Cholesterol, a Love Story

Carla asked if my cholesterol improved after being diagnosed Celiac. As usual, I can’t tell a short story and it’s not even well-told.

My Cholesterol’s Character Arc

Short answer: No.
Medium answer: I fixed it before Celiac diagnosis.
Long answer: Since a KID, doctors said:  You inherited this and you’re screwed. I had high cholesterol and triglycerides.
I flung myself into a vegetarian lifestyle, eating meat once a month, around my period when I’d crave tacos or chili. I wouldn’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving so I could have dressing! I adhered to the prescription of low fat, whole grains, vegetarian as best model for lowering cholesterol and cardio health. BEFORE that, I was ‘quasi-vegetarian.’ I’d skip meat so I could have vodka — that was about calories cos I was young and dumb 🙂
My cholesterol grew worse over those 20 years. Doctors repeated their BS about whole grains, low fat… I’d show them my food journals (tracked most of the time since 1985). They’d shrug. With everybody in my family on cholesterol lowering or BP meds, I’d have to get on them SOME day. Then, that day came.
With nowhere else to go, I tried something crazy, based on what I’d seen lifters doing:
eat animal protein — lots of it —  healthy fats and remove processed foods (which excised a LOT of grains!).
In less than six months of eating ~1g animal protein per lb of body weight, increasing fat intake (avocados and EVOO) but mostly binning the low fat Wheat Thins and 17 grain breads…
I had blood panels for which people would kill. My doctor was GIDDY.
Let me digress: I was 98% on program  during this period because I knew what was waiting at the GPs: meds. It’s a strong incentive!
She said most people aren’t willing to do what I’d done for health. I proved that I would. I’m going to be honest: those first three weeks of meat-eating after non-meat eating was ROUGH. My body didn’t know what the hell to do with it!
My GPs next move was to tweak my autoimmune. My first food challenge was wheat.
After the Celiac diagnosis, my gut healed and I packed on a layer of blubber that I still haven’t shifted. I was deeply worried (just KNEW that I’d ruined my ‘fixed cholesterol’). To my RELIEF, my blood panels are still great!
Then, mum had her latest big hospitalization where they found she had to get quadruple bypass and that sent me into another tizzy about heart health. I had a full work up. Turns out, mine’s fantabulous. My genes are still my genes. I’m fighting them (sometimes I hit the frozen custard, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Doritos — and vodka).

Mr. Whole Grain, convo with a stranger about rocks (Celiac disease, explained)

Most people think ‘gluten’ is a fancy word for wheat OR a cool way to say, ‘low carb diet.’ To them, gluten-free is a weight loss diet fad. Celebrities do it!

Gluten is an indetectable-to-the-human-eye PROTEIN. There’s nothing fancy about this. Call it a rock. There’s this rock in some food.

Celiacs cannot digest gluten–I mean rocks

Celiac is a genetic thing. Those in advanced stages of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, can’t digest lots of things (like me!). If rocks are continually ingested, Celiacs progress to worse things (like mum, from whom I inherited this). Not to mention getting some rocks in my food might shut down organs–which don’t come back.

They end up with bowels removed, colostomy bags, liquid food ports in their chest, etc. — all because they unknowingly ate rocks (or chose to continue eating rocks). They suffer from ‘failure to thrive.’ Mum looks like the photos of people coming out of concentration camps after WWII. She also takes a lot of medication, one steroid costs $1800 a month. Just to keep alive!

Mr. Whole Grain was queued in front of me at Chipotle.

They remembered me. This caused a bit of a stir in the queue as workers quickly changed gloves, removed ladles and switched out food bins (food can still be used by others but I require ‘untouched by rocks‘ to avoid cross-contamination; in effect: poisoning). Remember when I said rocks are indetectable to the human eye? There’s no way to tell if rocks are on or in something (plate, knife, butter in a tub or lettuce in a bowl)! Since restos are well-prepared, they have bins of ingredients, waiting. They move the rock-contaminated bin to the side (to be used next for normals) and grab a fresh one, with fresh gloves and fresh utensils. Chipotle is great because I can watch them doing this and don’t have to trust them (that means you, Bluefish Grille–poisoned me from their rock-free menu, in their rock-free kitchen–symptoms of 3 days food poisoning and 3 more weeks of the worst flu ever).

Mr. Whole Grain: What are they doing?

Me: I’m Celiac. I can’t have rocks.

Doesn’t that mean bread? Excuse me, wheat?

I don’t like talking to people about it because they think that you’re making things up. RARELY do you see the light of recognition click and when you do, it’s a relief. ‘My friend’s kid…’ or ‘My ex-girlfriend was…’ and it’s followed by ‘concern face.’ Thank you, goodly concerned people! I don’t need your concern but it’s a lot better than people calling you a charlatan or making a joke about diarrhea. I don’t ‘just’ get diarhhea. It’s like having the worst flu you’ve ever hand (I got H1N1 that first year it went around and that was similar but not as bad).

We had Rock 101 in queue.

But…But…WHAT DO YOU EAT????!

The light had clicked on! 

Everything else.

He said the smartest thing ever — smarter than I!

You should NEVER eat out!

Indeed! Let me just say my trips to Chipotle came in at about twice a year and that was the first few years of my diagnosis. Now, I take food with me and eat it while others order wonderful-looking things, wherever we are.

When I got off rocks, I gained tons of fat because my body healed (and I’m a great Ozark cook, which means I eat it all)

I’d been diagnosed with anemia and malabsorption since I was a kid. I could eat twice the amount–I put away 4,000 calories a day without blinking.

When my body healed, it started absorbing all . that . food . I ballooned. Worse, I was in a depression over the diagnosis and I ate to console myself.

Mr. Whole Grain continued his lament for my life, explaining that I’d better be very careful:

I surely wasn’t getting the nutrition I needed to be healthy (in spite of the fact I’m obviously 25% body fat, therefore “healthy”).

You need to eat whole grains to STAY ALIVE–for your heart, for cholesterol, for…

Mr. Whole Grain spewed forth everything the US government tells us is healthy’ and required for staying fit, avoiding heart disease and cancer.

I listened with interest. It’s not that I’d never heard these things. I’ve always loved reading about nutrition and fitness (if behaved poorly). These things I, too, had read/ heard/ taken to heart for decades.

It was amazing hearing them all thrown at me (with great fret-filled emotion). I had so much compassion for Mr. Whole Grain. What a sweetie! He was so worried about me: not eating BREAD and PASTA! Amazing.

At this point, we were both leaving.

You must spend a lot of time studying health. Have you ever heard of Paleo? He hadn’t. If you get a chance sometime? Google it. It’ll explain what I eat. It works for me. ::big smile, wave and goodbye::