Progest E and Milk

My cycle is super screwed up.  If you’re male or otherwise offended by discussion of my period, I give you permission to leave.

Ok, where was I?  Yeah.  My cycle.  In the last 2 months I’ve had my period 3 times.  And before that it was 10 weeks with no period.  So a bit unpredictable.  I’m not sure what’s up with the current extremely short cycles I’ve been having lately – 3 of em! – since October 1st…but I’ll tell you what.  I don’t like it.  And it’s not like they’re these cute little 3-4 day jobs either – no, they last 7 or 8 days each.  So I pretty much have my period, have a 10 or 12 days off, and then I have another one.  Awesome!

It wasn’t always like this.  For a long time I had 25-day cycles.  Every 25 days I’d get my period.  It was a bit shorter than most people – I guess the average cycle for most women is 28 days – but it was predictable.  Then almost 3 years ago I had a miscarriage.  Since then they’ve been all over the place…sometimes long cycles, sometimes short.  It makes it very hard to predict exactly when I’m going to be really really moody.

Well today was 10 days after day 1 of my most recent period.  My mood was not good.  I felt like killing someone.  I had a headache.  These are not common things for me anymore, especially since I started eating Peat-style.  I took a guess and decided that maybe I’m ovulating today – it’s exactly halfway through a 20 day (ridiculously short) cycle, so maybe…?  I just ordered Progest E, which Dr. Peat recommends for balancing excess estrogen in the system, particularly beginning on ovulation day and throughout the rest of the cycle.  So today I took 3 drops of it.  My wanting to kill someone went away within 10 minutes.  All of my other obnoxious hormone-related symptoms went away within a couple hours.  I feel back to normal.  Placebo effect?  Maybe.  Or maybe it actually did what it’s supposed to do.  I’ll keep taking it for the next 10 days.

In other news…my fasting blood glucose was 129 today – higher than I like it, of course – but I’m not surprised.  I find it’s higher in the AM if I don’t eat in the middle of the night, due to the release of stress hormones.  Still, my body isn’t storing enough glycogen to get through the night.  It’ll come in time I’m sure.  But today I decided to test my post-prandial blood sugar to see if I’m actually showing signs of insulin resistance.  From what I understand, you want your blood sugar to be below 140 after 2 hours.  So I ate breakfast (orange juice with sugar added and cheese), and tested it 2 hours later – it was 118.  Oh good.  Well, I’m not too worried then.  I’ll keep tracking my fasting blood glucose though because it makes a nice graph.

So I took my little girl off of milk about 6 months ago.  I did this because Jack Kruse told me to and I trusted him without requiring much explanation or proof.  I no longer feel that he’s trustworthy, and I now realize there are a lot of nutrients in milk that she should have access to.  So I’ve been gradually introducing dairy again into her world – first with butter, then with cheese, and a few days ago I started mixing regular cow’s milk in with the flax milk she currently drinks.  In the last few days she’s developed skin problems – 2 different rashes on her face and a small rash on her arm.  She tolerated the cheese and the butter really well, so I think there’s some additive in the milk that isn’t working for her.  I hope that’s all it is.  I’ve been giving her liver to make sure she has enough Vitamin A – and oh my god, she loves it!  She never asks for more meat, and she asked for more liver twice!

Speaking of Jack Kruse, I prowl around his forum now and then to see what he’s up to.  He seems to be recommending the use of crystals now.  *shm*  I could say more, but it seems pointless and a little mean.  I will say this though – several of the regulars over there have been complaining of iodine supplementation causing thyroid problems.  Be careful with that stuff, people.  High TSH is not as meaningless as some people would have you believe.  (To Jack’s credit, he doesn’t recommend iodine supplementation, so I can’t point the finger at him for that one).

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Ray Peat Is Awesome

I have been wanting to write this post for 2 days but my daughter has been sick…and when she’s sick she’s not sleeping and then I’m not sleeping.  So I’ve been out of my routine.  But still really excited to write this post.

The things I’m learning are CRAZY.  I mean CRAZY.  Everything I thought I knew about nutrition was undone when I went low carb.  I learned that saturated fat was good (not bad!) and that high cholesterol does not mean I’m statin-deficient.  I learned that people and companies and even entire governments lie and the lies continue on and on and on for decades until an entire nation is fat and blaming their mother for their fatness. I learned that calories in/out is not how you get fat or thin.  I learned that I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my body because I didn’t have the right information to help myself get healthy.  It wasn’t that I “lacked motivation,” was “sabotaging” myself, or was doing any of those other things popular psychology makes us think about ourselves when we’re overweight.

I lived pretty happily eating low carb/Paleo for a while.  About 6 months, actually.  And then it stopped being easy and it stopped working.  I started having cravings and finding it impossible to stick to for any stretch of time.  I gained 20 pounds and have been unable to lose them.  I didn’t blame the diet though, I blamed myself for coping poorly with a very stressful situation.  Well, I was wrong.  A low-carb diet just isn’t good long term.  It comes with a very high metabolic price tag.

And NOW, well, now I’m learning that there are even MORE misconceptions about health and nutrition.  Here are some of the Low-Carb/Paleo rules that I’ve recently learned are simply not true:

  1. Sugar is bad.
  2. Dairy is bad.
  3. Fructose is bad.
  4. A ketogenic diet rocks.

Sugar gets a bad rep because it eats up nutrients really quickly (raises your metabolism) and if you don’t have a nutrient-rich diet you’re going to have problems (like, acne, cavities, heart palpitations).  Dairy is a great source of macronutrients and micronutrients and also raises the metabolism. Fructose is an excellent (and low-glycemic) source of carbohydrate and when eaten as fruit or juice it comes with an array of important nutrients.  A ketogenic diet may work for losing weight (it didn’t for me, but it does for some folks)…but over time it results in suppression of the thyroid making a loss almost impossible to maintain and remain healthy.

So what causes people to gain weight and become unhealthy?  Dr. Peat says the answer is stress hormones.  When you don’t give your body the basic nutrition it needs (e.g., depriving it of what it needs to make glucose for energy) it adapts to keep you alive by raising stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, and others, which effectively slow down the metabolism to cope. Other types of stress also raise stress hormones – emotional stress, allergies, exposure to cold (yeah, I said it).

But here’s probably the coolest thing I’ve learned lately.  Those following Ray Peat’s wisdom gauge their metabolic health in part by measuring their temperatures and heart rates (HR) throughout the day. By doing this I’ve learned something very interesting.  When I eat something that causes physiological stress my temperature drops over the next hour – usually a degree or so.  Typically that is paired with an increase in HR and an unpleasant mood change/fatigue. I’m learning that these are classic signs that stress hormones have increased in my system…and that as long as stress hormones run the show I’m going to remain overweight and unhealthy.

I tested pork chops – major temp drop and heart rate increase, plus my throat and eyes became itchy and my nose ran.  It actually caused a histamine response (which increases inflammation!).  Having never had that reaction from pork before I asked my friends on the Ray Peat Facebook page what was going on.  The answer I got was this: when you start eating a non-inflammatory diet and then introduce something crappy, you’ll be much more sensitive to it.   Huh…really?  So what else is my body hating on?

I tested beef – just regular supermarket beef – not grass-fed.  Yes…a temperature drop and my throat got itchy.  I tested table sugar, coconut sugar, orange juice, milk, cheese – all of these brought my temperature up and increased heart rate somewhat – indicating an increase in metabolism (good!).  Brown rice pasta =  temp drop, increase in HR = stress hormones (plus I felt tired).  I tested candy corn, which I thought would be a thumbs up because it’s mostly sugar, but it made me feel like killing someone, plus my temp dropped and heart was racing.  Stress hormones.  I tested chocolate with soy lecithin in it – temp and HR stayed the same, so maybe a mildly poor reaction, as I would expect a temp increase from the sugar.

Well, I’m done experimenting for now.  All of the things Ray Peat says to eat have caused a positive reaction, and all the things he says to avoid (grains, additives, industrial meats) caused a poor reaction.  I think the man knows what he’s talking about.  When I just eat dairy (milk, cheese), orange juice, eggs, sugar, and salt I feel awesome!  My energy level is high and I feel happy and peaceful.  (There’s certainly more to it than just those few foods – I’ll get into protein sources in another post.)

I’ve just started tracking what I eat so I’ll give a macronutrient breakdown in a future post as well.

Orange Juice: The Good, The Bad, the Disguised Grapefruit

Not all orange juice is created equally.

Well, that’s not completely true – I suppose all OJ is “created” equally, to the extent that it’s “created” in the first place, but industry really mucks it all up.  Ray Peat recommends drinking lots of milk and orange juice (ideally 2 quarts of milk and 1 quart of OJ daily). He states the following:

A daily diet that includes two quarts of milk and a quart of orange juice provides enough fructose and other sugars for general resistance to stress, but larger amounts of fruit juice, honey, or other sugars can protect against increased stress, and can reverse some of the established degenerative conditions.

I haven’t talked much about Peat’s theories on nutrition and health, but suffice it to say the conclusions that he’s drawn (including the one above) are all directed toward increasing metabolism and decreasing physiological and metabolic stress.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this at some point, but I’m still learning and don’t want to get it wrong.

