Monday, April 28, 2014

here we go again....

Over at Primal Docs, some DC is blogging about hair loss and hypothyroidism again....  [groan]

Most of these "professionals" only know what they've read -- they've never dealt with hypothyroidism in themselves, and what they've done with their patients is PURE MAINSTREAM BS most of the time.  They may THINK they're on the cutting edge because they're testing for ANTIBODIES (OOOOH!) ... but it's just the same ol' same ol' from where i sit.

I've come to look at hypothyroidism in a similar way to how Wooo looks at obesity -- the "experts" have the causation completely backward.  Though it seems that low thyroid output may cause certain irregularities of function, i found often that the irregularity itself causes a slowdown in production or conversion.  Both the horse AND the cart influence how your buggy-ride progresses.

A long time ago, i looked critically at the list of hypothyroidism symptoms, and concluded that many of them are nothing more or less than micronutrient deficiencies.  I started by doing a LOT of reading, then began adding in supplements one at a time to see how they would affect my health and well-being -- and i paid a LOT of attention to nutritional conflicts-of-interest and co-dependencies, so that i could rely on what i found.  If i saw that one didn't work as expected, i read some more to see if the actual CHEMICAL in the bottle was the right kind to use, or if time-of-day or diet made a difference with it.  I really worked at the details.  When i seemed to have found a magic bullet, i withdrew and reintroduced it a few times, just to be sure.

And you know what i found in this specific case?  Iron deficiency.  The naturopaths, chinese-medicine practitioners and chiropractic internists have the whole blogosphere scared of this critical mineral.  What i consistently hear, though, is that a healthy system adjusts its absorption depending on need, not how much is ingested.  If there IS a case of overload and over-storage, you'd better start looking around for something ELSE wrong.  Iron "overload" isn't caused by eating a lot of meat -- it's NORMAL for the body to not absorb what it doesn't need.  Overload means there's a problem with inhibiting absorption when it's not appropriate.

23andMe looks at the genes for hereditary hemochromatosis.  There's a good discussion there, too, about the low odds of suffering from the disease EVEN IF YOU HAVE THE WRONG SNPs.  I'll bet the farm that the true cause of hemochromatosis -- what sets it off -- hasn't properly been determined yet.  "Scientists don't fully understand how the body controls iron levels, so it has been difficult to understand how changes in the HFE gene cause HH."  ...but that doesn't stop people from speculating, does it?

In my case, i take my iron supplement in the middle of the day, separated by hours from supplements other than vitaminC, every other day when i haven't eaten any liver for awhile.  On the days i don't take it, or eat liver or oysters, i take a copper supplement -- the two minerals need to be in balance, as do iodine and selenium.  I can tell when i have NOT taken enough iron -- i pull more hair out of my brush when i clean it!  The "clutter" in my hairbrush is DIRECTLY associated with my iron SUPPLEMENT intake!  I obviously do not absorb it from food the way i should.

We can learn a lot from reading online, but it's a two-edged sword!  Much of what we find has been blindly copied from other sources -- in fact, some of the ORIGINAL sources are almost impossible to track down.  My practice is to try to find rational sources who disagree to some extent so i see both sides of the situation, then i compare those views to my personal experience.  Physicians/nurses in practice rank much higher with me than theoreticians, "independent researchers" and those with "plans" to sell!  But if MY EXPERIENCE doesn't jibe with others' hypotheses, i don't care how lauded their "authority" or "expert status" is!  If phenomena aren't seen in the real world, laboratory results are irrelevant.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

rethinking coconut oil

Several years ago, when i first discovered and embraced the paleo concept, i found the argument that coconut oil enhances metabolism to be persuasive.  It seems that farmers who were trying to fatten their cattle on lipids had tried CO only to find that their charges actually got LEANER;  it was thus supposed that CO is the perfect fat for dieters because it revs up the thyroid.  Also, it contains LAURIC ACID!  This stuff is just FULL of fabulous, healing, nourishing MCTs....

I had to try it!  I bought very-good-quality virgin organic coconut oil by the jar, and finally graduated to the gallon tub.  No doubt, it's good stuff.  Only problem -- it didn't seem to do what everyone claims it does -- at least not for me.  I supposed that i went from polyunsaturates to real animal fats first, and that was camouflaging the remarkable properties that lipophiles claim for coconut oil when i finally added it to my diet.  I only started to doubt coconut-oil's efficacy recently.

It comes back to the problem of extrapolating from animal studies to humans, and also to assuming that what's good for a young euthyroid athlete to ... uh ... someone who's NOT, is a logical extension.

