Dynorphin & a high-fat diet: implications pt.1

When I started eating paleoesque years ago (well before uppity bloggers came on the scene with their foolish dietary declarations and denunciations), I followed the low-fat, no-starch Cordain theory (he has since come to his senses and changed his stance). I bought The Paleo Diet and followed it pretty much to the letter for two months or so, all the while feeling wrong about the whole thing. It just didn’t make sense; why was I not deriving the promised satisfaction from this “perfect” diet that supposedly reflects our genetic heritage?

I started thinking about it with a little internet education behind me, and came to the conclusion that if man was on the hunt for the most calories with the least effort (in accord with our naturally lazy nature), it would make sense that he would know precisely which animals would be the fattest and at what times (in accord with our incredible intelligence). Also, many areas, dense and easy with underground tubers and storage organs, rich with calories, greatly satisfied and comforted those who threw them on the fire, perhaps wrapped in leaves.

~So I started experimenting; I first added starch from tubers back into my diet with a little trepidation. Back in my vegetarian days I based my eating on grains and beans; like every other veg-head, this was my foundation; protein must come from somewhere if not animals. To think that grains and beans could be anything but god’s food was unheard of, like oxygen cut off from the air supply. The problem was however, grass seeds swung my moods like bad ecstasy on a demented dance floor, and beans (speaking of air supply), particularly soy products like tofu and tvp offended not only those around me, but myself as well (let’s be honest, in a normal situation one must be a bit faggy if one’s own farts offend one’s self; but mine was definitely not a normal situation!). They also messed up my peristalsis unpredictably (with weekly bouts of diarrhea)… but tubers behaved themselves wonderfully. They not only gave back the energy I was lacking, they gave me comfort and soul peace too…

…but of course, me being me, I could not simply just leave it alone and keep doing that which worked, and worked well; nope. I had to keep screwing around and make it “better”. I read with interest the blogs that advocated a high fat, low carb way of eating, and stumbled upon Jan Kwasniewski’s Optimal Diet, with its protein/fat/carb ratio of 1:2.5-3.5:0.5. I thought, “heeeyyyy… I’vvve got ann’ ideeaaa… forrrmmin’ in me’ ‘ead. I can do these macronutrient ratios in a paleo context,” and then proceeded to royally fuck myself up for the next thirteen months of my life. Adopting this approach, I immediately felt like an inferno of power. It was great; seemingly endless energy. I thought I’d stumbled onto the holy grail of macro-ratios, an esoteric source of forbidden knowledge, sullied from view by an evil dietary cabal of political/religious/nutritional dictocrats. The better I felt, the more smug and pleased with myself I became, until I was a bronzed, cut, fat-fueled John Galt Übermensch, chuckling down, lovingly, condescendingly, at the little silly people scurrying about with their sandwiches, all the while pondering what I’d do with my new-found powers… should I use my awesomeness for good? for evil?… help the hungry?… world domination?…

…no matter; all that really counted was the fact that I was in the world, and all those within my light might bask in my cleansing glow and be better for just experiencing that which was me.

Normally, I log two or three thousand kms per year backpacking (this actually isn’t bullshit   ;D), hiking, biking, mountain climbing (it’s interesting that people with endorphin deficiencies gravitate to these activities to increase production). One particular weekend I became vaguely aware of the old people and toddlers passing me up on my way to Galatea lake in Kananaskis. I swore I could hear Justin Bieber in the ear buds of 13-year-old schoolgirls as they passed me on the trails looking sideways, then back at me, half-pityingly, like I was an old lady on my way to the church bake-off (ok, this was way before Justin Bieber). I wonder if they thought I was carrying knitting supplies and candy sprinkles for my secret cake recipes in my backpack. My best friend usually walks behind me when we hike together, but this time I was digging for excuses why I was dragging behind in a heart-pounding malaise. It all started going downhill, so to speak, from there. I increasingly began experiencing evening anxiety and a pounding hypertension that, while not too bad in the morning, averaged a systolic of well over 140, an alarming change from my usual circa 118. My days were suddenly adrenaline/cortisol fueled and my nights were spent in bed as a literally vibrating mass of teeth-clenched flesh, pondering his fate; at any given time the mirror showed a pale, cadaverous, gaunt spectre asking his reflection-source what he was going to do about this mess…

…I soon after smacked myself upside the head with a 2×4, went back to my fatty meat and greens/tuber/fruit based diet with some nuts and seeds thrown in, and am back to normal… not before scaring the shit out of myself though.

