Tag Archives: PCOS

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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A Word About: Falling off the Wagon

I’ve had a very naughty week. September is a hard month for me, full of birthdays (including my own) and Father’s Day all of which tend to involve either eating out and cake or just high carb meals at hone….and cake. Usually I make the cake, and usually I’ve got the willpower to withstand the temptation. This last week, however, started with our little holiday. I behaved mostly, save for on our last night when I ate that bloody cake. It was awesome cake and you’ve got to be able to indulge yourself every once in a while or you’re bound to go crazy. Unfortunately for me, it also broke down my willpower for the next few days: my brother-in-law’s birthday was on Friday and I made the most awesome cake. I was actually extremely impressed with myself; so impressed I had two pieces. Again, I felt I needed to let off some steam, and in all honesty I didn’t/don’t feel guilty about it at all, but the physical reaction was quite impressive as well.

I could barely sleep that night: too much caffeine from the chocolate frosting and way too much sugar. Basically, I’d overloaded my system with carbs that it was no longer really equipped to handle. The next morning, my skin was gross – okay, not ‘gross’ but definitely not as pretty as it has been since I started LCing – and my hair was having a bad day. I also noticed that my lymphnodes were swollen and actually quite painful. In other words, all that bloody sugar had instantly compromised my immune system and my body was doing its best to fight off whatever I’d picked up from the Cafe that week. Yay, much fun.

Next problem: birthday cakes tend not to get completely eaten at parties right? And you can only send so much home with your guests. So that meant that there was left over cake in the fridge just begging to be eaten. And guess what? I did. Not all of it, luckily it was such good cake that my non-sweet-tooth husband ate most of it! Phew!

My point is, there’s going to be a week here or there where you fall off the LC wagon. I’ve done it before and I’ve done it again; I’m back on it now, but I know I’ll fall off again. This isn’t always an easy lifestyle decision we’ve made, and I think we all know that by now. We’re going to face temptation, whether it’s at a private birthday party or just at work when someone’s bought everyone coffee with cream and sugar just because. You’re not going to be able to plan the unforeseeable. The only thing we can do, as humans, is navigate those temptations as best as we can and if you fail once or twice that’s okay. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, and I’m not just trying to justify my week of bad eating here; we’re not just looking after our bodies here, people, but we’ve got to look after our minds too and if that means that once in a while you’ve got to eat that cookie: then eat the damned cookie. Just try to hold back and not devour the whole pack okay? And once we’ve had our little day(s) off, we have to climb back on that horse and get back to where we we were heading. Yes, it means you’ll likely have to face a little bit of carb flu again, and yes it means you’ll have cravings, but ask yourself this: isn’t it worth it? Remember where you’re going, not where you fell off your pony.

Clear Skies,

Vee

Weigh Your Words

I envy people who can eat whatever they want and not bear any consequences. You lot are extremely lucky! I think we are all aware that most of us don’t have that luxury. Whether it’s because of PCOS, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer or whatever other reason, some of us really need to watch what we eat.

I don’t know about the rest of you but I sometimes get really annoyed by naturally skinny people – and not to be sexist, but yes, its primarily other women – waving a dismissive hand and saying something like ‘Oh, surely it isn’t as bad as all that, I don’t have to keep track of what I eat no reason you should.’ I respect that people who say things like that aren’t concerned with their own weight or size, and in all honesty that’s super for them, but the reality of this all is: you simply cannot compare one person to another. Especially not when it comes to weight, health and/or necessity.

This doesn’t just go for people not trying to lose weight mind you. This also goes for the lot of us who do watch what we eat. I may lose 2kg this fortnight while you only lose 0.5kg even if we are doing the exact same thing. Why? Because our bodies are different. My metabolism might be a little quicker than yours, I might be less further along in the weight loss than you at a point where I dot have to inrease my kj deficit yet. There are a whole range of reasons why two people may not lose weight the same way.

This is why I always get so worried when a friend tells me they’re on the latest celebrity diet because such and such lost 20kg in 6 weeks. Not only is that unhealthy and puts you at risk, it’s probably unattainable unless you’re a celebrity with time and money on hand to fix your diet. It’s also stupid. The quicker you lose weight the faster it’ll come back, which is really why you need to set yourself reasonable targets. Me, for example, I need to lose 30kg in total and I originally aimed for the steep 1 year timeframe. I’ve amended that to 1.5 years because while the initial burst of weight loss was awesome, I do nit just want to gain it all right back again and that means slowing down a little and adding in more exercise. By May next year at the latest I aim to weigh 52kg, so I’ve still got a little ways to go, but I’m nearly through.

The other type of person I have trouble with is the obese person who excuses their weight by saying ‘It’s okay, I’m healthy’ or that they’ve tried dieting and exercising but ‘it’s just too hard’ or ‘it didn’t do anything for me’. Now, its really none of my business, your weight and health don’t really affect me, but when I hear that I just want to throttle them. When I hear that I feel like my battle against obesity – and let’s be honest here, it is a battle – is being dismissed as some sort of vain attempt to conform to society. I’m being trendy, clearly. I find it rather upsetting and lately it’s been getting under my skin; I know, not very professional of me.

