Tag Archives: insulin

Low Carb and PMS

Firstly, welcome to all the new followers! Thanks for sifting through everything and tuning into LCO. 🙂

Today I want to briefly touch base with all you women out there who go through the irritation that is PMS. (Guys, clearly you don’t have to read along here, but hey, you never know when this information might come in useful to help your significant other!)

So, then: what is PMS and how might LC effect it? The first thing we should clear up before we dive into that is that not all women will ever experience PMS, some of us may suffer through some symptoms of it, while others get the full whammy. So, PMS: Pre-Menstrual Syndrome describes the symptoms prior, during, or even after a women’s monthly period arrives. Generally speaking these symptoms can include things like bloating, water retention, cravings, abdominal cramping, muscle pain, back and neck aches, headaches, gas, and/or migraines. Some of us might have all of them, others none! I tend to trade potential muscle aches for breast tenderness, no fun. Another thing many women.experience are mood swings, crankiness and depression.

Most of us assume that all this is due to hormonal swings as our body goes into its cycle. That’s not entirely accurate; hormones are certainly a piece of the puzzle, especially for women with PCOS – estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency can definitely be a factor. Other possible causes are a lack in Vitamin B6, abnormal glucose metabolism – i.e. high insulin resistance – and electrolyte misbalances. In addition, you’re more at risk of developing PMS symptoms if you smoke and/or have a BMI of over 30.

And this is where the LC comes in. Some of us may have gone to the doctor to ask about these things we go through around out period, and we might have been told that weight was a factor. So we troll the Internet and decided to try an LC diet since it seems to be the current thing to be doing. Great. Just be mindful that weight loss will initially mess around with all your internal settings, so make sure you’re taking the appropriate minerals and vitamins and keeping your electrolytes up. Cutting out foods you’ve been eating your whole life can lead to a sudden deficiency in certain essentials, so just be mindful of that.

Something else to keep an eye on is that some people appear to get worse PMS symptoms while on LC I honestly don’t know why – and I’ll try to find out, so stayed tuned!  – but it can get pretty bad. My advice is, if you’re one of these people, to up your carb count when you feel it start to get bad. If you do find that your PMS gets worse while on an LC, I would love to get your pointers and opinions.

Clear Skies,
Vee

Sites of Interest: ‘Fat Girl Living Low Carb’, ‘Linda’s Low Carb Menus & Recipes’ & ‘Mark’s Daily Apple’

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” ~Maya Angelou

So, my second ‘Sites of Interest’ post! Exciting. I’m going to try and do one of these every month so that you’ve all got fresh information to look at instead of getting stuck with my rambling words every day.

This month we’re taking a look at my new favourite blog for motivation and recipes: Fat Girl Living Low Carb. I stumbled across this blog quite by accident only to find a wealth of information pertaining to LC recipes, foods, ideas, and just general fun. Those of you who are stuck for something to eat really need to hop over there and have a look! Her writing style is fresh and entertaining, and her articles are always honest and tend to be accompanied by fantastic pictures. There’s nothing like some serious visual aids to help the imagination along. The recipes she provides are very simple, but provide beautiful complex flavours, and on top of that, they’re divided into categories for easy access!

If you need even more recipes, why not jump over to Linda’s Low Carb Menus & Recipes, another great resource for a diverse amount of recipes. Linda’s got a great variety, classifying all her recipes into courses and including some scrumptious snack and dessert recipes. This site also has a page dedicated to ‘Odds and Ends’ which contains all sorts of useful tools for anyone’s weight loss journey,  such as tips and notes on sugar-free syrups, exercise tapes and dvds, and a hidden carb calculator. I like using this site for ideas and its resources, the links Linda provides are very useful and should be part of an LCers arsenal.

