A nurse practitioner disabled with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome). Helping others who are chronically ill become as well as they can be by sharing information on nutrition, diet, medical research and what works for me ~~ Ellie Strand, MSN, RN, APRN (Ret.)
This post is from my blogging friend, Terri at Reclaiming Hope: Learning To Live Well With Fibromyalgia. I’ve put a link to her blog at the end of this excellent post about Real Food. Eating well by ditching processed food is the bedrock of health. I recovered much of my function after years of debilitating myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome through good nutrition. In fact, I was planning on writing a blog post much like this one but Terri beat me to it! 😀
This is a post that I wrote back in the summer, but I thought it might be worth revisiting since good nutrition is such a key part of feeling our best. This is the first in a series of foods that may be helpful for fibromyalgia.
I love to eat. How about you? I know…. Most people probably wouldn’t be advertising that fact. In our society, food has really gotten a bum rap… NEVER eat this, ALWAYS eat that, you must eat this particular way if you want to be healthy…. Does any of this sound familiar? Several years ago, I overheard one of my fellow trainers say, “It’s food, not a religion. If you want a banana, eat a banana!” to a client at the gym where I worked. Outwardly I didn’t act as if I’d heard her, but inside I was cheering wildly. Evidently, this client had been told that bananas were “bad” because they had too much sugar in them and she told this trainer they “weren’t allowed” on her diet.
As a Personal Trainer and Health Coach, I worked with way too many clients who had an unhealthy relationship with food. They often had the good food/bad food mentality, and when they ate something they considered “bad” they considered themselves to be bad as well. That broke my heart, mainly because they thought that way about themselves but also because often, since they couldn’t “be good” all the time, they just gave up on trying to be healthy at all. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.
The truth is, food, REAL food, is just food. It’s not good or bad….it just IS. That said, there are some foods that have a higher nutritional value than others and some that we should limit to maintain our health, but when we look at food in the bigger context, being able to enjoy healthy, wholesome meals can be not just good for our bodies, but good for our souls as well.
There are also some foods that seem to be particularly healthy for those of us who live with chronic pain, and I thought I would explore some of those over the next few weeks. I’m not a Registered Dietician, so I won’t be recommending any specific diet, or telling you what you should eat. That’s entirely up to you. Everyone is different and has to find what works for them. I’ll just give you the facts and let you decide.
First up on our food “tour”….. You guessed it!
What do I mean by real food? I think Michael Pollan says it best in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. He says, “Don’t eat anything your Great-Grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Our grocery store shelves are filled with items that are, as Pollan calls them, “food-like substances.” What started out as food has been ground up, stripped of nutrients, had nutrients sprayed back onto them, and shaped into what passes for food for us today. Scary, huh?
When I talk about real food, I’m talking about food that is in its most natural state, unprocessed or minimally processed, and is recognizable as food no matter where you’re from. This, of course, includes fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, meat, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter, and various nuts, seeds and grains.
Before I go any further, let me just say that I know when we’re dealing with a chronic illness, it can be hard to find the energy to prepare foods from scratch, and that sometimes we have to depend on convenience foods to get dinner on the table. That’s okay – we do what we have to do! The goal is just to eat as healthfully as we can as often as we can.
Why It Might Be Helpful For Fibromyalgia:
Even though scientists are now able to reproduce vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients naturally contained in food, we still don’t completely understand the mechanism that makes foods work synergistically in our bodies, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t replicate that synergy in a lab. What that means is that though we may be getting the same nutrients from the added vitamins and minerals in fortified food or in supplement form, they may not be working as effectively in our bodies as whole foods.
Some Tips For Finding Real Food At The Supermarket:
Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where the fresh produce, meats, and dairy are usually located. The frozen food section is often located on the outside aisles too. Frozen fruits and vegetables have the same (or very close to) nutrients as fresh, and it’s a convenient way to get those fruits and veggies in each day.
Look for whole grains; the less processed, the better; ie, steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats are less processed than instant oatmeal.
Look for foods that have fewer ingredients, and ones that you can actually recognize and pronounce, on the nutrition label.
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely tell a difference in my energy levels when I’m eating fresh, real food consistently, and I never feel guilty when I enjoy that occasional treat. :o)
Do you have any tips for making sure you’re eating real food? Please share!