Here's the thing -- people with "weak" thyroids are a lot more sensitive to many different foodstuffs.  My suspicion is that most of us ARE hypothyroid BECAUSE we're intolerant of glutens or histamines, AND we don't absorb nutrients well and as a result are micronutrient deficient, AND we're environmentally poisoned by things like fluoride, chlorine, and sometimes lithium in the water supply.  And guess what -- i just learned that coconut oil is rife with salicylates, one of histamine/tyramine's co-irritants.  ...That would explain a few things....

I still have a big tub half-full of coconut oil, but i'm not planning to throw it out or anything;  i'm just going to use it with less abandon, and i'll certainly recommend it to others with a caveat.  Ditto for coconut milk!  It's a valuable substance, offering flexibility to a dairy-free or -reduced diet.  But i don't think either of them is the miracle-food they're painted to be.

This takes me back to what the Strong Medicine regimen, and my experiences and readings have taught me -- all naturally-occurring saturated fats are my friends, but ruminants' tallow is the BEST friend i have in that regard.  Coconut oil just doesn't compare.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

one busy day

...and i got SO FAR BEHIND on reading comments.  What a terrific community my readers are!  :-D Thank you so much for coming here and supporting each other!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

inching back to their old diets, via trying the latest thing

Gwen has a VERY good post up (while she's busy traveling, it's a guest post) about weight regain.  It, in conjunction with Tom-the-FatHead's current experimentation with resistant starch, made me remark to myself that it's easy to see why people regain the fat they so painstakingly lost!  You see, the most obesogenic foods are SNEAKY -- you don't notice the damage they do until it's done.

Some of us have been able to heal decades of damage through eliminating the elements that wrought the havoc.  Paleo-type elimination diets are outstanding for this, as was Donaldson's "strong medicine" regimen of getting off the "allergy bandwagon" -- the list of foods with which most of his sensitive patients had trouble.  Eating simple foods which the majority of "western" people can consume with impunity, for long periods of time, gives our bodies a chance to do what they were designed to do -- heal itself.  Cleaning up deleterious habits like shorting ourselves on sleep and getting outside for sun and air help.

Humans are infinitely curious, like the monkeys and rats to which we're distantly related, though.  We can't resist the temptation to TWEAK.  We live to expand our horizons!  We are extremely attracted to novelty.  ...We can't leave well enough alone.

I'm not going to suggest anyone stop experimenting, because that's how we progress.  I WILL, however, warn against the insidiousness of the "neolithic agents of disease."  Just because i don't feel bad results from one small exposure to wheat or nightshades doesn't mean that little bits of damage aren't happening below the level of perception.

If we go back to the diet which got us into trouble in the first place, it's like falling for the half-truths of the popular media.  "Oh, one little bite won't kill you!" may be true, but it certainly won't benefit you in the long run.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Optimal potatoes less than optimal?

Not long ago, i acquired and read the two English-language books on the Optimal diet by Jan Kwasniewski.  I decided to give it a try.  Particularly when i was out of town and only ate exactly WHAT i wanted to, WHEN i wanted to, things were going well.  Except...

My bad knee would NOT stop hurting.  Accidental wheat contamination is always possible when eating other people's cooking, especially in restaurants.  A few days at my daughter's house, eating mostly my own cooking:  inflammation was down in the whole-body sense, but the knee still gave me trouble.  I treated with Tiger Balm, which felt good but wasn't curative.  I came home and treated with heat, which also felt good but wasn't curative.  I started thinking.

The higher-target carb allowance gave me more freedom in vegetable choices.  I wasn't eating exclusively from any particular source, but the one time i ate parsnips certainly wasn't a problem.  The two times i ate rice/risotto were extremely unlikely to be the difficulty, because i've indulged modestly in rice dishes without problems over the last couple of years.  The sporadic use i've made of my sourdough rye doesn't fit the pain pattern, and i haven't touched other grains.

But it could be the potatoes.  I haven't eaten much at a time, but i have eaten them a couple of times a week for the last few.  I KNOW nightshades can give me trouble.  I think i've read that some people specifically have joint pain from their use.  Damn.

I still think that i lose weight better with slightly lowered protein intake, in the "Optimal" range, which Lutz also seems to recommend (just read his book, too).  Their plans are convenient when i spend time around other people (as i do when traveling and since my husband retired).  "Strong Medicine" was great while i was home by myself for weeks on end, but harder to stick to when other people are around.  Since my guts don't really like lettuce salads, potatoes looked like a viable alternative, but i'm extremely doubtful about that now.

