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Fiber – Useful or Harmful?

Fiber has been encouraged for many years in the hopes that it would improve gastrointestinal motility, and many products have been sold advocating such use. Fiber has been recommended by all sorts of health care providers, including doctors, nurses, nutritionists and therapists. Is fiber truly helpful, though? Recent independent studies indicate fiber may be contributing to more symptoms and problems than it’s helping.  As a bulking agent, fiber is used to literally, fill up the space inside the large intestine. The large intestine cannot absorb fiber, nor break it down any further as it moves through the gut. Fiber that enters the colon will absorb excess water, swelling to its maximal capability, filling every space it can occupy. Over days and even weeks of regular fiber use, more fiber enters the large intestine and swells even more, gently pushing swollen fibers forward through the intestines. This action is very slow and can take 2-3 weeks in an average adult. The slow motility means that taking a fiber supplement today will not contribute to today’s bowel movement – not even tomorrow’s. It is the combination of these 2 factors that make us now question the benefits of fiber supplementation: swelling of the fiber and slow motility through the system. With fiber supplementation, many patients report worsening constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, weight gain, gas, cramping, shortness of breath, obstruction and even diarrhea within days of beginning a supplement. While the theoretical goal of fiber supplementation is to slowly clean out the large intestine, the mechanism by which this system actually occurs is problematic and poses some serious health consequences.

We’ve known for a long time now, that some people who consume a high fiber diet often develop diverticulosis – or enlarged pockets along the large intestine. What we have not known or understood is why/how the enlargement occurs, but I would venture to say with this new research data available, that the most likely causes of diverticulosis would be chronic constipation and/or possible high fiber supplement use. Allowing stool to move too slowly through the gut contributes to build-up of wastes, blocking adequate absorption, filling the pockets and getting “stuck” in them. Over time, these static wastes are pushed further and further into those pockets, forcing them to stretch out of shape and become enlarged, even though some stool continues to pass right on by that stuck stool. No symptoms are typically felt or noticed. This problem can create serious illness and severe complication in the form of diverticulitis and obstruction – both of which can be life-threatening.

Moving on to other nutritional aspects of fiber takes us into the nutritional info of foods. Counting carbohydrates is a common nutrition plan for lowering glucose and reversing many chronic conditions. Many low carb experts often instruct people to subtract fiber grams from total grams of carbohydrates, because the fiber is not absorbed or converted into glucose. For example, 1 cup of almonds contains approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates and 11 of them make up the fiber content; some low carbers will say that eating 1 cup of almonds actually only contains 9 grams of net carbs, and thus you only have to count the 9 grams in your calculation of carbs consumed. However, many people with diabetes find that they will have a rise in glucose above and beyond the 9 grams of carbs in that cup of almonds. Why? Some low carb experts suggest that some of the insoluble fiber can impact glucose in many people; in addition, normal gut flora include a variety of healthy bacteria that ARE able to break down some of that insoluble fiber, possibly resulting in glucose release into the GI tract/bloodstream. In addition, some of these insoluble fibers are used as artificial sweeteners, like mannitol, xylitol, & erythritol; manufacturers are catching on to the “net carb” craze and are beginning to produce and label many processed foods using these sugar alcohols. However, there are a couple of problems here; one problem is the elevated glucose with use of these products. The other problem is because these sugar alcohols are insoluble and not easily digestible, they often trigger abdominal cramping and diarrhea in patients, which alters normal gut flora, resulting in even more damage to the gastrointestinal tract and overall health.


Gut flora? Hey, what is that? Well, our intestines are lined with millions of microscopic bacteria that aid in intestinal lining protection, digestion, absorption, and immunity. In fact, some experts now believe that more than 90% of our immune system lies within our intestines. Nearly all of our bodies’ healthy bacteria are located within the intestines, and the job of these bacteria is to break down fiber that your body wasn’t able to break down. During this bacterial digestion of fiber, short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate, are formed and are used to help maintain a feeling of fullness for a long time and maintain the health of the lining of the intestines.

Once the normal balance of healthy bacteria is altered, digestion and absorption are impaired, the lining of the gut is damaged, and inflammation develops. Inflammation within the gut can trigger a wide variety of symptoms and health conditions, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, obesity, diabetes, Crohn’s and more. If altered gut flora is contributing to poor digestion, absorption, and diarrhea, how will the body obtain nutrients? How will the large intestine properly push wastes on through the system? If the short-chain fatty acids are no longer produced by the healthy gut bacteria, we get hungry again and again – we eat more often, and we’re more likely to eat nutrient-poor fake foods. If the specific short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, is not available for increasing energy production and for cell replication, damage to the lining of the intestines may be serious, resulting in a variety of illnesses including cancer. Combine all these factors and significant intestinal conditions develop or worsen and health is impaired.


