Thanksgiving has come and gone, and since I haven’t been up all night shopping Black Friday sales, I have the energy to relate my Thanksgiving experiment. It was our first time as a family hosting a holiday meal and we put a lot of effort (my wife mostly) into designing a menu that would be a natural expression of our traditional nutrient-dense diet.
After a couple days of prep, the menu was set on a roasted chicken, gravy from the fat dripping combined with homemade chicken bone broth, green bean casserole, spinach salad with cranberry mustard vinaigrette, mashed potatoes with butter and raw milk, buttermilk biscuits, and cranberry sauce made from scratch. It was a feast made almost entirely of organic and locally produced ingredients; nothing came out of a can or box. We dined with family and friends in the noon hour and it was delicious. This marks the first half of the experiment. We ate well of foods that would have been easily recognizable to a time traveler from the past – all hearty, nothing artificial. I was stuffed, but not bloated; full and satisfied. All seemed to be digesting in good working order over the course of the slow meal with good company. Then a break before dessert…
We had only planned one dessert, a pumpkin banana mouse, but our guests also graced us with a pumpkin pie topped with pecan streusel. Both were served with great excitement and considering Thanksgiving comes but once a year, I had a large piece of each.
Now I don’t get too worked up about desserts. I enjoy the occasional homemade delight but the sweet tooth of my youth deserted me (pun intended) around the time that I changed my diet to include a higher percentage of calories from fats, particularly animal fats, and regular good-quality animal protein (I was a vegetarian prior). What I found, which tends to be the norm in similar changes adopted by my patients, is the increase in proteins and fats offers a welcomed regulating of the metabolism and an overall balancing effect on blood sugar. Ones mood tends to even out, you are no longer hungry between meals, and digestion tends to be fairly uneventful under these conditions.
Given this freedom from sugar cravings, I might enjoy one small piece of very dark chocolate a few times a week. Prior to this sugary Thanksgiving offering, I can’t remember that last time I had one whole dessert, let alone a large pieces of each pie, which was exactly what I proceeded to do. That’s when my metabolism and digestion took a bit of a dive.
To be fair to the desserts, these were well crafted, homemade masterpieces made with the best ingredients available. They were of course, way more sugar than I have encountered in quite some time. They were delicious and I felt great for about an hour, and then I rapidly and inexorably turned into a slug. That’s right, the fairy from candy land swooped down on me with her magic wand and proceeded to turn me into a slug, wallowing away in a sugar coma that I am simply not accustomed to. I spent the better part of the evening on the blood sugar roller coaster, craving another sweet to compensate for each successive crash. I also suffered from a gratuitous amount of methane departing from my back end. At some point when I became clear as to the nature of the problem, I ate a big hunk of cheese and went to bed.
I awoke in the middle of the night and could not immediately get back to sleep, another rare occurrence for me (at least prior to having a newborn). The physiology of such an episode is an extension of the blood sugar roller coaster metaphor. My blood sugar was stabilized prior to bed by virtue of the cheese, but my adrenal glands, still in repair from the sugary onslaught, had a tough time keeping my blood sugar stable. The crash that came in the middle of the night signaled a blood sugar dip low enough that my alarmed body was trying to wake me in hopes that I might eat something to rectify the situation.
What kept me up in the middle of the night, besides the adrenaline spike from the blood sugar crash, was the thought that many people on the standard American diet of processed and refined foods live this way day in and day out. They accept that bloating and gas are normal to digestion or that poor sleep is a given. They are so entrenched in a world of malnourishment of breakfast cereal and orange juice that they fail to see the potential that exists in a couple of fried eggs and slices of bacon.
So this morning, the day after Thanksgiving, I think breakfast will be leftover buttermilk biscuits and breakfast sausage smothered in leftover gravy. Life is good and my adrenals swoon with thanks.