Low Stress = Happy

I think most people (particularly non-Peat folks) would see the title of this post and think that by “stress” I mean emotional stress.  I don’t mean that, although emotional stress certainly is a joy killer.  I mean stress hormones, which can be caused by emotional and environmental factors, as well as biological processes that aren’t functioning optimally for one reason or another.

I’m still taking niacinamide and aspirin, 100mg of each, 3 times a day to inhibit fatty acid release (and thus to inhibit cortisol/stress).  I can really tell a difference in my mood now when I don’t take them.  I feel ok, but there’s definitely a more *happy* feeling when I do take them.  I think it’s stress hormones that have kept me from feeling that sense of happiness, and when I do the things that inhibit them I feel pretty great.

So to inhibit cortisol, here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Every time I eat I make sure there’s some kind of fruit/juice/sugar involved, some kind of fat, and some kind of protein.  If I don’t overdo it on the carbohydrate I don’t have any blood sugar issues.  Previously when I was eating fruit/sugar I was drinking 8 oz of orange juice at a time – now I only drink 2-3 oz at a time, and it’s always paired with protein/fat.
  • Eating frequent small meals.
  • I’m keeping lights on at night until I go to sleep, rather than spending time awake in the dark.
  • Taking niacinamide/aspirin 3x a day.  I’ve also started taking cynomel (T3) once a day, just 1 mcg.  I actually cut up a single 25mcg tablet into 25 pieces and I take one itsy bitsy piece of it a day.  I took 2 the first couple days and my heart was pounding after the second one.  So going very….very….slowly.
  • Eating before bed and right when I wake up in the AM (the opposite of intermittent fasting, really).
  • Eating raw garlic to inhibit the proliferation of bad gut bacteria, minimizing the endotoxin –> inflammation –> cortisol cascade. At least 1 clove per day, sometimes as much as 4.
  • Minimizing PUFA (of course…this goes without saying now, really.  And yet, I said it.)
  • Red light/sunlight – as much as possible.

An interesting thing about garlic – I can’t stop eating it.  I’m completely addicted to raw garlic now.  I’ve been cutting it up and putting it in my food…and now I really like how it tastes when I chew it – it no longer tastes too strong, provided there’s other food in my mouth at the same time.

Here’s what else I’m doing these days (and I’m writing this as much for me as for anyone reading this….one day if the *happy* goes away again, I want to be able to refer to this page to determine where I may have gone off track):

  • Beef liver 1x/week (about 5 oz)
  • Shellfish (shrimp, crab, or smoked oysters) – 2-3x per week
  • Vitamin A 10,000 IU (on days I don’t have liver)
  • Vitamin D 5,000 IU/day
  • Vitamin K 4mg/day
  • Vitamin E 400 IU 2-3 days/week
  • Progest E – 3 drops/day during second half of my cycle
  • Magnesium Glycinate 200mg/day
  • Pregnenolone 1000mg 1x/week (or every 2 weeks)
  • Diet of milk, cheese, eggs, OJ, fruit, coconut oil, butter, raw carrots, chocolate, beef, lean chicken/ham, spinach, kale, bone broth, and sometimes starches (rice, potatoes, or gluten-free bread)

I feel really good these days.  Happy.

Update (forgot a couple things):

I’m also taking:

  • A probiotic and prebiotic supplement once per day, first thing in the AM before eating
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (HTZ) for my high blood pressure.  I notice my blood pressure is higher when I miss a dose of my magnesium than a dose of the HTZ though.  Hope to be phasing this out soon.  I’ll be experimenting soon with taking more magnesium.

My Boy’s Wicked Smart

Research I’ve done in the last 24 hours as well as a couple more emails exchanged with Dr. Peat have resulted in me completely understanding everything Peat does.  It kind of crashed over my head like a big wave today.  I want to write it all down so I don’t forget it, but my head is swimming so I’m pretty sure it would just be in bits and pieces anyway.

One thing I love about Ray Peat is that he’s just so…smart.  I mean, if his IQ was an animal it would be a whale.  If it was an international conflict, it would be the Middle East.  If it was a baby it’s mother would have had gestational diabetes.  He’s like this:

 

“My boy’s wicked smaaht.”

