Saturday, 17 October 2009

Stone Free

So one of the guys at work was recently convinced to go Low Carb by me. After years of (failed) dieting, he ditched the bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, and upped the veggies, the salads, the meat (and associated fat), and the fruits. He moderated the dairy and restricted the beer.

The weight fell of him - dramatically and rapidly. He found it curious at first - we all do - eating against the common wisdom. How curious that one should be able to eat as much as you want, and yet still lose weight! His personal friends outside of work refused to believe what they were seeing.

One or two weekends he fell off the paleo wagon, but armed with the knowledge that low-carb (LC) works, he could jump back on at will and lose the fat promptly.

Things were going well and a stone was shifted in a matter of a couple of months. And then he collapsed in agony with pains in his abdomen.....and....an ambulance was called such was his agony!

So clearly at our workplace there were a few jokes about this guy suffering because of following my 'crazy diet' with its saturated fat and so forth. But there was a bit more to it than that.

Gall Bladder
Bile is made in the liver and stored in the gall bladder. The bile is used to assist with the digestion of fats. As the name suggests, gallstones are stones which form from a hardening of bile in the gall bladder. Once formed, the stones can become trapped in the ducts that drain the gallbladder en-route to the small intestine.

The stones can cause inflammation wherever they become trapped and lead to a very painful and potentially dangerous condition called gallstone pancreatitis. It was this condition from which my colleague was suffering.

Now if you look at his diet, he had moved from a high carb, low-fat diet to high fat and low carb. Suddenly his gall bladder was having to do some work. Suddenly loading up of fats would have lead to an emptying of the gall bladder - more-so than his body was used to. So indirectly the paleo diet was to blame in as much as it exposed the existence of these stones!

On hearing all this news I sent my mate a link to this article by Dr Eades. I figured that this would make reassuring reading for him rather than following my particular brand of quackery (hey, read my disclaimer, I ain't no doctor!). In turn, my mates advice was that anyone who is going on a LC diet for the first time - particularly those that have been on a low fat diet for some time, might want to get scanned for gallstones first!

Gallstones are a known hazard of living on a low fat diet. So it would appear to be another example of the dangers of moving too far from the 'ecological niche' for which we are adapted. True, it is a broad niche, but some of Ornish's followers seem to be in line for a cruel and painful dose of reality when it comes to arguing exactly what it is we should be putting in to our mouths.

As for my mate, he has elected to have his gall bladder removed due to his concern that the stones might ever reappear. I suggested that he simply get them removed, because as long as he stayed LC, they might not actually come back. But, such was the effect of this agonising episode, there was no convincing him otherwise and he has taken his doctor's advice.

I suppose he will still be able to progress back on to a LC diet, eventually.....

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