The following is our podcast transcription of a fantastic interview on the The Real Life Show: Living with a Chronic Illness.
Cassie: Welcome to “The Real Life Show Living with A Chronic Illness.” We are your hosts, it’s Cassie and Chelsea. I’m Cassie, a single mom, living with a chronic illness who is extremely passionate about living a full and happy life.
Chelsea: And I’m Chelsea, a mindset coach that has a passion for helping people learn to put themselves first and be the best version of themselves each and every day.
Cassie: We came together to create Spoonies Unite, an uplifting community that offers resources, guidance, and support so you can live your best life while giving you the space to be yourself, be heard, and feel understood. We hope that by providing education from experts, we help spoonies and their loved ones thrive.
Chelsea: This show is not only for those who live with a chronic illness, but their friends, family, spouses, and just anyone else existing on the Earth. Our goal is to normalizing having a chronic illness by sharing the real stories with real people. And show the world how relatable those everyday struggles can be. There’s a little something in here for everyone.
Cassie: And, of course, thank you to our patrons for your continued support making this possible. If you love our show and want to get some extra goodies, go to patreon.com/therealspooniesunite. Enjoy the show.
Hi, everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of “The Real Life Show Living with A Chronic Illness.” We are so excited to be interviewing Danielle Hamilton today. She is just fantastic, and she is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner that specializes in blood sugar regulation, hormones, and fasting. Dani reverses her own PCOS, insulin resistance, seasonal allergies, chronic sinusitis, cystic acne, and asthma with a holistic lifestyle and individualized real food diet plan.
Dani teaches her followers how to use diet and lifestyle to assist with the prevention and reversal of chronic disease. She is the host of “The Unlock the Sugar Shackles” podcast where she unpacks confusing subjects like blood sugar and hormones in an easy to digest manner, so listeners can start taking action towards achieving their health goals right away. Dani is also the founder of the #SugarFree30 Program which is a five-part holistic program that focuses on balancing blood sugar and reversing insulin resistance which is one of the root causes of PCOS. The program is free to join and information about the program can be found on Dani’s website, daniellehamiltonhealth.com.
Chelsea: Talking to Danielle was so much fun for Cassie and I. She is just really, really good at diving into what is happening in our body at the root level, talking through what’s happening with our blood sugar, what’s happening with our hormones, and how that is manifesting into our life with different symptoms. I know I learned so much about what happens in your body, how blood sugar relates to hormones, and all those effects that it can have. And I know Dani has inspired me to kind of look at my own evening habits a little bit deeper to see how I can make my body just work as optimally as possible. We hope you all enjoy today’s episode.
Hello, everyone and welcome to today’s episode of “The Real Life Show Living with A Chronic Illness.” Today, we have Danielle Hamilton with us. Dani is the expert on blood sugar regulation, and we are so excited to talk to her. Thanks for being here Dani.
Danielle: Hey, thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Chelsea: So, Dani, can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your experience with PCOS and how you’ve gotten to where you are today.
Danielle: Sure. So, like many people, I grew up eating a standard American diet and I ate cereal and all the carbs and all the packaged foods and things labeled with that said kids like Trix yogurt because my mom thought she was giving me the best food, it’s for kids. And, I had really negative health outcomes as a kid. They weren’t super severe, but I just felt like I was always getting sick. I had allergies and asthma. And I had to get my tonsils out. And I was having eczema when I was little, and I had ear infections, I took tons of antibiotics throughout my life. And, I was getting chronic sinus infections, and on all these pharmaceutical medications for my allergies, and my asthma, I was on multiple inhalers. I was getting allergy shots. And I had to get, if you’ve ever gotten allergy shots, they put a certain number of whatever you’re allergic to into one shot. And so, I was up to three shots which is quite a lot meaning I was pretty severely allergic to a lot of things. And then, I had to get two more shots. So, then I was getting five. And then, instead of paying a copay every single time I went to the allergist because it was so much money, I asked them to be able to take the shots home and have a nurse administer it to me because I worked at a nursing facility at the time. And so, the nurse taught me how to administer the shots to myself. So, I was giving myself five allergy shots in the stomach every other day. I mean it was pretty hardcore.
And then, I was having these sinus infections leaving me feeling so, so, so tired and drained that I would literally drop a pen and just break down crying because I just couldn’t take it anymore. My beaker of stress was overflowing, totally. And so, in 2013 I discovered the paleo diet and I was reading the book “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf and I just was eating up all the information and like, “I was, I want to just shout this from the rooftops. I can’t believe we were misinformed so much about what to eat.” And because at that point, I had only been taking my advice from commercials and things like that and the low fat and eat granola bars. And it’s just you feel you’re doing everything right when you’re having whole wheat bread and things like that. But, what I learned was that there are so many of these foods that are in processed foods mostly grains, legumes all the sugar that’s in them, all the chemicals that are in these foods are just so inflammatory to our bodies.
And so, when I removed all those, my allergies went away. I got off all my medications, I had no more asthma, I was cured of everything that I was going through which was so amazing. But, then I started to–my health got really good, but then it started to take a turn for the worse because I started to have a lot of hormonal issues. So, now I’m in my mid-20s and I started to gain weight even though I was eating this “healthy paleo diet” with no refined sugars and no processed foods, and I was eating tons of vegetables and high-quality meats. But, I was just gaining weight. I started to lose my period, I went about six months without getting it. And I was having a lot of cystic acne and I had had acne in my teens, and I thought it was going to go away but it just kind of got worse. And I was like, “This is so unfair.” And I felt like I was someone who was very into health, I was working out at the time, I was doing yoga. I felt like I was doing everything right. And, I felt that my body was rebelling against me. And it feels so devastating to be in a position where you are someone who is trying your absolute hardest and revolving your life around taking the best care of your health, yet your symptoms seem to be getting worse. And I mean, I was listening to podcasts, reading blogs, reading books, I mean, I felt like I was just a sponge for all this information. And I still was just not really getting at the root of the problem, so it wasn’t going away.