Finally, you’ve got to look at Mark’s Daily Apple. Focusing on a ‘Primal’ diet, this site is chock full of awesome information, tips, links, and resources. If you’re looking for a place to start a Primal LC diet, this is the place to go. The only ‘downside’, if you can call it that, is that is a sponsored site; I don’t really care about that, but someone else might so I thought I’d put it up there. But hey, keep in mind that sometimes you’ve got to consult expert advice to temper all the great grassroots information we’re building here! 🙂

And that’s it from me for today! Happy browsing and happy Low-carbing!

Clear Skies,
Vee

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    

A Word About: Sugar Alcohols

A lot of us on LC will explore the constrictions we place upon ourselves, and that often means we will jump for joy when we discover something that has ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low carb’ written on it in big fancy letters. Let’s face it, we’re putting ourselves through a series of serious changes by cutting out things we like; we’re going to be looking for alternatives for the things we can’t have. That means trying to substitute flour things with cauliflower crusts, or almond meal, or something; we’re only human, we’re going to want to duplicate our favourite carb foods. Imagination is the only limitation here!

But what about sugar? I used to like sugar in my tea, I certainly miss my ability to eat muffins and cakes. Well, there’s a whole host of artificial or alternative sweeteners that we can turn to, but this is where the waters get a little muddied. We don’t want to ingest anything that’ll mess up our good record so far; so nothing that affects our insulin levels, and you probably want to avoid anything with a high kilojoule count. So where does that leave us?

Well, we’ve got a few choices: artificial sweeteners, stevia, or sugar alcohols. There’s a lot of drama revolving around artificial sweeteners, a lot of arguments saying that they’re carcinogenic and have other detrimental health affects. In all honesty, I don’t know. The research is still inconclusive and wherever you look there’s conflicting data. I’ll try to explore a little further and get back to you in a later post. I’ll do the same with stevia, the natural alternative to sugar – I really want to focus on sugar alcohols in this post.

Sugar alcohols derive their name from their molecular structure: kind of halfway between an alcohol molecule and a sugar one. They’re not either of those things: they’re not sugar, and they’re not alcohol.  What they are is a type of carbohydrate also called ‘polyols’. They occur naturally in plants and are extracted from plants as syrups or powder. There’s several different types of sugar alcohols, but if you’ve been browsing labels and ingredients lists you’ll most likely have come across these three: xylitol, malitol, and sorbitol. Good on you for taking notice and doing the research!

Alrighty, down to the nitty-gritty we go.

Sugar alcohols taste sweet – though maybe not as sweet as actual sugar – and are often used in products promoting themselves as sugar-free. Unlike sugar they don’t mess around with your teeth and so people use them in sugar-free chewing gum – go ahead, check the side of that packet, is one of the three in there? I’ll bet it is! These substitutes, however, also come with a bit of a warning: they’re not always completely digested or absorbed by our bodies and that can lead to some serious gas, bloating and stomach aches, not to mention diarrhoea and burping! These affects vary from person to person and depend on which sugar alcohol is ingested. For example, remember those sugar-free liquorices I was talking about when I was sick? Yeah, those had malitol in them. I thought nothing of it because I have little to no reaction to sorbitol or xylitol  – and I do love my sugar-free gum.  Apparently, however, malitol is my worst enemy.  I had an immediate reaction: bloating, gas, and a stomach ache. I was blocked up for days! I’ll not be doing that again, let me tell you; no more malitol for me, ever. Apart from the occasional stick of gum to help with nausea, I’ve managed to avoid sorbitol and xylitol, but I’m glad that I can have something if malitol is definitely off the menu.

Which brings me to erythritol. Unlike the other three, a large amount erythritol does manage to get digested and absorbed so there’s less left in the intestines to fester and cause any ill side effects. In addition, it’s meant to have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. I have yet to experiment with this, so I can’t really give you an real world experience, but if you have used it – had it in candy, baked with it, etc., I’d love to hear about it.

