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.

The Starch Solution – Day 10

I’ve been feeling overall really good.  Eating this way – low fat starch, fruit, and veggies – is way easier than I expected, and I actually love what I get to eat. I don’t even miss the fat at this point.  I did eat at someone’s house yesterday and brought a dish – a 3-bean salad – so I’d definitely have something there I could eat. I’m pretty determined to stick to this.  I have a ton of energy and my husband tells me my mood is better.

This is the second time I’ve been on a low-fat diet to kick my blood sugar’s ass.  I did this last year – it wasn’t a plant-based diet at that time, and I was eating a lot of dry chicken breast, white rice, and fruit.  I felt a lot hungrier then than i do now. I probably could have added more starches then but I wasn’t in the habit of thinking that way.  It would be an interesting experiment – eating a low fat vegan diet and then adding in lean meat to see the effect on health markers.  Who knows…maybe I’ll even do that.

My fasting blood sugar has dropped to under 120 every day.  Post-prandial blood sugar is still over 200 sometimes – higher when I eat bread or tortillas, and lower when I eat simple whole grains or legumes.  Weight is down a couple pounds, and I’m not counting anything – calories, grams – nothing.  I eat until I’m satisfied.

I did take a step backward one day this week after I ate a banana.  I have a history of not tolerating bananas well – maybe because of the histamine in bananas? – and I was hoping that had passed since the last time I had one a year ago.  Nope, still made me feel terrible – angry and tired, like my brain was inflamed.  No more bananas.  It took about 36 hours after eating it before I felt good again.

Labs – Part 2

More labs, with current (or most recent) results in RED.

lipid

This lipid panel was run in October, 4 months ago.  My diet was largely unchanged – well, until last week – for at least 6 months, so I’d say this is pretty likely to represent my current state of health.  Doc also ran Vitamin D and TSH last week.  TSH isn’t bad.  Woo hoo!  Vitamin D is low despite supplementing between 2000 and 5000 IU daily for the last 5 years.  Huh.  Interesting.  Maybe I need some sun.

Starch Solution Update (Day 6)

Yesterday I said something I’d like to retract.  I said this diet is not easy to follow, but actually that’s not true.  It’s actually quite easy.  I love eating starches and the diet guidelines say to eat until satisfied – no counting anything. I expect it’ll be harder when I try to eat out or at someone’s house.  It’s basically a low-fat vegan diet.

From the McDougall website:  The McDougall Program Basics

  • A diet of plant foods, including whole grains and whole-grain products (such as pasta, tortillas, and whole-grain bread), and a wide assortment of  vegetables and fruit.
  • Plenty of spices and usually small amounts of sugar and salt to enhance the flavor of food.
  • Exercise as simple as a daily walk.
  • The exclusion of animal foods, including red meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and fish – all of which provide toxic levels of fat, cholesterol, protein and, very often, infectious agents and harmful chemicals.
  • The exclusion of all oils including olive oil, safflower oil, and corn oil. Oils are nothing more than liquid fats that increase obesity, which in turn, depresses immune function and contributes to the most common chronic diseases.

 

Labs – Part 1

My Comprehensive Metabolic Panel from last week.  Current labs are in RED.

comp met panel

The most obvious problems: High glucose (non-fasting) and A1C, high BUN, high BUN/Creatinine ratio.

  • The A1C is obviously indicative of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • The high blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and B/C ratio could indicate kidney issues of some kind.  I’ve noticed over time that the more meat I eat the higher my BUN is.
  • Low potassium – a result of taking hydrochlorathiazide, a diuretic I take for hypertension, combined with my recent lower-carbohydrate eating.  Bad combination for retaining potassium especially when I react poorly to (and thus avoid) a lot of high potassium foods.
  • High ALT – while not outside the reference range, this is not a healthy ALT level, and it indicates fatty liver to some extent.

