Losing It

Excess body fat, that is.

Down 10.5 pounds as of this morning, since I started following Weight Watchers (WW) online program 3 weeks ago.  Truth be told, I have signed up for WW in the past but was unable to stick with the plan because I couldn’t tolerate any fruits and vegetables…and without produce this plan is near impossible.  What I like about it is that it’s really 100% positive – there’s no shaming or punishment for missteps.  There’s also no need to count calories or grams – I just put the food eaten into the online tracker and everything is assigned a points value based on nutrient composition. You can eat anything at all and still be “on plan” as long as you can work it into your points.  I have 30 points a day to “spend” however I want.  Fruits and vegetables are nearly all 0 points, so there’s never a need to be hungry.  Just eat.  There are also an extra 45 points per week to spend on anything at any time – so if I eat something that isn’t awesome there’s a forgiving points cushion there to catch me.

To give me more incentive to exercise I have also joined StepBet.  From their website:

StepBet is a fitness game that motivates you to be more active. Players “bet” on themselves to meet their personalized step goals during every week of the game, and win money if they do. The cash prize, accountability, and community support help you become more active while having fun!

If you hit your personalized step goals for the entire game, you split the pot with the other winners. That means you get your bet back plus a profit.

So I have 6 weeks of walking ahead of me with $40 on the line.  My Fitbit will report back to StepBet folks.

I also signed up for a DietBet (same company).  I’ve bet $100 that I’ll be down to 199.6 pounds by March 4th.  I’m within 2 pounds of that now, so I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.

Here’s what I ate yesterday:

today

I’d like to be clear once again that until I started taking Culturelle Probiotics, which dramatically altered my gut flora, I was unable to eat whole fruits or vegetables, starches, or fibers without becoming incapacitated with depression.  Now that my gut is working normally (maybe even optimally) I can eat these things and stick to a diet plan like WW.  Weight loss may come down to a certain macronutrient balance or even Calories-In-Calories-Out (CICO) – I don’t know for sure – but I do know that if you can’t tolerate healthy foods it’s much more difficult to make a long term change.

I think the probiotics also reduced systemic inflammation, causing hormonal changes (e.g., reduced cortisol) that are now allowing body fat to be released.  I spent months and months eating low-carb (even no-carb at times) and not understanding why other people I knew were able to lose eating that way while I didn’t.  I think my body was inflamed due to gut dysbiosis, putting me in a constant state of stress and making weight loss impossible.  It’s also possible I was just eating too much, but I was listening to hunger cues and never eating past that.

So…bottom line…maybe weight loss is as simple as CICO – but until my body was able to tolerate healthy low-calorie foods, a CICO approach wasn’t possible for me.  If you’re having trouble losing weight, I strongly recommend taking a good look at what may be going on in the gut.

Kill Phase

After writing my last post I started reading and following the Gut Health Protocol by John Herron.  The author has a Facebook group and willingly gives guidance to the confused and sickly masses.  An all-around decent and altruistic guy.

So, a summary of my gut-struggles thus far.  Interestingly, a gut problem was the last thing I suspected over the years, since I don’t have much in the way of GI distress.  After finally connecting my awful mood swings to eating certain things (fiber and starch) I tested for SIBO (it was negative). Stool testing, however, indicated there is an overgrowth of a bacteria called Citrobacter Braakii.  What I know is that whenever I eat starch or fiber – with few exceptions – I become depressed, tired, unable to pay attention, irritable, and basically a giant pain in the ass to live with. I’ve learned that gram-negative bacteria  (Citrobacter Braakii is one) put out lipopolysaccharides (aka “LPS”, aka “endotoxin”) when they grow.  This bacteria seems to feed on fiber and starch, and the only way I’ve been able to avoid this debilitating depression is to completely avoid fiber and starch.  This leaves out many fruits, vegetables, and all starches – and it’s much worse when those starches are the low-glycemic variety, such as brown rice, lentils, and beans.

