As with many aspects of life, extremes can be a challenge. Balance of nutrients is an important key for vibrant health. There is no question that those who have grown up on a diet high in refined carbohydrates experience tremendous benefits from eliminating them and adopting a diet high in animal fat and moderate amounts of protein, with a wide variety of vegetables and some fruits.
At the other extreme is a diet very low in carbohydrates, often promoted for weight loss and immune disorders. However, problems result for many when complex carbohydrates are avoided long term. The result is often seen in conditions related to low thyroid and adrenal function.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
• Are your hands and feet typically cold?
• Is excess weight creeping up on you?
• Has your average body temperature dropped?
• Is your ability to handle stressful situations not what it used to be?
• Do you have symptoms of osteoarthritis?
• Are you experiencing hearing loss?
• Appearance of xanthomas (lipid deposits under the skin)?
• Eyelids dropping?
• Sluggish reflexes?
• Low libido?
• Challenged by infertility?
A SHIFT IN METABOLISM
The best explanation for the appearance of these symptoms is that as we age—we begin aging around age twenty-one—we shift from being fast oxidizers to slow oxidizers. In a nutshell this means that our ability to burn fuel slows down a bit and requires a little prodding. The result is a shift toward hypothyroidism, although often it is only sub-clinical, meaning thyroid hormone levels appear to be “normal.” Nonetheless, the symptoms are ever present.
The body’s metabolism is like a fireplace fueled by three critical components: fat, protein and carbohydrates. Fat, which provides longer burning, sustaining energy, is the body’s preferred fuel. Protein is secondary and carbohydrates come next—carbs are critical for creating quick energy. Fat represents the large logs in the fireplace; protein represents the smaller logs; and carbohydrates can be seen as the twigs and kindling. When we are young and healthy, we have so much vitality that we easily function on a very high-fat diet, effortlessly breaking down and efficiently utilizing fats such as butter, cream, egg yolks, animal fats and fatty meats.
This is due to being in a state of fast oxidation. As the aging process takes place and we find ourselves under more environmental stress, we shift into slow oxidation. Being in a state of slow oxidation requires more glucose to stoke the metabolic fire. It is for this reason most people after childhood (and even older children) require greater amounts of complex carbohydrates.1
NOT TOO SLOW BUT NOT TOO FAST
As a person grows older, his or her oxidation rate typically begins to slow down. These days it is rare for even young adults to be fast oxidizers. Factors that slow oxidation rate include aging, nutritional deficiencies and overconsumption of refined carbohydrates. Additional causes of slow oxidation are toxic metal accumulation, lack of regular sleep, exposure to medications and vaccines, chronic emotional and mental stress, as well as inadequate exercise or excessive exercise. Stimulants such as caffeine, loud music, EMFs (electromagnetic fields) and stimulatory drugs also propel the body toward slow oxidation prematurely by straining adrenal function.
It is possible to be in a healthy state of slow oxidation just as one can be in an unhealthy state of fast oxidization. The goal is always to be in a balanced state of oxidation and overall health. One’s oxidative level is easily assessed using hair analysis. Slow oxidation is defined via a hair mineral analysis as a calcium/potassium ratio greater than 4 and a sodium/magnesium ratio less than 4.17. The higher the calcium-potassium ratio or the lower the sodium-magnesium ratio, the slower the oxidation rate.
Indications that one is in an unhealthy slow oxidation state include sluggish adrenal and thyroid activity, constipation, gut dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome, depression, difficulty digesting fats and vertigo, while those in a less-than-optimal state of fast oxidation often experience high blood pressure, a tendency to have diarrhea, anxiety and excessive perspiration. A slow oxidizer has decreased activity of the thyroid and adrenal glands. The hormone levels of these endocrine glands may be indicated by low levels on blood or salivary tests but it is not unusual to see ratios in hair analysis decline months to years before measurable declining levels are detectable via blood or saliva.