I’m on Day 5 of the Starch Solution.  It’s not an easy diet to follow – no fat, tons of starch, vegetables and some fruit, no animal products.  I check my blood sugar frequently throughout the day to see if all this starch is going to put me in a diabetic coma.  I have eaten high carb diets before, but never with an A1C of over 7.  Yesterday – Day 4 – I checked and a few times throughout the day my blood sugar was over 250.  I took a deep breath and pushed forward.  Today my highest reading was 204 – most often it was closer to 150.  Improvement!

I’m eating a lot of rice (white and brown), corn, refried beans, split pea soup, tortillas, seaweed, apples, spinach, cucumbers, and – when I get hungry – bread.  Grains FTW!  I am hungry more often because my overall calorie intake has probably dropped.  At this point my weight is stable at 208.8.  My energy and mood are good.

The Starch Solution – Day 4

Where to start.

I have decided to stop eating meat.  For a while at least.  Maybe forever.  I had some labs done last week and my kidneys are not happy.  I’ve been trying to eat low fat and low carb (newsflash: can’t really be done) because I have been determined to get my blood sugar under control. Honestly, I have been on the fence, unwilling to commit to either low-fat or low carb.  Low fat means higher carb = blood sugar spike.  Low carb = feeling like crap.  Blood sugar spike…feeling like crap…blood sugar spike…feeling like crap.  I have been undecided LITERALLY since the last time I wrote on this blog over a month ago.

I finally gave up and decided to just go with mainstream medicine.  Get a mainstream doc – the one at the clinic down the street – and throw myself on their mercy.  Poke me, drug me, whatever.  Just help me.  I gave up.  Went to a doc and got some labs done.  My kidney labs are terrible (BUN of 29 and BUN/Creatinine ratio of 45, with a reference range of 7-25).  My HgAIC is 7.21 (>6.4 is diabetes).  I’m not getting better, I’m not staying the same.  My condition is worsening.

A year ago I followed a low-fat plan that resulted in a return to normal blood sugars.  I’ve decided to do that again, only completely eliminate meat.  What the hell, let’s eliminate all animal products and really give my kidneys a break.  Reduce protein, maximize starch.  I googled it and hey…this has a name.  Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution.

I’m on day 4 of this program.  It’s not terrible.  Dr. M. says that all Type 2 Diabetes is curable. Great! I’m in!  It’s a high-starch vegan diet.  No animals.  No added fat (and not much non-added fat).  Starch, vegetables, fruits.

It all feels complicated right now.  I want to share my labs. I want to tell you how much I don’t like my new doctor.  I really just don’t have time.  One day I will.

A Possible Direction

Yesterday and the day before I was at a conference.  I found myself eating a slightly low-carb diet over that period, mostly because I couldn’t control when I would be eating next and I knew eating fewer carbs would control my blood sugar during the day.  Today my fasting blood sugar was down to 136 – the lowest I’ve seen in a long time.

In the past low-carb diets have failed me, perhaps because I did them to the extreme.  No carbs at all, or very very few – like, under 20g per day.  In this case I ate probably 100g throughout the day and didn’t stress about it too much.  Maybe this is a direction.  Or maybe my glucose meter is malfunctioning because my house is freezing.

I know exercise is a key part of getting well.  I’m working 12+ hour days right now – sometimes over 15 hrs/day without much of a break as I’m learning new skills and covering for people who are out.  This too shall pass, but when I say I’m busy, I mean I’m really busy.

11 days into 2018 and I’m lost

I forgot how to do this.  It’s been a good 6  months since I followed any kind of structured diet or exercise plan and I don’t know how anymore.  I’m like all the other people in the world who say, “Yeah, I know I should exercise but I just don’t have time!”  Or, “yeah I know, but pizza is so good!”  In other words, I’ve become what some people might consider a resistant loser, but what I am calling “health challenged”.

I’m not sure what to do.

So I’m just going to be in the not knowing today because I’m too busy to think about it.  I’m sure being so busy is contributing to my health problems, though I don’t feel particularly stressed – just busy.  Anyway, I gotta go.  I hope to suck less tomorrow.