So why is this a problem?  Can’t I just avoid starches and call it a day?  Well, sure…and I have for the last 2-3 years.  However, in that time I’ve developed type-2 diabetes and gained about 20 pounds (now about 50 pounds overweight), and I have high levels of persistent hunger despite eating over 2000 calories a day.  When I eat simple carbohydrates (non-starches) my triglycerides shoot up to 500 and I gain weight rapidly.  I’m unable to lose weight, even following a LCHF diet with 98% dilligence for months at a time. I suppose I could get over the vanity aspect of being obese if my health was improving, but it’s not.  I’m taking 2 Big Pharma medications to control high blood pressure, and I’m going against doctor’s recommendations by not taking the others she has prescribed (statins and Metformin). My labs indicate that I have a high level of chronic inflammation, despite diet changes. None of this is getting better.

I’d like to be able to eat low-glycemic carbohydrates that will keep me full and satisfied between meals, so I can follow a lower-calorie diet.  I’m also tired of getting depressed and irritable – because despite being pretty damn vigilant, it’s really hard to avoid all starches and fiber all the time(Side note: I’ve actually had to put a “yelling jar” in my house to ameliorate the psychological damage I do to my kid by yelling at her.  Every time I yell I put a dollar in the jar that she and her dad can spend together.  She takes great joy in this.)  I’m also concerned about my prognosis.  Type-2 Diabetes, LPS toxicity, and my genetic profile (APOE4 gene) likely adds up to Alzheimer’s Disease in my future.  I’m fairly sure the inflammation that is being caused by the LPS put out by this pathogen is responsible for a lot of my health problems (check out that C-Reactive Protein…not good.)

My Great Garlic Experiment (thanks to Ray Medina) a couple years ago gave me temporary freedom from the beast – the depression – the pathogen.  I felt much better but stopped using garlic when I started getting bloated all the time.  (I now realize I probably let yeast overgrow by not using probiotics at the right time or in the right amount.)  A couple weeks ago I started using raw garlic again along with some other antimicrobials and antifungals recommended in the Gut Health Protocol.  I’m currently in the kill phase and feeling pretty great.

John Herron recommends fermented foods starting day 1, including during the kill phase.  I’ve been eating (and starting to crave) unpasturized sauerkraut and kefir, and have also been taking soil-based probiotics – several hours apart from antimicrobials – twice per day.  Lots of good coming in and lots of killing of the bad.  In my next post I’ll detail exactly what supplements I’m using. My goal is to fix my gut problem – that means killing off The Beast, improving the integrity of the intestinal wall, adding probiotics and fermented foods, and eating LCHF (for now).  I’m taking a lot of supplements right now, but it feels like the right thing to do.  The kill phase will be another couple of weeks or so….maybe longer.

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.

The Magnesium Experiment

I’ve decided to try something for 30 days. I’ve recently had testing done that shows I have a lot of systemic inflammation – the precursor to lots of chronic diseases.  I remember Kevin Cottrell did a guest blog post on Jack Kruse’s site about reducing inflammation.  He used multiple forms of magnesium and combined it with Cold Thermogenesis (aka freezing one’s ass off) and within a month dropped is hs-CRP from 5.4 to 0.44.  At the time I thought to myself that those were impressive results but we don’t know which of the two interventions he did simultaneously actually had the impact.  Was it the magnesium?  Or the freezing off of his ass?  It sure would have been nice if he would have separated out the two and tested after each one.

Well, I’ve already tried freezing my ass off (see posts from 4/15/12 through 6/22/12).  I didn’t actually do specific testing before/after to measure the effect of CT on my body, so I can’t say that it didn’t lower inflammation – maybe it did, but if it did the improvement was temporary – my hs-CRP results in March and again in November were both 8-point-something.  I know I didn’t lose weight though, which was my primary objective.  It was expensive to implement because my tap water wasn’t very cold, it was time consuming, and it was incredibly uncomfortable during the re-warming period.  Not something I’m willing to try again.

