Estrogen Sucks, Part 2

Have I mentioned that estrogen sucks?  Why yes…yes I did.

It has become very clear that high estrogen is one of my biggest health issues. I’m mad at myself for exacerbating this by ADDING estrogen  (BHRT)…for a period of 8 months (See blog posts between July 2012 – March 2013 for details and to watch my transformation from high-functioning full-time working 182 pound adult to demoralized part-time working 203-pound adult).  On the other hand I’m glad I know what’s really going on with my moods, and now what there is to do is treat it.  I’ve started supplementing with DIM and milk thistle, and have ordered calcium D-glucarate.  Each of these is instrumental in eliminating excess estrogen.  I’m continuing the progesterone (Progest E, 2 doses a day of 10mg each).  Over a period of 2 days my headaches went away, my breast soreness has diminished about 90%, and my dark mood has lifted.

What I don’t understand is why the effects of estrogen have recently gotten so bad.  I’ve never had breast soreness within the first week of my cycle before, I’ve never had headaches associated with hormone changes before, and usually my depression is pre-menstrual, not mid- or post-menstrual.  Why is this happening now?

Bottom line, I’m not sure.  I don’t think it has anything to do with adding progesterone a month ago. This really seems to be an estrogen problem, and progesterone makes it better almost immediately after dosing.  The other thing I changed in the past month is I changed from skim milk to 2% milk for a few weeks, and then gave milk up completely after I realized it was making me asthmatic. I have continued eating cheese though, which doesn’t cause as many problems with my breathing.

I’ve been doing some research:

This study says dietary fat in dairy is a source of estrogenic hormones. This one says that goats milk has much less estrogen than cow’s milk (both regular and organic). This study says both estrogen and progesterone are increased after drinking commercial milk, and this one says there is a “considerable quantity of estrogens” in milk produced from pregnant cows, and that intake of animal products (especially milk and cheese) are highly correlated with hormone-related cancers. (On the other hand, this one is a meta-analysis which indicates dairy product consumption does not lead to breast cancer, and that estrogens in dairy are minute.)

Maybe it’s time to give up cow dairy altogether.  I think it’s also time to add more fiber to my diet – it helps eliminate estrogens so they don’t get reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, the more I experiment with Ray Peat’s recommended dietary approaches, the more problematic my own symptoms become. I can’t conclusively tie my recent high-estrogen problems with dairy, but I don’t know what else would have caused them.

I think it’s time for me to follow a more conventional high-vegetable/fiber moderate calorie diet, and get a lot more exercise to manage my blood sugar.

Next post: Resistant Starch.  Another experiment in the works.

I’m a Joke

As a commenter stated so eloquently earlier this month,

Your struggles would be amusing if you weren’t so frustrated.

The only thing that keeps my struggles from being funny is my pain.  Let’s face it – I’m a joke.

I’ve shared myself honestly in this blog in the hopes of helping other people struggling to regain their health.  I doubt I’m helping anyone, because I have no answers.  I’m less healthy, heavier, more depressed, and less happy than I was 2 years ago when I started this blog.  I do notice a negative correlation between the amount of time I spend on the computer and my level of contentment in life.  I think I need to log off for a while altogether.

Maybe I’ll go stomp around in the snow.

Or not.

Estrogen Sucks

It’s become very clear to me over the last several weeks that estrogen completely sucks and progesterone completely rocks. In a healthy young woman they’re ideally balanced and estrogen does important stuff in the body – especially during the reproductive years. I am done reproducing, however, and I have many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance.  I stopped taking Progest E last Wednesday in order to have my period.  I didn’t want to stop, because it had been doing such a great job of managing my typical PMS, anxiety, depression, and I just felt good.  I tried stopping a few days earlier but these symptoms came back and I caved – “Help, save me, Progest E!”  And it did. I had a 37 day cycle because I kept taking progesterone, well past the typical window of “days 14-28”.