So what does all of this information mean? In summary, it means that fiber may be useful for digestion, but not as added supplements, tablets, or pills; rather, the body much prefers natural forms of fiber – low carb vegetables and pre-biotic vegetables – but because of likely glycemic impact, fiber grams should always be counted on a low carb nutrition plan. The only way to know for sure if these insoluble fibers impact your glucose is test. Use a glucometer to check blood sugar prior to eating insoluble fiber. At 1 hour increments, re-check glucose levels and watch the trend over 4-6 hours.

Probiotics can be purchased over the counter and come in a variety of formulations; some come in single strains, while others come with a combination of healthy bacteria. Probiotic supplements contain active, live healthy bacteria, that are released during digestion to colonize the intestines. There are no specific recommendations or guidelines to take probiotics, although many people claim daily is optimal, while others say weekly is sufficient.

Another digestive aid is called a pre-biotic, certain vegetables or foods that actually serve as nutrition sources for the healthy bacteria within the gut. Pre-biotics include asparagus, sauerkraut, kefir, kumbucha, fresh garlic, leeks, and onions.

As mentioned previously, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are essential to our digestive system. While there are several SCFAs, butyrate is probably the most common and one of the most useful; butyrate is helpful at maintaining intestinal health and one of the best sources of butyrate is real butter.

What causes altered gut flora? Well, let’s start by taking a look at some causes. Smokers often have higher risks of GI conditions, including ulcers. Diabetes and the medicines used to treat it often cause terrible gut flora, especially metformin. Approximately 85% of people with reflux have been found to also have chronic constipation, and the medicines used to treat reflux significantly alter the pH and thus impair the ability of healthy bacteria to enjoy an optimal environment. Antibiotics are designed to kill off fast-growing bacteria, in order to treat infections, but the antibiotics have no idea that they are supposed to only kill the bacteria causing your sinus or skin infection; antibiotics are most commonly recognized for causing abdominal cramping and diarrhea – symptoms of gut flora imbalance. Simple little GI viruses or mild cases of food poisoning nearly completely empty the gut of healthy bacteria. As you can see, almost anything can alter the health of our intestinal tract.

So, what does all this mean? In general, it means that 1.) our guts may need some fiber in the form of non-starchy vegetables, 2.) healthy bacteria are necessary for optimal digestion, 3.) any GI upset can alter the normal gut flora,

causing a wide variety of GI symptoms, that alter health. 4.) Probiotics can be helpful at restoring normal gut flora, and a couple of weeks later, adding in prebiotics is often helpful at maintaining GI health.

One special note: recently, I’ve seen marketing of soil-based probiotics. I’d caution you to avoid using these probiotics, as humans weren’t meant to consume soil. Animals consume soil in small amounts when grazing and can use these types of bacteria in the gut, especially ruminants – like cows. But these probiotics can actually be harmful to humans.

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What is Vitamin D & Why Do I Need It?

vit d pathwayVitamin D is called a vitamin; it’s often called a hormone. It’s often called a vitamin that acts like a hormone.  So, which is it?  It’s actually all of the above.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble agent with a chemical structure similar to a steroid.  Which makes sense, as Vitamin D is one of the major ingredients of all steroid-based hormones produced in our bodies. Our bodies were created and designed to absorb sunshine via skin and then a variety of chemical reactions would occur so our bodies actually made its own vitamin D.  However, since the skin cancer scare of the 1970s, the general population applies thick layers of sunscreen and we rarely remove enough clothing to bare our skin for this natural process to occur.  This long-term lack of sunshine on our skin is producing entire generations of significantly deficient people in our society.

What happens when we are low in vitamin D? How does a vitamin D deficiency affect people’s health? Because vitamin D is vital to numerous human processes, it can be quite complex to discuss its actions, roles, and benefits to our bodies.  We will attempt to explain vitamin D as simply as possible, describing the intricacies and complex utilization of vitamin D.

 vit d image

The oldest known function of vitamin D is the role in bone growth and development; we’ve all seen photos of young children with rickets (legs bowing outward) because of a severe deficiency of vitamin D. Without adequate D in the bloodstream, bones cannot grow or develop properly.  For years, calcium was reported to be the “hero” of the skeleton.  People with weakening bones were urged to take high doses of calcium daily “to protect your bones” and prevent osteoporosis.  However, in recent years, that advice has been scaled back a bit; no longer is it general health advice to recommend calcium supplementation unless there is known osteoporosis or osteopenia.  Even where there is evidence, many providers won’t recommend it lightly; they take great care in explaining the risks/benefits and often encourage vitamin D in place of or at least along with the calcium.  So, just what does the vitamin D do for bones?  It’s most recognized benefit is that it aids absorption of calcium from the intestines; it’s the reason vitamin d is added to milk and other dairy products.  Milk/dairy products do NOT naturally contain vitamin D; it is added to promote calcium absorption into the bones for effective use in growth & development. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong and also helps prevent weak, brittle bones in the elderly.

