Suzanne Somers and Glycemic Index

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I have just finished watching Dateline which highlighted my idol in both her youth and her food.  I believe entirely in her moto of low glycemic foods in her fight to explain to us, that excess sugar is what creates and keeps us fat.

As a diabetic I agree entirely with her on this subject.

She has put out some amazing books with damn good recipes and she was the first one to introduct me to Celery Root and the alternative of using potatoes for mashed.

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I made a lot of side dish recipes from Suzanne Somers books on keeping slim and sexy – they were really good.  These recipes did  not shy away from fat nor from yogurt and cheese.  They did not include any high glycemix indexes above 70 GI.

Glycemic Index What Is It?

The glycemic index, glycaemic index, or GI is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. The concept was developed by Dr. David J. Jenkins and colleagues[1] in 1980–1981 at the University of Toronto in their research to find out which foods were best for people with diabetes.

A lower glycemic index suggests slower rates of digestion and absorption of the foods’ carbohydrates and may also indicate greater extraction from the liver and periphery of the products of carbohydrate digestion. A lower glycemic response usually equates to a lower insulin demand but not always, and may improve long-term blood glucose control[2] and blood lipids. The insulin index is also useful, as it provides a direct measure of the insulin response to a food.

The glycemic index of a food is defined as the area under the two hour blood glucose response curve (AUC) following the ingestion of a fixed portion of carbohydrate (usually 50 g). The AUC of the test food is divided by the AUC of the standard (either glucose or white bread, giving two different definitions) and multiplied by 100. The average GI value is calculated from data collected in 10 human subjects. Both the standard and test food must contain an equal amount of available carbohydrate. The result gives a relative ranking for each tested food.[3]

The current validated methods use glucose as the reference food, giving it a glycemic index value of 100 by definition. This has the advantages of being universal and producing maximum GI values of approximately 100. White bread can also be used as a reference food, giving a different set of GI values (if white bread = 100, then glucose ≈ 140). For people whose staple carbohydrate source is white bread, this has the advantage of conveying directly whether replacement of the dietary staple with a different food would result in faster or slower blood glucose response. The disadvantages with this system are that the reference food is not well-defined and the GI scale is culture dependent.[citation needed]

Glycemic Index is a buzz word these days and many bloggers have had discussions on it pertaining to fat and caloric intake as well as its role in the baking of breads and pastries.

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Dr. Andrew Weil advocates this way of life in his book 8 Weeks To Optimum Health.  In this book he discusses much of the same philosphy on keeping control of the foods you eat that are high in their glycemic indexes and that to maintain and even lose weight it is primarily an issue of consciously eating foods higher in vegetables and lower in carbohydrates.

Sounds logical doesn’t it.  However, it would surprise you as it did me, that there are vegetables and fruits very high on the glycemic index and therefore should be eaten rarely.  Potatoes, dates, beets: all rated with high glycemic indexes.  Ice cream is not a high index food but dependent on the added sugars and or honey it can be deemed high.  Any of the Pumpkin family veggies are high such as pumpkin itself; squash and lentils or any of the legumes family is considered very low and a great choice.

My readers know I am diabetic and I watch myself very carefully.  Whereas once I was on insulin; now my sugars and weight is under such control that I am free to be non-medicated except for a daily dose of Glucophage.  I watch what I eat like a hawk; which is not to say I don’t indulge.

There are days I indulge; and then pay for it with massive migraines or extreme lethargy all because my ‘sugars’ will be out of whack that day.  I am not unconscious when I indulge; I do it with the complete acknowledgement that it will make me sick.  After all I am human and sometimes I want a piece of Strawberry Cheesecake and I love every bite of it.  And when I get sick; I am not sorry, because eating this way is such a rarity for me.

A bible of sorts for me is a tiny book entitled The G.I. Handbook.   gi

Where I differ with Suzanne Somers is that she preaches alternative medicine.