So i'm off the potato truck for the time being -- i've got to get rid of the knee pain before i test it again.  Not sure what i'll put in their place!  I'm not that enthusiastic about carrots and turnips.  Plantains, maybe?  The only place to get decent Japanese sweet potatoes is across town, and they don't keep well (and i HATE "garnets" -- damned sugar-bombs).

This is probably the time to experiment more with the "pseudograins" -- things like quinoa and buckwheat.  It must be admitted, the blossoming spring weather encourages the use of more fresh ingredients, and the thought of tabouli salad made with quinoa instead of bulgur is making my mouth water....  I just need to make sure that my use of tomatoes and peppers doesn't do the same thing that the potatoes have apparently done!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

dealing with stress

Karen, over at the Garden Girl blog, has a post up about stress.  I found her observations head-and-shoulders above what I usually see written on the subject.

She used to find that stress motivated her to binge on comfort foods.  I find that acute stress causes a knee-jerk reaction to want a drink, but that a "stress formula" B-vitamin-complex also answers the drive.  It sure sounds as though the unpleasant-emotion aspect of an acute stressor depletes SOMETHING that any of these responses has an ameliorating action....

I seem to over-secrete adrenaline in response to a lot of things which can reasonably be described as stressors.  Always have -- when I was four years old, and a neighborhood bully was picking on the neighborhood "developmentally challenged" girl, I sent him home with a bloody nose.  DON'T piss off mini-Tess....  For the most part, my reactions got more civilized as I grew older, but I never have believed in tolerance to assholes -- treating them like reasonable human beings is a waste of time and effort!  ;-)

Reading things on "how to deal with stress" is usually another time/effort waste.  Meditate -- bullshit!  If I could relax to the point of being able to meditate with the flood of epinephrine coursing through my veins, would I have a stress problem at all?  No:  what is needed is an EMT-quality intervention, not an ideal-world wispy little panacea....

I suspect that popping that B-vitamin may be the best initial response -- our bodies are screaming "eat!" or "drink!" for some reason, after all.  After that, it will of course depend on the nature of the stressor and our own neurotransmitter status and personalities.  Dealing with a real-world problem will (with any kind of luck) make that problem a thing of the past.  Other relaxing activities, particular to each of us (hot bath with a good book, here) will help once the acute phase is over.  After THAT, meditation should be possible. 

But I don't know -- punching out a bully still has its attractions!

Monday, April 7, 2014

paleo healing in the filthy middle ages

I've been alternating non-fiction reading (Hyperlipid) with something much lighter -- Cadfael.  I've always loved history and murder mysteries, so this is doubly entertaining.  I'm constantly having to nip over to Wikipedia to check up on people, places and events of which i don't know enough.  A rabbit trail led me to Henry V of England (who was portrayed so compellingly by Kenneth Branagh...).

It seems that once during his tumultuous and eventful life, Hal got an arrow wound in his face.  If he'd been anyone less important, it probably would have been the death of him.  Prince Henry, however, had the best medical attention to be found in the western world at the time.  They managed to extract the arrow head without doing any more damage than had already been done, then treated the wound with alcohol and HONEY.  Yep, good old-fashioned honey, the back-country antiseptic!

The alcohol step sure must have stung, though....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

damn -- who IS blogblog?

Reading, reading, reading....

When the Hyperlipid posts get to the point that most of the comments are posted by amateur nutrition-tweakers rather than the professional ones, you learn really fast whose statements are worth reading, and which should be skipped entirely.  Blogblog's have always been in the former category.  This morning's post of mine is inspired by this comment:
"There are plenty of reasons to eat plant foods without invoking antioxidants. Plants have stimulant, sedative, antimicrobial, antihelminthic, anti-nausea, diuretic, anti-spasmodic and a host of other properties."

I particularly like this statement.  When I mention to some people that vegetables are not that important for vitamin/mineral acquisition, that actual intervention studies show that increasing fruitsandvegetables don't show benefit, and that plant antioxidants are a double-edged sword, they usually assume i'm anti-vegetable (as I AM anti-fruit). 

I no longer believe that fruitsandvegetables should occupy the generally-prescribed large part of the nutrition plate (or pyramid, depending on the graphic you fancy).  I don't believe they do ME much good, if any.  I still eat a few of them, because I perceive some provide more by way of taste-pleasure or stimulant-benefit than they do damage.  I believe eating "mostly plants" makes ME feel like shit -- but go for it yourself if you want to.

