Written by Christopher Kelly
Sept. 23, 2015
Christopher: Hello and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly and today I'm joined by the high school Math teacher, Will Catterson. Hi, Will.
Christopher: Thanks so much for agreeing to come on and do this interview with me. I think yours is an amazing story and I'm very excited to hear about it. Why don't we start from the beginning? What do you think the beginning is? Is it the diagnosis with type I diabetes?
Will: Yeah. That was February 2002 and that's probably a good place to start. So at that time, I had the classic symptoms of diabetes, just I didn't know. I lost somewhere between 20 and 30 pounds and I had an insatiable thirst. I could not quench it. And my fasting blood glucose was tested to be 350. And my HbA1c which is the average blood sugar was 13.5. So clearly, my blood sugar was off the charts. And since I was 29 years old, it was assumed to be type I. So I started treatment for type I diabetes in 2002. That's where it all started.
Christopher: How did this change your life? What difference did that make? What was the treatment for diabetes?
Will: It's funny. Well, I guess, it's not funny. It's the opposite of funny. It's kind of sad that when I was diagnosed, I was handed a vial of insulin, a blood glucose meter and an ADA nutrition fact sheet that told me what I should be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner, roughly how many calories and what kind of foods I should be eating lots of. So, the blood glucose meter was probably the most powerful tool but those things haven't changed.
I mean, insulin was discovered in 1921. And really not much has changed. At that time -- Yeah, sure, insulin has gotten a lot more sophisticated. The glucose meter was invented and become a lot more sophisticated. But we don't have a whole lot of other tools that we're armed with. So, the blood glucose meter was the best tool that I had and I could quickly see that the ADA nutrition fact sheet was completely worthless. It didn't take very long to throw that away. So, I started on a journey to discover how I could continue an active life without the rollercoaster of type I diabetes?
Christopher: How did you even know? How did you know that the ADA dietary advice was wrong?
Will: So, it had suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the suggestions were things like oatmeal or a low fat breakfast cereal. And for lunch, it would be a salad with some chicken with, of course, some sort of grain product. And then dinner was much the same. It suggested some kind of low fat dinner with some more grains, some vegetables. So, right off the bat, I would eat a bowl of cereal and no matter what I did I really couldn't prevent a blood glucose of about 180 or more.
And I knew that wasn't normal but the dietician that I was seeing told me that that was fine, that that was to be expected. But I didn't feel good. And at that time I was doing a lot of mountain biking actually. I'd been swimming most of my life. But at that time I had sort of gotten into mountain biking because I lived in Southern California and that was just the perfect place to do it. But with the blood sugar of 180, it's about to come down.
So, you're going to spike and then it's going to come down in a hurry. So, what I noticed was that eating grains was just a disaster. So that the meter was what told me that eating grains was not going to work. I really gave it a shot. I tried every single grain I could find. I tried oatmeal. I tried quinoa. I tried different varieties of rice. I tried different varieties of whole grain breads.
But no matter what the grain product was, there was just no fit for a diabetic. No matter what, the blood sugar would spike and then it would come crashing down. And so once I eliminated grains -- I have a long way to go but I realized that that was going to be at least part of the answer.
Christopher: And how did it make you feel once the blood sugar came down?
Will: Okay, yeah. I quickly noticed that blood sugar out of normal range reduce performance no matter what you're trying to perform at. So whether I was trying to focus, whether I was trying to go for a bike ride, whether just function on daily life, if your blood sugar is outside normal, I wasn't performing at a good level. So, too high was killing it. I would feel very fatigued. That burning in the muscles, that would come on really quickly with the blood sugar too high. And, of course, blood sugar too low, the energy was just sucked out of you and really didn't have a prayer of performing very well at that point. I knew that I needed to keep the blood sugar normal if I was going to perform at any kind of high level.
Christopher: And so you just figured this out by trying to narrow down. You just made that leap of faith, ignored the dietary advice and eliminated the grains and much of the carbohydrate and switched to a high fat diet.
Will: Yeah. Now, looking back, it seems like the easy answer. But this took me years. First, the grains came out. And then I had figured out certain dairy products were a big problem like milk, for example, even whole milk. You could do a little bit but it had a pretty huge effect on insulin requirement and blood sugar levels. So I cut out a lot of dairy. And there was some fruits that turned out to be pretty good. They're a good source of energy yet they didn't cause these huge swings in blood sugar.
Like the berries, for example. I noticed that blueberries was a fantastic fruit. Whereas something like strawberries, I couldn't figure out how to do strawberries. I kind of had to eliminate those. It was a really long process of trial and error. But the end goal was always to perform optimally and maintain normal blood sugar. And over the next ten to 12 years, it turned into a pretty high fat, low carb diet.
In fact, listening to your podcast, I think it looks a lot like what you have adopted in your diet as well. Like I would say the volume of my food comes from fiber and vegetables. But I think if you were to add up the calories, it would largely be from fat. And then protein, protein I've learned also, you need to be a little careful with it. If you cut it out too much, I notice that my lean tissue, I guess, would -- I would start to lose weight and I would lose some strength.
