A New Phase

Welcome to Lanie’s House of Surly.  I seem to have taken a turn from depressed to irritable.  Two sides of the same coin, I suppose.  At least this way I can get some things done.  Depression sucks.

Know what else sucks?  High blood pressure.  It seems to me, after a month of being on beta blockers, including a failed attempt to get off of them, that they do nothing for me and I can manage this bitch completely by better managing my intake of minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium).  I just took my blood pressure.  159/91.  That’s on beta blockers, and with NOT watching mineral intake for a week.  (And my meter measures low, by the way.)  That’s eating a generally healthy diet, not using the salt shaker, but not being so obsessive about it that I avoid all food that contains sodium.  I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, and I think I’m going to be informing her that it is NOT “fine to just stop taking [beta blockers]” after taking them for only 3 weeks, and that I’d like a diuretic instead.  As well as a better plan to get off of these physically addictive craptastic pills without sending my adrenaline and blood pressure to the moon.

I’ve been reading Ray Medina’s blog lately.  Very interesting stuff, and he seems to be just a regular person – not a scientist or a doctor – just a guy who has done a ton of his own research on the role of gut bacteria in health.  Just like Ray Peat seems to think everything comes back to the thyroid, Ray Medina blames the ills of society on pathogenic gut bacteria.  I don’t know who’s right, but RM makes a lot of sense.  He seems to recommend a gut-healthy diet, something along the lines of Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet, which is basically Paleo plus “safe starches”.  Yeah, I tried eating “safe starches” and I haven’t felt happy since.  After spending hours reading his blog and not finding answers to my specific issues, I wrote to him to ask:

Q: Is there such thing as a pathogenic bacteria that may cause an endotoxin problem only in the presence of starches?

A: Interesting question.

Gut pathogens, like most living organisms, utilize glucose and iron for their metabolism, although not all. Lactobacillus bacteria, for example, do not require iron for growth. Other pathogens like Candida can utilize both glucose and ketones for their metabolism. I suspect this is why so many low-carb dieters are beset by yeast infections even when glucose intake is low.

It’s impossible for me to tell whether your problem is caused by bacteria or yeast. It may be one, the other, or both.

We know that lipopolysaccharides can initiate the inflammatory cascade that results in depression. Translocation of these types of gram-negative bacterial components to systemic circulation is dependent on their concentration in the gut, whether they are kept in check by beneficial bacteria, the condition of the mucus that coats the digestive tract, the state of the cells lining the gut wall, and the tight junction proteins that bind them together.

Best regards,

Ray

He states on his site that he’s not all about giving people medical advice, so I was pretty happy he even wrote back.  What I take from his answer is that lipopolysaccharides (LPS, also known as endotoxin) can cause depression.  Various factors, such as the balance of good bacteria vs. bad and gut leakiness have a lot to do with whether they become problematic.  Ray Peat says basically the same thing, and recommends eating a raw carrot salad daily to address this (antibacterial carrot + oil + vinegar).  Ray Medina stated also that yeast may be playing a role.

Who the hell knows.

I’m not sure what to do about this.  Medina recommends a probiotic (he has his own, the production of which has been discontinued) and there are others he seems to think highly of. None are the soil-based probiotics recommended by Nikoley and crew.  The challenge with probiotics seems to be getting the microbes to survive the stomach acid, which kills most of what we ingest. I ordered one of the last 5 bottles produced by Medina himself.  Add it to the collection.

In other news, I got a Fitbit Flex for my birthday yesterday.  I’ve walked 7800 steps today.  That doesn’t include the steps during which I was pushing a stroller, because apparently it doesn’t count those.  Awesome.

Ok, I’ve lost interest in writing.  Time to go be surly somewhere else.

Bicycling: Effects on Fasting Blood Glucose

Ok, I’ve been bicycling for 7 days now, attempting to lower my fasting blood glucose (FBG).  Before I get into whether or not this is having the desired effect, let’s look at my history of using this particular exercise to reduce FBG.

