A Plant-Based Diet

About 6 days ago I wasn’t feeling so hot – physically or emotionally.  I was still frustrated by my most recent set of labs, in which I discovered a crazy-high hs-CRP, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol….basically everything has been going in the wrong direction for a really long time.  High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high BUN/Creatinine ratio… It’s all been a bit troubling.

For almost the last 2 years, I’ve been eating a lower-carb diet…sometimes very low.  I’ve been eating some form of meat or fish at least twice a day.  I’ve been off and on with dairy but I eat eggs almost every day.  The Paleo community says these are some of the staples of healthy living – meat, eggs, fat.  Many even advocate for a Ketogenic diet.  I did feel better when I started eating low-carb.  Not so sleepy.  More energy – not a ton, but more.

I got to thinking…If my labs have been going in the wrong direction, maybe it’s time to make a major change.  Try something else.  Something completely different.  Maybe the opposite of what I’ve been doing.

Last week I watched Forks Over Knives.  Usually movies promoting a plant-based diet are very emotional and difficult to watch, and involve footage of cows and chickens being tortured by the agriculture industry.  This one had none of that. It made a good and scientific case for giving up animal products for the benefit of your health.  It was very convincing.

Long story short…I am currently 5 days into a plant-based diet.  No meat of any kind, no dairy, no eggs.  I’m not calling it a “vegan” diet because this isn’t about veganism, per se, which has political undertones. It’s a 100% plant-based diet.  I’m giving myself 1 week to experiment with recipes and learn how to do this – and during this past week I’ve had some processed plant-based foods. Beginning Wednesday and for the next 4-5 weeks, it will be as close as I can possibly get to a whole-food plant based diet (food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives/preservatives or other artificial substances).  I’m also remaining gluten-free, which won’t be hard if I’m avoiding processed food.  Essentially, this is a high-carb, moderate-fat diet.  Lots of starches, fruits, and vegetables. Not much soy. Some folks with an M.D. after their name recommend a low-fat plant-based diet for health.  I’m not doing that.  My diet will continue to include coconut oil and olive oil.

At the end of the 4-5 weeks I’m going to get labs done – probably just a lipid panel to start, along with hs-CRP, to see if things are going in the right direction.  Depending on how that turns out I may do more labs. If things doesn’t improve I’ll know the meat isn’t to blame, and I’ll consider targeting something else.

Time for bed.  Sleeping well again since discontinuing the T3.  Updates tomorrow.

Something New

New potatoes, that is.  I just ate 13 oz of them.

I’ve decided to try the potato diet.  Nothing but potatoes for a week or so…let’s see how it goes.  Why would I do this?  Because I just don’t feel good.  Ever.  Paleo seems to be letting me down.  I’m not thriving.  Despite being virtually unemployed, my life feels very disorganized.  Hell, it IS disorganized.  It’s not just a feeling.  I used to be a compulsively tidy person.  Now I’m a mess.  I feel tired all the time.  I don’t know anymore how to feel better.  Sure, it could be a cortisol problem (don’t have the money to test right now) and it could be a thyroid problem (ditto) but it could also be that eating meat and fat for over a year isn’t making my body work well.  My blood pressure and weight continue to be high.

I tried Paleo/Leptin Rx.  Felt better than eating grains but now it’s not making me feel good.

I tried Epi-Paleo.  Felt hungry, plus it was really expensive.  I could afford it I guess if I ate stuff out of a can, but I’m not sure I want to expose myself to a lot of canned goods (i.e., BPA).

I tried high fat, moderate protein, low carb.  Felt hungry.

I tried high protein, low carb, low cal.  Felt hungry and unsatisfied.

I tried juicing.  Got tired of cleaning the juicer, but more importantly I didn’t have time to get good at it.  I may try this again.

I tried CT.  Didn’t make a difference.

I tried BHRT.  It made me fatter, gave me heart palpitations, and screwed up my period.

I haven’t tried the potato diet yet.  So let’s go.

Why am I doing this?  I was swayed by this guy’s story (20 potatoes a day for 60 days).  I found myself interested in this thread over at MDA.  And I watched a documentary over the weekend about Gerson Therapy, called The Beautiful Truth.  It details the work of a dude named Gerson in the 1920s who came up with a system of treating people with various ailments, including cancer, with great success.  His method basically involves a vegan diet, lots of organic vegetables, and coffee enemas.  Yeah, sounds awesome.  Not really.  But there’s a clinic in Mexico that was highlighted in the film.  At a cost of $11,000 for a 2-week stay, attendees of this clinic get the full Gerson Therapy.  I know someone who attended this clinic and has now outlasted his life expectancy by 4 years.