Anyway, it sure would be nice to be able to just waltz on into the local megalomart and buy a half gallon of Tropicana and call it a day, wouldn’t it?  Plunk down $3 and be good for at a few days?  Doesn’t work like that.  I don’t know if this happens to everyone but over the last 2 weeks I was having serious digestive problems every time I would drink commercial OJ.  I did some research and found out that the OJ industry uses all kinds of additives and enzymes to get the juice to look and taste the way it does.  In some, an enzyme is added to juice to dissolve the pulp, thus producing “pulp free” OJ. Also, if the juice is from concentrate it’s probably got fluoridated water added to it. This list has been helpful for discerning exactly what I’m drinking.

So I was getting discouraged – every kind I tried gave me problems – even the Trader Joe’s Organic Pulp-Free Not From Concentrate juice, which the above list indicates does not include flavor packs, enzymes, or other ickys.  The only OJ I’ve been able to ingest without problems has been fresh-squeezed.  A couple of experiments I haven’t tried yet are buying juice that’s sold in glass – maybe it’s something in the paper/plastic container that causing me problems?  Another tip from a Ray Peat Facebook fan group was to add baking soda to reduce the acidity.  Hm…maybe.  Anyway, I haven’t tried those things yet.

So I’ve been squeezing fresh oranges…which isn’t cheap.  At the local store it costs $5-6 for a bag of 10 oranges, which yields about 2 quarts of OJ.  That’s 2 days worth for one person, but my husband drinks it too…so if each of us drank a quart a day (which he probably won’t do…at least not at first), that’s a $180/month beverage habit!  I need to just get over that though, because I’ll be eating a lot less of other things (like meat).  Still trying to get past my low-carb/epi-paleo brainwashing that says sugar – and especially FRUCTOSE is the devil’s work.  I’ll take some time.

A tip from me to you…don’t try to buy cheap oranges at Aldi thinking you’ll be getting a great deal, at $4 a bag.  I juiced two bags of Aldi oranges into one big bowl today.  Got it partitioned out into pint-sized Ball jars…and then drank some.  It tasted terrible…like grapefruit.  At least some of those “oranges” were NOT oranges (although they were orange).  Had to dump the whole thing.  Lesson learned.

There’s truly no way to skimp on your health.

OJ and Milk and Salt, Oh My

I’ve been trying to follow some of the diet recommendations cobbled together by followers of Ray Peat.  Dr. Peat has a Ph.D. in Biology and has written lengthy and seemingly well-researched articles outlining his theories on nutrition and health.  Although he hasn’t come out and written a diet protocol (and appears happy to share his knowledge with the world for free), he has a lot of devoted followers around the web.  I was intrigued by his thoughts because they are Just. So. Different. from what everyone else thinks.  I mean, there’s mainstream (eat less exercise more), and then there’s counterculture (low carb/high fat/paleo) and then there’s Ray Peat.  Ray Peat makes low carb/high fat look mainstream.  If he was a planet, he’d be Pluto.  If he was an animal he’d be a bongo.  If he was an astrophysical concept, he’d be dark matter.

Intriguing, yet obscure.

Those who follow his teachings advocate increasing metabolic rate by eating lots and lots of sugar – preferably orange juice for it’s micronutrient properties – up to hundreds of grams of sugar per day, and drinking lots of and lots of milk – up to 2 quarts per day – for the calcium.  They recommend adding salt and/or sugar to milk or OJ, again to boost metabolism.  Protein should be eaten in moderation (about 100g/day).  Vegetables and exercise are a waste of time at best and harmful at worst.  Shellfish and liver should be consumed around once per week.  It’s all very well thought out, and as I mentioned, very well annotated and documented. I would have to spend a LOT more time combing through his writings to really understand where these conclusions come from.    I haven’t devoted that much time.  But just for kicks I decided to try out eating this way for a few days, just to see how I feel.

I was concerned about eating all that sugar.  One of my main problems is my struggle to lower my fasting blood sugar (and probably my post-prandial blood sugar, but I haven’t been testing that).  I was sure this would tip me over the end to full on hyperglycemia, so I haven’t been eating HUNDREDS of grams of sugar, but I’ve been drinking about 3 16-oz servings of OJ per day for a few days, each of which contains 44g of sugar – around 132g right there.  I’ve eaten some starch also – I’ve had rice one day (in the evening) and some gluten-free bread here and there.  I’ve also eaten some gluten-free cookies (one each day for the last few days).  (Note: Peat does not appear to advocate much starch intake, so my experiment is not without confounding variables.)