In addition to bone health, vitamin D is recognized for its effects in the brain; it has been called “the depression vitamin” among health care professionals for many years because it is a vital component of neurotransmitters in the brain. Three major neurotransmitters in the brain requiring adequate amounts of vitamin D include serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin; serotonin is a neurotransmitter vital for transmitting nerve impulses. Serotonin is also important for mood regulation; pain perception; gastrointestinal function, including perception of hunger and satiety; and other physical functions. Oxytocin is released from the brain when it is needed for a variety of body needs, including labor & delivery at the end of pregnancy, during sexual arousal, and it is often referred to as “the love hormone” because of its impact on emotional relationships. Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone that regulates fluid balance within the body and bloodstream. It works to prevent excess fluid loss and helps maintain homeostasis (normal internal chemistry) by maintaining the concentration of dissolved particles, such as salts and glucose, in the blood. Reviewing all 3 of these neurotransmitters and their major functions is vital to understand brain chemistry; can you see how a shortage of vitamin D would impact nearly all normal body functions and even our relationships, moods, and emotions?

Vitamin D’s impact on glucose has only recently been identified; multiple studies show conflicting data as this area is new to research. However, knowing that vitamin D is an essential ingredient of vasopressin, and that vasopressin helps maintain healthy glucose concentrations, does it not then make perfectly logical sense that a shortage of vitamin D will result indirectly or directly in elevated glucose levels?

In addition, a recent study shows that fasting glucose levels, insulin levels and insulin resistance all improved with vitamin D supplementation. Additionally, this study suggests that pro-inflammatory cytokines that are thought to contribute to insulin resistance were down-regulated with this vitamin D supplementation. Translation: with high carb/high sugar intakes, we are finding significantly elevated levels of inflammatory markers, like cytokines, that are more linked to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes than we ever imagined. Vitamin D supplementation appears to reduce that inflammation as part of the body’s normal healing/tissue repair processes.

However, let’s review again: former advice to take calcium for bone health came with advice to also take vitamin D to aid absorption of the calcium. Just as calcium needs vitamin D for absorption & effective utilization, so vitamin D needs some help. Magnesium and vitamin K2 are necessary for the absorption and use of vitamin D. Recent studies have shown even the very high doses of vitamin D prescribed by health care providers (50,000 IUs) as a weekly regimen barely raised vitamin D levels at all after 4-6 weeks, the usual recommended time frame for dosing. Once study participants added a magnesium and/or vitamin K supplement to their regular dosing regimen, vitamin D levels immediately began to rise. These studies are why we typically recommend vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 to most people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Recently some reports are suggesting that vitamin D is integral to our immune system; some experts and studies are recommending to add or increase vitamin D supplementation during a variety of illnesses, including colds, flu, respiratory illness, asthma, and more.

What about doses of these supplements? There are limited studies and recommendations because this field is so new and mainstream medical providers are hesitant to make recommendations to patients without a large body of support. The Endocrine Society has stated that a deficiency of vitamin D exists when lab levels fall below 20 ng/mL; however, many reputable experts and organizations say that level should be 40 or even 50 ng/mL. Because of limited evidence, it’s difficult to specify a particular dose. Even more recently, various mainstream medical organizations like the Endocrine Society have stated that health care providers should not draw a vitamin D level on patients anymore, because we’re all deficient anyway, & the test is very expensive; most insurances won’t cover the costs either. So how are we supposed to know what dose to take? Well, the current recommendations for dosing are not clear and without a known vitamin D level, finding your perfect dose may be tricky, but many people find that 1,000 – 2,000 IUs daily is a good maintenance dose; some people just beginning to supplement find that taking 5,000 IUs daily for a few weeks is very helpful at reducing many vague symptoms that they often never connected to poor nutritional status. You can ask for the blood test to be done; you should also ask for the pricing of the test prior to having it drawn so you’re aware of the likely expense. Manufacturers of supplements are meeting the market demand by producing combinations of D, magnesium, vitamin K, and/or iodine for patient convenience.

One warning of NOTE: vitamin K2 is vitally important in blood clotting; if you are taking a blood thinner or have been told you SHOULD take a blood thinner, including aspirin, you should discuss adding this supplement with your provider BEFORE taking it. While vital for normal body processes, vitamin K can contribute to increased clotting within blood vessels; clots are known contributors to heart attacks and strokes.  

In conclusion, the general consensus on Vitamin D includes:

  1. Each increase of 4 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood is associated with a 4% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  2. There is a significant and inverse relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and the risk of type 2 diabetes among a wide range of vitamin D levels and among a wide variety of populations, so that it is difficult to specify “normal” lab reference values and recommended daily dosing. Translation: The lower your vitamin D level is, the higher the risk of development of type 2 diabetes.