But I did force myself to stop taking it, and ever since I’ve been experiencing the effects of all the unopposed estrogen in my body: mood swings, cramps, anxiety, depression, sore swollen breasts, even headaches which I don’t have often.  So now, 4 days into my cycle, I’m hitting the progesterone again.  I don’t care that I’m doing it wrong. I’m listening to my body, and it is begging me to to save it from the estrogen.

These last few days of estrogen-intensity have made me aware that I need to focus more on liver support in order to better clear estrogen.  I think I’m going to go back to the supplements that were recommended by Jack Kruse back when I did a consult with him.  I understand his recommendations so much more now, and they make a lot of sense.  I feel bad that I made so many bad decisions over the last year.  I wonder sometimes if I would have been able to “make it” in California if I hadn’t been taking estrogen supplements.  I think that kind of destroyed me.  I’m just glad I stopped before developing cancer or losing my mind.

Bye Bye Dairy

I haven’t had much milk at all in years, but seemed to tolerate it well as a child, so when I saw that Ray Peat recommended it (in large quantities!) for nutrition and weight loss, I didn’t hesitate. Bring on the milk.  I drank between 8 and 16 oz and started eating several ounces of cheese a day.

Fast forward 2 months…it occurred to me yesterday that my 7-week long stint of wheezing, coughing and phlegmy-ness might not be a side effect of having a child in daycare after all, but rather might be related to drinking milk. I’d heard of this happening, but never had that experience with milk myself.  So I decided to hold the milk/cheese for a day and see what happens.  Well, 24 hours later, no more coughing and my voice no longer sounds like it’s underwater.  I’m cured!  But wait…what if I just got better because of the passage of time?  I mean, colds go away too over time…maybe it was a coincidence.

So I decided to use a reversal design.  Drink more milk and see if it comes back!  So this morning with my eggs I had 16oz of 2% milk and an ounce of cheese.  And guess what happened.  Within an hour my cough was back and I was again hawking up phlegm and hitting the inhaler.

So suddenly I have an intolerance to milk?  WTF?

I looked it up and found this article. Apparently I have the perfect storm of phlegm production related to dairy intake.  If you have asthma (yup) and you drink A1 milk (mm-hm), and inflammation is present (indeed it is), dairy can cause excess respiratory track mucus production:

This association may not necessarily be simply cause and effect as the person has to be consuming A1 milk, beta-CM-7 must pass into the systemic circulation and the tissues have to be actively inflamed. These prerequisites could explain why only a subgroup of the population, who have increased respiratory tract mucus production, find that many of their symptoms, including asthma, improve on a dairy elimination diet.

So now it seems I’ll be taking a big step back from dairy too.  I gave it up before, I can do it again. I’m not going to go out of my way to pound expensive goat’s milk (which apparently is A2, not A1), but maybe some goat cheese here and there would be ok.

Pretty soon I’ll be back to plain-old Paleo.  Minus the nuts.  And the chicken.

Reconsidering Options

I really wanted Ray Peat’s work to be The Answer for me. I think Peat’s work benefits some people greatly – in fact, it may be the most brilliant nutrition and health advice ever.  But when it comes to deciding what I should put in MY mouth at mealtime, I don’t think it’s for me.  Here’s my analysis:

The Pros:

Progesterone – I had given up on sex hormone supplementation after my disastrous encounter with the Wiley Protocol.  I blamed progesterone for the fact that I gained 20 pounds, had heart palpitations, and became so fatigued that I could barely get out of bed.  At the time I concluded that progesterone was the culprit because I found a website on which a bunch of lay people decided it was so.  I was so fatigued and depressed I would have believed anyone.  Recently I’ve started supplementing with Progest E, the progesterone supplement developed by Ray Peat himself.  I find Progest E alone – without the estrogen that Wiley had me taking – to be wonderful, balancing, and soothing.  I imagine I’ll take it for the rest of my life.  Estrogen, not so much.

Liver – I’ve gone on and on about how eating liver once a week has made my skin look great.  This week I tried eating all 4 oz raw, washing it down with milk.  I thought it was a lot easier than trying to eat it cooked.  I’m considering just having an ounce or so raw every day or two.