Remember: whatever you’re replacing anything with go with moderation, start slow and build up, don’t go crazy all at once because you’ve done the research and it says you can definitely eat this! The theories are there, but your body might react differently to things! No one is the same, we’re all special and unique snowflakes (etc.,etc.,etc.) so just keep that in mind: you might have a different reaction to something than the next person. So go carefully!

Clear skies,
Vee

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

PCOS

I promised at the start of this blog that I would be discussing PCOS as well as an LC diet. If this doesn’t interest you, then that’s fine, just skip this entry. 🙂 This is just the introductory entry, we’ll look at the diet in a PCOS light a little later on.

PCOS affects 1 in 8 women all over the world. In Australia, that’s 12% of all child-bearing women, and around 12 million women in the United States. More or less. That means that if you’re on a bus with twelve women, likelihood is that at least 2 women have it. Some of them won’t even know that that’s what’s causing some of their issues. Maybe they’re trying to get pregnant and have had no luck so far; maybe the lady sitting next to you is wearing those long sleeves because she’s embarrassed by the excessive arm hair she’s got – man hair, her friends might have teased in high school. And the girl sitting down the aisle to the left? Maybe she’s that fat not because she overeats but because she’s got high insulin resistance because her body’s hormonal balances are shot the hell.

For a very long time, PCOS was not considered a single illness: instead it had a host of other names, practically each symptom being addressed as an individual diagnosis. In 1935 a Drs. Irving Stein and Michael Leventhal first described the condition we now call PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  It went through a few phases, carrying a variety of different names.

So let’s take a look at what it actually is…

PCOS is complicated, and for such a common disease it’s actually relatively unheard of. Until I was diagnosed with it I’d certainly never heard of it; hell, for a long time even after the diagnosis I couldn’t figure out what it was. The GP who had diagnosed me wasn’t the best of the best, and she simply gave me the verdict and then left me to my own devices. I hope that isn’t the case with the rest of you, but I figure it depends on who you get – some GPs aren’t 100% familiar with PCOS, and as a result aren’t comfortable to get into the nitty gritty details. That said, I have a great respect for the medical profession, but if you’re not getting the information you need – even after asking several times – it’s time to move on, find a specialist or try a different GP. Gynaecologists are a safe bet for specialist information, or of course, you could hop onto the Internet and try your luck.

In a nutshell, the PCOS is all about insulin resistance – which we’ve covered here –, hormonal imbalances, infertility issues, and irregular periods. We’re not sure how or why PCOS takes hold; there’s plenty of theories with some heavy evidence weighing towards genetic factors. I suppose one of the big problems is that the diagnoses of the syndrome is still so young; it’s really a modern thing, and because of that a lot of women from before the 1990s didn’t know that’s what they had. For example, a woman in the 80s or 70s struggling to get pregnant or perhaps enduring several miscarriages with no apparent reason, might have had PCOS. In fact, it’s likely. But she’d never have been diagnosed with it because the terminology wasn’t widely used. Any daughters she might have run the risk of inheriting the genes prone to high insulin resistance but because she doesn’t know she has it she has no way of monitoring or forewarning her children. Sucky. Luckily we now can diagnose it, so those daughters at least know what they’ve got if they start having the same issues, and with any luck they can help their own kids prevent, avoid or deal with the syndrome themselves. We’ve come a long way since 1721 when the first suspected case was recorded.

This progress is largely due to the sharp development in medical technology and, of course, a deeper insight into female reproduction and women’s health – you’ve got to remember that for the longest time, women couldn’t become doctors, which must have had an impact on the study and diagnoses of women’s health issues.

The symptoms of PCOS, for those unfamiliar with the syndrome, are anovulation – when the ovaries don’t release the egg so ovulation doesn’t occur -, excessive androgens – male hormones -, and, of course, insulin resistance. These can lead to irregular periods, flawed ovulation, acne, hirutism, infertility, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes – especially type II -, and certain types of cancer. Mind you, apparently not all women develop polycystic ovaries and these symptoms vary from woman to woman, I don’t suffer from acne, for example, and only have minor trouble with hirutism compared to other women with PCOS.

