Catch-Up

Two weeks since the last post – been extremely busy both at home and work… So, my gout eased-off after a few days on the medication, unfortunately after that I got a cold. The main symptoms only lasted three days, but I’ve been blowing out loads of green snot for the last ten days…

In all other respects things are fine. I’ve been eating some really great food, as much as I can of course and still losing weight, or more precisely body fat.

When I first started following the Perfect Health Diet I gained 1.5 kilos – this has since been lost and I’m consistently losing about a kilo per week. I’m still fasting on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the weight loss seems to spread through-out the week. Nevertheless once I get to my target weight of 82 kilos I’ll change from the 5/2 fast to a 16/8 daily routine, i.e. eating only in an 8 hour feeding window each day. Why is this so good? Well they say that autophagy - the body’s cell repair mechanism – begins after 12 hours of fasting, so doing a 16 hour daily fast means you’ll take benefits of the process every day. The goal here isn’t weight-loss, but health.

I also bought myself a FitBit – this clever little device tracks activity and sleep patterns. The real benefit is that it encourages you to move more and in my case to get to bed a bit earlier. Most people think that exercise helps weight-loss by helping create a calorie deficit, personally I think it’s more beneficial as it decreases liver glycogen stores encouraging the use of body fat as the primary energy source.

I’m exercising a couple of times per week: interval hill sprints one day, body-weight exercises another (pull-ups, push-ups, planks and squats). Been quite active moving around furniture too (thanks to my dear wife) and I’ve stopped taking the car to work, so I’m walking a lot more too and of course I never take the elevator if there are stairs available. The FitBit reveals just how sedentary we are sitting at work all day, I alleviate this by using toilets on other floors in the building, getting a walk and some stairs every hour or so.

Food-wise I’ve been making some stews in the slow-cooker. I tried a lamb ragout, but the bones in the meat went too crumbly, like chalk, and were not at all nice. Instead I’m now making with steak and I put in some beef marrow bones too. Along with the coconut oil this makes for an incredibly delicious and nutritious meal which I eat along with some smashed vegetables and potato. It’s cheap too, total cost is about €15 and I get four meals out of it.

Paleo stew with marrow bone, mashed potatoes and veggies

Marrow bones – pre-cooked in the oven prior to dropping in the stew

O.M.F.Gout!

I was shocked/horrified/perplexed/mortified (choose the one you want) when my left foot started hurting on Monday and by Tuesday felt like it was on fire. My initial suspicion was gout, and this was borne-out by my subsequent research and later doctor’s diagnosis on Wednesday.

I’ve never knowingly had gout before, but to be honest I think I’ve been lucky. Gout is basically acute arthritis brought on by the accumulation of uric acid crystals, most commonly in the sinovial fluid around joints and in 50% of these cases in the metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe; exactly my problem. Self-diagnoses was pretty easy given the typical symptoms and I was quite certain I hadn’t injured myself recently (although I had been sprinting & doing body-weight exercises), but perhaps mostly because of my long history of high blood levels of uric acid.

To be honest, I think I’ve just been lucky not to get this before given that my fasting blood level of uric acid has consistently been measure above 7mg/dcl and in my last test it was 9.6 – so not so much a surprise that I got gout, but more a surprise as to why I didn’t get it previously. Ask pretty much anyone what causes gout and they’ll say red meat. There’s a certain element of truth in this, but as usual it’s not so black and white. Actually meat in itself has moderate level of purine, organ meats such as liver contain higher values. In any case, although purine metabolism produces uric acid as a by-product, it’s also a catalyser for excretion of purine, so perhaps the two cancel each other out.

My previous doctor always used to send my blood test results by mail and she’d make notes on the page “good”, “needs to improve” etc. and she’d always circle the uric acid with the comment “Alcohol!”. Now I don’t really dispute this as I’ve been quite a heavy beer drinker since I’ve lived in Belgium (it’s so damn good here), but given that I’d been off the booze since the beginning of January I was a bit miffed to see it higher.

So what brought this on? Well, OK, I have to admit that the Thursday before I did have some beer – I wanted to see how my body would react after being off it for a month, so I decided to drink a couple with my work colleagues. Of course a couple of beers with me often turns into to more and so it was in this case. Then the Saturday before I had half a bottle of tequila – hmmm. Then I have read that the following can increase uric acid: weight loss: check, fasting: check, vitamin C deficiency: probably, low carb intake: check, eating high purine foods (ok, debatable, but I did eat liver over the weekend which is high in purines compared to other foods): check. I also heard from and excellent podcast by Paul Jaminet talking to ‘The Fat Burning Man’, Abel James’, that stated sweet potatoes are high in oxalates, which promoted uric acid. Well guess what I ate at the weekend too…

So I think it’s several of axes playing together that have all converged at the same time. Bad luck for me, but a wake-up call to watch out for this in the future.