In the Spring of 2011, a good 9 months before entering the online world of nutrition gurus, I bicycled every day for a couple weeks.  At this time my blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range.  I was eating a standard American diet (SAD), probably not much sugar, some starches, some processed food, diet coke every day, still eating gluten.  Here were the effects at that time of bicycling and tracking calories:2011 Blood Sugar

Now, I don’t recall exactly what “tracking calories” meant – I didn’t have a blog back then so I can’t revisit those dates and see what I was doing.  Knowing me though, I was trying to stick to around a 1500 calorie diet.  As you can see from the graph above, bicycling + tracking calories was a good thing – my FBG was in the 90s within a few days and in the 80s within about a week and a half.  I was biking for about 30 minutes at a time on flat terrain, moderate intensity – just enough to sweat and breathe a little harder but not enough to be exhausted. I stopped because I got sick (I don’t remember what with) and the temperatures outside soared to over 110 degrees.  Got out of the habit and didn’t restart.  Maybe because my diet was consistently making me depressed.

Fast forward to September 2013 – my next experiment with biking.  Here’s a graph of my FBG then:

2013 blood sugar

This was a month before I began my Peat-inspired lifestyle.  Fasting blood sugar at the time was mostly in the pre-diabetic range (under 126) with occasional higher spikes.  I began a “lower-cal diet” and bicycling, and continued with that for almost 2 weeks. “Lower-cal” at that time meant shooting for 1500 net calories (after exercise).  I remember being kinda hungry – but I didn’t really spend a lot of time researching low-calorie high-nutrient high-satiety foods at that time.  About 50% of my calories were in the form of fat, 25% protein, 25% carbohydrate.  Other than that, nutrients weren’t really on the radar yet.

During that time my blood sugar stabilized around 100 (a good 15 points lower), with dips into the 90s as early as 6 days into the program.  If I had continued the trend may have continued.  I stopped because my focus at that time was weight loss, and I wasn’t losing.  My temperature and pulse were dropping, and new-found information from Ray Peat world made me think my metabolism might be suffering.  So I stopped.

Ok, so now let’s look at today.  I’ve been bicycling with NO dietary change, for 7 days now.  As in the previous exercise programs I’ve been biking for 30 minutes or so, medium intensity, flat terrain.  Let’s look at the data:

FBG May 2014

Blood sugar is….remarkably stable.  And unchanged in the last week. NO CHANGE.  It may have been unrealistic for me to aim for the 90s within two weeks, considering my baseline level is higher now, but I would hope to see at least SOME movement in the right direction.

So what’s missing?

Well, the previous two times I biked regularly I was also counting calories, shooting for around 1500 calories per day.  Over the past week I haven’t been monitoring what I eat at all.  My weight is down a pound or so and I haven’t been overeating, but I haven’t been counting anything.  I tend to eat around 2200 calories a day when not attempting to reduce, so it’s safe to say I’ve been consuming at least that much.

So it appears that for me, blood sugar management is going to involve not just regular exercise but also a reduced-calorie diet.  I don’t know if it has anything at all to do with eating low-fat….just low-energy (calorie).  I’ll have to research ways to stay full.  Hunger has always been the obstacle to me sticking to a reduced calorie diet.

I’ve started counting calories today.  Will continue on with bicycling.

Score one for conventional wisdom.

New Plan 3.0

I’ve been eating starches for almost 2 week now, and they make me feel like taking a nap. Every time.  Some of the common reasons folks get tired in the middle of the day are sleep deprivation, lowering of stress hormones, and food intolerance.  Hm…There’s no way I’m this sleep deprived.  There’s no way my stress hormones are super-high and the starches are lowering them, thus revealing my “true fatigue” (cuz if that were the case, sugar would have made me sleepy too). There’s no way I’m intolerant of every kind of starch…is there?  Is it possible white potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, and gluten free bread/pasta are all making me tired because my body is completely intolerant to all of those foods?  No.

