Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Inflammation (4)


Another milestone

One day at a time, little by little, things are changing for the better. 

Many physical ailments have disappeared.  Neither knees nor back hurt now.  I don’t wake up with a sore back.  Most of what I thought was arthritis has gone away, to the point where I don’t actually think I ever honestly had it.  I think it was mostly caused by previous food choices.

I’ve said before that I never started out intending to go “radical”.  As I’ve made consecutive choices about types and quantities of foods, it has by circumstance removed many inflammatory carbohydrates such as wheat or other grains.  I didn’t think I had a problem with those either, but my body is telling me differently.

This ugly looking thing is an example of the horrible zits I used to regularly have on my back.  This particular ugly example was about the size of my thumbnail.  I haven’t had one of these horrible things since entering stable ketosis.  I would also get white-head zits in my hair.  Thankfully, those too are not an issue any more.

The change in my knees is the one that makes the biggest difference in quality of life, i.e. I CAN WALK NOW.  Just for laughs, I thought I’d check out the difference in my hands.  This is my Agriculture grad ring, worn by Professional Agrologists and hasn’t been worn by yours truly in over 20 years because I couldn’t get it over my knuckles.  Clearly the swelling in ALL of my joints is getting better!!!!

As I was admiring my hand and dancing about the kitchen in glee, I stopped mid-hop as I remembered the symbols.  Oh the irony: the Aggie “A” is flanked by two stalks of wheat!!!!!!


Subliminal Thoughts Die Hard

I had an enlightening experience this week.  I was at a conference, and parked my van well within the painted lines of the parking space.  Beside me was a small car, equally well parked.  There was a bit less than 2 feet between the two vehicles - enough to get in but certainly not enough to swing the door wide open.  I thought nothing of it.  When I came back out - there was a different story unfolding.

The little car beside me was driven by a very large man, not just tall, but he was "portly" as well.  What drew my attention was his very loud & profuse swearing as he squeezed into the driver's side of his little car.  The movements were neither graceful nor pretty. 

I remember what that felt like.  Parking lots are squeezing more and more spaces onto blacktop nowadays.  Parking spaces are definitely getting smaller.  It's one reason I hate parking at shopping malls.  However, the difficulty and embarassment of not being able to get in & out of my own car is over.

What surprised me is my own thoughts.  I wasn't commiserating with the chap at all.  My only immediate thought was "Get it together.  Stop swearing and lose some weight."  Wow.  A year ago I was in exactly the same position.  Where was my compassion?  This surprised me.  Then it hit: all I remembered was the shame that I had felt in those predicaments and all the inner-directed "weight-hate" of those moments.  How could I have let this happen?  I knew better.  Then another flash of insight.  I had been/still am totally pissed with myself: there really wasn't any excuse.  I knew better.  (I'll come back to this.)

A friend of mine recently commented on how hard I was on myself.  Ordinarily I ignore comments of the ilk since they usually come from people who really don't do much of anything.  However, Peter is sharp as a tack and definitely no slouch so I've been pondering it for a while.  The aha-moment in the parking lot brought things into focus.  Yeah I am hard on myself.  I'm pissed.  I'm going to do whatever it takes to melt my arse off because it shouldn't have accumulated there in the first place.  I know better. 

As it turns out, the only thing I can truly be pissed about is not trying to figure it out sooner.  I was following really bad advice.  Canada Food Guide.  That respected Canada Food Guide which recommends 6-7 daily servings of grain products to adult women. 

Knowing the guide like the back of my hand, I would consume those recommended servings and pour those 700-800 calories down.  What I didn't realize was that the 125 or so grams of carbohydrates was wreaking havoc on my system.  I would also follow the recommended 6-8 servings of vegetables and fruit.  Picking good vegetables like squash, broccoli and bok choi along with say an apple, banana, and a 1/2 glass of orange juice daily added another 100 or so grams of carbohydrates.  Then there's milk.  I happen to like milk.  The guide says two servings of low fat dairy - there's another 20 grams of carbohydrates in a cup of skim milk and a serving of plain low fat yoghurt.  (Loads more carbs if I picked a flavour.)  All in all - a regular day of the Canada Food Guide was shoveling about 250 grams of carbohydrates down my throat every day. 

I was lulled into complacency by the knowledge that Health Canada was behind these recommendations.

"Having the amount and type of food recommended and following the tips in Canada’s Food Guide will help reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis."

Keep in mind that I am "pre-diabetic" which means I have issues with sugar.  Another name is carbohydrate sensitive or insulin resistant.  Carbohydrates convert to sugar through digestion and I have trouble with sugar.  Consuming 250 grams of carbohydrates (aka sugar) on a daily basis most definitely was NOT reducing MY risk of diabetes NOR obesity!!!!!  CLEARLY not working on either front!!!!! 

One of the simplest articles on the fallacies of the national food guides is by an American doctor named Colin Champ.  He points out that the American public seems to have followed their national recommendations to the letter, and graphs the intake by calories, carbs, fat and protein over decades.  His ultimate point is not that people are stupid, ignorant or unwilling: rather the advice is wrong.

