Tag Archives: gallbladder

Acid vs. Alkaline

I often find that comparing our bodies to cars works really well: we’ve got intake systems, and output systems, and we require fuel to keep ourselves going. Fuel intake depends on the size of the model, and different fuels have different effects, etc. I’m not really very good at the mechanics or the engineering side of cars, though, so I’m going to have to find another analogy for this particular post.

Our bodies are a little bit like water…and given that we’re made up largely of water, that shouldn’t really be too far left field. Water has pH levels, dictating its acidity of alkaline levels – acid, sour; alkaline, er…not-sour? Help me out here, chemistry majors – and so do our bodies. One of the most acidic materials we produce as human beings is bile and stomach acid, which help us digest our food by breaking the substances we consume down into absorbable bits. Fairly straight forward.

For most healthy people, that’s a simple fact of life: you eat, your body digests, you go to the bathroom. Simple. For those of us struggling with health issues – whether it’s migraines, diabetes, PCOS, gall/kidney issues – this gets a little trickier. We might be on a variety of medications that can upset our digestion, or we might be on a particular diet that isn’t necessarily easy to digest, or both. For example: I’ve written about how I had my gallbladder removed in 2012 here, and have subsequently gone on to talk about the agonizing ‘phantom gallbladder attacks’ – a.k.a. bile-dumping – which still occasionally cause me great discomfort and pain. No fun. Lately, I’ve had very few issues with it, a fact which I attribute to switching to this LC diet I’m on: less processed food/sugar to digest has made it a lot easier for my body to regulate its bile production.

Every now and then, however, I do get an attack. They usually happen when I’ve consumed a particularly fatty meal for dinner – not exactly unheard of in an LCHF (Low-Carb High-Fat) diet! – and gone to bed before it’s had a good chance to digest. It starts off like heartburn and escalates to the feeling of someone driving a red hot knife up through my ribcage. Agony. For you girls who, like me, suffer(ed) from menstrual pain, this is worse. Usually rolling over to lie on my left side – not my preferred side – helps, otherwise I need to reach for the Quick-Eze or antacid meds, which usually knock me out of ketosis >.<.

A week ago, this was happening more and more, and I was getting more and more confused. After all, I’d had no trouble since I’d switched my eating habits, so what was the problem now? Turns out all the protein I’d been eating that week – primarily red meat and yes, cheese – was raising the acidity levels in my system to the point where the bile that my body produced to deal with the protein I’d consumed was so highly acidic that it was just agonizing in even small amounts.

Once I’d figured that out – thanks to Google and my GP – I immediately took action. This meant adding hot-water with lemon to my morning regime, and drinking water with apple cider vinegar in it throughout the day. For whatever reason, drinking these diluted acid compounds will raise your alkaline levels. Go figure. I’m sure there’s some sort of sciencey math in about it, but I haven’t got a head for that sort of thing… It’s meant to be really good for your overall health too, not just digestive.

What I’m getting at is that it’s important to maintain your body’s internal balances, especially when you’ve changed your eating habits or had some sort of digestive intervention.

If anyone finds any good sources for this, let me know? I’m keen to add to my reading list!

Clear skies,

Vee

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Vitamins & Supplements

Today, I want to take a look at vitamins and supplements. I take a lot of vitamins and supplements because of my PCOS, the lack of a gallbladder, and now because of LC. So, just off the bat here’s what I’m taking – I’m not sure about the doses:

  • Women’s Multivitamin
  • Magnesium
  • CoQ10
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc + Vitamin C (I usually only take this one when I’m feeling extra run down)
  • Dairy-Free Probiotic
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Iron + Potassium (only every other day during my period)
  • Fish Oil Capsules (or Krill, depending on what’s on the shelf at the moment)

 “Hang on a sec, Vee,” you must be thinking, “you’re doubling up on a few things there aren’t you?”

Yes, I guess I am. Obviously a multivitamin has most of those things in it already, but along with all the other things you get in it – ginseng, green tea extract, or whatnot – you don’t really get enough of any of the things you need, possibly with the exception of folic acid – which you’d be taking in larger amounts if you were trying to conceive!

