Pseudo Sciatica Follow-up

I’ve been pretty philosophical about pain for most of my life. Psychological pain, physical pain…it’s a part of the human experience. No one likes it, but my view is to soldier on. That said, everyone reaches a tolerance.

I was near mine at the weekend. Since I last wrote about this, my (pseudo) sciatica went from painful nuisance to debilitating super pain. Friday was very bad at times. The numbness and pain ran all the way down to my big toe; I couldn’t put on my own socks in the morning or tie my own shoes. The only way I could get relief at times was by hanging my lower body by propping myself over a table. Saturday morning was the nadir. I couldn’t sleep for most of Friday night; in the morning, I couldn’t stand. I had to crawl to the banister and pull myself up. In certain positions, the pain was at an 8 or 9.

To give some idea how much I was hurting, I asked for Divine intervention, which I rarely do. I think asking Him for direct help is a weakness most of the time. Usually, I just pray for forgiveness and thanks for all of the good things in my life. Did prayer help? I think so. I had been doing some research online for information on how to rehab (pseudo) sciatic pain. I’d found some stretches, but they hadn’t helped. As an aside, the disutility of the stretches made me thing that maybe I did have true sciatica. Some information on applying heat seemed useful but only provided very temporary relief. Then I found this:

It’s not the most polished video, but this chap eventually got down to the nitty gritty. He said that one needed a therapy ball (in this case lacrosse) to isolate the knotted gluteal muscles. You essentially lie on the ball over the knot, take the pain, settle in and let the ball do the work. I spent about thirty minutes doing this and felt three serious muscle spasms in my gluteal muscles. Were my knots releasing?

Saturday night was more of the same, sadly. A lot of pain down my left leg. My better half suggested getting a hot water bottle which she did. That helped tremendously, and I was able to sleep. On Sunday morning I was able to get out of bed with minimal pain. I spent much of Sunday applying heat, stretching and using my therapy ball as explained in the Youtube video. By the afternoon, I was able to do some light gardening and clean my chicken run. The sciatic pain was almost totally gone. Monday was more of the same. I was near full mobility for most things and only felt some isolated pain in my gluteal muscles in a couple of bent positions. I even got back in the gym for an upper body workout and some elliptical work. The difference between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon was enormous. I’m writing on Tuesday morning, and I’m a little better than yesterday morning. I’ve got an appointment with an osteopath today, but it’s now more for advice on future prevention than for anything else. I’ve still got a little bit of pain in the morning when bending in certain positions, but it’s now very bearable.

Conclusions

As I said, I don’t like asking Jesus for help. In this case, I really do think he got involved for me one way or the other. If that makes me sound old fashioned, so be it. He got involved. On a more secular note, we live in amazing times when it comes to the amount of information that is at our fingertips. What could I have done ten or especially twenty years ago? Go to the doctor or a physio, yes. But would he have given me the advice I needed? Maybe, but probably not. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to give me the amount of advice I can find on the web. That’s one of the great things about the internet. It allows us to take control of our own health.

Lower Back Pain: Pseudo Sciatica?

I hope this can serve as a cautionary tale for those in their forties and over. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I’ve decided to lift more and do more cardio. It has helped lower my blood glucose significantly so all good. Right? Wrong. Although I haven’t been lifting crazy loads, I’ve developed some pretty intense lower back pain.

Interestingly, there was no pull or injury while lifting. It was something I woke up with one morning. My sciatic nerve is really hurting just at the top of my left glute. The pain is intense when I sit up from a chair or when I squat down at times. The stabbing pain shoots down the back of my thigh on the outside.

My philosophy on injuries like this is to keep doing what I’m doing. Usually, they work themselves out over a couple of days. I’ve done a bit more stretching, and I skipped my latest leg routine, but that’s about it. Well, we’re nearing the end of week two here, so I’ve started doing some research and prodding around in my gluteus. I’ve found what feels like a pretty significant knot, which is quite tender to the touch.

Since I have no pain in my back proper, my research suggests that this is pseudo-sciatica. What is happening is that a muscle has knotted and is pressing on my sciatic nerve causing pain. The question is which muscle? It’s likely either my gluteus minimus or piriformis.