For further information about Vitamin D, it is recommended to ask your regular health care provider.

diabetes, diet, Grain free, hormone, immune system, insulin, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, NAFLD, nurse, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, steroid, supplement, Uncategorized, vitamin

The Chaos Within

 

In the last article, we discussed the 3 processes that the body uses to metabolize, utilize, and store glucose. In this article, we will discuss several conditions that occur when those processes become overwhelmed and organs are unable to keep up with their usual functions.

First of all, if you haven’t read my “peas and cornbread” article, you should. It’s the primer for this more complex article; without understanding it, this article may become difficult to understand.  You can check it out here.  https://ketonurses.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/how-did-i-get-fat-how-did-i-get-diabetes-how-did-i-get-so-unhealthy/

If you’ll recall, the blood stream only requires about 4 grams of glucose for 24 hours of normal daily functions and processes. Four grams is the equivalent to 1 teaspoon.  You read that correctly… 1 teaspoon of sugar is all the body requires to maintain body systems every day.  That is a tiny amount of sugar! Compare that to a day’s worth of intake suggested and recommended by nutritionists, medical providers, and respected non-profit organizations world-wide; most “experts” recommend 45 – 60 grams of carbs per meal (45 x 3 = 135; 60 x 3 = 180) and at least 15 grams per snack twice daily (another 30 grams).  The American Heart and Diabetes Associations are highly regarded as experts in guideline recommendations, but how in the world did they come to THIS conclusion?  A human needs 4 grams of glucose, yet we have been told for 50 years to consume approx. 200+ grams daily to maintain health.  What happens to all the excess?

The excess carbohydrate intake results in a variety of medical diagnoses, but all have one specific problem – insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the cause of type 2 diabetes (DM2), hypertension, many types of infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypertriglyceridemia, various hormone imbalances, a variety of migraines, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD), Alzheimer’s, coronary heart disease, and many other conditions.  We will discuss here how all of this chaos occurs within.

The human body was designed with multiple back-up systems and methods for overcoming a variety of stressors, including poor nutrition. Looking back over history, we can see periods of great famine where food was extremely scarce, yet people survived.  The human race has not gone extinct; our bodies and our organs were designed and well-prepared to face a variety of environmental & nutritional struggles.  Yet, we may have found one obstacle we cannot overcome:  ourselves.

After reviewing the “peas & cornbread” article, you will see that our bodies have 3 different processes for metabolizing glucose from the carbohydrates we consume. If any of these processes become overwhelmed, another process will be triggered and more glucose is removed from the bloodstream another way.  However, if all 3 processes are too busy and struggle to keep up, the human system gets sick.  Have you ever known a basement to flood? Did you see a sump pump trying to remove the water from the house? If the rain/flood waters are coming in faster than the pump can remove it, what happens?  The flood continues to rise; more damage is done to the home.  So it is with overconsumed carbohydrates over time.  As high carb intake continues, the pancreas, bloodstream, and liver work overtime trying to remove all the excess glucose.  After months or years, the system cannot keep up; organs never get to rest, even during sleep.  These overactive processes often contribute to insomnia, which increases body stress, raising glucose even more; it becomes a downward spiral to poor health.

Many patients, when told of their new diagnosis, often say, “but I don’t feel sick.” And it’s very true.  The human body is SO GOOD at managing our internal chemistry, the system can become very imbalanced before any symptoms are noticed; some symptoms are subtle and just disregarded.  Fatigue, or feeling tired, is often overlooked or ascribed to our busy lifestyles; gaining weight is often attributed to our genes, our lack of exercise, or even to poor nutrition.  Forgetfulness is usually attributed to being distracted or just part of normal aging; muscle aches & joint pains are often called fibromyalgia or arthritis.  Sugar cravings are seen as the body’s way of getting us to eat something we “need.” Feeling hungry all the time is often seen as poor thyroid function or just staying too busy to eat.  I could go on and on with the vague symptoms people report to medical providers during office visits; most of these symptoms are ignored or regarded as “not pertinent” to today’s problem-oriented office visit.  Millions of patients world-wide report these types of symptoms on a daily basis, and then when they are finally confronted with a life-altering diagnosis, most seem utterly shocked and surprised.  It truly is a shame; I see it regularly and wish I could do something more to help.  People do not seem to understand how they could possibly be diabetic or infertile, or have NAFLD when they’ve been eating according to nutrition guidelines for many years, with only occasional “cheats” or unhealthy foods.  They come in and complain that no provider ever told them this or that; they report many years of struggling with food addictions and cravings.  They even bring brochures and eating plans from other providers and nutritionists, saying, “I eat exactly according to this plan; how can I now have diabetes?”

It all begins with overworking our human systems; while the body is amazing at maintaining the appearance of health, our organs are often taking the brunt of the illness. Every carbohydrate we consume converts into glucose and/or fructose, triggering the pancreas to secrete insulin so that the excess sugars can be removed from the bloodstream because they do not belong there.  Over time, the pancreas either cannot keep up and is unable to secrete enough insulin, or it begins to make faulty insulin – insulin that is no longer functioning to move glucose out of the bloodstream.  This one organ, the pancreas, can become very ill, resulting in pancreatitis.  Difficult to heal, it can take many months or years for the pancreas to recover, and if carbs continue to be consumed in high quantities, it will never recover.