So Wednesday I saw the doc – bless her, I has the consultation 15 minutes after calling her. She gave me some diclofenac NSAID for the inflammation, Colchicine to break up those pesky crystals and some Allopurinol to get the uric acid levels under control in the coming months. I can’t say I’m happy to take the drugs, but I really was in some pain and could hardly walk. Today, Saturday, there’s still a dull ache, but no real pain – only issue is the side effect of the Colchicine, which is an upset stomach, so a case of the shits basically and I feel a bit nauseous a lot of the time.

Pushing the omega 3′s

Most of us Westerners have poor levels of omega-3 in our diets, with the bulk of our fats coming in the form of harmful omega-6′s – these have been demonstrated to promote cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. There are two major sources of omega-6 fat, vegetable oils (except palm, coconut, olive, avocado, walnut and butter) being one and the other being grain-fed meats . Conversely, ruminant animals – cows and sheep – that are fed on grass, i.e. what they are supposed to eat, have a much higher omega-3:6 ratio and are much better for you. The same goes for farmed versus wild-caught fish, the omega-3:6 ratios are way higher as well as a whole host of other micronutrients.

Of course rearing animals the natural way is expensive. You need more land and more time, grass-fed cows take longer to mature and the meat is less fatty also, so they weigh less and thus don’t bring as much revenue – well perhaps not strictly true, as pasture-fed meat will tend to be sold for a higher price to specialist markets. I buy my meat from a local butcher – their animals graze in the fields and you can see with in the fat on the beef, which is firstly much lower than grain-fed, but also with more of a yellow tinge as opposed to white.

Grain-fed left, pature-fed right – photo courtesy of http://habee.hubpages.com

Brains are also a great source of omega-3′s, but most of us baulk at the idea of eating them, despite them being highly prized by our ancestors. Of course the mad-cow epidemic in the UK didn’t give them a good press either and cow brain, along with spinal chord, eyes and a few other items are forbidden for use in the human food chain in the UK (that doesn’t stop a nice bit of anus in your  burger or sausage of course…)

Here’s an interesting meal that I ate yesterday:

Some interesting things here… Firstly there’s some wild-caught, Pacific, smoked sockeye salmon. I get this from Sequoia and amazingly it’s just €7 for a pack of 200g – that’s almost half the price of the bio smoked salmon in Delhaize which is from aqua-culture, so inferior anyway. The taste and texture is totally different from the farmed varieties – it’s much firmer, almost chewy in fact, less fatty and much deeper red in colour.

The meat is a mixture of brain and tongue in gelatin. Sounds a nit yukky, but tastes great and of course is packed with DHA, zinc and B vitamins. There’s the ever ubiquitous salad with avocado and 5ml each of avocado, olive and linseed (flax) oil.

The, what’s that, rice? How come, where’s my low-carb stance gone? In fact I’ve been reading a new book recently – The Perfect Health Diet – and the authors, Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet, make a very compelling case to consume 400 calories per day of what they term “safe starches” (glutinous white rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro etc.), so I’m trying this out to see how it goes. Their basic theory is that the brain and nervous system need a certain level of glucose (or ketones) to function – between 400 and 600 calories. Now this can be manufactured in the liver on a low carb diet, but they posit that this puts unnecessary stress on the liver and it better to take this level of carbs to make this up and spread throughout the day from the right sources it shouldn’t mess with the blood sugar too much and cause too much insulin secretion.

Another suggestion from the Jaminet’s is to eat 30g of coconut oil per day for the short-chain fats – this causes generation of ketones on the liver which leads to fat-burning and general good health.

And on a similar vein, here’s today’s breakfast: tongue and brains again, three scrambled eggs (omega-3 enriched), fresh strawberries & blueberries, and 30g of golden linseeds soaked overnight in water with a dash of lime juice.

And I’ve a bag of beef bones to boil up for the marrow too. Not something I’ve ever eaten before, but incredible nutritious and apparently very tasty too.

My fourth intermittent fast tomorrow, I look forward to these now!