As I said, I have always admired her and secretly I suppose, hoped that if I follow her way of life to a tee that I, too, would have an easy time of Menepause and that I would stay thin if I ate a low glycemic diet and exercised daily.

The FDA in the United States has yet to legalize alternative medicine; Canada falls into that same category.  Natural and Bio-identical hormones are not regulated here and in Montreal there exists only 3 pharmacies where one can get bio-identical hormones.  Still, they need an initial prescription from your Doctor before they can mix their potions and sell it to you.  Medicare does not cover these medecines and they are fucking expensive.

The name for such dispensing Pharmacies and Pharmacists is called “Compounding Pharmacists”.

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It is important to note this as I begin my story: a Compounding Pharmacist has, hopefully if he/she is a dedicated practitioner in dispensing this kind of medicine, a certificate from a non-profit organization for the hours of study pertaining directly to the study of compounding medications.  Compound medications and Compound Pharmacists compound custom medications to suit unique individual patient needs.  Compounding means the mixing of drugs.  Akin to recipes, these drugs are mixed in powder form and in cream form of which the combinations and doses are based soley on, for menopause, how you describe your being for that month.

Doses can and are changed in accordance solely with the way you feel.  Once in a while a blood test will be taken – cost out of pocket – as well as saliva testing – cost out of pocket.

I really believed in this route.  I was 42 and in the midst of menopause; far too young yet the women in my family all went through early menopause.

At the time there was a lot of hype about hormone therapy being linked to Breast Cancer and I believe it still exists.  In fact a highly respected trial was cancelled abruptly because too many of the women (nurses) on the controlled part of the study where they actually took the hormones were showing signs of breast cancer in alarming numbers.  This was significant.

To put it mildy the only side effect I DID NOT have was night sweats.  I had everything else.

I took to Suzanne Somers and her words and books became my Hare Krishna.

Thousands of dollars I spent, being completely convinced that if I maintained the same regimen that Suzanne did and abided by the advice of my  compounding pharmacist, that I would remain ‘young’ with the hormones of a 20 year old.

Heed my warnings all you ladies…no matter how intelligent and how much exercise and how long your hair is: you cannot and will not stay a 20 year old on bio-identical hormones.  You will, however, have the savings account of a 20 year old by the time you finish because that is the cost associated with such a way of life.  Those people live in the Hollywood Hills and in Malibu and write books and proffer up thigh masters.

But I digress and need to continue…

I did spend the money to go this route and thankfully I had a Gynecologist who allowed me a prescription for the pharmacist to fill.  Keep in mind that because these are not regulated there is no formal training for theses Pharmacists and absolutely every thing has a cost; including an initial appointment.

Dr. Shatz gave me the okay to try what Suzanne Somers calls ‘bio-identical’ hormones.  We had a long discussion and what he said made sense; what she said made sense and yet I couldn’t argue either point because in the end, they both made sense.  With all the reading I have done on the subject one would think I could describe the difference and I could; but when it came down to it I couldn’t argue the difference with my doctor.  In fact, the way Dr. Shatz described it whether it come in pill form or cream form it was the same hormones.

So with prescription in hand for both progesterone and estrogen I marched myself into the Compounding Pharmacist in Westmount.  First he took a blood test to determine where my levels were.  Then we continued to discuss not just hormones but thyroid medication as well.  Then I spent almost 600.00 for a saliva test.

To describe my Thyroid treatment is to say this:  I never heard of Throid in names such as T4 and T3 and free T4…it truly was a blur but at this point I was totally in the hands of the Pharmacist.  He wanted a blood test done to measure my ‘free T4′ because apparently that is the only true test of how functioning my Thyroid really was.  Even though the doctor checks it twice a year with lab regulated Thyroid tests I had to go and ask for a special free ‘T4′ test: my General Practitioner never heard of such a test being done to determine Thyroid; but I have very good doctors and that test was performed.

It didn’t meet the standards of the compounding pharmacist so he added another cream/pill to the lot I was taking for Menopause.