The adrenal and thyroid glands are typically depleted of nutrients, especially minerals, due to prolonged states of stress. Chronic stress can leave a person’s sympathetic nervous system in what Hans Selye, MD, described as the exhaustion stage of stress. The sympathetic nervous system is what allows us to enter a state of “fight or flight.” Unfortunately, due to hectic lifestyles, unresolved emotional conflicts, unrealistic paces of living, environmental toxic exposures (chemicals, pesticides, glyphosate, vaccines, toxic metals, toxic personal care products, etc.) and nutritional deficiencies, many individuals live in a state of sympathetic dominance of the autonomic nervous system, rather than parasympathetic dominance, and the average person living in this modern world enters Dr. Selye’s exhaustion stage early in life.
Using hair analysis, in addition to assessing one’s oxidation rate, we can see patterns of low or high thyroid and adrenal function at the cellular level. Thyroid activity is assessed using the calcium-to-potassium ratio, with 6.67 being ideal. Adrenal status is determined by sodium to magnesium (4.17 is the ideal ratio) and sodium to potassium (2.5 is perfect). Once these levels are understood, along with oxidation rate, a food plan and nutritional protocol can be created. Thankfully, we have access to a wide range of unrefined carbohydrates that can be prepared in a manner that is easily digestible and beneficial to humans.
While low-carbohydrate diets may be useful initially to balance blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance, as well as promote weight loss, prolonged avoidance of complex carbohydrates can push one to a state of extreme slow oxidation, adversely affecting thyroid and adrenal functions even further, and may interfere with the production of hormones, especially progesterone and thyroid hormones. Initially many people on a low-carb diet experience weight loss after eliminating refined carbohydrates but soon find that their metabolism declines, leading to more challenges with weight management, lethargy and decreased energy.
In my own practice, my colleagues and I see many young women struggling with infertility after going on a prolonged diet very low in carbohydrates. Central to most cases of infertility is clinically or sub-clinically low thyroid function. Research indicates that a low-carb diet can cause free T3 thyroid hormone to decrease and reverse T3 thyroid hormone to increase, blocking biologically active thyroid hormones.2,3 The result is lower levels of free T3, which results in lower metabolism. Symptoms occur such as fatigue, cold extremities, constipation, depression and many of those mentioned previously.
In an effort to compensate for low thyroid hormone levels, your body will increase its production of stress-handling hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Initially, you’ll feel fantastic. And then comes the depletion of these hormones, followed by a metabolic crash.
DON’T FORGET YOUR LIVER
A main role of the liver is storage of sugar in the form of glycogen. Glycogen provides quick energy when needed. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels between meals. In order for the liver to have adequate stores of glycogen, carbohydrates must be consumed on a regular basis. This is especially important for those under stress. One of the consequences of a long-term low-carb diet is that the liver suffers from a lack of glucose, diminishing its ability to regulate blood sugar.
As a result of poor blood sugar regulation, the body produces more stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones break down muscle to create more glucose for brain function. Additionally, cortisol interferes with the liver’s ability to convert free T4 to free T3, thus compounding this already existing problem. As stress hormones rise, they create reverse T3, which further drives thyroid hormones low. The end result is a vicious cycle that ends in fatigue, weight gain, low sex hormones, disrupted sleep patterns, premature aging and physical degeneration.
One last point about the liver: the liver not only plays a key role in blood sugar regulation but it also is responsible for detoxification of excess estrogen, which is suppressive to the thyroid hormones. In order to detoxify excess estrogen effectively, the liver needs glucuronic acid. Glucuronic acid is formed from glycogen. This gives one more reason to have carbohydrates in the diet. Estrogen is metabolized ideally by the liver via the 2-hydroxy estrone pathway and eliminated through the colon. When this pathway is overloaded or damaged, the liver will use two other pathways via bile to eliminate estrogen. When estrogen passes in this way through the colon, it is likely to be re-absorbed. For this reason, Raymond Peat, PhD, recommends eating one to two grated raw carrots daily. Raw carrots have been found to absorb estrogen efficiently.4
Remember, chronic stress leads to constant production of the stress-handling hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. This disrupts the production of the calming hormone progesterone and interferes with the production of thyroid hormones, particularly free T3, and the clearance of estrogen, setting the stage for estrogen dominance and increasing the risk for developing autoimmune Hashimoto’s, just one more reason for including healthy, properly-prepared unrefined carbohydrates in the diet.
