by Sandra Miller August 21, 2016
Metabolic health is a topic that has grown steadily in popularity for the last 9 years or so. The underlying motivation for health seekers who follow a Paleo plan, is to shun processed or packaged foods and most sugars. It is simple sugars and refined flour that are the crooks that steal our good health. Good metabolic health begins with a diet in foods that are non-inflammatory and improve and maintain our markers of good health such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose/insulin regulation.
But, there is also a less spoken about “master player” in the metabolic health symphony and it goes by the name of LEPTIN. Metabolic health cannot be acheived without regulating yours. See my video page on Video Trainings and watch my “Cavemen Reset” video to learn how to begin.
A Paleo style eating can put you on the road to some of the best metabolic health you have ever had in your life. But what if I told you that with just a few little tweaks, you might be able to live even longer, improve so much more than metabolic health alone. What if you could alter your DNA in a way that could change the destiny of even your genes? Metabolic health would be a side benefit. Would you then be in the best health of your LIFE? And,
Wouldnt’ YOU want to try it?
What if there was a way to eat that was even better than a Paleo diet? What if higher FATS held the answer?
For for the first time since Atkins, a very large body of people are coming together to form one of the largest “cult-like” food/health movements of our time. A movement that centered around ancestral eating for the purists of the group. For others the magic word is “bacon”. And this movement is growing rapidly.
You know a niche’ eating style is here to stay when food companies want to market products for your needs. This niche is the “LCHF” or “low carb/high fat” diet with only moderate protein intake. Otherwise known as a ketogenic diet.
The ratios of this diet come in at around 75-80% fats, 5% carbs and about 15% protein.
Similar to Paleo from a “whole foods” standpoint for some; but on a standard Paleo type of diet, protein is king. Artificial sugars are out. Healthy fats get a thumbs up but may not take the main role here. This diet is often called our “ancestral” diet. In a nutshell it is plants and animals and fats.
Now when I say ancestral, I don’t mean that most of these folks are eating the intestines of animals on a regular basis, but there are many in the primal community who center their carnivorous choices around parts of animals that most of would toss in the trash or give to the dog. Personally, I have yet to indulge in “offal”. Sardines and oysters are also still a challenge.
I just cannot bring myself to eat certain things. EVEN IN THE NAME OF HEALTH. There are not too many things that I won’t do, but snouts and tails are a big NO for me right now. Okay, maybe oxtail soup
Are you with me on that?
I myself followed this approach for several years and enjoyed the benefits of a higher protein, low-carb strategy. This was in line with how I healed myself of Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, constipation and diverticulitis, insulin resistance and the oncoming hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Lots of animal protein, veggies, fruits and nuts were staples for me and a happy camper was I. After all, with the tremendous amount of exercise I was doing ,protein was uber important right?
I routinely came in at around 40 grams of carbs. Most people are ketogenic at this level of carb restriction. But not all will be. I stayed mostly “IN VERY MILD KETOSIS” or at the level most would just call LOW CARB, with an occasional rise in carbs to 55 to 65 grams of carbs because I am a fruit lover. And I am human. I did have the occasional gluten-free pasta meal. And fats?
NO THOSE ARE BAD!! Only olive oil for me and a few nuts. ( Boy would I learn!)
( want to know if you olive oil is fake? Read my article here: http://biohackingwellness.com/is-there-an-imposter-in-your-pantry/
Fat Phobic Nation
I was FAT PHOBIC like most people today are. Especially in my age group. The fat fearmongering started gaining momentum right about the time I hit puberty. I lived and breathed to keep my cholesterol looking textbook perfect. The name of this game was LOW. If you looked at my HDL, LDL and triglycerides, I looked like a superstar. My total cholesterols ran in the low 140’s.
Was I a CHAMP or a CHUMP when it comes to metabolic health?