Diagnosis tends to be made clinically, meaning that if a woman shows certain symptoms the GP assumes it’s PCOS and may or may not run a few blood test. To know for sure, ask your GP to run more thorough tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound that might show up any cysts growing on ovaries. Other tests they might run is a glucose test, which involves fasting, having blood drawn, drinking a sugary solution, and then having blood drawn at regular intervals. This helps them narrow down how high – if any – insulin resistance you have and how at risk you are for diabetes.

When I was first diagnosed, I was simply told to ‘lose weight’, without being given any advice on why or how. No one told me it would be difficult to lose weight, because no one told me what was causing the weight gain to start with. I’d been put onto a contraceptive pill to control my irregular periods, but further information about why any of this was happening to me didn’t occur until my regular GP happened to be away and I landed a different one. My new GP drew me some pictures and explained it to me in a way that I could understand, writing out some key terms for me to go home and research in my own time. She’s the one who explained about the weight loss – the fact that you’ve got too many male hormones in your system means your body is producing female ones to counter them, and that’s part of what’s causing the trouble. Your body’s storing those hormones rather than flushing them from your system. Remember that Breakthrough Bleeding post? Yeah, that’s where this comes in again, all that estrogen that you’ve been storing in your fat cells because you’ve got too much testosterone floating around in your system is causing a spike in your androgen levels. And round and round and round it goes until suddenly you’re suffering from crippling menstrual cramps, migraines, and worse.

Getting this under control is no easy feat, but the important thing to keep in mind is that it can be done. There’s no cure yet for PCOS, but there are ways of dealing with it, of coping and working around the symptoms in such a way that you can live a happy and full life, and yes, with a little bit of patience, effort and careful diet managing, you can conceive and carry a child to term quite easily. I don’t have any children, so I’m not speaking from experience in that regard, but studies have shown that even a small loss of weight can help remedy the hormonal imbalances that are blocking your way to motherhood. I’ll do some more research in that regard and write about it later since I don’t have any real world experience to back it up with.

I’ll leave it there for now, if you have any questions or whatnot, you know how to reach me.

Clear Skies,

Vee

A few Sites and Articles to look at for more information:
http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1069067/
http://www.webmd.com/women/tc/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos-exams-and-tests (this one is a little…um, mundane. I don’t usually site or use WebMD as a source, but it gives you a good place to start)
http://www.womhealth.org.au/conditions-and-treatments/95-polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos
http://www.healthyfoodguide.com.au/articles/2009/february/food-and-pcos-how-diet-can-help
http://www.pcosdietsupport.com/ (This one’s particularly good)

A Word About: Diabetes

Over the last few decades, we have seen a drastic rise in diabetes. As we’ve turned to more and more processed food, pre-packed convenient meals, and given into the spread of readily available soft drinks, diabetes has erupted all over the world. In a lot of ways, it can be likened to a pandemic.  And yes, it can kill you.

In the last few entries I’ve been harping on and on about insulin resistance, low GI, low carb and diabetes, mostly assuming that we’re all on the same page. I figure most of us who have stumbled across this blog will know something about diabetes, whether or not we have firsthand experience or not. Those of you following LCO because of PCOS will hopefully know that we are considered high-risk pre-diabetic because of the insulin resistance that’s triggered a lot of our issues. So I figured it was time to have a closer look at this disease, especially given that we are now all at risk of diabetes because it isn’t always clear what we’re eating.

The fact is, just as I can’t talk about Low Carb Lifestyles without discussing PCOS or eating disorders, I can’t write about it without dedicated space to Diabetes, not with it becoming as widespread as it is, and not without it being tied in directly with this particular lifestyle change.

Now, before I start rambling, Diabetes Australia has a great explanation of the disease here.

So, in my own words…

Diabetes lasts a very, very long time; often a person’s entire life. It can start at any age, from the very young to the elderly and some people are more susceptible to it than others due to genetic markers and other influences beyond their control.