Whoever Blogblog is/was, I'd like to thank him for being the tireless BS-buster I've enjoyed reading in the Hyperlipid archive comments.  So often it's he who refutes the utter nonsense that Peter didn't have time to deal with. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

eating liver and LIKING it!

I accomplished something great today -- I concocted a dish that the grandkids LOVED ... and which contains a respectable quantity of liver!  :-D

This combination has been on my mind for some time, and I was delighted to find it actually WORKED.  How often do we have "brilliant" ideas that just don't pan out?!  Well, at least I do....

I combined pretty homogenously:

   1# ground beef
   1# ground pork
   1# bacon, cut in 1" pieces
   1/2# beef liver, soaked in milk, parboiled and chopped fine
   1/2 c. barbecue sauce
   2 eggs

It made quite a good-sized meatloaf in a large baking pan.  I covered it with foil so it would stay moist while it had time to cook through, and I put it in a 350 F oven for an hour and a half.  At the end of that time, I uncovered it and drizzled it with some of my home-made catsup and put it back in the oven for a half hour.

The children, 7 and 10, LOVED it.  M polished hers off in record time, and G had seconds.  My daughter said she thought it was the best meatloaf she'd ever tasted, though I reminded her that it was very much like the one I used to make, way-back-when -- just more nutritious.

Success!  And success feels GOOD.

"moderation in everything" damaged my whole life

It's easy to have 20-20 hindsight.  In the light of visible results, we can work back through the woven threads and see where the bad choice turned what might have been a beautiful tapestry into one with clashing colors or premature dilapidation.  The temptation is to exclaim, "what the hell were they thinking," when excusing ignorance is probably a better alternative.

I was weaned at two months of age, but I refused a bottle so "the help*" taught me to drink from a sippy-cup.  At the age of six months, my doctor didn't like how passive I looked, and ended up diagnosing me as hypothyroid.  Family anecdotes describe how my mother was obliged to keep taking me to the doctor for YEARS to get my dosage correct.  I took a series of different prescription thyroid medications for over a half-century, until I decided to run a little experiment....

The final chapters of that experiment are recorded on this blog.  Short version:  my theoretical hypothyroidism was caused by malnutrition.  Careful supplementation and the use of OTC raw desiccated thyroid tablets have got me to where I have no symptoms.  Take THAT, medical industry!  A self-taught nobody healed herself without a damn bit of paid help!  (I got a LOT of help, though, from those who unselfishly share their knowledge and experience online, for free.)

I learned that I MUST get my vitaminA pre-formed (and the 23andMe service confirmed my genetic ineptitude at converting beta-carotene to A, and many other things).  I learned that I had to take METHYLcobalamin in sublingual form -- the cheap version (cyanocobalamin) is detrimental to my thyroid function, and the swallowed kind isn't nearly so well absorbed.  I learned that I must stay away from "vegetable oils" and that tallow is my best friend.  I learned that though I absorb nutrients decently from liver and oysters, I don't do it nearly so well from other foods, so careful supplementation of certain minerals is essential.  I learned, in short, that most of the nutrition "knowledge" out there is the worst kind of hearsay, superstition and ignorance.

But it wasn't only my low thyroid status that did the damage;  poor nutrition, both direct and through poor absorption had other repercussions.  The neurotransmitter issues are blatant to me now, but nobody ever had a clue before.

If only "convention wisdom" of the mid-twentieth-century had clung to the traditional, rather than being dazzled by the promises that Science could improve on Nature!  If only an old-fashioned insistence that children get their cod-liver oil and plenty of hearty nutrition-dense food had prevailed, instead of relying on "fortified" white bread, margarine, breakfast cereals, potatoes, and that so-very-common-sensical notion that snacks are fine IN MODERATION!  I got animal products in moderation, so that should be plenty, right?  Nothing wrong with daily popcorn or cookies or crackers, now, is there?  And certainly the narrow variety of canned vegetables we ate were just as good as fresh -- we were assured that they were picked at perfect ripeness and processed immediately, to preserve their vitamins.

Result:  a metabolism which was powered by the cheapest commodities -- wheat, corn oil and potatoes.  A metabolism run on glucose, in short, which promotes serotonin at the expense of dopamine.  Suboptimal levels of the fat-soluble vitamins, doubling-down on the damage -- "the family" disliked milk of more than 2% fat, hated lard and couldn't afford butter.  At least we weren't afraid of sunshine in those days....