So, I went to a gynecologist and I said, “Listen, I can’t lose weight, I’m working out, I don’t know what to do, I think I have PCOS,” which is polycystic ovarian syndrome. So, he said to me, “Yeah, you have PCOS, you have to lose weight and you have to take the birth control pill and there’s no cure.” And I was like, “What?” I mean to go into a visit and feel so vulnerable and feel like I just want to get some help and I was even willing, “Okay, I want to go the pharmaceutical route,” I guess because I was trying everything natural, so I wanted to try something else. So, I was like, “Okay, maybe I just need some intervention.” So, in the past, I had a really bad reaction to birth control pills, and I was like, “No, I can’t take the birth control pill.” He’s said, “Well you have to.” I mean, literally told me I have to. And it’s like, “What kind of informed consent is this?”
So, I walked out of there and I was like, “Forget him,” I forget what he said. I am going to reverse this on my own. So, he gave me so much motivation to do that. So, thank you to that negative experience for all the motivation. And so, I was still struggling for a little while and I did end up taking some pharmaceuticals that did help. So, I took metformin, and I took spironolactone. Metformin helps you not, I believe, it helps you not absorb so much of the sugar that you’re eating. So, again it’s working with your blood sugar. And spironolactone is a pill for hypertension, but it’s also it acts like a water pill, so you lose a lot of bloating weight which I felt like I was holding on to. And it also helps reduce your androgen level which are your male sex hormones. Which in PCOS are often elevated and that was causing my acne. So, these two drugs did help me. But, later on, kind of jumping ahead a little bit, the dietary changes that I made kind of mimicked exactly what these drugs were doing. So, I got off the drugs and was doing whatever they were helping me with my diet and lifestyle.
So, anyway I was listening to a podcast by Megan Ramos and she works with Dr. Fung and he is this fasting guru, and I was listening all about intermittent fasting and finding it so interesting. And Megan said that, “PCOS is the diabetes of the ovaries.” And I was like, “Whoa, whoa.” Because in all of this studying that I’ve done and books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to, I never heard anything about blood sugar. And when I was even reading books, I would just skip over the blood sugar section because I was like, “I don’t have diabetes, I don’t think.” But it’s just, who knows what blood sugar issues feel like. And so, I started to address my blood sugar issues by taking my paleo whole food, essentially like a whole foods diet, and taking the carbs out, therefore making it a ketogenic paleo diet. So, still with the real foods, the natural foods. But then, in getting my body into ketosis to help heal my blood sugar, get my insulin levels down. And, what do you know? My hormones started balancing. And, I also incorporated a lot of intermittent fasting. And so, those two things, the ketogenic diet and the fasting really did the same thing that those hardcore pharmaceutical drugs are doing.
I always say, “If metformin and spiro helped you, then a keto diet and fasting which are much more natural could also really likely help you.” And, that’s something that I wanted a lot of people to know because I know that people those are common prescriptions that women with PCOS take.
So, yeah. So, now I’ve been doing a keto diet on and off. But, low carb diet for about two and a half years and I have no symptoms of PCOS. And, I feel I’m doing amazing. I was able to lose that weight and my skin is good, except, yeah it’s fine now. To get rid of acne, that was something that was really hard for me. It’s hard to wear your issues on top of you. So, yeah. And, going to nutrition school also really helped me be able to learn about root causes and how important getting at the root cause is. And so, when I had been attempting to fix my PCOS and a lot of times I’ll see “PCOS pages” on Instagram where they’re like a PCOS type of guru that’s their specialty, they’re still talking all about these sex hormones. So, your estrogen, your testosterone, the androgens, but no one’s talking about blood sugar. And, blood sugar is a root cause of having dysregulated sex hormones. And so, I could have treated my sex hormones all day and night like taking chaste berry and vitex and all these things. But, nothing’s going to really get at the root quite like fixing your diet to help balance those blood sugar levels. They’re so much easier to change. It’s so much easier to change your blood sugar levels and insulin levels than it is your sex hormones. So, that’s the good news, is that we have so much control over this.
So, yeah, that’s my long story.
Chelsea: That’s amazing. One thing that I thought was really interesting, is that the start of your story was like your mom and yourself like you were picking foods based off of what the media was telling you. That’s one thing I know when I started looking into nutrition a little bit more when I was in school looking at what the foods are that are marketed, specifically to kids, you’re like no kid should be eating that.
Danielle: Oh, my gosh.
Chelsea: But when that’s what you’re being told you don’t know the difference.
Chelsea: So, but yeah I think that was really interesting.
Danielle: Thank you. Yeah. And, I just, I like to point out that everyone is trying their best and we’re all doing, taking the information that we get and we’re trying to work with it. And, even like there’s stories of doctors being like, “When I told my patients to eat less and exercise more and they would come back gaining weight, I thought that they were just cheating, and they weren’t trying hard enough.” And then, you had those doctors who actually tried it themselves and saw that when taking their own advice it was bad advice. And so, we’ve been given all this bad advice. Because my mom still carries all this guilt that she gave me things that weren’t good for me, I’m like, “You didn’t know better.” Just like anyone out there who’s doing the best they can, we’re all just doing the best we can with the information we have.