Now while most of us on a low carb or low GI diet are juggling all sorts of things, no other ‘thing’ needs careful low Gi/Carb monitoring as diabetes. What it comes down to is this: sugar in your bloodstream is toxic. This is why your body prioritizes sugar for energy burning; as soon as it hits your bloodstream, insulin is released to ferry the sugar to the liver where it can then be converted. When you’re diabetic, your body isn’t producing the right amount of insulin to deal with any sugars in your blood, leading to blood-sugar toxicity or hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemic symptoms include extreme thirst, weight loss, heavy urination, blurred vision, exhaustion and a drop in immune system functionality – this is often evidenced by infection, such as yeast infections, or wounds not healing as they should. The causes of this are very simple: you’ve eaten too many carbs in too short a time – and we’re talking primarily simple carbs here: potatoes, rice, cake, pasta, bread, candy/sweets, ice cream, milk, etc. -, the flu – or another sickness – that’s messing with your internal body chemistry, stress – a biggie! Stress can mess with your body’s natural insulin production and immune system! –, medications – some of these can not only knock your system about but can actual inhibit the body’s production of hormones that it needs –, and of course not having taken your insulin on time, or simply not getting enough of a dose for whatever reason.

The opposite can happen with hypoglycaemia, which is when your blood sugar is too low. This can happen when a person has skipped meals, isn’t eating enough carbohydrates – I know, it’s a frustrating balance! -, experiences extreme physical exercise, consumes too much alcohol, or has taken too much insulin. Most people with Type 2 Diabetes (see below) have less of a hard time avoiding hypoglycaemia through appropriate dietary intakes, while Type 1s run a greater risk. The symptoms of this extremely low blood sugar include moodiness – and in some cases, sever mood swings – and depression, weakness – trembling, shaking, that sort of thing -, profuse sweating, dizziness and/or light headedness, lack of concentration, hunger, and numbness around the fingers and lips. A quick fix is to find a quick sugar boost – a bit of soda pop, a glass of juice, some jellybeans, glucose tablets. If you’re prone to low blood sugar, eat accordingly – eat more often, or add in some heavier carbs to sustain yourself between meals.

Now, we’ve got two main types of diabetes. With Type 1 Diabetes the pancreas no longer produces any insulin. This means that the body’s not burning that sugar at all. People with Type 1 require regular doses of insulin to stay alive, it’s as simple as that; without an external source of insulin they die, no questions asked, no second chances. There’s no cure, and people with Type 1 can really only manage their disease as best they can with a healthy low GI lifestyle and regular insulin doses.

Type 2 Diabetes is more common. If you’ve been told you’re pre-diabetic or at risk of becoming diabetic, chances are you’re lined up for Type 2. In this case, your pancreas is still producing insulin but you’ve effectively developed a resistance to it to such an extent that it’s not enough and certainly not as effective.  As with Type 1, there’s no cure, but it’s easier to manage Type 2 with a low carb/low gi lifestyle. Occasionally, people require an external insulin source to keep them alive, but for the most part a change to a healthier, low sugar lifestyle seems to allow them to manage it.

The other type of diabetes I’ll talk about quickly is gestational diabetes, which pops up during pregnancy. When with child, women require a lot more insulin than they normally would – unsurprising really, given that they’re carrying a whole other person around! Gestational diabetes raises the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and can put the mother at risk of developing Type 2 after the pregnancy. However, if managed correctly during the pregnancy, these risks can be drastically alleviated. If you’re thinking about conceiving, especially if you’re pre-diabetic – or you have PCOS! – talk to your gynaecologist or GP about the how to best deal with this risk.

So there we have it, in a nutshell, and no doubt we’ll talk about it again: diabetes, spreading like wild fire.