I began with creams and directions; each month after I told my Compounding Pharmacist how I felt was dependent on how much or how little in strength the creams that month would be.  My intelligence factor somehow couldn’t grope that this was how I was being medicated; but then I was a newbie when it came to Bio-identical Hormones.

I had two instances which clinched my decision that as a city, Montreal was not ready for Compounding Pharmacists.

The first was when the Pharmacist wanted to increase one of the hormones that he knew Dr Shatz would not agree with.  He told me to call and ask him if the doseage of, and I cannot remember if it was the Progesterin or the Estrogen, could be upped but Dr. Shatz said an emphatic ‘No.’

I was not to increase it because it might and probably would result in cysts on my ovaries and the thinning of my uterine wall.

At this point; I was feeling pretty good…no hot flashes; my depression was gone; my memory was coming back fast and I was just feeling good.  This is how the Pharmacist decided the strength of my creams.  Based solely on how I felt.

He said that I could increase the hormone level but that most doctors didn’t like to.  In his opinion; if it were him; he would do it.  So I said ‘do it’.  He did it.  (In retrospect I should have known better because if that wasn’t a red flag I don’t know what a red flag looks like except that I do.)

But I wanted to feel better.  I wanted to feel like Suzanne said, a girl in her twenties when my hormones were in full swing.  I wanted to turn the clock back and according to Suzanne Somers I should be able to do that.

So I went ahead and told the ‘Phil the Pharmacist’ to go ahead and do what he felt would make me feel in top shape and that included increasing the strength of hormone that Dr. Shatz said not to.

Phil went ahead and did it.  Two months later I had cysts on my ovaries.  That was when I realized that until Bio-identical hormones become regulated there would be and could be health issues with an unethical Pharmacist.  Since there existed only three in Montreal I made the decision, after six months and two saliva tests later, that I would go back to my regular hormone therapy.

I was so mad at myself; I was so mad at the Pharmacist; I was cray mad.  And scared.  But mostly I felt duped.

I crawled back to Dr. Shatz and went back on controlled Hormone Therapy and the cysts went away.  I will stay on Hormone Therapy for my life and that is my choice with full acknowledgment of Breast Cancer and its placement in my life genetically.  Thank goodness of all the medical problems a family can genetically inherit; breast cancer is not one.

However, it is important to note that the same period of time I discovered cysts I was also due for my bi-yearly physical and because I am diabetic there are many blood tests to be taken.  One of those included a 24 hour urine test.  Sure enough I got a call from my G.P. (General Practitioner) that I had to come in and see him there was a problem with one of my tests.

It turned out that my 24 hour Urine tests showed trace amounts of protein in my urine.  He wanted to prescribe medication.  Protein in urine is an indication of a malfunctioning kidney.

I told Dr. Shahin (yes Shahin and Shatz are both my doctors) about my hormone therapy and said before I begin with medication I wanted to go completely off any unprescribed and unregulated creams and pills and then re-do the 24 hour urine test in three months.

At this point I was still on the bio-identical treatment which also included Thyroid creams for T-4 levels to finish out the month because I did not want to stop it mid-month of my cycle

Three monts later and clean of all Compounding creams I re-did my Urine test and it came back clean – No Trace of Protein.

That was the end of any desire or inclination of believing in Bio-identical anything.  It is un regulated and un healthy and not enough research is done which includes homeopathic or naturopathic medecines as well.  From my experience; I would never recommend any of it for the primary reason I have already stated and the fact that it is a money-maker not covered by insurance companies or medicare and because of this, my belief is that it becomes a cash cow for those dispensing it.

As well I learned; the saliva tests are the biggest racket because they come back with results that only a Compounding Pharmacist can make sense of; and that blood tests on any given day, in a Woman’s Peri-Menopausal cycle in a month, can fluctuate considerably. Therefore blood tests to decide Hormone levels are not indicative nor can indicate anything.  Your Gynecologist will tell you that. KNOW THAT.

Suzanne I still hope to look like you when I’m 64.

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