December 12, 2017

Totally Overwhelmed by Conflicting Information on Low Carb or Keto? Take an Information Vacation!

Are you completely overwhelmed by information about low carb or ketogenic diets? Is your neck about to snap from the multiple times you’ve gotten whiplash from trying to follow an endless onslaught of contradictory advice on reduced carb ways of eating?

If your life revolves around weighing and measuring your food, tracking your heart rate, your sleep, your bowel movements, your workouts, the number of steps you take in a day, and more, and you’re afraid that if you let up for even one second, the entire edifice you’re propping up is going to come crashing down around you, this post is for you!

If diving down every low carb rabbit hole you find has become your main hobby, I totally understand. Perhaps, like me, you spent years doing what you thought were “all the right things” to get healthy or improve your physique. And, perhaps, like me, after years—decades, maybe—of that failing you, you discovered the world of carbohydrate reduction. And after learning nearly all the health and fitness tenets you once held dear were false, you now have a desire—no, an obsession—to learn as much as you can, as fast as you can, from as many different sources as you can. No one could blame you! You’ve got years of misinformation to correct, right? Nearly a lifetime of programming to de-program.


However, if your determination to understand the relevant biochemical pathways and mechanisms even better than the people who make their living measuring the amount of insulin secreted by a mouse pancreas, or measuring the ATP synthesized by cultured neuronal mitochondria from rats, has begun to interfere with your overall quality of life—and possibly even the results you’re getting from your low carb diet, because of all the darn stress—it’s time for you to…

December 8, 2017

Cool Find Friday: DaVinci Sugar-Free Syrups

Welcome to Cool Find Friday!

This will be a series in which I introduce you to products I’ve found that make following a low-carb or ketogenic diet more tasty and pleasant. I specifically said low carb or ketogenic, and not “Paleo,” because some of the things I plan to write about will have ingredients that would make a strict Paleo eater cringe. There might be artificial sweeteners. Some of these products might have sucralose or stevia, instead of organic, non-GMO erythritol defecated by rainbow-maned unicorns. There might be gluten (*gasp!*). There might even be a bit of soybean or canola oil. (Even though I wrote this post about canola being not-so-great. What can I say? Prominent low carb & keto researcher Stephen Phinney MD, PhD, who has been conducting primary research on ketogenic diets almost longer than I have been alive, promotes canola as a good fat source in his books, and even though I don’t use much canola in my own diet, when Dr. Phinney speaks, I listen.)

If you’re looking for dietary sainthood, move along; my blog isn’t for you.

Cool Find Friday will feature food products, cooking gadgets, and maybe even some helpful websites or podcasts I stumble upon. I might also include mini-book reviews – my take on a book I’ve read, but not one detailed enough for me to make it one of my too-long full-length book reviews. *Shrug.* I dunno. It will probably evolve over time, but for now, those are the types of things I see myself covering here.

November 21, 2017

Let's Talk About Thyroid -- My Personal Story (Pt. 3/3...for now)

The first post in this 3-part series explored thyroid function in general, including what the different thyroid-related hormones are, the signs & symptoms of hypo- and hyperthyroidism, and what should be included when you have your thyroid hormones measured. (Reminder: TSH and T4 are not enough!) In part 2, we looked at the potential effects of low carb diets on thyroid function. As promised, here in part 3, we’ll do a deep-dive into my own personal experience with hypothyroidism. 

We’ll get into the gory details soon. But as Sam Beckett said in the final episode of one of the greatest TV shows of all time, Quantum Leap, “Instead of ‘once upon a time,’ let’s start with the happy ending.’” I started thyroid medication in January 2017 and here’s what’s happened since then: I’ve lost 17 pounds. My chronic constipation is gone. My hair no longer falls out in alarming clumps daily. My severe, longstanding, and unremitting depression is 89% gone.

This medication has been nothing short of life-changing for me. I still have a ways to go in several respects, but let’s just say that the reason I’m writing about thyroid at all is because, having gone through this experience, it is now almost like a religious mission to me to provide whatever information and help I can to people who are currently, right this minute, feeling as awful as I felt until recently. And I kind of hate saying that. I am as far from a religious (and low carb) zealot as a person can be. And yet, I now feel a compulsion to educate people so they can help themselves. As passionate as I am about the myriad benefits of low carb, and as much as I sometimes want to grab people at the grocery store and talk some sense into them, that is now far eclipsed by my fervor for proper thyroid assessment and treatment.

There’s so much to cover, I don’t know where to start. If you come to my blog for sensible information on low carb and ketogenic diets and don’t give two hoots (or even one hoot) about my thyroid odyssey, skip the rest of this post and wait until next time, when I’ll be back to posting my usual fare. On the other hand, if you suspect you have a thyroid problem, or you know you do and your medication is not getting you where you want to be, this is for you, my dears. You’re not alone.

October 25, 2017

Let's Talk About Thyroid -- Low-Carb or Ketogenic Diets and Thyroid Function (Pt. 2/3)

I left off last time saying we would look at the effects of low carb/ketogenic diets on thyroid function. Thyroid function is a hotly debated topic in the low carb world. While most people typically experience fat loss, better energy levels, and improved overall vitality on a low carb diet, in some individuals, measurements of thyroid-related hormones suggest that a low carbohydrate intake might be having adverse effects on the thyroid gland. Is it possible that a way of eating that has such wonderful benefits for so much of the body could be harmful for the thyroid?

The effect of low carb diets on thyroid health is quite the controversial issue. Some people following a low carb or ketogenic way of eating find that their T3 decreases after a while. At first glance, we might take this to mean that low carb causes a slowdown in metabolism, or maybe it has other negative downstream effects. On the other hand, physicians and researchers who’ve spent decades improving the lives of their patients with low carb and ketogenic diets have not reported adverse effects on thyroid function. So what’s the deal?

October 11, 2017

Let's Talk About Thyroid -- Intro: Thyroid Function & Testing (Pt. 1/3)

Long time readers of this blog know that I have been dealing with a low functioning thyroid for quite some time. Even longer than I, myself, realized, now that I look back and think about how long I’ve been plagued by the signs and symptoms. It’s been about five years that things were noticeable, including two and a half during which they were downright unbearable, but in evaluating back even further, individual symptoms popped up here and there going back longer than that. (Why did I let things go on for five years? Details on that in part 3.)

Being that I have far more personal experience with this than I wish I did, and being that I’ve had several clients with thyroid issues, it’s time for me to write in detail about thyroid function. I’ll start off with a general overview of thyroid function and how to properly assess the various hormone levels. In part 2, we’ll look at the potential effects of low carb or ketogenic diets on thyroid function, and in part 3, I’ll talk specifically about my own history and what I’m doing now. Those of you with no interest in any of this, move along; nothing to see here. (I do feel like I write too much about myself, but I think sharing my personal experience can be informative for those who are dealing with similar problems and who’d like to see the struggles and stumbling blocks I encountered, and how I emerged on the other side feeling much better. So yeah, part 3 will be about me, but my hope is that it will be helpful for others.)

On with the show!

October 4, 2017

Dining Out on a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet

Q:  Can you dine out if you follow a low carb or ketogenic diet?

A:  Yes, of course you can.

I’m not sure why some people find this difficult, but since the question of how to do this comes up frequently on social media, it’s time for me to provide a little tutorial.

I’m always a little puzzled when people are traveling somewhere new and they ask locals on Facebook or Twitter for recommendations for keto or low carb-friendly restaurants. Every restaurant is friendly to these ways of eating, provided you know how to customize your order. (Okay, if it’s a restaurant that serves literally nothing but funnel cakes, cotton candy, and deep fried cheesecake, you’d be out of luck, but to my knowledge, such an establishment does not exist outside of state fairs in the U.S.)

Before I get into things, here are some caveats:

My advice for dining out on low carb or ketogenic diets is for people eating this way primarily for weight management and/or overall health. If you are following a strict Paleo or autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, or you have severe intolerances to gluten, soy, dairy, or some other element, then obviously you will have to be more careful and some of my suggestions here won’t apply to you. If you absolutely must avoid these things, I would recommend getting familiar with a select few restaurants in your local area that you trust to prevent cross-contamination and whose staff is well-versed in taking special measures to ensure your food is prepared to your specifications. Stop by these establishments at an off time, when the manager and chef(s) might be available for a chat. (During a busy dinner service is not the time to give these folks your entire medical history.) If you are polite and diplomatic in explaining your needs, I don’t think they will be “bothered” by your special requests or think of you as “that guy” or “that girl.” It might even help to explain that if they are able to accommodate your unique and perhaps somewhat difficult needs, you will be quite happy to patronize their establishment frequently, and recommend that others do, too. Restaurants, nutritionists, mechanics—nothing helps us like word of mouth from satisfied customers.  

Things might be a little different if you’re strict Paleo for environmental or ethical reasons, or prefer to completely avoid certain ingredients on principle (e.g., canola, soybean, or corn oil, grain-fed meats, conventional pork and poultry, farmed fish, etc.). If you prefer to consume exclusively organic produce, grass-fed and pastured meats, poultry, and eggs (especially if they come from local farms), there might be restaurants in your area that can accommodate this, or at least come close. (If your needs or preferences are extremely restrictive, you might be better off just eating at home. I assure you, though, barring a severe allergy, an occasional bit of soybean oil or corn-fed beef ain’t gonna kill you.)

As for ketogenic diets, if you are following a strict KD wherein you really “need” to have a higher than typical amount of fat in each meal, simply request some extra olive oil or butter on the side. You can even bring your own. Keep olive oil in a small, leakproof glass bottle in your purse or the glove box of your car, and you’ll have it with you more often than not. (This is a good idea if you don’t trust a restaurant to give you “real” olive oil unadulterated with cheap, crappy oils.) This might not be a great idea in the dead of summer, when you wouldn’t want a bottle of olive oil hanging out 24/7 in your overheated car, nor in the dead of winter when the oil might solidify a bit (like it does in the fridge), but it’s no problem when the temperature isn’t at either extreme. (And if it does solidify, it will liquefy again after just a few minutes at room temperature, sped along if you hold the bottle in your warm hands for a bit.) You can do the same thing with coconut oil—take some with you if you need extra fat and you trust yourself more than you trust the wait staff.

Okay. Now that all that preliminary stuff is out of the way, here’s how to actually do this.