What does serotonin do, though, as compared with dopamine?  Dopamine is responsible for the drive that makes us keep persevering in the face of discouragement, and serotonin is what tells us to relax ... and give up.  As a teen I remember coming home from school and taking a nap -- this is NOT normal behavior in a kid who is asleep by 10pm and drags herself out of bed in the morning when the alarm goes off minutes before having to leave for school.... 

The endocannabinoid dance is well-described by Chris Masterjohn, here.

Time-honored practices were handed down for centuries for a reason.  Before the age of advertisement, people learned every-day practices from one's parents, who learned it from theirs.  It worked, or we wouldn't be here.  I'm happy to say, at least what I've learned by studying my life and health will be of use to my grandchildren!

*  before anyone leaps to the conclusion that my parents had means, it was CHEAP to get a little household help way back when I was an infant.  My grandmother probably paid her, anyway....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

angels dancing

...on the heads of pins, of course!

In my whole-archive reading of Hyperlipid, I'm well into that point where the comment section is full of an entire different caliber of people than it originally was.  Instead of the serious students of nutrition and metabolism, we now have the Monday-morning quarterbacks.  [sigh]

So many amateur debaters!  So many theoreticians!  So many people who don't have a horse in the race, but who love to try to convince each other that obscure physiological details matter in the cause and solution of obesity!

So many people who SHOULD have something better to do with their lives.  Are they doing this at work/school instead of attending to business?  If they're doing it in their evenings and nights, they probably need to re-think how they're wasting their youth!

I, and many others like me, have inborn (or acquired) health issues which can be ameliorated by diet and supplementation.  What I've learned in the past three years has improved the quality of my life immensely.  I've learned what foods make me feel good, and which ones sap my energy and damage my well-being.  My continuing trials of supplements and minor tweaks of macronutrient balance (within a LC-paleo template) are still teaching me about what my body doesn't do well, for which I NEED help.

But those healthy young people -- why aren't they out there DOING THINGS instead of obsessing over conditions that they'll never have to deal with?  It's a shame they're not concentrating on getting as much as they can out of life, their social possibilities, families and careers, instead of burning the midnight oil.  For the gods' sake, take advantage of this period in your lives!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Is it thermogenesis, or is it a histamine reaction?  [sigh]

As Almond-Oh once observed, the more I learn, the more ignorant I feel!  :-)  It's an hour after I ate lunch (leftover grilled chicken leg quarter), and i'm getting that post-prandial heat sensation.  Once upon a time, I would have congratulated myself on being able to raise my metabolism to burn off the fuel.  Before that, I might have thought I was having a hot-flash.  Before THAT I might have thought I needed to adjust the thermostat (i'm currently in gulf-coast Texas, where it's common to have the a/c on in the dead of winter).

After my horrible experience in the summer, of severe histamine-intolerance, I tend to suspect that sort of reaction.  So I just popped a "tab" of nicotine gum, which I find an excellent remedy for "histamine poisoning."  If (when the a/c fan has been off for a couple of minutes) I no longer feel overheated, it was probably THAT.  (Yep, it seems to be IT.)

SO many little things interact within the body to make it perform the way it does -- it's awe-inspiring.  These physical vehicles of ours are constantly adjusting chemical parameters ... and yet we all want a simple answer for why we feel "this" way or how we come to have "that" reaction.  Tweak one hormonal level and get a dozen little changes all the way down the cascade.  Supplement a neurotransmitter (or even one of its precursors), and get a surprising response that you never expected....

Since my LAST trip (Colorado, earlier this month) I've been on a minimalist supplementation regimen -- i'm only taking the bare minimum.  I didn't carry my iron on that trip, and I felt the difference so I brought it this time.  I brought the betaine-HCl but since my bout of gastritis it seems to do more harm that good, but I do have the serrapeptase for just-in-case.  Wine has been boosting the stomach-acid as well, so I've reduced my meal-time serving from four-to-six ounces down to three.  BEING in TX, I've used the Daosin (it's like Histame) a couple of times, too -- this climate is horrible for people who have allergic sensitivities!  It never gets cold enough to kill fungi and yeasts, and the humidity fuels them too.

Hoping the allergens don't interfere too badly with weight-loss, because the Low-Carb Cruise is in six weeks, and i'm hoping that my trial with Kwasniewski's Optimal Diet will get me to my weight goal ... which San Francisco's food environment and various infections over the past year have postponed!  I have twelve pounds to go.  We're taking our daughter's family with us this time, and anticipate a glorious vacation!  :-D