Another problem that develops with these high carb intakes is the body’s cells become resistant to the insulin; there’s so much glucose in the bloodstream, that there’s just not enough insulin to transport the glucose out of the bloodstream. Think about magnets for a moment – recall that magnets are polar.  One end of a magnet will be attracted to another, but the other end repels the other magnet.  Glucose and insulin can become that way in the bloodstream when there are too many glucose molecules in the blood.  If glucose repels insulin (or vice versa), glucose accumulates in the bloodstream instead of being moved into cells. This overload of glucose can contribute to thick, sticky blood which significantly contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD), Alzheimer’s, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, and many other conditions.  Imagine a family of beavers locating to a new stream.  Dad Beaver scouts out a great location and begins bringing limbs and moss to build a new home for his family.  Mom and kids soon begin to help out; at first, water flows easily through the creek.  As more limbs and debris are placed, water flow slows.  Although water is flowing, animals and plants downstream begin to feel the effects of less water.  Finally, after some time, the Beaver family stands proudly inside their new home, where no water is able to get through.  All the plants and animals downstream suffer.  So is the circulatory system within our bodies.  Capillaries are the tiniest blood vessels we have; it is through capillary walls that blood delivers oxygen and picks up wastes like carbon dioxide to be transported to kidneys and lungs for excretion. These capillaries are so tiny that they can only allow for 1 tiny red blood cell to get through at a time.  Take a look at this picture; the largest circle is of a human hair, greatly enlarged.  The darkest circle is the diameter of a red blood cell.  Can you see the image of the beaver dam happening inside blood vessels now?

MicronIllustration

Image from: http://www.baldwinfilter.com/fr/TechTips201403.html, Retrieved 4/3/17.

Now, let’s add to this imagery. Think about the beavers building their dam; are they using trimmed up logs that are nice and smooth – like those with which we might build a log cabin?  No, of course not.  The beavers are using limbs and debris from all over the riverbanks.  Crooked and jagged limbs stick together better and are easier for the beavers to use.  The jagged pieces literally intertwine and stick together even with waters moving through during early building stages.  This image is of a sugar molecule:

sugar-molecule-1

Image from: https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar.html, retrieved 4/3/17.

Notice how jagged and crooked this molecule is. Even when broken down into glucose and fructose, the molecule remains jagged and easy to snag on other molecules.  It’s not smooth like blood cells.  Now, imagine hundreds upon thousands of these molecules overfilling blood vessels that are tiny, tiny, tiny.  Can you see how circulation becomes terribly impaired, just as when a beaver dam is constructed in a creek?  Can you imagine all these sticky, syrup-like molecules just sticking together and building up tiny little beaver dams all throughout blood vessels?  This process, reducing blood flow, is what typically results in heart attacks, strokes, and amputations in people with diabetes and insulin resistance.  When blood flow cannot reach the target, tissues are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in beaver dams or microscopic clots in blood vessels.  Without oxygen and other nutrients, tissues cannot function properly, nerve tissue ceases to respond to stimuli, and sensation and use are impaired.  When enough blood vessels are blocked, tissue is damaged, like with diabetic neuropathy or chronic kidney damage.

In other tissues, this overflow of sticky blood and poor insulin activity also contributes to a myriad of problems. High insulin in the bloodstream triggers many hormone abnormalities.  The normal chemical balance in the human body is fragile; anytime one chemical drops low or jumps up high, a wide variety of abnormal processes may begin.  In women, one of the most common chemical imbalances results in abnormal reproductive hormones that usually regulate our monthly cycles and fertility. One of the pathways suggested for this imbalance goes something like this:  being overweight and/or insulin resistant contributes to hyperinsulinemia (high insulin in blood).  Having too much insulin, the bloodstream sends signals to the liver (remember the “peas & cornbread” story) and this effect signals a decrease in growth factor production/release which increases androgen activity; increased androgen activity causes an increase in estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH).  Increases in estrogen and LH levels stimulate ovarian hyperplasia – or the overgrowth of tissue – which can result in endometriosis or polycystic ovaries.  Ovarian hyperplasia, overstimulation of ovaries and the increased levels of reproductive hormones all combine to cause anovulation, or ovaries that are not releasing eggs for possible fertilization; thus, infertility occurs.