Most of these things we should be getting from our food, but sometimes, especially when we’ve cut out certain things to attain a healthier weight, that’s just not possible. Before I go any further I’d like to suggest that you all go and see your GP and ask about getting yourself testing for any vitamin/mineral deficiencies, that way you know what you should be targeting!

I haven’t taken my own advice here yet, but the next time I visit with my GP I will definitely ask her for a test! Things I think I should probably be taking but aren’t sure about:

  • Chromium (again, only when I’m feeling like I really need an extra push)
  • Calcium

Let’s break it down so it doesn’t get all muddled:

Magnesium

We need magnesium for more than 300 different bodily functions. A lot of us don’t get enough magnesium through our diet, and that’s not our fault, we just don’t eat enough of the right foods to get the requisite amount. On top of that soil – especially in Australia – is low in magnesium so plants that normally have perfectly adequate amounts of magnesium, don’t. So if you’ve ever suffered from cramps – either stomach cramps, leg cramps, or what I used to call ‘growing pains’ even as an adult – you might want to look into magnesium. Ladies, lots of studies show that women with PCOS tend to be low in magnesium so it’s a definite go for us!

Vitamin D

The sun’s gift to all of us! Except that for one reason or another, most of us don’t get enough. By most of us, I’m primarily referring to those of us who work indoors for most of the day or live in places around the world where we don’t get a lot of direct sunlight. There have been direct links shown between depression and lack of Vitamin D! Not to mention the fact that D helps us absorb and regulate a whole heap of other vital minerals such as calcium and iron. So, the easy way to get your dosage, is to spend some time in the sun – I think the approved time is somewhere around half and hour with your legs and skin bared, but be mindful of any UV issues you might have! Too much sun is dangerous! The other way you can do it is to hop over to your local pharmacy and buy Vitamin D3, make sure it’s D3 and not D2. D2 is not the same as D3. When we absorb Vitamin D from the sun it’s D3, not D2; in high concentrations D2 can be toxic.

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, we rely on C to boost our immune system, keep our skin healthy, and a whole bunch of bodily functions most of us aren’t even aware of. It also helps us absorb things more easily, like iron and potassium. Most of us make sufficient amounts ourselves, but sometimes, like when we’re sick, not eating well, or stressed, a little boost can help us out of a rut.

Vitamin Bs

Here’s one you really should be taking, especially if you’re on an LC diet and/or have PCOS.  Vitamin Bs help maintain and control blood sugar levels and are vital in ketosis; if you don’t have enough B in you, your body won’t be able to efficiently render energy from non-carb sources.

Iron

This comes in two forms: heme and noneheme, both of which are found in animal and plant matter. Most of us will get our iron in it’s heme form, usually through the vegetables and meat we eat. Iron helps keep the immune system running as well as being a vital component of our circulatory (blood) system. Those who don’t have enough iron in their system become anaemic, and often experience dizziness, nausea and lack of energy. This is especially true for those of us with PCOS! If we aren’t regulating our periods, we might experience heavy ongoing bleeding: that’s blood loss, girls, and iron loss to boot. Try and take a supplement of iron, Vitamin B and magnesium and see if you don’t feel better!

Probiotics

Sometimes you’ve eaten or drunk something that hasn’t done you any good – say you’ve had just a few too many red wines on a cheat day or something – and you feel awful, and I don’t just mean hungover! Your digestive system has a whole heap of helpful bacteria helping you digest whatever you’ve consumed. These little guys are awesome, but sometimes you need to send in some reinforcements. This is especially the case if, like me, you have no gallbladder and really need all the help you can get to digest whatever it is I’ve eaten this time. If you take nothing else I highly recommend taking at least a probiotic a day along with a multivitamin. Not only will your digestive system run better, but you’ll notice that your skin starts looking just that much more awesome. I specifically take a dairy-free one because I find that sometimes the dairy ones just don’t sit right with the phantom gallbladder attacks, but that’s just me.