The truth is that Western society does seem to promote skinniness as being ultra healthy, thus the rise in eating disorders and fad diets, but on the flip side we are also plagued with obesity to such a degree that people do get dismissive about their weight. The truth is, if you are obese, you are not healthy. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Forget how much you weigh, studies are showing that increase in waist size along can lead to diabetes and other problems. I’m sick and tired of people saying ‘I can’t’, the answer may not be Low-Carb for them in particular, but there’s something out there so grow a spine and lose the extra kgs before you keel over and die. Seriously, people, your health is important! If you’re thinking about losing weight but doubt whether you can, your first step is always to say:

Yes, I can!

Clear skies (with apologies for the slight rant),
Vee

A Word About: Peanuts

I have a weakness for peanut butter – so much so that just now, typing the word made me crave it intensely. Luckily for me, most PB is low enough carb to fit into my regime: the best kind is homemade, or, in my case the stuff that Upper Ferntree Organics sell that I’m very lucky to have access to. (For those of you in Melbourne: 1232 Burwood Hwy, Upper Ferntree Gully, VIC3156. Ph. 03 9752 2688) I haven’t had it in forever, but it is by far the best pb that I’ve had. That said, if you don’t have access to organic, homemade, preservative-free, gluten-free pb, that’s okay, store-bought brands will do the thing too. And if you’re anti pb for some reason – maybe you don’t like the way it sticks to your mouth? I don’t know. – peanuts are your answer.

“Answer? What’re you going on about, Vee?”

Bear with me, this isn’t just some ramble about one of my favourite foods, I promise it actually serves a purpose.

As it turns out, peanuts – and the pb! – help in lowering and maintaining blood sugar levels. I stumbled across this fact while reading one of the many blogs I read, and the author commented that she’d given in and eaten a popular candy bar but figured the peanuts in it would lessen the damage of the chocolate. I raised an eyebrow when I read that comment, thinking she was making excuses for herself. Turns out, I was wrong, she was right.

As we already know, as nuts, peanuts are fairly good on the GI level, not affecting it all that much. Several studies I came across stated that a handful of peanuts or a small spoonful of peanut butter were enough to have a positive effect on steadying blood sugar levels.  Additionally, because it’s so high in fat and relatively high in sodium, you’re going to feel satisfied with your little snack, keeping you from raiding the pantry any further. This makes it an ideal snack for diabetics and pre-diabetics as maintaining a healthy diet is one of the prime means by which we deal with these issues.

And then there’s the magnesium.  Peanuts, like many nuts, are chock full of the stuff, and because they break down slowly you’ll regulate your magnesium levels while you’re at it.

There’s a wealth of information out there, waiting to be found, and I’ll definitely keep looking into it – I mean, hey, any excuse to eat pb right? But I also want to give a shout out to those of you who struggle with peanut/nut allergies. Of all the allergies, I think I’m right in saying that the peanut allergy is one of the most prevalent and I feel for anyone who struggles with it or has to watch their child struggle with it.

Clear skies,
Vee

Recommended reading:

The Peanut Institute – Diabetes and Blood Sugar
Diabetes in Control – Peanut Butter at Breakfast Helps Control Hunger and Blood Sugar All Day

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    

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)

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.

A Word About: Breakthrough Bleeding

(Aside: If you’re not comfortable reading about women’s monthlies uncomfortable, go ahead and skip this entry. I do strongly recommend that women read it as it might help you not be too surprised when things happen…)


You’ve conquered carb flu and your cravings, more or less. That’s awesome. So what other surprises lie around the corner? Well, for me, it was the really random and constant breakthrough bleeding that I started to experience in my second month. Now, I’m on the pill which I take religiously every day: we haven’t decided if we want kids yet, and it’s the only way I can control my PCOS-odd periods, so when I get bleeding before I’m meant to I start to worry. I didn’t mention it to anyone, thinking it was just my body adjusting to the diet; I had read that depending on the dosage you’re taking, the pill can be affected by drastic changes in diet, so I figured I’d just wait it out. Now, before I was on the pill I’d have some pretty heavy periods that lasted for ages, that was when I had them at all – one of the delightful side effects of PCOS, which I’ll start discussing soon – but having breakthrough bleeding for more than a month was a little bit insane, even for my messed up reproductive system. So what did I do? I could have called my GP I suppose, in fact I probably should have, but I thought I’d hop online first and see if I could find an explanation before I ran to the doctor’s.

Turns out I wasn’t alone in this. In fact, the Internet forums are full of women – a lot of them panicking – who went through the same thing. Funny thing about women, our reproductive organs enjoy a steady balance of hormones, and as it happens, estrogen is fat soluble. Guess what that means? Our body’s been storing the darned stuff in our fat, at least that ‘s the way I understand it. Now that we’re low carbing, the fat’s being burned up and the excess estrogen is flooding our system triggering a hormonal response that can lead to off-rhythm menstrual cycles and for some women who have given birth over the last year or so a restart in breastmilk. I figure this is one of the reasons why women with PCOS are told to lose weight before they try to conceive: the more fat we’ve got the higher our estrogen stores are, the more out of balance our hormones get, and the cycle continues.