Anyway, what I like is how when you write to Peat, you tell him why your writing, of course, maybe give a little context.  And he’s no fool – he knows that he can’t just go ahead and give medical advice over the internet – the liability would be too great, plus he doesn’t really know much about the person on the other end, so doing so would be irresponsible.  So what does he do?  First of all, he completely ignores the question you ask, because inevitably, unless you’ve been at this a LONG TIME, you’re probably asking the wrong question.  Instead, he tells you what you need to hear.  And he’s REALLY GOOD at determining what it is you need to hear from these few sentences of context you’ve given him.  But HOW he tells you is pretty brilliant too.  He doesn’t just say, “You should really take some aspirin.”  No, he states what he knows about physiology (as it pertains to your issue) and then cites a bunch of research that tells you what he thinks you should do, without overtly saying it in so many words.  In other words you have to do your own work and draw your own conclusions, but he makes it clear what direction he thinks you should look.

Brilliant.

Anyway, what I’m looking at now is reducing cortisol.  Here’s what Ray said to me in an email today.

Free unsaturated fatty acids turn on the stress hormones, and cortisol blocks oxidation of sugar and turns it into fatty acids and triglycerides. Keeping cortisol and stress low is the main thing. Keeping a high ratio of calcium to phosphate helps to oppose the stress metabolism.

And he listed a bunch of research on high cortisol causing metabolic problems, and on the use of niacinamide for reducing triglycerides.

Ray Medina would say that my gut health – specifically reducing gut leakiness – is key for reducing cortisol.  Peat seems to be leaning toward PUFAs causing high cortisol.  In any case, mine is high, and I’m going to do everything I can to lower it.  More red light, more sugar, more sleep, better macronutrient balance at meals.

Today I ate 4 meals, and each had protein/fat/carbohydrates.  In most cases the carbs were fruit or OJ – at dinner I had some rice.  I also took niacinamide and aspirin, 100mg of each, 3 times throughout the day.  Lastly I took a couple mcg of T3 at 2 different times today.  I felt really good all day – good energy, good mood, good blood sugar control.  I even felt really happy for a while there.

This way of eating and supplementing feels right and I’m going to continue it.

Seeking Euphoria

I wrote to Ray Peat tonight.  I’ve hesitated bothering him with my health problems, but who knows – maybe he likes to be bothered.  I took a chance.

What’s been on my mind is that I felt really good earlier this year when I was eating fruit/juice/sugar throughout the day, as well as following the other Peat-recommendations. I knew what it was like to feel happy for the first time in my life…or at least since I was a little kid.  I’ve seen Peat quoted as saying,

The production of euphoria has been mentioned as a side effect, but I think euphoria is simply an indication of a good physiological state.

At the time a few months ago I didn’t think of it in those terms….I just knew that’s what happiness felt like.  No depression.  No anxiety.  No body image insecurity.  No negative self talk.  I would be driving in my car, and just be enjoying the day.  It was great.

Well, I got freaked out by my labs at the end of April, including triglycerides over 500, and cholesterol over 300, certainly related to consuming sugar.  I started looking for alternatives.  I tried the Perfect Health Diet, I’ve tried eating only protein/fat/vegetables/dairy, I’ve recently added starches back in my diet…my labs have improved and I feel fine I guess…but I still don’t have that HAPPY feeling.  So I wrote to Peat tonight to tell him about my problem with triglycerides and cholesterol, because I’m motivated to eat fruit/juice/sugar again – I think that’s what made the difference last Spring.  Thankfully, he wrote back already.  Here’s his answer:

High cholesterol compensates for low thyroid, keeping your pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA up. Sugar allows you to dispose of free fatty acids by turning them into triglycerides for storage. Free fatty acids activate stress hormones, which in turn cause the synthesis of fatty acids, even from the breakdown of amino acids, derived from protein by the action of cortisol. When cholesterol is that high, it’s almost always because of low thyroid activity, and stored PUFA are probably the commonest cause of that. I think free fatty acids, and their degree of unsaturation, would be the most meaningful blood lipids to test, but it’s easier to test for cholesterol and triglycerides.

Sounds like I’m an unsaturated mess.  I think what he’s saying is that I’ve probably got so much stored unsaturated fat from years of eating CRAP, and when these free fatty acids  are released they activate stress hormones, which then causes more fatty acids to be released in a vicious cycle.  Sugar stops this cycle by increasing triglycerides.  So the fact that trigs are high is a sign there’s something wrong – my body is literally swimming in PUFAs – but the trigs are high because they’re trying to protect me from them.  The happy feeling then might be the lowering of stress hormones.  Of course, thyroid function is also impaired by the sea of PUFAs inside me, which doesn’t help.