~It’s funny how people can find themselves trapped within any kind of paradigm, out of which they can easily step, but refuse because this or that belief, whatever it may be, is “The Way”, even if it might be killing them. Something like this is happening in the diet blogosphere these days, and people are turning into idiots following advice that may very well work for some, but because we’re all different, may quite literally destroy the health of others.

For those readers who haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m on about, there is an infantile mutual tantrum going on in the paleo/traditional dietsphere between various camps that has basically completely turned me off reading them… I refer you to the links to the right on my site. If you’re new to this nonsense and can stomach it, read them. But fair warning: besides one or two, they’re all full of shit these days and are no longer interested much in learning and giving humble opinions, just throwing mud and rhetoric at each other and defending pet theories. So you’ll have to go back into the archives of these blogs to a more wide-eyed and less jaded time.

…I haven’t linked to the biggest shit birds, but you’ll find them soon enough… they’ll make sure of that.

…so, allow me my own little declaration: let any self-proclaimed textpert of a diet blog, who preaches that a diet high in starch from whole foods is unnatural and will be your downfall, rot in the same fatty quagmire into which he sent many others…

…likewise, let one who has never known obesity and never experienced a broken metabolism, and turns up his nose at the obvious benefits for some of a low-carb/high-fat diet, shut his mouth and acquire a little humility and knowledge before he buries himself alive in his own stupid.

~Everyone is different, idiots… grow up.

~My involvement is emotional because I’ve been self-experimenting longer than most of these needledicks have pondered what they’d been shovelling down their pie holes, and I’ve consistently disproved the opinions of almost everyone with an opinion.

…Let it be known that this blog will never devolve into a mess of cracking, rigid dogma, with ideas locked in stone, made Official and thereby set upon a museum shelf to slowly rot, shrink and petrify with a semblance of truth in it, but covered with old webs of tenets…

…I will remain young-hearted and open with this, and want those who read this to understand that I will never let a broken desperate obese person leave here hurt and as confused as other sites may have left them. I will tell you to figure things out for yourself, in a paleoesque context (because that’s my open and particular bias). In my opinion, grass seeds, beans and dairy are unnecessary and insulinogenic, but one broken person may achieve great success with a whole-food, high tuber, very bland carby diet with zero food reward, while easily keeping calorie consumption down; while another may attain magical success with a healthy high-fat ruminant/seafood and greens approach, with no starch or sweet.

~next: pt 2

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The “paleo” way of eating explained

I eat a paleolithic diet. “What the hell is a paleolithic diet?” you might ask. You wouldn’t be the first. Suffice to say, this way of eating has changed my life. I can say, without hyperbole, that I feel a billion times better than I used to. I’ve been eating this way since 2007.

Kidding aside, this way of eating really did help in a big way. When eating a grain heavy diet, I would experience wild mood swings that I thought were normal, but left me very tired (and depressed!) at the end of the day. I will never go back to the Standard American Diet (note the acronym). Why would I be an idiot? …no really; why would I be a lazy, incurious, unassuming maladroit and go down the tubes, complaining all the way but doing nothing about it except perhaps stuffing pharma drugs down my gullet to control the symptoms of bad health that could probably be attributed to my irresponsibility?

I’m not trying to motivate by ridicule, but despite my instinct to want to see people get better, I do tend to be a happily impatient and judgemental bastard. Just a bag of contradictions I guess… Okay, I’m trying to motivate by ridicule.

If one is depressed, I can’t emphasise this way of eating enough. It really does help people.

~The premise is simple: if one wants to discover what our diet really should be, one must look to the past, to the dictates of our genetics. If we consider archaeology, paleoanthropology and other fields in this context, we discover that man ate a much different diet up to 12000-7000 years ago, before the advent of agriculture. Before this, we were hunter-gatherers, with an emphasis on either the “hunter” or the “gatherer” aspects, depending on the latitude and environment.

We ate like this until the neolithic (agricultural) revolution radically altered the way we procure food. We began to grow cereal crops, legumes and practice animal husbandry. We began to cultivate roots, tubers, vegetables and fruit, and grow nuts and seeds; we started mining or dehydrating salt. We started growing grasses and beans for size and starch content; we began to breed animals for food and milk production; all cultivated plants were bred for size, and in the case of fruit, sugar. The anti-nutrients in seeds and nuts (indeed, all plants) were bred out as much as possible; oils and fats were easily pressed from olives, oil palm fruit and coconuts. Within the last centuries (and in some cases, decades) we began to refine food. Wheat was processed to obtain the starch; we began pressing seeds into omega 6 rich oils; pure sugar was extracted from plants. Eventually with industrial technology, oils were hardened via hydrogenation to produce cheap saturated trans-fat; high fructose corn syrup was produced as a cheap alternative to sugar; plant hydrolysis became a cheap way to give a rich “umami” flavour; this technology facilitated the cheap and easy production of ubiquitous modern comfort foods. By this time, animals in the Western World were increasingly fed grains and processed soy feed instead of being raised on grass, browse and hay (ruminants,ungulates etc) or pastured (pigs, poultry etc).

