I got this email the other day, most of which is a fascinating and fantastic success story, but with a bit of disappointment at the end. Jeff and I (along with some input from Dr. B.G of Animal Pharm) have tossed around a few ideas, but I'm wondering if there's any out there who might offer their own ideas.
Hi Richard. I hope that you can please bear with me as this is going to be a rather long winded post, but it is currently 3am, and after several recent sleepless nights I am having a difficult time coping!
Background information: male, 46 yrs of age. High caliber athlete my whole life – top level ice hockey player until 20yrs of age; national flatwater kayaker after that; then ironman triathlete for 7 yrs until 2001.
Nutritional and health background: ate a typical North American diet until about 1992, at which time became interested in diet in terms of health and performance improvement. Result: strict vegan from 1985-2001. However, despite 20+ hrs of intense training per week could never lose abdominal fat, had a blood pressure of 140/100, and developed exercise induced cardiac problems (supraventricular tachycardia) and an irregular heartbeat at rest (PAC’s). Other than these problems though (which I just “lived with”) I never had any of the “energy crash” or “foggy” problems with an extremely high carb diet. In fact, I felt great eating grains and high carb.
In 2003 though my hypertension and increasingly “annoying” exercise induced SVT (now up to 100 ten minute episodes a year) were really starting to bother me. So I sought medical advice. By now though, I had become increasingly disillusioned with the mainstream medical establishment. So I went to see Dr. Mercola (yes, THE Dr. Mercola!).
Since then, and for the last 6 yrs, I have been eating 100% strict paleo foods. And by 100% strict, I mean 100% strict!!!! Not one speck of sugar, chemicals, crap, grains of any kind, or dairy – NOTHING, other than fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish. NOTHING!!! And drinking only water.
What I found was that my health improved dramatically. I felt great, I never got sick, and I lost some weight, despite exercising very little (although admittedly, I only had about 10 lbs of fat to lose with my previous high carb, exercise fanatic lifestyle).
However, I did note one thing. Despite my strict paleo diet, I was not eating low carb. In fact, I was probably eating upwards of 20 pieces of fruit a day!! Like my pre-paleo days though, I never felt bad, nor did I experience any energy crash eating higher carb. My blood pressure improved slightly (maybe 130/90), but my heart rate was still irregular (PAC’s) and I had fewer, but still present episodes of SVT.
So, 6 months ago, after reading hours and hours of you, DeVany, Eades, Sears, Davis, Colpo, Lyle McDonald, MDA, TTP, Hyperlipid, Whole Health Source, Animal Pharm, etc, etc, etc, I decided to go TRUE low carb paleo. Shouldn’t be too hard I thought, since it didn’t require changing ANY of the foods that I was currently eating, only the ratios.
Result: absolutely astounding……almost!!! For 6 months now, blood pressure perfect (118/78), heartbeat absolutely regular. Not one irregular heartbeat – no PAC’s, no SVT. All of this sustained for the past 6 months. Leaned right out too – very low % bodyfat, and this on no exercise at all!! However, this has come at a cost, and hence the requirement of this post.
For the past 6 months I have restricted my carbs to 40 grams a day, eating only pure clean paleo foods as previously mentioned. And while my heartbeat regularity, blood pressure, and physical appearance have been great, my energy is now non-existent. I am overcome with immense, excruciating fatigue. Something that sleep cannot overcome, and something that I have never felt before in my life. I have also had a headache and brain ”fog” for approximately 4 out of the last 6 months. A low grade headache, but debilitating nonetheless, and I hadn’t had a headache previous to this since 1985.
I have tried reducing carbs down to 20g for a few weeks, and even upping them to 75g for a few weeks, but neither has had an impact on the headaches or fatigue. As far as I know, I am eating perfect. Plenty of calories. High fat, med protein, low carb. Pure, organic food. Strict paleo. Plenty of fresh, clean water. No other beverages at all except water. Fish oil and vitamin D.
I know Lyle McDonald has written that some individuals who are not overly insulin sensitive (FYI – my fasting insulin was < 2 when I saw Mercola when I was a high carb vegan) never fully overcome the fatigue of LC and actually require a minimum of 110-150g of carbs a day. Still LC I guess, but I am having trouble “seeing this” given all else that I have read regarding no actual requirement for carbs etc, etc.
I feel that I am 95% of the way there to finding my perfect diet. I have to be. The improvement in blood pressure, heartbeat, and body composition cannot be ignored. But the fatigue and headaches……..HELP!!!! I am having an increasingly difficult time coping, and the frustration is truly depressing.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.
I'm sure Jeff will appreciate any and all comments that help him toward fixing this single disappointment in an otherwise terrific story.