And so, what I think is so important is to give people access to other things to try. And what works for me might not work for anybody else, but at least we need to know maybe where to start to begin experimenting. Because through experimentation, that’s the only way we’re going to find out really that what works for our bodies. So, that is something that I always recommend.
Chelsea: I love that.
Cassie: I do too that’s a great way to put that. You really do have to try various things to see what works for you. Because yeah, I’ve tried like Whole30 and AIP and various other stuff and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. But I and then I also have lately been talking about that even if you tried something three years ago the body changes and that may not be the case now.
Cassie: That’s important too. That quote of PCOS is the diabetes of the ovaries is like fascinating to me, oh, my god, never heard that either.
Cassie: So, you mentioned a few of your symptoms of the fatigue and difficulty with weight loss, did you have other symptoms with PCOS? Were you having ovarian cysts, pain issues, bursting, et cetera?
Danielle: So, I did get an ultrasound from that gynecologist who did say that there were cysts. To be honest, I feel like I can’t believe him but probably I probably have them. So, yes I have the cysts. But, I didn’t experience pain with them. I did have pretty bad PMS in terms of, it wasn’t so much of cramping pain, but it was more of emotional symptoms, very negative emotions but the week before my period. And then, once my period started to become a little bit more regular. So, my period did become more regular while I still had the other symptoms. So, the other symptoms that I had were the weight loss resistance, and honestly, I was working out and gaining weight. I was, I felt I just couldn’t not even weight loss resistance it was like weight gain uncontrollably. And then, I also had the acne and I also, and I did not have some other common symptoms in PCOS which would be facial hair growth and male pattern baldness. So, those things I luckily did not have, but I did have those other symptoms.
Cassie: See, that’s so interesting and especially saying, it’s like they could have put you on the birth control or all these various hormone things. But with that underlying cause of blood sugar, that’s just like really fascinating because as women, as a whole, our hormones are pretty challenging to deal with at times.
Danielle: They are, totally.
Cassie: I mean especially with like you said, “The quality of our food anymore, the quality of the products that we use, there’s so many things going into our bodies or onto our bodies.” And then stress on top of it and like hormones are affected by all of those things.
Cassie: And so, we do kind of think like, “Okay hormones are an issue, mood swings, fatigue, weight issues, cramping, Fix the hormones only focus on the hormones.” So, to know that blood sugar also has such a big impact on that. So, could you talk a little to–
Danielle: Oh, I just wanted to mention one thing. The reason why blood sugar–so it’s not necessarily the level of sugar in our blood that is affecting our hormones, it’s the resulting insulin that is produced when we have elevated blood sugar levels and insulin is a hormone. So, insulin, high insulin in women, is shown to raise testosterone, so, hello PCOS. And then in men high insulin levels are actually shown to raise estrogen and lower testosterone. So, the opposite. So, a lot of times you see that pattern in men as well who eat a high carbohydrate or high sugar diet.
Chelsea: Oh, that’s fascinating. I know, I’m like mind blown, “What?”
Cassie: That is super interesting.
Chelsea: I think it’s interesting that it affects males and females oppositely. And I know Cassie and I are, we’ve mentioned it so we’re reading this really cool.
Cassie: Okay, I literally was totally about to bring up that book, and if you’re about to bring up that like mind-blowing fact.
Cassie: We are so on.
Chelsea: Saying the same page.
Cassie: So, basically this book is called “The Ladies Handbook to Her Mysterious Illness,” it’s written by Sarah Ramey. She’s also going to be interviewed on this podcast. I have no idea if the episode’s already coming out or if it is about to come out when we have this episode.
Chelsea: I think Danielle’s is before.
Cassie: Okay, cool. But so, we’ve got Sarah Ramey and she has done a ton of research on chronic illnesses and like mysterious illnesses. There this one of the statistics is that like 70% to 80% of chronic illnesses are in women.
Chelsea: So, I heard that statistic and I was like, “What?”
Danielle: Whoa. Yeah my heart just sunk a little bit.
Chelsea: Right. It’s just like, “Why is it such a big difference?” And so, I think kind of looking at that males and females do not have the same physiology, I mean you mentioned, “Just insulin is going to affect the hormones differently. In female, testosterone increases; in males, it’s going to decrease.” I mean I think that just goes to show that our bodies don’t work the exact same–
Chelsea: –that you need to recognize that you’re going to have different reactions to things that are going on.
Cassie: Also about that too, part of some of the theories behind this would and with women like so much being missed with our chronic illnesses, is because just overall women have hysteria. And we just can’t handle it and it’s an emotional problem and we need antidepressants. But also, women were not allowed to be part of medical trials until 1991. So, it’s like–
Cassie: I know.
Danielle: I had chills.
Chelsea: I got so mad when I read that I was like, “You guys are kidding me?”
Cassie: Okay, I like talked to my son about it and I was–
Danielle: Everything’s a lie.
Cassie: Every, I know. And I was like–
Danielle: That’s a lot.
Cassie: Yeah. I talked to my son about it and I was like, “Just so you know, this is why females like why,” because one time he asked me, now I’m going to remember that he’s like, “What is the big deal about the women’s rights movement because women are the boss of everything anyway?” And I was like, “Yeah, son.”
Danielle: He’s so funny.
Cassie: And don’t you forget it.” So, I kind of had to explain to him that I’m a single mom, he’s just seen me as like mom, women and everything.
Cassie: But, I like told him about that and I was like, “Just so you know, medicine wasn’t even like tested on women basically until 1991,” which is insane. And so, even with talking about how the insulin affects us both men and women oppositely.