But if I eat too much protein, the blood sugar would get a little erratic again and put on some weight. I just had to kind of find that sweet spot for protein. But yeah, it's kind of like a moderate protein like you hear all the time. I'm very high fat and low carb.
Christopher: The thing, I think, that's so amazing about you is we're talking about a long time ago, right? We're talking about ten years ago maybe, right?
Will: Yeah, it's taken a long time to figure this out.
Christopher: I mean, it seems all kind of trendy and new to me. I only figured this out two minutes ago compared to you. I wish I'd been able to talk to you in 2003, for example, and learned about this stuff then. It's amazing. The other thing, I think, which is really interesting about you and type I diabetics in general is you can tell us a lot about the sort of the insulinogenic properties of food or how much glucose might be available in a food.
Because I always think of vegetables as being basically zero carb. But that's not true, is it? So when you eat, say, what I would consider to be a very low carb meal like sardines and, I don't know, spinach with some olive oil on it, would you still need to use some insulin to cover that meal?
Will: Very little. But you're right though. I would never wish type I diabetes on anybody but it has given me kind of a unique window into how the body operates. So I can quickly see -- My blood glucose is obviously extremely sensitive and so it reacts very sensitively to the foods you eat, the amount of insulin that's required by that food but also to things like sleep and inflammation, infection.
So, yeah, the foods themselves, it's interesting, when you think about a little carb meal, you might think of, like you said, sardines and spinach and olive oil. And sure, that meal right there would not require very much insulin but it would still require a little bit. But that's okay because I've noticed that I only get into trouble when I eat something that requires a lot of insulin. And it seems to be I don't know exactly why it's partly the high insulin that can really detract from my own performance.
So, if I eat a meal that requires a lot of insulin, it's just not going to go well. I know that the workout that I'm about to do or the competition that I'm about to attempt is just not going to go well. And so I would much rather work out or compete with very low levels of insulin running through me. But, yeah, even that tiny meal would require a little bit but that's okay.
Christopher: I see. And then tell me about your competition. You are a very competitive swimmer and I always think of swimming as being very short effort and perhaps those efforts are glycolytic, meaning, they use sugar rather than so much fat. So tell me about your performances. Has that suffered when you switched to a low carb diet? Or how has that been?
Will: It hasn't. That was really the most -- One of the most interesting parts of this whole journey, when I first got back into swimming -- I swam in college. I swam for Virginia Tech. It's a division one school. It was a pretty competitive atmosphere. But after the diagnosis with diabetes, when I first got back into swimming, I was doing very long distances. In fact, one of the last long distance swims I did was a ten kilometer race up in Colorado.
And I did it using a really low carb diet. And one of the benefits, at least for me, was that I think we can all agree that glycogen is a really valuable resource for any athlete. But when you're eating very low carb, at least when I was at that time, I still am, but to get through that race I noticed that the low carb diet was allowing me to extend the use of that glycogen. And so the race took me over two hours. And even as a type I diabetic, I didn't have to feed, even though there was kayaks alongside us the whole way, I really didn't need to take the time to ingest any sugar for that entire race.
And so, in a way, the low carb really kind of benefited me for that kind of distance. Now, of course, I do very short distances. And you're right, it's pretty much an all out sprint. And yes, they're very glycolytic. But again, I haven't noticed any kind of detraction from that performance. The glycogen seems to last longer. And a typical swim meet will have about sometimes five races in a single half day.
Your first race might go off at around 8 o'clock in the morning and you might have another one at 9:00 and then another one at 9:30 and then another one at 11:00. And these are very short high demanding races. And if you get in on the first race and really crush it, it takes a while to, I guess, recover and get ready for your next race.
And if you can extend the use of that muscle glycogen then the rest of your day is going to go a lot better. Whereas if you just completely trash all that glycogen in one race, I'm not sure that you can totally replenish that in a half an hour to an hour to get ready for your next race. I don't know. Does that make any sense?
Christopher: Yeah, it does. It makes a lot of sense. And how do you see other people -- So when you're at the swim meet, do people eat in between the races?
Will: Yeah. That's the most -- It's really astonishing actually to see the amount of food that other swimmers are ingesting. So they don't -- You don't eat as many of the gel packs and stuff because when you're a swimmer you're not moving in between the races so you do have time to sit down. But I see swimmers eating bagels and drinking Gatorade, just buckets of Gatorade, and I'm just -- It kind of astonishes me that they can ingest so much sugar and still feel okay to race. It's kind of amazing. I feel kind of, I don't know, almost like I'm cheating that I can get through an entire day or long race without having to eat.
Christopher: And what do they think of you? Do they think you're not eating a high fat diet?
Will: Honestly, I don't know if a lot of them even know. I got a few friends who I've talked to this about but they probably just think that I'm one of those sort of woo-woo vegan weird diets or something like that. They probably hadn't thought too much about it. It's just in the swimming world it's still very much under the influence of the old rules. You got to drink this amount of sugar for this amount of exercise and you have to -- I don't know. It's still very traditional. I don't know if bike racing is the same way but swimmers haven't gotten the message that they don't need to consume so much sugar all the time.
