Solving A Mystery

My fabulous stretch of fabulousness crashed.  I felt so good for about 4 or 5 days there, which I attributed to pregnenolone, as that was the one thing that I added.  And then, I got depressed.

It began during a Zumba class.

Ray Peat fans will scold me for going to a Zumba class, or for participating in any form of cardio for that matter, but I did it knowing the risks.  During the class – that’s right, DURING the class, I started getting abdominal cramps – the ones you get before you get your period.  To be clear, I was just finishing my period.  And from that moment on I felt tired, lethargic, and depressed for the next 4 days.  So what was the problem?

Here are all of the things that could have possibly gone wrong:

1.  My pregnenolone high ran its course.  I did take another 300mg (a typical weekly dose) on Monday, and it didn’t make things better.  So I don’t think that was the problem.

2.  Free fatty acids (FFAs) released during Zumba class, which included estrogen that is stored in the fat cells.  This is a distinct possibility, and is one of the reasons Peat recommends avoiding strenuous exercise.  The FFAs containing PUFAs (….and estrogen) can be damaging if they’re released faster than the liver can process and eliminate them.

3.  I didn’t take my DIM and Calcium D-Glucarate for several days. This is possible.

4.  I was eating starches and not eating raw carrots.  The more I pay attention, the more I realize that starches are not my friend.  Peat would say they are food for bacteria, which increases endotoxin and/or serotonin in the bloodstream. Raw carrot is antibacterial and decreases endotoxin.  I have found it very difficult to give starches up,  but I have a new trick up my sleeve that I learned just yesterday.  More on this in a moment.

5. I drank alcohol.  Just a couple glasses of wine on a couple of different days, the last of which was Sunday night, the night before I started feeling crappy.  There’s something about the fermentation process that can increase estrogen in the body when you consume alcohol.  I’ll have to give it up for a while again to see if it makes a difference.  In the past I didn’t feel much different just from abstaining from alcohol.

So…many forms of misbehavior, and my health tanks on me again.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  Yesterday (Friday) I was starting to feel better.  I reversed most of the above to remedy the situation and it worked.  Then yesterday I ate starches again and didn’t eat any carrots, and had a glass of wine.  Today I feel like crap again.

Lessons learned:  Take my supplements, stop with the starches and the wine, eat carrots, stop with the Zumba.  Got it.

Not much of a mystery after all.

Oh and here’s my secret regarding starches, thanks to a thread on my Ray Peat Facebook page.  With starches we tend to eat salt…so assuming carbohydrate (sugar) intake is adequate, perhaps a craving for starches is really a craving for salt.  I tested this today while I was feeling very tempted by potatoes that my husband and daughter were eating.  Instead of having potatoes, I microwaved a couple ounces of cheese and sprinkled it heavily with salt.  It completely killed that craving for starches.  So now I’m asking myself before I eat something…do I want something salty, sweet, or savory?  Usually the answer is salty.  Sometimes sweet.  And if I pay attention and follow through my cravings seem to go away.

Updates and Things Learned

Ok, a few updates first…

1.  Had Vitamin D testing done.  Back a couple years ago Jack Kruse told me that I’d know for sure if my daughter was going to have hormonal problems (like myself and my mother) by testing her vitamin D level to see if it was low.  So I bought an at-home test from zrtlab.com.  Didn’t realize I needed 12 friggen drops of blood though, and I could never bring myself to administer the test with her itty bitty finger.  So I finally decided to use it on myself.  My vitamin D level is currently 67, after about 5-6 months of supplementing 10,000 IU about 4 days a week.

2.  Acute health problems are better now.  Finally, after several consecutive colds, I’m almost all better.  It’s been over 3 weeks.  Its been difficult to evaluate all the Ray Peat inspired interventions when I’ve been feeling like crap for other reasons.