Keep in mind, ladies, that while you’re having these breakthrough bleeds your birth control isn’t working as well! So take extra precautions if you don’t want to get pregnant!

 Clear Skies,

Vee

Let’s Make a Start

Let’s start by me saying ‘HI! I’m Vee, and for some magical reason you’ve managed to find my blog out of the millions of other low carb blogs out there. So! Welcome to Low Carb Odyssey (LCO for short)! I’ll try not to bore you.’

Okay, great. Now that that’s done we can move on a little bit. So, things you’ll need to know about me and this blog before you dig in:

  1. I AM NOT A NUTRITIONIST, MEDICAL EXPERT, OR EVEN REMOTELY QUALIFIED TO BE GIVING OUT ADVICE OF A DIETARY, MEDICAL, OR NUTRTIONAL KIND. All my knowledge comes from talking with my GP, researching a vast variety of resources – both Internet based and analogue! Be thorough! – and delving into the reports on studies as they pop out. What I’m trying to say here is: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS! SEEK REAL MEDICAL ADVICE BEFORE YOU START ANY NEW DIET/LIFESTYLE. So don’t sue me. I don’t have any money and I’ve just told you I’m an amateur. Ahem.
  2. In 2009 I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which, amongst other things, makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight while putting you at risk of developing horrible diseases like diabetes and cancer. Sounds totally delightful right? Yup. So, for years, I went through the rigmaroles of trying to lose weight. I wasn’t that keen on it; why would I want to lose weight when I was comfortable with myself? Lie. I wasn’t actually comfortable with myself, that was just something I told myself – and my friends and family – when I realised just how impossible it was to do! So, like so many of you out there, I suffered in silence – struggling with the weight gain, hirutism and just a general sense of crushing low self-esteem. Then, I moved, I got married; I lost a little bit of weight, and on a random visit to a new GP in 2013 I was lead to the ‘Low Carb Diet’, and…here’s the clincher: it works! I am thrilled with my progress, the kilograms rushing off of my body like water in the shower; energy levels rising, self-esteem at an all time high – those darned skinny jeans falling loose around my thighs and slipping down! It’s great!
  3. I work, own and manage a Cafe. I do all the baking, so I’m accosted by temptation pretty much six days out of the week. I have developed iron-clad willpower to conquer my sweet-tooth. Trust me when I say that if I can do this, so can you.
  4. I hate exercising. I’m self conscious about it, can’t stand public gyms or pools, and yet I’ve managed to squeeze in a few things I can do easily at home that are helping out. For the most part, I walk – alot. I get a lot of walking in at the Cafe, but I also walk the dog – our beautiful, hyper eleven-year-old border collie Max – and try to wear my pedometer every day. People often tell you that dieting is enough. If you believe that, I’d like you to open up your mind a little bit and think about this: once you’ve lost the weight, the goal is to keep it off, one of the things that will help you with that is the raising of your metabolism while you’re losing the weight to start with. Best way to raise your metabolism? You got it! Exercise!
  5. I’m hopelessly introverted, and often sarcastic. Hopefully you’ll get used to it.
  6. I’m a creative writer, sometimes I get a little bit floral and dramatic with my writing. I apologise in advance for any florid prose, tangent anecdotes, and other possible literary devices I can’t foresee at this point.

I think that’s everything. Apart from the fact that I love animals and music…but that’s not entirely relevant, this isn’t a dating site after all. This is a blog about food and lifestyle, like so many others out there. More importantly, I hope that this blog will help some of you out who are stuck in a rut and are feeling the heavy burden of despair settle on you. Maybe you’re a teenager and you’re getting teased at school – been there, done that – or you’re publically in denial but privately painfully aware. I know how you feel, I’ve been there. I’ve done it. I feel better now and I’m feeling better and more beautiful every day.

I want to share that finding of self with this blog. Make no mistake, this is going to tackle a few things: I’m going to be blunt and honest – about myself and about information I find. I want this to be a two-way street; if you’re not sure where to find the information, or if you want to compare notes, post something up! This blog is going to explore a lot of things revolving around a Low Carb Lifestyle; we’ll look at PCOS and its issues, at diabetes and how that’s ripping the world apart, cancer – particularly ovarian, breast, prostate, and cervical – and how all these pieces fit together into the wonderfully complicated thing that is the human body. We’re going to be painfully honest, brutally so at stages; some of you might find some of the ideas put forward here confronting – and it’s how you choose to act on that information that really matters!

But if there’s one thing I really need you all to take away from this first, inaugural post is that I am not a guru, I’m not an expert. I’m not qualified to be teaching, promoting, or advising anyone of you in this. The only thing I am doing here is sharing what I’m discovering on my own journey through this, and like me, you should always consult a medical expert – your doctor, gp, whatever – on what you’ve found and are thinking of doing. I’m not joking about this: the low carb lifestyle can adversely affect those who are going too crazy with it, and can have serious health repercussions if it’s not suited to your situation. So! FIRST RULE OF LCO: ALWAYS BE SMART.

Other than that?

Welcome to my Low Carb Odyssey. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Clear skies,

Vee