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Spinning girl: Primal low sodium

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  • Spinning girl: Primal low sodium

    This is going to be a log of me easing very slowly into primal eating, and for a very different reason than most people. I've been a moderate carbohydrate, relaxed semi-south-beach eater for several years now, but I've recently been through a health issue that has me seriously re-thinking my eating.

    A specialist recently told me I have probable Meniere's disease. I have to undergo some testing over the next year or so (it's expensive tests and not terribly urgent) to be sure, but for now we're acting as if that's what I have. Meniere's disease sucks. The symptom that got me to the doctor was VICIOUS rotational vertigo attacks, in some cases I can not move from the ground, except to vomit. There are other symptoms, tinnitus, a constant sense of gunk trapped in my ear, and probably some hearing loss on one side (one of the things they still need to determine). But the vertigo is the worst, it's frankly terrifying.

    The good news is, for many people a simple dietary change helps. The bad news? That change is a low sodium diet. So many of the things I was eating before on my loose, south beach phase III are now a problem: sausage, processed lunchmeat, canned vegetables & beans, whole grain breads. Bread and other baked goods actually have an astonishing amount of sodium. Overall I was probably eating around 4000mg of sodium a day. Good news part 2: Sticking to a very low sodium diet (between 1000-1500mg a day) seems to have greatly improved the vertigo, I've only had two mild vertigo attacks since I dropped the sodium.

    And that's where primal eating comes in. After a month and a half of trying to stick to a low sodium diet, I've realized something... the eating habits that make it easy to stay low sodium, look a lot like primal/paleo style eating. Unprocessed meats, lots of vegetables, fruit, some full fat dairy, sufficient overall calories (fat), no grains, no extra sugars. Grains are the worst, they seem to trigger awful cravings, especially grains combined with sodium, like whole wheat bread or rice with soy sauce. And once I get into craving something high sodium, it's a big struggle... I'm fighting myself, I'm terrified of the consequences of giving in. My husband commented that he's never seen me so tense about food.

    So that's my goal: To slowly go primal in order to get off that craving cycle and be able to stay low sodium without a lot of stress and anxiety.

    Step 1: Cut out the processed meats. (Done.)
    Step 2: Cut out the grains in favor of more quality fats.

    Not sure where I will go from there. Initially I'm not really worried about counting carbs specifically. Like I said I've been eating moderate carbs for a long time, and fruit & root vegetables don't seem to trigger that craving cycle. I'm aware of one online survey of Meniere's sufferers & the Atkins diet that reports people having mixed results with lower carb... but I suspect that the abrupt transition between carbohydrate and fat metabolism (i.e. induction) might have something to do with some people reporting worse symptoms.

    Beyond that...
    - I have a 3 year old son.
    - I'm still about 8-10 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight... I wouldn't mind losing 5 or so pounds but I really don't want to lose more than 10. My weight is not a big worry in the face of the other things I'm dealing with.
    - I'm an epidemiologist by training, so I have a head for scientific papers. But I'm WAY better at statistics than biochemistry.
    - I'm an amateur circus enthusiast, so you'll find me a couple times a week climbing fabric and hanging upside down from the ceiling. Strangely, this does not trigger any vertigo. I'm currently branching out from aerial work into things like hand balancing and wire walking... things where I can train more frequently at home without a spotter.
    Last edited by thatgirljj; 05-24-2011, 02:45 PM.

  • #2
    This week, I'm seriously getting down to the business of eliminating grains. The holiday weekend was pretty chaotic for me, there was a family emergency, and I had a vertigo attack and things were just a mess. It was more of a "muddle through and skip the bread" rather than a real solid attempt at eliminating anything. This week is better already because I took a little time on Monday and planned out my meals & precooked stuff for the week. (I'm a HUGE fan of meal planning, otherwise we'd end up eating TV dinners all the time.) I typically eat the same thing every day for breakfast & lunch then share dinner with my family.

    My breakfast: Turkey & zucchini gratin
    My lunch: Homemade chicken soup & big green salad

    Dinners for the rest of the week are:
    Tonight: Pork chops & baked yams (though I may end up taking my son out for Cuban if my husband has to miss dinner)
    Thursday: Tuna melts (in 1/2 an avocado for me, on bread for the guys)
    Friday: Either dinner out, or the pork chops we were supposed to eat tonight.
    Saturday: We're going to be at a friend's wedding, so I'll just do my best.
    Sunday: My hubs is probably going to smoke up a tri-tip, so I'll make a chopped veggie salad as our side.

    Next week is going to be a little complicated for meals because the little man starts swim lessons after school. So pretty much everything is going to have to be crock pot, leftovers or maybe a casserole. Any ideas?


