Friday, March 11, 2011

My Intestinal Saga, Part 5: Monastyrsky and Kwasniewski

After my introduction to the man known as "The Bear," I followed the zero-carb "path" and ate nothing but rare-cooked steaks, liver once in a while, bites of butter, and occasional eggs.  To my surprise, I remained at a stable weight during this extreme dietary experiment.  I also had energy to go on long walks, infrequent runs, and swim for hours whenever I could find a body of water large enough.  Despite all of this energy, though, I was still bogged down by the same heaviness that I had felt since I began eating lots of meat again.  The only thing that seemed to alleviate it was eating one meal a day in the evening, after which I would feel the heaviness but it would be gone by morning.  The other problem I had -- hard stools -- was still plaguing me, as well.

In the meantime, I was still reading a lot of zero-carb material on the internet, trying to sort things out.  One man, Jeff, started his own forum dedicated to proving that human beings thrive when there are no sugars and starches in the diet.  He also made it a point to exhibit that, no matter how many calories he ate on a zero-carb diet, he would not gain or lose weight.  At one point he was as high as 4,500 calories a day, literally drinking more than a quart of heavy cream each day.  He also was out to show that exercise is completely different while avoiding carbs and eating an extremely high-fat diet, and his daily and weekly logs displayed how many miles he'd ran and how he felt for days afterwards.  One thing that struck me was that he claimed to not feel sore at all after running over 20 miles in a day -- this coming from a guy that was not, by any means, a runner before the experiment.  I was certainly impressed by all of this and similar reports from others, so I kept on with zero-carb hoping that I would adjust as other folks had.

Fiber Menace: The Truth About the Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, and Colon CancerI never adjusted, and I was starting to get frustrated.  Spending time on forums, I couldn't find anyone that shared a similar predicament aside from a handful of folks.  I had a few "gut buddies" who related to much of what I had going on, and we would all communicate what seemed to be working and what wasn't.  We each individually tried manipulating our eating patterns and supplementing digestive aids like enzymes, herbs, probiotics, and all of those things that are typically recommended to people with the catch-all health problem known as "irritable bowel syndrome."  While some approaches appeared to have benefit, by and large nothing did the trick.  In the end, we still had the same symptoms.  Seeking to deepen my understanding of what was going on, I returned to studying the human digestive tract.  I payed careful attention to where I was feeling what and how the symptoms could be related to certain organs and functions within my GI tract.  Much of the information I came across was pretty dry and lacked experience.  I needed to find someone who had resolved his or her digestive problems experientially and could help me along.  The problem was that every digestion expert out there seemed to recommend fiber as the Holy Grail of gut reparation.  I was already skeptical of this method of improving intestinal problems because 1) it hadn't worked for me and 2) fiber appeared to be completely unnecessary in digestive functions anyway -- lots of folks I was in contact with weren't having any problem with a zero-fiber diet.  But why the heck was I having problems?  Enter Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of a book called Fiber Menace.

I caught wind of Mr. Monastyrsky's gut manifesto on a forum I frequented.  Reading excerpts from his book, I knew this was the guy to learn from.  His story was very similar to mine -- a vegetarian who developed digestive problems and then realized that things needed to change.  Fiber only seemed to make his problems worse, and so Monastyrsky looked at other means of getting well again, delving into medical texts and other research to find out more about human physiology.  Like me, he was a health detective, and he labeled this approach to wellness "Forensic Nutrition." In Fiber Menace, Monastyrsky laid out the fundamentals of what got him better and built a strong case against many of the mainstream health mantras of our time, such as the supposed "dangers" of a low-carb diet and the necessity of drinking eight glasses of water a day.  I found his viewpoints fascinating and quickly devoured his book.  Shortly thereafter, I tried out some of his supplement recommendations, which included a non-habit-forming laxative (a form of vitmain C) and probiotic bacteria with small amounts of soluble fibers to feed them.  These were things I'd tried before, but for some reason I always ran into problems with.  But when I tried Monastyrsky's supplement regimen, I was free of hard stools for the first time in several months.  Astoundingly, the heaviness in my body went away, and I felt lighter and tension free like I hadn't in a very long time -- probably since I had been eating very little food as a vegetarian.

Dr. Jan Kwasniewski
After a close to a year of eating zero carbohydrates, I began to feel like it was time to eat like a somewhat normal human being again.  I wanted to add some starches back into my diet, but not so much as to disturb the "keto-adaptation" (a term coined by The Bear) I had worked hard to achieve.  I still wanted my body to use fat for fuel, as this felt like very efficient energy and I had certainly grown used to it.  So I went with what I felt was a good dietary transition and began the "Optimal Diet" -- a way of eating developed by a Polish doctor, Jan Kwasniewski.  This diet was all about the ratio of protein, fats and carbohydrates and keeping them in balance to achieve optimal health.  The ratio to be followed was 1 : 2.5-3.5 : 0.5 -- protein : fat : carbohydrates.  What that meant was that I would literally be eating sticks of butter and drinking heavy cream.  And I did gladly.  I love fat.  Always have.  Always will.  So it was easy to eat the Optimal Diet -- however, the heaviness seemed to return as I began eating more consistently and the supplements I was on slowly started to lose their effectiveness.  Crap.  Could I ever win?

Part 6 of "My Intestinal Saga" coming soon ...


Danny Roddy said...

LOVING this series Ryan. Keep it up

trix said...

I am also following with interest. I've read both JK's Optimal Diet and KM's websites but didn't actually try to eat as they prescribe with any seriousness. I've had a slow digestive track most of my life. The only time I actually seemed to be fairly 'regular' is when I was on a med for depression 2x for 8 months each over 10+ yrs ago.

Matt Stone said...

Part 5? Damnit I need to catch up. I never had too many serious digestive issues - although, I guess I did have indigestion after everything I ate for several years so I shouldn't discount that. But I've been down all those paths. Short-term gain. Long-term pain.

Anonymous said...

cant wait for part 6 as our digestive issues sound very similar. from the tried and true that didnt work to the vitaC etc... curious how Dr K worked for you!

Anonymous said...

cant wait for part 6 as our digestive issues sound very similar. from the tried and true that didnt work to the vitaC etc... curious how Dr K worked for you!

trix said...

It has crossed my mind that some of the dietary recommendations of someone like Kwasienwski are based on what foods they like or what foods are a part of their cultural bias. (There seems to be a Polish slant to foods that are in his Optimal Diet). That may be the case with Monastyrsky. Has this occurred to anyone else? I wonder if the recommendations would be the same if they were Italian...or French.

I just read Ray Peat's article on the health benefits of coffee and thought that he probably went into it being a coffee addict. Am I getting jaded or what?

Hey Ryan....Part 6?


Ryan Koch @ Health Matters to Me said...


I agree. There's a ton of cultural bias in the diet world. People can justify just about anything they want to think is healthy for them if it suits their taste buds. Ray Peat follows his tastes and then attempts to back it all up with his intellect, as do many others.

Part 6 is on its way!

trix said...

Good to know I am not the only one who's thought that re:Ray Peat and others.

Physical Therapy Supplies said...

This is so nice article. I am also following with interest. our digestive issues sound very similar.
I did have indigestion after everything. I love this good post. Thanks post this good blog.