My fasting blood sugars however were always a disappointment. Always low 90’s to about 100. “Perfectly normal “said the doc. But “I am hungry ALL THE TIME”! He would question if I was eating enough food to match my active lifestyle. EATING ENOUGH??? I have to eat EVERY TWO HOURS. I would say that I am eating enough. My snack of choice: lean protein, and lots of it!
Can’t go wrong there… or COULD I?
My autoimmune symptoms improved over the years, but in my forties those syptoms would be replaced by others. The new symptoms were indicating that my metabolic health and my circulation might be compromised. A climbing HgA1c (6.0) fasting insulin of 8, and a fasting glucose of 98 indicated that my blood sugar issues were not yet behind me. And oh, the dreaded words in yellow ‘EVIDENCE OF TISSUE INSULIN RESISTANCE”.
I needed a comprehensive set of labs to see what was going on with my body. The problem was that I had been burned by allopathic medicine in the past. I did not feel I could even trust a conventional doc to do the right testing. Let alone dig deeper if need be. IF the doc DID do the test I asked for, were they qualified to interperet them? I began to question my metabolic health once more. And my diet macros. I remember thinking “Jimmy Moore,( http://www.livinlavidalowcarb.com ) you better be right!” Jimmy pioneered an experiment of one year trying a high fat diet and has become a superstar in the process.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
I started with a new physician whose focus is on prevention. He did a really extensive testing panel by taking about 8 tubes of blood, did a “brain scan” and was able to “non-invasively” check what my risk was for colon and lung cancer. No diverticular issues and and a great score made me really happy that my strategies were working.
I was quite alarmed when the labs came back not quite so favorable in the area of metabolic health. There was evidence of damage to my arteries. I had “small dense LDL” particles. Seems that this is really not a good thing to have. (see my photo below)
Here is a quote courtesy of Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Grasp this concept. A quote from Dr. Sinatra:
“If you fractionate the LDL, and discover that you have what Dr. Sinatra refers to as “fluffy” LDL, in other words, large buoyant LDL particles that are not oxidized, and therefore not inflammatory, then having a high LDL level is not a concern in terms of heart disease risk. These LDL’s, while conventionally thought of as “bad” cholesterol, are actually harmless. Small-particle LDL’s on the other hand, are more inflammatory, and because of their tiny size can get stuck and cause problems in your arteries.”
So what caused my LDL to shrivel and shrink up? Why so many small particles. Wasn’t my low fat, high protein and whole foods diet supposed to protect me from this fate?
I felt cheated.
My question was actually more like “how the hell did this happen to ME”!
I was the althlete/ rock star fitness instructor. I also walked 3 to 7 miles daily along with any classes I taught. And I was a beast in weight room as I cranked some killer workouts to get my very strong, muscular bod! Many days my classes were back to back. I was elitely fit however, my metabolic fitness was not just flaccid, it was downright nearing the danger zone according to my lab work.
When you know your body, every little change gets noticed. Typically the body-conscious know when to take a health action or if something is just a transient ailment. I had aching bilateral calf pain that came on gradually and lasted about a year. Certainly this was not a circulation issue. How could it be? I chalked it up to just overuse.
Or, WAS there a connection to my small particles and the apparent “circulatory” issue I was having. Only time told this story.
Fats and Fasting
I remember as a kid in growing up in Boston, we had a public pool called The Cleveland Circle Pool. They had a diving board up about 25 feet. All my friends used to rave about it. I was scared to death and it took me years to make the jump. Once and done. It was just as scary as I imagined it to be. I did it, but did not care to do it again. I was already afraid of heights and falling. But it was one of those things that sometimes “must be done” to over come the fear. I am an expert on stepping out of my comfort zone.
It was reminiscent of that time on the diving board as I contemplated taking a deep dive into the pool of “high fat”. If you are in your 40’s or older, the sound of this is probably a bit reckless to you. Why would I “experiement” with something that I have been told will ruin my health?
Because there is only one way to prove or disprove a science. N=1!.
