Thursday, March 19, 2015

Insomnia Sucks Part 2

Earlier last summer I wrote a post on my long standing sleeping issues.  For a while I thought my sleep was getting better, but in reality it wasn't.  During that time I just happened to listen to a bunch of random pod-casts that just happened to discuss other symptoms that I had and their connection to insomnia.  It's amazing how sometimes when you really need it too, the universe JUST HAPPENS to point you in the right direction.

Hormone pod-casts
I love listening to pod-casts while cooking and while driving all over the Twin Cities.  Some of my favorites are Underground Wellness, The Fat Buring Man, Everyday Paleo, and more recently Jimmy Moore's Ask the Low Carb Experts.  Over several weeks, I listened to Sean Croxton interview T.S. Wiley (sleep and hormones), Nora Gegaudes (hormones and sleep), Bryan Walsh (adrenal fatigue), and Julie Walsh (PCOS). After every single one I thought, "Holy SHIT!  there is seriously something wrong with my hormones!"  Not that I didn't think this before, but each one touched on how hormone imbalances can cause major sleep disturbances.  Each person stressed the point that if you have chronic sleep issues that will not resolve, you need to test your hormones.  If you have had long standing menstrual irregularities including severe PMS, heavy periods, clotting, missing periods, irregular cycles, you need to test your hormones.

So....I sent for a ZRT test kit. The most accurate way to test sex hormones is through saliva.  Blood tests only check what are known as bound or inactive hormones, compared to the free or active hormones found in the saliva.  The tests confirmed what I thought (no PCOS) but some interesting imbalances.  Particularly low progesterone, which is becoming more common among women my age.  Older women going through menopause often complain of insomnia, more specifically, they wake up a lot between 2-4am.  Sound familiar?  Menopause is often thought of as a decrease in estrogen, but it's really more about the decrease in progesterone.  Progesterone is the hormone that helps women feel level headed, calm, and aids in proper sleep/wake cycles. what?  How do I get my ovaries to make more progesterone?  I already eat lots of healthy fats.  I avoid gluten, and limit dairy, eat lots of veggies, and 90% of our meats are organic/grass fed.

Taking Action
I finally made an appointment with a Naturopath who JUST HAPPENS to work out of my PCP's office. The initial consult was fantastic. Knowing what I know, I could see many of the connections she was making between my past health history and current health complaints.  Over the past year I've had the opportunity to do some interesting lab work including: Spectra-cell's micronutrient profile, complete lipid panel with Apo B and Lp(a), and MTHFR genotyping.  My primary also ran a full thyroid panel earlier this summer so I was able to compare that with the one I did through ZRT.  While my thyroid is mostly normal, my Free T4 and Free T3 were a little on the low side.  This type of imbalance can cause other hormone imbalances.

The Plan
After selling about 10 vials of blood for the most comprehensive blood testing I've ever seen, here's the plan:
  • Reverse anemia with high iron foods. Low iron (ferritin) can cause an imbalance in neurotransmitter production leading to mood and sleep issues.
  • Keep my blood sugars really well balanced.  I'm trying to cut out snacks and just eat three large meals, but I typically need something mid afternoon since lunch is often at 11, and dinner isn't until 6 or 7.  I notice that when my blood sugars drop, even if I'm not hungry I tend to get really anxious or have ADD type brain function.
  • No more folic acid supplementation.  I have the heterozygous MTHFR gene so my body is a little compromised when it comes to activating folic acid, especially if I'm under stress.  This can lead to detoxification problems, autoimmune diseases, heart disease (which runs in my family), and mood disorder (which also runs in my family).
  • Relax. My cortisol is a little off, and besides keeping my blood sugars balanced the best thing to do is to reduce stress.  I'm reading 8 minute meditation and am about 2 weeks into the program.
  • Supplement with Vitex to rebalance my progesterone.
  • Track hormonal changes that may influence my sleep patterns.  I'm using the Kindara app on my phone.  
  • Cut out inflammatory foods for 8-12 weeks.  This is where things get really hairy.  After following the previous steps for 1-3 months I just had an Alletess IgG food sensitivity test done.  I'm reacting to a lot of foods, especially fermented foods.  So what's off my list: All dairy except for Ghee, Gluten, Almonds, Apples, Banana, Green Beans, Cabbage, Cocoa (aka chocolate), COCONUT, Coffee, Chicken Eggs, Garlic, Ginger, Head Lettuce (romaine, iceburg), Mustard, Green Olives+olive oil, pineapple, sesame seeds, summer/winter squash, sunflower seeds, Black tea, tomato, Yeast (wine, soy sauce, vinegar, bread)
I'm starting with the intense elimination diet this coming week so I have time to stock the pantry and get rid of tempting foods. I eat a lot of these foods frequently, and with them showing up in my blood it means I still have a leaky gut.  Hopefully by cutting them out for a while (8-12 weeks), and doing higher doses of glutamine and collagen I will close up some gaps and be less reactive.  Recently I've been having some TMJ type symptoms after eating, which I began to associate with vinegar, so I wasn't surprised by that one.  Basically my jaw just gets really tight.  And I know apples give me horrible, painful gas; it's a FODMAP.  My doctor thinks I may have a mild fructose malabsorption, which is more common than one would think.  If I eat eggs too many days in a row I don't feel well and tend to burp a lot; a sign of low hydrochloric acid. The spices, eggs, chocolate, and coffee are going to be my biggest challenges.  It's just going to take a lot of planning at first, and almost never eating out.  The no egg and vinegar is really sad since I just received a jar of Primal Mayo from Thrive Market.

