The good news is that I'm still sleeping well. I can count on being able to fall asleep at night, as long as I don't try a new supplement or go into a new building. And so I wanted to share with you the second, equally important dietary change I made: eating to lower serotonin and estrogen.
But serotonin is the happy molecule, you say. Can't have too much.
Nope, Ray Peat argues. Serotonin raises stress. So does estrogen.
Us women know about high estrogen is not fun when it causes PMS at that time in the month. I used to get candida infections every month which went away with menses, suggesting some connection between high estrogen and low immune function.
So why the hype that estrogen makes menopausal women look younger, gets rid of their hot flashes, makes their skin supple? It's got to be good.
Ray Peat says that it puts stress on the liver, which has to detoxify it and which, when overloaded, has a tendency to recycle estrogen instead of excreting it. These recycled estrogens are even more potent as stimulator of tissue growth than the first, virgin press from the ovaries and are associated with a high risk of cancer. Peat admits that many menopausal women get symptomatic relief when given estrogen but says, much more eloquently than me, that it isn’t improving their hormonal health. It's like most of modern medicine -- blocking symptoms while creating a demand for more drugs.
One thing about estrogen those of us with ME-CFS and poor mitochondrial function will want to know: “Estrogen steals oxygen from mitochondria, shifting patterns of growth and adaptation.”
Toss out those premarins and read more here:
Progesterone is the good guy (gal?). Many following Peat's research take a product known as Progest-E, which is pure progesterone in a base of Vitamin E. Women of all ages can take it, but those cycling have to monitor the dosage more carefully than those who’ve reached menopause.
Progesterone helps the body relax, and restore itself. Ray Peat wrote:
In experiments, progesterone was found to be the basic hormone of adaptation and of resistance to stress. The adrenal glands use it to produce their antistress hormones, and when there is enough progesterone, they don't have to produce the potentially harmful cortisol. In a progesterone deficiency, we produce too much cortisol, and excessive cortisol causes osteoporosis, aging of the skin, damage to brain cells, and the accumulation of fat, especially on the back and abdomen. Read more here.Of course I ordered some Progest-E and started putting it on my psoriasis patches as well as taking a bit orally and vaginally. But then I was taking progesterone cream for years and didn't experience any great benefits.
Serotonin is another matter. Ray's the only voice claiming it’s excitatory and doesn’t deserve credit for the ‘feel good’ sensations that many get from SSRIs.
Misconceptions about serotonin and melatonin and tryptophan, which are metabolically interrelated, have persisted, and it seems that the drug industry has exploited these mistakes to promote the “new generation” of psychoactive drugs as activators of serotonin responses.
Peat argues that raising serotonin raises stress, and stress has a counterproductive action on nearly every aspect of our health, except that short-lived feel good of euphoria before the crash.
Some of his articles on serotonin are:
Serotonin, depression, and aggression: The problem of brain energy
Thyroid, insomnia, and the insanities: Commonalities in disease This stood out for me in my long history of fatigue, g.i. and brain symptoms:
Stress impairs metabolism, and serotonin suppresses mitochondrial energy production. Stress and shock tend to increase our absorption of bacterial endotoxin from the intestine, and endotoxin causes the release of serotonin from platelets in the blood.
So much for theory. Now what I did in practice is .........
Dr. VV told me that, if I want to continue to enjoy muscle meats which are high in certain amino acids which raise serotonin and estrogen, I should supplement with gelatin. Gelatin is high in amino acids used to make calming neurotransmitters (such as glycine). I started with a box of unflavored gelatin packets to experiment and then moved on Great Lakes hydrolyzed collagen, which is tasteless and easy to mix in cold or hot beverages, and comes from grass fed New Zealand cows.
I also stopped eating muscle meats at night, unless I made lamb shanks or some other gelatinous cut so that I’d get a better balance of aminos. Liver, by the way, does not seem to have those excitatory amino acids, and I found that I could manage liver at night. As I cut down on meat, I increased my intake of dairy and fruit. I’m still experimenting with the balance that’s right for me.
I’m still amazed that all this works for me. I'm also amazed at how much weight I've gained, much of it in my breasts, since I spent decades being unable to gain weight. That's the biggest downside so far to my change in diet.
How you feel is the ultimate judge of what works for you, but as you make adjustments, or even ask if you should make adjustments similar to those I made, here are two things that are helpful:
1] body temperature. Dr. Broda Barnes found that patients with morning basal body temperatures below 97.8 were hypothyroid, even if their thyroid tests showed normal. Peat and others following his work suggest monitoring your body temperature for a week at the following times.
- upon waking before you get out of bed
- an hour after breakfast
- sometime in mid-afternoon
- at bedtime
You want 97.8 or higher when you wake up. You want it to go up after breakfast. You want it to hit somewhere about 98.6 during the afternoon. Even a little higher is okay.
It’s common for people with ME-CFS to have low body temperature. Mine always was. The highest it ever got when I went into a remission and could exercise was 98.2 Now I’m usually up to 98.8 or 99.1 in the middle of the day, and I come down to 98.6 at bedtime.
Everything works better at the temperature it was designed to work at. When our temperatures drop, we're on our way to hibernation, slowing down digestion and elimination, circulation, muscle recovery, brain function, but ironically, not sleep.
2] pulse. This is the second thing you're supposed to monitor, but I don't, so I’m going to quote from The Danny Roddy Weblog:
The pulse rate, another self-diagnostic tool that complements the body temperature, reflects the rate at which the heart is pumping blood, oxygen, and nutrients to cells throughout the body. While many physicians subscribe to idea that “lower is better,” they tend to justify this theory using athletes as shining examples. Besides the fact that it is not uncommon for athletes to spontaneously drop dead, a lower pulse rate is suggestive of reduced blood flow, which, in effect, limits the rate at which cells can generate energy. Similar to the body temperature, there are some caveats to a higher pulse rate. In stress, the pulse rate can be maintained by adrenaline, sometimes elevating the pulse rate to over 100 beats per minute (BPM). Instead of feeling pleasant, elevated adrenaline causes anxiety and poor sleep. In all, a pulse rate of about 85 BPM and body temperature of about 98.6 degrees are suggestive of high rates of efficient energy production, rather than a metabolism maintained by the stress hormones.
If you're doing fine, don't bother. If you're living now or have been living for awhile with physiological stress that is constantly high, your energy metabolism has slowed, your cellular respiration has begun to break down, your enzymes and digestion and liver functions will decline in effectiveness, creating an even lower metabolic rate, and eventually you won't be able to continue running on stress hormones.
Because stress hormones, while they warm the body and give you energy, are catabolic. They break down tissue. They damage thyroid. And without thryoid, cellular respiration stops.
Stress comes in different flavors. There is the emotional stress of anger, fear, sadness. There's the stress of thinking thoughts that lead to anger, fear, sadness. Then there is the stress of lacking nutrients, lacking hormones, low or high blood sugar, being too cold, too hot, pushing yourself into action when you're tired -- all forms of physiological stress.
Mold causes physiological stress reactions. It can also mess with the brain and cause all those negative emotions and those damned thoughts. Thus, even though Ray Peat doesn’t talk about the importance of the environment, I think it's key to success. You have to rid yourself of as many causes of stress from the environment as you can. If you got sick from pesticides, or you got sick from mold, your system will emainsin a state of high alert as long as it is being constantly assaulted by that toxin.
Once you get away and stay away from those environmental stressors, you can begin to calm down. In many cases you have those toxins inside your body now, and so you react to those internal toxins as well as to the external ones you can’t avoid, so it’s not an quick process.
And because you are so unbalanced by having spent years coping with high stress due to these environmental toxins, plus the stress of a low metabolic rate, plus the stress of losing health, friends, family, job (whatever) your first priority in healing is to CALM DOWN. This means you’ll be as tired as a sloth but you won’t heal unless you shift into the state of rest, digest, sleep, repair, also know as PNS activation.
You'll complain. You'll doubt. Everyone will tell you that energy comes later but you won't believe them. You'll be sure your ME-CFS has gotten worse.
And then, wow, one day you'll realize you can go a full day without a nap, drink coffee all day long and sleep, stand up as long as you want to, and even get that rusty old brain to do some work.