No doubt you’ve heard or read about a ketogenic diet, going keto or even just keto as the newest diet trend. Actually, a ketogenic diet is much more than a trend. “Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet (like the Atkins diet). The basic idea is to get more calories from protein and fat and much less from carbohydrates. It was originally developed to use with children who had seizures many times each day. Now it is promoted for weight loss, improving athletic performance and halting inflammation.
Most of the carbs that are easy to digest, like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread are the first to go.
White bread is a no-no
These types of processed carbs start to change into sugar molecules in your mouth. Take a piece of white bread and hold it in your mouth for a few minutes. You will be surprised at how sweet the piece of bread becomes–thanks to the work of enzymes in saliva.
I’ve been half-heartedly following a sort-of keto diet for the past year or so. I started it to lose weight, but never went fully keto even after I lost 10 pounds. At this time, I was baking sourdough bread using an ancient wheat variety called Einkorn. The loaves were so healthy and tasty I didn’t want to give up bread. Also, I was concerned about following a strict keto diet when my underlying health was so poor. My conventional medical training scared me off of it.
Ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis
Any extremely low (20-30 grams) or no-carbohydrate diet forces the body into a state of ketosis. This occurs when people eat a low/no-carb diet and molecules called ketones build up in their bloodstream. Low carbohydrate intake causes blood sugar levels to drop. The body begins breaking down fat to use as energy. A body in ketosis is actually a mild form of ketoacidosis, the leading cause of death for people under 24 with Type 1 diabetes. I saw several patients in ketoacidosis when I worked in hospitals. It was always an emergency. Additionally, I had a patient die from ketoacidosis when I was doing home-based medical care.
I searched the literature for ketogenic diet research on this damn disease. However, no studies were done on the effects of ketogenic diets in Chronic fatigue syndrome. Some CFS clinicians recommend ketogenic diets as a management strategy citing mitochondrial, immune, and neuroinflammation as pathways through which ketogenic diets could confer some benefit (Source). A ketogenic diet is well-known for the way it reduces inflammation, especially in the brain.
Char, from Chronically Hopeful, started going keto last year about this time. Here’s her story.
I often get asked what this ketogenic diet has done for me. What benefits have I had? Why should somebody give up those delicious carbs and starchy foods? Are the benefits really worth the sacrifice? In this post I’ll explain my journey so far. In short, in my opinion, the answer is yes – it’s […]
In her blog, Char writes about following Dr. Sarah Myhill, a British doctor running her own specialist M.E. clinic in Wales, United Kingdom. Her website is an extensive resource of articles and information based on her treatment of patients. The website runs to 920 web pages and has had over 6 million individual visits. Dr. Myhill believes the disease is characterized by a cellular mitochondrial dysfunction and has published several studies. She has treated in excess of 10,000 CFS/ME sufferers over her 30-year career (Source).
Tracking Protein, Carbs and Fat AKA The Macros
So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her instructions.
The thought of tracking macros scares many people into delaying their keto journey, but it’s really not as complicated at it might seem. There are some great tools available that make the whole process so easy. 40 more words
So, with Char’s results in mind, and a long look through Dr. Myhill’s site, I started back on a ketogenic diet, one that is low-carb, moderate protein and high fat. This time I’m using a smartphone app to track my carbs, protein and fat intake to be certain I get enough nutrition and remain in ketosis. Again, I have Char to thank for her blog entry.
My lean body mass, the weight I would be at if there were no fat clogging things up is 108 pounds. I think I weighed that in grade school. 😉 That means I should shoot for 65 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbs and a whopping 132 grams of fat.
So here we are, the second day into my ketosis journey–but hopefully not ketoacidosis. I’m almost 66, overweight and have a family history of Type 2 diabetes so this is a real possibility. However, I wasn’t diabetic the last time my blood sugar levels were tested. But I will be careful and listen to my body and its signals.
If you have questions or comments, please enter them below.
Are recommendations to avoid grains and legumes due to anti-nutrient content predicated in science or founded in fear mongering? An evidence-based analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to lectins, phytates and autoimmune disease recently appeared in GreenMedInfo. Due to the length of this evidence-based article, I broke it up. Another section, this one on diet for chronic illness, will be posted tomorrow.