Cassie: It’s like for checking like medications and hormone supplements and medications and birth controls and all that stuff, all of that is still very recent research. And so, that’s really fascinating to me that it’s such an effect. I’m glad that you mentioned the difference of blood sugar and insulin. Because I think that that’s unless you are researching about it, it’s hard to understand some of the differences and how that works and affects the body. Could you–
Danielle: I have explain it–
Cassie: Yeah, could you explain it. That would be great.
Danielle: Sure, yeah. And this is something that once you kind of learn it and I like it in my mind it’s a very simplified picture because that’s how it stays easy to manage. So, when we eat carbohydrates or sugar, what happens is the amount of our body will digest it and then some of that sugar will go into our bloodstream. Our body at any given time generally has or likes to have approximately a teaspoon of sugar. So, 4 grams of sugar in our bloodstream at any time. And so–
Cassie: It’s not a lot, people, it’s not a lot.
Danielle: Yes. It’s not a lot at all. And so, when the body senses that the blood glucose levels are rising, the pancreas will secrete insulin. Insulin’s job it’s almost like a little key. And so, it takes the glucose and opens up the cells of the body and to store the sugar in there. And so, sometimes it will be used for energy, so it will go into the muscles. That will later be used for energy. It will go, it will store some in the liver as sugar to be used later because we have a lot of, our liver is a storage site for some of it. Any excess will be stored in the body as adipose tissue or body fat. And so, when we have high levels of insulin in our blood, the way I like to think of this is that we are in a fat storage mode. And so, for me, I was having these chronically high levels of insulin and everyone reacts to carbohydrates differently. So, I think this is really important to say here. My mom, for example, can eat a very high carbohydrate diet, the woman doesn’t gain weight, she has good blood sugar. We all process carbs totally differently. But many of us a high number of us and probably you might be one of these people that you’re probably somewhat sensitive to carbohydrates. So, that means where a normal person’s blood sugar might go up a little bit and then their insulin will go up a little bit, and then all those would fall down. Mine tended to go up and then stay elevated.
And so, that chronic elevation of the insulin leads to insulin resistance. All of a sudden, these cells are like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah enough with the insulin.” And they’re not listening to the response of the insulin. And so, you can develop either my pattern was I started to develop what’s called “reactive hypoglycemia.” So, that’s almost like, I ate let’s say, a half of an apple, and my body’s used to getting a ton of glucose at a time. And so, it’s like ready to produce a lot of insulin to help bring that glucose level in my blood down. So, it pumps out a ton of insulin. And then, all of a sudden, my blood sugar levels drop too low. And then, I would start to get the symptoms of hypoglycemia. So, I would start to feel shaky, I could not miss a meal, I would get irritable, I would get intense hunger that “hangry” thing. Hangry is a huge sign. You have blood sugar dysregulation.
So, our society likes to glamorize it. It’s like, “Ahh, #hangry.” It’s like, “Get your blood sugar levels checked.” But that was a big one. I would get anxiety, totally anxiety, when my blood sugar levels were dropping. And then, of course, when the blood sugar levels drop low, your body knows that you need to bring it back up to that happy spot with that, let’s say, one teaspoon. And so, in that zone where this blood sugar is low, I call that the “craving zone.” And so, you will feel hungry and you will probably crave high sugar high carbohydrate foods because your body knows that it needs glucose. So, it’s looking for this glucose. So, what are you going to do? Go have a smoothie or go grab ice cream or have a cookie or a granola bar. It’s that carb cycle. It’s this blood sugar roller coaster that we’re on where the blood sugar spikes and then it crashes and then it spikes and crashes. And that is really, really stressful on the body. The body hates that. It destroys our adrenal glands. And so, a lot of times we see people who have–It used to be called “adrenal fatigue” or HPA Axis Dysfunction or just low levels of adrenal output cortisol. Blood sugar is a huge cause of that. But also, these low adrenal glands can also cause issues with the blood sugar. So, it can kind of go back and forth.
So, it’s pretty complicated and I’m not sure if I explained it 100%, but yeah it kind of helps you understand why overeating carbohydrates, you have that insulin in the blood all the time, you’re in this fat storage mode. And if you’re in fat storage mode, you can’t burn fat. So, that’s where we get a ton of weight loss resistance. If you have weight loss resistance it’s very likely that you have insulin resistance. And fun fact, this also comes with probably leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that regulates, it tells us that we feel full. And so, when you have leptin resistance you never feel full. So, you’re craving, you’re gaining weight and you’re not full, and it’s just, it’s a mess. And you’re tired because your body’s not getting the energy it needs. So, yeah.
Chelsea: That was a great explanation. Oh, so good. Cassie, I’m really glad that you asked her to explain that because I’m familiar with the basic insulin-glucose kind of system. So, I think, Danielle, you taking time to like break that down for our listeners is great. And there was a lot of things that you were saying that I that kind of piked my interest because I sometimes get really hangry. And so, I’ve kind of, I’ve worked with some clients that they need to be lower carb when they eat low carb, they feel really good. If they eat lots of carbs that’s when they start to feel tired and crappy and just not good.
Chelsea: And so, like I’ve kind of experimented a little bit with like low carb versus higher carb. And, I, sometimes just I feel really, really tired if I don’t have enough carbs. But just kind of how you were saying like if you’re feeling hangry, if you’re craving certain foods, like some of those things I was like, “I don’t feel like that all the time, but I definitely do sometimes.” Which makes me think that, maybe I don’t have a big insulin blood sugar issue right now, but that maybe there’s something happening in my system that could lead to a bigger problem. So, you kind of lay out for our listeners and I guess kind of for me, what people should look out for to know like you have a blood sugar issue, get it taken care of right now?