I’ve done a piriformis test that I’ve linked to below; it doesn’t seem like it’s this muscle:

Instead, it looks like it’s my gluteus minimus:

I’ve been working that knot over the last few days, and the main is lessening. I’ll try the stretches mentioned above, and these ones below:

Conclusion

Life goes on and pain is a part of it. I’ve never been the type to let injury stop me. That said, if something continues to nag, we are all so fortunate to have access to the internet. There has been such an explosion in information over the last two decades which can help us in so many ways. I’ll keep up with the stretching and the working on the knot. I’ll report on this in a week or two.

Vicious Circle – Inflammation and Blood Glucose

I do a lot of my better thinking whilst out walking. Yesterday was no exception even though I got caught out in a middle of a downpour. I think the horrible conditions helped my thinking. It took my mind off being soaked to the bone five miles from home.

My blood glucose was on my mind because I had woken up with a horrible 12.6 mmol/L reading. For those non-diabetics out there, this is bad. But it was also a bit of a puzzle. My reading the day before was also pretty bad (10.6), but I hadn’t eaten much on either day. However, I did have a week of “soft paleo” where I had a couple of glasses of wine with every meal, ate too much protein and even had a couple of spoons of carby foods on two consecutive days (carrots, turnips and potatoes).

So even though I’m back to my strict keto ways, I was still paying for the week of merrymaking with friends. This wasn’t the first time I’d noticed this phenomenon after overindulgence (e.g., Christmastime). The question though is why? Why the lag? Why wouldn’t my body bounce back quickly if I’m not eating much and exercising?

I had the eureka moment yesterday: inflammation. Something I had read a couple of months ago came to mind: the argument that high blood glucose causes inflammation which in turn leads to higher blood glucose. It’s the vicious circle. Until the inflammation is controlled, the diabetic will wrestle with elevated blood sugar levels. A little bit of research confirmed what I read a while ago.

It bothers me that I hadn’t put this together before. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why starchy foods (potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc.) led to elevated blood glucose for several days (usually around a week). Well now I know. Of course, with those meals I was drinking red wine as well.

Conclusion

I’ve known for some time that I can’t eat starchy foods, and since March red wine has been completely avoided (until last week). Now I can finally put a finger on why I don’t bounce back quickly from a few days of “soft” paleo.

So the cure is quite simple really. No more indulgences. I already made a pact that I would only have a glass of wine with my Christmas dinner. That’s all I can handle. One glass a couple of times a year. This isn’t going to be a problem I believe. There’s no wine in the house, and I realised last week that I don’t miss wine that much.

Reflections on a Week of “Soft” Paleo

My goal is to post once a day excluding Sundays. I couldn’t do that yesterday, as I was on the road for about twelve hours.

I self-consciously broke with my typically strict keto lifestyle during a week holidaying with friends in Scotland. I’ve been reflecting on that week when it comes to diet, exercise and general health.

First, I should say it was a magnificent place to holiday, and it was great to see old friends.

Isle of Lewis accommodation, sightseeing - Outer Hebrides ...
Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Exercise

I managed to go for three long runs over the week and did some small walks on various beaches. It was certainly less intense than my usual routine. I didn’t find the time for press-ups or planking. There was no lifting of heavy things.

Diet

This is where I really dropped the ball. I ate too much meat at dinner; I ate too much cheese after dinner (I never eat cheese after dinner!). The wine drinking had a deleterious effect on my blood glucose, even though I was moderate in my consumption. The wine drinking also led to weakened discipline. I ate more chocolate than usual; I ate a few spoonfuls of carrot and turnip mash one night; I even ate one piece of a roasted potato during one dinner. For a typical paleo that wouldn’t be a problem. For someone with a misfiring pancreas, it sets you back from your health goals.

Health

I was starting to feel the deterioration during the week. I was not sleeping well because of the booze and food. I had very bad indigestion for two nights, and there was still a hint of gastric reflux the other night. Finally, and sorry to be unglamorous, but I had very bad constipation for much of the week. This was no doubt a combination of diet (meat and cheese), booze and dehydration brought on by the drinking and elevated blood glucose. Furthermore, my last run was poor: I was winded and had less endurance. Finally, my blood glucose has been elevated for the last three days, so I need to fast. I could also see inflammation in my face. I was a little puffy by the end of the week.

Conclusion

It was great to see old friends with whom I revelled in my youth and see a beautiful part of the world. Although I was drinking little when compared with ten years ago (or even a year ago) in such situations, it is still not good enough. The next time we get together on holiday, I will have to be a full teetotal. I don’t see any other option. My health is more important than having booze as a social lubricant.

I’ll be starting the fast tomorrow. One day of water/black coffee only and then two days of fat fasting.