I don’t see myself going full-on vegan, but I really do need to keep trying other things.  Paleo made me feel good initially, and I probably do still feel better than I did prior…but that level of good is no longer good enough.  I want to feel vibrant.  I want my mind and body to feel organized again.

So I’ll keep you updated on my ongoing experiments.

Day 1

  • Fasting Blood Glucose: 101
  • Weight: 200.2
  • Waist measurement: 43.5″
  • Blood pressure: 135/83 (the lowest its been in a while)

My goal right now is to eat only potatoes with just some simple seasonings (salt, pepper, spices).

Delayed Start

Ok, my fat-diet experiment was delayed.  I got some compelling information that made me think I’d be wasting my time by doing this fat-diet experiment but I decided to go ahead and start it tomorrow anyway.  I figure…even if low-carb is harming my thyroid function or is otherwise counterproductive…it’s only a week. So I’m going to go ahead and start my experiment tomorrow.  2000 calories a day of mostly fat.  I’ll post my menus as I go.

I really want to get labs done, but I can’t afford a thyroid panel right now…plus the nearest lab I can use is 60 miles away.  I have insurance that will only benefit me if I’m near death, and my current doc wouldn’t even order it if I had insurance.

Our medical system is kinda screwed up.

I’m working and have some income right now, but no benefits…Our household income is about 1/7 of what it was while we were in California, and 1/4 what it was a year ago.  It’s a struggle to afford high quality food, let alone labs.  It’s worth it in a way – I get to be with my daughter more, and she gets to have her parents raise her.  I’m recovering from being overstressed.  You can’t really put a price tag on that.

In other news…we’ve had my little girl off dairy for like a week now.  We just stopped giving her milk and cheese.  No big deal really.  In the past she cared a LOT about milk…now she accepts our lame excuses that we “don’t have any” and drinks water with no fuss.  She has weird rash-like things going on in various places on her body, including her face.  This is the one on her leg:

IMG_2471

She’s had this for at least a month and it just doesn’t ever seem to change.  I finally took a picture because it’s just so weird that it doesn’t get better or worse.  It just stays there.  It doesn’t itch.  I keep in mind that our Enterolab results for her indicated that she has sensitivities to gluten, dairy, and many other things.  (Edited to add: It occurs to me that I never actually included her lab results in the blog.  I’ll add them to the bottom of this post, for those who are interested.)  When I called the lab the nurse I talked to said that the additional sensitivities can occur when the items of primary sensitivity are still in the diet (which we thought was gluten).  She’s been gluten free for sure since we took her out of daycare and moved back here, so at least 2 months, and very low gluten before that.  The dairy is new though, and I’m surprised she is adapting so well.  I’m wondering if her skin will start to clear up soon.   If it doesn’t I’ll have no idea what’s causing the skin issues.

************

Babygirl’s Enterolab Results:

Date: 12/18/2012

A + C) Comprehensive Gluten/Antigenic Food Sensitivity Stool Panel
(Combines Panels A and C at a discounted price)

Mean Value 11 Antigenic Foods    25 Units   (Normal Range is less than 10 Units)

Fecal Anti-gliadin IgA    299 Units   (Normal Range is less than 10 Units)

Fecal Anti-casein (cow’s milk) IgA    55 Units   (Normal Range is less than 10 Units)

Fecal Anti-ovalbumin (chicken egg) IgA    36 Units   (Normal Range is less than 10 Units)

Fecal Anti-soy IgA    37 Units   (Normal Range is less than 10 Units)

Add Gluten Sensitivity Gene Test to Panel A+C, A, C, D, or E at a discounted price
HLA-DQB1 Molecular analysis, Allele 1    0501

HLA-DQB1 Molecular analysis, Allele 2    0602

Serologic equivalent: HLA-DQ   1,1  (Subtype 5,6)

Interpretation of Mean Value 11 Antigenic Foods:  Overall, there was only a modest amount of immunological reactivity detected to these antigenic foods in terms of fecal IgA production.

Many foods besides gluten, cow’s milk, eggs, and soy are antigenic in their own right; the main classes of which include other grains, meats, nuts, and nightshades (potatoes being the primary food eaten from this latter class). Minimizing exposure to antigenic foods is an important component of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle to optimize immune system health. This is especially important for those with chronic abdominal symptoms and/or chronic immune/autoimmune syndromes, or for those who want to prevent them.

For immunologic food sensitivity testing, the actual numeric value (in Units) for any given test or for the overall average of a group of foods is important mainly for determining: 1) if the immune reaction is present or absent, and 2) in relative terms, the immune reaction to different foods tested in a given individual at a given point in time. It is not a score, per se, to be interpreted as a measure of clinical or immunological severity for that individual or between individuals. This is because the amount of IgA antibody made by a given person is particular for the immune function of that person. Furthermore, sometimes a person can display what can be viewed as immunological and nutritional “exhaustion,” whereby a more significant and symptomatic immunologic food sensitivity is accompanied by a lower positive measured anti-food antibody value (rather than a higher positive). In such an instance, following clinical improvement and improved nutritional status (while the suspect antigenic foods are withdrawn), values can actually be higher for a time before finally falling into the negative range after several years.