Written by: Ali Le Vere, B.S., B.S. – Senior Researcher-GreenMedInfo
In the past decade, some paleo diet proponents have popularized the notion that anti-nutrients, or compounds in foods which undermine health, are responsible for the prevailing epidemics of chronic illness. In fact, one of the fundamental tenets of the paleo diet, that grains contribute to disease and degeneration, is due in part to arguments about their content of lectins, some of the most infamous anti-nutrients. This review will serve as a preliminary examination of the evidence and will shed light on whether fears about this and another commonly vilified anti-nutrient, phytic acid, are groundless or justified.
Lectins: A Self-Survival Mechanism
Lectins are ubiquitous carbohydrate-binding proteins, present in almost a third of our food supply, which constitutes an adaptive mechanism that plants evolved to confer protection against predation and pests. For instance, lectins act as effective biological agents against insect attack by destabilizing insect metabolism, interfering with enzyme activity, and disturbing the protective, digestive, and secretory functions of the gut (1). Due to their insecticide properties, “insect-resistant plants produced by expression of lectin genes in transgenic plants are already a reality,” which is cause for alarm due to the potential health hazards posed by artificially manipulating lectin content.
Lectins act as agglutinins, or sticky proteins, which cause particles to coagulate and form aggregate masses. While most concentrated in seeds, other vegetative tissues such as barks, bulbs, flowers, leaves, roots, and rhizomes also contain lectins . Two of the best-characterized families of plant-derived lectins are the leguminous lectins and cereal lectins, which is the impetus for their exclusion by paleo diet adherents due to their high levels of prolamins and agglutinins, two types of lectins which are purported to most adversely affect the barrier function of the gut. Solanaceae lectins, which occur in the nightshade vegetables potatoes and tomatoes, are also excluded on the more restrictive autoimmune paleo (AIP) protocol.
Digestive Impairments Due to Lectins
When consumed, lectins survive digestion and bind to carbohydrate moieties of cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, triggering deleterious local or systemic reactions in the animal that ingested the lectin-containing food (Source). By binding to cell surface sugars on the intestinal mucosa, lectins can interfere with stomach and intestinal architecture, and damage the luminal (inward-facing) membranes of the epithelial cell lining (Source). As a result, “Lectins may induce changes in some, or all, of the digestive, absorptive, protective or secretory functions of the whole digestive system and affect cellular proliferation and turnover” (Source).
For instance, lectin-induced changes to intestinal morphology can cause loss of brush border digestive enzymes, required for breaking down food, accelerate cell loss, and create irregularities in the microvilli, or the tiny hairlike projections from intestinal cells that increase absorptive surface area (Source). Cumulatively, these adverse changes impede carbohydrate and protein utilization and transport, which inhibits the growth of the organism (Source). As a compensatory countermeasure, trophic effects can occur, or an abnormal increase in the volume of the intestine due to cellular hyperplasia (Source).
The secretion of gastric acid, required for protein digestion, is also inhibited in some animal models due to lectins attaching to mucosal and parietal cells in the stomach, which generate hydrochloric acid. For example, lectins can result in incomplete proteolytic degradation of immune-stimulating dietary proteins, as evidenced by the ability of the lectin phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) from red kidney beans to decrease the hydrolysis of the dairy protein casein as well as bovine serum albumin.
Importantly, lectins from legumes and cereal grains, for example, can disrupt the integrity of the tight junctions which regulate trafficking of molecules across the gut barrier, causing intestinal hyperpermeability, the gateway to all autoimmune disorders. In other words, lectins can cause the spaces between cells lining our intestines to become excessively leaky and allow the entry of foreign immune-provocating agents. Violation of gut barrier integrity invites bacteria, dietary components, and toxins into systemic circulation.
Microbiome Alterations Due to Lectins
Due to its effects on epithelial cell metabolism, lectins have been demonstrated to result in dramatic overgrowths in coliform bacteria, and Escherichia coli (E. coli) in particular. Lectins also preferentially increase the growth of Lactobacillus lactis, which is associated with the development of rheumatoid arthritis along with E. coli. The lectin PHA from red kidney bean can provide increased levels of substrates upon which E. coli grow due to “PHA-mediated mucus secretion, epithelial cell loss, serum protein leakage and reduced digestion of dietary protein,” all of which serve as nutrient sources that promote bacterial replication (Source). In animal models, lectins also cause severe atrophy of the thymus, the organ where some immune cells mature, which could compromise the cell- and antibody-mediated immune responses that normally keep gut bacteria in check (Source).