What I am willing to do though is take 30 days and bombard my system with lots of magnesium to see if that has an effect. Two days ago I got a Magnesium RBC test (should have the results soon) and I already have my hs-CRP baseline (13.58). I’ve been following the Magnesium Advocates group on Facebook.  It seems low magnesium can have many dramatic consequences, including anxiety attacks, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and systemic inflammation.  I’m just starting to learn about the scope of this mineral’s effect on our bodies, but I know enough to know that I’m probably deficient.  Apparently it’s very difficult to get enough magnesium naturally in food/lifestyle because the soils that grow our food are depleted and we’re just not spending much time in the ocean (or near it).  For my experiment I’ll be using Mg drops, Mg oil, Mg oral supplements, and epsom salt baths, per Morley Robbins Protocol for Restoring Magnesium.

I’ll test again when I’m done and report back.

In the meantime, take a look at my blood sugar now:

Untitled

Wow…nice highs and lows there!  I think it’s safe to say I’ve (literally) crossed the line over to Type II Diabetes at this point.  Not formally diagnosed, however.  I refuse to go to a doctor and go on prescription meds if there’s something I can do to fix this.

So here’s my overall plan.  I’m pretty much done looking for some guru to tell me what to eat.  I’m going to eat what makes my body feel best –  a high protein breakfast, and pretty much an elimination of white carbs (wheat, corn, rice, any kind of flour, and most sweeteners).  In the past when I’ve done this I don’t have the highs and lows in mood and blood sugar.  It’s something I can live with. I’ve eaten this way for months at a time and my blood sugar and hs-CRP were still high, so I don’t think this is going to confound my magnesium experiment. I’d like to keep juicing (mostly vegetables with some fruit added for flavor) because I’m just not interested in eating fruits and veggies every day and I know I need those micronutrients.  However, if my blood sugar doesn’t come down at the end of this 30 days, that’s gone too.

For exercise I’ll be riding my bike and doing yoga when the urge hits.  Nothing organized or stringent.

I’ll blog as I go with updates.

Virgin Diet – Day 4

For the first time this week I really wanted carbs today.  I suspect this is related to drinking wine last night.  Didn’t give in though – still adhering closely to the rules of the Virgin Diet.  I have learned a couple of things about myself in the last few days.

I’ve always loved sushi – today I found out it’s not nearly as delicious when it’s not drenched in soy sauce (which is made of wheat and soy – 2 items banned by this diet).  Still good though, but not head-exploding good as it usually is for me.  Also, I learned that when I accidentally let my blood sugar get too low it takes me a long time to recover and for the next several hours – even after eating and after feeling relatively full – my appetite stays high.  A couple days ago it was 5 or 6 hours after breakfast – I was enjoying not thinking much about food and just sort of let it ride and skipped lunch.  Then around 3PM my blood sugar dropped quickly and I felt ravenous.  I was at a store and there was nothing on-plan to eat with me or in my car.  I was feeling pretty bad by the time I actually got to eat – my blood sugar had dropped further and I was really irritable.  I ate shrimp and vegetables and a broth-based soup – enough that I should have been full…but I just wanted to keep eating.  I ate probably the equivalent of another dinner over the next several hours – I just felt driven to keep eating.  It was like my body was programmed to stock up to avoid the inevitable next famine.   Anyway, I stayed on plan with everything I ate, and the next day the scale was the same.  If I had eaten even one piece of bread though, I know it would have all been stored as fat.

The scale today was down another pound – so that’s 2 pounds since I started this, and I’m not attempting to eat low carb/ketogenic/low salt – I’m just avoiding those 7 foods.  I’m eating rice and potatoes and drinking wine.  The loss today could be dehydration from drinking wine last night, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

So far it’s a tentative thumbs up for the Virgin Diet.

What I’ve eaten today:

Breakfast: Wild-caught salmon fillet sauteed in coconut oil and 1/2 of an avocado.