So I definitely had some intestinal dysbiosis, causing inflammation which was probably increasing cortisol…also due to a CRAP diet for so many years – I mean, how many decades did I eat pasta 328 times a week?? – and all of my stored PUFAs are also causing stress hormones to be released…that’s a lot of stress hormones.

Maybe how I feel right now – this sort of neutral, unemotional, functional-but-not-particularly-happy feeling I’ve had for the last 2 weeks – is how it feels when depression is gone but stress hormones are still high.  It’s better than depression…but I want the HAPPY back.  I guess I’m getting greedy.

I’m going to give niacinamide and aspirin another go.  Last time I tried them I got discouraged because the day I started taking them I started also having hot flashes.  Completely unrelated, I now realize.  Given what Peat says about FFAs causing my high triglycerides, it makes sense to use them.

If what Peat says is true, I’m likely to have FUBAR labs for the next 4 years or so, as long as it takes to detoxify all the stored PUFA in my body, while maintaining a low PUFA diet. I should probably stop trying to treat lab results, and just trust the process a little.  I’m not going to go crazy with sugar.  Just enough, to start…maybe I’ll try to focus on having distinct meals that are well balanced with protein/fat/carb, rather than winging it and grazing all day, chasing my blood sugar through ups and downs.  After a couple weeks of niacinamide/aspirin I may try to supplement thyroid hormone again.

Cortisol, Inflammation, and New Garlic

I started with a new brand of organic garlic a few days ago.  It’s like the experiment is starting over again!  Another round of swollen, tender lymph nodes, some minor GI issues, and re-enlargement of my spleen (or whatever).  Ray Medina has mentioned somewhere in his blog that different brands of garlic resulted in different bodily responses for him.  Targeting different bacteria?  More/less effective?  I’m just gonna go with it.  Currently doing the garlic only twice a day.  Mostly because it’s not such a big deal anymore and I tend to forget sometimes.  Yesterday I actually craved garlic.  Weird huh?  I chopped it up and put it all over something I ate.  Raw.  Maybe my new happy bugs are hungry and are looking for the prebiotic inulin in the garlic.  Quite a bacterial fantasy life I have now.

I’ve been reading a lot over at Ray Medina’s site.  He’s really got my situation nailed with his Inflammatory-Cortisol Ballet series.  I’ve only read it once (so far), but it’s like he’s talking about me.  It makes a lot of sense – gut dysbiosis leads to inflammation (um….hs-CRP of over 8?), and the body produces cortisol to cope with the inflammation.  I do have the classic metabolic syndrome/high cortisol body.  A nurse I knew once used to call it the “diabetic body shape”.  Fat accumulation around the waist, skinny arms and legs.  Anyway, because the inflammation is chronic, the high cortisol becomes chronic, which leads to a crap-ton of symptoms, many of which I have, including weight gain, obesity, high insulin level, insulin resistance and diabetes, high blood pressure…basically all the metabolic syndrome stuff.

I think it’s interesting that while Ray Peat and Ray Medina don’t agree about everything, they agree about a lot of things that no one else seems to say, mainly that chronically high stress hormones are behind the most common chronic ailments.  They disagree somewhat about how to treat this – Peat says to eat enough sugar and protein, get enough light, and eat a thyroid-friendly diet.  Medina says to eradicate gut pathogens, take probiotics, and eat a gut-friendly diet.  I don’t see why I can’t do both!

Still feeling very emotionally stable no matter what I eat, since starting the Great Garlic Experiment.  Depression seems to be gone.  My husband says he’ll believe it’s gone if a month passes without seeing it.  It’s been only a week and a half.

Oxtail Kale Stock

I made this vegetable/oxtail broth this week, and I think I’ll be making it repeatedly.  It’s based on this recipe from Terry Wahls site for Kale Soup.  I incorporated Peat’s ideas into it: consuming the broth of well-cooked greens rather than eating the greens themselves, and also making stock from oxtail.

Raw_oxtail-01

Fortunately our local Walmart always has oxtail for $5.99/lb (weird, considering I can’t find it anywhere else – even at the local independent butcher).

