Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Low Carb at 6 months... or

I must remind myself how I stumbled across the idea of removing from our diet refined carbs (simple carbs), since I wasn't looking for a weight loss program.  Actually, I believe that I was believing for quite a few years that being overweight was a mid-life trap caused by a decreased metabolism... or the inability to lose weight no matter how much exercise one performs beyond the age of 38 etc...  But, that actually isn't true.  For at least a year and a half I was experiencing varying hypothyroid-like symptoms and wondered if hypothyroidism was connected with FAP/Gardners Syndrome.  I could also say that maybe the varying symptoms weren't only hypothyroid-like but could have been varying aspects of malnutrition caused by the short-bowel-like syndrome of having a J-Pouch or the subsequent lack of a colon, rectum and Ileum; hence decreased absorption of some B vitamins and the possible lack of production of Vitamin K and other nutrients by the pro-biotic bacteria that would have existed in my rectum and colon...

Let me tell you, writing this stuff bores me.  But, I guess I must continue.

At least two years ago I began investigating Thyroid issues due to lack of energy although I eat very consciously healthfully.  During my research I stumbled across Chris Kresser's website where he explains that hypo-thyroidism is very difficult to diagnose and very easy to mis-diagnose and that there are other issues that may mimic hypothyroidism.  One of them greatly caught my eye which was cortisol dumping caused by sleep disturbances.  If you tend towards going to bed well after midnight or if you tend towards awakening various times per night for whatever reason, your adrenal glands respond by dumping cortisol in the blood stream.  Elevated cortisol levels cause the blocking of the T3 hormone produced by the Thyroid Glands which leads a lowered metabolic rate (lowered energy production by the cells).  Although your Thyroid Glands are functioning healthfully, you effectively experience hypothyroidism that cannot be diagnosed and will not be overcome with thyroid medication...  Cortisol is also related to the "fight or flight" response to emergencies.  So, another function of cortisol is to restrict the arteries in order to raise blood pressure, which offers a momentary increase in activity.  Although no one seems to think about the true meaning of hypertension when speaking of the health issue, you should automatically think that the person with high blood pressure or hypertension is a person more hyper-reactive and tense than a person with normal or low blood pressure.

Just a side thought: does increased intensity running a business or managing a career cause hypertension or does hypertension cause increased intensity?  Would it be useful for a business owner to be closer to hypotension than hypertension?  When you normalize the hypertense person's BP isn't it true that they feel a bit sluggish and tired...?

Ok.  I've been diagnosed with hypertension.  I am much more intense and concerned or observant and attentive to detail and responsibilities than my hypo-tense or almost hypo-tense brothers-in-laws who seemingly worry about nothing...  However, I do live between 4,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level the last 11.6 years after living my first 33 years of life at or near sea level.  Altitude changes greatly increase risk of heart attacks due to increases in blood pressure.  For instance, I normalized my BP in Guadalajara (elevation 5,138 feet) in June and July after spending a month in Aguascalientes (elevation 6,194) where my BP had risen again after being in Guadalajara 2 months.  However, while working in San Luis Potosi (Elevation 6,070) this past August, almost 1,000 feet higher than Guadalajara, my Diastolic BP rose about 25 points while my Systolic BP rose between 10 and 15 points...

All of this said, living with a J-Pouch and before removing wheat products especially and almost all other simple carbs, I almost never slept the night through without being repeatedly awakened by the need to go to the bathroom...  Earlier I had mentioned that Chlorophyll water at night greatly helped me sleep the night through from August 2013 until some time in 2014.  But, for some reason or another, it stopped being affective.  More affective has been the lack of wheat products that cause great inflamation in the small intestine and increased flow of the equivalent of a nasal drip...

Cortisol also functions to block insulin absorption; meaning that glucose is not used for energy metabolism.  Instead it is converted into triglycerides and stored in the adipose tissue; explaining weight gain or lack of weight loss although fat intake and is lower than normal and exercise is daily and normal.  Blocking insulin absorption also leads to increased levels of insulin in the blood stream causing the blocking of the release of fatty acids from the adipose tissue and increased lack of energy.
For at least a year and a half I was trapped between the concern of the very real possibilities of why I didn't lose weight and why I had lack of energy although I ate very consciously and exercised regularly:  1) Age and automatic decrease in metabolism; 2) Hypothyroidism; 3) Cortisol dumping.

After reading Chris Kresser's piece on hypothroidism, Cortisol dumping became incredibly obvious, since my J-Pouch related sleep issues were incredibly real and frustrating.  However, a year later, between August and February, my sleep improved so much and the symptoms continued that I realized that it couldn't be the Cortisol... and I began the investigation again.