    • #3
      This week's eating plan:

      Monday (yesterday): Crockpot pork pot roast, with pureed veggies for soup.
      Tuesday: Tuna melts in 1/2 avocado
      Wednesday: Leftover pork served over sweet potatos
      Thursday: Salmon & steamed broccoli w/ butter
      Friday: In-n-Out (protein style burger no fries for me)

      Last weekend went OK. Not great, but OK. The food at the wedding wasn't too bad, the salad was nice, the chicken was kind of flat & boring (my husband said the same about the beef) and I left the gooey, oversalted mashed potatoes on the plate. The slice of cake was teeny and yummy, definitely worth the indulgence. No cocktails since I was driving. Sunday was not as good... There was a lot of family drama to deal with so I got lazy and ordered pizza. I figured my day had been really low sodium so far, so I could get away with it. Yeah... BAD idea. Not because of the vertigo actually, but because I woke up the next morning and my whole head felt stuffy and swollen. I feel like it was more than just the salt, I'm starting to understand why people say gluten makes them feel bloated. It may not bloat my tummy, but it does bloat up my sinuses. And when I'm trying to battle the fluid thing in my inner ear that's a bad bad idea. I'm really thinking of going 100% grain free, no excuses, no celebrations, since I'm starting to think it might be behind my chronic sinus problems & aggravating my allergies.


      • #4
        Hang in there. You don't have to do it perfectly. Sounds like you are doing well.
        Ancestral Health Info

        I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

        Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


        • #5
          Thanks Hedonist... I think that's the key, let go of doing everything perfectly. Try, observe, learn, tweak. Everything is not in line right now, and I'm OK with that. I want to find the sweet spot where it's easy to get most stuff, mostly right.

          So that pork roast never really got used up. This weekend I'm going to chop up the remainder and make it into chili. I do this all the time with chicken leftovers, and I'm hoping the double-cooking will work alright with the pork as well. I also picked up some flank steak to try this carne asada recipe, carne asada is a favorite of mine, but I'm now wary of the pre-marinated stuff because of the sodium. I'll probably make up some mayo-free cole slaw to go with the carne asada, and maybe steam some artichokes. My weekends are usually pretty unstructured and my hubs is going to be out of town for a big chunk of this one, so I want some lazy munchies on hand for me and the kiddo rather than dealing with meal planning.

          Just today I randomly started experimenting with IF by seeing how I felt if I postponed breakfast. I have always been a total breakfast person, and breakfast always meant big carbs. But for the past few months I've been eating a more fat-based breakfast most days (either a crustless quiche or full fat greek yogurt with berries & almonds), and I'm much, much less hungry in the morning. Today I tried just drinking black coffee until I felt bothered enough to want to eat... went until now (about 11:30ish). When I was accustomed to high carb breakfasts I was typically a cranky, unfocused bear every morning until I got food. I don't know that I'm going to do this every day (or even most days), but it's interesting.


          • #6
            The carne asada was good. Probably not as great as it would have been with a little salt, but still tasty. I'm actually not a huge fan of the taste of most beef, so it's nice to be able to replicate the ones I like (like carne asada & smoked tri-tip). Since my last post I've experimented with the IF/meal timing thing and found that I'm usually pretty comfortable postponing breakfast for a couple hours and doing all my eating in an 8-10 hour window. There are days when it's NOT going to work (I either wake up feeling hungry, or I've got meetings scheduled when I would usually start eating), but I think I'm going to follow my intuition those times when it feels like a fine idea.

            I admit, I've been fascinated and a little scared of the big to-do people make about liver. I know, I know, it's so nutritious. But no one in my family ever ate it. Even my grandparents. This weekend I got over my squick factor and tried some. I do not like it. Oh no. But I recognized the taste IMMEDIATELY. Yup, cheap summer camp beef stew & chili. :-) I'm sure the cooks figured that after a day of capture the flag, and swimming we wouldn't care. And we didn't. But anyway, it gave me a great idea... I still had a pork roast leftover I was planning to chop up for chili, so I threw a couple of slices of the liver in my food processor, mixed the ensuing glop with about 1/2 a pound of grass fed ground beef, lightly fried it up and threw it in the crock pot with the rest of the chili. You know what? It's awesome. The kind of metallic-ish flavor of the liver is totally gone if you mask it with enough chili powder, cumin & tomatoes.

            After disposing of the pork roast and picking dry the chicken carcass from the fridge I now have 4 servings each of low sodium chicken soup & pork/beef chili in the freezer. I'm feeling pretty good about that because real food in the freezer means I have a good back-up for the days when I have no time and would ordinarially reach for something in a can. Not only do I get to skip the extra sodium in the canned goods, I know EXACTLY what went into my soup & chili.

            Dinners for the rest of this week:
            Tuesday: Tuna melts on avocados
            Wednesday: Leftover carne asada with broccoli
            Thursday: Low sodium sausages with peppers & onions
            Friday: Coconut fish with mango-avocado relish