Which brings me back to my starting point on this rant.  I didn't know betterI just thought I did.  All that bad advice fit the paradigm of what I had been told by health authorities and what I understood from my background in animal & poultry science.  Now when I think about animal nutrition I realize that the goal of ration balancing is maximun growth in minimum time or cost.  Sigh.  I understood that part very well but I didn't extrapolate any farther and I most certainly didn't question Health Canada. 

Now that I have decided to completely ignore the Canada Food Guide and those 250 grams of carbs, now that I balance my nutrient needs around a maximum of 50 carbs per day, my health is slowly coming back.  My knees don't hurt anywhere near as much.  My back doesn't ache in the morning.  My hands don't hurt for no reason.  I don't get itchy spots in my hair any more.  My own reading suggests that the inflammatory effects of following the food guide are no longer present.  I certainly feel a hell of a lot better.  And just maybe Peter was right.  I am too hard on myself.

This photo was taken at probably the highest point of Canada Food Guide adherence in my life.  I was active in doggy sports & dog training pursuits.  I had a young family to keep me hopping.  I was doing all the things I was supposed to.  It clearly was not working.


Inflammation - Holy crap!

Holy sweet mother of pearl.    It is really annoying, frightening too, but mainly annoying that a huge area of  knowledge and information has never been part of my "education".  Not even a snifter.  Not a whisper.  I really really really HATE these things that make me question the entire basis of what I thought I knew.   

This is a royal paradigm shift.  The two books by Volek & Phinney on low carb living / athletics have laid a trail of crumbs to a whole new world.  I mean really, this is one BIG rabbit hole Alice.

One resource that has been unearthed is a fellow named Jimmy Moore somewhere in the states, a low carb podcast phenomenon himself but also one who has taken the time & effort to put together a really good call-in series called "Ask the Low Carb Experts".  I've been listening to them on podcast -- I'm probably halfway through and there are "aha nuggets" dropping like flies.

I had heard about the "wheat belly" guy but knew nothing of his background or his message.  Dr. William Davis is a heart specialist among other things, that seems to have been on a quest to find out all things inflammatory about wheat especially and grains in general.  In short: many many components cause problems and his science is basically sound.  Takeaway:  grains & inflammation are kissing cousins if you're one of the people that are sensitive to it.

Then there was a metabolic type expert Dr. Fred Pescatore who shot a cannonball through my brainstem.  He was talking about various complexities of cholesterol, in the context of inflammation caused by the whole carbohydrates/insulin fiasco that happens in our bodies.  The gist of it was that cholesterol doesn't just wander around looking for a place to hang out & make plaque for no reason - it glomms onto walls of blood vessels to FIX the raw spots caused by inflammation.  (Kind of like a scab on the inside.)   Holy crap!

Another wake up message came from a Dr. Cate Shanahan who is a holistic kind of thinker who specializes in all things systemic and hormonal: think all the systems that regulate everything that happens in your body.  She started from the assumption that "everybody knows carbohydrates are inflammatory".  OK.  Point ONE: I didn't know and frankly had no idea.  Point TWO: Holy crap!  The takeaway message from her was that the inflammation literally gums up the receptor sites of molecules in so many hormonal pathways it's pretty much a wonder I'm still around.  I consider myself freakin lucky that the only biggie health deal on my radar is being "pre-diabetic".

Cholesterol seems to be a really really big issue for a lot of people.  It's something I've never paid much attention to because the doctor keeps telling me that my cholesterol numbers and heart/pressure numbers are good.  It makes me want to go back and read that grueling dozen-part saga on cholesterol by Dr. Petter Attia..... or maybe review his summary points list!

I am really really looking forward to listening to the rest of the podcasts.  Actually they're still going on - the topic coming up this week is protein.  Cool.

In the spirit of before & after photographs, here's a gem from the past.  My supportive child looked at that and said "OH - that must be from your college days ..... I'm sure there was alcohol involved in that!"  Really?  Do ya think Piglet?  LOL


Inflammation (Sore Knees)

Sore knees are something that have just been part of the landscape for a long, long while.  Basically, at my weight, I just assumed that sore is something you expect from knees (and other joints for that matter). 

January 2011 I wasn't really aware just how bad they were.  If I knew I needed to do "a lot" of walking, then I would wrap both knees in tensor bandages and go for it.  That's just the way things were.  This photo was taken at a theme park in Disney (Orlando) but not one that made it into the trip album.  (As you might expect - I hated it.)  The pain & immobility in this photo is undeniable.  However, this was probably around 11 a.m. and we had already walked several kilometres before the heat of the day.  Therefore, the pain was something "expected" and "managed" with strategic rest stops on my part while my husband & daughter kept on touring the park/rides.  (This was months before I actually hit my mental wall on mobility issues.)