Danielle: Sure. So, I loved so many things. I have so many things in my head right now I’m just going to try to organize. So, let me go to the question that you asked. So, blood sugar dysregulation is actually a spectrum. Of course, it’s not like you have it or you don’t, it’s a spectrum. So, everyone starts with very regulated blood sugar, and then it gets more dysregulated and then the ending point of that is diabetes. So, the other end of the spectrum would be diabetes. So, all along the way we have mild blood sugar dysregulation, then we start to see that hypoglycemia. Then, we can start to see insulin resistance and pre-diabetes and then full-blown diabetes. So, that’s kind of that spectrum. So, what I found was that, and thank you for asking this question because this is the most important thing that I want people to take away from this, is knowing what the signs are of just simple blood sugar dysregulation.
So, the first one would be fluctuating energy levels. If, so that could be like you’re really tired but then you eat a meal and you feel energy, or it could be you eat a meal and then your energy crashes. So, those are two signs, craving any kind of carbs or sugar in any way. And even just if you eat processed carbohydrates your blood sugar is likely already dysregulated. It can start to cause issues with sleep, you can start to feel that hangriness, when a meal is delayed, you might start to feel shaky or irritable, you’d have some mood symptoms. All of these things tend to get worse as the blood sugar dysregulation gets worse as well. We also see all those hormone imbalances, we start to see a lot of mood issues, you could have brain fog is a huge one, memory issues. And like I said PCOS issues with inflammation, issues with your adrenal glands and that need to snack, that inability to kind of go between meals without snacking. That’s another sign your blood sugar is dysregulated. So, these and, of course, the inability to lose weight and not feeling full, that’s what we were talking about before.
But, going back to the snacking thing. So, a lot of people have been told to keep your metabolism up, you need to eat six small meals a day. I strongly disagree with this. I think that some people might need to, that’s not knocking on anything that anyone is doing, of course. But, if you want to try something new that could potentially benefit you, I would definitely try to eliminate the snacking because if you can’t go from one meal to the next without having a snack, it could be a variety of reasons, number one, you didn’t eat enough protein and fat at your meals. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient and then fat acts like this log in a fire. It burns low and slow and keeps our energy levels stable. The carbs, think of them as like the kindling, they burn hot and fast and then they’re out. And so, if you want to try to make it between meals, you’d want to have more fats and proteins at the meals. But the other thing is you mentioned that when you lowered your carbs, you didn’t have a lot of energy. And this is something I wanted to talk about because it’s a great observation.
So, what happens is our bodies have kind of two modes, they can burn glucose for fuel, or they can burn fat for fuel as in the form of free fatty acids and ketones. So, you’ve heard of the keto diet, I just mentioned that. So, all babies are born in ketosis. And if they are breastfed they are still in ketosis. So, it’s a natural state for our body to be able to burn fat and sugar for fuel. And our bodies, ideally, if they’re optimally healthy will be able to kind of bounce back and forth between those. In the presence of sugar, the body will always burn that first and use that for fuel. And then once that runs out, it should be able to easily just switch over to burning ketones. However, most of us, we live in this very carb-centric world, there’s carbs everywhere. If you’ve ever tried to do a lower carb diet you realize that everything you touch it’s like, “This has carbs, this has carbs, oh, my gosh, they’re everywhere.” So, again, this is no fault of anybody’s, but we have just lost this ability to actually burn body fat. And so, with the coupling of the insulin resistance, we have, our bodies have kind of forgotten how to do this. And so, what happens is when someone who lacks the ability to burn fat for fuel, and this was me before I went keto. If you lower the carbohydrates but you’re not in ketosis, you’re essentially just lowering your only energy source. And so, a lot of times people who are on a low carb diet might not feel that great because they have no energy because they’re only working with a tiny bit of glucose.
And so, that is one of the reasons for being able to, for going into a keto diet and getting into a state of ketosis. Because the ultimate goal of that is to get this metabolic flexibility where our metabolisms can run off both glucose and fats for fuel. So, when you’re in ketosis, it’s not something you need to be in forever if this is something that you’re interested in, but like, “Oh hey, I love fruit. I want to eat it sometime again in my life,” like, “Yeah, I do too.” And so, it’s not a you-need-to-only-eat-this-way forever, but it’s a really good therapeutic tool to use to teach your body how to burn that fat and those ketones again for fuel which ketone it’s also extremely anti-inflammatory. Ketones are just inherently anti-inflammatory. It’s a cleaner source of energy for our brains to run on, for our bodies to run on. So, there’s a lot of other benefits too. But then, you can and this is for anyone, you could play with adding back in some carbs, and kind of being able to switch in and out of ketosis is a really awesome tool for your body in terms of its healing. So, that’s just the other thing I wanted to add in.
Cassie: That’s so interesting. I know you’re like such an expert on this. I’m so excited about this interview seriously.
Chelsea: So, a question that I have is my background is an exercise. I know lots about exercise science and how our body works physiologically, nutrition in me, I know the basics. And so, since you are an expert in nutrition, I have always heard that our brain prefers carbohydrates to run off of it. You just mentioned it really likes ketones. So–
Danielle: So glad you brought this up.
Chelsea: Can you talk about that a little bit, because I think that whenever I hear the keto diet kind of come up, I think the thing I hear about the most is, “Well but your brain likes carbohydrates.” So, if you can kind of talk about that I know I would love to learn about it.
Danielle: Yeah, sure I’m ready to debunk that, because I’m so excited you asked that. Thank you. I’ve never been asked this before. So, we have three macronutrients they are, you know them right?
Chelsea: Oh, yeah, proteins, carbs, and fats.
Danielle: Okay, good.
