Lactose intolerance causes bloated tummy during middle age

This is a long blog post about my experience and I encourage you to read the whole story if you have desperately tried to lose the fat on your belly as a middle aged male.  To fully understand my case, let us go back to my mid-40s, approximately 5 years ago (I wish I had kept notes on my weight, waist size, etc.), when I noticed that I no longer had the flat tummy of my youth.  It was a minor change and since my wife made fun of my belly, I completely freaked out.  I did not want to end up being yet another middle aged dude with a potbelly.  I doubled up on my workout and radically changed my diet to eliminate almost all fat.  For a 5'8" man, I dropped my weight from about 132 pounds to 120 pounds.  I was at the very low end of my BMI and started wearing 28" pants but the saddest part is that my tummy stayed.  It protruded out as if it was another part of my body.  In retrospect I suspect that being almost underweight and eating a very low fat diet contributed to my low-T.

Mission to raise Testosterone level:  As I have been documenting here, for about 2 years, I thought that my abdomen had fat on it because of the drop in Testosterone, a scientific fact.  I am happy to say that my Testosterone levels are back to above normal and I am in my best health ever.  The problem is that my abdomen still stood out and I wear 30" pants.  All this time, I kept telling myself not to give up and just keep working hard on strength training, martial arts, and healthy diet with minimal alcohol.

How wrong I was about my pot belly?  Well, about 6 months ago, I went to Berlin and Prague on a 10-day vacation.  One thing that I clearly noticed when I returned home was how light I fell and I attributed it to lots of walking as a tourist.  I even told myself that I should walk even more whenever I can.  After that I got so busy and did not get a chance to take a vacation until earlier this month.  This time I went to Los Angeles and Las Vegas and had a rental car, so a lot less walking.  However, I felt exactly the same, very light.  After thinking about it, my wife and I nailed it down to our diets and concluded that I had very little milk.  When I am at home and eat my large bowl of oatmeal at breakfast after a solid workout, I put a lot of whole milk in it and for a while I was even adding scoops of milk whey protein to it.  And because I am mostly a vegetarian, I rely on milk, yogurt and cheeses for my protein intake.  In other words, throughout my whole life, I have consumed a lot of milk without any problem.

So could it be that -- like so many folks who have given up dairy and found health Nirvana -- I had become intolerant to lactose and that was causing bloating and distention of the abdomen?  Well, I decided to find out and gave up all milk and its derivatives.  Within 24 hours, I felt light and my abdomen started to shrink.  In 3 days, I felt I was a different person.  While I used to think of those dairy-free types as a cult, I acquired a new appreciation for their views.  It seems that over the years, as happens with age to a lot of people, I had developed intolerance to lactose, the sugar found in milk.  This was causing gas in my abdomen and giving me the appearance of a tummy when I am still at the very low end of my acceptable weight.  I also learned that extended bloating in abdomen can also lead to water retention, which I noticed on my legs, hands, and even face.  Within a week, my bloating disappeared completely, my body was no longer retaining water, I felt extremely light, and waist shrank by almost 2 inches.  It has been one of the most remarkable experiences of my life healthwise.

Living with Lactose Intolerance:  I am still new to this and I will need to make extra effort to get my protein and calcium, but right now I have switched to home-made almond milk (soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water overnight and next morning add 3 cups of water and blend them in a blender; I do not filter and just add some to my oatmeal -- do not recommend buying packaged almond milk since they have other ingredients and it is so easy to make your own at home).  I also advise against switching to soy milk since soybeans can lower Testosterone.  You may also need to make sure that you get enough vitamin D, calcium and protein. 

Weight training must for eliminating middle aged belly

As I have written on many occasions, I have always enjoyed running. I found that I could run almost anywhere (when I spent a month in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I planned to join a gym, but when we checked into our apartment in Palermo Hollywood, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Argentinians ran on their sidewalks and next day I started doing the same). Considering the extreme weather in New England, I own a treadmill (which I consider to be the best investment I ever made -- a $700 Sears machine has been with me for some 18 years and still runs fine with just one repair) and put it to good use. However, when I noticed my Testosterone levels falling and discovering that a middle aged man must lift weights to raise his Testosterone levels, I have significantly cut back on running and start my workout routine with strength training and conclude it with about 20 minutes of running.

