with that. We also have a question for you. Do you feel the nutrition advice that you have been given is individualized for you and matches your own lifestyle and your health needs?
Again, you can find this on our Facebook and Instagram. Um, head over to either to answer that question. With that, Kelly, I thank you so much for your time for sharing all of this information with us. Truly appreciate your time. Uh, it has been a pleasure having you on .
Kelly: Oh, well, thank you. It was so much fun. And um, I’m always here to help.
Shireen: Thank you. Thank you for listening to the Yumlish Podcast. Make sure to follow us on social media @Yumlish_ on Instagram and Twitter and @Yumlish on Facebook and LinkedIn for tips about managing your diabetes or other chronic conditions. You can also visit our website Yumlish.Com for even more information and to get involved with all of the exciting opportunities Yumlish has to offer. All of the links are in the show notes below, so please don’t hesitate to check us out. If you like this week’s show, make sure to subscribe to the Yumlish podcast, give us a like comment or a five-star review and share us with a friend.
This is Shireen signing off. Thank you again. And we’ll see you next time. Remember your health always comes first. Stay well.