Coffee

I just have to take a moment and talk about coffee.

I didn’t drink much coffee for a long time, even though I love the smell, the taste, and the energy boost it gives me.  I avoided it because it made me really hungry.  I never knew why….until I heard Ray Peat say that it can cause hypoglycemia if not taken with sugar…and of course if you’re going to be eating sugar it’s a good idea to add some cream to slow down the absorption a bit.  My whole adult life I’ve been drinking black coffee (I was just that kind of person – too cool for cream and sugar, I guess) and then getting hungry.

Now that I’ve learned how to enjoy coffee without being super hungry, I have a whole ritual around it. I have a small coffee maker with a pot that holds 24oz. Every morning I take a heaping tablespoon of Dunkin’ Donuts grounds and make a sort-of weak automatic drip coffee – not too overpowering.  I pour the entire 24oz of coffee into this massive mug, add 2 tablespoons of raw honey (a little more sometimes), 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream, and 1/2 teaspoon plus one pinch of kosher salt (bigger granules than iodized salt).  It comes out tasting like salted caramel.  I sip on it all morning.  Here’s the nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: 187
  • Protein: 1.3g
  • Fat: 5.7g
  • Carbs: 35g

Nutrients (% of recommended daily intake), according to Cronometer:

  • B1: 9%
  • B2: 52%
  • B5: 37%
  • Vitamin A: 9%
  • Magnesium: 7%
  • Manganese: 11%
  • Potassium: 8%

…plus a few other trace nutrients.  Don’t let anyone tell you coffee isn’t good for you.

Now, I could make this MUCH more nutritious by substituting 8oz of milk for some of the coffee or adding gelatin to it (for protein).  I’ve tried it many ways, but the above recipe is my favorite.

Yeah.  It pretty much makes me feel like a rock star.

Too Much B6 and Weight Training

I learned this week that vitamin B6 increases serotonin.  That’s why I was depressed last time – not because of estrogen, but because of serotonin.  I think I’m going to have to pay more attention to my specific symptoms.   Sore breasts = estrogen.  Crying non-stop = serotonin.  In any case, 10mg of B6 is a good dose, according to Peat (sorry, I don’t have a reference for this, but I know he said it).  I was taking 200mg.  20x too much!  Yeah…no more.  As soon as I stopped taking B6 and DIM my mood returned to it’s (now) much higher baseline.  I’ll probably experiment with lower doses in the near future, as I understand B6 can lower prolactin and is a dopamine agonist (more dopamine = more sex drive, more happy thoughts).

I’ve started a resistance training program at my gym.  Had a program designed for me by a trainer, and I’ll be lifting 3x a week for about 45 minutes.  Considering that my goals include weight loss (50-60 pounds, ideally), she’s also got me tracking what I eat and she has recommended 20 minutes of cardio on the days I lift, and 45 minutes any other day I come to the gym.  I am currently trying to strike a balance between Peat’s recommendations and those of the trainer.

For the last 2 days I’ve been eating 1700 calories per day – that’s actually more than she recommended, but it’s what I can do.  This would be a lot easier if I were eating starches…but I’m not.  Starches (if you’ll recall) do a good job of keeping me full but they also make me lethargic and sometimes depressed.  This may get easier…I’ll stick with it for now.  I’m trying to eat all Peat-friendly foods to support my metabolism, but after 1 workout and 2 days of lower-cal eating my morning temp and pulse are already dropping (Previously around 98.4/86 and now 97.9/75).  I’m going to continue to track, but also keep an eye on symptoms.  Worst case scenario I’ll lift weights, eat more, and lose more slowly.  I’ll get there eventually.  I just want my clothes to fit again.  Now.

Estrogen Sucks, Part 3

Estrogen still sucks.  It sucked a couple times in December and it still sucks.