Clear Skies,

Vee

 

Migraines, Caffeine and the Low Carb Dream

This morning, I rolled out of bed, had my shower, got dressed and made myself the customary green tea – the only caffeine I allow myself now barring the occasional dark chocolate. I get one cup a day. That’s it. And today I really want more – I want to be on a caffeine high! Forget the fact that the crash at the end is worse than a hangover, I miss my university days where night and day blurred together without margins. It was a poetic time that; I remember watching the dawn on several occasions, struggling to finish the essay due at 9am that day.

“I can only abide mornings from the right way in,” I used to say.

Ah, good times. Then of course came the migraines. Inevitably after a couple of days stoked up on caffeinated beverages – not just coffee, I was a bad, bad girl and mainlined Red Bull, Rockstars, Mothers, and V –  my brain would decide to set itself on fire, release a herd of around a 10,000 mustangs, and rev up the migraine engine. The result was that I’d be forced to spend three days in a dark room, sick to my stomach, doped up on over-the-counter painkillers that made me feel only half connected to the world. When  I first moved in with my then-just-friends-later-husband the first thing he did was put all the coffee out of reach – not hard since I’m literally 5 foot nothing. I remember the first week without coffee being agony, I had shakes, headaches, bouts of anger and depression. It really was kind of pathetic to tell the truth, I mean, it’s not like I’d been on heroin or cocaine…seriously.

After the week of hell and a gentle reintroduction to caffeine through black tea – consumed in moderation! – my migraines became less frequent. Where before I’d have been having them at least twice a month, I was now down to once every two or three months with a few random flair ups in between, but those were minor and manageable. I don’t know how many of you suffer through migraines, but for those of you who don’t, I would like to elaborate a little bit on what it’s like to have them:

Think about an anvil. You know, like in a blacksmith shop. It gets worked over as the blacksmith goes about his business, bending metals to his will. The pressures an anvil faces – not just heat, but physical pressure – is the only thing I can compare having a migraine too. It’s like someone’s taken the inside of your head, compressed it in some sort of vicious vice, and then started hammering down on it over and over and over again with no relief. I used to describe the pain to my brother as a white hot knot of the worse pain you could experience sealed in a pressure cooker that just happens to be your skull. Sometimes I’d experience auras with my migraines: bright lights, spots of colour. Think eyestrain only with shards of broken glass being driven into your eye sockets. Sounds like fun right? And mine aren’t even the worse ones. A friend of mine was telling me that her cousin is literally crippled by migraines – she does not function as a human being because of the pain. I’d always considered myself lucky because I’d only ever experience mine a couple of times a month at most – I’d lose a week, maybe, out of every month – but other people lose entire months, completely unable to do anything.

“Isn’t there any medication out there for this stuff?” you ask, worried.

Of course there is, the trouble is the diagnosis: migraines are not chronic headaches; they have different triggers and medical science hasn’t quite been able to work out just what exactly sets them off. So while for some people a prescription of beta-blockers or blood thinners help combat the symptoms and the triggers, for others it makes absolutely no difference. My only recourse, for example, was the cut out things in my diet that I believed to be the triggers, and number one on that list was caffeine.

Caffeine does funny things to our bodies. It ups our energy levels in one quick burst, almost mimicking a sugar rush. After having cut it out, I now get a racing heart and feel anxious when I have a cup of full strength coffee. That’s because caffeine speeds up our metabolism – albeit temporarily – by causing a release of adrenalin. This makes the liver burn up any and all glycogen (sugar) it’s got in one burst, causing a spike in blood sugar, causing a rise in insulin levels aaaand basically messing with the LC balance you’ve been working on. That said, this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone – people who are prone to unstable blood sugar or insulin levels should be wary of their caffeine consumption while on an LC diet, but others seem to be able to drink as normal.  It’s a funny old world, this.