Lunch: 2 grass-fed hot dogs with dijon mustard

Snack: sushi (minus soy sauce but with rice and wasabi)

All I drink is water.  I do use caffeine pills – not the greatest thing ever if you have adrenal fatigue, but I don’t care.  I take in the equivalent most days of one cup of coffee.  I actually think my adrenal fatigue is getting better.  When I was in California and for the first few weeks after getting back here I had a very hard time getting out of bed in the morning.  Now it’s much easier – closer to how it was before we went West. I also get tired earlier at night.  This indicates to me that my cortisol is higher in the morning and lower at night again.  So things seem to be turning around for the better.

Studying the Adrenals

The PA got back to me and yes, she does prescribe BHRT for women who are still menstruating.  Yay!

I’ve been reading more about adrenal fatigue around the interwebs.  I’m starting to understand the role of physiological stress (not just psychological stress) in adrenal burnout.  I’ve been sort of blaming my pedal-to-the-metal approach to life for my current adrenal/cortisol issues…but it really looks like a life of food intolerance made things a lot worse too.  Apparently (and keep in mind this information is from “the internet” so I’m not sure of it’s credibility), cortisol is an anti-inflammatory.  So whenever you do something that causes inflammation (eating grains or dairy, for example, or depriving yourself of sleep), the adrenals have to put out cortisol to deal with it and quell the inflammation.  Years and years of this and you get adrenal fatigue.  I was reading about adrenal fatigue instead of taking a nap yesterday, while the little one was napping.  I just didn’t want to nap – I wanted to read.  Then I got to a website that said,

When we force ourselves to push through that groggy afternoon slump time, it triggers a stress response from our adrenals, forcing them to produce more cortisol when what they are trying to tell us is that they need a break!

So I put the iPad down and took a nap.

Same thing last night – I had a lot to do but instead listened to my body at 9:30PM and went to bed.  I think that’s just what I have to do now.  Stop pushing so hard, start listening to my body, and start learning to say no.  I like this website about Adrenal Fatigue, by the way…lots of interesting information that seems to support other things I’ve been reading.

My body seems to have stopped with the poor temperature regulation and weird hormonal surges/dips.  It’s been about 6 days off CT.  I was listening to Dr. Kruse’s webinar on hormones.  It’s very densely packed with information – it’s literally an hour and a half of him talking very fast.  At least I think it is – I only made it 30 minutes so far.  He did say, regarding the adrenals, that CT increases CRH and ACTH, which lead to more cortisol output.

The hypothalamus sends CRH to the pituitary, which responds by secreting ACTH. ACTH then causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol into the bloodstream

So lots of reasons to get back into the water.  I think when I resume CT in a week or two I’m going to try something different.  I notice when I was just doing the Leptin Rx with no CT my sleep got very regular – I didn’t even need an alarm to wake up.  I think I started feeling stressed and drained after starting CT because I was doing the baths at night.  They increased cortisol and made me feel very productive and not much like sleeping.  Instead I’m going to try to take them in the morning.  I’m not extremely excited about a 50 degree bath first thing in the morning (well, second thing…after the BAB), but I seriously need to start honoring  my sleep at night. So that’s what I’m looking at.  The baths may be shorter on days I have to be at work very early.  This will no doubt cut into my blogging time, most of which is in the morning.  I’ll have to work it all out.  I really just need to learn to prioritize.

One thing I’m not clear about though…I have heard that cortisol overproduction causes increased belly-fat.  I think it is the case then that it’s the overproduction that precedes adrenal exhaustion, and that overproduction leads to belly fat.  If you keep on pushing through you get to where I am now – adrenals are fatigued (but not dead yet!) and now under-producing cortisol.  So how come my belly fat doesn’t go away now that I don’t have so much cortisol?  Maybe I’ll go back and read Dr. K’s blog on this matter.  Usually I start to understand him after reading for the 4th or 5th time.

Currently my social needs and my me-time is out prioritizing my health.  That’s just not right.  I need to have a real heart-to-heart with myself about this.

Oh well…don’t have time. 🙂

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Citation: http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/A/adrenocorticotropic_hormone.html