I have decided to stop listening to random people on the interwebs.  I get myself in trouble when I see that someone on some facebook group tried something and it worked really really well and hey! maybe I better try that too!  Not good!  Here’s the latest trouble I got myself into:

Someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to take DIM twice a day along with B6 to get rid of excess estrogen.  For several weeks I’ve been taking DIM once a day, and no B6.  Yesterday was day 3 of this DIM/B6 experiment, and last night I woke up about 53 times.  Then today I was crying and depressed all day.  I was crazy estrogen lady.  I mean, it was so bad I had to tell perfect strangers that I was “hormonal” so they would stop trying to help me.  I was a Mess.  With a capital M.

Also this morning I noticed there were cherry angiomas on my torso that weren’t there last I looked.  Last time I saw those I was experimenting with cold thermogenesis, known for stirring up estrogen.  They went away when I stopped that silliness.

New Rule: Only do supplements that Ray Peat says to do.  No more doing what Jane Schmoe on the internet thinks is awesome.

No more DIM, no more Calcium-D Glucarate.  I’m just going to use progesterone to counter estrogen.

I haven’t had that super duper awesome happy feeling in a while – like over a week and a half.  I blame the unauthorized supplements.

Going to bed.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Resistant Starch: Follow Up and Discussion

I think it’s time for a follow-up on the Resistant Starch (RS) experiment embarked upon by my husband and me.  We both started consuming Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch on December 23rd, 2013.  We are both considered “pre-diabetic” (although I’m definitely closer to crossing that line than he is).  Many people in the Paleosphere (which is now beginning to look more like a “starchosphere”) who have tried RS have reported improvements in their fasting and post-prandial blood sugar, as well as improved digestion, lowered inflammation, and fun dreams.  We wanted all these things too.

I’ll start with my husband’s experience.

He had no problems taking it.  As far as side effects go, he experienced a little more gas and softer stools (though digestion/elimination wasn’t much of a problem to begin with, reportedly).  He got in the habit of taking the potato starch with meals.  Every meal he’d take a heaping tablespoon or so, for combined total of about 4T of RS a day.  He continued to do this for 4 weeks.  Here is a graph of his fasting blood sugar throughout this period of time:

DXL

If you drew a trend line through those data points you’d see a flat line.  No change.  Now, proponents of RS say you should give it 6 weeks.  So he quit a bit early.  Why would he quit?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, let’s talk about my experience with RS.

On 12/23/13 I started small because I didn’t know what to expect – a teaspoon a day, then two, and then I got bold and tried a tablespoon.  BAD NEWS.  I had massive bloating and abdominal pain for 24 hours…and was in the bathroom a lot during that time.  Painful, burning, awful.  Ok, but I was committed to this experiment!  I went back to my previously well tolerated dose – 2 teaspoons a day (in 2 doses), and figured I’d work my way up more gradually.  Did that for a week or so, and then tried 2 teaspoons at one time – again, BAD NEWS.  So I started taking a fancy (read: expensive) probiotic along with 1 teaspoon of RS a day, hoping to cultivate some happy gut colonies that would “fix” whatever is wrong…because that’s what the potato starch people on the interwebs are recommending. Did that for a couple weeks. Then I stopped. Why did I stop?  Same reason my husband did. And again…I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now, here’s the cool thing about having a blog.  You have a written record of everything that’s going on…and even if things don’t make sense at the time, they often make sense in retrospect, and you can go back through your archives and try to put the pieces together.  On 12/26/13, 3 days after I started taking potato starch as a supplement, I wrote this post.  In it I wrote

I’ve shared myself honestly in this blog in the hopes of helping other people struggling to regain their health.  I doubt I’m helping anyone, because I have no answers.  I’m less healthy, heavier, more depressed, and less happy than I was 2 years ago when I started this blog.

That’s me – depressed.  I remember writing it and I felt terrible.  I had enough energy to mumble out a few lines on the blog, but I was a really dark cloud for a few days there.

I reviewed other posts I’d written around that time, and discovered that on 12/28/13 – 5 days after starting potato starch, I wrote this:

What I don’t understand is why the effects of estrogen have recently gotten so bad.  I’ve never had breast soreness within the first week of my cycle before, I’ve never had headaches associated with hormone changes before, and usually my depression is pre-menstrual, not mid- or post-menstrual.  Why is this happening now?

Hm….

I now realize it was the potato starch.  I didn’t put it together at the time – after all, why would potato starch cause me to feel like I was sideswiped by the estrogen train?

It wasn’t until I heard a podcast by Ray Peat, released a few days later on 1/1/14, that the pieces of the puzzle started coming together.  When asked about the nutritional value of eating potatoes he said the following:

Adding butter or cream slows the digestion so it isn’t such a powerful insulin stimulant, but it also reduces the chance of what’s called persorption of starch granules. […] A potato starch granule happens to be very big. Other starches are more the size of a red blood cell, but a potato starch granule is several times fatter than that. But even these huge granules bigger than cells can get squeezed right through the wall of the intestine, enter the lymphatics and the blood system, so within 30 minutes after you eat starch without fat, you see the starch grains circulating through your blood, and if they’re big they’ll plug up your arterioles. Studies in mice showed that a high raw starch diet accelerated their aging. You can demonstrate areas of every organ that were being killed by plugging up the arteries.

Hm…we’ll that didn’t sound good.  Didn’t explain my recent symptoms, but it did clue me in that Peat didn’t think raw potato starch was a good idea.  That spurred some more research. I came across this article at Ray Peat’s website.  In it he states something similar to the quote above:

Volkheimer found that mice fed raw starch aged at an abnormally fast rate, and when he dissected the starch-fed mice, he found a multitude of starch-grain-blocked arterioles in every organ, each of which caused the death of the cells that depended on the blood supplied by that arteriole. It isn’t hard to see how this would affect the functions of organs such as the brain and heart, even without considering the immunological and other implications of the presence of foreign particles randomly distributed through the tissue.

Reading on in the same article:

The premenstrual estrogen-dominance usually leads progressively to higher prolactin and lower thyroid function. Estrogen is closely associated with endotoxinemia, and with histamine and nitric oxide formation, and with the whole range of inflammatory and “autoimmune” diseases. Anything that irritates the bowel, leading to increased endotoxin absorption, contributes to the same cluster of metabolic consequences.

Aha! Anything that irritates the bowel (resistant starch), leads to endotoxin absorption (headaches, feeling like crap) and estrogen-dominance including higher prolactin (sore breasts) and lower thyroid function (depressed mood, lack of energy).  Well, that makes sense. Obviously, not everyone reacts to RS this way.  My husband didn’t.  Dozens (hundreds?) of people commenting over at Free the Animal aren’t having problems (although a few are).  But for me this stuff felt bad in doses over 1 teaspoon.  That’s not why I stopped taking it though.  My husband and I stopped taking it because of the persorption issue.  Peat seems to think this is a significant reason to avoid starches, unless they’re well-cooked and served up with fat – essentially making them more digestible and definitely not “resistant”.

I can’t say Peat is completely alone in his assertion that RS has the potential to be dangerous…but he’s almost alone.  A Google search indicates very few people talking about the issue of persorption; most of the ones doing so are bloggers who follow Peat like Rob Turner and Andrew Kim. Now, it’s no secret I love me some Ray Peat, and the folks who follow his recommendations I’ve found to be invariably very intelligent and science-oriented.  But I trust no one….so I do my own research.  I did a search of pubmed for “persorption” – there’s not too much there, and a search for “persorption + starch” yielded even less, but a few studies stood out as relevant, including:

1. Persorption of raw starch: a cause of senile dementia? by BJ Freedman.  The full article is not available, and the abstract suggests this is a review, rather than an experiment.  So it’s someone’s opinion about research that has been published.  It seems the conclusion is that exposure to raw starch could result in the loss of many neurons, and long term this could mean dementia.  Honestly, I don’t typically put a lot of stock in theory pieces like this.  I’m sure he raises good points, but I want empirical science.

Here’s another:

2. Oral cornstarch therapy: is persorption harmless? by Gitzelmann and Spycher.  Another review.  “The possibility of late adverse reactions to persorbed starch should not be disregarded.”

Pretty much all the rest of the articles involved studies by G. Volkheimer, the scientist Peat refers to when he discusses the importance of starches being well cooked.  Here, Peat cites this article by Volkheimer: [Persorption of microparticles] (Original article in German).  The abstract states:

Since persorbed microparticles can embolise small vessels, this touches on microangiological problems, especially in the region of the CNS. The long-term deposit of embolising microparticles which consist of potential allergens or contaminants, or which are carriers of contaminants, is of immunological and environmental-technical importance.

Another of Volkheimer’s articles is available full text for free, and details his experiments:  Passage of particles through the wall of the gastrointestinal tract.  He describes how they dyed the potato starch (and other substances with relatively large particle size) with Lugol’s solution so they could watch where the particles moved around the body.  Apparently they moved all over the place including cerebral spinal fluid, the milk of lactating women, and the placenta of pregnant women. Toward the very end of the article, it says,

Enzymatic degradation of starch granules in the body fluids was demonstrated.

Well that sounds good, right?  The starch granules are degraded by enzymes.  And the graphs do show that in the case of each of the substances tested the quantity of particles found in the blood diminished over a fairly short period of time.  So no worries then?

It goes on to say:

Deposition of embolized starch granules and other persorbed particles in the lumen of the smallest vessels was observed in animals after long-term oral administration.  in pigs, dogs, chickens, and rats fed with particles, we found individual particles as microemboli in the lumen of the smallest vessels a long time later.

I had to look up “embolized.”  It means blocking a blood vessel.  So apparently they found that these large persorbed particles blocked small blood vessels, and did so for a “long time.”  If I took the time to read all of Volkheimer’s work maybe I’d know what he means by a “long time.”

In any case, I don’t know what long-term use of RS would do to my itty bitty blood vessels, or to the organs they’re attached to and I don’t really want to find out.  That’s why I stopped the potato starch, and recommended to my hubby that he stop too.  And he did.

I asked Richard Nikoley for his take on all this.  He and Tim “Tatertot” Steele have  been spearheading the RS movement, and are in the process of writing a book together on the subject. They responded to my inquiry quickly, and after researching my questions for a bit suggested that current research indicates that persorption is very common, occurring with particles much smaller than potato starch, and may have some beneficial effects:

It is possible that these particles have beneficial health effects not only in the intestinal lumen but directly in the blood stream and on the endothelial surface of vessels.

Hm…Ok, that could be. But this article doesn’t refute Volkheimer’s research that says the large starch particles clog up little blood vessels.  In any case, Richard suggested I research this and write it up on my blog.  So here it is.

Ray Peat has been right about many things for me, and I’m just getting started with him.  I have no reason at this point not to trust him.  So, I’m choosing to trust him and his interpretation of Volkheimer’s research, and I’m avoiding the raw potato starch.  In spite of this, I truly hope the conclusions drawn as a result of this research are wrong, and that RS is actually as healing as the many current anecdotes suggest it is.  But just in case, here’s a thought: Maybe RS combined with probiotics is a way to get your gut in good working order, after which its use should be discontinued, in order to avoid potential problems associated with long-term use.  It may be wise to think of it as an intervention, rather than as a way of life.

Something to think about.

Low Cal – Day 2

So, I’m shooting for 1700 calories per day in an effort to lose weight.

Yesterday:

  • 1911 calories
  • 128g protein (19%)
  • 92g carbs (28%)
  • 115g fat (53%)

Well, a couple of comments about this.  Clearly, I still tend to automatically go for high protein/fat when I’m hungry.  Probably in part because that’s what I’ve done for years, but also because they kill my hunger (And my motivation to live. But I digress.).  Ray Peat sometimes refers to the “Randle cycle” which is a phenomenon in which glucose oxidation is inhibited by fat.  He says this is what ACTUALLY causes type-II diabetes – not sugar.  Oh sweet lawd…NOT SUGAR!  (An aside: Fer crissakes…if I see one more reference to this study this week I’m going to throw my computer out the window. Newsflash!  Eating Poptarts and Mountain Dew isn’t good for you!  How about this for scientific integrity: Isolate your independent variable, dumbasses.  Oh geez…I think I’ve been reading too much Richard Nikoley.  I’m starting to talk like him.)

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, the Randle cycle.  I was reading up on this today, after seeing all the fat I’m still consuming (almost all of which is saturated), and found this little nugget by Dr. Peat:

The antagonism between fat and sugar that Randle described can involve the suppression of sugar oxidation when the concentration of fats in the bloodstream is increased by eating fatty food, or by releasing fats from the tissues by lipolysis, but it can also involve the suppression of fat oxidation by inhibiting the release of fatty acids from the tissues, when a sufficient amount of sugar is eaten.

Huh…I’ve heard him say that PUFAs can block the cells from using available glucose and that FFAs released by the body can do the same, but I didn’t know good fats in your diet could inhibit glucose oxidation too.  Hm….Well this changes things. I mean, my fasting blood sugar is still in the 120s most days, and not showing much improvement since I’ve given up most dietary PUFAs.  OK then – Time to go on a Peat-friendly low-fat diet.

So here are today’s Cronometer stats:

  • Calories: 2027
  • Protein: 130g (26%)
  • Carbs: 210g (40%)
  • Fat: 77g (34%)

Hm…well, that’s better than the previous day, but clearly this is going to take some tinkering.  I got really hungry – like mean-hungry, desperate-hungry…eat pasta hungry (didn’t, but wanted to).  I don’t know how to cut these calories without hunger.  I guess maybe, like everything else, this is going to be a process…and it’ll take time.

And here’s another psychological challenge that’s in the works for me.  I’ve managed to give up starches (6 days now) but how I manage to keep from being hungry is sipping on honey-sweetened coffee or orange juice throughout the day.  I’m becoming concerned about the effect of sugar on my teeth.  I understand it’s not just the tooth’s exposure to sugar that causes cavities – it’s also nutritional status, the presence of specific kinds of bacteria in the mouth and other variables.  I think this paper does a nice job of describing the pathology behind tooth decay.  I’ve been rinsing my mouth periodically with water/baking soda as Peat recommends, but this is still on my mind a lot.  I really don’t want a mouth full of bad teeth.

Anyway…till next time.

Day 3 Starch Free

I’ve gone three entire days without eating starches.  That’s a first…well, at least since giving up on low-carbing.  Discovering that a need for salt was behind my cravings for starch has completely liberated me from falling back on them and feeling lethargic and cranky for days afterward.  And on a side note…who knew salt played such an important role in metabolism efficiency?  Salt warms me up and makes me feel awesome.

Today I had so much energy I finished unpacking.  We moved 7 months ago, and my energy level has been so low that as of this morning we still had tubs of stuff in closets waiting to be unpacked.  Finally did it.  And then I kept cleaning.  I don’t even like cleaning, but I do like having a tidy house.  I cleaned for hours.  And played with my daughter all day.  And talked.  A lot. I’m not a big talker. It exhausts me. I was talking all day.

I want to be starch free for a month and then get some labs done – basics, probably, to evaluate how Peat-eating and progesterone are affecting me.  I’m hoping to see a drop in hs-CRP (previously over 15.0. Yes, really.).

My weight seems to have stabilized – 7 pounds higher than when I started following Ray Peat, but a pound lower than my highest weight.  Now that I’ve identified foods that make me feel good, and I’ve learned what I need to avoid I think I’m going to give calorie counting a shot again, starting tomorrow.  I guess for now I’ll shoot for 1700 calories a day – a moderate reduction.

Update: I just looked at my food records and it’s actually been 4 days starch free. Even better!

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.