Posts Tagged ‘low carb’

Finally, I can report a Paleo success story with my hypoglycemia!

July 10, 2011

I can’t tell you how long I have waited to write a health success story. It was especially frustrating after I started the Paleo diet/lifestyle in February this year and read many, many varied success stories from people who had been on the diet for only a short amount of time and managed to significantly improve their health in myriad ways. I was so disheartened, but knew it was how I wanted to eat since the science and evolutionary logic make sense.

Something I’ve dealt with for a long time, over ten years if not more, is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. I’m not going to delve into the science of it but it basically involved unsteady blood sugar levels leading to a host of annoying and distressing symptoms such as feeling weak, dizzy, cranky, anxious, overeating, disturbed sleep and a hunger so bad I literally wanted to eat my arm one day. I’m not kidding on that last point either – auto-cannabilism was looking promising. I had to carry around small meals with me on some occasions which annoyed me no end. I was doing all the “right” things a hypoglycemic should – eating plenty of quality protein and slow-burning carbs – but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Angry Cat

This is what I felt like dealing with a blood sugar low.

Both my parents were diagnosed with hypoglycemia back in the late 1980s by an “alternative” (yep, totally ironic quotation marks) doctor here in Sydney by taking a specific test to see their response to glucose after fasting for a few hours. I was not interested in subjecting myself to such a test just to get a label that I already knew fit the bill. I tried things such as cinnamon extract and chromium to no avail.

After a particularly bad episode one day on my way home, I was so angry that I went back on to the awesome PaleoHacks site to re-read some hypoglycemia threads I had read of people that resolved their hypoglycemia by eating a high fat/moderate protein/low (LC) or very low carb (VLC) diet. It was after reading these stories that I decided I had nothing to lose by tweaking my diet’s macronutrient ratios and going from there. Well, I can honestly say that from the very first day, I felt different, really different. I had a lot more energy than what I’ve become used to, anxiety is minimal, I don’t feel like collapsing, I’m not afraid of being out of the house for hours without one of those small meals. Oh, and my moods are better too. I’m feeling really confident of taking on the world head-on.  I even had the commonly-reported “low carb euphoria” that many experience once they make this type of change. That was pretty damn cool!

Why high fat?

Fat, specifically saturated fat, has unfortunately been tainted as something to be feared and despised. A great, if heavy-going, book detailing the medical and historical context of this fat-phobia is Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. The result of this fat phobia is that we are consuming much less fat than what we should be. Of course, we have only recently started to be educated in the media about “good fats” such as avocado, nuts and olive oil; and “bad fats” such as trans fats used in fast food and processed baked goods. But what about animal fat that hasn’t been processed? Vegetable oil and seed oils? Surely, vegetable oils are healthy, right? Not necessarily. Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple, lays it all out in simple, jargon-free English in identifying the Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio as the issue in consuming polyunsaturated fats.

Back to the hypoglycemia, this post from Mark’s Daily Apple explains that fat, not glucose, is the superior energy fuel for the human body. And that seems to be why I am doing so well on a high fat diet – my body can now go for hours and hours between meals which is unheard of for me. A lot of the commenters on the PaleoHacks site believe that anyone with a deranged metabolism (hypogylcemics, Type 2 diabetics, the obese) have damaged their metabolism so badly that they now cannot tolerate carbs much at all. That is definitely my experience where I would have a meal of balanced protein and vegetables (which are carbs don’t forget) and literally an hour later, feel my blood sugar drop. My body just reacted badly to the carbs and did not have enough fat.

Why did this happen?

I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect a genetic predisposition (since my parents are both hypoglycemic) and my diet when I was younger. I used to skip breakfast, or maybe eat some corn chips, eat a sandwich for lunch and have fried rice for dinner. Oh, and then there were the binges on wheat biscuits and sweets! Probably from not eating right in the first place. I gather that what this has done has messed up my insulin sensitivity to the point where I don’t tolerate carbs and can’t effectively use them for fuel. So, fat is now my fuel and I feel so much better for it.

What sort of fats am I eating?

For those who are curious or may even be thinking of trying this out, here is a list of the fats I’m eating:

– avocado
– olive oil
– coconut oil
– avocado oil
– macadamia oil
– ghee
– bacon fat (I collect this on a baking tray when I bake full bacon rashers and then use it on veggies at night)
– nuts (watch the omega ratio on these though, walnuts and macadamias are superior choices from what I have read)
– eggs
– fatty meats (eg. lamb)
– coconut chips
– coconut milk
– bacon with the fat
– chicken skins
– oily fish – mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies

Avocado and nuts

Avocado and nuts

Bacon

Bacon!

What else?

I’m really careful with fruits now as they are very high in fructose –  juice is even worse. Berries and green apples are said to be lower fructose so I am happy with that. I also avoid soft drinks and coffee as that sets me on a massive blood sugar rollercoaster which is horrible to experience. I now drink mostly swiss-water-decaf coffee with coconut milk, it’s SO damn good. I still eat “sweet” foods in the form of my chocolate slice and rosemary and hazelnut cookies – both of which use minimal sweetener but are sweet enough for my adapted tastebuds.

I have observed that if I eat high fat/mod protein and very minimal carbs at breakfast and lunch, I can allow some more carbs for the evening meal, though I still need to watch my intake. As long as I set my day up right with high fat intake, I’m good to go for the day!

I don’t know how long I will need to be on this regime for, possibly forever. But I can say, the benefits are worth it, there is no doubt in my mind.

Happy cat: Sooty

I'm a much happier kitty these days.

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