This proliferation of bacteria may, in turn, promote overproduction of bacterial toxins such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the outer wall from gram-negative bacteria that are implicated in insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Also relevant is that the resultant dysbiosis, or bacterial imbalance, that can occur due to lectin ingestion is a causative factor in autoimmune and allergic disorders, metabolic disease, gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and neuropsychiatric illnesses. Altering the commensal flora of the digestive tract can modulate the immune system in an unfavorable direction since the majority of the immune system interfaces directly with the gut.
Immune Derangements Due to Lectins
After binding to cells of the small intestine known as enterocytes, lectins are internalized at high rates via a process called endocytosis, where a part of the cell membrane invaginates (buds inward) and engulfs material (Source). Once present in the peripheral tissues, lectins can deposit in distant tissues and organs, promoting their enlargement or atrophy, disrupting macronutrient metabolism, and altering hormonal balance (Source). Lectins that translocate across the gut wall can also be perceived by the resident sentinel cells in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) called macrophages, which present lectins to other immune cells called lymphocytes and evoke an immune response (Source).
Moreover, lectins can penetrate systemic circulation via regional lymph nodes and bind to glycoproteins (sugar-proteins) on diverse tissues such as that of the pancreas, thyroid, liver, kidney, nasopharynx, pituitary, eye, heart, breast, adrenal glands, myelin sheath, intestines, blood vessels, lymphatic system, cartilage or collagen (Source). This creates a neo-antigen which is perceived as a foreign entity by the immune system, potentially eliciting an immune attack. When self-tissue is caught in the crossfire of the immune response, tissue-specific autoimmune diseases manifest (Source).
Lectins stimulate the immune system via mechanisms such as T-cell proliferation, which expands the pool of autoreactive white blood cells, up-regulation of cell signaling molecules called inflammatory cytokines, which perpetuate tissue damage and recruit more inflammatory immune cells, and production of Th17-cells, which drive tissue destruction in autoimmunity (2). Similarly, lectins are known to incite release of histamine from basophils, as well as interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-13, which are instrumental in transitioning to a Th2-centered immune response favoring allergy and other atopic diseases such as asthma (Source).
The immune response is amplified as undigested food particles, bacterial toxins, and pathogenic byproducts that translocate across the gut barrier secondary to lectin-induced gut permeability also incite antibody production, which can, in turn, cross-react with human tissue that possesses similar amino acid sequences (Source). In this way, an immune attack against invading bacterial and food antigens can lead to the development of autoimmune disease via a process called molecular mimicry. This occurs as a result of homology, or similarity, between lectin-bound tissue and motifs (amino acid sequences) on these ‘invading’ substances which are the target of immune response (Source).
Gluten and Wheat Germ Agglutinins: Particularly Harmful Lectins for Autoimmune Disease
While the jury is still out on some lectins, the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA)may be particularly problematic for health for a multitude of reasons. Humans consuming wheat germ exhibit biologically intact wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) in both their ileostomy effluent and fecal collections, indicating the ability of lectins to persist within the gut lumen (Source).
WGA has an affinity for N-acetyl glucosamine, an essential signaling molecule and structural component of the extracellular matrix of animal cells (Source). WGA also binds to the sialic acid called N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) found at the terminal position of the surface-exposed sugars that comprise the glycocalyx, a fuzz-like coating on the plasma membrane of epithelial cells in the gut that plays a role in cell recognition, adhesion, and communication. Diets high in wheat, which contain the potent lectin WGA, have been shown to cause changes in the mucosal architecture of the jejunum, the middle portion of the small intestine, even in normal subjects (Source). This lectin not only causes leaky gut syndrome, jeopardizing the barrier function of the gut, but it also enables cellular entry of WGA and provokes a pro-inflammatory immune response (Source).