I don’t know why this is happening, but it sucks.  I can handle about 1/4 cup of potatoes with a meal before I get too tired to function.  And even then I don’t have much energy.

So my conclusion – for now – is that I won’t find the solution to these problems in my diet…because EVERYTHING (with the exception of maybe milk and dill pickles) seems to be killing me or killing my enjoyment of life.  Or both.

So here’s my new plan:

I’m going to focus instead on exercise.  The last time I got in the habit of bicycling every day my blood sugar improved dramatically, dropping to within normal ranges within a week. I stopped because it got cold outside and because I was afraid my slowing pulse meant my thyroid wasn’t happy.  Things are more dire now….because now I have diabetes, for realz. Uncontrolled diabetes.  A couple days ago my fasting blood sugar was 155 – not an all time personal record or anything, but too flippin high.  When I first started eating starches my fasting blood sugar dropped to between 110 and 120 for a few days (don’t know why) – now it’s above 130 every day.

Yesterday I started biking.  I biked today too, and will tomorrow.  And the next day.

So what to eat?  For now, mostly Peat-friendly foods, without much of a plan. Someone on Facebook linked to this interesting study about saturated fats causing greater insulin resistance than monounsaturated fats.  They found that among people who ate less fat than the median (I think it’s less than 37% of calories, but I’m not sure and don’t have the full-text of the study), monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil) promoted insulin sensitivity, while saturated fats caused greater insulin resistance.  Can’t say I’ve ever heard that before.  I do eat about 40% of my calories in the form of saturated fats right now, so it may be a good idea to try substituting some olive oil, and reduce fat overall.  So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to be crazy about it, but I’ll stop adding fat when its not necessary, and swap out some of the saturated fat for a while.  Olive oil has more PUFA than either butter or coconut oil, but that’s just going to have to be ok.  For now.

I predict my fasting blood sugar will be in the 90s within 2 weeks.

My resistant starch + probiotics experiment continues.  I’m so scared to up my potato starch intake because of the extreme GI distress it caused me before.  But I must.  Maybe tomorrow.

If my blood sugar isn’t under control within 1 month, I’m going to see a doctor and get medication.  I feel like my time to noodle around has run out.

I’m so tired from eating starches – even just 1/2 cup of potatoes or rice – 15g of carbohydrate – that I find myself avoiding them.  Low carb is no good for my thyroid.  High sugar no good for my triglycerides.  Out of time, out of ideas.  If exercise and olive oil don’t fix this very soon I’ll have to give in.

RS + Probiotics – Day 3

I thought I’d give a quick update.

I started with a small little teaspoon of potato starch 2 days ago, combined with probiotics, once a day.  So far so good – no change in anything perceptible, which is a good thing considering the negative effects I’ve had in the past.  I think I’ll give it a few more days of this and then maybe try to increase, either to one teaspoon of RS 2x a day or one larger dose.  That’s when all hell broke loose last time though so I hesitate.  Maybe I won’t do that.  I’ve now talked myself out of it.  This is how I am.

I stopped eating *so much* sugar.  I still eat some – like, yesterday I ate half a bag of M&Ms and one of my daughter’s Rice Krispie bars (poor planning, eating found-in-the-car-food), and a couple of Hershey’s kisses throughout the day, plus a glass of OJ.  Other than that I’ve been eating like a “normal” person – little planning, eating what feels right.  Still not eating things like wheat, corn, legumes, PUFAs, or other things that just seem bad for me for one reason or another, but not obsessing over it.  It’s kind of a relief from the dietary micromanagement.

My fasting blood sugar the last 2 days as been 113 and 116.  Rarely in recent history is it that low.  I attribute it to not eating so much sugar.