Approximately six months ago I asked my doctor for the referral for orthotics.  She examined my knees and noted the pockets of fluid on both of them.  She diagnosed arthritis (no surprise) and gave me a prescription.  "Naproxen" is available over the counter, but she gave me a therapeutic dose and I was happy as a clam.  For the first time in years I could walk without feeling major pain.  It was WONDERFUL.  Right up until the side effects kicked in......

I take no prescription drugs of any sort so I immediately felt the difference taking this one.  I noticed my heart rate on the stationary bike or the elliptical was 10-15 beats higher than normal for either machine.  But it was in the pool that it really became an issue.  It started with "a bit" of anxiety and got progressively worse each day.  I could feel my heart pounding as I crossed the deep end.  WHAT???  This would have been 9 months into the daily swim routine - there was NO logical reason for this to start scaring me now.  It was getting so bad I would have to cut my swim time short so I wouldn't burst into tears.  CRAZY!!  Doing a bit of research I discovered this was something that often happens with such medication and NO - I wasn't crazy - it was chemical.  Silly me - I thought that piece of knowledge would take care of it.  Nope.  Next swim comes along and I still had a really bad time.  Telling myself that it wasn't real didn't help at all.  Telling myself there was no reason to get upset just made me more upset with being upset!  Knowing that it was just the drugs didn't change anything.  For the first time in my life I began to see what a phobia might truly feel like.

And then it struck me.  Fat floats!  No matter where I am in the pool, all I have to do is turn over on my back and I can breath.  Fat floats.  Guess what?  Next time in the pool - no anxiety attacks.  None.  Nada.   I could still feel the elevated heart rate but the brain wasn't screaming irrational thoughts.  OMG - Really????  That's all it took??  Sigh.  Logic doesn't work whatsoever but "fat floats" calms me down??  OMG

However, the fundamental problems with the knees didn't go away.  The sacks of fluid below the kneecaps still sat there on my legs -- it looked & felt like somebody had slipped a fried egg under the skin.  And as soon as I stopped taking the drugs the pain came back too.

I have some familiarity with "scientific method" and one of the major tenets of teasing out "cause and effect" is that you only change one variable at a time.  Oops.  Over the span of perhaps 3 months I started riding my bike to & from work which sped up the weight loss process nicely.  I got orthotics which changed the height & angles of my legs with very nice results.  I changed my diet to what has become low-carb.  It turns out that diet change may have had more influence than anything else I did.  Really?  Yes. 

Remember: I am "pre-diabetic" (aka carbohydrate sensitive or insulin resistant).  It turns out there are really, really big linkages between insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.  The best description of this is in the textbook by Volek & Phinney (see references).   "One view is that chronic inflammation is the net effect of repeated exposures to substances that trigger an immune response. ....... In an insulin resistant state, ..., the substance constantly irritating and provoking the body is carbohydrate.  Carbohydrate ingestion and acute hyperglycemia (i.e. elevated sugar levels (MD)) activate a host of inflammatory and free radical generating pathways."(p. 186)  Another source of accurate although mind-numbing detail can be found on the blog by Peter Attia M.D. formerly called the "War on Insulin".  (see references).  Inflammation is a component issue in cholesterol levels & problems, and in turn, cholesterol is in fact a direct result of carbohydrates.  Go figure.

My reader's digest takeaway message??  Holy crap.  Arthritis is inflammation.  My knees have gotten a whole lot better in the past few months.  For example, those watery "fried egg" pockets under the skin have all but dried up.  You can actually SEE the patella and some bumpy bits on the leg bone underneath.  Plus: they don't hurt anymore: at all.  I can just sit and NOT be aware of my knees.  What a novel concept.  None of my joints snap as much as they used to.  I don't wake up with aching back pain in the morning.  Overall, my arthritis is MUCH better now that I've switched to a low-carb diet.  (We're into the 8th week of true low-carb now, and close to 3 months of adaptation & understanding how to do it for myself.)

These two pictures were taken this past July.  They are somewhat blurry and that's a really good thing: It means I was moving.  July 2012

They were taken at the end of my day volunteering as ring steward at the obedience trial.  I've been up & down & all around since 8 am - these photos are taken 3:30-4:00 pm.  No wraps on the knees either, just good shoes with orthotics.  The floor is concrete (formerly a deadly enemy to my knees) and I'm still moving at the end of the day.  You can tell by the stoop that I'm getting tired but just compare this photo to the morning shot at Disney with the cane.  There isn't much comparison. 

Is it the weight loss?  Partly.  Is it habituation to increased exercize?  Partly.  Is it the orthotics?  Partly.  However, the general improvement in ALL of my joints leads me to believe that the low-carb diet has delivered a huge component of that relief as well.  Considering how much better I feel overall, I'm thinking it's the lion's share of it!!!


ps.  Just found a much better reference than either one so far:  Forsythe, C.E., Phinney, S.D., Fernandez, M.L., Quann, E.E., Wood, R.J., Bibus, D.M., Kraemer, W.J., Feinman, R.D., and Volek, J.S.  (That was fun!)

"Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammations", Lipids, 2008, 43(1):65-77