It was just as scary as I imagined it to be. This time however, I was taking a deep dive into the pool of “high fat”. A topic surrounded by bad press and controversy. I had already spent decades trying everything I was told to do in search of good health. Could this health hack hit the metabolic nail right on the head? Better yet…Was I willing to try it to find out? I asked myself these questions as I drowned myself in grass fed butter and coconut oil.
Now you can find out your health bioparameters on the go! http://www.quantifyu.helo.life
Taking ” ONE FOR THE TEAM”
As a health coach, I have to be SURE that the science that I pass on to others is valid and enhances health. I have to try to steer people away from B.S., fad diets and bad science. AND carbs. THAT I knew for certain. But, there was only one way to be sure.
I would have to walk the same path as others have before me. Jimmy Moore pioneered the way, LeAnneVogel http://www.healthfulpursuit.com also vlogged /blogged her way through her process and has some great knowledge on the topic to share as well. Many a well respected pioneer of nutrition and health science was jumping on the bandwagon of LCHF (low carb/high fat) diets for metabolic health.
I can see the bottom of the Cleveland Circle pool staring me in the face. In my head I am hearing “just do it, just JUMP!” Let me share what gave me the final push.
Lucky Leap of Faith
So let me point out something here with my lab work. Notice that all of my cholesterol levels at the top right side of the picture are shown in green. My total cholesterol was great. My HDL was superior. Most know this as the “good cholesterol”. In fact, its is not cholesterol at all. It is a “lipoprotein” or rather, a carrier of cholesterol. It helps to carry AWAY things that may be damaging to the circulation. LDL was also in range. Again, most know this as the ‘bad cholesterol”. Actually LDL and HDL both are not cholesterol at all. they are LIPOPROTEINS.
I will be helping to break that myth in my next article. For now, just note that it is “within range”. My triglycerides are in a very healthy and low range at 63. Triglyceride levels should be less that 150 mg/dl. Clearly I was eating a low sugar diet. A high carb diet with show with elevated triglycerides.
Now cast your eyes to the YELLOW section. What you are seeing here is what my low carb /HIGH protein diet with very low fat had caused. You are seeing the damage from “small dense LDL”.
These are LDL that get under the endothelium in the artery and cause damage and blockages and will calcify over time. Clearly, I was not doing something right. I ate a LOW FAT diet, very low carbs and exercised like a crazy person.
I have a saying I use with my clients. “If you keep doing what you did, you keep getting what you got”. My point here is that I followed ALL THE RULES of good health but was showing elevated signs of cardiovascular disease. It was these results in yellow that gave me the final push off that diving board. Hell, as far as I was concerned, how much worse could it get? Could this be fixed? Read on.
(Note that with this test to my left, my macro ratio was about 1400-1600 calories with carbs at about 35g and protein at about 90g daily. Fats were low to moderate at about 30 g daily.
One Year Later-Metabolic health!
Fast forward one year later. I was now following a standard LCHF diet with about 75-80 percent of my diet as fat. Calorie levels were typically 1000 to 1250 per day. My carb level was 20 g per day. Sometimes less. Notice that I automatically ate less calories. Fat is satiating so I was not hungry as often. My fasting blood sugars improved by about 15 points but I was no longer in the higher 90’s pushing the threshold. I also lost about 4 lbs. And reset my leptin and now enjoy a fasting insulin of about 3 or 4.
That may not be significant to most people but understand that I was not “overfat” by any means. I went from 136 lbs to about 131-132. Every other metabolic health marker improved and the aching in my calves was a distant memory. More like a bad nightmare. Now I was finally able to take advantage the benefits of intermittent fasting which had always alluded me due to hunger.
My best health coaching advice now for everyone and their metabolic health is to up the fats and lower the protein and watch YOUR metabolic markers improve. In my next article I will cover what testing should be asked for and where you will find your greatest health ever.