Low Stress = Happy

I think most people (particularly non-Peat folks) would see the title of this post and think that by “stress” I mean emotional stress.  I don’t mean that, although emotional stress certainly is a joy killer.  I mean stress hormones, which can be caused by emotional and environmental factors, as well as biological processes that aren’t functioning optimally for one reason or another.

I’m still taking niacinamide and aspirin, 100mg of each, 3 times a day to inhibit fatty acid release (and thus to inhibit cortisol/stress).  I can really tell a difference in my mood now when I don’t take them.  I feel ok, but there’s definitely a more *happy* feeling when I do take them.  I think it’s stress hormones that have kept me from feeling that sense of happiness, and when I do the things that inhibit them I feel pretty great.

So to inhibit cortisol, here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Every time I eat I make sure there’s some kind of fruit/juice/sugar involved, some kind of fat, and some kind of protein.  If I don’t overdo it on the carbohydrate I don’t have any blood sugar issues.  Previously when I was eating fruit/sugar I was drinking 8 oz of orange juice at a time – now I only drink 2-3 oz at a time, and it’s always paired with protein/fat.
  • Eating frequent small meals.
  • I’m keeping lights on at night until I go to sleep, rather than spending time awake in the dark.
  • Taking niacinamide/aspirin 3x a day.  I’ve also started taking cynomel (T3) once a day, just 1 mcg.  I actually cut up a single 25mcg tablet into 25 pieces and I take one itsy bitsy piece of it a day.  I took 2 the first couple days and my heart was pounding after the second one.  So going very….very….slowly.
  • Eating before bed and right when I wake up in the AM (the opposite of intermittent fasting, really).
  • Eating raw garlic to inhibit the proliferation of bad gut bacteria, minimizing the endotoxin –> inflammation –> cortisol cascade. At least 1 clove per day, sometimes as much as 4.
  • Minimizing PUFA (of course…this goes without saying now, really.  And yet, I said it.)
  • Red light/sunlight – as much as possible.

An interesting thing about garlic – I can’t stop eating it.  I’m completely addicted to raw garlic now.  I’ve been cutting it up and putting it in my food…and now I really like how it tastes when I chew it – it no longer tastes too strong, provided there’s other food in my mouth at the same time.

Here’s what else I’m doing these days (and I’m writing this as much for me as for anyone reading this….one day if the *happy* goes away again, I want to be able to refer to this page to determine where I may have gone off track):

  • Beef liver 1x/week (about 5 oz)
  • Shellfish (shrimp, crab, or smoked oysters) – 2-3x per week
  • Vitamin A 10,000 IU (on days I don’t have liver)
  • Vitamin D 5,000 IU/day
  • Vitamin K 4mg/day
  • Vitamin E 400 IU 2-3 days/week
  • Progest E – 3 drops/day during second half of my cycle
  • Magnesium Glycinate 200mg/day
  • Pregnenolone 1000mg 1x/week (or every 2 weeks)
  • Diet of milk, cheese, eggs, OJ, fruit, coconut oil, butter, raw carrots, chocolate, beef, lean chicken/ham, spinach, kale, bone broth, and sometimes starches (rice, potatoes, or gluten-free bread)

I feel really good these days.  Happy.

Update (forgot a couple things):

I’m also taking:

  • A probiotic and prebiotic supplement once per day, first thing in the AM before eating
  • Hydrochlorothiazide (HTZ) for my high blood pressure.  I notice my blood pressure is higher when I miss a dose of my magnesium than a dose of the HTZ though.  Hope to be phasing this out soon.  I’ll be experimenting soon with taking more magnesium.

Seeking Euphoria

I wrote to Ray Peat tonight.  I’ve hesitated bothering him with my health problems, but who knows – maybe he likes to be bothered.  I took a chance.

What’s been on my mind is that I felt really good earlier this year when I was eating fruit/juice/sugar throughout the day, as well as following the other Peat-recommendations. I knew what it was like to feel happy for the first time in my life…or at least since I was a little kid.  I’ve seen Peat quoted as saying,

The production of euphoria has been mentioned as a side effect, but I think euphoria is simply an indication of a good physiological state.

At the time a few months ago I didn’t think of it in those terms….I just knew that’s what happiness felt like.  No depression.  No anxiety.  No body image insecurity.  No negative self talk.  I would be driving in my car, and just be enjoying the day.  It was great.

Well, I got freaked out by my labs at the end of April, including triglycerides over 500, and cholesterol over 300, certainly related to consuming sugar.  I started looking for alternatives.  I tried the Perfect Health Diet, I’ve tried eating only protein/fat/vegetables/dairy, I’ve recently added starches back in my diet…my labs have improved and I feel fine I guess…but I still don’t have that HAPPY feeling.  So I wrote to Peat tonight to tell him about my problem with triglycerides and cholesterol, because I’m motivated to eat fruit/juice/sugar again – I think that’s what made the difference last Spring.  Thankfully, he wrote back already.  Here’s his answer:

High cholesterol compensates for low thyroid, keeping your pregnenolone, progesterone, and DHEA up. Sugar allows you to dispose of free fatty acids by turning them into triglycerides for storage. Free fatty acids activate stress hormones, which in turn cause the synthesis of fatty acids, even from the breakdown of amino acids, derived from protein by the action of cortisol. When cholesterol is that high, it’s almost always because of low thyroid activity, and stored PUFA are probably the commonest cause of that. I think free fatty acids, and their degree of unsaturation, would be the most meaningful blood lipids to test, but it’s easier to test for cholesterol and triglycerides.

