Too many Omega-6 fatty acids – my personal experience

Recently I am in a difficult situation in regards to eating my preferred diet that is high in vegetables, nuts and seeds. I am in Japan and do not have access to a kitchen or any of my supplements (wheatgrass powder, spirulina, spices, etc.). And I also have to limit my food choices to what can be eaten without preparation.
The biggest drawback in regards to Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio here is the unavailability of flaxseeds. I have only found a small package of roasted flaxseeds (50g) for an incredible sum of 7€. So flaxseeds are out.

I am therefore consuming the most available nuts, which are Walnuts and Peanuts. Those are relatively affordable but come with a very high omega-6 content. The body has a hard time handling an excess of omega-6 fatty acids. To generate energy from polyunsaturated fatty acids requires additional enzymatic steps to first turn them into saturated fatty acids. Therefore suddenly increasing ones consumption can overload those pathways.

The body tends to use them also in other enzymatic pathways with unfavorable outcomes. One of those pathways leads to arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is naturally found in animal sources of fat. But the body is capable of producing the amount he requires on his own. Arachidonic acid is usually associated with pro-inflammatory reactions. But it is also found in high quantities in the brain.

And this is the part I am interested in right now. With this self-experiment I am forced to conduct at the moment, I want to find out what effect high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids have on my body. And I can judge from the first 3 weeks of eating this way that it generates a mental state that is highly uncomfortable at times.
After consuming a meal high in omega-6 I feel a change in my mood. I get an overall depressed outlook on life, no matter what situation I am in. Notice that those Omega-6 fatty acids come from whole foods. Most of them from raw, soaked walnuts. But also from roasted peanuts. I would say based on other research that looked into oxidation during roasting of whole flaxseeds, which showed no oxidation, that those fatty acids where also not oxidized.
My conclusion from this experience is therefore that it is important to limit the overall quantity of Omega-6 in once diet. This is probably more important than the ratio of Omega-3:Omega-6. High amounts of Omega-6 can not be offset by increasing Omega-3. That is at least my experience.
The reason for that is also that the body can only handle a certain amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids well. Above a certain level the fatty acids might get used in unfavorable enzymatic pathways leading to inflammation. Additionally the polyunsaturated fatty acids themselves are susceptible to oxidation. So they can easily generate free radicals in the body, damaging tissues and consuming up a lot of important anti-oxidants like vitamin e.

So when I have the chance again, I am going to limit my consumption. This means eating more coconut, hazelnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, flaxseed and less walnuts, peanuts, sunflower-seeds.

Eating Meat for the first time after six years (mostly) Vegan

The Experiment:
I am still in Japan due to a business trip and am therefore regularly invited into restaurants. Most of them do not have an english menu and so therefore the other colleagues order for me what they recommend.

I said to myself I will not make my life incredible hard here diet wise and therefore I am experimenting here now with the inclusion of meat and fish back into my diet.

I call it an experiment because it challenges all my believes about healthy eating. I get major digestive issues very quickly when I eat the wrong foods. That then also leads to whole body inflammation showing itself in painful joints and skin outbreaks.

So I had bad feelings about eating meat and fish. I was thinking this would leave me with bad stomach pain and constipation. And would probably lead to indigestion and many other issues.
As I am on a low carb diet, meat and fish fit in there quite nicely, so my body was used to digesting fat and protein.

In Japan it is common to order food and then it is shared between everybody. So no individual dishes. That was good, because I was able to choose the fattiest pieces of fish and meat.

What was the outcome of suddenly eating meat and fish again?
As hard as it is for me to write this blog-post, I have to admit, that I felt surprisingly good. My digestion improved from slightly constipated to perfect, I felt mentally very good after eating animal fat and I had no other side effects.

What is strange about this experiment is that it went along with stopping muscle spasms, which I had for several weeks now. And as I was thinking I was doing every correctly on my vegan diet, I can not imagine the reason for this. Maybe there is something in fish or meat that my body was deficient in. Or I just adapted completely to eating low carb. I can only speculate. But I will keep an eye on this and once I return to eating vegan when I am back in Germany I can judge it, if the symptoms should return.

But this diet experiment right now really challenges all my beliefs about animal products and health. Especially if they are part of a low carb diet, where the body is able to utilize the nutrients and it is not blocked by the action of insulin.
Now that I am thinking about is, eating meat and fish comes very close to the fasted state. With the difference that you are not metabolizing your own body tissues (mostly fat) but that of another animal. And because fasting usually comes with many health benefits, maybe my beliefs about meat and fish are more wrong than I thought.