In the liver the high levels of insulin, glucose, and associated inflammatory processes combine to trigger storage of glucose in the form of glycogen; once the liver has stored all it can hold and blood sugars remain high, the liver doesn’t know what to do with all the excess carbohydrate being ingested. It just keeps storing more and more.  Let’s imagine that you decide to put your household garbage in the pantry, instead of taking it outside to the trash bin for collection.  Keep doing this.  Every time you fill a garbage bag, you pull it out of the can, tie it up, and pile bag after bag in the pantry; then you run out of room, and begin filling kitchen cabinets.  Eventually, those cabinets fill as well; so where do you store it now?  Over time, the garbage comes to overwhelm the entire kitchen, so much so, that normal function in the kitchen is halted.  There is literally nowhere to work or accomplish cooking tasks.  That’s what happens in our livers with glycogen storage.  There’s room for a little glycogen, so in times of famine, the liver can release a few grams of glucose the body needs, but there’s not room for 200-300 grams of carbs per day for a lifetime.  This overwhelming storage of glycogen is what usually triggers non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  (Alcohol can trigger similar, but that’s another whole story.)

In the brain, there’s a massive circulatory system used to control all our normal functions without us ever thinking. Parts of the brain control and manage our thirst, hunger, heartbeat, breathing, even most of our movements aren’t really conscious thoughts.  But now think back to the beaver dam analogy from before; most people with diabetes understand their neuropathy, or nerve pain, in their feet are caused by their high sugar levels because our feet are further away from the heart than our hands.  However, gravity can also influence blood flow somewhat; combining the physics of gravity and thick, sticky blood, the brain also suffers in a similar way.  Because the tiniest blood vessels in the brain are highly specialized to deliver certain neurotransmitters, hormones, and other chemicals to our brains (& control their release from other organs), anything that reduces blood flow in our bodies can also reduce blood flow, oxygen, and vital nutrients to the brain and associated organs. When blood flow is reduced to our brains, areas of the brain cannot adequately signal the nervous system to function properly; organs may be signaled to alter, stop, or begin a process that may become seriously damaging to health.  This reduction in blood flow to the brain is often called “microvascular ischemic changes” on a CT scan or MRI report.  In fact, many providers will see this on an otherwise normal imaging report, and never mention it to patients because it seems like such a minor problem.  However, given time and continued high carb intake, these tiny problems become bigger problems.  While most of the general population do attribute forgetfulness to “normal aging”, there’s nothing normal about it.  Aging does NOT in and of itself contribute to confusion or minor forgetfulness.  It is always worth an office visit for evaluation and workup at any age.  In 2008, The Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology published an article calling Alzheimer’s disease (AD), diabetes type 3 because “we conclude that the term “type 3 diabetes” accurately reflects the fact that AD represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain and has molecular and biochemical features that overlap with both type 1 diabetes mellitus and T2DM.” (Retrieved 4/3/17 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/)

Even when none of these more serious health conditions are diagnosed, many of us do have these changes occurring inside; hypertension has been called “the silent killer” for many years, but I call insulin resistance the REAL silent killer as many chemical imbalances occur with minimal notice for most people. And mainstream medical providers typically never address root causes of many of these vague symptoms because there’s just not time in most office visits to address them and sometimes, it takes a lot of time & multiple diagnostic tests to identify certain problems.  Mild symptoms of hyperinsulinemia can contribute to high inflammatory markers in the bloodstream and if blood tests are not performed, there’s no way to know if inflammation or hyperinsulinemia contributes to your migraine headaches, your fatigue, or your fibromyalgia.  Many of us suffer with osteoarthritis, or general joint pains related to overuse or previous injury.  High carb diets can contribute to much of the joint pain because of high inflammation within the body; without a blood test and/or radiology to confirm it, many health care providers call it OA and tell you to take some OTC pain relievers.

So, now what? What does all of this physiology mean?  It means that we as a people have become terribly unhealthy because of the poor quality of fake foods we have eaten for the past 50 years.  We’ve followed the AHA and the ADA; we heeded the dietary advice; there’s recent research to prove it.  So, continuing to follow that advice certainly won’t improve our health.  What do YOU think would help?  After reading this article, I hope you say, “cut the crap.” Literally, that is the best advice ever.  Cut out all processed foods, carbonated drinks, artificial foods, fake foods, junk foods, refined sugars, and anything that even looks like it was manufactured in a plant.  Eat real food.  Eat from the farm.  Eat from the edge of the grocery store.  Think back in history; what did people eat before boxes of cereal lined the store shelves?

It’s time we the people took charge of our own health; the health care system is broken. We wait months sometimes to see health care providers who don’t have time for thorough medication reviews and physicals.  As consumers, we can change the face of nutrition in our homes, families, and our nation by making better choices and eating foods that heal our bodies.  In our next article, we’ll cover more details about what to eat and what to avoid eating.

Cholesterol, diet, Fat, Guidelines, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, NAFLD, nurse, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, steroid, supplement, vitamin

Does Cholesterol Cause Heart Attacks? Is fat bad for me?