Sounds like I’m an unsaturated mess.  I think what he’s saying is that I’ve probably got so much stored unsaturated fat from years of eating CRAP, and when these free fatty acids  are released they activate stress hormones, which then causes more fatty acids to be released in a vicious cycle.  Sugar stops this cycle by increasing triglycerides.  So the fact that trigs are high is a sign there’s something wrong – my body is literally swimming in PUFAs – but the trigs are high because they’re trying to protect me from them.  The happy feeling then might be the lowering of stress hormones.  Of course, thyroid function is also impaired by the sea of PUFAs inside me, which doesn’t help.

So I definitely had some intestinal dysbiosis, causing inflammation which was probably increasing cortisol…also due to a CRAP diet for so many years – I mean, how many decades did I eat pasta 328 times a week?? – and all of my stored PUFAs are also causing stress hormones to be released…that’s a lot of stress hormones.

Maybe how I feel right now – this sort of neutral, unemotional, functional-but-not-particularly-happy feeling I’ve had for the last 2 weeks – is how it feels when depression is gone but stress hormones are still high.  It’s better than depression…but I want the HAPPY back.  I guess I’m getting greedy.

I’m going to give niacinamide and aspirin another go.  Last time I tried them I got discouraged because the day I started taking them I started also having hot flashes.  Completely unrelated, I now realize.  Given what Peat says about FFAs causing my high triglycerides, it makes sense to use them.

If what Peat says is true, I’m likely to have FUBAR labs for the next 4 years or so, as long as it takes to detoxify all the stored PUFA in my body, while maintaining a low PUFA diet. I should probably stop trying to treat lab results, and just trust the process a little.  I’m not going to go crazy with sugar.  Just enough, to start…maybe I’ll try to focus on having distinct meals that are well balanced with protein/fat/carb, rather than winging it and grazing all day, chasing my blood sugar through ups and downs.  After a couple weeks of niacinamide/aspirin I may try to supplement thyroid hormone again.

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.

Analysis Paralysis

Yesterday I was in the car for 4 hours, and in that time I listened to 3 or 4 podcasts featuring Ray Peat.  I think I understand now why I’m having trouble with hunger in the mornings but less so in the late afternoon and evenings.  I start each day in a state of metabolic stress.

Here’s how it works:  A healthy person can store enough glycogen in their liver to get through the night (8 hours) without running out.  I’m not healthy.  What happens overnight is I run out of glycogen (which the body uses to maintain a healthy blood sugar level).  The body’s first reaction to running out is to increase adrenaline, which “squeezes the last bit of glycogen out of the liver,” according to Peat.  That same adrenaline will sometimes wake you up in the middle of the night.  If you don’t eat when this happens the body’s next step is to increase cortisol.  Cortisol is the guy that turns protein into glucose for the body to use (gluconeogenesis).  Protein, meaning muscle.  Hmmmm…so you don’t eat enough sugar, and your body raises cortisol to turn your muscle tissue into sugar.  The appetite is suppressed (which is why I used to love low-carbing), but the thyroid is also suppressed in order to reduce the number of calories required to live. Our bodies are remarkable at shutting down important processes to keep us alive.  All about the big picture.  Anyway, yadda yadda yadda, now I have a lot of cortisol-induced abdominal fat and sub-optimal thyroid function.

Another thing I learned is that it’s the lowering of stress hormones that makes you feel tired after eating a high-carbohydrate meal when your body has been depleted of glycogen.  I’ve always wondered about that.  So you’re cruising along on the adrenaline/cortisol high of low-carb and suddenly you decide to have some orange juice or some rice…or you supplement thyroid hormone.  In an hour you’re exhausted.  Yeah, that’s because finally your body is able to rest and put the stress hormones away because you finally fed it what it needs.  So your true fatigue shows up – the fatigue resulting from pushing yourself, staying up too late, waking up too early, running on adrenaline all day long.  Suddenly you feel all of it.

So it seems I wake up with my body all saturated with cortisol from having no glycogen stores overnight.  I’m going to focus on a pure Peat-friendly diet (no starches, which I’ve been eating sporadically) and I’m going to stop measuring my blood sugar throughout the day (with the exception of fasting blood sugar in the morning).  I’m going to listen only to hunger cues.  I think all the testing and micromanaging of my blood sugar, pulse, temperature, calories, macronutrients, and weight is interfering with me actually learning to feel what I need to be healthy.  Also, I’m going to eat some fruit and/or sugar before bed and see what that does to my fasting sugar levels and my hunger the following morning.

Update:  Wow…this chick said it way better than I ever could.