N=1 diet experiments

I spend inordinate amounts of time researching diet on the internet. Like politics, diet is confusing and there's lots of fake news out there. That's why I'm happy to have found a blog that I think cuts through the bullshit - https://deniseminger.com/. After obsessively reading for a couple months, I finally wrote Denise an email. 

Dear Denise Minger,

I'm writing you a letter to you on the world wide web. I found your blog in August, when I decided to attempt a vegetarian ketogenic diet. Several of my friends in San Francisco were doing keto (it's just becoming popular there - all the tech geeks claim they discovered it) so I figured "what the hell - let's try this." I was interested in finding something that would increase my focus and improve my race times. Also, let's be honest - I wanted to get 6-pack abs. This actually wasn't my first time trying a ketogenic diet.

I'd done keto 10 years ago, the summer before freshman year, after I gained a ton of weight on a Rotary exchange. Keto made me feel great and I lost all the weight I'd gained in Argentina, although it was a hard diet to stick to. Also I remember that I had to pee constantly, which made my first internship awkward. My mom, a nutritionist, recommended that I do a low carb diet.

Anyway, I mentioned to Mom in August that I wanted to try keto again, and she gave me the book "Keto Clarity." It was kind of a fluff book, but it did point to a lot of interesting studies. Of course, being my mother's daughter, I couldn't just accept the studies at face value, so I dug into them a bit more, and that's when I found your fantastic blog post "In Defense of Low Fat.".

To be honest, after spending approximately two days reading through the whole damn thing (I can't imagine how long it took you to write it!) I almost wished I hadn't read it. I was 10 days into keto, I'd just gotten over the "keto flu", and here you were telling me that maybe all of this was in vain?

I stuck to keto for another week and a half before finally giving up after Burning Man. I did win the "Fastest Naked Woman" award in the Burning Man 50K, which may have been partially due to having been in ketosis, or glycogen depletion, or something...

I've been researching for years and doing various diet experiments on myself, including: raw vegan (duration: one month - I did this because I was reading Steve Pavlina's blog)

  • Went wheat, sugar and corn free (duration: one summer - I felt amazing!)
  • Vegan (I watched Forks Over Knives in 2012 and immediately called my Mom, who let me down with the news that the China Study had been debunked. I still stuck to veganism for two years until my doctor at Bastyr told me I needed to start eating eggs for protein)
  • Vegetarian (I started eating eggs in 2014)
  • Pescatarian (I started eating fish again in early 2015 when I visited Peru and I couldn't resist the ceviche)
  • Vegetarian ketosis (duration: 3 weeks)

Being off wheat, dairy and corn seem to have the most positive effect out of all the experiments, but they're also the most difficult to avoid. I was tested for celiac as a high schooler (ugh, the procedure was horrible!) but my test came back negative. It may have been a false negative, since I hadn't been eating gluten for several months at the time I had the test, so my celia wouldn't have been flattened, if they ever had been. My doctor at Bastyr also suggested that I had a wheat allergy. I've noticed that wheat and dairy cause congestion and often bring on a sinus infection. Because I have frequent sinus infections, I got my sinuses checked out this spring to make sure everything was draining correctly. 15 minutes and $500 later (after insurance), I was assured that they looked great, and drainage wasn't the problem. It must be the wheat. Not all breads are created equal for me. Eating wheat in Argentina, and especially eating European bread, doesn't seem to have the same negative effect on me as eating wheat in the US and Southeast Asia. Other things I've tried:

  • I've done the 21 day Standard Process cleanse 1.5 times. It made me feel GREAT - maybe because I was off wheat.
  • I've tried to do a weeklong juice cleanse. I got so sick I thought I would die. I ended up giving up the cleanse after 3 days and spending the next 4 days in bed watching non-stop Woody Allen movies and vomiting into a bucket.
  • Also, I've been seeing a nutritionist, Sam, off and on since fall of 2014 (he's the one who recommended the Standard Process Cleanse as part of an allergen elimination process). He does a lot of weird voodoo (look up 'nutrition response testing'). Even though I don't understand or believe in his arm pushing and pulling, he managed to give me some amazing supplements that cleared up my persistent acne, made my belly stop hurting, got rid of my anxiety, and even cured a chronic IT band problem caused by overruse.

After all this research and experimentation (seriously, how many years of my life have I spent researching nutrition on the internet?) your blog really touched something in me, and made finding my perfect diet actually seem obtainable.

Because of your blog, I just plugged my 23andMe info into Genetic Genie and discovered that I have the same genetic mutations as you do. I have both the 'Warrior Gene' (MAOA R297R Gene - 2 TT alleles) and the Bad MTHFR gene. Yup, I'm a bad MTHFR (2 A alleles). This could explain many things, including why I'm prone to anxiety, why I've been diagnosed with ADHD, why taking hormonal birth control makes me literally insane, and why depression and heart disease run in my family. It might also explain why the supplements that Sam gave me actually did something - maybe they provided methylfolate? Or helped with methylation? Either way, I'm excited about discover this! 

I'm glad that you spend the time researching things in depth so that I don't have to go that deep. I still have a bunch of questions that I'd love to chat with you about, so I'm looking forward to our consultation. Here are a few of my questions:

How can I get 6-pack abs? What should I be supplementing with? (My current favorites include D3, ginko biloba, bacopa complex, wine and coffee :D) What do you think of Cod Liver Oil? Are PUFAs really bad? What do you think of MCT oils, like the ones Bulletproof Exec sells? Have you heard of, and do you have an opinion on Standard Process Supplements? What diets, or dietary supplements, have you found to be best for skin, nails and hair? Have you tried any nootropics? Any other genetic analysis that you recommend? Have you tried anything like Self Decode? Are you into biohacking at all? Have you ever been to HiveBio? Are we related?

Sincerely, Monica