Back on the Red Wine Wagon

Well last night was the end of my red wine indulgence. Today’s the last day of my holiday, and I need to be up early tomorrow morning: no booze today.

My blood glucose was 10.2 mmol/L this morning. That’s having eaten a paleo dinner and skipping lunch. Why then the high blood glucose? I’m guessing systemic inflammation. I was thinking about this when I woke up because I’m going to go for a long run today to get my blood down. My guess is that, first, my blood will not be as low as usual after such a run, and, second, my blood will tick up a bit after my run despite having eaten nothing. Why? Again, systemic inflammation.

Another interesting outcome from the last six days was the state of my stomach. I’ve been wrestling with an upset stomach and gastric reflux for a couple of nights. I have no doubt that a part of that was due to the wine.

Conclusions

I haven’t learned anything new health-wise other than my guess that the wine, over several days, brings on systemic inflammation. This in turn leads to higher blood sugar and a longer period for my blood sugar to come down to normal levels despite exercise.

I have learned something about myself. I really don’t miss the wine much when it comes to food. It was nice to have a couple of glasses with steak or roast beef, but it didn’t enhance the meal as much as I thought it would. It will be easy to go back on the wagon.

Will I ever have a glass of red again? Yes. But not across multiple days and not for a long time. The next time will be Christmas when we have a nice roast goose.

Desperate Times on the Road – Eating at McDonald’s

I’m on holiday and was driving for nearly nine hours today. After a good breakfast and no lunch, we got desperate for dinner in Inverness, Scotland. The rain was torrential and we were going to be quite late arriving at the B&B unless we grabbed something quick. We opted for Mickey Dees.

Not Inverness

I rarely eat this crap, and when I do, it’s meat only. No buns, no French fries. Just the burger patties. That’s what we did tonight too. I had some hamburgers and one Big Mac. What was the result? I bit of an upset stomach after an hour. It was actually some moderate cramping. My better half felt similarly poor.

What were the culprits then if not the buns? Let’s assume that it was 100% British and Irish beef that I ate, and McDonald’s learnt their lesson from a few years ago when they were outed over their use of ammonium hydroxide in “washing” their meat. The beef I ate was still far from grass fed organic. Who knows what’s in there? (Well, that’s an idea for another post).

What about the special sauce in the Big Mac? Let’s look at the ingredients from McDonald’s themselves: water, rapeseed oil, spirit vinegar, gherkins, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar, modified maize starch, EGG yolk, spices (contains MUSTARD), salt, thickener (E 415), natural flavourings, yeast extract, firming agent (E 509).

Readers know what I think of rapeseed oil (aka canola) and its inflammatory properties. I’d bet a lot that the burgers are being fried in the same sh*t. Glucose-fructose, modified maize starch, E509 and E415 are worrisome as well.

So putting it all together, I probably ate poor quality beef and definitely ate unhealthy rapeseed oil along with “food-based” products. I’m not surprised my stomach was unhappy. Next time, I think I’ll just skip dinner too.

Covid and Diabetes

Long-time readers will know that one of my first posts was about being a diabetic in a Covid World. The thrust of the article was that diabetics were at a greater risk from Covid not because of diabetes per se but because of underlying health problems such as obesity. Put another way, the lifestyle choices that brought on Type-2 diabetes were also putting Type-2s at a greater risk of death once they caught the virus.

A new study has come out of France that backs up the initial findings I highlighted back in May. This is also a more robust and larger study with 1317 participants. Again, poor glucose control, insulin and metformin usage and age were not factors that increased the risk of death. Instead, being high on the body-mass index (BMI) led to a significantly higher chances of “tracheal intubation for mechanical ventilation and death within 7 days of admission.”

In addition, if the diabetics brought comorbidities with them into the hospital, that also led to higher chances of mechanical ventilation and death. Comorbidities are simply other health problems that someone has on top of his main disease. So in the case of this study, researchers found that diabetics who also had hypertension, micro- and macrovascular diabetic complications, heart failure and obstructive sleep apnoea were at a much greater risk.

Conclusion

Obviously optimum blood control is essential for any diabetic to maintain good health. However, when it comes to Covid, it seems that being fat is the worst thing you can be. Again, the very poor lifestyle choices that people make that leads to Type-2 diabetes also leads to greater risk of death from Covid.