Christopher: Right. Yeah. Now, I can tell you that cycling is absolutely no different. So the first bike race of the season I did this year, it took me just over an hour and 20 minutes to complete the event and I can remember seeing one bike that had no less than nine gels, thanks to the [0:17:34] [Indiscernible] which is like -- I'm sure that's more carbohydrate than any gut in any size person could possibly absorb. And I think that's pretty normal. They're throwing out these prizes afterwards and they're throwing out those big tubs of maltodextrin drinks and stuff.
Yeah, I think it is. It's just the standard. That's what people do. And people only start thinking about it once something goes wrong. So, I guess, your situation was far more serious than mine but I had this wakeup call where I had to suddenly start thinking very carefully about this problem. It's like the house is on fire.
Will: Yeah, it's true. For type I, it's far more acute than others. But it's something that, I think, everyone might benefit from a glucose meter just so they can see what's happening inside them. And it's a really good mirror for what's going on with your overall healthcare.
Christopher: Yeah, I totally agree with you. That's such a good idea. I've just been doing some research into the causes of gray hair and it's interesting that gray hair is like one of those things where people, you can see it. So I care about it. And blood glucose is not something that's visible like gray hair yet it's almost visible like gray hair. If you just buy one of these $7 finger stick test, you can start measuring it and then immediately you know you got a problem that needs investigating. There's some really good solutions and you just presented it to us. It's a high fat diet, high fat moderate protein diet.
Will: I just wish the ADA would -- Gosh, I want to shake them and just say, "Listen." If the ADA would just say, "Listen, grains are probably a bad idea." Man, I couldn't even imagine how many diabetics, type I or II out there. I think their lives could literally change almost overnight. But I don't think that diabetics out there are necessarily doing the wrong thing on purpose. I think they're really trying to make the ADA diet work. It's just that it's not working for them and they think it's okay. But there's an answer out there and it's not really complicated.
Christopher: Yeah. The thing, I think, that's amazing about you is you figured this out. You made this leap of faith, which I think is quite astonishing. I mean, I know if I'd been in your situation I probably would have beaten my head against that wall for a lot longer. If I was working with a professional who was telling me to eat a certain way and I trusted them and I trusted their qualifications, you're right, it just doesn't even sanity check. I mean, there's many different types of diabetes but they all have this common element which is carbohydrate intolerance. And yet the diet you're asking me to eat is mostly carbohydrate. That doesn't sanity check. It just doesn't make any sense.
Will: I know. I can't understand why this diet keeps being perpetuated.
Christopher: Yeah. And I think I've had Richard Feinman who is a professor of biochemistry on this podcast before. And he said that he thinks the situation will change once somebody gets sued. So somewhere sometime some kid is going to either die or lose a foot or something really serious is going to happen and their dad or one of their parents will be a rich lawyer and somebody will get sued and then all of a sudden overnight the ADA recommendation will change and a low carbohydrate diet will be the default approach to treatment. And it's sad but, I think, he might be right.
Will: I think he might be right too. I heard him say that and that was -- I think you're right. I really hope it never comes to that but, unfortunately, that's how a lot of progress is made.
Christopher: So, tell me about -- So, you're feeling much better on a high fat low carb diet. And so was that it then? Was that kind of complete resolution of all your problems or you're still not feeling good?
Will: Yeah, that's a great question. I feel like I got about 80% to what I considered feeling really good. I think I got most of the way there by adjusting the diet. And I had some pieces to figure out and put into place and I was having trouble with the last 20%. And I think that's where you were probably the most instrumental. I think you and the rest of your team at Nourish Balance Thrive really helped me get almost all the way there.
When I started to consider things like sleep and stress and supplements and infections, even those kinds of infections that are kind of under the radar, they're just sort of simmering there in the background. I think one of the tests that we ran together was the H. pylori and that was discovered and hopefully eradicated. The last test came up completely negative.
Christopher: Yeah, that's right.
Will: I think that is what's providing the last 20%. I don't think I'm almost there and I'm feeling better than I have in years. So, yeah, I think the last pieces of the puzzle came into place just in the last couple of years.
Christopher: Super cool. So tell me about what you were feeling then? Did you have any specific symptoms?
Will: Yeah. So I had the diet pretty squared away a couple of years ago. I mean, lots of veggies, high fat, low carb. But I still had some fatigue. And it wasn't making any sense. At first, I thought it was just I was over training. But even when I would back off or I remember even taking a couple of months where I wasn't completely off but I was -- When I did work out, I pulled way back on the throttle. I was resting a lot. And I was still fatigued.
I remember climbing the stairs. I worked at a school that's two stories. And even with just 24 stairs, which should be nothing to an athlete, I remember a pretty significant burning sensation in my thighs just getting up two flights of stairs which seemed completely ridiculous. And it was really getting me frustrated. So that was one major symptom. Other symptoms were like sleep wasn't -- Sleep was okay. I just couldn't figure out why it wasn't great.
I had the diet in place. I didn't have a super stressful job. I have a good relationship. Everything was, on the outside, was great. But my sleep was just not quite there. Those were the -- Oh, I remember the third symptom was bloating only after workout. So I'd go to the pool and usually train on an empty stomach.