3.  High blood pressureAs I mentioned in previous posts, my blood pressure has been particularly troublesome lately.  It’s been going higher and higher – yesterday at one point it was 160/106.  Holy Schnikeys!  It has increased since following Ray Peat’s recommendations to add salt to everything, in an effort to cause a hormonal change that would result in lower BP.  Unfortunately, this has not been my experience. I think what’s going on is unrelated to the salt, however, and is instead related to consuming so much liquid.  Today I didn’t add salt to anything, and the first half of the day I didn’t drink a ton of milk/OJ/coffee – instead I ate cheese, and a little OJ, and no coffee.  Well, my BP was down to a more respectable 136/88 without medication this afternoon.  Then before dinner I drank 16oz of milk and had a small meal…and I was REALLY full.  Now my BP is up to 159/98.   I tried to add magnesium: oral supplements, magnesium oil, epsom salt baths….Sometimes BP was a little lower afterward, but usually it went even higher.  So my conclusion….I’m DONE with all of the following, until further notice:  adding salt to beverages, drinking meals, supplementing with magnesium.  I’ll continue to salt food to taste, but that’s it.

In other news, I’m still a little in love with Dr. Ray Peat.  I listened to 2 of his interviews yesterday (this one and this one) and the man is brilliant.

Some things I’ve learned are important (for me, anyway) when following Peat’s nutritional advice:

  • My meals must be balanced.  They have to include carbs, protein, and fat for best results.
  • For me, meals should be small – a couple ounces of protein/fat and 2-3 times as much sugar/carbs.
  • Meals must be frequent – like, every 2-3 hours.
  • For me, starches are out.  I don’t feel good when I eat them – my mood changes and my metabolism lowers.
  • It’s amazing what you can learn if you take your temperature and pulse before and after meals. (More info on this below.)
  • I’ve learned that regardless of what I eat before bed I make stress hormones the second half of the night.  Peat says that it can take some time for the liver to adjust and be able to store enough glycogen to sleep 8 hours without stress hormones kicking in.
  • I’ve noticed throughout my day that when the stress hormones are about to kick in I get slightly more irritable, I feel colder, and I stop wanting to talk to people.  What’s cool is since I’ve been eating sugar I am MUCH more interested in talking to people and playing for long periods of time with my little girl.

I took notes on Peat’s latest KMUD interview, which became available a few days ago.  It was a call-in show, but a lot of the content of the actual interview focused on Hashimoto’s, and later on the significance of temperature/pulse taking.  Disclaimer: These are not direct quotes from Ray Peat; this is me paraphrasing – and by definition that means it’s my interpretation of what RP said.  Also, I only listened once, so don’t quote me.

Here are the notes I took while listening.

Regarding Hashimoto’s:

  • Hashimoto (in Japan) became interested in this because people in Japan have a very iodine-rich diet which blocks the function of the thyroid gland, which causes an increase in TSH to overcome the blockage.  Rising TSH makes the gland work harder as the organism shows signs of decreasing thyroid function.
  • If part of the body is stressed, the immune system is called in.  What we call an autoimmune disorder is just the immune system trying to clean up a mess.
  • Measuring the “severity” of the disorder by how many antibodies are present is misguided.
  • What we really want is to get TSH down.  TSH itself causes many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, increasing inflammation.
  • T4 (Thyroxine) is the standard treatment for Hashis. This will suppress the TSH, though some people need T3 to suppress the pituitary.
  • Women have more thyroid disease than men – estrogen interferes with the liver’s ability to convert T4 to T3.  If liver isn’t converting effectively and you give them T4 to treat the hashi’s you’re going to exacerbate their hypothyroid state.
  • Therefore with women it’s likely to be better to treat with “complete hormone” (T4/T3 combo, I think he means.)

Re: Pulse/Temperature

  • Hypothyroid (which I’m going to call “hypoT”) people have low tissue metabolism – circulation to extremities can be relatively poor – therefore when taking temp also note how cold your extremities feel.   If your temp is at all low and your extremities feel cold, your metabolism is probably low.  Same if you can’t eat many calories without gaining weight.
  • Healthy people should evaporate about 2 quarts of fluid in a day.  HypoT people tend to retain water.
  • Pulse and temp of fingers/toes in a cool room are more sensitive indicators than temp alone.
  • An ideal measure of metabolic rate would be measuring O2 input and CO2 output.

