One week down….and done.

Today is Day 7 of my plant based diet.  And I’m done with it.

I know that will come as a shock…me quitting an eating plan and all…feel free to flame me in the comments.  I don’t mind.  I have my reasons.

Here they are:

1.  The Forks Over Knives bubble has burst:

A thoughtful commenter brought my attention to a really excellent article: Denise Minger’s analysis of the science behind Forks Over Knives….the movie that got me interested in giving up animal-based protein in the first place. (Aside: Denise is such a great writer.  I wonder how long it took her to research and compose this article.) I won’t go into a ton of detail – you can read the article if you wanna – but I will say that a LOT of information was omitted from the movie, like the entire context of a lot of the studies that were presented as evidence that healthy living starts and ends with plants.  For example, the diets that folks were put on which led to great before/after stories were not just free of meat and dairy – they were free of all processed food and fat too. Confounding variables, anyone?  Also, massive conclusions about cause were drawn based on correlational data (and not very good correlational data at that).  The original science was good but the reporting on it was terrible and completely misleading.  It’s like a group of militant picket-waving PETA members got together and decided their slaughterhouse horror movies weren’t doing the trick so they better try a new angle – hey I know!  Let’s find some really good science on nutrition and get a couple of doctors [i.e., not scientists] to interpret it for us using their own personal bias!  We’ll just have to hold the camera steady.

Too bad, because it was an entertaining film.

2.  My tic has returned.

I know this is going to sound a little weird – I’ve never told the internet about my weird tic.  For years I have had this odd motor behavior, probably best described as a tic. It’s something I’m able to control enough that I don’t do it around other people in any obvious way, but basically it involves my wrists.  When the urge hits to engage in this tic, my wrists absolutely must be stretched or straightened out or shaken vigorously, or I can’t stop thinking about it.  It’s a little like OCD but just for this one very specific behavior.  It gets worse when I’m under stress – like, when I had that horrible job in California, it was all the time and my wrists became sore.  I haven’t noticed the tic at all for many months…until 2 days ago.  Nothing in my life has changed except my diet.  I don’t know for sure that I can blame the diet, but as soon as I felt that old familiar, obnoxious urge, I started wondering if there’s some amino acid or micronutrient that I’m not getting since I stopped with the meat/dairy.  I guess it could be a complete coincidence.  Having worked with people that have Tourette’s though, I can tell you for sure that tics have a basis in neurological processes and are affected by things that affect the brain and the neurotransmitters.  They’re not just weirdness or mental illness – there’s something going on biochemically.  It’ll be interesting to see if going back to eating meat/dairy makes it go away again.

3.  Doing no harm (to myself).

One thing I learned about eating a plant-based diet is that it’s REALLY hard to eat a balanced diet with enough protein and a good array of micronutrients.  I think it’s possible to research the food combinations that MUST be included and in what quantities and frequencies in order to have a nutritionally balanced diet and to avoid the many processed vegan foods out there that contain things that are downright dangerous, like soy and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

I like animals just fine, but am I going to be the first in line at the PETA rally?  No.  It’s just not a cause that happens to touch me emotionally.  One would need to be fully committed to this way of life in order to have it be healthy – and even then it’s questionable.  I’m just not that committed.

4. Heartburn

After eating starches I get heartburn.  Not always, but enough that there’s a definite correlation.  I haven’t had heartburn in so long because my starch consumption has been really low for about 2 years.  And it’s been back for…oh, about a week.

5.  Gut flora

I don’t really want all of my meat-lovin’ gut flora to go away and be replaced by exclusively plant-lovin’ flora, especially since I don’t feel committed to doing this for life.

6.  I don’t really like it.

Vegan food is probably satisfying – again, if you’re that gal researching, planning, shopping, and cooking and lovin’ every minute of it.  But otherwise I find myself eating potatoes for dinner.  An apple and an orange for breakfast.  It’s like side dish hell.  I know this is just my preference, and honestly of all the above reasons for abandoning ship, this is the least important.  I do believe it’s important though to like what you eat.  This is just meh.

So there you have it.

And now, I’m going to go eat some cheese.

Ciao.

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.

T3 and Iodine Research

This week I began having heart palpitations and stabbing headaches.  I checked around the web to see if these were common side effects when one is supplementing with T3 (Liothyronine).  Anecdotally, numerous people in various groups and forums report anxiousness, heart palpitations, anxiety attacks…but many people say it’s transitory.

I also checked my Medscape App (which, incidentally, was recommended to me by a pharmacist friend of mine for learning about the effects of various medications).  Medscape says that for hypothyroidism an initial dose of 25mcg per day is typical, and can be raised by 25mcg each week if necessary to 75mcg/day. I was taking 25mcg a day, so I wasn’t on a terribly high dose.  Under “Adverse Effects” the following are listed as occurring in less than 1% of users: insomnia, nervousness, tremor, cramps, diarrhea, and changes in menstrual cycle.  In the “Frequency Not Defined” (in other words, we don’t know how many people have this experience) the following adverse side effects are listed: arrhythmias, headache, sweating.  I guess I’d fall into the frequency not defined column.

Anyway, I stopped taking it.  I tapered down over a 3 day period from 25mcg –> 18 –> 6 –> 0.  I was feeling unwell even on 6mcg.  I’ve felt better in the 3 days since I stopped taking it.

I am starting to think I’ve been a little too carefree in my approach to putting foreign substances in my body.

Another case in point:  Yesterday I was perusing Facebook.  I’m a member of several health-oriented Facebook groups, including one devoted to Iodine Supplementation and one based on the work of Ray Peat.  In the Ray Peat group yesterday a very thoughtful commenter asked the following:

Since milk contains such large amounts of iodine what is the advantage of a hypothyroid person drinking 2 quarts daily? It seems this would be quite an overdose of iodine…… I understand its use for the minerals, but never questioned the iodine content until now…

Hm…this post suggests that Ray Peat is not in favor of iodine supplementation.  A little research on this suggests that indeed this is the case.  Apparently in an interview, Dr. Peat stated the following in response to the question,Is iodine supplementation safe and, if not, is there a safe amount of supplemental iodine?”

“A dosage of 150 mcg (micrograms, not milligrams, e.g., ug not mg) is a safe amount of iodine. There are excellent references describing the effect of a moderate iodine excess (even below a milligram per day) on the thyroid. An iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism (rare now), but so can an excess. Iodine deficiency is an unusual cause of hypothyroidism, except in a few places, like the mountains of Mexico and China, and the Andes.

Most goiters now are from estrogen-like effects, but they used to be from iodine deficiency. Chronic excess iodine tends to cause thyroiditis, regardless of the gland’s size. The amounts used by Abraham and Flechas are much larger than this — very toxic doses, enough to cause severe thyroid problems.”

Well, that’s interesting.  I have not done an exhaustive review of the available research on iodine or anything, but I had never heard anyone say anything like this, whereas there are many testimonials online as to the benefits of iodine supplementation, and many people in my iodine group on facebook have been helped immensely by it.

So this spurred more research.  I ended up spending hours researching iodine and it’s effects – positive and negative – when used in high doses (which for my purposes are >1mg – basically far more than is required to avoid goiter).  I came across a number of peer reviewed articles that suggest there is significant risk in supplementing with Iodine, including risk of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s (autoimmune thyroid disease): here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Well, score one for Ray Peat.

In case I haven’t been clear, SUPPLEMENTING WITH IODINE CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH.

I got on my iodine Facebook page and asked if anyone knew of peer reviewed research refuting or contradicting the results of these studies.  They got mad at me and shamed me until I left.  I guess that’s why you never hear the other side of the story.

Anyway, won’t be supplementing with iodine anytime soon.  I’m sure it’s helped many, many people, but that doesn’t mean it’s without risk.  Great risk, in some cases.  This is the downside of medicating oneself based on researching anecdotes from the internet or following someone’s protocol just because he or she has an M.D.

Question Everything.  And always do your own research.

There are other changes too in my world.  I’ll talk about those tomorrow.

T3 – Day 10

I don’t feel good taking T3.  I’m debating whether or not to continue.

I haven’t been sleeping well – last night I was up from 2AM – 5:30AM.  I feel depressed and irritable…and not just because I’m tired.  I’ve been tired before and I don’t always feel like this.  I feel like nothing can make me smile.  I feel bad for the people living with me.

My motivation for everything is absent.  I don’t have the energy to care.

I know it takes time to adjust, but I can’t feel like this for weeks or months.

I’m considering a REALLY big-picture change.  But before I get into that, let’s look at the evidence.  A month into starting this blog, I wrote down the physical ailments that I was interested in fixing.  They are as follows, with current updates in Bold.

  1. High fasting and post-prandial blood sugar (the post-prandial is only high when I eat carbs.  On my current diet only the fasting is high). Still a problem.  Back then, my FBG was in the range of 115-120.  Now?  Same.
  2. Allergies (seasonal and pets)I don’t have so many problems with allergies but I think that’s because I no longer have cats.  They didn’t make the trip back from California.  I tolerated those allergies for 15 years.
  3. Plantar fasciitis (pain in the soles of my feet when I first get out of bed or first stand after sitting for a while) – This is much better but I think it’s the lack of exercise and the switch to high-quality shoes over the last year.
  4. Excess body fat.  My current BMI is 31.9.  That puts me in the “obese” category.  I have always thought the BMI scale was full of shit, but it’s certainly true that I’m overweight.  My BMI is now around 34.8.  Worse, obviously.
  5. PMS, including some pretty severe mood swings. – My period has gotten VERY inconsistent.  My last cycle was over 10 weeks long, meaning I missed a period or two.  I suppose there are various reasons for this, but my hormones were all very low before starting BHRT last summer.  Now that I’ve quit the BHRT I guess they’ve returned to their low, peri-menopausal level.  My moods have been ok in spite of this.  I’m not sure why.  At some point I’ll test again.
  6. Low sex drive. – Still.  Worse, actually.
  7. High total cholesterol Not better.  A bit worse.
  8. Fatigue My fatigue is largely gone.  I think my adrenals healed since I’ve been able to go to part time work over the last 6 months.  I don’t attribute this improvement to diet.  The improvement correlated with rest and reduction of emotional stress.  And maybe the reduction of exposure to allergens.
  9. AcneStill, but less frequently.  Correlates with my less-frequent periods.

So…almost 2 years on a moderate-high protein, high fat, animal-based diet has not helped much.  Lifestyle changes (specifically stress removal) have helped.

New ailments to target:

  1. High Blood Pressure – This started about 9 months ago, and correlates with my 10% weight gain last year.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen or what I’m going to do.  I’ll keep you apprised.

Bad Sleep

Well, the T3 definitely seems to be affecting my sleep.

Today I woke up at 2:00AM (went to bed at 11:00), and couldn’t get back to sleep.  It’s now 5:00AM, and I’m alert like it’s noon.

I took all 25mcg of the T3 early enough (or so I thought) – a 6mcg dose every 2 hours between 8AM and 2PM yesterday…and yet, here we are.  I did have one glass of wine last night…but I don’t think that would make a huge difference.  I know it takes time for your body to get used to a new medication.

I’ve been charting my body temperatures and heart rates to gauge the effectiveness of the T3.  Early AM temps are averaging around 97.4 F (but right now my temp is 98.0), and rise throughout the day to an average of 98.6.  A couple days ago it got up to 99 for a little while, but I had taken 2 doses a little closer together than usual.  Heart rate starts in the high 60s and is in the low 80s by mid day (and currently it’s 68).  So the T3 seems to be at an appropriate dose – it’s getting me where I want it to be most of the day.  I’m not sure why there’s insomnia.  Stress hormones putting up a fight?

Will just continue on for now and hope it passes.

The depression has lifted a bit.  I’m still a little irritable, but it’s not as bad.

I decided not to take all of those supplements I talked about in my last post.  Further research indicates the depression is probably not detox related.  For now I’m taking my usual regimen: A multivitamin, Vitamin D3, magnesium, and a B-complex.

Anyway, It’s been just over a week on the T3…I’ll just continue on.

T3 Blues

I’ve been feeling depressed the last 3 days. I’ve taking one 25 mcg tablet of Cynomel (T3) cut up into several doses that I take several hours apart throughout the day.  Some research on thyroid hormone indicates that the 3 in “T3” refers to 3 iodine molecules.  Similarly, the 4 in T4 refers to 4 molecules of iodine.  Is it possible the T3 is causing some bromine/fluoride/chlorine detox?  This is the same way I felt taking iodine…awesome for a few days, and then depressed.

I decided to go ahead and start taking Lynne Farrow’s recommended iodine cosupplements, just in case the T3 is causing a detox reaction.  Some of these I was taking already, but now I’m taking all of the following:

  • Magnesium Glycinate – 200mg/day 3x a day
  • Selenium – 200 mcg
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – 500mg 2x a day
  • Vitamin B2 – 100mg 3x a day
  • Vitamin C is also recommended, 3g a day or more.  I find I can’t tolerate any of my current Vitamin C (Calcium Ascorbate – Ester C) – not even 500mg.  It gives me digestive problems.  I’m going to try a different kind.

Farrow recommends taking Niacin (Vitamin B3) in the non-niacinamide version – the version that causes a flushing reaction in many people.  I took it for the first time today to see what kind of response I’d have.  All at once at exactly 2:12 PM, I felt my face and arms get really hot.  I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked like I’d been out in the sun for 4 hours.  I also got all itchy.  It sucked.  Now, an hour later, I’m still flushed but the itching and heat has died down.  I won’t be taking that anymore.  Anyone want a bottle of exactly 89 Niacin capsules?  Free to a good home. I’m going to take the Niacinamide instead.  (<–Niaciniamide is “no-flush” niacin.  I’m not really sure why it’s discouraged regarding the iodine protocol.)

Anyway, so now I’m hot and depressed.

I’ve done the recommended salt loading protocol also – 1/4 tsp of salt in 1/2 cup warm water, then followed by 12-16 oz of regular water.

I’m tired of everything.

Hoping to report back when feeling better.

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.