Looks like science is on my side for one more objective of mine: get rid of the middle aged belly. Doctors at the Harvard School of Public Health found that those guys who spent an extra 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal weight than those who spent it on aerobics. Researcher Frank Hu suggests that older men should do both weight training and aerobics to keep their tummies small. I have noticed significant reduction in my waist due to my routine that incorporates both and I am hoping that eventually I will have a totally flat tummy.

Benefits of drinking red wine

I used to be the type who believes that a responsible hardworking man with no bad habits deserves to have a drink at the end of the day, and though, I did not always followed this principle of mine, I did occasionally poured myself a glass of wine at dinner several times a week....until, my low-T problems started and I cut back significantly on alcohol.  As I like to emphasize that since I am making so many changes in my lifestyle to get back to my alpha male status, it is hard to pinpoint my success to lower alcohol consumption, but it is scientifically established that excessive alcohol increases the level of estrogen in both men and women.  Since I still have that boarding school habits, rather than drinking only just a little bit daily, I find it easier to drink only during the weekend, and that too, in smaller amounts.

Now red wine is in a class of its own.  There is overwhelming research that shows that drinking moderate amounts of red wine is good, but men with low-Testosterone have another reason to drink it.  According to scientists at London's Kingston's University, red wine has a chemical called quercetin which blocks an enzyme called UGT2B17 (this enzyme actively looks for testosterone molecules in the body and if it finds them, it tells the kidneys to excrete it).  This is normal functioning of the body during youth and there is nothing to worry, but as we get older, we can try to slow down the action of this enzyme by increasing the levels of quercetin in the body.  This can be accomplished by simply drinking more of red wine (I am not planning to actually increase my consumption of alcohol by resuming drinking on weekdays; I will just choose a glass of wine more often than beer when drinking). 

Other sources of quercetin:  For those of you who are teetotalers or limit your alcohol consumption, there are other food sources that contain this chemical.  These include green/white tea, citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, olive oil, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and bilberries.  In other words, whether you drink alcohol or not or drink only a little, make sure to include these foods in your diet.

Hot and spicy food

A new study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior has concluded that men with high Testosterone, among other things, also prefer spicy food.  Interestingly enough, it is not known why these guys like hot sauces and peppers.  The researchers speculate that it could be a combination of things.  While I was wondering if the converse is true as well -- a man could raise his Testosterone by consuming more spicy foods -- it turns out that may not be the case.  While some chemicals found in hot peppers have health benefits and we should eat some hot chillies from time to time, there is no reason to believe that this will raise the Testosterone levels.  But ladies, if you see a man on your date pouring a lot of Sriracha sauce or asking the waiter for jalapeno peppers, it is safe to assume that he will definitely take you to bed.

New body at 50

As the year is ending, I have been thinking about what I accomplished, and wow, my body is different.  In fact, I say this with embarrassment that I have a body at 50 that I did not even have as a 18-year old.  While pretty much my whole life I have been fairly slim and healthy, this is the first time that I have muscles everywhere.  It actually feels weird to even touch my body.  When I asked a personal trainer friend of mine to make sure that I was not just gaining weight, he showed me how rock solid my body was and that was a sign it was all muscle.  Fat is flabby, he said.

So how did I do it?  Well, since the big aha moment of having low-T, I improved my nutrition since I realized that as a vegetarian who exercised a lot, I was not eating enough protein and fat.  I also included multivitamins, zinc, iron, and desiccated liver in my daily regimen.  More importantly, I started to shift gradually from just running for one hour to doing weights, yoga, and other flexibility and strength training exercises.  I feel very strong and I look the part.  That is because I also have been doing karate for a year now and as you may know, martial arts is not just about self defense, but also you have to be really fit, strong, and flexible to kick and punch.  So my sensei has been helping me as well because each week in three hours of practice, I do a full body workout along with lots of karate kata and kihon.  My tummy is not as flat as I would like but I plan to keep living my new lifestyle and hopefully, all will be well.