The Starch Solution – Day 17

A quick summary of recent events before I get to my current update.  I’ve been so pressed for time my writing has been very sporadic over the past few months.  I feel the need to fill in some of the blanks.

A year ago I managed to drop my blood sugar significantly by eating a low-fat diet.  At the time I wasn’t testing my post-prandial blood sugar though – only my fasting blood sugar.  As I look back on that now I wish I had done both because it left a window of doubt open for me as to whether a high-carb low fat diet could actually reverse the signs of Type-2 Diabetes.  Sure, my fasting blood sugars dropped into the 80s within about 6 weeks, and yes my HgA1C dropped from 6.4 to about 5.9, but there was still a SHADOW of a doubt.  How could virtually all of modern society be saying that sugar causes diabetes and I was finding that not to be true?  There was some serious cognitive dissonance going on.

My success last year was cut short by stress.  We moved to a new home –  a home that needed a lot of work – last June.  In the big picture of stressful life events this isn’t particularly high – it was a good move, after all – hopefully an improvement in life circumstances.  The details surrounding it made it stressful though, and it became all but impossible to stick with the incredibly restrictive diet I was eating at the time.  I was following Weight Watcher’s “points” system, which always left me feeling just a little hungry.  I think the life stress in addition to the stress of feeling borderline hungry was just too much.

I started eating like a “normal” person – eating grains, fat, whatever ended up in front of me at mealtime.  I didn’t go off the rails or anything – I wasn’t eating at fast food restaurants or binge eating – I just wasn’t restricting anymore.  My blood sugar and my weight crept up again until in January 2018 I was again at my high weight of 212 and my fasting blood sugars were nearing 200 mg/dL.  One day – for kicks – I tested my blood sugar in the middle of the day.  It was around 350 mg/dL.

Whoa – what the hell happened there?

I started exercising THAT DAY.  I exercised 5x a day for 2 weeks, 30 minutes each time on the treadmill with my heart rate at 70% of maximum.  My blood sugar remained unchanged, my weight wasn’t moving, and I wasn’t feeling any better.  Plus I was pressed for time, and that 45 minutes a day amounted to pretty much all of my discretionary free time each day.  I didn’t blog much during this period because I was just too busy.

I quit working out.  Sure I probably should have stuck with it but I needed that time for other things, and I wasn’t seeing ANY results.  I should have seen SOMETHING shift in 2 weeks.  At the time I was eating a diet low in both carbohydrates and fat.  It was incredibly hard to stick to and I was failing at that too.

I decided to go to a doctor.  To give up.  Go on statins, Metformin, whatever.  Sure I’d probably get Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s from the side effects, but at least the meds might help me live longer and avoid complications of diabetes for a little while.  The doc ran labs (here and here) and once I saw that BUN of 29 – a direct result (in my opinion) of my high-meat diet – I decided to make a change.  I had been sort of looking for a “sign” to tell me which direction I should commit to – low fat or low carb – and that was my sign. I was done straddling both sides of the fence.  I was afraid my blood sugar was going to skyrocket – I was still traumatized by seeing 350 on my meter – but what I was doing wasn’t working and have had repeated failures with low carb over the years.  That’s when I found Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution.

(BTW – The doctor did write me a prescription for a statin and for a pill to manage blood sugar.  I picked them up but haven’t taken them.)

Here’s my fasting blood sugar since I started the Starch Solution:

Fasting blood sugar

Well good news.  Carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes.

I’m still not sure what causes diabetes – I suspect it has to do with toxicity and/or damage caused by polyunsaturated fats – but I do know that carbohydrates themselves don’t make diabetes worse. Now – carbohydrates in the presence of fat – well, that’s a different story.  If I add fat to my diet I don’t get these results.  Ray Peat talks about the Randle Cycle, and I’ve referenced it in this blog before.  Here it is again:

The antagonism between fat and sugar that Randle described can involve the suppression of sugar oxidation when the concentration of fats in the bloodstream is increased by eating fatty food, or by releasing fats from the tissues by lipolysis, but it can also involve the suppression of fat oxidation by inhibiting the release of fatty acids from the tissues, when a sufficient amount of sugar is eaten.

Short version: Sugar and fat compete.  Choose one and go with it.

I think it’s important to add that I’m not feeding my child a low-fat diet or a particularly low sugar diet.  I mention that because I don’t necessarily think someone with a healthy metabolism has to choose – “all things in moderation” is the rule I follow with her.  BUT if you’re like me – and hundreds of millions of people are – and you have a deranged metabolism – choose one and go with it.

That being said, I found that low-carb eating caused my thyroid labs to get worse and caused my hair to fall out.  I don’t know if everyone has that experience, but I sure did.

Anyway, progress is currently being made!

What am I doing these days?  Still not exercising.  I promise to start again when I have more time.  I’m eating a low-fat high carbohydrate diet heavy on starch – lots of split pea soup, beans, rice, corn, spinach, kale, squashes, mixed stir-fry vegetables (no oil), apples.  I found I wasn’t losing much weight until I stopped eating bread and soy sauce – basically wheat products – so I’m currently on a vegan, low-fat, wheat-free, nightshade-free diet.  So no potatoes, peppers, or spicy foods.  I miss the nightshades far more than I miss meat, eggs, or fat – I love spicy food.  I just don’t feel good when I eat nightshades – I get achy and irritable, which for me means increased inflammation.  So yes, my diet is a little more limited than I’d like but over time as my systemic inflammation drops I hope to add some things back in.