For the past 50+ years, many agencies and experts have recommended a low fat, low cholesterol diet to manage diabetes, heart disease, and just overall good health.  However, much of this advice began as one man, Ancel Keys, decided that fat “must” be the cause of heart attacks.  More information on Keys’ influence can be found in Barbara’s blog post about the low fat dogma on Feb. 23, 2015.

Low fat nutrition was thought to be the best way to maintain health, get healthy, and prevent many diseases.  However, after 50 years of low fat eating, we have not eliminated, nor reduced heart disease, diabetes, or obesity; in fact, all of those conditions have worsened.

But here is where cholesterol got its bad name:

In 1955, President Eisenhower had a highly publicized heart attack; at the time, his total cholesterol was 165 mL/dL – normal is considered to be less than 200 mL/dL. According to media reports that were held daily during his recovery, Eisenhower ate dry toast and coffee for breakfast every morning.  He was supposedly allowed 1 egg per week as part of his prescribed low fat, low cholesterol diet.  Even though he continued the low cholesterol diet, he suffered several more heart attacks and left office with a 259 mL/dL total cholesterol level; he died of heart disease anyway.

Over the next several years, food manufacturers began producing low fat, low cholesterol products as fast as possible; trying to keep up with all the media attention on President Eisenhower’s health conditions, hundreds of other low fat foods like margarine, skim milk, & corn oil were developed and marketed.  By 1957, margarine outsold butter for the first time. Many of these low fat products contained a large quantity of omega-6 linoleic acid and in excess, this particular fat causes injury and systemic inflammation within the bloodstream and multiple other tissues within the body.

Presidential Influence…

By 1961, Eisenhower left office and left his mark on nutritional history for decades.  This same year, findings from the massive Framingham Heart Study were released; this study showed that overweight men under 50 years old who had high cholesterol, smoked, and did not exercise were at higher risk of heart attacks and heart disease.  One correlation completely overlooked was elevated glucose; no one seemed to make the connection to high blood sugar, but they made famous the Framingham risk factors, which continue to be included in today’s health assessments across the nation. None of the researchers actually ever made any true connection between the elevated cholesterol levels and heart disease.  The “risk factors” made the headlines and drew all the attention.  The other problem with the Framingham Heart Study was that it did not address the highest rate of heart attacks which was in men above the age of 50.  All of the data presented in this huge and well-respected study only presented data from men under 50 years old, the least likely men to suffer from heart attacks or strokes.  Much publicity and media attention was given to the “risk factors” as presented in this study, while no mention was made of the possible relationship to sugar, or the fact that the healthiest population had the highest risk factors.  All of this activity in nutrition and health led to the huge expansion & reach of the American Heart Association; with all the focus on Eisenhower’s health & AHA’s dietary advice, TIME magazine’s January issue hit the newsstands with Ancel Keys on the cover.  Now, the media has a job to do: tell the nation just how terrible fat is for us, and they did quite an excellent job of it… repeatedly…consistently…persistently…frequently…repetitively…doggedly…

The AHA gets involved…

By 1966, the food industry has begun to taint dietary advice when a member of the board of the American Heart Association published a book, Your Heart Has Nine Lives.  Author, Jeremiah Stamler was a friend and support of Ancel Keys, and the publication of his book was funded by Mazola Corn Oil and Fleissmann’s Margarine.

The federal government’s Women, Infants, & Children’s program, also known as WIC, adopted the AHA’s stance for low fat nutrition for all pregnant women and children; basing nutrition on the low fat mantra, WIC began distribution of vouchers for low fat and skim milk products in 1970. Later in the 1970s, George McGovern organized and hosted a series of hearings where politicians and other government employees gathered to argue the nutrition science, now widely publicized.  While most were pretty biased against fats, none of them, including McGovern, had any real scientific background.  The hearings were argumentative and truly not based on any research studies, but rather, on opinions of strong-willed politicians who were able to influence decisions and entire agencies.

Why didn’t someone stop them?

I know by now, many of you are asking, “why didn’t someone stop them?” “How come other scientists didn’t publish an opposing opinion or research study?”  Well, a wide variety of people attempted to publicize other data; several scientists, including Margaret Albrink, Peter Kuo, Lars Carlson, Joseph Goldstein, Pete Ahrens, and several others continued to report that elevated triglycerides appeared to be a higher risk for heart disease.  Even as far back as 1957, a well-respected children’s obesity expert said, The great progress in dietary control of obesity was the recognition that meat was not fat producing; but that it was bread and sweets which lead to obesity.”

No one could hear the opposition, however.  Keys developed close ties to the White House during Eisenhower’s unhealthy years after the heart attack, as he tried to help “heal” Eisenhower’s heart disease with his low fat diet.  Power and strong personalities led the media where they wanted, and opposing viewpoints were silenced quickly by removing grant funding from some researchers.  Others were simply “un-appointed” to nutrition committees, or touted as fakes or quacks who did not want to follow the AHA’s new “rules”.