I went back to the issue of hypothyroidism and read some information that greatly surprised me that I hadn't seen it before.  In February after working in Leon, my extremely uncomfortable peripheral neuropathy/carpal tunnel syndrome became much worse with much less repetative work related movements involving my right arm and right shoulder.  Plus, my vision decreased and I experienced a rare mental fogginess--decrease in reaction time and memory impairment.

In the list of hypothyroidism symptoms were peripheral neuropathy, mental fogginess, memory problems, vision problems and constipation.  I mention constipation because that was something I never experienced with the J-Pouch in 12 years and something that began occuring since December; aiding in sleeping the night through.  

So now I decided to go to an endocrinologist and have my thyroids checked once and for all.  Just one look at me, the endocrinologist gave me a very low-fat diet and various laboratory tests to have done and suggested I attend to the diet for a month before having my thyroids and other levels checked right before returning to his office.  It was clear that he didn't believe the issue was with my thyroids.  I looked at his diet maybe once or twice and buried it somewhere, took the tests at a clinic the following day and continued my research.  Actually, I returned to Chris Kresser's website to see what else he says about Thyroid Issues and somehow stumbled across various testimonies by formerly fat or obese people who had entered a Paleo (low-carb) diet...   And was intrigued that all of them said that the weight loss was easy, with little exercise and that increase in energy was astonishing.  I'm sure they said other things.  But, truthfully, it doesn't really matter.  

(I had no idea that Kresser was all about what seemed like a fad diet-club, not very different from calling yourself vegan or 100% raw foods, although his research information is incredibly informative; I use him for his research and not for his support of the Paleos, which I believe is a type of clique/club based upon anthropological fantasies about what we may or may not have eaten 15 thousand years ago, dictating that one eat or not eat a certain way because they belong or they don't belong; not so much about health, although the health benefits can be incredibly substantial.  I don't have to call myself something and remove beans or apples or or or from my diet in order to eat truly healthfully and prevent diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, obesity or metabolic syndrome).

At the very same time as stumbling across these intriguing testimonials on Chris Kresser's website, the New York Times published a study by a bunch of international doctors/scientists claiming that heart disease and arteriosclerosis were not caused by high levels of cholesterol from animal products but by triglycerides and VLDL cholesterol from carbohydrates.  I started investigating about the issue with refined carbs and also the effects of wheat products on the small intestine and auto-immune system (hypothyroidism is also a great side risk) and decided it was worth the trial, especially after reading the surprising NYT artical.  

My thyroid and thorax tests came back normal.  My blood sugar levels were surprisingly high for me...  Meaning that my insulin levels should have been high too.  Although my diet was basically low fat or low animal fat, my triglycerides cholesterol and triglycerides continued being high.  This was the end of February.  A few days later during the first week of March I constructed the new diet parameters, never looked at the endocrinologist's starvation diet plan, repeated the blood and urine tests again right before visiting the doctor a month later and noticed that my triglycerides had dropped greatly along with my VLDL cholesterol.  I had also lost around 9 pounds that month.  The endocrinologist was greatly surprised and asked me how his diet went.  I responded that I ignored it and developed my own, explaining what I read in the NYT and my subsequent investigations and asked if he was aware of these findings, that he respond affirmatively, although he will NOT be mentioning to ANY of his patients as is or will be the case of all pharmaceutical drug salepeople labeled doctors.  Before we left his office he suggested writing me a prescription and said, "although your work is very impressive and your Triglycerides have dropped dramatically, how about my prescribing you a medication that will speed up the process and remove the rest in one month?"...  Margarita says that "Doctors must justify their positions by prescribing medications"... I immediately went home, jumped on the internet and investigated this drug steeped in contraversy for half a decade and never returned to the Endocrinologist's office...  

February 28th 2014 I weighed 95.5 kgs/215 pounds and wore pants with a waist size between 38-40 inches...  I wasn't running since the strange fatigue I experienced a year and a half earlier.  Instead Margarita and I walked briskly normally for around 50 minutes and sometimes up to 80 minutes. The distance was around 3 miles per day.  

By mid May, I had lost about 15 pounds with the same limited exercise regime, mixed with run-walks... I didn't want to have the same experience of a year and a half earlier.

Mid May is important because we had just returned from working a month in Aguascalientes where I noticed that my Peripheral Neuropathy/Carpal Tunnel Syndrome had been non-existent, although the work was incredibly intense.  I also noticed that the lack of sleep mixed with intense heat and intense stress did NOT lead to what we all too well know as lack of sleep hang-over...  Margarita mentioned the same thing.  And also part of Margarita and my shared experience was the incredible physical resilience and mental clearness that was not affected by physical exhaustion during the super intense month.  

