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Life without grains

Friday, July 01, 2011

I'm almost 30 days into my new low carb way of eating. I'd like to tell you that I've had great results, but that wouldn't be true. I've struggled with constipation and when I tried to treat that, I struggled with water retention. My average weight was definitely down, but only by about a pound. Early on, I had a major energy lull. I was so fatigued that by 3pm I really couldn't function any more. That only lasted a couple of days, until I upped my carbs a little bit.

I've done a LOT of reading and research in the past month. I discovered belatedly that people with autoimmune disorders like MS shouldn't lower their carbs too much too fast. They suggest somewhere between 72 and 108 grams instead of the insanely low 10-20 grams suggested by most of the low carb diet plans. Once adjusted to this level, then it's ok to reduce if needed.

The reasoning behind this - well it seems that elevated levels of insulin eventually damage the brain's ability to use ketones for energy.

"The brain, heart, skeletal muscle, and liver depend on ketone bodies or on glucose for energy and for carbon chains to synthesize cellular proteins. Ketones are the preferred fuel and source of carbon chains. Nervous and muscle tissues preferentially oxidize ketones over fatty acids, glucose, or amino acids under normal conditions. The brains of adults who live on a high-carbohydrate diet lose the ability to synthesize the key enzymes needed to metabolize ketones." (source: Medscape: Disorders of Carbohydrate Metabolism by Tarakad S Ramachandran, MBBS, FRCP(C), FACP, Chief Editor: AmyKao, MD)

It takes a while to reboot the system and get it to start using the ketones for energy again. This damage may be worse (just my opinion now) in persons with neurological disorders. I have damaged areas in my brain. MRIs have shown it. It’s possible that those damaged areas also make it harder for me to properly metabolize ketones and so I suffer from odd sensations, numbness, muscle weakness, etc. --- And low energy when trying to switch from glucose to ketones.


I found a single study done with epilepsy patients who were put on a very low carb diet. These patients had success reducing seizures, plus those who had behavioral issues, acted with more control when carbs were restricted.

Other neurological studies looked at how carbohydrates will link with proteins to mimic certain cell types - like myelin. I didn't find anything that directly blamed carbohydrates for myelin damage, but several of the studies showed that high insulin from diabetes can damage the brain and cause blindness by damaging the nerves to the eyes.

I found a study published in the early 80's that found an 80% likelihood of colon cancer and MS in the same patients. But this same study promotes the ultra low fat diet as therapy, so I can't be sure how much of the data is pure and how much is a result of the belief of the times.

I found one post on Wikipedia suggesting that low carb diets help with autism and a host of other issues.

So, yes, there's a lot of evidence to support stepping away from the bread basket.

For me personally, cutting out the bread allowed me to discover (rather painfully) that I am likely glucose intolerant. I had a high fiber whole wheat wrap the other day with lunch. Within an hour I was feeling ill. In two hours I had to go home early from work. I had a head ache and felt extremely queasy in my stomach. So much so that I couldn't even drink water. I had to lay down with a towel over my eyes until it passed.

After this I found something in the book Life Without Bread that suggests I cut out all grains. This applies to people who have immune disorders, but also to those who have suffered chronic constipation. It seems that these grains irritate the lining of the colon. For some people, it's no big deal, but for some of us, it’s debilitating.

So, no more grains for me. Even the oat bran has a similar (bloat, but not cripple) effect on me. Flax meal has become my new best friend because it’s high in fiber, but doesn't trigger an inflammatory reaction when I eat it.


Hoping the next 30 days are better as I work out how to live low carb.

Next time: Low Carb and Low Sodium? Or does sodium intake matter on a low carb diet? Has any research been done in this realm?
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