Oracle Corporation

03/15/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 03/15/2019 13:11

Bonnie Carlson Started the Diabetes Battle in Her Own Kitchen, Then Didn’t Stop

When Bonnie Carlson left Oracle 20 years ago to attend culinary school, she never imagined she'd put those cooking skills to use helping her daughter follow a diabetes diet. And never in her wildest dreams did she see herself on a diabetes-related mission project in Ethiopia.

Today, Carlson is back working at Oracle and also sharing her hard-won knowledge about type 1 diabetes management with a cookbook called the Reset Factor Kitchen. Written with Mindy Pelz, a Bay Area chiropractor and author of the nutrition book The Reset Factor, the cookbook aims to help people take a fresh approach to eating well, whether or not they have diabetes.

Carlson's cookbook journey began when she went to see Pelz for a spinal adjustment and heard all about Pelz's approach to total wellness. Carlson went home from the appointment with the intention of tossing out the white rice and flour, processed sugars, and other offending foods in her kitchen, but was overwhelmed with the idea of learning to cook with a new set of ingredients.

'What do you make with quinoa flour? What does that taste like?' she asked herself. Researching on the internet only left her feeling more defeated. 'I was thinking, 'I've got two kids and I work. I don't have time to learn all of this.''

Six months later, her 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With that news, Carlson's motivation changed. She realized that she had to make changes.

Enemy #1: Food

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that afflicts some 3 million Americans. The disease occurs when a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. There is no cure, and the cause of the disease is still being researched.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is much more common and can be reversed with proper diet and exercise. People with both kinds of diabetes are at increased risk of serious health complications, including vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, as well as amputation of toes, feet, or legs due to poor circulation.

Carlson says that living with type 1 is a 24/7 battle to maintain insulin in the body at normal levels. But as she found out, pretty much everything in our lives affects blood sugar: 'Stress, exercise, hormones-you name it, it complicates the disease.'

For people with diabetes, food can be the enemy. 'The approach of 'Take your insulin, and then eat anything you want' didn't work,' she says. 'It was a roller coaster ride every day' as her daughter's blood sugar spiked and nosedived.

Carlson says she knew she had a choice: 'Sit around and worry and be angry, or do something.' So she circled back to Pelz for advice, and then emptied her kitchen shelves of foods made with processed sugar, wheat, and other inflammatory foods.

'I had been to culinary school, but I didn't know how I was going to get dinner on the table for my family using quinoa flour and coconut sugar,' she says. 'I knew our family had to eat differently, but at first my daughter was having none of it.'

But with time, Carlson's daughter Marina, a champion equestrian vaulter, discovered she felt consistently better and stronger eating her mom's recipes. Eventually Carlson's husband and son came around, too. Family favorites from the book include almond flour waffles, pizza with cauliflower crust, coconut cacao chia pudding, almond flour blueberry muffins, and a supermoist gluten-free quinoa cacao cake.

'This cookbook is a love letter to my daughter,' she says. 'I know it is a cliché, but it is true: I wanted her to see that when life hands you lemons, you can either make lemonade with Stevia or you can feel sorry for yourself and have a sour taste in your mouth.'

Carlson, who works in Oracle's Global Customer Programs organization, now spends much of her time outside Oracle spreading awareness as a type 1 diabetes patient advocate. She raises money for diabetes organizations funding research for a cure, and gives talks around the Bay Area about her family's diabetes journey and their low-carb approach to easing the burdens of diabetes management.

She and her family recently returned from their own international diabetes mission project in Ethiopia, where Carlson's husband was born. They identified a pediatric endocrinology clinic with specific needs in the capital city of Addis Ababa, then collected diabetes medical supplies from local nonprofits and the Bay Area diabetic community. Delivering the supplies in person proved to be a powerful experience, she says. Below, while visiting Ethiopia, Marina Carlson discusses her Medtronic insulin pump with Dr. Sewagegn Yeshiwas, left, a pediatric endocrinologist from Black Lion Hospital, and Rediet Mengesha, center, one of his medical students at Addis Ababa University.

Carlson's daughter was so moved by the trip that she set up a donation site to help children like her in Ethiopia who have type 1 diabetes. 'The old adage rings true, 'The best way to help yourself is to help others,'' Carlson says.