Interpreting temperature/pulse:

  • High starting (basal) temperature and then temp falls after breakfast = Stress hormones overnight.  RP says he’s seen this in someone who alternated between depression and mania.  When manic, not sleeping much, her temp would fall (adrenaline).  RP suggested she take T3 to keep pulse/temp steadier throughout the day.  Within a few days she stabilized.
  • High temp and normal pulse rate = Cortisol could be high in order to get enough heat to the extremities.  If this happens, adrenaline is lower to allow heat to escape.  If temp falls after you eat, pulse will get slower still.
  • Low starting temp and it falls further after breakfast = stress hormones plus hypothyroidism.
  • Low starting temp that doesn’t change after eating = probably didn’t eat the right things.  If you get enough sugar, protein, nutrients, and if the thyroid is functioning at all the liver should start producing T3 and warm the body up.
  • Low pulse that rises after breakfast = “T3 is going up from eating some carbohydrate and increasing their general energy, their blood is circulating more.”  RP has seen this most often in women when higher estrogen is blocking thyroid.  They get cold when they get hungry.  When they eat they warm up, pulse increases.
  • High pulse that rises after breakfast = Too much protein, not enough carbs to balance it.  If you already have hypoglycemia, this makes it worse and causes a surge of adrenaline.  If you feel good when the pulse goes up, good things are happening in your body.  If it doesn’t feel good that’s from eating too much protein in relation to carbohydrate.
  • High pulse which is lower after breakfast = That’s the carbohydrate lowering the adrenaline.  Temp goes up, pulse goes down.  This is good.
  • If your temperature hasn’t stabilized by 10-11AM = In a hypothyroid person (especially woman with high estrogen and low progesterone) temp/pulse might both fall later in the morning, or adrenaline may kick in with fast pulse.
  • If temp doesn’t reach 98.6 or pulse never gets over 70 in the afternoon = probably not optimal, blood tests might show some problems – might have high TSH indicating that you’re driving endocrine system very hard.  When things are running smoothly endocrine system doesn’t have to work very hard, tissues do all the work.
  • RP says he’s worked with fat people who would wake up every hour/hour and a half.  RP got them to set alarms to wake themselves up before these wake time and eat carbs.  Within a week they were sleeping through the night and they began losing weight.  They were increasing their blood sugar.  The Dawn Phenomenon (high fasting blood sugar) is the stress hormones rising at night.
  • On average people have the greatest ability to resist stress, recuperate from injury if temp/pulse is a little above average.

Random questions from callers:

  • A caller asks about the effects of radiation re: Fukushima – Keep your metabolic rate up – this accelerates the repair process faster than the injury.  Stress creates signals from the injured cells that travel through the rest of your body.  Progesterone and thyroid are protective against radiation.  Magnesium is the element that is most closely involved in repairing radiation damage after thyroid is activated.
  • Caller asks if Valerian (for sleep) is habit forming – RP says it’s a safe thing to take but it can be habit forming.

Will update with blood pressure results while implementing my new plan.

Sodium and Hypertension

I’m particularly interested in Dr. Peat’s thoughts on high blood pressure.  Mine climbed to “high” over the last year, beginning when I was under a lot of stress in California.  I decided to review and paraphrase his article, “When energy fails: Edema, heart failure, hypertension, sarcopenia, etc.”  Here are my notes:

  • Things start to fall apart with health when the body has trouble renewing cells and tissues.  Muscles and bones shrink and get weaker, fat increases while muscle decreases, collagen replaces cells. When cells aren’t renewed and collagen is used to patch up tissues, there is inflammation.
  • We should think of metabolism as what is needed to sustain cell/tissue regeneration.  If this is diminished, generalized inflammation develops. Things that interfere with energy production: Too much iron/not enough copper, endotoxin, PUFA accumulation, not enough thyroid hormone, increased nitric oxide, serotonin, histamine.
  • Preeclampsia (Toxemia of pregnancy) = a state of generalized inflammation.  Research showed it was caused by malnutrition, and is cured by adequate protein, salt, and calcium. Doctors used to recommend reducing salt intake to cure/prevent it, but this actually caused it to happen more.
  • If pregnant woman’s blood volume doesn’t increase to match the needs of the baby (or if it decreases as in Preeclampsia), blood pressure will increase.  Increased blood pressure is compensating for smaller volume of blood.
  • Regular old “essential hypertension” (the kind I have) also = less blood volume. In both preeclampsia and essential hypertension there is increased aldosterone, which causes a retention of sodium and loss of potassium and ammonium.  Reducing salt intake causes more aldosterone to be produced, while increasing salt lowers aldosterone.  Aldosterone causes capillaries to become leaky, causing new ones to grow.  Increasing salt lowers aldosterone and reduces this leakiness. 
  • Sodium helps maintain blood volume, which tells the kidneys to stop increasing blood pressure and aldosterone.  It also prevents edema and maintains blood volume. When energy metabolism fails (in diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyper estrogenism, and starvation), the body loses sodium. Eating carbohydrate, adding thyroid hormone, insulin, or progesterone increases retention of sodium.  Fructose is the best to consume for this.
  • Low sodium = Increase in adrenaline. Studies show that if people salt their food to taste and stop with the low-salt diets adrenaline drops and they sleep better.  PMS symptoms also improve.
  • Increased estrogen = sodium loss.  After age 30 the body starts producing more aldosterone and cortisol and less sex hormones.  Progesterone helps normalize sodium in the body and protects against harmful effects of aldosterone, excess cortisol, estrogen, and adrogens.
  • Stress increases the need for energy.  When glucose isn’t available cortisol and free fatty acids (FFAs) are formed.  These interfere with body’s ability to use glucose.Mainstream medicine still thinks glucose (sugar) causes diabetes.  But research shows that glucose is used for energy production, lowers FFAs, and regenerates cells.  FFAs are the destructive ones.
  • Aspirin decreases the release of FFAs, lowers aldosterone, helps to lower blood pressure if taken in the evening, to prevent FFA  increases at night.  Aspirin also increases insulin sensitivity.
  • Low salt diet increases FFAs, leading to insulin resistance, atherosclerosis.
  • All organs are affected by loss of control over water in the body.  “High blood pressure is one of the adaptations that helps preserve or restore energy production.”
  • Lowering inflammation and FFAs and improving body’s ability to utilize glucose will lower blood pressure.  Lowering BP without improving energy production (like with drugs) causes other problems.

Takeaway message:  Eat salt.  Salt food to taste.  If you have high blood pressure, gradually add more salt and allow hormonal changes to normalize sodium levels so kidneys can stop signaling to increase blood pressure.

OK!  Working on that.  I eat a lot of salt now…at least it seems like a lot.  At least a teaspoon a day.  I should start measuring.  My bloating is gone (i.e., aldosterone production has dropped so less edema), but blood pressure remains high.  I’ll keep at it.

Transition

My body isn’t happy today.  It started yesterday after I ate brown rice pasta.  Yes, I know it’s not Peat-ish.  I’m not a robot.

I’m doing the best I can to transition from a diet of almost no carbs to one in which I’m eating 200-300g of carbohydrate a day, including lots of things that haven’t crossed my lips for years (milk, orange juice, sugar).  I have never had a huge sweet tooth, and now most of my diet is sweet.  I’m not complaining – if this could cause positive changes in my health the change would be worth it.  Ok, well I guess I’m complaining a little…because I feel depressed.

Peat recommends eating salt:

One of the things that happen when there isn’t enough sodium in the diet is that more aldosterone is synthesized. Aldosterone causes less sodium to be lost in the urine and sweat, but it achieves that at the expense of the increased loss of potassium, magnesium, and probably calcium. The loss of potassium leads to vasoconstriction, which contributes to heart and kidney failure and high blood pressure. The loss of magnesium contributes to vasoconstriction, inflammation, and bone loss. Magnesium deficiency is extremely common, but a little extra salt in the diet makes it easier to retain the magnesium in our foods.

I have always tried to limit my salt intake because it immediately makes me retain water, which has to do with a high level of aldosterone.  Peatarians recommend adding salt to foods and beverages (no problem for me, because I LOVE salt), and gradually aldosterone levels drop and retained fluid is released.  I’m looking forward to that happening because right now I’m a bloated mess.  I don’t like feeling like this.

I’ve also become VERY sensitive to what I eat (as evidenced by the brown rice pasta yesterday…and I don’t have that much.  I started feeling depressed within an hour of eating it, and it has continued into today.).

Today I ate an almost completely Peat-friendly diet.  I’ve been entering everything into Cronometer so I can see how this diet stacks up nutritionally.  Check it out:

diet

What I ate today:  Milk, OJ, cheese, bone broth, eggs, shrimp, grapes, chocolate, and a little chicken.  As you can see it’s a pretty nutrient-dense diet.  The only things lacking are Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Chromium, and Magnanese. I think most of what’s lacking is in liver which I have 1-2 times a week now, and I’ll be supplementing Vitamins K and E.

Hoping tomorrow feels better.

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.

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.