I throw about 2 lb. of oxtail in a crock pot on low with enough water to cover them, for 3-4 hours.  I drain the resulting stock into a big stockpot and then simmer the same oxtails again in the crock pot with fresh water, for another few hours.  Meanwhile I get the kale soup cooking on the stove using the first batch of oxtail stock, to which I add the following:

  • 1 lb Kale, washed and chopped (I just but a 1 lb. bag of cut-up kale, prewashed)
  • A few stalks of celery, chopped.
  • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped.
  • ½ cup chopped carrot
  • 2 cloves chopped carlic
  • 32oz low-sodium chicken stock (whatever brand is labeled “organic” at the supermarket)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried thyme

And I just let it simmer for 2-3 hours.  If the Kale isn’t covered I’ll add some water and leave the top off of the pot to let the steam escape.  After a few hours or so I strain out all the solid stuff.  When the next batch of oxtail broth is done I add that to the vegetable stock.  I let the whole thing cool a little and then put it in the fridge for the night.  The next day I scraped the layer of fat off the top.

image

The last couple of days I’ve been having a mug or two of it before meals.  I also put it in the rice cooker instead of water to make to rice more nutritious – it’s mild in flavor so it doesn’t overpower anything.  All the goodness of kale without the poisons!  Or the icky taste!  and all the gut-healing goodness of gelatin without the icky taste of the canned stuff.  (<– sorry, if you’re a fan…I’m just not.)

Anyway, I’m no chef…and no recipe writer.  I just thought maybe someone else might like this.  It’s really tasty, low calorie, low fat, and high in nutrient density.  I would put the whole thing in Cronometer to break it down but I have no idea how many servings there are in the recipe.  Maybe next time I make it I’ll calculate that and update this post.

Now go eat something nutritious.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 7

I should update on my abdominal issue – the one for which I’ve scheduled an ultrasound for the end of the month.  I put it off till then, hoping the Great Garlic Experiment might cause a shift of some kind making it unnecessary.

This issue has been going on for months.  Back in April I ordered labs because I was worried this pressure up against my left ribcage might mean my spleen was enlarged, which can indicate liver problems, leukemia, lymphoma, and other problems.  My labs were fine though.

Then I became concerned my pancreas was having problems – after all, my blood sugar has been high and my triglycerides were over 500.  I convinced myself that my symptoms were an early sign of pancreatitis.

Not long after that I became convinced I had pancreatic cancer, and tested myself for CA 19-9 – a blood marker that can indicate the presence of tumors and/or cancer.  I did not have an elevation of CA 19-9.  Probably no cancer.  Relieved.

But still…what’s with this THING in my abdomen?

This week there has been a huge improvement.  I didn’t feel it at all today, until I lay down on my back for about a half hour – after a while I could feel it a little bit.  A week ago, lying on my back was so uncomfortable that I just didn’t do it.  Now I can do it easily, and the internal pressure is 95% improved.  It’s almost gone.

I think I actually do/did have an enlarged spleen.  I’m not sure what the relationship of the spleen is to the bacteria in my gut.  The pressure got greater on day 2 of the Great Garlic Experiment when the rest of my lymphatic system seemed to be swollen and tender, and it’s almost disappeared since then.  Maybe my liver was just overburdened by endotoxin, and now things are flowing more smoothly.  Anyway, I’ll be canceling that ultrasound.

I think I’ll continue the garlic for a couple more days – maybe twice a day – until I can’t feel the pressure anymore.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 6

Today was much like yesterday.  Good energy, good mood.  The scale was up a couple pounds.  Apparently just because I CAN now eat unlimited starches (with butter all over them, of course) doesn’t mean I SHOULD.

And on that note, I wonder if this wouldn’t be a good time to start counting calories (and possibly fat grams) toward the end of losing weight. Now that I have the option of eating starches – once in a while, at least – my available repertoire of low-fat and low-calorie meals has expanded so I don’t think deprivation and monotony will be a factor.  Plus, starchy foods keep me satisfied much longer than simple sugars or fruits, both of which make me hungry within an hour, despite eating calorie-dense foods.  Worth a try anyway.

I’m feeling very grateful right now to Ray Medina for his innovative garlic cure for gut dysbiosis, and to Ray Peat for everything else that has helped me to feel better over the past year.  I doubt either of them will read this, but I’m yelling it loudly from my little corner of the web.  Thank you Ray and Ray for your generous and tireless work and willingness to share it all with the world for free.

And thanks so much to those who take the time to comment on here.  Without you, I wouldn’t have found the Rays and I’d still be fumbling around in the dark.  I’m very grateful for you.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 5

I still don’t stink.  I don’t think I’m going to.