Before agriculture, we didn’t eat grains and beans to any real extent, if at all. We did not consume dairy products; elk milking is painful. When we first adopted omnivory, we hunted bugs and critters, gathered shellfish along the shores, and caught fish when we could. We ate eggs when we found them. We ate roots, leaves and wild fruit (though in the northern latitudes only when we could find them); we gathered nuts and seeds when possible, and searched out other fatty plants like coconut and oil palm fruit. We had a sweet tooth and would go to great lengths to procure honey when we could. We scavenged and discovered with tools a wealth of fat within the bones and skulls of carrion that animals left behind; we began to hunt larger game, as fatty as possible with no guarantee that the animal would be fatty. We didn’t eat tubers until fire was harnessed, and even so, only in some areas (there is evidence of ubiquitous, regular use of fire 50,000-100,000 years ago, and controlled use of fire in some areas 250,000-400,000 years ago).

So there you have it. A bit of a dietary history lesson. I eat as closely to paleo principles as possible.

Carbohydrate

One of the first things you might notice is the lack of familiar starch sources. During the Paleolithic, in many areas, carbs were not eaten to the extent they are today, though closer to the equator, in certain areas, they made up a large part of the diet; and the carbs available were different from the ones we eat today. Starch was an iffy thing for much of the world. Grains and beans were rarely eaten because wild grasses were very small and hard to gather in any significant amount and beans were not easy to find. Also, these were avoided due to the necessity of cooking to make them palatable and non-toxic. Starchy tubers were not eaten until fire was controlled (from that time on however, they made up a large percentage of calories in certain parts of the world). Wild roots, shoots and fruits were easier to consume (they could also be eaten raw, which was natural and convenient; though, being wild, they were quite fibrous, small, and the fruit and berries were more tart than sweet.

Because the diet was mostly hypoglycemic and paleo man was in motion much of the time, he did not get the diseases of modern civilization. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, other “syndrome-x” diseases and intestinal diseases were/are very rare in 20th century and modern hunter-gatherers.

Some do well with a carb-heavy diet, and some don’t (particularly those with broken metabolisms). If you do well with starch, experiment with different tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, yam) and maybe other sources like plantain and squash.

Fat

The myth that saturated fat and cholesterol contribute to ill-health is largely responsible for the disease epidemic we are experiencing today. In the context of a proper diet, low in refined starch and free sugars, fat and cholesterol are your best friends. They are indispensable for hormonal regulation and good mood. Eat your animal fat (including lard and tallow) and don’t trim your meat. As well, coconut oil, palm oil (particularly red palm) and olive oil (a mainly monounsaturated oil) are great plant sources. However, modern industrial oils (corn, sunflower, canola, soy, cottonseed, other seed oils) high in omega 6 are junk; not that o6 is bad (in fact, its essential) but we’re looking for an essential fatty acid ratio of 3-1 to 1-1 omega 6 to omega 3. We eat too much o6 and the balance is out by a ratio of up to at least 15-1, and much higher. …want to get old fast because of inflammation? Seed oil will accommodate this.

Get a good o6-o3 balance by ditching the seed oils, eating grass-fed meat when you can, and eating lots of fish/seafood. Of course, hydrogenated trans-fats are killers that contribute to artery diseases in any dietary context.

…one more thing: fat does not make you fat by virtue of it being fat.

Protein

Protein is a no brainer (for most). It doesn’t mess with our physiology like fats and carbs can in a refined/perverted diet, though some don’t do well with a high intake. Protein more or less self-regulates; most bodies won’t allow too much or too little. The best sources are wild-killed game, wild-caught fish and seafood, and pasture-raised and grass-fed livestock, poultry and eggs. Avoid grain-fed/finished, because the fatty acid ratio isn’t ideal. And grass-finished tastes better anyway. The cost is worth it… though it’s cheaper than retail if you hunt it or buy the animal from a producer and kill it yourself. The protein quality in beans and grass seeds isn’t worth eating them; the lectins, enzyme inhibitors, other antinutrients and empty energy just don’t make the case for them. And meat doesn’t spike insulin and promote inflammation like these can.