Mid May is even more important because I decide to dedicate the following 2+ months to an exercise challenge.  I decided to convert the brisk walks and the run-walking into pure running and see where the lack of simple carbs would lead me, always keeping in mind how I injured my ileal-tibial band as a vegetarian running at Hampshire 6 days per week at least 4 miles per day.  This time around I would run 3 days and rest one, increasing my time or distance gradually and trying to prevent injury by not increasing the distance more than 10% per week. Granted, in the first week I incremented from 9 minutes or 1 mile to just over 20 minutes.  

Before injuring a tendon on the outside of my right ankle due to stress from uneven ground caused by intense erosion damage in the park where I run (this summer rains have been incredibly intense here to this date) here in Guadalajara two weeks before leaving for one month of work in San Luis Potosi, I had come within a few hundred feet of running 10kms/6.2 miles/63 minutes 5-6 days per week. Keeping in mind increased muscle mass, by the first week of August or 5 months after changing my eating style, I had lost 25 pounds or 5 pounds per month.  After a running hiatus for 2 weeks, I began running again 35-38 minutes 3-4 days a week while working in San Luis Potosi.  The runs were light and relaxed considering that the beautiful Park Tangamanga lacks the muscular challenge of the rolling hills of the Metropolitan Park in Guadalajara.  Before returning to Guadalajara September 4th, I had dropped another 7 pounds and all of my clothes hung on me as if I had become a cloths hanger...  and I was now wearing 34-36 inch pants.  I put those measurements because I could fit into a 34, but for my muscular thighs, since as you must know, most shorts and pants are designed or sold towards men without ass or thighs...  For the first time in who knows how long, I'm seeing an adolescent-style abdomin and torso attached to a 45-year-old head... DAMN IT!  

AND, in San Luis Potosi I may have upped my sugar intake to up to 40 grams (10 teaspoons) or maximally 160 calories; 2 cups of coffee with 3 teaspoons of sugar and 2 large glasses of limewater with flaxseeds and another two teaspoons each of sugar.  There were days of two bars of dark chocolate for before and/or after the run and days when I didn't drink limewater or more than one cup of coffee with milk and sugar...  However, all my days in San Luis Potosi were accompanied with a diet high in unregulated saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, animal protein, beans, coconut oil, avocados, fruit and vegetables, especially romaine lettuce, spinach, carrots, onions and chiles...  So, those 160 calories in refined carbohydrates constitute easily less than 5% of my daily calorie intake...  if you believe calorie counting is so important.  

In 6 months I had lost 34 pounds or just over 5 pounds per month, ignoring real weight loss that somehow would consider gain in muscle weight.  I had gone from weighing 215 pounds to weighing around 181 pounds.  Mind you, I still wish for dropping another 22 pounds, which would bring me to 159 pounds.  Truthfully, I don't know if that is possible or recommendable, although I am 5'6" tall.  

On another note:  Since beginning the consumption of ground flaxseeds in July, I haven't seen another drop of blood in the toilet after a run that surpasses 30 minutes.  In fact, today I ran a somewhat fast (for me) 40 minute/4 mile run and saw no red in the toilet.  

And yet another note:  The hand is comprised of a bunch of small bones.  I had noticed a long while back that one of those small bones near the wrist of both of my hands towards the side of the thumb rose above the line of the other bones... like a small bump.  However, after losing most of the excess fat on my hands (at least that's what Margarita believes, although I don't see myself as ematiated and my hands look the same with one exception), I noticed yesterday that the bone bump on the left hand is much more visible.  Looking closer, I've concluded that it is a cyst or another lipoma... Fortunately, if it continues growing, it will not affect wrist movement or the tendons of my thumb and pointer finger, since it is situated well between the two.  I will be considering surgical removal if it continues growing though...  

The only complaint I have about the results of our low-carb lifestyle change is that I'm not looking at the face I see in photographs taken of me 11 years ago.  Margarita says that it is because my hair has lightened greately.  Plus, it continues thinning gradually, although my legs have developed a very nice increase in dark hair and it seems that my eyebrows have thickened enough to stop calling myself "assface".  In San Luis Potosi, Luis's mother repeatedly exclaimed to me, "You look so much younger!"...  (Luis is a friend of ours from Guadalajara who has a clothing manufacturing company and sells in 3 of the 4 fairs we work).  I wish I saw what she sees.  But, having a body that is approaching the appearance of a member of a college Greek wrestling team is a bit intriguing, especially at the age of 45...

No comments: