Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vegetarianism, supplements and heart disease

So, I read a book a while back in 2004 called Skinny Bitch. The book made me want to become a vegan and I did. Of course at the time I was dating a man who lived in France and frequent trips to France involved quite a bit of cheese much for veganism. Somehow I also found myself eating quite a bit of steak while I was in France. I also found myself 3 pounds lighter after one week in Europe eating cheese and steak as well as quite a bit of Belgian beer made from cherries. Since 2004 I've had an on again off again love affair with veganism and at times have felt quite good as a vegan and at other times quite tired.

Yesterday I found out I have high levels of homocysteine in my blood. With the knowledge that heart disease runs in my family and now knowledge that homocysteine is linked to heart disease, so I want to get that level down. I've been researching foods that have B vitamins (folate, B6 and B12) and find that spinach contains folate and B6. I had spinach at lunch and well raised animal protein has B12 - check for dinner tonight. I also learned the process of making yogurt deactivates nearly half the B12 in milk - so all the yogurt I have been eating for probiotics have not been helping with B12. Being a vegan for several years probably didn't help either. I was taking B12 supplements - but I forgot to take them and I don't really like having to take pills daily. I am trying now to take fish oil and vitamin D (cod liver oil), but I'm not terribly compliant. I'd so much rather get my vitamins from food. Also I found my cholesterol is slightly elevated. I've been enjoying a diet rich in eggs lately since I found that I can now tolerate them (for 20 years or so I could not eat eggs - but I also had low cholesterol)...but I've also been under a lot of stress lately and I know stress and cholesterol are linked. Being O positive blood type I need to consume some red meat. This evening I had a tenderloin steak which I ordered from a farm in PA where I know the cow was fed grass on pasture and well taken care of. Needless to say, that even in my george forman grill, the steak was delicious. I enjoyed fresh corn, swiss chard and yellow squash from my CSA (the Roxbury Farm in Roxbury, NY). I get my next CSA delivery on 7/31 and I am really looking forward to it. We got a huge delivery this week and I am still not done with even half the veggies.

Lastly, I found out that zinc is wonderful for lowering negative side effects of being on birth control pills and is good for immunity and preventing infections. Since I do not like to take antibiotics unless I absolutely need to I've been trying to increase my zinc. I just found out that whole grains (which I eat a lot of) have high levels of phalates which inhibit zinc absorption. Good thing is soaking grains can reduce the phalates and phytic acid that does this, so I will be soaking my grains from now on - sure its a pain, but I want to be able to absorb my zinc. Also honey is a natural antibiotic - so I've been having some honey in my kefir (fermented milk, made slightly differently than yogurt - a bit runnier and has even more pre and probiotics which if you suffer from digestive problems like I do is just wonderful). I've also tried kombucha - fresh from the farm (without all the added sugar/evaporated cane juice in the store bought brands), which was a bit sour and was not the apple cider it looked like - but its also quite rich in pre and probiotics which are great for digestive wellness.

I'm using my SPF 8 to get vitamin D, avoiding aluminum in solid deodorant (because my aluminum levels were high - this is linked to dementia and heart disease too, and ADHD symptoms in kids) and aluminum foil on my food in the fridge (and those lovely salmon packets I make in the oven - going to need to switch exclusively to parchment - it actually tastes much better in parchment anyway!

So I bet you are wondering what doctor found all these interesting tidbits about my health. I went to Path Medical 304 Park Avenue South to Dr. Braverman who is an MD who does a lot of holistic testing and is very orientated toward prevention. He's extremely into supplements which is not my preferred method, but I found some very interesting things working with him. He doesn't accept my insurance so right now I can't afford to continue seeing him, but in time I think I will...and in a few months I might try to get the blood tests again with some changes in my diet to boost zinc and B vitamin levels (before I resort to supplements if necessary) and lifestyle see if my cholesterol, aluminum and homocysteine levels have lowered and vitamin D levels have gone up. I encourage you all to get these tested.

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