~So that’s pretty much it. Again, I can’t stress enough how important proper nutrition is, regarding depression. I believe that knowledge of- an industrial diet, lack of or inappropriate exercise, and modern mental stressors- things we didn’t deal with in the past, can help us in ways we can’t imagine at the moment…

…let’s do something about it.

The story so far…

This isn’t a detailed autobiography, just an outline of one person’s life with dysthymia/depression, so things will be kept general.

~All my life I felt like an outsider. From around age twelve I began to marvel at the capacity for a seemingly natural joy that people could experience, while I watched from the other side of the invisible fence. Around ’79, on the edge of my small town, one sunny, hazy Saturday afternoon behind the school overlooking a field with my friends, I experienced a profound ennui that, looking back, should never have been felt by a fourteen year old kid. How could such a romantic poetic vision and melancholy regret have been made aware by some dumb teen? Very little worldly experience, no worldly loss, no ripping trauma, yet there it was. Without the buffers of time spent in the world, how could someone so young be expected to deal with these adult impressions?

When I was about eighteen I was tired of being tired, so I decided that I should go to a doctor to try to deal with the haze I was living in. I went in, he asked a few questions, I was prescribed vitamin c tablets and booted out the office door…

…WTF… goddamn vitamin c tablets…

…no questions, no interest, no sleuthing for answers to any possible mysteries that one might want to uncover, discover and conquer; y’know… to satisfy the natural male urge to “know”.

Nope. Just vitamin c pills. This begs the query: are doctors taught to be unimaginative dullards? Are all remnants of innate curiosity drained and beaten out of them during training? Is there a liability issue involved that forces them to take an extremely conservative approach? Does this approach prevent in many cases a favorable result? If so, this doesn’t reflect well on Western practices.

With this bad taste in my mouth I realised that I would probably have to fix my problems myself, so through the years I developed a DIY approach to things. I soldiered on and did everything I could to find an answer for my state. I tried every “healthy diet” in the books until I stumbled on the concept of eating to satisfy the human genome. This meant eating, as closely as possible, pre-agricultural food; a paleoesque diet. It worked to a certain extent. In this same “paleo” vein, I started exercising in a more natural way; this meant lots of walking and very little running, and weight training using as many muscles as possible per exercise (compound exercises) and doing it less. This worked somewhat too. With this combination of diet and exercise my anxiety levels went down quite a bit, and only the dysthymia remained. This experiment began in 2007…

…before this time, I’d tried too many antidepressants to name (this would require a separate, lengthy post… maybe later), on and off label, none of which worked, and some of which performed some interesting and nasty business.

One day, while travelling the internet, I discovered the theory that, for some, depression might be caused by an anomaly within the endogenous opioid system, and not necessarily within the monoamine neurotransmitter system, despite all the myopic, narrow research that served to build an enormous, expensive research infrastructure dedicated to that. This pissed me off a bit, and all kinds of government-corporation conspiracy theories and various tie-ins floated through my reasonably lucid, non-paranoid brain.

Thus my discovery of endorphin deficiency syndrome (EDS) theory (h/t Reardon Metal for his passionate dedication to our theory). The fact that our bodies even produce natural opiates wasn’t proved until the ’70s, so this theory can be forgiven somewhat for being so young and unexplored; but that’s no excuse for the lack of enthusiasm and effort by the pharmaceuticals. I’m a libertarian, so believe in property rights and the freedom for corporations to research whatever the hell they want in a truly capitalist system of free markets (no state/corp collusion); but knowing that the government and corporations are so in bed with each other, I can’t help thinking that there exists some suppression of research and therapy (profits and monopoly), and because of this I’m pissed that there are no real signs pointing to opiate therapy research, just a few studies here and there. With the new classes of opiates like buprenorphine, because of their actions, one develops tolerance very slowly, if at all. There is no longer an excuse for ignoring this line of research and therapy.

So, while I dream of a relatively safe opiate therapy, I have to work with what I’ve got. One frustrating afternoon, shortly after I left the doctor’s office, he in a bewildered, puzzled and angry state after going through my internet research papers, I knew that I was going to have to go it alone once again. I refused to get involved with the underground for my opiates, and online non-prescription pharms were too expensive, so I hit the internet for other options. Unbelievably, I found a potent source of opium in plain view of the world, yet thankfully obscured by our lack of knowledge: poppies… the ones grandma grows… the ones that, the seeds of which, can be bought from online vendors or any supermarket spice aisle and planted in any back yard…

…my first harvest was a smashing success…

…I harvested the pods, dried them and finely ground them into a powder called dode, or doda. I developed my own dosing regimen using an accurate scale, started keeping dosing records and experienced a relief from depression that I’d never known… and an opiate dependence.

…and so begins my journey.