Well, the last few days my blood sugar has hovered between 95 and 110 – lower than it was when I was eating low-carb.  Interesting…eating more fruit sugar does not make blood sugar higher…not within 3 days, anyway.

How do I feel?  Well, I initially felt alright.  It was kind of nice tasting something sweet after so long not doing so.  It’s been literally YEARS since I’ve had more than 10-20 grams of sugar in one day.  I didn’t seem to have the hypoglycemia when I got hungry anymore…I just got gradually hungry instead of having my blood sugar bottom out several times a day.

What I didn’t love so much – heartburn…from all the OJ?  I had to raid the 2-year old jar of antacids in the back of the linen closet.  I haven’t needed them since I was pregnant 4 years ago, but I’ve needed them several times over the last few days.  Also lots of napping.  I seem to be taking a 2-hour nap every day.  That could be from adjusting to the T3 – maybe I’m not sleeping as soundly at night as I was before?  Or it could be Reactive Hypoglycemia from the sugar?  I haven’t needed naps during the day since the last time I ate lots of carbs, over 2 years ago.  Also I feel like I’m retaining water from eating lots of salt.

In any case, I’ve decided to table the Ray Peat diet for a while and just see how my body responds to T3.  Later on I may try this again.

Weaning off Dairy

My poor hormonal balance led to some severe mood swings yesterday.  I couldn’t even write, I was so fatigued and so low.  My life felt completely sucky for a day.  I know it’s the hormones now.  There was a time depression really felt like something was wrong outside of me.  Now I know when I feel that way there’s something wrong with my biology.

On Friday my Wiley Protocol BHRT hormones arrived in the mail.  I felt like this:

Only, you know, substitute the word “hormones” for “phonebook.”  Now I just need my TOM to start and we’re all set.  The data I’ve been collecting indicates that the last time I had a terrible, no good, very bad, hormonal day I got my period 2 days later.  We’ll see if that has any predictive power.

I wanted to mention….Going slow was definitely the right thing to do, as far as weaning our 2-year old off of dairy.  After my consult with Dr. K., it became clear to me that we were going to have to get her off dairy (she is already off grains), given the hormonal disruption in my lineage, which I’ve likely passed on to her.  It’s been taking time for her to learn to replace the nutrition in milk with other food.  Here’s what we’ve been doing:

  1. Discontinued cheese right away.  She liked other snacks just as much, and milk was really the bigger issue because she loves it.
  2. We reduced from unlimited milk to two 8-oz servings a day.  She got one with breakfast and one after her nap with lunch.  They were given to her regardless of whether or not she asked, and never outside these two times.  What this did is detach the delivery of the milk from her requests for it, and made it time-of-day-dependent rather than request-dependent.  The purpose of this was to remove any illusion on her part that she had control over when or how often she got milk, which should result in her requests for milk to stop.  Also, it was clear to both parents what the schedule was because it didn’t change day to day.
  3. Every other day we would reduce her total milk consumption 1 oz.  So basically the first two days she got 16 oz each day, divided into the 2 servings.  The next two days she got 15 oz each day, divided into the 2 servings.  We wrote on our kitchen calendar how many total ounces she was getting each day so there was no question regardless of which parent was there.
  4. We found a substitute that she also likes.  Ice water.  She loves playing with ice cubes.  Whenever she would ask for milk rather than just saying “no” we offer her ice water instead, which involves a whole ritual of her helping to put the ice cubes in the cup.  If regular ice cubes hadn’t been enticing enough we could have made them different colors.  Didn’t need to though.  Now she asks for ice water instead of milk about 80% of the time.  (But she still gets the 2 servings a day regardless of whether or not she asks.)
  5. Now we’re gradually reducing  her daily intake.  We started with 16 ounces (8oz 2x a day) and now we’re down to 11oz (6 oz with breakfast and 5 oz with lunch).  The reduction schedule will continue until she’s off of it completely.
  6. We’ve increased seafood, high fat meats, fruits and veggies for her, to make sure the nutrition she was getting in milk (fat, calcium, and vitamin D) are still in her diet.

I know there are some hard-to-find dairy alternatives…A2 vs A1 dairy, goats milk…?   I don’t know much about these things.  What I do know is that she’s only 2 and her memory processes are still very much in development.  As long as she’s getting the nutrition she needs from other foods she isn’t likely to remember how much she liked milk and cheese.  The trick then will be to try to control other sources of dairy and grains in her life – like, from well-meaning child care providers.  Right now we’re raising her 24 hours a day, but there may come a time she’s in day care.  At that point I hope we’re no longer living in corn country.  People around here just don’t get it.  Anyway, I’ll keep updating as we go with this process.