Saturday, March 20, 2010

Molecular Biology (Alex- green)

I find myself at times obsessed with pharmacology. At other times obsessed with genetics. I intend on going into one of those fields, or maybe some hybrid field of the two. When something goes wrong with my body, my first reaction is, "did I expose myself to dairy, gluten, or soy?". If not, then "did I do something or eat something abnormal that might cause these symptoms?" If its still in the negative, I ask myself "Am I lacking something in my diet that might cause these symptoms?". If its still negative, I put the issue off, wait to feel better and look for more clues, especially if it happens again.

I've been really challenged by this Lithium thing. I'm having side effects that are not "normal". Lithium does not contain gluten dairy or soy. Changes in my diet or routine do not significantly affect symptoms. But when my symptoms are bad, water has no taste and my blood sugar levels are SUPER wacky.

I had noticed almost 3 years ago that when I'm "deficient" in salt I get sleepy and depressed. This is what precipitated dropping out of college. Later I learned that salt "deficiency" also makes my blood sugar problems get worse. So, I got in the habit of making myself a glass of salt water and drinking it on a regular basis. Albeit, salt seemed to have relatively little impact on my blood sugar compared to other things, so I never really paid attention to it unless I got really stressed out, which apparently led to getting salt "deficient".

Enter in Lithium. I got diagnosed with Bipolar. I started getting the same symptoms that I get when I am stressed. So I eat/drink some extra salt, and I'm fine. But when I started taking higher dosages, the salt didn't cut it. Thats when i realized Lithium is in the same chemical family as sodium. It may be indirectly or directly affecting the sodium channels in my cells that regulate water balance between the inside and outside of the cell membrane. The lithium was causing dehydration which led to headaches and bloating because water was being forced out of the cell. This in turn makes sodium levels lower inside the cell, creating a spiraling catch-22. Now, this is all an assumption, based on my biology classes, so don't quote me on this. but eating and drinking massive amounts of salt helped relieve the headaches and bloating. Problem is that purposely intaking that much salt was difficult to maintain, and I know most people don't need that much salt. It can't be healthy.

About 2 months ago I was having really bad symptoms. Sodium wasn't helping. I noticed, however, I was craving foods that I normally don't like. I realized that all of them have something in common. They are super high in Potassium. A quick search made me realize that potassium is in the same chemical family as lithium and sodium. Potassium is also critical to sodium absorption. So, I did an experiment. I increased my potassium intake and reduced my sodium intake. My symptoms diminished rapidly. Sweet!

I went out and bought a good multi-vitamin and have been taking it everyday. I finally started the Lithium Extended Release 2 days ago and had my dosage upped. I'm taking the symptoms much much better than expected. But I'm still struggling. The vitamins are not cutting it. I'm not interested in consuming half my salt shaker as salt water nor eating seaweed plain, and neither am I interested in eating gratuitous amounts of potatoes and odd foods that don't find as easily a comfortable home in my kitchen since it doesn't serve a veggie loving vegetarian anymore. My liquid trace-ionic minerals just ran out as well. What do I do?

First of all, what the hell is in the liquid trace-ionic minerals that makes me feel better when just plain sodium and potassium doesn't. Certainly, the salt I use and the trace-minerals have both potassium and sodium in them. Potassium is not the most plentiful mineral however. Its magnesium. Whats magnesium?

Magnesium is critical in the absorption of potassium. What foods have magnesium in them? Nearly every food that I don't like (which isn't many) or can't have (gluten, dairy, or soy) has magnesium. The few things that I do like that have magnesium in them I will at times binge on them for days. All of them have relatively low magnesium levels in them compared to the "better" foods, but still have quite a bit. Subsequently, I also found out that magnesium is the most critical mineral someone with Celiac Disease needs to supplement into their diet.

So, now I'm faced with a dilemma. Do I invest in more liquid minerals, do I take my recommended dosage of vitamins (I usually take a half dose) which are super expensive but have 150% the recommended dosage (and my body is still not absorbing 100% again), or do I start eating food that I don't like.

If I have more magnesium in my diet my body I will absorb & use potassium better. If I absorb potassium better I will absorb and use sodium better. If I absorb and use sodium more efficiently I can stave off side effects of my bi-polar medication (lithium) AND stabilize my blood sugar levels. If my blood-sugar levels are stabilized I sleep better, my body also doesn't react as if I'm in starvation mode, and I eat less food ($). If I sleep better and I am not always in fight or flight mode then my bi-polar episodes and mood swings are diminished.

If my body wasn't already craving magnesium in the foods i eat, I would never have discovered this. AMAZING how just one little thing can cause so many problems. Its a chain reaction of events!

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