CoQ10 – Co-Enzyme Q10

You’ve probably never heard of this, right? That’s okay. The thing is, I hadn’t heard of it until I’d started doing some research into PCOS and then into insulin resistance. Turns out, CoQ10 is a vital enzyme needed to ensure that body cells function properly. There are current studies showing hopeful results in using it to help deal with the symptoms of heart conditions, PCOS, cancer, diabetes, and a whole host of other diseases. The older you are, the more you’ll likely need to take a supplement. I would advise that you ask your GP about this before you start taking it, however, seeing as how some people can suffer from side effects like heart palpitations and the like. SO CHECK FIRST.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids  

Found in abundance in fish or krill oils, these little puppies not only help with your digestive system but are also an immune booster and it helps maintain healthy internal organs. The body cannot make this stuff itself so it’s essential that it comes from your diet or a supplement.

Zinc

Like iron, we need zinc to fight off viruses and bacteria. Children and infants need zinc to develop their bone structure and brains so it’s likely to be included in any pre/post/pregnancy multivitamins for those of you who are headed that way. Most of us get our zinc through the foods we eat: red meat, poultry, crustacean seafood, beans, and nuts. Some of us might be low in zinc due to geographical reason – like magnesium, the soils growing your foods might be low in zinc. In addition, you could be low in zinc if you’ve had a loss of gastrointestinal surgery, digestive issues, or Chron’s disease. Just something to keep in mind.

 

I’ll leave the list at that, we’ll probably end up revisiting this since I’m constantly finding out new things!

Keep in mind that we should be getting enough of all of these things through our diet, but most of us won’t be. In addition, those of us on an LC diet will be losing more amounts of minerals and vitamins more rapidly because we’re losing fat and water: two things which vitamins and minerals need to be absorbed correctly into the body! So make an effort to check out what you’re low in and either build those things into your diet or take some appropriate supplements.

Clear Skies,
Vee

Recommended reading:

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements    

Low-Carb ‘Morning Sickness’

A couple of days ago I rolled out of bed, went through my morning routine and headed off to the Cafe. Nothing new, nothing different, except that about half way there a wave of unbelievable nausea hit me. No, I’m not pregnant; though, ironically, diet-change nausea is remarkably similar to morning sickness!

I’m sure some of you have experienced the nausea, the headaches, the dizziness – and not necessarily during the first weeks of carb flu hell. Don’t worry, this is a normal thing, though, if you’re doing things right you shouldn’t be experiencing it more than once in a while. If you’re experiencing constant or regular dizziness, nausea, or other symptoms you find worrying, see your GP. The reason why we experience these symptoms is – sardonic drum-roll, please – because of our blood sugar. So say you’ve had a great LC day, you’ve been exceptionally good and you’ve even managed to squeeze in some exercise time! Awesome. Now, make sure you have a snack before you go to bed, preferably something protein or slow-burning carby – like, say a bit of cheese, or some nuts.

“Why?” you ask.

Remember, you’ve been eating regularly ever two-three hours while you’re awake – theoretically, anyways – to keep your energy levels up and your blood sugar steady; you’re not doing that while you’re asleep. So say you sleep for 8-10 hours, that’s a long time for your newly programmed body to go without fuel, and sure, you’re not using as much fuel as you would when you’re awake, but still… What I’m getting at is that by the time you wake up your body’s out of fuel to burn up so you’re running on left over energy. This means your blood sugar’s going to drop drastically, so until eat you’re going to feel off. Sometimes it can just be that feeling you have normally when you first get out of bed – especially if you’re not a morning person! – but other times, if you’ve had a particularly low carb day the day before, you’ll feel the heavier symptoms of nausea and dizziness etc. This is exactly what women go through with morning sickness as their body’s adjust to their new physical needs. It’s normal, and it’s easy to fix.

“Okay, that’s interesting enough…but how do you fix it?”