Chelsea: That’s my nutrition knowledge.
Danielle: There you go. Okay. So, we have proteins, carbs, and fats. What is the only non-essential macronutrient? Which one is not essential out of those three? Do you know?
Chelsea: I mean I know we need proteins–
Danielle: You don’t have to be, yes.
Chelsea: –because we need proteins to build our body up.
Chelsea: But trying to pick between like carbs versus fats, which is essential, I don’t know if I could answer that.
Danielle: Yeah. So, the answer is carbohydrates. They are not essential. And why is this? It’s because the body can make glucose out of protein and out of fat. So, your body–
Chelsea: Oh, it’s so true.
Danielle: –your body is not is very smart. Let’s travel back to our days as cavemen and women and think, “Okay, well, here’s an animal, we had to kill it to survive. We’re going to eat all the organs and we’re going to eat all the muscle meats and we’re going to eat this animal and that’s all we have.” Because it’s winter and there’s not one plant in sight. That’s a zero-carbohydrate diet. If our brain needs glucose to function, which it does, it needs to be able to create it. And so, one process of how the body creates glucose from protein would be through a process called “gluconeogenesis.” So, that’s sometimes you’ll hear on a ketogenic diet, you have to keep your proteins kind of low because you can kick yourself out of ketosis that way because the body doesn’t have anywhere to store excess proteins, amino acids. So, it will create, put them in to make them into sugar. But, yeah, so your body does need glucose, your brain needs glucose, but it doesn’t need to consume glucose, because it can make it from the fats and the proteins. And so, that’s why some people are really thriving on like a carnivore diet which is a zero-carb diet. So, it’s pretty wild.
Chelsea: That is fascinating. Because I remember in taking nutrition in college about how you could turn fats into glucose, protein into glucose. And I guess I’d never like put it together like that, that yeah, your body can create glucose from fats and proteins. It doesn’t need you to eat carbohydrates to make glucose. So, thank you for sharing that. That was very, very interesting.
Cassie: Well and it’s really interesting like what goes on when you–so the first time I did Whole30, I did the Whole30 three times. And the first time I did it in that first week because one with the Whole 30 all carbs, well not all carbs, so that’s not said right. Grains are eliminated, sugar is eliminated. So, in that first week, it was like day four, I felt like I was like higher than a kite, I was so dizzy and because of getting all of that my body was burning the stuff that was left in there and there was nothing being put back in. Coming off of the sugar and stuff. And it was so weird I felt I was like on a boat for like a few days. And then after that first week that totally leveled out. And so, it’s so important.
That for me, in that moment, feeling that withdrawal type of like experience and my body changing was definitely like, “Whoa, this has a really big effect.” It’s interesting because, so I did, I’ve done Whole30 three times then I did AIP for two and a half years, which is extremely low carb if any. But then, as you talked about like how everybody’s bodies are different, and then, Chelsea, even you talking about sometimes you feel like you don’t have enough energy. I think it’s really interesting because I did like no grains for I guess probably almost three years total, I think. And now, I’m not gluten-free and I eat a lot of grains. I sometimes feel like weird saying that because of the various diets that I’ve done and research and everything. I have Crohn’s disease.
And so, I’ve talked about this in a previous episode that like when they give you the pamphlet, they tell you to eat like doughnuts because it’s soft easily eat, easily digestible, yeah, it’s like crazy. And they’ll be like, “Guys, it can be nutritious, so that’s vitamin A from the tomato sauce. Oh yeah.” So, I got my diagnosis when I was doing AIP. And then, getting that pamphlet and I was eating like literally vegetables for breakfast, green goddess pureed soup was my breakfast. So, I looked at this pamphlet and I was like, “What the fuck? This is crazy, these people are idiots. What do they know?” like, “I need vegetables, I need whole foods, I need to feed my body.” And so, I completely like, “Just like, ‘no!'” And I didn’t, I had nothing to do with it. After I had a small bowel obstruction in 2017 and I had to go on broth and baby rice cereal for a long time, I then went gluten-free for like a year and just did some gluten-free grains. And then, I don’t even remember why it was. But I think I just my health really wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I had like a multitude of symptoms.
And so, I decided to be like, “Well, maybe I’ll try what the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation say, and I’ll go ahead and eat bread and see what happens.” And, unfortunately, I would say it worked because those grains are like so easy to digest that I can eat bread and I’m like fine. And so, I sort of just want to like share that in the episode because one of the interesting things about it is I have felt a lot of guilt and shame eating a high carb diet because of the various diets I’ve done in research and books that I’ve read and I’m all about whole foods. And I actually grew up eating a very whole food diet. My mom was all about vegetables and fruits. I was fortunate in that way.
Danielle: Wow. Yeah.
Cassie: So, it’s weird to know I feel like be eating a less nutritious diet. But, as of right now where my body is, that’s what my gut can handle the best is this like, “I don’t need a lot of like really processed food, like I’m never going to eat like a Twinkie, I don’t eat fast food,” but I eat a lot of bread.
Cassie: Yeah. So, but the thing that’s also interesting about it is although my body digests that the easiest, I definitely have issues with the fatigue fluctuation, brain fog. And so, Chelsea and I, we have also put out like a brain fog episode I think by the time this one airs. But, it’s interesting because especially hearing about everything that you’re talking about. All of that like makes sense to me where I’m like and there might be listeners out there that you might be eating a lot of bread whether it’s or grains like or carbs. That if you are digesting it easily, but yet you have all the other symptoms, there could be everything that you’ve been talking about going on in the background.
Cassie: That could be a huge contributing factor to why I’m like freaking breaking out all over here right now. And I have–
Chelsea: Are you breaking out underneath your jaw too.