Thus, the overall average food sensitivity antibody value for this panel is an assessment of your overall humoral immunologic food reactivity, which can help determine if dietary elimination trials may help you. If the mean value is less than 10 Units, the humoral immune reactions can be considered absent (negative); if greater than or equal to 10 Units, they can be considered present. Rather than reporting the absolute value of a positive result for each individual food, since it cannot be considered as an assessment of severity, the results are reported in relative terms between the foods tested. This provides you with the knowledge of which foods are stimulating the most immune response which, in turn, is indeed the most practically applied information to dietary elimination trials. The report information that follows is based on these facts.

While all of the foods tested can be immune-stimulating, the hierarchy of reactions detected were as follows:

Food toward which you displayed most immunologic reactivity: Oat, Rice, Tuna, Beef
Food toward which you displayed intermediate reactivity: Corn, Chicken, Pork, White potato
Food toward which you displayed least immunologic reactivity: Almond, Cashew, Walnut

Within each class of foods to which you displayed multiple reactions, the hierarchy of those reactions detected were as follows:

Grains:
Grain toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Oat, Rice
Grain toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Corn

Meats:
Meat toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Tuna
Meat toward which you were next most immunologically reactive: Beef
Meat toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Chicken
Meat toward which you displayed the least immunologic reactivity: Pork

Nuts:
Nut toward which you displayed the most immunologic reactivity: Almond
Nut toward which you displayed intermediate immunologic reactivity: Cashew
Nut toward which you displayed the least immunologic reactivity: Walnut

Nightshades:
You displayed immunologic reactivity to white potato, the member of the nightshade family usually consumed most often and in greatest quantities. While this does not necessarily mean you would react to all other nightshade foods (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant), it is possible. In the realm of elimination diets for immunologic disorders, nightshades are usually eliminated as the entire food class (i.e., all four previously mentioned foods in this class). This is especially important to the clinical setting of arthritis.

Dietary Recommendation Based on Test Results to Individual Foods: This test panel was designed to guide your choices when building a new more healthful, less antigenic dietary plan. The results are delivered in such a way that you are not left with “nothing to eat,” but instead they guide you in avoiding the foods in each group that are most stimulating to your immune system. We discourage dietary changes that involve removing too many foods at once. This can lead you to feel too hungry too often, especially if adequate healthful replacement foods are not readily available. Dietary elimination (beyond gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free) is best approached over a period of weeks to months and sometimes years, removing one or two additional foods at a time, rather than removing many foods at once.

If you reacted to more than one of the grains, meats, or nuts, we recommend that you first eliminate from your diet the one food from that class you reacted to most strongly, while keeping the ones you reacted to less strongly. When you want to try and eliminate additional foods, do so in the order of the strength of reaction from highest, intermediate, to least. In the case of potato, you may want to eliminate it if you reacted positively to it.

You can use the hierarchal results from each specific class of food, within which you reacted to multiple antigens, to make the wisest dietary decision when choosing which food(s) from that class to keep in your diet. Choose the food(s) to which you were least reactive (or in the case of potato, non-reactive).

Avoiding all grains, most antigenic meats (such as these), and nightshades is an important part of the most optimized anti-inflammatory diet.

As nuts and seeds are a very healthful source of vegetarian protein and heart-protective oils and minerals, rather than avoiding all nuts and seeds, you can render nuts and seeds less antigenic, more digestible, and more easily tolerated by choosing the few that you seem to best tolerate overall, soaking a one-day supply in a glass jar filled with clean water for 4-8 hours (or for ease, overnight), and pouring off the water and rinsing before eating. The resultant soaked nuts or seeds can be eaten as is (alone or with fresh or dried fruit), blended into nut butters (by adding some water), or added to “smoothies.”

Interpretation of Fecal Anti-gliadin IgA:  The level of intestinal anti-gliadin IgA antibody was elevated, indicative of active dietary gluten sensitivity. For optimal health; resolution or improvement of gluten-induced syndromes (mainly falling into six categories abbreviated as NAAAGS – neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, asthma, abdominal, glandular deficiencies/hyperactivity or skin diseases); resolution of symptoms known to be associated with gluten sensitivity (such as abdominal symptoms – pain, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea and/or constipation, chronic headaches, chronic sinus congestion, depression, arthritis, chronic skin problems/rashes, fibromyalgia, and/or chronic fatigue); and prevention of small intestinal damage and malnutrition, osteoporosis, and damage to other tissues (like nerves, brain, joints, muscles, thyroid, pancreas, other glands, skin, liver, spleen, among others), it is recommended that you follow a strict and permanent gluten free diet. As gluten sensitivity is a genetic syndrome, you may want to have your relatives screened as well.

For additional information on result interpretation, as well as educational information on the subject of gluten sensitivity, please see the “FAQ Result Interpretation,” “FAQ Gluten/Food Sensitivity,” and “Research & Education” links on our EnteroLab.com website.

Interpretation of Fecal Anti-casein (cow’s milk) IgA:  Levels of fecal IgA antibody to food antigens greater than or equal to 10 Units are indicative of an immune reaction, and hence immunologic “sensitivity” to that food. It is recommended that for any elevated fecal antibody level to a highly antigenic food such as milk, that it be removed from your diet.

Interpretation of Fecal Anti-ovalbumin (chicken egg) IgA:  Levels of fecal IgA antibody to food antigens greater than or equal to 10 Units are indicative of an immune reaction, and hence immunologic “sensitivity” to that food. It is recommended that for any elevated fecal antibody level to a highly antigenic food such as egg, that it be removed from your diet.

Interpretation of Fecal Anti-soy IgA:  Levels of fecal IgA antibody to food antigens greater than or equal to 10 Units are indicative of an immune reaction, and hence immunologic “sensitivity” to that food. It is recommended that for any elevated fecal antibody level to a highly antigenic food such as soy, that it be removed from your diet.

Interpretation Of HLA-DQ Testing:  Although you do not possess the main HLA-DQB1 genes predisposing to celiac sprue (HLA-DQB1*0201 or HLA-DQB1*0302), HLA gene analysis reveals that you have two copies of a gene that predisposes to gluten sensitivity (any DQ1, DQ2 not by HLA-DQB1*0201, or DQ3 not by HLA-DQB1*0302). Having two copies of a gluten sensitive gene means that each of your parents and all of your children (if you have them) will possess at least one copy of the gene. Two copies also means there is an even stronger predisposition to gluten sensitivity than having one gene and the resultant immunologic gluten sensitivity may be more severe. This test was developed and its performance characteristics determined by the American Red Cross – Northeast Division. It has not been cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

For more information about result interpretation, please see http://www.enterolab.com/StaticPages/FaqResult.aspx

Stool analysis performed and/or supervised by: Frederick Ogunji, Ph.D., EnteroLab
Molecular Gene Analysis performed by: American Red Cross
Interpretation of all results by: Kenneth D. Fine, M.D., EnteroLab

Thank You For Allowing EnteroLab to Help You Attain Optimum Intestinal And Overall Health.

New Experiment

I am endlessly fascinated these days by the divide amongst those in the online weight loss community.  How do you lose weight?  I sure don’t know because I suck at it.  In the time that I’ve been writing in this blog – 14 months now – I’ve managed to gain a net total of 8 pounds.  This morning my weight was 199.  Teetering on the brink.

There are those who say it doesn’t matter what you eat – a calorie is a calorie.  If you eat less than you take in you’ll lose weight.  Yes, this is probably true.  We’ve all been on weight-loss diets designed to create a calorie deficit, and we’ve all lost weight, temporarily.  Then there are those in the Paleo community and in the low-carb community who say that calories aren’t the issue – it matters what you eat (and possibly when you eat as well), the object being to avoid foods that increase insulin.  I’ve been really holding on with both fists to the idea that I can eat whatever low-glycemic foods I want and lose weight…but it’s not happening.  I didn’t happen when I avoided all carbs for 6 months.

About a month ago I embarked upon a fat fast.  It was effective for losing weight – I lost about 5 pounds the first week and my body quickly entered a state of ketosis, but I suspect any 1200 calorie diet would be effective in this way.  I’m going to try a new experiment.  Here it is….Ready?

For 1-2 weeks I’m going to eat mostly fat – like between 80 and 90% fat, and almost no carbs.  How is this different from the fat fast?  I’m going to eat the same number of calories that I would currently eat to maintain my weight – between 2000 and 2200 a day.  If my weight hasn’t budged in a week, I will draw the conclusion that conventional wisdom is right in this regard: YOU NEED TO HAVE A CALORIE DEFICIT IN ORDER TO LOSE WEIGHT.

If I can lose weight eating mostly fat and eating NOTHING that has an effect on my blood sugar (or close to nothing), then I will conclude that the Paleo community is correct – it’s WHAT you eat, not HOW MUCH that matters.

I’ve been tracking using My Fitness Pal, but this app doesn’t do a great job of breaking down your daily nutrients into a nice pie chart with %.  Also I feel like it judges me.  Why can’t I just find an app that doesn’t have an opinion about how I’m doing, that just reports the facts?

Please join me on my high-fat N=1.