Shellfish, bone broth, raw carrot, coffee, aspirin, vitamin K2 – all of these things I don’t mind taking or using and will continue to do so, just because the promise of better health is worth the effort.  I also love the smell of broth cooking in the crock pot.

The Cons:

Sugar – Yesterday I tried all kinds of things.  I tried a teaspoon of granulated fructose with breakfast and tested my blood sugar after – it was up 25 points at one hour and up 35 points at 2 hours. That part was ok, but also I felt hungry soon after, despite eating a 300 calorie meal.  So I ate ANOTHER 300 calorie meal and paired it with the smallest wedge of an orange ever.  It was a clementine orange – small as a baby’s fist, and I ate one small section of it.  An hour later my blood sugar had dropped 50 points and I was hungry again.  I then ate several hundred calories of protein/fat along with a very small amount of sugar (cuz Ray Peat said to), and within 45 minutes I was hungry.  Now, keep in mind, a pure protein/fat breakfast – without any sugar – normally keeps me satisfied for hours.

I thought about eating for 5 hours straight.

This is what pisses me off about those who say people get fat because of “food reward and palatability” (translation: fatties get fat because they eat too much cuz food is so damn tasty).  I HATE BEING HUNGRY AND WANT NOTHING MORE THAN TO JUST BE DONE EATING ALREADY.  IF I DIDN’T GET HORRIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE I’D BE CONTENT TO NOT EAT AT ALL.

So at that point I was fed up (not literally) so I got fed up (literally).  I ate a huge meal that would keep me satisfied for the rest of the day – it included all kinds of terrible things, including mayonnaise (PUFAs!), bread (gluten!  starches!), and industrial meat (inhumane! hormones! antibiotics! PUFAs!).  Some might call it a binge.  It was less food than I used to eat back in my binge-eating days, but I guess it was a binge.  And FINALLY, I was done being hungry.  That meal lasted through the rest of the day, all night, and well into today.  I didn’t get hungry again till 1:00PM – almost 22 hours later.  It was wonderful.

Dairy – I’ve had some sort of nasal congestion or phlegmy cough for the last…oh, about 6-7 weeks.  About the same amount of time I’ve been following Peat’s dietary recommendations.  I thought I was just getting one cold after another.  But it occurred to me today that maybe the addition of lots of dairy into my diet was causing this.  I’m going to take a break from dairy for a few days and see if my forever-cough clears up.  Then I’ll add it in again to see what happens.

So what’s next for me?   I’m fairly desperate to lose the 5-or-so pounds that I’ve gained in the last 2 months since eating carbs.   As well as the 20 pounds I gained following the  Wiley Protocol.  As well as the 40 pounds I was overweight when I started this blog.  So now, I’m going back to eating what makes me feel good – mostly low carb with small amounts of potatoes here and there.  I know low-carb isn’t ideal.  But what I’m doing now – getting fatter and hoping there’s magic in milk – isn’t doing my health any favors.  No more fruit.  No more sugar.  Maybe no more dairy.  I’m going to stay away from PUFAs as much as I can.  I’m going to exercise at least 30 minutes a day to manage my blood sugar.  I’m going to count calories again, and stay at or around 1500/day.  Finally, I’m going to continue to supplement with thyroid hormone, so my broken metabolism has a shot at making it’s own steroid hormones.

It’s possible my body will be running on cortisol till the day I die.

Right now, I’m ok with that.

That’s all.

Cortisol and Weight Loss: Questions

In my post yesterday, I wrote the following:

The problem with low-carb diets is the following:  The body releases insulin to process the amino acids in proteins.  When insulin rises, the body needs to raise blood sugar to avoid hypoglycemia.  If there’s no glycogen (sugar) stored in the liver cortisol is released instead, which increases blood sugar.  Cortisol suppresses thyroid function and immune function, and lowers metabolism.

I was paraphrasing what I heard Ray Peat say in an interview about sugar and carbohydrates.