If I continue to eat foods that my body is sensitive to, my digestive tract will remain inflamed which in turn will cause continued cortisol issues; this will steals energy needed for making progesterone and blocks thyroid hormone receptors.  It's just your basic HPA imbalance.

The Takeaway
If you have sleep issues or chronic fatigue and these typical recommendations haven't helped...
1. Get some exercise, but not too much.
2. No screen time 1-2 hours before bed
3. Balance your blood sugar, consider eating a healthy carb + fat before bed.
4. Give up caffeine, even in the morning.
5. Take 5HTP and Magnesium before bed.
6. Learn to relax (meditate, journal, do yoga).

Then start doing some testing.  I recommend: Serum Iron/Ferritin, folate, B12, Complete thyroid panel, Sex hormones, cortisol, and vitamin D. Just to get you started.

I'll probably be blogging a little more about how I'm navigating the food restrictions. I've been eating modified paleo for some time now, but now it's serious.  I'm calling this plan: Whole90-Autoimmune- minus the coconut.

Petition to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

I am participating in the #RepealTheSeal campaign to show my disagreement with the Academy’s recent decision to allow the Kids Eat Right logo onto food packaging. I invite my fellow colleagues and bloggers who share this opinion, or who support this campaign, to also post this open letter on their own blog, to sign the petition at and/or to use #RepealTheSeal hashtag via social media.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Yogurt Granola Breakfast Bowl

Some days you just don't want to eat another egg or you're going to start clucking.  Besides leftovers, it's hard to find a fast and protein dense breakfast item, especially if you are following a real food/paleo diet.  Enter...the yogurt breakfast bowl.  As long as you don't have a major issue with dairy (autoimmune disease, skin inflammation, or lactose intolerance) start thinking about scooping yourself a nice big bowl of plain yogurt and making a delicious parfait.

I used to love greek yogurt, but lately I've been enjoying goat yogurt.  For many people, goat dairy products are less inflammatory than those from cows.  It has to do with a certain type of casein protein.  Most cows milk contains A1 casein, vs other ruminants such as goats, sheep, and water-buffalo whose milk contains A2 casein.

I top my plain yogurt with cinnamon, ground flax seeds, fresh/frozen berries, and my homemade coconut granola.  In order to make this a truly satisfying breakfast you need to serve yourself enough yogurt.  This isn't the time for a small 4oz serving.  Load yourself up with at least 8oz (1 cup), if not closer to 12oz.

Homemade pumpkin coconut granola

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

In a large bowl mix together: 2 cups rolled oats (or large flaked coconut, crunched up), 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon), 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup dried fruit (chop up if larger than a raisin), 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  

In a medium pot, melt over low heat: 1/4 cup canned pumpkin, 1/4 c Honey or Maple Syrup, 1/4 c smooth  peanut butter (or almond butter or sunflower seed butter).

Mix "liquid" ingredients with the dry ingredients.  Pour onto a lined baking sheet and press firmly.  Make it look like a giant granola bar.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the oats/coconut start to brown.  Take out and let the granola cool for 5-10 minutes.  Then break it all up and store in an airtight container.