Sugar touted as “safe”…

When these low fat rules were actually finally release in 1977, the American Medical Association was quite skeptical and at first, refused to succumb to the AHA’s recommendations.  However, the media hype was intense and repetitive, and by the mid-1980s, the AMA enthusiastically joined the low fat bandwagon. Also in 1986, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued statements that there was “no conclusive evidence” that sugar contributed to disease, and even said that up to 25% of all calories could come from sugars, although this recommendation completely eliminated nutrients, vitamins, or fiber.

As the “war on cholesterol” raged in the late 1980s, statin manufacturers were busily researching and developing medications that would lower cholesterol;  the first one was moved through the FDA rapidly and released to market in 1987.  Since 1990, the rate of congestive heart failure has more than doubled, and some experts believe the increase is directly related to the massive number of statin prescriptions filled daily.

After only 14 years of encouraging sugar intake up to 25% of total daily calories, the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes had begun to skyrocket.  About 80% of diabetic patients were dying of heart disease. While per capita sugar intake jumped from 15 pounds in 1830 to 150 pounds in the year 2000, fat intake dropped from 18 pounds to 4 pounds in the same time period.  Obesity had become an epidemic, as 30% of Americans were overweight and still gaining weight.

Massive media blitz…

Between 2005 – 2009, many organizations including the Corn Growers Association has begun spending millions of dollars, lobbying Congress and the public with the massive media message that high fructose corn syrup is safe for toddlers and children. Gyms and workout centers abound in every community, as Gary Taubes became an advocate of exercise to lose weight and be healthy.  Nutrition and health science has become quite the booming business, all while the incidence of heart disease continues to climb, and the rate of diabetes has jumped from 1 in 30 Americans in 1910, to 1 in 3 by 2008.

Just a few weeks ago, in early 2015, the US Dietary Advisory Council issued a statement saying that it would retract its recommendation for a low cholesterol diet.  However, in the body of the news release, the Council continues to advocate for a diet high in unsaturated fats like those found in nuts, fish, olives, & vegetable oils.  While this statement is the FIRST baby step in the right direction, the low carb science continues to build support in a wide array of settings.  Small journals publish articles and studies, but mainstream medical journals continue refusing to print these studies, likely because millions of advertising dollars come from statin & insulin makers.  Social media has become a source of nutrition advice and specialized groups have developed on Facebook & Twitter, where patients have taken control of their own health.  They share stories of medical providers who refuse to listen to reason and dieticians who teach them how to eat 130 – 150 grams of carbohydrates DAILY, while taking multiple medications to help manage the elevated glucose readings and life-changing complications like vision loss, nerve pain, and kidney failure.  These Americans are facing their diseases head-on, with dedication and persistence; they share meal ideas, recipes, and tips on how to reduce medications, because physicians and health care providers don’t.  They help each other cope with sugar addictions, cravings, and “missing” carbs.  They help interpret lab results when the clinic doesn’t really offer much education in reading the near-hieroglyphics printed out.

Many of these people have completely eliminated diabetes and cholesterol medications using a low carb, high fat nutrition plan.  It’s not a 30 day or 90 day fad “diet”. Low carb high fat (LCHF) is a total and complete lifestyle change that is meant to be permanent.  LCHF offers much nutrient value, satiety or holding power, and much better glucose & cholesterol control.  And this eating plan actually makes really good, logical sense; if sugar is the problem, why not remove sugar from the diet?

Real cause of heart disease…

Over the past 3-5 years, it has become more evident that elevated glucose and high triglycerides contribute to high numbers of heart attacks and strokes; inflammation contributes to another huge portion of heart disease.  Once thought to be safe and free from harm, sugars, vegetable oil, and soy are being linked to increased systemic inflammation within the bloodstream.  Add these inflammatory markers to thick, sticky blood, and even to tobacco use, and you have “3 strikes, you’re out.”  Inflammation, sugary blood, and smaller blood vessels are all linked to the highest incidence of heart attacks, clots, and strokes – so, to answer the original questions…

Does cholesterol cause heart attacks?  Is fat bad for me?  NO… a RESOUNDING NO!  Cholesterol NEVER was found to have any true relationship to heart attacks, as you can see by the history provided here.  Fat was NEVER bad for us; NATURAL fats that come from animals and plants, without massive processing, are necessary for every cell of the body.  The entire cell membrane of every single cell is made of a fatty layer; fats are required for most hormones to function properly.  Natural fats are not unhealthy; the unhealthy fats include those that require many man-made processes.  Corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, margarine and shortening are the most common examples of the truly UNhealthy fats.

Healthy fats include coconut oil, butter, ghee, heavy cream, olive oil, pork fats, bacon grease, lard, beef fats, full-fat cheese, avocado, avocado oil, & tree nuts. Start your LCHF nutritious eating plan today!  Eat more fats!!!

Thanks to http://www.dietheartpublishing.com/diet-heart-timeline for a great timeline!