I felt great today – lots of energy, good mood.  It wasn’t quite euphoric but I had a lot of energy.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel of fatigue today.

Gas and bloating is gone, or at least unnoticeable.  Digestive processes otherwise unchanged.

Today I ate starches at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  No fatigue or sleepiness after eating, and no depression.  And I felt satisfied after eating – none of this need to graze all day long, as has been the norm for me for the last 8-9 months, since I started eating carbs.  Again today I had 100mg of caffeine, though largely out of habit – I didn’t feel like I needed it.

And that pressure up under my left ribcage?  My enlarged spleen?  Almost gone.  I can now lie on my back without feeling the need to roll onto my side because of the discomfort. I do feel it a bit when I’ve just eaten and my stomach is full of food, but it’s much less noticeable.  I guess my lymphatic system isn’t quite so taxed now for some reason.  Maybe I killed off the bad stuff already and now it’s smooth sailing.

Bottom line so far – mood is better, fatigue is gone, appetite dropping (today at least), and my ability to tolerate starches seems to be good.

I’m probably pushing my luck with all the starches, but I’m finding this fascinating and want to know what my body can do now!

I’m going to continue with the garlic 3x a day for 2 more days, and then once a day…maybe forever, along with a probiotic.  I can’t see a downside right now.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 4

Eating the garlic is getting easier.  I’ve learned to chew with my back molars – it keeps the sting of the garlic away from the parts of my tongue that are most sensitive.

I still don’t stink. My daughter did say to me tonight, “Your breath smells like I want to eat it,”  but I had literally just finished my garlic for the night.  So still, it’s not coming out of my pores or anything.  I must be a super garlic metabolizer!

Nothing out of the ordinary regarding digestion.  Maybe a little more bloating/gas.

Oh, here’s something interesting.  I’ve been eating starches every day since last Friday.  On Friday I had 2 pieces of bread (regular, glutenous bread).  I was on the road for work and didn’t pack enough food for the day, so I had a roast beef sub from Subway (no mayo, so at least really low in the PUFA department). I fully expected this to make me depressed, but it didn’t.  Sometimes it takes a couple days of consecutive starch eating to feel the effects, so I was happy about that.  The next day I didn’t eat much in the way of starch, but I think I had something.  Then each of the last 3 days I’ve had a couple servings of g/f bread and/or rice.  And no depression.  NO DEPRESSION.

In fact, I’ve been feeling fatigued and today around 6PM the fatigue sort of lifted and I started feeling more energetic.  I mean, like doing things I don’t even have to do.  It’s not often I feel that way.  The first 3 days of the Great Garlic Experiment I slept a lot.  Not all day or anything, but an extra hour or two each night, plus I took at least one short nap each day.  Today – no nap, plus I’m still up at 11:20PM.  Not much in the way of caffeine today – just 100mg in tablet form around 10:00AM.  No coffee or tea.  So there’s been a shift in my energy level.

My regimen each day is now as follows:

  • AM (before breakfast) – 1 probiotic and 1/2 teaspoon inulin powder dissolved in water
  • AM (after breakfast) – 2 large (or 3 small) cloves of organic domestic garlic, crushed and soaked in water for 15-20 minutes, drinking the water and chewing the cloves
  • PM (after lunch) – 2 large (or 3 small) cloves of garlic (prepared the same way)
  • PM (after dinner) – 2 large (or 3 small) cloves of garlic (prepared the same way)

Something seems to be working so I won’t mess with it.

Oh, and I went to 2 different fancy stores today looking for a different brand of organic garlic, since I fully expected to feel sicker than I do, which makes me wonder if the garlic I’m using was irradiated at some point.  One store had nothing organic, and the other store had the same brand I’m already using.  So it’s this or nuthin.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 3

Well, aside from actually eating garlic 3x a day, I feel completely normal today.

Mood is good – not over the top, but a solid “good”.

Body feels fine.

Still aware of what I’m now unscientifically calling my enlarged spleen.  But it seemed more enlarged yesterday.

I still don’t stink, according to my husband.  Not really much gas either, which I expected considering that garlic contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that should be feeding good bacteria in the colon.

Bathroom requirements and habits are unchanged.

I wonder if my “domestic organic” garlic is indeed what it says it is.  What if I have garlic that was surreptitiously irradiated?  Maybe I’ll find and try a new garlic for tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll up my probiotics to 2 tablets per day.

In any case, I’ll continue this for 7 days.

That is all.