But over the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking about this.  If this is the case, then why do so many people have success losing weight with low carb diets?  I decided to go back and listen again to make sure I really understood what he was saying about cortisol being released when you don’t eat carbs.  Here’s an actual transcript:

Several of the amino acids in proteins are powerful insulin stimulants, and when you eat protein by itself, you stimulate insulin secretion which is needed to metabolize the amino acids. But in reaction to the insulin, your liver has to put out glucose to keep your blood sugar going so your brain and blood cells and kidneys and so on can keep working.  And if your liver is somewhat low on glycogen, then every time you eat protein and have an insulin secretion, your body secretes a compensating amount of cortisol to bring your blood sugar back up.  But the cortisol brings your blood sugar up at the expense of protein.

[…] The first tissues that cortisol breaks down are the thymus gland and other immune cells and the muscles and if you eat lots of protein in spite of the high cortisol, you can keep your balance so you are replacing your muscles and thymus gland but you are running on a constantly high cortisol secretion.

Yeah, I heard him right.  So given this, how come people are able to lose weight on low-carb diets?  Is he saying that weight loss from low-carbing is all loss of lean tissue?  How about people who lose LOTS of weight eating low carb?

He goes on to say:

[…] I’ve seen that doctors simply neglect to measure hormones that were related to blood sugar when they would prescribe insulin, calling a person a diabetic, they said they needed to take insulin the rest of their life.  But, having some of these people test their cortisol, we saw that very many of these so-called diabetics just had very high cortisol.  Sugar happens to be the best thing for lowering cortisol to normal, and since high cortisol gives the impression of diabetes, causing high blood sugar, you get the unexpected effect of when you eat sugar you lower the cortisol, and some of these people had a very quick recovery from their so-called diabetes.

This explains why a lot of low-carbers have what they like to call “Physiological insulin resistance,” (as opposed to “Pathological Insulin Resistance”, I think).  It’s not real insulin resistance – it’s just the effect of high cortisol secondary to low-carb intake.

Which leads me to another question – when I was low carb, how come my cortisol didn’t test high(Update: The answer to this question is in the comments of this post.)

Starches, Sugar, Diabetes, and PUFA

Every so often I get research fatigue.  It’s the head-spinning sensation that comes with reading endless contradictory information about health, diet, exercise, and nutrition.  Red meat – high in heme iron (so it’s bad!) but high in carnitine and low PUFA (so it’s good!).  Dairy – high in iodine (so it’s bad!), but high calcium to phosphorous ratio (so it’s good!). Fructose – increases triglycerides (so it’s bad!), but increases metabolism (so it’s good!) but causes weight gain (so it’s bad!) but has a lower effect on insulin (so it’s good!).  I can’t stand it anymore.

My weight has been up and down a lot – now it’s up.  I’m not feeling good anymore.  I don’t know if my feelings of well-being associated with eating Peatarian were just a month-long diabetic sugar high or if something positive was actually happening metabolically.  I’ve been experimenting with potatoes, trying to find a way to get some carbs in and also keep my blood sugar stable.  Eating 1/4 cup of boiled potatoes, along with protein and fat, keeps me from having blood-sugar swings…but also makes me feel dull and lethargic.

Today I listened to Ray Peat’s interview called Glycemia, Starch, and Sugar, in Context.  I was driving at the time (for 3 hours, through a blizzard I might add), so I couldn’t take notes, but what I took from it is the following:

  • Diabetes is caused by Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) in the diet and in the system.  Stop eating PUFAs and within a couple days you’ll be more insulin sensitive.
  • Potatoes have some unique and magical properties, but the magic is in the juice – not in the starch.  If you juice a raw potato and drink (or cook with) the juice, there are ketones (or ketone acids?) available that are very healing and can perform miracles like make insomniacs sleep and heal severe digestive problems.
  • The problem with low-carb diets is the following:  The body releases insulin to process the amino acids in proteins.  When insulin rises, the body needs to raise blood sugar to avoid hypoglycemia.  If there’s no glycogen (sugar) stored in the liver cortisol is released instead, which increases blood sugar.  Cortisol suppresses thyroid function and immune function, and lowers metabolism.
  • Starches can cause bacterial problems in the gut.
  • Fructose is misunderstood and is awesome.

