High Carb Low Fat – Day 5

Fasting blood sugar this morning was 128 – not as low as I’d like to see.  Maybe 55g of fat a day (my average the last few days) is too much to make a difference with blood sugar?  Last time I attempted to reduce fasting blood sugar by cutting fat (with success) I was averaging a little lower – like 48g.  That’s not a big difference…hard to say. Without eating starches it’s difficult to keep fat low.  I have to eat frequently because the stuff I’m eating just seems to burn up quickly, leaving me hungry otherwise.  All in the name of science.  I’ll just continue for now.

Here was my diet and macros today:

crono

Did ok…maybe too much white sugar rather than fruit…Carbs to protein was 2:1.  Calcium to phosphorus was a little short of 1:1 (1724mg to 2048mg).  I seem to consistently fall short 300mg.  Fat was 21.6% of total calories.  One question I seem to get a lot is how come I’m not eating more vegetables?  My answer to that is why would I?  I like veggies if they’re bathed in butter and cheese…otherwise not so much.  And nutritionally it’s not hard to get the nutrients in vegetables from other sources.  As an example, here is the nutritional breakdown of what I ate today:

nutrients

See all those orange bars that are completely filled up?  Those are nutrients that I have consumed enough of today.  Less than 5 grams of PUFA (usually I shoot for even less than that).  All amino acids.  I fell short with folate (only had 92%), iron (lower iron is a good thing), manganese (I’m not actually sure where you get manganese), and potassium (only 92%).  And to be fair, I am supplementing several of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K, and E).  I’m not that worried about it though because I eat liver once a week and stock up on all of these things.  So…why eat veggies unless you really like them?  I guess they might fill me up a little…but fruit actually fills me up just as well and keeps my energy level high too.

It’s no accident that the foods I’m eating are high in nutrition. That’s why Ray Peat recommends them.  My diet is by no means a perfect Peat diet – he probably wouldn’t be in favor of chicken or ham (both animals are fed soy and corn and are therefore relatively high in PUFA) but I do eat the lowest fat organic versions of these items.  I’m not sure how he’d feel about the 3 Musketeers bar.  I was out flying kites with my daughter and that’s all there was to eat nearby.  Again with needing to plan better.  Still, could have been much worse.

I increased niacinamide to 250mg 3x a day yesterday, and since yesterday I’ve been having hot flashes.  I’m familiar with the feeling – I had them when I was taking fertility drugs to get pregnant, and again after quitting the Wiley Protocol, when my estrogen levels dropped.  I wonder if its having some effect on my estrogen?  Then again, this is niacin – even in the form that doesn’t cause a “flushing” reaction, I suppose it could be warming me up. I’ve been putting on and taking off my sweater about 10 times a day.  We’ll see if it continues.  It’s not completely unpleasant…just something I’m noticing.

Overall I feel great.

Update: I got hungry before bed and ate more after posting this.  I won’t be obsessive and update all of my new totals, but I will say my new carb:protein ratio is now a little better than 2:1, my calcium:phosphorous ratio is slightly improved, total calories is 2367, and 22% of calories came from fat.

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.

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.

Estrogen Sucks, Part 2

Have I mentioned that estrogen sucks?  Why yes…yes I did.

It has become very clear that high estrogen is one of my biggest health issues. I’m mad at myself for exacerbating this by ADDING estrogen  (BHRT)…for a period of 8 months (See blog posts between July 2012 – March 2013 for details and to watch my transformation from high-functioning full-time working 182 pound adult to demoralized part-time working 203-pound adult).  On the other hand I’m glad I know what’s really going on with my moods, and now what there is to do is treat it.  I’ve started supplementing with DIM and milk thistle, and have ordered calcium D-glucarate.  Each of these is instrumental in eliminating excess estrogen.  I’m continuing the progesterone (Progest E, 2 doses a day of 10mg each).  Over a period of 2 days my headaches went away, my breast soreness has diminished about 90%, and my dark mood has lifted.

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?

Bottom line, I’m not sure.  I don’t think it has anything to do with adding progesterone a month ago. This really seems to be an estrogen problem, and progesterone makes it better almost immediately after dosing.  The other thing I changed in the past month is I changed from skim milk to 2% milk for a few weeks, and then gave milk up completely after I realized it was making me asthmatic. I have continued eating cheese though, which doesn’t cause as many problems with my breathing.

I’ve been doing some research:

This study says dietary fat in dairy is a source of estrogenic hormones. This one says that goats milk has much less estrogen than cow’s milk (both regular and organic). This study says both estrogen and progesterone are increased after drinking commercial milk, and this one says there is a “considerable quantity of estrogens” in milk produced from pregnant cows, and that intake of animal products (especially milk and cheese) are highly correlated with hormone-related cancers. (On the other hand, this one is a meta-analysis which indicates dairy product consumption does not lead to breast cancer, and that estrogens in dairy are minute.)

Maybe it’s time to give up cow dairy altogether.  I think it’s also time to add more fiber to my diet – it helps eliminate estrogens so they don’t get reabsorbed into the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, the more I experiment with Ray Peat’s recommended dietary approaches, the more problematic my own symptoms become. I can’t conclusively tie my recent high-estrogen problems with dairy, but I don’t know what else would have caused them.

I think it’s time for me to follow a more conventional high-vegetable/fiber moderate calorie diet, and get a lot more exercise to manage my blood sugar.

Next post: Resistant Starch.  Another experiment in the works.

Estrogen Sucks

It’s become very clear to me over the last several weeks that estrogen completely sucks and progesterone completely rocks. In a healthy young woman they’re ideally balanced and estrogen does important stuff in the body – especially during the reproductive years. I am done reproducing, however, and I have many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance.  I stopped taking Progest E last Wednesday in order to have my period.  I didn’t want to stop, because it had been doing such a great job of managing my typical PMS, anxiety, depression, and I just felt good.  I tried stopping a few days earlier but these symptoms came back and I caved – “Help, save me, Progest E!”  And it did. I had a 37 day cycle because I kept taking progesterone, well past the typical window of “days 14-28”.

But I did force myself to stop taking it, and ever since I’ve been experiencing the effects of all the unopposed estrogen in my body: mood swings, cramps, anxiety, depression, sore swollen breasts, even headaches which I don’t have often.  So now, 4 days into my cycle, I’m hitting the progesterone again.  I don’t care that I’m doing it wrong. I’m listening to my body, and it is begging me to to save it from the estrogen.

These last few days of estrogen-intensity have made me aware that I need to focus more on liver support in order to better clear estrogen.  I think I’m going to go back to the supplements that were recommended by Jack Kruse back when I did a consult with him.  I understand his recommendations so much more now, and they make a lot of sense.  I feel bad that I made so many bad decisions over the last year.  I wonder sometimes if I would have been able to “make it” in California if I hadn’t been taking estrogen supplements.  I think that kind of destroyed me.  I’m just glad I stopped before developing cancer or losing my mind.