Since I wrote my last post about my new RS + Probiotics experiment I’ve gotten a few emails/messages from some concerned readers.  What about the risk of SIBO?  Or the risk of increased lactic acid caused by certain strains of bacteria?  These are good questions.  I don’t know the answers.  I can say that after weighing my options, this seemed like the best one.  If I screw up my health further I’ll look back on this and know I was doing the best I could.

Interestingly, I’ve been eating some potatoes and rice and my mood has been fine the last few days.  I doubt the probiotics have had an effect yet, but I’m wondering if maybe certain starches like these are fine for me and more processed starches (g/f bread, g/f pasta) are the problem.  Not sure why that would be – I seem to be doing ok the last 4-5 days as long as I avoid those.  Not exactly smiling for no reason or anything….there’s some anxiety, but no depression.  I can live with it.

I’ve been reading about Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet.  First impressions from his website are that he’s a really decent person, willing to share his knowledge and really trying to help people. I know earnestness doesn’t fix diabetes, but it’s nice to spend time at his site….gives me the warm and fuzzies.  I’ll be reading more.  He seems to have one foot in the resistant starch camp, but is firmly in the pro-digestible starch camp along with intermittent fasting.  Some of his ideas seem to be summed up here, specifically with regard to weight loss:

I prefer to train people in proportions and amounts. Proportions — try in your mind dividing your plate until four equal quadrants containing (1) meat/fish/egg, (2) sugary starch like potato, (3) sugary in-ground vegetables (beet, carrot), fruits, berries, and (4) low-calorie vegetables (mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, onions, celery, asparagus, kimchi, etc). Then flavor things with a sauce combining fat (eg butter, sour cream, coconut milk), acid (vinegar, pickle juice, etc). Use less fat if you’re trying to lose weight. Eat enough to avoid any significant hunger while fasting 16 hours per day.

He seems to generally favor a diet that is 30% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 55% fat.  More research is in order, on my part.

I’m getting my bike prepared for daily exercise (weather permitting). (<–Listening to you, Karin).  Hope to start as soon as it stops raining.  I do love my bike.

Conclusion: CW Doesn’t Work For Me

Well, after about 11 days of exercising every day and maintaining what should be a calorie deficit I have essentially lost no weight.  I did get as low as 200.4 (a net loss of 2.6 pounds) on October 1st, but then I regained a pound and I’ve been stuck at 201.5 for the last 4 days. My calorie intake over that time averaged 1769 calories per day, and I recorded EVERYTHING.  If I was unsure about the calorie count of a food I rounded up.  I did 30 minutes of cardio (biking) on 10 out of these 11 days.  My heart rate (measured via monitor with a chest strap) during those sessions stayed between 130 and 140, which is 73%-79% of my maximum heart rate (60%-80% is generally considered an appropriate zone for aerobic fitness conditioning and health).

The only positive effect seems to have been on my blood sugar, and for that reason I may end up keeping up the biking.  I’m going to stop counting calories though.

New plan.  Based on my Thyroid labs a few months back I decided to experiment with thyroid hormone, and I ordered some T3.  My T3 and T4 were both within range but on the low end.  I could have either tried T3 or Natural Dessicated Thyroid (NDT), but decided to go the T3 route to start.  I received the T3 yesterday, and am going to start this today.  Just took my first very small fraction of a pill – about 4 mcg. I’m going to see how it affects me on this dose for now and increase very gradually to avoid hyperthyroid symptoms.

The timing of this is interesting.  Within 11 days of diet and exercise my resting heart rate dropped 12 points (from the low 80s to the high 60s).  I know that a lower heart rate is generally associated with good physical condition, but it is also a sign of low thyroid.  It’s hard for me to believe my cardiovascular health improved that much in 11 days…the more obvious reason for the drop is a change in thyroid function. See this article for some of the ways hypothyroidism can affect heart function.