And I'd get out of the pool and within an hour and it didn't seem to matter what I ate or even if I didn't eat at all, I would start to feel kind of uncomfortable, just some bloating especially in the belly. And I couldn't really figure that out. So, yeah, we can talk about that. But that symptom also subsided quite a bit actually. It's not completely gone but ever since I completed the protocols that you had me on with supplements and the H. pylori and the yeast, that was the first symptom to really significantly decrease, as well as the fatigue and the sleep is much better too.
Christopher: That's awesome. I'm so excited to hear that. That really makes my day. I think most of the hard work that you did was actually before you met me, right? That was the most important stuff and I think that's where most of the gains come from. And so people like you make my life really easy. All I need to do is run some tests and figure out what bits remain and then usually can fix those with supplements. But tell me what else did you try? Did you go to your doctor and say, "Hey, I'm feeling tired and not sleeping so good. My recovery sucks." Did you try anything else?
Will: Man, yeah, I really did. In fact, as a type I diabetic, I've got several doctors. And I asked them all. It's kind of sad, the endocrinologist, the doctor that treats diabetes, he just kind of shrugged it off and almost gave me a no answer at all. I think he might have said something along the lines of, "We'll test your testosterone." But when the total testosterone came out normal, he just forgot about it and said, "Well, I guess, you're just tired. Or maybe, well, you exercise a lot so, therefore, of course, you're tired."
And so, that was totally unhelpful. My general practitioner was a little bit more interested but he had no answers. In fact, I brought up the H. pylori with the general practitioner and I have a copy of this email. I should send it to you. I should just fax it to you because when he found out that I had H. pylori and I asked him how to treat it, he suggested the course of antibiotics. And I asked him, "Is there any way that I could get rid of those without doing antibiotics?"
Because you and I were currently on a yeast protocol and I feel like I was on a healthy road to reclaiming my gut health. And so I really didn't want to screw all that up with antibiotics. And so when I asked him if this was possible to do without antibiotics he said flatly no. In fact, he had a GI, he emailed a GI doctor while I was in the office with him and he replied almost immediately and he said, "There is no known cure for H. pylori or there's no known alternative cure for H. pylori." And so I have yet to go back to this general practitioner and just show him the result of my now negative H. pylori stool test. To answer your question, the mainstream doctors that I see regularly were really of no use whatsoever.
Christopher: It's extraordinary. I have a feeling I might have caused quite a lot of trouble with quite a lot of people's primary care physicians. And it's not normally for this reason you've just described. So normally -- So we did a stool test and the microbiologist, they find these infections, and H. pylori is one of them, but the microbiologists, they never really know what they're going to find. And I know from my experience of working with about 400 athletes and from the doctors that trained me before then that people always get better when they get rid of these seemingly sub-clinical, under the radar, as you described it, infections.
And so normally what I do is I cause trouble by finding something like entamoeba coli and like the person goes to the doctor and the doctor just looks on the CDC website real quick and he says, "Oh, it's not pathogenic and you don't need to treat it." And yet I know from my experience and from experiences of the doctor before me that people do get better when they treat it. But, I mean, how is that going to change? I just don't understand who would fund that science and how we would do that science?
How do you even find like 100 people that have this infection and then create a controlled group and try to do this experiment? Really challenging. And then who would pay for it? Do you think any drug manufacturer would care to pay for that study? I don't really know. But your infection is easier. Usually, H. pylori is, because it's so famous, somebody won the Nobel Prize for showing that stomach ulcers are caused by this bacteria.
It's not normally a problem. Like when you go to the doctor, they're like, "Oh, yeah, we can fix this. Here's some antibiotics and a proton-pump inhibitor." So I don't usually cause much trouble. But, yeah, I guess that is the same sort of situation in a way in that I know that mastic gum, for example, does a really good job of getting rid of this infection and I know because I've seen it work so many times by doing the retest. But who the heck would pay for that science?
Do you think the allergy research group could afford to do a really big study to show that their mastic really got rid of H. pylori? I mean, those studies cost millions of dollars. That's never going to happen. But, yeah, I mean, the doctor was only speaking to the evidence which he or she had seen, which is only funded for--
Will: Which we would think that a GI Doctor who has probably seen thousands of patients, he would at least think that an alternative treatment like mastic had come across his desk at some point or maybe just -- I don't know. You would just think that as a GI doctor who had seen thousands of patients that he would at least consider some of these well known alternative treatments. You don't have to be a research scientist to poke around and see that some people have had some good results with alternative treatments to get rid of things like H. pylori and yeast.
Christopher: Yeah, super interesting. I guess, I mean, another problem is that, I mean, how would he bill for that? He can't write you a prescription for a nutritional supplement and your insurance company sure isn't going to pay for it. It's a very difficult situation for a doctor.
Will: Yeah, but what's interesting is this GI doctor -- He wasn't even my doctor but he responded within seconds to say that there is no treatment other than antibiotics. So he didn't really have the incentive of prescribing a drug that he could get paid for. I mean, he didn't even have that motive. It's just right off the bat. He just instantly responded with, "No, that's impossible."