The Twinkie Transformation

Twinkies

I used to love these things as a kid. Who wouldn’t like cake, sugar and vanilla cream? Well that wasn’t what I was eating in the ’80s. Indeed, when these “cakes” were first made in the 1930s, they were made with real ingredients: sugar, flour, baking soda, etc. If you do a little web browsing, you’ll tend to find something like this:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/the-history-of-the-twinkie-1328770

Of course, these things are off the menu for me today because sugar and flour are really bad for me. Nevertheless, what I think is more interesting is the transformation of the Twinkie from a basic cake into a Frankenstein’s Monster food-based product. About a decade ago, stories made the rounds that the Twinkie would survive a nuclear holocaust, and that they weren’t actually baked like real cakes. I’m not that concerned in the mythology. I think it’s more telling just to look at the ingredients:

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Iron, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Folic Acid), Water, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening and/or beef shortening (Soybean* Cotton Seed Oil and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Eggs, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin, Raising Agents: Sodium Bicarbonate (E550), Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Corn Starch and Monocalcium Phosphate, Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Whey (from Milk), Glycerin, Soybean* Oil, Salt, Mono & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids (E471), Polyoxyethylene Sorbitan Monostearate (E435), Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate (E481), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Preservative: Sorbic Acid (E200), Stabiliser: Xanthan Gum (E415) & Cellulose Gum, Enzymes, Wheat Flour, Allura Red (E129)*, Tartrazine (E102), **May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children, *Genetically Modified.

What’s not to love from the above right? Always read the label.

So from all of the above wonders, I think I can tease out what looks obviously industrial and horrible:

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening (Soybean* Cotton Seed Oil and/or Canola Oil)
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Glycerin
  • Mono & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids (E471)
  • Polyoxyethylene Sorbitan Monostearate (E435)
  • Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate (E481)
  • Sorbic Acid (E200)
  • Stabiliser: Xanthan Gum (E415)
  • Cellulose Gum
  • Allura Red (E129)
  • Tartrazine (E102)

I think anyone who is reading this website has some idea about high fructose corn syrup. It’s one of the worst things you can put in your body and it’s everywhere. If you don’t know, here’s a good place to start: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2015/07/christina-sarich/newly-discovered-dangers-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

I’ve written about the oils I eat and oils I avoid. Cottonseed, canola, and soya are all at the top of my avoid list.

Soy lecithin is in all kinds of things. It’s an emulsifier which helps liquids and oils from separating. As things go, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I stay away from it. Mark Sisson makes a case that it does not need to be avoided at all cost, especially if it’s in dark chocolate.

Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate

So what the hell is this? Well it’s an inorganic compound that is used as a leavening agent in baking powders. “Because the resulting phosphate residue has an off-taste, SAPP is usually used in very sweet cakes which mask the off-taste,” according to Wikipedia. It also has some other uses in industry:

In leather treatment, it can be used to remove iron stains on hides during processing. It can stabilize hydrogen peroxide solutions against reduction. It can be used with sulfamic acid in some dairy applications for cleaning, especially to remove soapstone. When added to scalding water, it facilitates removal of hair and scurf in hog slaughter and feathers and scurf in poultry slaughter. In petroleum production, it can be used as a dispersant in oil well drilling muds. It is used in cat foods as a palatability additive.

Glycerin

This is used as a sweetener and is derived through the processes of  hydrolysissaponification, or transesterification. Glycerin is typically derived from soybeans, palm or animal tallow. According to Wikipedia:

In food and beverages, glycerol serves as a humectantsolvent, and sweetener, and may help preserve foods. It is also used as filler in commercially prepared low-fat foods (e.g., cookies), and as a thickening agent in liqueurs. Glycerol and water are used to preserve certain types of plant leaves. 

Mono & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids (E471)

These are emulsifiers too. They come from seed oils and animal fats. This site gives a good explanation of the industrial process https://foodadditives.net/emulsifiers/mono-and-diglycerides/. It looks highly processed to me.

Polyoxyethylene Sorbitan Monostearate (E435)

This is another emulsifier that is made from sorbitol, stearic acid (C18) and ethylene oxide. Apparently it is blended with E471. According to the Food and Drug Administration “polysorbate 60 is manufactured by reacting stearic acid with sorbitol to obtain sorbitan monostearate first and then condensed with ethylene oxide.”

Sodium Stearoyl-2-Lactylate (E481)

Yet another emulsifier and stabiliser. SSL is synthesized from food-grade stearic acid (mostly from palm oil), lactic acid (from the fermentation of sugar beet or chemical synthesis) and sodium hydroxide.

