Toward a More Paleo Low-Carb Diet
After attending the Ancestral Health Symposium in August 2012, I came away with a grateful heart, knowing that the low-carb life plan Emily and I have embraced offers significant health benefits for our lives. But, with that assurance, I came away with a strong resolve to address a number of obstacles and challenges to optimal health.
Having resolved the weight issue, my particular focus has shifted to four areas: the brain, the bones, digestion, and eye health. Each of these has continued to be a thorn in my side to some extent throughout life.
The first area of concern relates to brain health. As I write this, I am nearly 57 years old. My memory is not what it used to be. It is certainly greatly improved after eliminating most sugar and starch from my diet, but, I still have occasional lapses. For example, at times in the middle of relating an experience, I will forget the next point that I was about to make. I have noticed that my brain’s ability to process information, as well as to remember, directly correlates with the quantity and quality of sleep I receive. On the rare occasions that I have had adequate rest, approximately 7 ½ to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep the night before, my brain is extremely sharp. At those times, the memory lapses are quite infrequent. But, I also notice that when my fuel is low (when I am overdue for a meal), my brain power is significantly impaired. Consequently, I have decided to focus on obstacles to sleep along with essential nutrients for the brain to work toward resolving this issue.
With regard to sleep, the obvious culprit is caffeine. But, having given up so many comfort foods in my commitment to a low-carb life, I staunchly held on to nearly unlimited coffee consumption. I was drinking an average of 4 to 6 cups of coffee per day, thinking that this was quite moderate. Ever since starting a low-carb diet over eleven years ago, I knew that I should cut down on the caffeine. But, coffee and wine were my only two vices. I also knew that I was going to be faced with a severe bout of headaches with caffeine withdrawal. Nevertheless, I was now resolved to eliminate this roadblock to proper rest.
Consequently, two weeks ago, I decided to limit my coffee consumption to 8 ounces in the morning. By the first night, I had a mild headache. On day 2 of my reduced coffee regimen, I was taking Advil for the pain. By day 4, the headache was getting progressively worse, and I switched to Aleve. By day 5, nothing was helping, and I was very ill. And, then, thankfully, it was over. It took 6 days to get through caffeine withdrawal. Incredibly, it was worth every moment of pain. I did not think I would ever be able to get sleepy at ten o’clock p.m. and head for bed. Normally, I read or do a crossword puzzle until I fall asleep from pure exhaustion much later. But, for the past week, I have had no problem getting to sleep, and staying asleep (for the most part). As a result, I have noticed a surge in my energy level, as well as vast improvement in brain function.
I am also trying to limit wine consumption to one glass with dinner, no more than 6 nights per week. I have noticed that when I have more than that amount, I have no trouble falling asleep, but I will wake up within a few hours and have great difficulty getting back to sleep. The relationship between alcohol and sleep disruption is well documented in scientific studies.
In listening to the speakers for the 3-day conference at Harvard, I was both disconcerted and relieved. I was disconcerted to realize the number of ways that I was failing to properly nourish my brain. Yet, I was relieved in finding potential solutions to optimal brain functioning.
Besides limiting caffeine and alcohol, the following are adjustments that I have recently put into place.
I have begun to increase my intake of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain health. Since the best sources of omega – 3 fatty acids are found in pasture-fed animals and wild caught fish, we placed our first order with U.S. Wellness Meats and have already begun to enjoy burgers, hot dogs, and chicken from pasture-fed animals. I will also continue to take a powerful 950 mg omega – 3 fish oil pill daily. And, cooking with ghee as well as butter from grass fed cows is a pleasure.
I have switched from olive oil to coconut oil in my breakfast concoction and also in cooking. According to Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind, excessive amounts of olive oil interfere with the use of omega-3 fats and may enhance insulin resistance. She recommends using saturated fats such as coconut oil and butter which aid the body in using essential fats and protein. I will still use olive oil in my salads.
I am avoiding the microwave oven as much as is possible. That is why I am heating the coconut milk in a baby bottle warmer instead of the microwave. I am also going to make an effort to eat cold lunches that do not need to be heated in the microwave oven at work.
Since improper digestion interferes with brain health, I have begun to look at my digestion. Bloating is often a sign of poor digestion, and I have always had this problem.
At the symposium, it was brought out that pasteurized milk is difficult to digest. Apparently the high heat from the pasteurization process kills the enzymes in milk that aid digestion. Here is an excellent explanation of why pasteurized dairy products should be avoided.
The enzyme phosphatase is completely destroyed. The final test for pasteurization after heating to 165 degrees Fahrenheit is the negative Alpha Phosphatase test. And this is the enzyme that is critical to the absorption of minerals and calcium! The dairy industry's vaunted vitamin D is useless with this arrangement.
So instead of building bone density, lots of calcium winds up getting into blood vessels calcifying the inner walls to promote cardiovascular problems, or entering joints to create arthritis.
The heat also destroys digestive enzymes, inhibiting proper digestion of milk fats and creating mucous and phlegm in the body to attract disease. The probiotic digestive bacteria, or friendly flora, are also destroyed. The GI tract is well over half of the immune system. Live intestinal flora is needed to bolster that important section of the immune system.
Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/028799_pasteurized_milk_raw.html#ixzz24n7CdQrf
With the awareness of my digestive problems, I am beginning to slowly make substitutions for pasteurized dairy. At this point, I am not able to completely eliminate pasteurized products from my cooking, but my goal is to eventually get there. It may take a few years.
I bought a simple yogurt maker and made my first batch of probiotic home-made yogurt from coconut milk. I am still perfecting the recipe. Once I am satisfied, I will post it on the website. Currently, I am using it in my morning concoction (Anutra, protein powder, coconut oil, and home-made coconut yogurt). In this way, I not only eliminate the pasteurized yogurt, but I also get the probiotics that I need for digestion. Nora Gedgaudas, a certified nutritional therapist, suggests that for optimal gastrointestinal health, anyone who was not breast-fed may need to add probiotics or cultured foods to their daily diet for optimal gastrointesinal health. I would be among this group, as I was fed on PET milk formula.
In addition, I have replaced the half and half in my morning coffee with organic coconut milk. I heat it in a baby bottle warmer. I pour half a cup of the heated coconut milk into my mug and add a half cup of coffee. The coffee is hot, and I repeat with a second cup. The bonus is that I get two cups of coffee with only eight ounces of caffeinated beverage. It is a treat!
Hydrochloric acid capsules aid digestion. So, when I eat a meal that causes me to bloat, most dinners and large salad lunches, I have begun to take Betaine Hydrochloride capsules. They seem to be having a positive impact, greatly reducing the after dinner bloat, and likely they assist in breaking down the food so that the nutrients can be absorbed by my cells.
At the conference, chewing was greatly advocated. Apparently when we chew our food well, it is broken into smaller bits which are easier to digest. As we chew, enzymes in our saliva aid in breaking down the particles further, and by the time the food gets to our guts, we do not require huge amounts of hydrochloric acid to break it down. Only when food is completely decomposed can its nutrients be absorbed and utilized by all of the cells in our bodies.
I have begun to eat raw milk cheese (from non-pasteurized milk) that is aged at least 60 days. It is much tastier than the pasteurized versions, and it may aid in my digestion.
I am currently looking for a good “whole-foods-based B complex”. This is also beneficial for optimal brain health. And, I will continue to eat plenty of green vegetables.
Another important nutrient is selenium. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium. 3 nuts per day provides the US RDA for selenium. To eliminate damaging phytic acid, soak the nuts for 24 hours in salt water. Then, dry in a 160 degree oven.
Eliminate all soy products including tofu, and use Himalayan or Celtic salt.
Another area of concern for me relates to bone health. Both of my parents have osteoporosis. My mother has just broken the third bone in her back, simply by trying to open an easy-to-open window. It was no surprise when I was diagnosed with osteopenia about 25 years ago. I now have osteoporosis, and I am actively looking to reverse it through diet and exercise. Seeing what has become of my mother, I am quite scared.
In an effort to save my bones from further destruction, I am already taking 4,000 mg of vitamin D and 2,000 mg of calcium daily. Besides these supplements, I am hoping that what I am doing to aid digestion will also help me to absorb these nutrients into my cells more effectively. To this, I am adding resistance exercises with small weights. I am also going to begin interval training, using my exercise bike. I will exercise for a total of 20 minutes, alternating 2 minute intervals of intense cycling with one minute of slow peddling.
The final area of concern is my eye health. My eyesight is getting progressively worse. My very close aunt had macular degeneration and lost her eyesight in her later years. I am hoping to avoid such a scenario by making sure that my eyes are properly nourished. For this, I have started to take a Lutein supplement with Zeaxanthin and bilberry fruit powder.
Cod liver oil is also, recommended. But, the two times in my life that I took a dose, I was plagued by intense headaches. I have come to find out that I should appreciate those headaches. Apparently, the headaches are an indication that one is overdosing on a supplement. Vitamin’s such as A, D, and E are fat soluble. These are not excreted daily, but are stored in the liver and can accumulate over time. “The Vitamin A headache” is most likely my body’s way of warning me that if I continue to overdose on this vitamin, I am headed for liver damage. So, I am thinking that vitamin A deficiency is not the problem with my eyes.
In summary, I am hoping that in addition to my low carb diet, I will begin to see the benefits of these modifications to my lifestyle:
limiting caffeine to one cup in the morning
limiting wine to one glass, six times per week
increasing consumption of omega-3 faty acids
eating grass fed beef and other meats and poultry from pasture fed animals, as well as wild caught fish
cooking with coconut oil, butter, and ghee
working towards eliminating pasteurized dairy products
substituting coconut milk (1/2 cup) for half and half in coffee
taking hydrochloric acid capsules as needed for digestion
eating raw milk cheese (aged 60 days or more)
making probiotic home-made coconut milk yogurt
chewing foods well
avoiding the microwave oven as much as possible
taking a whole food based vitamin B and eating lots of green vegetables
eating Brazil nuts
eliminating soy from the diet
using Himalayan salt
incorporating resistance training with weights
cycling 20 minutes every other day, using interval training
taking a Lutein supplement for eye health
This is the starting point for me. I am cautiously optimistic. I will let you know how it goes.