There was more, of course, but listening from my own insulin-resistant context, this is what I heard.

I haven’t done a great job of getting PUFAs out of my diet.  I keep eating chicken.  I should stop doing that.  It’s worth a try, to see how much of a difference it would make for me to stop that.  I’m not even sure why I do.  (Edited to add my inner monologue after I hit “Publish”:  I know why I do.  I really like meat – I like that it keeps me from being hungry.  I hate being hungry.  And chicken is inexpensive. I can’t even believe how much money we spend on food already.  If I upgraded to higher-quality meat I’d have to get a full-time job again. Seriously. Ok, instead, I’ll work on eating less meat, more dairy, more gelatin for protein.  /moment of self-awareness)

I’m tired of thinking about it.  For now.

No more PUFA for me.

I’m Due

Due for a post.  I’m not sure what to write, but I have things spinning around my brain, so let’s see what comes out.

Liver

I must talk some more about the difference eating liver has made to my skin.  Did I mention that years-old acne scars have completely disappeared? I don’t even feel the need to wear makeup anymore – my skin just has this amazing glow all the time now. It’s not oily/dry in places the way it used to be, and the color/texture is perfect.  Eat your liver!  It’s chock full of Vitamin A (as well as many other nutrients).  Only 4-6 oz, once a week.  I noticed a difference within 2 days of eating it for the first time.  I should mention I’m eating grass-fed beef liver, but until a couple weeks ago it wasn’t grass-fed – it was just regular “organic” beef liver.

I still struggle with the taste a bit.  I’ve doused it in organic ketchup and various curry sauces.  No doubt about it, it’s difficult.  It’s much less difficult if it’s soaked in milk for a couple hours, then sliced thin and cooked to just medium-rare.  If you over-cook that puppy it turns into glue once you start chewing.  Ugh.  I found these tips by Chris Masterjohn to be very helpful.  I also tried eating a bite of it raw this last time.  It was surprisingly easy.  Just put a small bite on your tongue and wash it down with milk or water.  No taste at all!  Delightful!  I’m thinking of doing the whole darn serving raw next week.

Steroids

To treat my freaking weird adverse reaction to Lisinopril, I was prescribed steroids.  I like to call them ‘Roids (as does probably everyone who gets prescribed steroids for a short period of time, I’m sure…cuz it’s funny).  This was a really interesting experience for me.  I felt fantastic while taking them.  I had lots of energy and felt alert but calm.  I slept like a rock at night.  Also, oddly, in the 6 days I was taking my ‘Roids I lost 5 pounds, even though I was eating normally.  I wasn’t even avoiding carbs.  These factors, as well as a comment on my last post, made it very clear to me that I’m deficient in thyroid hormone – a precursor to pregnenolone, which is a precursor to the steroid hormones that our bodies make naturally.  Like this:

Hormone Cascade

I’m getting plenty of Vitamin A (see “Liver,” above) and Lord knows I have plenty of LDL cholesterol to spare.  What’s missing is Thyroid (T3).  So 3 days ago I started taking T3 again.  I’ve learned from Ray Peat that taking too much T3 too soon, or increasing too quickly can backfire.  Regarding T3, he says:

If too much is taken suddenly, a person who has been deficient in thyroid is likely to experience an excess of adrenaline. Since the body normally produces about 4 mcg of T3 in an hour, taking 10 or 20 mcg at once is unphysiological.

Last time I attempted to take T3, I wasn’t being very mindful of how powerful these incredibly small tablets are.  You really do have to be very careful by starting small and increasing very conservatively.  Signs of adrenaline (heart pounding, insomnia) are indicators you’ve done too much too soon.  That’s what I did last time. This time around I’m cutting these itty bitty pills into eighths, and taking only 3mcg a day.  I’ll do that for 10 days or so, and at that point I may try a second dose in the afternoon.