Yesterday I felt depressed and lethargic and craved sugar all day (very unusual for me…I can generally take or leave sugar).  And this morning for the first time I checked my basal body temperature.  It was 96.9 – pretty low.  These things too can indicate hypothyroidism, which can be exacerbated by diet, exercise, or other forms of stress the body endures.  I’ve been reading Ray Peat’s blog (with translation into practical steps thanks to Danny Roddy).  Peat focuses extensively on thyroid health, from what I gather so far.  I have a lot to learn and a lot to read but it’s a direction that may prove helpful.

I do know this: when I lived in California almost no one around me was fat.  No one I knew there exercised or ate a particularly healthful diet – but no one was fat.  Here in Wisconsin everyone is fat.  There’s something different about the environment – maybe a lack of iodine in the local soil? – that has a massive effect on the health of the population.

And I can’t forget…my own sister had her thyroid removed after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s.

So for now I’m busy learning.  And trying T3.

CW – Week 1 in Review

Well, I’ve been following Conventional Wisdom – “eat less and exercise more” for 1 week now.  Let’s review my progress.

Weight

  • Starting weight: 203 lbs.
  • Today’s weight:  200.4 lbs.
  • Weight change this week: – 2.6 lbs
  • Overall weight change: – 2.6 lbs

Analysis:  I’m not impressed by this.  The first 3 pounds or so always comes off easily – I think it’s water weight.

I was aiming for 1500 net calories per day (after exercise is factored in).  According to my Lose It app, on which I track calories/nutrients, this week I ate at total of 1425 calories over that.  So even if I would have been perfect in my calorie intake, 1425 calories represents less than half a pound of body fat (if you believe the calories in/calories out theory of fat gain/loss).  So best case scenario I would have been down another half pound.

As far as macronutrient breakdown, I’m really just eating whatever I want (but no gluten/wheat).  I have not been making much of an effort to eat more produce, so that’s something I’ll be working on this week.  Here’s the macronutrient breakdown for the past week:

  • Fat calories – 57% (751g)
  • Carb calories – 28% (827g)
  • Protein calories – 34% (1008g)

Ok, so I guess this isn’t exactly conventional wisdom, which says a low-fat diet is recommended for losing weight.  Maybe I should try a low-fat diet for a week and see how that goes?  For now I’m going to do another week just eating what I want to see if it’s possible to lose weight eating lower-calorie and fairly high fat.

Blood Sugar

Ok, but now here’s some good news.  Check out my fasting blood glucose this week (the far right side of the graph):

bg

Fasting blood glucose (average) during the week prior to starting bicycling/no boozing and then during the past week:

Before (avg): 118

After (avg): 105

Hm…on average, that’s a 13 point drop in fasting blood sugar in 1 week of exercising and not drinking alcohol.  Pretty cool!  Even if it doesn’t result in weight loss it seems important to exercise for blood sugar management.  I don’t know if all types of exercise will have this effect.  Yoga didn’t (see “DDP Yoga” on graph).

And interestingly…eating NO carbs (or only like 2% of calories from carb) didn’t result in this kind of improvement in blood sugar (see period of “Nutritional Ketosis” on graph).  This suggests that something OTHER than macronutrient intake has a dramatic effect on blood sugar and/or insulin levels.

Things I’m learning:

1. Eating carbs prevents hypoglycemia.  I had all but given up drinking coffee (which I love) and turned to caffeine pills because of the hypoglycemia that followed coffee drinking.  I learned from Ray Peat that adding sugar/carbs to coffee (and meals, for that matter) prevents that blood sugar drop (which my mind interprets as hunger).  It works!  If I put sugar in my coffee I don’t get ravenously hungry after drinking coffee.  How nice.  And as you can see (graph, above) my blood sugar is not suffering from this sugar-in-coffee experiment.  Maybe sugar in small amounts isn’t the devil after all.

That being said…

2. I feel better if I DON’T have a lot of carbs for breakfast.  I can eat a 500 calorie breakfast of all protein/fat and I feel satisfied for 4-5 hours. If I eat carbs I get hungry within 2 hours.