Christopher: Yeah, super, super interesting. This is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night as well because I don't look completely innocent here either. So to the doctor, he's probably thinking, "Oh, who the hell is this guy, some quack that doesn't have any qualifications? And he's promoting ideas for which there's no evidence and who is he? He's just causing me trouble. But still, he's getting results." It's like I'm really curious. Really funny situation. But, yes. So let's talk about -- Do you mind talking about your adrenal stress profile? So you did this cortisol test.
Christopher: I wanted to talk about it because it really was quite remarkable. So normally when you do the saliva test, they come back, and especially for athletes when they're feeling tired, they nearly always show low cortisol. Sometimes I see less than ten points of cortisol total for the whole day. But yours, you had like more than the lab could measure on the first sample. So your cortisol was over 100 points. I think it doesn't say, it doesn't give an absolute number. It just says greater than 100 for the first morning reading. And it should be around about 20, 24 points maybe.
And so your cortisol for the day. After that, it was fairly normal. But then you had relative, slightly low DHEA and then quite pretty low testosterone. So your testosterone is probably about 65% of what it should be, so quite low testosterone. That kind of makes sense, I think, that your body would produce the stress hormone in favor of something that's designed to build lean tissue and perhaps drive your reproductive behavior. But, yeah, what did you do? I know that guided meditation and maybe your unique physiology and the diabetes was playing into this somewhat. What did you think when you saw this high cortisol? Did it change your behavior at all?
Will: Yeah, that was a real eye opener. I've always known that low blood sugars can cause that stress response.
And so that's the main reason that I do try to avoid going below 70 on the blood glucose meter. But I think what happened that morning, the morning where I did the adrenal stress test, I think, I must have woken up with a pretty low blood sugar. And it doesn't happen too often but I'm guessing that must have been the case. I should have written down all of my numbers for that day but I think what must have happened was I woke up with a low blood sugar and the cortisol was just exploding trying to keep my blood sugar normal. So I'm guessing that must have been the reason for that.
Christophe: Yeah, I think you're right. That does make a lot of sense. I've seen some good studies that show that. So normally, blood glucose should be regulated by primarily insulin and glucagon. But if for any reason the glucose drops below, say, I think it's 65 points, milligrams per deciliter was the number I saw, then you start to see some of the catecholamine like epinephrine and norepinephrine get involved. And then if it drops below 60, I believe was the number I saw -- I would have to look it up again. I'm pretty sure it's 60. That's when you start to see cortisol start breaking things down.
Because that's what cortisol does. It just mobilizes energy. If there's an emergency, if you've been chased by a tiger, then it makes sense to just liquidate your assets, turn them into glucose and get the hell out of here, which is the situation that only happens once in a lifetime maybe to most people. But to maybe a type I diabetic, this is a regular recurrence.
Will: That was a good thing for me to see, I think. Because I knew in the back of my head that low blood sugars were not a good thing mostly because of the stress hormones and the effects on just in your performance and the way -- and your brain. I just can't think. But nonetheless, it gave me yet another reason to maintain really good blood sugars at all time. And being too low is just as bad as being too high.
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And we saw some -- There's something else which I thought was really interesting. I think it's so cool that you can do this now. I mean, you do all these tests at home and you can just lift the lid. Like what's going on here? Like I've got all these suspicions but I don't really know what's going on. The urinary organic acid test, I think, is just the best. I love that test. And one of the things which I think was really interesting for you was an elevation of an organic acid called suberate.
And suberate starts to build up when there's insufficient carnitine. And carnitine is a nutrient that's required to shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria where they could be oxidized for energy. And so, I mean, this is super important. If you're eating a high fat diet, then you better have enough of this nutrient that's required to burn that fat because otherwise there's going to be trouble. And, yeah, that trouble is just fatigue. And who knows? You would never guess that. There's so many things which could cause fatigue.
And the truth is, when I see this result and I recommend taking carnitine as a supplement, I don't really know for sure whether it's going to stop you from feeling tired or not but it's a pretty good guess at that point when you've done a test. I think that's so important.
Will: I think that's going to be something that I had yet to try. In fact, I didn't end up taking the carnitine.
Will: I think I was going to wait and see if, once I clear some of these other things up, if the fatigue would linger. And the fatigue is not completely gone but it would be really interesting to kind of run that test again and see if some of the other improvements have had any effect on that one that you just mentioned.
Christopher: Yeah. And it could well do. So I see these. I don't get many people to redo this test, I'll be honest. And the reason that people don't want to do them again is because they're quite expensive. So the urinary organic acid is $400. And most people, once they're feeling better, their motivation to do the test is gone. And so they're not just going to -- I know I feel better. I don't need a $400 test to tell me that.
Will: You're right. But I'm just so curious. It's not just that particular result but also some of the others that were kind of out of whack. I'm just so curious to see if those--
Christopher: No. It absolutely could be. So it's not necessarily -- So carnitine is a compound. It's something that's made inside of your body from two amino acids. And those amino acids come from protein. So let's say you had an H. pylori infection and you weren't digesting protein as well as you should. Well then you might have not as much of this free form amino acid to make this compound carnitine. And that's where the deficiency came from. So the carnitine might have helped you feel better in the short term but the real long term solution was to get rid of the H. pylori infection.