Gluten, on the other hand, is a mixture of prolamin lectins present in wheat, rye, barley, and oats which are evolutionarily conserved proteins that share similar ancestral origins. Prolamins are proline-rich storage proteins in plants that function in germination and are resistant to protease-mediated digestion in the human gastrointestinal tract (Source). Not only are human digestive enzymes incompatible with prolamin degradation, but prolamins also contain protease inhibitors which impair our digestive capacity. Examples of prolamins are gliadins in wheat, hordeins in barley, secalins in rye, and avenins in oat.
However, because gluten-reactive immune cells that react to gliadin, hordein, and secalin do not react to epitopes in avenin, oats are classified as inherently “gluten-free” for celiac patients. Other studies, however, have shown that consumption of oats is pathogenic in one of ten celiac patients, and the potential for gluten cross-contamination of oats is high (Source).
Gluten is particularly detrimental in autoimmune disease since it triggers the release of the intestinal peptide zonulin, which regulates the tight junctions between cells in the gastrointestinal epithelium in a manner that is rapid, reversible, and reproducible (Source). Studies have demonstrated that intestinal exposure to gliadin [the protein sub-fraction of gluten] leads to zonulin upregulation and consequent disassembly of intercellular tight junctions and increased intestinal permeability” in all individuals, not just celiac patients with active disease and in remission, but in patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and in non-celiac healthy controls (Source).
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Induction of pathologic intestinal hyperpermeability, or leaky gut syndrome, via zonulin release, is prerequisite for the development of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Type one diabetes, Grave’s disease, vitiligo, Crohn’s disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis. In fact, researchers state that “The autoimmune process can be arrested if the interplay between genes and environmental triggers is prevented by re-establishing intestinal barrier function” (Source).
Translocation of gluten-related peptides into the body secondary to so-called leaky gut syndrome are perceived by the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), the part of the immune system surrounding the gut. This induces innate and adaptive immune responses that can result in the production of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules which perpetuate the breach in the gut barrier and recruit more inflammatory immune cells. Eventually, these immune responses can cause “friendly fire” against our own body tissues, resulting in autoimmune disease, by processes such as the bystander effect or cross-reactivity between foreign antigens and our own tissues (Source).
Celiac disease results in increased infiltration of immune cells and villous atrophy, flattening the shag carpet of the intestines into Berber, and leading to nutrient malabsorption, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and other adverse sequelae (Source). However, the empirical diagnosis of gluten sensitivity or NCGS is serious in its own right. NCGS can incite not only gastrointestinal symptoms but extra-intestinal manifestations such as ataxia, neuropathy, encephalopathy, autism, and mood disturbances including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis (Source).
This is a lot of highly detailed information for people with brain fog to take in at one reading! 🙂 Please let me know in the comments below if this is too technical and I will translate future articles like this.
Most folks who are chronically ill are aware of “regular” medicine in which you see a doctor and usually receive medication and “alternative” medicine, also called natural, traditional, holistic or functional. I’m not out to change anyone’s faith in their healthcare provider, but if you or a loved one is facing a serious chronic illness or chronic condition you need to at least be aware there are alternatives. Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors all have a direct influence on long-term health and chronic illness issues.
When pursuing my Master’s degree, I focussed on what was then called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) along with my Geriatric NP preparation. (I certified as an adult NP because it gave me a wider scope of practice.) However, geriatrics was my calling. Perhaps because I was in my early 50s when I earned my NP certification?
CAM has always had a number of treatment modalities under its umbrella–acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, yoga, and music therapy, to name a few. The newest non-traditional western medicine entry is something called Functional Medicine (FM). FM practitioners look at the cellular level to fix, or if that is not possible, support errant body systems. It addresses the underlying cause of chronic illness instead of treating symptoms.
I used FM earlier this year to reset my hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The HPA axis is shorthand for the feedback loops that exist between two brain structures–hypothalamus and pituitary–and the adrenal glands located right on top of both kidneys. The H-P part of the axis produces hormones that signal the adrenals to control the body’s reaction to stress and regulate things like digestion, energy storage/expenditure, and the immune system.