Cassie: Dude, which is like the hormonal area–
Cassie: –is what they say.
Danielle: –that’s where, yeah. And, that’s where I used to break out from sugar. So, I would like to talk about something. So, since I’m also a functional nutritional therapy practitioner. And when we went to school, the biggest mind-blowing thing that I learned about was digestion. And I have a whole episode on digestion in my podcast, but I wanted to just say that, a lot of times I feel that grains are actually quite difficult to digest and of course there’s all this bio-individuality. So, everyone is different. However, a lot of people will say like, “Oh, I just, I can’t digest meat, it’s really hard on my gut.” And a lot of times when people are just kind of lose that taste for meat and they’re like, “Oh, yeah, it kind of just sits in my stomach, it feels like a rock. I feel really heavy after I eat it.” That is a very strong indicator that that person doesn’t have enough stomach acid. And when we don’t have enough stomach acid, what happens is there is a protein-digesting enzyme that we have in our stomachs called “pepsin.” And it is not activated at rest because if it were activated, it would be digesting our organs because we are made of protein. So, it needs to be activated and how it gets activated is a certain level of acidity in the stomach. So, when we eat meat, for example, if we have enough stomach acid it will activate the pepsin and start that that breakdown of the protein. But if not, it’s just going to kind of sit there and putrefy. And then once it gets to the small intestine then you’re going to get, the small intestine is ready for these tiny little particles of food that are nicely broken down. And I mean this, I didn’t even talk about before we get to the stomach being in rest and digest when you eat, it doesn’t sound glamorous. But it’s highly, highly important to activate our parasympathetic calming nervous system. Because when we are in this fight-or-flight state, which a lot of us are, and could be activated even just from the foods that we’re eating if we’re sensitive to them, then our bodies actually shut off digestion. And so, all this stomach acid and digestive enzymes that were supposed to be there are now absent.
And so, being in a calm state and also chewing our food like 30 times per bite it gets tedious, but that’s really important. And then, so, like I said we want all this stomach acid in the stomach and then once it gets to the intestines it should be these like tiny little droplets of nutrients that have been broken apart. And then the cilia, the little hair that line at the inside of the small intestine can absorb all those nutrients. But if it’s getting like a piece of hamburger, it’s going to be like, “Oh, my gosh, what is this?” And so, it’s going to what does the immune system know how to do to protect us it just inflames. And so, this we have this inflammation that of course doesn’t just stay in our intestines because we have a bloodstream. So, the bloodstream carries these inflammatory cytokines or molecules throughout our body and then it can tend to attack certain areas. And that’s where a lot of genetics comes into play.
So, again, we want to think about how can we increase our stomach acid. It’s so, so important. And one of the ways to increase stomach acid is to have a little bit of apple cider vinegar in water in just like a small half glass of water before a meal and then you could tend, if you do that you’ll feel this warming sensation in your stomach and that’s the stomach acid being produced. And, the amazing part of this is that having apple cider vinegar before a meal can actually reduce the glucose spike. And if you go to Glucose Goddess her Instagram, I interviewed her for my podcast. You can see this visual representation of the glucose spike being blunted. And so, that’s really important to help with balancing our hormones and balancing our blood sugar is not having these spikes of blood sugar, but rather just these tiny little increases and then it goes back down to baseline. So, one way to improve your digestion and to improve your blood sugar is to do that little apple cider vinegar trick. So, I thought that was pretty cool to share.
Chelsea: That’s awesome because I’ve heard from I don’t even know how many sources like eat apple cider or drink apple cider vinegar sometime during the day. But I’ve never had that explanation of, “Oh, it’s to help increase your stomach acid or digestion.”
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. And you don’t want to dilute your stomach acid, so you can’t have it in a whole glass of water. And I will say that it’s not the best taste, it’s an acquired taste, and sprinkling a little bit of cinnamon on it can really help. And it is something that like, “Oh, cinnamon can help blood sugar levels.” It doesn’t help it acutely like that, like the apple cider vinegar does, but it will, it can help it over time. But the cinnamon is more just for the taste. It makes it taste more like apple pie instead of the vinegar.
Chelsea: Oh, yum. That’s so cool. Dani can you talk a little bit about the role intermittent fasting can play in glucose regulation, blood sugar regulation, and kind of how that affects your hormones.
Danielle: Sure. So, intermittent fasting or fasting in general is the most effective and fastest way to reduce your insulin levels which is highly important in balancing all these hormones. So, intermittent fasting is extremely helpful for hormone balance in general. It can really help regulate the insulin and leptin levels like we talked about. And it’s allowing the body–So, our bodies are designed to heal. If I cut my hand I don’t have to do anything, my body knows exactly what to do to heal itself. The same thing takes place on the inside of our bodies. So, a lot of times, we think about what can we do, what can we give our body, what can we take. But this is the, it’s a different way of thinking, it’s like, “I’m going to step back and let my body’s innate wisdom do what it knows to do.” And so, in this sense, we’re kind of getting out of the body’s way of being able to heal. So, when we take a break from eating, we get–first of all, we’re giving our digestive system a chance to heal and repair. And our bodies can go through this process called “autophagy” which means self-eating. And so, it goes through autophagy, it cleans up dead cells or little damaged particles. It is very important for our immune function. And in terms of immunity for viruses, it’s recommended that you stay under 24 hours. So, that’s just kind of pertinent for what’s going on right now. But, you want to stay under those like 24 hours or less for the viral immunity. But in general, for some people who are doing anti-cancer stuff, there is a very big role that fasting can play because of this autophagy. It can get rid of, it can identify those cells that are not healthy, and it can get rid of them on their own.