Once I will be back to eating vegan I am going to observe if I have any cravings for animal products. But there are so many reasons for me not to eat meat that I am most likely only going to implement organic grass fed butter as a source of fat. If I feel that does me good.

Having my beliefs about diet challenged is interesting and can only contribute to a more wholesome picture about healthy nutrition. Many studies that formed my beliefs about meat, were probably not done on people eating a very low carbohydrate diet. So the outcomes might not even be related to the properties of animal products themselves, but to the combination with foods that block the proper utilization of them.

Plant-Based Low Carb - Why It Is Better Than The Meat-Based Alternative

In my experience, eating a low carbohydrate high fat (LCHF) diet comes with many benefits. It lowers insulin levels and increases production of ketone bodies. Low insulin levels are associated with increased longevity and ketone bodies are a great source of energy after the initial adaptation phase. Being adapted to the state of ketosis leaves one feeling energized, clear-headed and after meal tiredness is not a problem anymore.
Factory farm
Cutting down rain-forest to feed animals in factories...

But many low carbohydrate diets are also heavily based on animal products. Cutting out processed or all carbohydrates while increasing animal fats and animal proteins might not be as harmful to the body as both combined. But I consider it still sub-optimal based on the research on health and longevity available today. 

Walnut tree for food
...or growing trees to get our food directly?

Methionine restriction is one intervention that can increase longevity independent of caloric restriction. And this can only be achieved if animal protein is drastically reduces. Almost all plant proteins have a lower methionine-content. And especially the foods that are part of a vegan ketogenic diet are also lower in methionine than animal products. If one aims for a total of 60-80gr of protein a diet derived from a diet of nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and soybeans, one arrives at a total methionine content of 0.8-1.2gr per day while still keeping carbohydrate in the range of 60-80gr. This is an optimally and slightly restricted level of methionine. The same amount of animal protein contains upwards of 2gr of methionine and oftentimes more than 3gr. 

Therefore a vegan or vegetarian (only including high fat dairy products like butter) diet can combine the benefits of eating low carb with the benefits of a plant-based diet.

As the human body is capable of producing all the cholesterol required for optimal health, reducing its intake might lower heart disease risk. I say "might" because strictly animal based diets have shown to produce no arterial plaques. It seems that animal fat and protein only lead to damaged arteries in the presence of carbohydrates (and insulin).

Factory farm of sheeps
Can we be sure that animals in factory farms are not suffering?

The greatest benefits of eating plant-based high-fat compared to animal-based high fat is due to environmental and harm reduction reasons. We already see the devastating effects of more and more people increasing their consumption of animal products. Deforestation, enormous amounts of CO2 and Methane and animal suffering are only the most obvious reasons not to consume animal products. Even pasture fed animal and even wild game are a highly unsustainable source of food. The land required to produce that kind of food makes it immediately clear that eating animal products regularly is extremely harmful to nature and also humanity at large.

Compare this scenario (for which the complete list of bad outcomes would actually provide enough content to fill a book) to the scenario of feeding the world on a high fat vegan diet:
What is required for a high fat vegan diet? I would recommend mainly nuts as the healthiest source of calories. To achieve that we would convert a large portion of our current agricultural landscape. Away from highly unsustainable farming of grains (of which a large portion is wasted to feed livestock) to forests of nut trees, grown in a polycultural way that resembles good habitats for animals of all kind. 

Instead of releasing huge amounts of CO2 and Methane into the atmosphere this way of producing food would filter the air, increase biodiversity, store CO2 in the ground, safely for a long time, and release oxygen into the air. From practices of permaculture, we already know: we would be able to produce a lot more food per acre and with much less effort than we do today. No need for fertilizers and the quality of the surface soil would increase dramatically. Perennial plants (trees) are able to access nutrients from much deeper layers and transport them to the surface. The prices for nuts and seeds would drop drastically and are therefore affordable to a large number of people.

This would require a change in our lifestyle, because these farming methods are not very suitable for mass-production and the use of heavy machinery. More people would need to live closer to nature again and directly work in the sector of food picking and care for the environment.
Maybe this is more of a cultural change that is required and therefore a huge shift in global trends is required. Away from living in large cities, where people live without their own gardens, to a society build around communal living, where everyone can easily derive their food directly from nature.

Even this short presentation of the most obvious outcomes of a permacultural way of growing food in a forest should be enough to convert one from eating animal foods to eating plant foods. Even today, buying nuts and seeds in stores has probably a huge positive environmental effect over eating animals day in and day out. The more nuts that we consume, the more the farmers will plant those trees.