I haven’t been tracking what I’m eating, but I promise I’m never hungry for long – that’s because I eat when I’m hungry.  No more walking the fine line between ok and hunger the way I did last year.  Starving = eat.  I eat at any time of day – even right before bed.  The downsides of this diet are clearly nutritional in nature.  I haven’t yet learned how to eat a diverse enough diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies and I’ve already been dealing with increased canker sores (B vitamin deficiency?) and muscle soreness, especially in my legs (potassium deficiency?).  I’ve doubled up on my multivitamin in the meantime, which makes canker sores disappear within hours.  My sleep is great.  I feel great every day.  I’ve had to stop supplementing the vitamin C and magnesium I’ve been taking for a long time because it increased stool softness too much.  Makes me realize how constipating it was to eat a lot of meat.

Till next time.  I hope to have a food/nutrition log to show you.

10 thoughts on “The Starch Solution – Day 17

  1. I too discovered that eating too much fat causes high blood sugar. I used to do low carb and also a keto but my BG was sky high on those. Now I’m using the T-Factor diet (Martin Kathan) – it is great. Only food I have to restrict is fat grams but still have to eat a minimum of 20 gms a day. Much easier to deal with and in both is books (the Rotation diet & T-factor) he has daily menus to follow. I needed a no-brainer daily menu to follow. My A1C dropped from 6.9 to 5.7 in one month. It is still dropping and my weight is coming down and I’m much happier. I understand fat in the liver causes some of the problem. Don’t eat so much fat and the liver and pancreas are much happier too!

  2. Penny – that’s awesome. Thanks for sharing about the T-Factor diet. I seem to remember hearing about it a long time ago, like in the 90s. Those are very impressive results!

  3. I had not heard of the T-factor before. I stumbled upon it looking for a Rotation diet for my husband who is extremely allergic to corn and all its by products. Trying to avoid other food allergies for both of us. However the T-factor works for that too, since he varies the foods each day (pretty much anyway.) I do believe that in all the Low Fat diets I’ve read – McDougals, Furhman, Barnard and others – for some of us Type2’s Low fat seems to work without shutting down the Thyroid and Adrenals. For now, I’m sticking with the low fat, higher starches including veggies and FRUIT! When I get hungry I grab another apple or orange!

  4. It does seem that diabetes responds best to low-fat. Does that mean the food pyramid wasn’t the cause of all the ills of society after all?

  5. It sure does make you wonder. At least it has for me. I know I (used to) eat too many calories for my short little 5’2″ body. So cutting down fat but still eating other whole foods, real food to fill me up and limiting protein to lean cuts with just the minimum 50 gm a day seems to be making a difference. I love veggies and fruits and am happy to eat potatoes, squash & rice. Time will tell for both of us.

  6. Hi Lanie! Thank you for the update. Glad to hear this is working so well for your blood sugar.

    I agree with you ( and Ray Peat) that polyunsaturated fats are primarily responsible for diabetes type 2. It was certainly true in my case. I was obese and prediabetic for at least 15 years. I cared for my mother for eight years through the stages of Alzheimer’s. The last year was really rough because she was unable to perform any of the functions of daily life without my help. I had absolutely no time or energy for cooking and unfortunately I relied heavily on a local burger joint for our meals. We had a lot of burgers and fries and a delicious homemade apple pie they made with Crisco. About six months of that and I was officially in diabetes land with a blood sugar in the 500s up from the 125 it had been for 15 years previously.

  7. Thanks for taking one for the team to do that N=1 Cathy! Interesting. I hope you’re getting back to your baseline at this point (you didn’t mention how long ago that was).

  8. LOL. I really wasn’t conducting an experiment or taking one for the team . This was before I ever heard of Ray Peat in 2009. Believe me, if I knew what I learned from Ray Peat then, I would not have followed that path! I mean, yes, it was desperate times and I had no time to cook, but there would have been a lot more cottage cheese and eggs in the diet and a lot less Crisco!

    Once diagnosed, I quickly got my blood sugar out of the 500s and 400s. It stayed in the 300s for a few years and now it has been in the 200s for a few years. I feel well as long as it stays under 300. I eat intuitively and don’t restrict calories or foods except restricting PUFAs. I usually eat protein, starch, fat, veggies and some form of sugar (fruit, juice, Coke, sucrose) at every meal. Adding sugar really made my post meal blood sugar much less volatile.

    I have never taken meds for diabetes. The way Ray explains it make sense to me, diabetics have trouble getting glucose into their cells so the body will raise the blood sugar enough so those functions requiring glucose can be performed.

    As for complications from diabetes, he says you cannot develop the complications of diabetes if you keep the proteins from being oxidized and the best way to do this is to keep carbon dioxide levels high. I follow many of his recommendations regarding carbon dioxide and I have not developed any diabetes complications in the past nine years. My brother, on the other hand, takes meds and eats a low-carb (high PUFA) diet and keeps his blood sugar well-controlled and has had every diabetes complication there is, including a stroke. His doctor is encouraging him to start dialysis soon.

  9. Yes, I remember you saying that about CO2 before. Can you remind me how to keep CO2 levels high? (Sorry – lots of information coming in and swirling around). And how do you know if your proteins are being oxidized?

  10. I don’t know how to tell if your proteins are being oxidized, but if your diet is high in natural antioxidants from whole plants perhaps that’ll be enough? Lots of berries etc.

    Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, but I don’t know of any sources that aren’t animal/seafood based or nut based. I personally don’t eat brazil nuts cuz PUFA, but I vaguely recall garlic and mushrooms as having selenium.

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