Cholesterol Down!

Approximately 3 months have passed since I saw my family physician and he provided me with HIS opinion regarding the steps I had taken to become healthier. Needless to say, he wasn’t all that supportive, in fact did not like that I was eliminating animal products and decreasing the amount of fat. He saw this as a short term solution to a long term problem (high cholesterol). Thankfully it was diet and no his prescription that got me on the road to health.

Today was just another milestone in that road to health. While I didn’t agree with my physician’s assessment that I was “deficient” in Vitamin D. Based on the paperwork I received a level from 10-29 ng/mL was a “insufficiency” while my doctor chose to call it something else. At any rate he prescribed 50,000 IU per week in order to raise my level. While I stand by my opinion that his prescription wasn’t needed the end result was positive as my recent blood test showed. My 25(OH)D level increased 11 points from 23 to 34, which now falls in the “optimum” range.

More importantly my cholesterol (TC) level continues is downward spiral. Starting from my July, 2011 total of 264 I improved my TC, decreasing it 64 points to 199 by December, 2011. Now, 3 months later I have lost another 24 points down to 175! This on diet alone, no big pharma intervention here and his prescription of a statin was NOT the answer. I am not just 25 points away from my TC goal of 150 mg/dL, with any luck this “short term solution” *sarcasm* will continue to see my health improve.

All indicators are positive when it comes to my health. In all honesty, I have probably never been healthier. My weight is down 33 pounds, currently at 183 with a goal of 175 in sight. I am lifting weights 4 times a week and trying to get 20-30 minutes of walking in a day while at work. Many of the ailments I had are all but forgotten, now if I could only get a straight answer for my knee ailment I would be in better shape. For me this lifestyle change has been the answer, but as I have said before, not everyone is open for this drastic of a change when it comes to food they love.

Not Down with ‘D’

I am in a quandary over the dose of Vitamin D I was prescribed in early January and I wrote about in Vitamin D(on’t). As I wrote, I wish I went armed with more information before agreeing to take this 50,000 IU weekly for 3 months prescribed by my physician. I have been taking this dose for 3 weeks now and without going in for a blood test I won’t know if there has been an increase in my 25-hydroxyvitamin D level. That test isn’t supposed to occur the end of March.

Further discussion and research having me raising a red flag to this “vitamin” and I am not sure my physician is out for my health. Instead of getting clarity on the situation I am more confused. How do I tell my physician I don’t want to take his recommendation, backed with studies and information I have gleaned from the Internet?

Just because I was not trained in the medical field doesn’t mean I need to agree with my doctor. Without his consent I took myself off a statin last year and I am very close to taking myself off the Vitamin D. With or without him agreeing. I wish I had multiple blood test results to compare my 25(OH)D levels, but I don’t. December, 2011 was the first (and not the last) time this level had been measured. I do believe I can attribute it to my job. I spend approximately 10 hours in darkness considering I am up at 4am and don’t leave work until 2pm.

Over the course of 5 years I can think my 25(OH)D level has decreased, again because of my job. During the summer time I will end up spending more time outside, in the sun but making soaking up the sun can’t be a seasonal thing and must occur year around.

From the National Institutes of Health, “Practically all people are sufficient at levels ≥50 nmol/L (≥20 ng/mL); the committee stated that 50 nmol/L is the serum 25(OH)D level that covers the needs of 97.5% of the population.” My 25(OH)D level was recorded as 23 in December, 2011. By way of comparison, my wife was recorded at a level of 16 last month. The nurse practitioner prescribed her to take 1000 IU a day. Yet I am taking 50000 IU weekly for an 25(OH)D level of 23 or approximate 7142 IU daily! The numbers just don’t work for me.

A vitamin D deficiency can occur when usual intake is lower than recommended levels over time, exposure to sunlight is limited, the kidneys cannot convert 25(OH)D to its active form, or absorption of vitamin D from the digestive tract is inadequate. Vitamin D-deficient diets are associated with milk allergy, lactose intolerance, ovo-vegetarianism, and veganism” (source). I don’t think I have been following a plant-based, whole food lifestyle long enough to see my level as a “deficiency.” Two abstracts agree, “people with occupations that limit sun exposure are unlikely to obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight.” (source, source).

As with ANY medication prescribed the list of side effects are rather appalling. This list is courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.

Late symptoms of severe overdose

  • High blood pressure
  • High fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stomach pain (severe)

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

Early symptoms of overdose

  • Bone pain
  • Constipation (especially in children or adolescents)
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dryness of mouth
  • Headache (continuing)
  • Increased thirst
  • Increase in frequency of urination, especially at night, or in amount of urine
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Itching skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Metallic taste
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea or vomiting (especially in children or adolescents)
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

Late symptoms of overdose

  • Bone pain
  • Calcium deposits (hard lumps) in tissues outside of the bone
  • Cloudy urine
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased sensitivity of eyes to light or irritation of eyes
  • Itching of skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Mood or mental changes
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Protein in the urine
  • Redness or discharge of the eye, eyelid, or lining of the eyelid
  • Runny nose
  • Weight loss

Remind me, WHY should I be taking this? For my healthy? To support my physician’s wallet? To date, I haven’t noticed any “early symptoms” to speak of. I have been reading C: The Blog, there are some interesting comments from other individuals using Vitamin D at varying levels.

Exercise & Me

The results never have ceased to amaze me since changing my diet and taking my health into my hands since I don’t believe my personal physician has the best intentions for me. That based on his recommendation to supplement my “deficiency” with 50,000 IU of Vitamin D weekly. I continue to discuss my disappointment, Vitamin D, possibly changing doctors and “playing doctor” with other individuals who follow Dr. McDougall’s way of life. But why harp on that? I can control each aspect I just brought up. I have added exercise to this lifestyle change this last week.

I dusted off the copy of Power 90 I purchased from a late night infomercial back in 2003 and made it through Sweat I/II and Cardio I/II four days this week. This after breaking my red, 13 pound resistance band when performing the lawnmower exercise. Probably all the better since the 20 pound, blue band seems to answer the call. Friday was a rest day, but I was back at on Saturday, pulling off the sheets that cover the Bowflex Revolution.

While no where near the level of “expert” or even casual user, I spent time at work sifting through the the manual and looking at the different exercise routines possible. I then settled on two routines that were similar in nature after comparing 3 different work outs. The first was a 20 minute upper/lower body workout that would alternate body parts every other days.

The other 2 work outs are circuit training one listed as ‘Anaerobic/Cardiovascular’ in nature and the other as ‘True Aerobic” work out. The aerobic work out lists some of the same exercises as the anaerobic, but adds 30-60 seconds of aerobic rowing in between each exercise. I did a circuit of each yesterday, before finishing up with some bench press exercises and calling it a day after about 45 minutes.

Aside from getting healthier with this way of eating, the addition of exercise should help me achieve my goals come April, which should coincide with my next blood test to see where my Vitamin D level is after supplementing on a weekly basis. After a week, the exercising has been fun, I have enjoyed it and I think breaking up the routine will help keep things fresh and keep me interested. I have a long way to go before I can say I am where I want to go. Three months of training should be a very good base from which to build.

Neither exercise or this way of eating will cease after April, which will be approximately 6 month since making the decision to change my diet, giving up meat, dairy products and oil, while going to a plant-based whole food diet or in the words of Rip Esselstyn, living “plant strong.” This will go to show my doctor that even though the improvement on my blood, the loss of weight and overall health I gain is just a start, the next 3 months should speak volumes when we meet.

Vitamin D(on’t)?

It’s been an interesting journey the past 3 months, as I have taken my health into my own hands. With the big changes, some would call “extreme” I have experienced better than anticipated results in a short period of time. But all is not good, sure my health is improving based on my PSA screening, weight loss and my dietary habits. As my doctor eluded to yesterday, this is a start. In my opinion a damn good start.

The more research I do online, the more confusion I am faced with. As I mentioned yesterday in ‘Doctor’s Opinion‘ I was not in full agreement with what my personal doctor had to tell me. Not being trained in the medical field, how do I go about disputing what my doctor is saying? For example the more light that is shed on Vitamin D “deficiency” I have my level of 23 is not considered low. In the opinion of Jeff Novick, MS, RD, “I would never personally take any action based on the results of any one test. Any test, that may lead to an intervention, should be confirmed with a second test, maybe even from a different lab.” He went on to say, “As of today, over 20 is considered sufficient and not insufficient by many many national and international health organizations.

After further reading and referencing Dr. McDougall’s newsletters I am convinced that my doctor doesn’t seem to be looking out for my personal health. Why should he? Healthy people don’t need doctors. If there is no medication he can prescribe or test to run, I am not making him any money. In fact, I can’t agree with him when it came to what I ate and what I plan to do for the future.

Right now though, the more I read the more I need to question what I am being told and prescribed. As for the Vitamin D supplement, maybe it requires me to pay out of pocket in order to get a second test to confirm the first. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) stated that, “North Americans have serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations above 20 ng per milliliter, which is adequate for bone health in at least 97.5% of the population” (source). While this paper actually was discussing Vitamin D in a cancer prevention roll, there was another interesting finding. “The report provided evidence suggestive of a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer at high 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (≥40 ng per milliliter). An increased risk of esophageal cancer at higher 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels has also been reported” (source).

My doctor, with his prescription of 50,000 IU (1 pill a week for 3 months) hopes to raise my Vitamin D level between 40-60. With some of the above information found after the fact, I am beginning to think the doctor is not out for my benefit, but that of his wallet. I am having a very difficult time swallowing the information he provided me, contrary to what I have recently found in established medical journals. Now with an increase in Vitamin D my body could be more cancer prone? Did I miss the benefit of adding this supplement somewhere? Thankfully taking my health into my hands has been eye opening, but I am not sure I will accept his prescription and take it for 3 months.