Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Cholesterol Experiment: Case Study, Preliminary Results

I seem to have survived running hard yesterday at the Houska Houska without any ill effects. So far...

This morning I had to forego my morning coffee and go over to the lab to get my blood drawn after a 12 hour fast. I was getting my lipids re-checked, and my TSH too. I went into the Express lab at 6:40 am and it was hopping in there. Everyone must have waited until after the holiday.

After that I went back home and had my coffee, and felt much happier. I took Iris for a brief run, and then went up to Horsetooth. It was my first hill workout in way too long. Can't even remember the last time I purposely ran hills. I'm slower than a snail, but at least I got up there and did it.

On my way home my phone rang and I didn't recognize the number, so I just let it ring. Plus I don't talk on the phone and drive, I have a hard enough time just talking on a cell phone...add driving to that and it would be a disaster.

When I got home I listened to the voicemail, it was my doctor's office calling with my lab results. Only 4 hours went by since I got the blood drawn. I was amazed, I thought I'd be able to see my results at work tomorrow before they'd ever call me. Then I thought, must be something really off, to call me back that fast.

But when I talked to the nurse who works with my physician, she told me my cholesterol was in the normal range now. I couldn't believe my ears. I asked her what it was. She said, "192." And that my triglycerides, LDL, and HDL had also dropped. The HDL I can understand because I haven't been running much, and that is very sensitive to exercise, but it's still 70.

When I had my labs drawn in March, my total cholesterol was something like 257. I remember the triglycerides were normal and the LDL was high-normal at that time. My TSH has actually dropped slightly, I thought maybe it went up because of the way I've been tired in the afternoons and gained weight so easily. Having a lower TSH might have something to do with the lowered cholesterol, but I sort of doubt it because I've been more on the hyper end of things before and never had my cholesterol anywhere near that low. So I'm pretty convinced it's dietary.

When I got my lab results back in March, my doctor mentioned that going gluten free had produced some dramatic results for other patients, and she knew I didn't have much room for improvements in my diet in general. I really do eat well, and I allow myself to indulge in bad things occasionally, but not regularly. Over the past 5 weeks I've been off the wagon somewhat, and over the last week I was extra bad with the sweets and ice cream, so I was a little surprised when today's labs showed what they did.

As we talked on the phone, I told her that I had only made two dietary modifications over the past 3 months: one was no longer putting half and half in my coffee and switching to soy creamer, and the other thing is that I've been avoiding gluten. I haven't been completely gluten-free, but I have been mostly avoiding wheat and sticking to corn and rice for the majority of my carbohydrates.

What I've done is avoid eating wheat. I'm not so strict about it that I scan labels of things like soy sauce, which I know has wheat in it, and I drink beer, which is not gluten-free either. I just avoid things that are made with wheat flour and have wheat as a major ingredient.

By avoiding things made with wheat I've found that helps me avoid the bloated feeling I get when I eat things like bread and pasta, and it also helps me eliminate a lot of bad foods from my diet: baked things, cookies, and other crap that I shouldn't be eating anyway.

I do eat dairy products, but not very much. I eat cheese and yogurt occasionally, and I do eat lean red meat more often than dairy. I eat a good amount of fat, but other than the infrequent red meat and dairy sources, almost all of my dietary fat comes from olive oil, avocados, and fish. Salads and fish are probably the most frequent things you'll find on our dinner table.

This is all really interesting. I'm curious to see what happens by next year when I get my annual labs drawn again.

It has never been my intention to promote a gluten-free diet, because if you're not celiac, and not gluten-sensitive, it can be an awfully inconvenient and expensive way to feed yourself. I think I might be a little sensitive to gluten, because I've noticed that when I eat certain things I get bloated.

Pizza and bagels are the worst offenders for me. I think they are often made with high gluten flour products. I don't know if it's wheat itself that's the problem, I haven't tried a lot of the other grains simply because I'm not a big fan of flour and baked things anymore.

I also have never been one to jump on the bandwagon with the latest dietary trends like Paleo or Atkins or whatever. I do like the concept of Paleo, and there are a lot of things wrong with the commercially prepared, processed foods abundant in the American food landscape. I probably eat closer to Paleo than anything, but I'm not strict about that, either.

One thing I want to avoid is going on medications for anything unless I absolutely need them. I already take two thyroid meds and I don't buy into the statin thing, being an athlete I don't want to cause muscular problems. Some drugs, for some people, are worth taking, but I'm not into tithing for Big Pharma when I don't need to.

But I was absolutely shocked and amazed at the results of my labs this morning. Time will tell if this is a lasting change, I probably won't have another lipid panel drawn until next spring. If this is a lasting change for me, worrying about cholesterol-lowering medications is not going to be an issue.

Time will tell and this case study will go on. I intend to stick to the dietary changes I've made, and see where that goes. Dropping my cholesterol by 65 points in 3 months without drugs, hell I should write a book...

cross-posted at Ultrahypo


Olga King said...

Congrats! I am on the same wagon, and with minor cheats, I am gluten-free and (while I don't like calling names either) kind of Paleo for the last 5 months. After this weekend's gluttony I know why:)

Ultra Monk said...

I read your blog, I feel like I know you! Anyway, it is likely I'll be at the Boulder 24 hour run in October, just walking though. fyi, in case I could cross your path or shake your hand or something.

Alene Gone Bad said...

Thanks for the comments, Olga and Ultra Monk. I think there is something to this Paleo/altered wheat/gluten thing, and all the genetic and other modifications to our food supply. I'm not a researcher but I could probably sit here and think about lots of testable hypotheses. Ultra Monk, that race always falls on the weekend when I work. Otherwise I'd be there every year. One of these days we will cross paths, we'll keep trying.

runrik said...

As another "experiment of one" I have found over the last few years that the gluten-heavy pre-race pasta gorge has made for poor race results or at the very least, uncomfortable running. I feel much better carb-loading with rice or corn products. Also, my last pre-race regular-size meal is midday, the day before a race.

Alene Gone Bad said...

I have found the same thing! I try to eat my big pre-race meal in the early afternoon the day before the race. Gives it more time to fully digest and get out of my system, and the wheat-based pasta products seem to mess with my gut. I also try to have a good sized salad the day before the race, helps things get cleaned out better. I think I sleep better the night before the race when I don't gorge myself late in the day.

Unknown said...

Very interesting about the cholesterol results. Amazing, in fact! I have always had excellent lipids while eating anything I like (and I eat a lot of garbage along with healthy food too), but I too have wondered about this gluten-free fad. I eat a lot of wheat because I love bread, but I might experiment with other ingredients. I very much agree with your comments on Big Pharma, which I have read a lot about. I have also heard bad things about statins, so if you can avoid them, all the better. By the way, I no longer work for the hospital. Rick

Alene Gone Bad said...

Rick, thanks for the comment. I'll e-mail you.