So you might well see that the carnitine deficiency is gone just because you changed so many other things.
Will: Yeah, yeah. That would be nice. I did notice that -- I think I mentioned earlier that protein was one of the macronutrients that I've had to be kind of careful with. For a few months leading up to that test, I think it's possible that in addition to everything else that was going wrong, it's possible I wasn't getting enough protein. And coupled with H. pylori and trouble absorbing the little protein that I was eating could have had a pretty significant impact on that fatigue and that suberate result. Hopefully, that problem has been mostly resolved, at least. I feel a lot better.
Christopher: Yeah. I mean, I've done a few of them. I probably did about -- I'm not even sure. But I've seen a couple lately where there was huge improvement. So Tawnee Prazak from Endurance Planet, she redid this test recently and she went from like 17 things that were wrong on the test to like seven. And I've seen another example recently that was even better than that. I've never seen one got worse or stay the same. They always get better. So that gives you some idea. But tell me about -- I wanted to ask you about your experience with tyrosine and 5-HTP. Did you notice those made any difference to you?
Will: Yeah. Those were pretty shocking. I was having some issues waking up in the middle of the night and waking up pretty early and overall I'm just not feeling like the sleep that I was getting was really effective. I started out with a pretty low dose of 5-HTP, the one you suggested in the protocol. And it almost immediately had a pretty good effect. So like if little is more, more is better kind of approach, I upped the dosage a little bit and it just got better.
And when I ran out of that first bottle, I think I got another one. But then I started to get nervous that I was going to get dependent on it. So I went through that one and then I decided to go a couple of weeks without it. And I noticed the withdrawal a little bit but now I feel like I'm back to the good sleep that I was getting while I was on the 5-HTP. But in the month or two that I took it, it definitely had a huge impact and it really got me across that divide.
Christopher: That's awesome, absolutely awesome. And there's kind of this method behind this madness here. Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which eventually metabolizes into melatonin, the sleep hormone that a lot of people have heard about. And the whole thing, the whole cascade, it starts with this amino acid tryptophan. And tryptophan can be stolen into something that's called the kynurenate pathway. Sometimes it's called the kynurenate shunt.
If you have inflammation, say you had an H. pylori infection or a yeast overgrowth, which we know that you did because we did the test, then your body could be taking that tryptophan and firefighting with it. That's just making inflammatory cytokines and put this fire out. And then you end up deficient on maybe one of these hormones or the inhibitory neurotransmitter. But at the same time, you need to get the sleep in order to recover from the infection.
And so you've got this vicious cycle. And I think the supplement is super cool for doing that, just breaking that vicious cycle. You're absolutely right. That's why everybody, myself included, are really sometimes nervous to give up these supplements. And 5-HTP is being something that I still take on a regular basis. But I realize now that I've got to the point, it makes me groggy.
Like I wake up in the morning and sometimes I just go straight into the shower because I feel like it's the middle of the night still and it's not. It's like half six, seven in the morning and I'm just still -- I just could go back to sleep. It becomes too much for me now and I've just stopped taking it too. But that's like very recently. I don't think I was dependent on it. It was more like an emotional dependency rather than a physiological or biochemical dependency.
Will: Well, it definitely seemed to be a really handy tool to get me through kind of a rough patch. And so it really kind of did the trick. I don't know if I'm just healed enough now or I can get good quality sleep and recover and now with the H. pylori and yeast hopefully diminished then, yeah, maybe the need for the boost in HTP is minimized.
Christopher: Right. Yeah. So that's the cool thing about 5-HTP. I talked about how tryptophan could go in one of two directions. Well, 5-HTP is beyond the juncture. It's beyond the point at which the tryptophan could be made into an inflammatory cytokines. So you basically have no choice but to make serotonin and then melatonin out of it. It's a neat hack. If you're listening to this, you think, "Oh, I might try that." Make sure there's vitamin B6 in it. So this pathway that I'd been talking about, it's a B6 dependent pathway.
And so that's why I think it's a good idea to go with companies like Thorne in general because they have really good people that know this stuff. So whenever you buy one of their supplements, you know it's been well researched, it's the highest quality products, there's not going to be any contaminants. But sometimes, so I notice that maybe this has changed but certainly the NOW Foods brand, it didn't work for me at all. And there's no vitamin B6 in it. I think that might be why. The B6 is required. If you're slightly deficient in B6 or maybe there's more of this substrate and so you need more of the B6 at that time then, yeah, something to watch out for.
Christopher: Cool. So, tell me about how things are now? Is doing all this stuff improving your fatigue and improving the quality of sleep and you don't feel so bloated anymore? Has this enabled you to do anything that you couldn't do before?
Will: I don't know about anything that I couldn't do. It's just making things so much easier. It was really kind of depressing to walk up two flights of stairs and feel fatigued. It was just the sort of message on a daily basis that, "Hey, something is wrong." And now that's gone. In fact, I was just thinking about it this morning as I was walking up to my classroom and thinking, "Man, that's so cool." I feel a normal amount of fatigue by climbing 24 stairs. Also, I slept through the night last night and it was -- I mean, that in of itself is pretty cool.
I woke up and my alarm went off pretty early unfortunately because the only time I can really get in a swimming workout is about 5:30 to 6:45. But the workouts, I've even moved up a lane. I'm generally in the fast lane at the pool but there's two fast lanes and so I just recently I've bounced around a little bit and even sometimes can jump into the superfast lane. It's just really nice to be able to do the performance that you know you're capable of. Like you know that you've got this in you.
And when you can't tap into it, it's unbelievably frustrating. I don't know. To watch people go by you and you've got nothing left and trying to catch him and it's just, it's really kind of depressing and frustrating. But now I feel like I'm starting to be able to perform the way that I know I can. I'm not a young kid anymore. I don't expect to dive in the water and start making Olympic trial cuts right now. And that's okay. But to at least feel like you could perform at your capability is just such a good feeling.
Christopher: You've just helped me understand something actually. You're absolutely right. You're absolutely right. So when I do my bike races, I know I'm never going to beat all of the elite men in the local cycle cross race. There's some guys that are really, really fast. I'm never going to be -- I'm not just that talented. But it's the thing that really eats at you is knowing that you have unfulfilled potential. You know you could do better than this but there's something holding you back. And feeling like you fulfilled that potential is an amazing thing.
Will: It really is. I can't tell you how much better things are not just in the water but when you get your sleep and stress and cortisol, when you get those things at least functioning closer to normal, then my blood sugar it responds. Even as a type I diabetic, my metabolism is very dysfunctional.
But I still have some parts of that metabolism that know what to do. And if I can align some of these other hormones, some of these other things like sleep, infection, stress, and if I can get those things back to a healthier level, then those mechanisms in me that are still functioning have a better chance of helping me regulate my own blood sugar and making diabetes less of an issue. I don't know if that makes any sense.
Christopher: Yeah, it does. It makes total sense. It's awesome. But what do you think? Do you think anyone has noticed that's cool because I always think -- When I read your occupation, the first time I saw that, I thought about what you must be going through because I'm sure you felt some of the same things that I felt. But when I went through this, I was a computer programmer working at a hedge fund. And I could just fake it. I can just sit there with my hedge funds on and just stare blankly into space, pretend that I'm working.
I was so not busy, so quiet that I was actually able to crawl under my desk and take a nap every now and again and nobody would come into my office and know that I was actually asleep under the desk. But, I mean, you can't do that as a high school Math teacher. You can't fake it. I mean, I probably would struggle in some of your classes. I'm sure the kids know when you're feeling tired or not feeling as good as you should. Do you think anyone has noticed at school?
Will: I bet they have. Thankfully, nobody has told me.
Will: Yeah, but you're absolutely right. When you're in front of 25 kids, it is really hard to fake it. And so I know deep down that a few years ago, and it is frustrating to think about but there is probably -- I feel like there's more that I could have done. There's more that I could have done to help these kids if I had better energy levels or if my mood was in a better place. So I think you're right. I think I could -- I look back and I see places where they probably notice that I was dragging or I wasn't as engaged.
The subject that I teach, I teach senior level Math courses and I get to teach a lot of application of Math. So I can fall back on my engineering background and show them some of the Math that is used to build things. And this kind of stuff excites me. But when you're running on empty, that passion, that excitement doesn't always come across. And it's really difficult to connect with them. If it looks like you're just kind of running through the paces yourself.
Christopher: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, there's nothing like a bored teacher to really turn you off a subject.
Will: That is for sure.
Christopher: That is fantastic. So, I guess, my final question is: Are you going to become a diabetes educator at school? Could you do that? Have you talked to anyone about it? I mean, you must see examples of people being mishandled with diabetes at school.
Will: Yeah. There's unfortunately too many legal blockades to doing that. I'd been teaching high school now for 11 years and I am notified as to those students in my classes who have type I diabetes. And I've noticed over those 11 years that that number gets higher and higher ever year. And so I know that it's becoming more frequent. And I know the advice they're getting. And it's really frustrating that I could get in trouble and I could get the organization in trouble if I were to try and reach out to any of these kids. So unfortunately, I haven't crossed any lines there.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah, I did realize that. But, of course, now I think about it's completely obvious. It's probably like hitting on one of your female students, right? It's a bit of a no-no as a teacher.
Will: Touch lives, not students.
Christopher: That's funny. Well, hopefully, it's one of the most, I wouldn't say frequently asked questions, most frequently asked questions, it's definitely a frequently asked question, is I get people who are type I diabetic saying, "Do you know of this high fat food?" So I'm really hoping that people hear this podcast or even if you're not a diabetic, like you know of someone who is, maybe you could point them in this direction and show them there is an alternative and a better approach to eating the ADA dietary recommendations.
And I can say that because I'm not licensed or controlled by them in any way, so I can say whatever I want, which I think is nice. But yeah, I think it's a super important message. This diet, it doesn't sanity check. It doesn't make any sense. Like if you are intolerant of carbohydrate, don't eat carbohydrate. Like that makes perfect sense to me. Thank you so much for coming on and telling me this. I'm really, really grateful for the opportunity to record this interview.