Circumstantial Diet Experiment and the One Meal A Day Diet

I am currently in Japan for a three week business trip. Therefore eating only one meal a day and also eating a high fat low carb diet is close to impossible. I am invited to mutual dinners regularly and have to eat in restaurants that do not provide my preferred food items. Needless to say that Japan is a country of high rice consumption and very low fat consumption. They seem to fear fat more than people in Germany. So the options are very limited. Olive oil for example is only available in plastic bottles (not good).

Only thing that comes close to being high fat and that is plant based are soy products. But you can only eat so much soy before also that becomes unhealthy. So I am currently on a diet experiment, even though unwillingly. But it is interesting nonetheless.
I eat higher carb at the moment and also twice a day. I thought that eating rice and higher carb again would not be so much of a deal. But this is more of a problem than eating twice daily. I now experience again why eating plant based low carb feels so good. Compared to carb meals I do not get so tired afterwards.

I have days here where I have to eat carbs for lunch and the afternoon tiredness is very bad and I also get hungry again pretty soon. My legs feel heavy and even walking around becomes too much of an effort. The only thing I want to do after eating carbs is lie down and take a nap. Whenever possible I now try to avoid the rice and go with veggies and tofu. But that is not always possible. So on a daily basis I can now evaluate the differences in those two approaches (LCHF and HCLF) as I am switching between them regularly.
Outcome: I am always feeling better after a LCHF meal. But sadly enough my energy levels are not as high as they were before when I was consistently eating high fat. So I lost some of that fat adaptation and deeper ketogenic status, because of the regular carb interruption.

Also Japan is a difficult place for eating a plant based high fat low carb diet. Nuts and seeds are either not available or around 4-5times more expensive than in Germany. For example I have not found any flaxseed here so far. And they have been a regular part of my diet in Germany. Only thing that is comparable in price are avocados. And I will incorporate more of them into my diet during the rest of my stay.

With the drop in fiber content my digestion took a hit and stools are harder to pass and are not as regular. On the other hand Shirataki-noodles (from the cognac-root) are widely available in japanese grocery stores. They have almost no calories and provide soluble fiber which seems to keep me full and provides some fermentable food for the microbiome in the large intestine.

Our Mind Is Really Our Biggest Challenge

It cannot be stressed enough how much our mind really distorts reality and therefore causes our suffering. To experience reality as it is, one first must master the filters of the mind. And this process takes time. Serious questioning and deliberate exposure to the fallacies of the mind will reveal one filter after the other. Every illusion needs to be lifted separately.

That is why enlightenment is always a long and hard process. The dropping of all ideas is not a state one can achieve in an instant and remain in such a state permanently. Our minds will always bring up filters and ways in which it distorts reality.

If we want to achieve anything great in the world and in our lives we first must learn how to see reality clearly for what it is and not what remains after we have measured it against all of our past experiences, wishes and projections.

To walk along this path of self-discovery is a very interesting journey. Even though it requires the giving up of what one thinks of as the self. All the ideas that you think construct the core of what you are, will ultimately have to take a backseat and be replaced by a more accurate picture of reality. And this process is what makes it so challenging.

Facilitate mental and spiritual growth by eating one meal a day

I would say I am observing now the second phase of eating only one meal a day.  The first phase was physical adaptation. Hunger outside of the eating window took some time to decrease in that first phase. I feel strong and well now again and am physically able to perform during prolonged fasting.

But the mental adaptation that happens afterwards takes much longer for me. And by mental adaptation I mean the uncoupling of content and pleasure from eating. Whenever I would want to feel better in the past I would eat something. It would usually be something natural and healthy, therefore I never gained too much weight. But it stilled served to distract me from closely observing what caused the slight unhappiness and emotional struggle in the first place.

But with a very small eating window of only 1-2h you are no longer able to cover feelings and craving with food. When you have covered your nutritional and energetic needs the eating of food never comes from a true physiological demand. It is triggered by emotional and environmental factors.

I am eager to see how I adapt to this very strong urges to just snack something whenever I want an emotional pick-up. At the moment I am confronting many of those opportunities with a moment of becoming fully present and observing my inner emotional state. This usually teaches me a lot through direct insight. But at other occasions I still fall short of my ideal and loose that presence and have a snack outside of my one meal. It is a steep learning curve and habits are harder to break than I thought.

I try to push through it and see how my habits have changed in about two month. How will the urges have changed? How much opportunities to learn about myself will I be presented with?