After I started my LC diet I realised that my migraines became a thing of the past and it wasn’t just the lack of caffeine – like I said, only having one cup of green tea, I rarely drink decaf coffee now and hardly ever have black tea of any kind – but also the processed sugars I’d obviously been consuming. The beauty of an LC lifestyle is that you don’t realise how much crap you’re cutting out of your diet until you notice that you’re feeling so much better, your skin’s looking great, and not only are you losing weight but you’re getting some serious muscle definition. The best part, I find, is that people notice and compliment you! Now for me, hopelessly introverted when it comes to face to face meetings – yes, I know…I work in hospitality, don’t ask – the fact that people tell me I look ‘great’ or ‘wow, have you lost weight?’ makes a big difference and gives my self esteem a well deserved boost. It’s important to take those compliments on board: you’re doing this for yourself, but it never hurts to get a little help along the way!

Clear Skies,

Vee

Going for the Good Things

“Alright, Vee, you’ve bored us to bits with the potential bad effects of being on one of these things. I’m not sure I can cope with that whole carb flu business. Why should I be doing this? I want to lose weight but…”

“I get it,” I say calmly, “don’t worry, there’s other side effects, you know, apart from weight loss.”

“Yay for side effects!” you grumble sarcastically.

“No, really! I’m talking about the good kind!”

Most people seem to think that the side effects only refer to the negative ones, which we’ve already been through: carb flu, dizziness, nausea, headaches, etc. But! There are also good ones! So while you’re primary goal is to lose weight you’re going to be reaping a whole lot of benefits, not only from the actual weight loss, but also from the fact that you’re not blindly consuming all that sugar!

One of the first things I noticed after I got over my initial withdrawals was a clear headedness I’d never experienced before. I looked it up, as I do, and realised that people refer to the cloudiness as ‘carb fog’, which after cutting back on processed foods and sugars, lifts and lets you think clearly. It’s an amazing feeling really, one that I can’t really explain to you unless you already know what I’m talking about: it’s like a veil is pulled off your brain and you can suddenly think on your feet. It really is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

The other thing that I became aware of was an increase in energy levels. Honestly, I thought I’d been drinking caffeinated tea all day instead of herbal: I felt like I was buzzing on a caffeine high, only without the customary agitation I experience during one of those. I felt rested, relaxed, and I noticed that I didn’t need to sleep the full ten hours a night that I’d so desperately needed for the past decade and a half.

I’ve also found that I have no ‘phantom gall-bladder’ attacks anymore (see the post where I talk about that here) and no more migraines. I’m also not getting sick every time I pass someone in the street with the sniffles: definite boost to my immune system, for the win!

In more medical terms, I had another blood test done in May to check if my ‘fatty liver’ was a little less fatty after all these months of dieting. Turns out, it’s doing pretty great! Still needs a little work, but already it’s doing much better. My already good cholesterol showed increases in HDL (good) and drops in LDL (bad) which is the right way to go; it’s often a concern with LC diets that by eating more fat you’re increasing your cholesterol but keep in mind that you should be eating the right kinds of fat, and that that will increase your HDL and drop your LDL, which is what mine’s doing.

Whether all this is universal, I don’t know, but having poked around online a little bit, they’re certainly not unheard of!

Other benefits you can reap from changing to an LC lifestyle is lowering of high blood pressure, steadier insulin/blood sugar levels (like I banged on about the other day!), boosts in your metabolism (yay, energy boost!), and a loss of appetite – in a good way, it basically stops you from craving food when you’re not actually hungry, leaving you more satisfied with what you do eat!

From that small list, I have noticed that I’m not hungry all the time anymore; I don’t find myself standing in front of the fridge an hour after a meal wondering what I can eat. I do get ‘real’ hungry about 2-3 hours after I’ve had a meal, but that’s because I’m grazing and it’s normal.

I suggest that if you’re going to start an LC diet, or if you’re on one, that you go talk to GP – which you should be doing anyway! – and maybe look into seeing how the diet’s improving certain things like a fatty liver or your cholesterol levels. I found that actually looking at these numbers really helped focus myself on what I was achieving here: it’s not just weight loss, it’s a whole host of other health benefits.