Easy: eat something! Just don’t go nuts – er, crazy – eat something simple that your body’s not going to throw right back up. For me that usually means avoiding my usual breakfast foods of eggs and ham and avocado, so I’ll have half a tomato with some salt on it. I’ll wait half an hour after that, then have some more – the other half of the tomato with salt – and if that settles it I’ll try a proper breakfast. Due  to the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder I have to be extra careful, so you might find you can eat heavier foods to fix your ‘morning sickness’, it’s really a matter of trial and error. The things I would definitely avoid however are dairy products, they are just too fatty + carby for an instant fix. It you’re really not getting anywhere with light foods, try getting a whole-grain cracker – like 9 grain Vitawheats, for example – and munching on one of them. Check the box and count the carbs to see how many you can have to stay within your limit, for me that’s usually around 2-3, but I only ever eat them if I’m desperate for something that feels like a cookie.

The other thing I can advise is peppermint or spearmint tea. I use it pretty much as a cure all for headaches and nausea but not everyone likes the taste – especially not without honey or sugar. So if you’re really stuck, say you’ve got a meeting and you really need to be able to concentrate, get some sugar-free spearmint chewing gum and chew on two of those for a while; the menthol and spearmint flavouring should fix your nausea, but keep in mind that it does contain sorbitol – which is a sugar alcohol, something I’ll discuss in greater detail later.

Clear Skies,

Vee

A Word About: Laparoscopic Cholecystectomies

In 2012, two months after I’d gotten married, I was in hospital. The night before I’d had a delicious dinner with my husband, things were great, until I got a bad case of heartburn. I’d experienced a similar heartburn the year before; a persisting agony that did not let up or leave me alone and had me curled up in anguish on the kitchen floor with my cats watching me concernedly. This time round, it was worse; but! It was just heartburn, I told myself, so I decided to distract myself by playing Dragon Age II until I got so tired that I’d sleep through the pain. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I tried to go to bed around 4am, but lying down only made the pain worse. Then came the nausea. Not a fun night, let me tell you.

I spent the next couple of hours crawling between the shower where the boiling water helped ease the pain, and the toilet, where my stomach would heave up what I could only assume was the oldest bile my body had ever produced. It was gross. And painful, did I mention painful?

Anyways, around 6am I think I gave up and crawled into the bedroom to wake up my husband. We ended up in the hospital where, as it turns out, I was diagnosed with one hell of an inflamed gallbladder. They kept me in for a few days to see if it would settle on its own. It didn’t. On day four of my stay I went into the operating room and six hours later I woke up in recover sans a gallbladder.

“Oookay, that sucks. What’s it got to do with low carb stuff?” you’re wondering.

So I had a keyhole surgery – a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, if you feel like being all fancy – which meant I was home again a few days later and really unable to stomach anything except custard and yoghurt-soaked bread. I didn’t have solid food for another fortnight. I lost a lot of weight, but I put it all on again and honestly that was the worse way to lose weight, the pain is indescribably.

When I could finally eat solid foods again I discovered very quickly that I couldn’t just eat whatever I wanted – something the doctors had neglected to mention, and, from my research, they often don’t tell you to alleviate stress prior to the procedure. I had a lot of trouble – I thought – with dairy. Turns out now, it wasn’t the dairy but rather the sugars in the dairy I was eating. When I’d have just a tiny bit too much I’d getting shooting, stabbing pains in my abdomen that radiated through my back and made me feel like the heartburn was back 100fold over. Often it would leave me curled up on my bed wishing I was dead. I’m not joking.

So I cut out dairy with a vengeance, and very nearly went vegetarian barring lean meats and chicken. I stopped drinking alcohol completely, and could no longer stomach sweets of any kind, including chocolate. It was miserable: what was the point of having this organ removed if I could no longer enjoy anything?

Eventually, the pain stopped flaring up as often and I slowly reintroduced dairy and other things I had cut out: always in moderation and always in fear that the pain would come back. It got to the point where instead of having an attack every day I’d only have one once a month, and then maybe one once every couple of months…and then I started the Low Carb thing, and I haven’t had one since.

My current theory is that the sugars and the carbs I was eating were harder to digest than the fats, and without the steady flow of bile from the gallbladder, I was getting bile dumped into the intestines by the liver, which caused the agony. Now, with less carbs and more fibre in the system, things don’t stall so much that I need heaps of bile to digest what I eat. In other words: no more pain!