All my thinking about food has changed since my last post in August.
Over the past six weeks I have cut out grains and sweeteners completely and now track my carbohydrate intake. I began eating meat after twenty-two years of vegetarianism punctuated with a few years of veganism and the very occasional medicinal fish.
How did everything become different? First I noticed I had been hungry for months, maybe longer. It became apparent I was eating more and more eggs and cheese and feeling distractedly hungry even as I was washing the dishes directly after a large meal. I was snacking so much I was typing clinical notes at work with one hand, the other hand ferrying nuts or crackers. I started having dreams of drinking blood and tracking and killing antelope and elk. During my waking hours I fantasized about eating steak though steak hadn't passed my lips in more than twenty years. I was concerned that my weight was creeping up for the first time.
I wasn't sure what to do about any of this and then I happened on an archive piece on the benefits of working standing up. I am one of the lucky and I am employed with a flagship state university. After developing intense hip pain that left me sitting for five months on an old copy of the Physicians' Desk Reference, I was fitted with a supportive Steelcase chair and a sexy adjustable height desk that allows me to stand or sit at the touch a button. I went looking for more information about the physiological impact of standing for hours and happened on Mark's Daily Apple. The tenor of the site was a bit self-promotional for this New Englander--you will never see a photograph of my abs on A Joyful Celiac--but after I got through the piece on working standing, I began reading about Mark's take on eating.
I found an entire world of people who have decided that gluten is poison and wheat is not fit for human consumption.
For a month now I have been sifting through Paleo, Primal, and low carb blogs learning about grass-finished beef, how to order bison flesh in the mail, and why the glycemic index is nonsense. I have learned a whole new vernacular in which formerly innocent unadulterated foodstuffs are outright dismissed as neolithic. Adherents scuffle over whether nightshades are paleo or if sweet potatoes are edible. There are innumerable forums where beginners petition for sources of grass-fed dairy products and coconut flour. And everywhere gluten is denigrated as neolithic poison, as bad as high-fructose corn syrup. The Paleos slander the Primals and everyone hates Atkins, Inc. not so much for the low carb message but for flogging processed low-carb non-food.
The famed Melissa McEwen illuminates the territories with an elegant Venn diagram.
Science journalist Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet & Health, has become my public health hero and geek celebrity crush. Here's the New York Times article that started him researching the pseudo-scence that resulted in the high-carb low-fat dietary recommendations that led to the astronomical increase in diseases of civilization and suffering of so many people I love. Overweight, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, and depression can all be traced back to the endocrine changes induced by the chronically elevated blood-sugars incited by carbohydrates.
Thus, my eating has changed drastically. (You just don't do anything half-way do you? observed an old friend when I explained I'd just eaten a lamb for dinner.) I got rid of all my grains and beans. I eat organic, free-range animals and Alaskan salmon almost daily. I bought a glucose meter and an iPod app, and I track my blood sugar levels. I aim to keep my blood glucose under 100 mg/dl to the damaging effects of glycation. I track carbohydrate intake more loosely with the intent to keep the daily carb intake under seventy grams. This allows for some fruit and dairy, but most of my food is dark leafy greens, nuts and the flesh of others.
After several weeks of this here's what I have noticed:
I am no longer cold all the time. I thought this was simply part of being me, apparently it was part of spiking my blood sugar and/or avoiding flesh foods.
Almost immediately I lost four pounds. It was water that flushed out when I reduced my carbohydrate intake. Without that fluid cluttering my tissues, I suddenly have all sorts of visible muscles.
I don't get shaking grumpy hungry the way I used to. I can go seven or more hours at work without eating or getting hungry. And then I don't become incapacitated, it just occurs to me to eat.
When I experimentally ate three slices of the vaunted Grindstone Bread--whole grain millet and quinoa with apparently low carbohydrate count--slathered in blood-glucose damping butter and cheddar--my blood sugar shot up sixty mg/dl to 153 and took more than four hours to drop below 100. This morning my fasting blood glucose was ten mg/dl above normal. This tells me that it's likely the ultra healthy no-processed sweets, whole GF grain diet with many leafies that I used to eat--that I suggested you could eat--probably had my sugar spiking over 150 several times a day and averaging over 120 most of my waking hours. (Gary Taubes and cardiologist Dr. William Davis explain why blood glucose readings over 120 are dangerous and lead to heart disease, weight gain and insulin resistance.)
I stopped adding salt to my food per Paleo instruction and soon after found myself dangerously near fainting whenever I stood up. Salt does bump up blood pressure slightly and it seems that when I salt my food I don't have to put my head between my knees when I get up.
I always floss now. It is intense and intimate to eat the body of another. Paleo, Primal, perhaps, low carb certainly, but the idea of sleeping with someone's flesh in my teeth is simply barbaric. (Also, good oral hygiene reduces chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation creates disease and death.)
I continue to offer my own experience with the hope that it may be helpful to others who navigating life with celiac disease. However, I am not sure what will happen to the Joyful Celiac, because now my writing seems less focused on supporting those newly living with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and more oriented towards my own experience of adapting to an even more radical diet. I don't think I can write about joy and food without acknowledging the importance of lowering carbohydrate intake for lasting health.
Whatever happens, I will be posting the recipe for coconut flour pancakes with almond butter.