2.  Juicing isn’t my problem.  I have been continuing to drink vegetable and fruit juice over the past week and my fasting blood sugar has been dropping.  Either fresh-squeezed juice doesn’t affect blood sugar much or exercise reverses a LOT of problems.

3. I don’t need to kill myself with exercise to get benefit.  I’m riding on flat terrain and not pushing myself very hard at all.  10 mph on a bicycle isn’t very fast.  For 30 minutes or so.

4.  I need to prepare more if I expect to eat more veggies.  Still laziness prevails. If I don’t have vegetables washed and cut and ready to eat I just won’t eat them.  I’ll work on that this week.  I think this is why I’ve been eating more overall calories than planned – I’m not filling up on produce as planned.

5.  Nobody has all the answers for everybody.   Everyone is different.  What works for one person doesn’t work for another.  I was listening to Jimmy Moore‘s podcasts yesterday on a long road trip.  Jimmy insists that people just need to give up the carbs and their blood sugars will drop.  Hm…then how come he takes Glycosolve for his blood sugar?  I actually really love and appreciate Jimmy Moore, and he’s usually the first to say you have to find what works for you. However, among the low-carb community there seems to be this idea that this strategy will work the same way for everyone.  Low-carb clearly wasn’t enough for me.  He interviewed Sarah Fragoso on one of the podcasts I listened to yesterday…and she stated that people with a high CRP (C-Reactive Protein) pretty much always have some massive health problem like rheumatoid arthritis or cancer.  I sure hope she’s wrong.  Anyway, bottom line is you DO have to find what works for you.  Give up looking for a guru.  Experiment.

Ok, that’s enough reflecting for one week.  I’m going to continue this plan for now and see where it gets me.

Conventional Wisdom – Day 7

Progress:

Weight change since yesterday: +0.5
Weight loss so far: 1.9 lbs

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1553
  • Protein 31% (149g)
  • Carbs 23% (108g)
  • Fat 46% (97g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 24:53 minutes
  • Distance: 3.95 miles
  • Avg speed: 9.53 mph
  • Calories burned: 254

The song I finished with:

Conventional Wisdom – Day 6

Progress:

Weight change since yesterday: 0
Weight loss so far: 2.4 lbs

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1672
  • Protein 26% (128g)
  • Carbs 25% (123g)
  • Fat 49% (108g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 32:09 minutes
  • Distance: 5.37 miles
  • Avg speed: 10.02 mph
  • Calories burned: 337

The song I finished with:

Conventional Wisdom – Day 5

Progress:

Weight change since yesterday: 0
Weight loss so far: 2.4 lbs

As expected, the scale was unchanged today.

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1790
  • Protein 29% (144g)
  • Carbs 17% (82g)
  • Fat 54% (118g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 37:46 minutes
  • Distance: 5.98 miles
  • Avg speed: 9.50 mph
  • Calories burned: 388

Scenes from the ride:  Unfortunately there will probably be no more Scenes from the Ride.  Cyclemeter now turns off if I try to turn on my phone’s camera.  Also, the camera doesn’t feel the need to focus anymore prior to taking a picture.  Thanks, iOS7.

The song I finished with:

Conventional Wisdom – Day 3

Progress:

  • Weight today: 200.8
  • Weight loss so far: 2.2 lbs

Yesterdays diet:

  • Net calorie intake (after exercise): 1774
  • Protein 29% (150g)
  • Carbs 25% (132g)
  • Fat 46% (107g)

Today’s bike ride:

  • Time: 35:39 minutes
  • Distance: 5.37 miles
  • Avg speed: 9.03 mph
  • Calories burned: 345

Scene from the ride:

IMG_3433

I’m going to keep sharing these pictures from my ride, even if they’re a little dull some (ok, most) days.  Looking for something interesting to share keeps me busy on my ride…and it keeps me looking for the beautiful and unusual in things.

The song I ended on today: