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.

The Great Garlic Experiment – Day 6

Today was much like yesterday.  Good energy, good mood.  The scale was up a couple pounds.  Apparently just because I CAN now eat unlimited starches (with butter all over them, of course) doesn’t mean I SHOULD.

And on that note, I wonder if this wouldn’t be a good time to start counting calories (and possibly fat grams) toward the end of losing weight. Now that I have the option of eating starches – once in a while, at least – my available repertoire of low-fat and low-calorie meals has expanded so I don’t think deprivation and monotony will be a factor.  Plus, starchy foods keep me satisfied much longer than simple sugars or fruits, both of which make me hungry within an hour, despite eating calorie-dense foods.  Worth a try anyway.

I’m feeling very grateful right now to Ray Medina for his innovative garlic cure for gut dysbiosis, and to Ray Peat for everything else that has helped me to feel better over the past year.  I doubt either of them will read this, but I’m yelling it loudly from my little corner of the web.  Thank you Ray and Ray for your generous and tireless work and willingness to share it all with the world for free.

And thanks so much to those who take the time to comment on here.  Without you, I wouldn’t have found the Rays and I’d still be fumbling around in the dark.  I’m very grateful for you.

Sugar: Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

I’m really struggling to eat Peat-ish and remain low fat.

I’ve given up starches because they were making me feel depressed.

I’ve given up eating lots of meat because it’s high in phosphorous.

I’ve given up alcohol because it made me depressed.

And now I’m reducing fat.

I’m trying to determine whether it’s all fat (not just PUFA) that blocks cells from using available glucose, keeping blood sugar high.  My blood sugar has come down over the past week of lower-fat eating, but I’ve also completely given up starches at the same time.  I’m trying to avoid changing more than one thing at a time, but the starches had to go.  They were really messing with my mood.  In the past when I gave up starches but kept fat intake (and sugar intake) high my fasting blood sugar would reduce from really high (140-150) down to the 120s, and that’s what it’s done again this week.  I’d like to continue my low-fat eating for a while and see if it improves further.

Now about that…You know what’s left when you give up starches, most meat, and fat?

Sugar. Currently 200-250g of it.  And maybe some vegetables, and some lean meat. Just a whole lotta sugary sweet stuff – fruit and fruit juice, milk, honey-sweetened coffee, marshmallows.  Anything to keep me from being hungry and also not add to the dietary fat total. If I have a couple ounces of cheese and 2 eggs per day I’ve about maxed out my allowed fat intake.

I don’t even really like sweet stuff.  I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, and now my diet is centered around it.  Day to day I’m feeling pretty good, but I fear this is unsustainable because I just don’t really like it.  I’m coming to dread my next sugary coffee/milk/orange juice.  I know low-fat cheese is an option, but even that has 4g of fat per ounce.   I’ve identified one brand that doesn’t have much in the way of unwanted fillers.

Anyway, my weight is down a pound this week…I guess that’s good, and I hope it continues.

I’ve been tracking what I eat on Cronometer.  I don’t know what my baseline (maintenance) number of calories of fat grams is – I haven’t tracked that – but considering how I feel when I restrict calories/fat, I suspect I was maintaining my current weight on 2500-3000 calories per day and over 95-100g fat. A few weeks ago I was trying very hard to lower overall calories without making an effort to reduce fat, and I was averaging 1807 calories and 83g of fat per day.  Hunger was (and still is) preventing me from going lower.  This past week I averaged 1966 calories per day and 58g fat per day, and it was a struggle for the above mentioned reasons. The totals for the last 2 days of the week skewed the average because I was starting to tire of all the sweet food. I think I’ll try to stay under 50g of fat per day – that would be challenging but maybe not unrealistic.

Otherwise, I’m meeting all of my micronutrient goals, and my phosphorous/calcium ratio is about 1:1.  It’s really just a matter of being bored with the taste of sweet.

Onward.

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!

Two Steps Back

I’ve been struggling a bit eating Peat style.  I think this would be a great way of eating if weight loss isn’t a goal.  The food is delicious and makes me feel great.  Only problem is I’ve been gaining weight.  I’m now up to 209.4 – almost 8 pounds over my previous unacceptable weight prior to learning about Dr. Peat.

It has to stop.  I simply cannot continue to gain weight.  My clothes don’t fit.  I avoid mirrors.  I’m discouraged.  I’ve tried to count calories, and I find it impossible to stay on a low-calorie diet while eating sugar.  There’s one woman on my Ray Peat Facebook group who has been losing weight, and she has generously shared her eating plan with us.  I’ve tried to follow it, and I just can’t.  I feel too hungry.  I guess my body is just not healthy enough yet to metabolize sugar effectively.  I think a lot of the sugar I’m eating is being wasted, my liver not effective at storing glycogen.

I’m considering doing a lower-carbohydrate version of Peat’s principles for a couple of months (and yes, I realize “a lower carb Peat plan” is an oxymoron) – just long enough to get some of the weight off.  I think my low-carb diet didn’t result in weight loss before because I was eating too much meat and no dairy. Also I was eating lots of PUFAs in daily consumption of dark-meat chicken and conventional eggs.  Now that I see how damaging those things are, of course I would continue to avoid them.

I don’t know all the answers.  I just need to do something else. I can’t continue to gain weight.

Cortisol and Weight Loss: Questions

In my post yesterday, I wrote the following:

The problem with low-carb diets is the following:  The body releases insulin to process the amino acids in proteins.  When insulin rises, the body needs to raise blood sugar to avoid hypoglycemia.  If there’s no glycogen (sugar) stored in the liver cortisol is released instead, which increases blood sugar.  Cortisol suppresses thyroid function and immune function, and lowers metabolism.

I was paraphrasing what I heard Ray Peat say in an interview about sugar and carbohydrates.

But over the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking about this.  If this is the case, then why do so many people have success losing weight with low carb diets?  I decided to go back and listen again to make sure I really understood what he was saying about cortisol being released when you don’t eat carbs.  Here’s an actual transcript:

Several of the amino acids in proteins are powerful insulin stimulants, and when you eat protein by itself, you stimulate insulin secretion which is needed to metabolize the amino acids. But in reaction to the insulin, your liver has to put out glucose to keep your blood sugar going so your brain and blood cells and kidneys and so on can keep working.  And if your liver is somewhat low on glycogen, then every time you eat protein and have an insulin secretion, your body secretes a compensating amount of cortisol to bring your blood sugar back up.  But the cortisol brings your blood sugar up at the expense of protein.

[…] The first tissues that cortisol breaks down are the thymus gland and other immune cells and the muscles and if you eat lots of protein in spite of the high cortisol, you can keep your balance so you are replacing your muscles and thymus gland but you are running on a constantly high cortisol secretion.

Yeah, I heard him right.  So given this, how come people are able to lose weight on low-carb diets?  Is he saying that weight loss from low-carbing is all loss of lean tissue?  How about people who lose LOTS of weight eating low carb?

He goes on to say:

[…] I’ve seen that doctors simply neglect to measure hormones that were related to blood sugar when they would prescribe insulin, calling a person a diabetic, they said they needed to take insulin the rest of their life.  But, having some of these people test their cortisol, we saw that very many of these so-called diabetics just had very high cortisol.  Sugar happens to be the best thing for lowering cortisol to normal, and since high cortisol gives the impression of diabetes, causing high blood sugar, you get the unexpected effect of when you eat sugar you lower the cortisol, and some of these people had a very quick recovery from their so-called diabetes.

This explains why a lot of low-carbers have what they like to call “Physiological insulin resistance,” (as opposed to “Pathological Insulin Resistance”, I think).  It’s not real insulin resistance – it’s just the effect of high cortisol secondary to low-carb intake.

Which leads me to another question – when I was low carb, how come my cortisol didn’t test high(Update: The answer to this question is in the comments of this post.)