Will: Well, I agree. I hope that that there's other diabetics out there listening because I think there's a lot of good resources here and I think there's a lot of just interesting things out there if you're willing to explore and do a little experimentation. Even your advice on, well, not advice but your recent experiment with creatine, I tried that too and it was unbelievable.
Christopher: Yes. So tell me about that. I totally forgot about the creatine thing. So the people that don't know listening to the podcast who had been -- I spend a lot of time talking to Dr. Tommy Wood and Tommy knows obviously tons and tons about biochemistry and one of the things he said to me based on the type of racing that I was doing was, "Have you tried creatine? It's like one of the most studied supplements ever."
So, yeah, I'd been taking creatine and also something else that goes well with creatine called beta-alanine. I haven't been able to tease this out yet but I think most of the advantage comes from this supplement creatine which is an energy substrate that's used in very high intensity exercise. I mean, surely, it would be good for swimmers. So, yeah, tell me about your experience with creatine.
Will: Yeah. I think I should probably start off by saying if you are a type I and if your experience is anything like mine, the creatine is very powerful and you should be really, really careful with it. Start off with just a little bit and see what happens. Keep your meter close by and don't -- If you're diabetic, definitely don't plan to start creatine on race day. The first time that I took it, I woke up -- I took it at night because I think I read somewhere that taking it on an empty stomach can also boost some growth hormone. But I don't know if that's true or not.
So I took it and I woke up the next morning with a pretty low blood sugar. And I thought that that was kind of weird considering the meal that I had for dinner. It should have easily gotten me through the night. And so I woke up in the morning. I was pretty low. I went to work out and so I noticed that I had to -- I always have glucose tablets or a glucose solution with me just in case I go low. And I noticed that for some reason my blood sugar was hanging out on the low normal side despite the fact that I was drinking glucose and it was just kind of hard to maintain normal glucose.
So, I noticed that right off the bat, the creatine was amazing at lowering blood glucose. And so I've learned to handle the glucose lowering effects and that wasn't too bad. In fact, it's kind of nice when you can scale back on insulin. And so I scaled back on insulin. I know how to use the creatine now. But the second thing that was really amazingly obvious was just the effects on performance during a really intense interval set.
So when we jump in the water, we often do things like ten 100s, which just means four lengths of the pool, and we'll do it on interval like, for example, a minute 15 seconds or something like that, where you get into the wall and you only got a few seconds rest and you go back off and you do another interval. And I noticed that normally that kind of set would about cripple me. So I'd get through number five, six and then seven would be the legs are starting to catch on fire. By eight, the lungs are completely on fire. And by nine and ten, you're just hanging on for dear life.
And when I got out of the pool after a set like that, the blood sugar would be very high, your body felt very inflamed and the creatine mitigated all of those effects. So I got through the set with much less destruction. I felt pretty good after the set. And I also noticed that blood sugar did not spike like it normally would after a really high intensity set like that. Yeah, the creatine has been an amazing addition. But like I said, just go easy at first.
Christopher: Yeah, I think that's an amazing story. It took me a moment to figure that out. So I had no idea about this. When you told me, I didn't know that creatine could lower blood glucose. And I asked Tommy about it and -- Well, actually, I say eventually. It was in hours Tommy had figured it out by himself from first principles although there are some good articles online that explain the effect. But basically there's something inside of the cell which regulates energy called AMPK.
This AMPK controls in part the glucose transporters. It moves them closer to the membrane in the cell and allows for more glucose uptake. And so creatine is directly affecting this mechanism. So there's actually quite a well understood mechanism and I found some really good studies. I'll link to this article I put up on the website, the studies that Tommy sent me. I'll link to them.
Will: Yeah, I checked out some of those studies and they were remarkably clear in their conclusions. Yeah, it's just a further indication that it might not work for same for everybody but definitely watch your blood sugar levels.
Christopher: Right, right. And then, for me personally, it's been amazing. If you're listening to this and you're a mountain biker or a cycle cross racer, it's a no brainer. Again, look at my article. But creatine, I think, is a really fantastic supplement. I mean, you can see I put my power numbers up on the website. But in May of this year I was producing 368 watts for a four and a half minute effort to do like a kind of bumpy -- It's difficult to produce as much power in a bumpy road when you're in a mountain bike. And then at the weekend I did 414 watts. That's like a huge improvement.
Will: Yeah, that number is crazy.
Christopher: Yeah, and it's not 30 seconds off my time. And I just can't believe that I would just be training alone because I was in good shape in the end of the May. That's like right at the beginning of the race season. I was supposed to do the BCC Bike Race and I was in pretty good shape at that time. Yeah, creatine is free energy and it lowers blood glucose. It seems like a pretty good deal to me. Awesome. Thank you so much for giving me this time. I'm so grateful for it.
I'm so happy to hear your experience. That makes me so, so happy, so much more fulfilling than being a computer programmer at a hedge fund. I didn't really do much apart from making rich people slightly richer over there. To hear your story and be able to make this recording is like very special to me.
Will: It's really my pleasure. Thank you, guys, so much for all you do.
Christopher: Thank you. Okay. Cheers then.
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