Also, last time around, I wasn’t eating a particularly nutritious diet.  When supplementing with T3 you need to have a nutrient-dense diet, because nutrients are used up more quickly.  In fact (and this one had me going “a-ha!”), my current metabolism and endogenous T3 production is likely directly related to my historically poor nutrition.  No nutrition, thyroid health suffers.  In other words, my metabolism and thyroid function slowed to meet my poor nutrition halfway.  So nice of it.

Vitamin K

I’ve decided to start supplementing Vitamin K.  Apparently this is the vitamin that helps calcium get into your bones/teeth and stop wandering around in your bloodstream.  Ray Peat says you can get K from well-cooked greens or veggies, or even by drinking the broth they’re cooked in.  I might get around to that…but my motivation to do so is low.  I just don’t like them much. I’ve decided to try Thorne Vitamin K drops.  It seems expensive, but there are 1200 1mg drops in each bottle, bringing down the cost per mg and making it competitive in price.

Guess that’s it for now.

Ciao.

Weird Stuff

The last few days I’ve been sick again.  It was odd though – not your typical cold or flu brought home from Kiddo’s day care.  It was just a sore throat.  Again.  I’ve had a lot of really bad sore throats lately.  And now, another wave of the worst sore throat I’ve ever had in my entire life.  So bad that I was crying this morning, unable to talk or swallow without stabbing pain.  So finally I went to the doc.  I hesitate to go to a doctor because my insurance is pretty bad and it usually means spending a couple hundred dollars.  Today I didn’t care though.  I was in pain!

So the doc asked me a bunch of questions:

Doc: “Are you taking any prescription meds?”

Me: No.  (<– Lie, I’ve been taking my husband’s Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor for high blood pressure.  I haven’t taken it for a couple days though.)

Doc: “Any pain in your ears?”

Me: Yeah, a little bit now that you mention it….

Doc: “Have you ever had mono?”

Me: No. Why, do you think this could be mono?

Doc: No. Ok, we’re going to do a strep test. (Inserts long awful stick into my mouth and makes me gag.)  Be back in 10 minutes.

** Insert easy listening or otherwise non-offensive instrumental music here **

10 minutes later:

Doc: Well, the strep test came back negative.  But here’s something that may be going on.  Your uvula looks a little swollen.  That’s that thing that hangs in the back of your throat.  You might have uvulitis.  (Hands me a sheet detailing the causes, symptoms, treatments of this odd malady.)  Often it’s a side effect of some medications, but it can happen for other reasons, so just ignore the part on there that talks about medications.

I look at the sheet…and it seems uvulitis can be a side effect of taking ACE inhibitors…and it names 3, including Lisinopril.  No other medications or medication types listed.  Just ACE inhibitors…and Lisinopril.  The sheet he gave me says that if taking one of these medications you should discontinue it and from then on consider yourself allergic to that medication.

Well huh.  No more Lisinopril for me.

He prescribed a steroid medication and antibiotics.  Now, 12 hours later I feel awesome.  No more sore throat, no more fatigue.  Back to normal.  I love that doc.  Thanks, doc for helping me even though I lied and said I wasn’t taking any prescription medication.  Sorry about that.  I’m a bad patient.

Also, they took my blood pressure at the office and it was 136/78.  That’s much lower than my own monitor has been telling me.  Last time I went to the doc for one reason or another it was high – I’m sure this isn’t my imagination.  Maybe the Peat principles are helping my blood pressure after all.  Or maybe my BP monitor just sucks.

In other news, I’m not scared of diabetes anymore.  I’ve learned there are things that can be done to lower blood sugar, including….wait for it….wait for it…

….taking T3!

Yes, not only does it lower your LDL cholesterol and reignite the hormonal cascade that has been on siesta, apparently it also lowers blood sugar.  I’ve found a few studies here and there but need to do a more exhaustive review of the research literature on this.

Ok.  Going to eat some orange juice gelatin and go to bed.