Sorbic Acid (E200)

This is a preservative to stop the growth of mould. How is it made: The traditional route to sorbic acid involves condensation of malonic acid and trans-butenal. It can also be prepared from isomeric hexadienoic acids, which are available via a nickel-catalyzed reaction of allyl chlorideacetylene, and carbon monoxide. The route used commercially, however, is from crotonaldehyde and ketene. An estimated 30,000 tons are produced annually.

It sounds all natural to me!

Xanthan Gum (E415)

This one gets the trifecta: thickener, emulsifier and stabilizer. What is it made of: a repeat pentasaccharide unit consisting of D-glucose, D-glucuronic acid, D-mannose, pyruvic acid and acetic acid. According to the Food Additives site

Commercial Xanthan gum is produced by fermentation of a carbohydrate source (mainly from corn starch) with strains of Xanthomonas campestris (a naturally occurring bacterium can be found on the leaf surfaces of green vegetables), then purified with ethanol or isopropanol. The final product is manufactured to a salt (sodium, potassium or calcium).

Cellulose Gum

This one is used as a thickener, binder, emulsifier and stabilizer. How does this get made? “Cellulose Gum is a water-soluble cellulose ether obtained by chemical modification from natural cellulose such as cotton linter or wood pulp” according to Food Additives.

Allura Red (E129)

Azo dyes are synthetic colours that contain an azo group. Azo groups do not occur naturally according to Food-Info. In addition,

Since it is an azo dye, it may elicit intolerance in people intolerant to salicylates. Additionally, it is a histamine liberator, and may intensify symptoms of asthma. In combination with benzoates, it is also implicated in hyperactivity in children. One of its degradation products causes bladder cancer in animals when present in high concentrations.

But where is the red in the Twinkie? I’m guessing it is mixed with our final ingredient below.

Tartrazine (E102)

This is a yellow azo die. So another thing that does not occur naturally. It apparently causes problems for asthmatics and may contribute to ADHD behaviour in children.

Conclusion

There’s a book out there that apparently digs very deep into the processes of a lot of the above ingredients. It’s called Twinkie, Deconstructed. Apparently, some of the above ingredients need to be mined. All for a simple sponge cake that originally had a few natural ingredients.

I don’t think I need to read the book. My three hours of research is enough for me. I can’t eat Twinkies, but even if I could, I would run screaming from them. You don’t need a degree in bio-chemistry to see that the ingredients are highly processed. I was not made to consume highly processed foods. I was made to eat real foods: plants and animals.

What’s telling when you go to the Wikipedia entries is that they almost all call these ingredients naturally occurring. I think that this is a way to give the gloss of nature to these ingredients.

The Twinkie is a classic semi “food-based” product.

Glucose Spikes from Chicken Wings?

Quite the mystery this morning. I had chicken wings last night, most of which were without my paleo “breading.” All were baked in the oven. Half were brushed with a West Indian, very low carb hot sauce and the other half got a butter drizzle and parmesan cheese (which didn’t turn out well by the way). I also made my “breaded” wings for my wife, and I only ate three of those. I had a hunch that I was eating too many of those (so delicious!) and the almond flour added up to too many carbs. Vegetables last night? One small carrot stick and three small celery sticks.

Result? My blood glucose was 8.9 mmol/L this morning. For the last week, since I started getting more sleep and eating earlier, my range has been from 6.4 to 7.6 mmol/L. So why the spike? I don’t know. Did I eat too many and not notice it? I didn’t feel particularly full. The carrot stick? I doubt it.

There’s nothing on the internet that suggests wings can spike blood glucose unless they’re deep fried in canola or palm, or if they have real breading.

Of course, I’ve noticed sugar spikes with chicken breasts from gluconeogenesis (i.e., the body’s conversion of protein to sugar). I do like the “drum stick” part of the chicken wings which is mainly white meat. Maybe it’s that? That said, I don’t have the gluconeogenesis problem from roasted chicken. I always have a breast with the skin on with that meal.

So who knows? As diabetic readers know, how diabetics react to certain foods is not uniform. It’s a mystery at times and doctors themselves can’t always explain the differentiation. The next time I make wings, I’ll check my blood glucose before, after and in the morning. I’ll also go full carnivore for that meal as well.

It looks like I’ll be going on an extra-long walk today despite the crap weather.