And, one thing that people will say with fasting is like, “Oh, you’re just going to get hungrier and hungry or like I could never, I would be so hungry.” And hunger actually just comes in waves. It comes usually at mealtimes, you might feel hungry, and then it will go away. And that’s great news, you don’t get more and more hungry as time goes on. And actually, it regulates your appetite so well because it’s fixing these hormones that even when you go to eat you want to eat less. And so, it’s a really, really important and beneficial tool. It has been very helpful for me for losing weight. So, the only thing if I eat a ketogenic diet and just eat regularly without fasting, I won’t lose any body fat. But only I see that I’m able to lose body fat only if I do intermittent fasting or fasting of some kind. The good thing about fasting is that it’s so flexible that you can do it one day not do it the next and do it a different way and keep adapting and trying things.
One thing I want to mention with intermittent fasting because we were talking earlier about the women’s hormones and how women are different than men. And so, a lot of studies of intermittent fasting are done on men. And then, you might hear there’s a story where it shouldn’t, women shouldn’t fast at all. I’d want to say that I don’t feel that that’s true. I feel that we have to be more mindful because we can tend to over fast and that could be detrimental to our hormones. So, if you are cycling regularly, the week before your period, you might find that it’s just hard to fast. And the week before our cycles our basal metabolic rate actually increases. So, we need more food in general. So, if you are in this fasting lifestyle, you’ll want to kind of maybe just do a 16-hour intermittent fast or not fast at all during this week before your cycle and that’s totally okay. We need to build hormones. And so, that might even be a good time if you’re doing a ketogenic diet to do a carb up. And so, we can use the carbs as a tool to help us build our hormones, and then we can get back off of them to be more blood sugar friendly. And then, you also would want to not fast about four days after you ovulate if again you’re tracking your cycles and your cycles are somewhat regular. That would be another day that’s important for hormone building. But, other than that, you want to always listen to your body when it comes to fasting. So, if you’re starting to lose your hair, if you’re starting to gain weight, those are all signs that you’re over fasting.
So, for men a lot of times, when it comes to fasting, more can be better but not for women because we’re so special. We’re delicate flowers.
Cassie: That is fantastic information. I do a lot of intermittent fasting. And so, yeah, I’m freaking all about it. That was a huge thing that helped a lot of my Crohn’s symptoms because I truly was able to let the digestive system rest. If I’m in a little bit of a flare or feeling like I’m getting that way, I will go to like a liquid diet which is I don’t even do a lot of smoothies or juices often because like that they will sometimes make me a little bit shaky because sometimes the sugar. And so, I’ll just do like water and herbal tea and stuff. It helps a lot just to give that like full break. Yeah. So, I’m definitely all about it and I totally agree that you think you’re going to be really hungry. Before I did any intermittent fasting for my very first colonoscopy, for example, when you have to fast for 12 hours, then you start drinking the drink, that was hard for me. But then, I just had a colonoscopy two months ago that I fasted for 42 hours and I was like, “Fine.” I was totally fine.
And so, the body does get used to it and I did feel really good, so I totally advocate for it too. But, you’re right you need to listen to your body. There are times like around the period that I’m like, “Screw it,” and I just eat all the things, and–
Danielle: Exactly. Yeah, there’s going to be some days where it just feels–you do it regularly it’s going to feel hard at first. Megan Ramos talks about exercising your fasting muscle. So, as all these things start to regulate it will get easier. But then, that’s the time to listen to your body when it’s just like, “Why can’t I fast today?” It’s like, “That’s your body telling you, ‘Don’t fast.'” And yeah. So, that’s really important, that’s good.
Chelsea: That’s awesome. Well, Dani, you are a wealth of knowledge. I have learned so much talking to you for the past hour. And I know you kind of inspired me to maybe check into the sugar that I’m eating, kind of pay more attention to my body and like, “Okay, well, is there something going on? Are there some changes that I could make to maybe just help myself feel better and better and just be healthier?” So, if our listeners are like me and want to learn more about you and kind of follow what all you’re sharing out there, how can they find you?
Danielle: Sure. So, I have a podcast and it’s called “Unlock the Sugar Shackles” and that’s on Apple podcast, Spotify wherever you find podcasts. And my Instagram handle, I’m very active over on Instagram, it’s Danielle Hamilton Health. And I post helpful infographics and I try to break down these complicated subjects and give you kind of take-home advice that you can start incorporating into your own life or experimenting with. And yeah, that’s where you can find me.
Chelsea: Awesome. This was amazing. I’m so glad that you came on the show. This was such a great conversation. You are so knowledgeable.
Danielle: Thank you so much.
Cassie: Oh, gosh yeah, I’m really looking forward to talking to you further in the future. You could probably do, well you have your podcast. I was going to say, “You could do whole episodes on all these topics.” But clearly, that’s what you’re doing, so that’s great.
Chelsea: Basically, I need to listen to your podcast all the time.
Danielle: Yeah. I have a whole episode on breaking down those complex terms like what insulin resistance is. So, if you were kind of like, “Okay, I kind of got it but I want to learn more.” I have a whole episode on that, I have an episode that is like how sugar affects every single cell in your body, one on keto, one on fasting. And, yeah.
Cassie: So, awesome.
Chelsea: Yay. This is so great.
Danielle: Yeah, thanks for having me on. This is really awesome. I could talk with you girls all day.
Chelsea: Yay. I could talk to you all day.
Danielle: I know that’s how I feel.
Chelsea: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Dani.
Danielle: You’re welcome.
Cassie: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Please write us a review to help us reach more people like you.
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