I was convinced I had what is popularly called “adrenal fatigue” and “leaky gut” and these two aberrations were at the root of many of my symptoms. I found an FM practitioner within driving distance, but this wasn’t necessary as she worked exclusively through email and Skype. To confirm my own diagnoses and determine what was really going on, I did a saliva test and a stool test. Neither test was difficult or even messy. The tests arrived in the mail with complete, easy to understand instructions and their own paid return after sampling. I also completed a detailed health history and medication list.
My test results were not a huge surprise.
Low stomach acid–this is fairly common with older people and affects how well food is digested
Adrenal insufficiency–they worked so hard they were worn out
Gut wall permeability–aka leaky gut, in which particles of food and anything else in the intestines can migrate through the cell wall separating the gut from the blood supply
With the exception of low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria), FM diagnoses are not recognized by more conservative healthcare practitioners. It’s not how they were trained in school and is so new that it is not a part of the emerging medical standard for treatment: Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). FM hasn’t been around long enough to have much of a research base, but that didn’t worry me. My disease has no FDA-approved medications or treatments and no one has identified the cause, so there was really nothing to lose.
FM had no help for a cause of ME/CFS. However, it could help alleviate some of my symptoms. At this time, I was exhausted, had poor digestion, loose stools, and no body hair, to list a few of my signs (observable) and symptoms (felt by individual). Now that I had confirmed FM diagnoses for my self-diagnosed chronic conditions we got to work.
Sleep hygiene–the name reminds me of old Army videos about STDs, but it covers all the things that help you regulate and improve sleep patterns, including regular arising and bedtimes along with no screen time for two hours before sleep
Relaxation–already meditating about five days/week, I needed to increase this to every day and work on ways to relax during the day when I was off the cushion
Natural Light–I was to spend 10-15 minutes outdoors without sunglasses first thing after I got up as a way to help reset my circadian rhythm, which would help decrease my high cortisol (stress hormone) levels
Additional Salt–sea salt or Himalayan salt were recommended and I was to start adding salt to my food at the table and when cooking (I’d cooked with no added salt for over two decades.)
The new diet was strict.
NO fast food
NO processed food
NO ice cream, my “drug of choice” 🙁
NO toxins, like MSG or chemical sweeteners like Splenda(R) and NutraSweet(R), and any artificial coloring
NO inflammatory foods, like all forms of sugar, any fried foods, refined wheat flours, or saturated fats (except coconut oil)
Primarily plant foods, like antioxidant-rich leafy greens and colorful fruit
High-quality proteins, like cage-free eggs, fermented dairy, and grass-fed beef or organically fed and pastured chicken and pork
For blood sugar balance, I was to do no fasting, eat complex carbs and have something to provide energy (protein) at supper. I was to take Betaine HCL, to boost stomach acid, and digestive enzymes. Additionally, I wrote down everything that went into my mouth to help me identify any possible triggers for my issues with bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn.
To better regulate and reset my HPA axis, I was prescribed two hormones: DHEA and pregnenolone, a B vitamin cocktail to increase ATP (cell energy) production, and other proprietary vitamin products to help the adrenals recover. Both DHEA and pregnenolone are hormones produced by the adrenal glands from cholesterol. They have a number of beneficial effects, including memory improvement and reducing stress-related fatigue. Pregnenolone is the precursor to DHEA, the sex hormones progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen, and cortisol. (Source)
After six months of this regimen, I was sleeping better, had more energy and the hair on my arms and legs was coming back. (Body hair started disappearing about three years into this damn disease along with my lunas, the half moons at the base of the nail.)
Even though I saw a dramatic improvement with FM, I couldn’t afford to continue. The consultation fee, medication purchase, and tests cost well over $1,000. I discussed this with my FM practitioner and she pointed me in the next direction–candida. (Cue scary music)
Reviewing my stool sample results, I saw the microbiome was dominated by lactobacillus organisms and Candida other than the dreaded C.albicans. The cause of Lactobacillus domination was easy to identify–I was drinking 16-20 ounces of dairy kefir and 12-18 ounces of kombucha daily, along with an occasional fermented vegetable.
I didn’t know much about candidiasis (Candida infection), except for C.albicans which can cause exhaustion, vaginal infections, cravings for sweets, a white tongue, brain fog, loss of libido, joint pain, and a weakened immune system. (Source) I dug into the literature and found that there are many more types of candida than problem-causing albicans.
C.albicans is part of the normal flora of the mucous membranes, respiratory, gastrointestinal and genital tract in women. It only becomes an issue when the balance of normal flora is out of control. C.albicans can also cause problems when it colonizes damp areas of skin, for example under large breasts or fat folds. (Source)
I decided to start my candida species treatment with probiotics that had a different profile from the Lactobacillus species in my fermented drinks and food. Specifically, I was looking for Bifidobacteria and Firmicutes. I found I needed two probiotics to obtain the specific strains of bacteria I wanted.
After a month on both probiotics, the digestive enzymes, and Betaine HCL, my stools firmed up, my bellyaches went away and so did the heartburn. Cautiously, I stopped the BioSchwartz probiotic and was a bit more lax with Betaine and digestive enzymes–only using them at suppertime when I had my large meal of the day. (Your main meal should be at the midpoint of the day but that schedule just doesn’t work out when you have a 69-year-old husband who has always eaten his big meal at night. I cause so many changes to our lifestyle that I try to accommodate his preferences whenever possible.) Currently, I take the Zenwise Labs probiotic for a week each month to keep my microbiome healthy and Betaine with digestive enzymes whenever I have a large meal.
If you want me to go into more depth on these or any other issues or if I’m overwhelming you with too much information, please let me know by commenting.
A couple of days ago there was a paper published online in PLOS Biology that outlined how the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) doubled down on misleading consumers by stopping a 1970 study that withheld information the microbiome may be an important factor in sugar-caused high triglyceride levels and that sucrose (sugar) consumption, compared to starch (like potatoes, bread, etc.), might be associated with bladder cancer!
It seems Big Sugar underwrote research at the University of Birmingham (England) to study rat diets, gut microbiota, and blood lipids (triglycerides) in the late 60s. Called Project 259, the rat research inconveniently found that sugar raised triglyceride levels and that it could be a human carcinogen.
This was at the same time that another suspected carcinogen, cyclamate, was being taken out of diet drinks and foods. Sugar didn’t want to be branded as a cancer-causer–even though 2014 research found it feeds cancer cells preferentially–so the sugar industry stopped Project 259 before it was completed. More recent research shows that high insulin levels and growth factors caused by sugar ingestion influence cancer cell growth the most, as well as increasing the risk of other chronic diseases.
Earlier, some of the same researchers published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association describing how the sugar industry secretly funded a 1967 review in the New England Journal of Medicine that failed to mention how a rat study involving sugar showed increased cardiovascular disease and lipid (fat) levels in the blood and instead put the blame on dietary fats and cholesterol, leading to the whole fat scare and atrocities like SnackWells(R) that were low-fat, but full of sugar.
The article was very interesting to me, possibly because before I went back to school to be a nurse and then nurse practitioner, I worked in public relations for almost 20 years and was a member of the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America. I think it would be interesting to anyone who likes to read history, though. It certainly does not read like a typical medical research study.
Study adds to a wide body of literature documenting industry manipulation of science
Obviously, fake news wasn’t invented in the last presidential campaign. The sugar industry was in it up to their eyeballs way back when the Green Bay Packers were playing in the first SuperBowl and the Israelis and Palestinians fought the six-day long Yom Kippur War. But they weren’t the only ones.
Industries wanting influence over state and federal regulations have a history of funding research resulting in industry-favorable interpretations of controversial evidence related to health effects of smoking, therapeutic effects of pharmaceutical drugs, the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and weight gain or obesity, and the causes of climate change (Oreskes N, Conway EM. Merchants of doubt. New York: Bloomsbury Press; 2010), among other issues.
And let’s not forget about one of the largest influencers of the USDA, FDA and Congress: Monsanto and its hit herbicide, RoundUp(R), also called glyphosate. I’ll get back to this in a later blog. There’s just too much of a horror story with them to mix this up with sugar’s withholding and also manipulating unfavorable data. The deliberate, profit-lead poisoning of America’s food supply by both the raw material manufacturers (agri-business) and consumer product manufacturers (General Foods, Kraft) really frosts me. Unfortunately, duplicity and data destruction goes on in the medical industry, too. And much of all this fakery and selective data selection is the brainchildren of public relations execs like I used to be.