STOKE YOUR METABOLIC FIRE
The first step in reversing the vicious cycle brought on by a diet too low in carbohydrates is to add a little kindling to your metabolic fire. This is best done by introducing properly prepared complex carbohydrates with each meal. This includes root vegetables, winter squashes, soaked legumes and grains. Those who are truly gluten-intolerant should stick with brown rice and quinoa.
Begin with one-fourth to one-half cup of complex carbohydrates with each meal. Always include a generous serving of animal fat or coconut oil with the carbohydrates. Coconut oil is especially beneficial to the thyroid gland. Pay special attention to grain and legume preparation. In addition to speeding up one’s slow oxidation rate, grains offer the benefits of many valuable nutrients, provided grains are prepared in a manner that makes those nutrients available for absorption.
Traditionally grains were consumed whole and after soaking or fermentation. Modern science has been able to discover the importance of this ancient practice. All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound). Unreleased phytic acid binds to certain minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc preventing their absorption in the intestinal tract. Over time this can lead to conditions such as irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes, and eventually much more serious disorders. Soaking allows enzymes and probiotic organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. Soaking also neutralizes digestion-blocking enzyme inhibitors, breaks down irritating lectins and helps digest difficult-to-digest complex starches.
It is important that soaking occur in warm acidulated water. This can be accomplished through the use of real yogurt, homemade whey, lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar. Likewise, legumes like beans and lentils require careful preparation.
DON’T FORGET THE BUTTER
Butter and ghee (clarified butter) contain high concentrations of butyric acid. Butyric acid in butter is known to increase the number of thyroid hormone receptors on cells, allowing for delivery and utilization of more thyroid hormones.5 Include one or two teaspoons of butter or ghee or more at each meal, and especially at breakfast. Butyric acid will help deliver thyroid hormones to every receptor site throughout the body, including the brain. The addition of daily coconut oil is highly recommended.
VITAMIN A’S ROLE
The liver and thyroid gland need vitamin A in order to convert cholesterol into the anabolic (anti-aging) hormones pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA. Vitamin A is found only in animal fats, including raw cream, butter, liver and egg yolks, as well as unrefined fish liver oils. Daily inclusion of these fats is imperative to recover from the ill effects of a diet too low in carbohydrates. In my practice we use Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil to address hormonal challenges.
FRESH ORANGE JUICE
I do not typically recommend fruit juices; however, the use of fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning is advocated by Raymond Peat for those recovering from hypothyroidism and has proven to be very reparative for those recovering from low thyroid and adrenal function. Orange juice, an excellent source of magnesium, supports the liver’s ability to convert free T4 to the biologically active form, free T3. Orange juice should be fresh squeezed and organic, as commercial oranges are subjected to high levels of pesticides, many of which are endocrine disruptors.
CELTIC SEA SALT
As fatigue from prolonged stress sets in, cell function decreases tremendously. Nutrient depletion robs the body of precious electrolytes.6 The use of Celtic sea salt supports low thyroid, adrenals and progesterone while helping increase metabolic rate. Celtic sea salt should be used at each meal. In addition, add one-fourth teaspoon Celtic sea salt to one pint spring or purified water and consume two to three times daily.
CARBOHYDRATES: HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
One benefit of hair analysis is that the mineral ratios allow for a clearer understanding of a person’s ideal amount of carbohydrates. Without the use of hair analysis, we must keep in mind that we are all metabolically unique. Also, portion sizes will vary depending upon one’s size and activity level.
A typical plate will look like this: one portion animal protein (meat, seafood, poultry, always with the fat or skin); one or two portions of non-starchy vegetables; one portion of a starchy vegetable (grains, legumes, tubers or roots); and at least one tablespoon of healthy fats in the form of butter or other fat on the vegetables, or a sauce containing butter, egg yolks or cream. Observe energy level, sleep, elimination, body temperature, mental outlook and adaptability to stress. Then make dietary adjustments accordingly.
Graphing one’s temperature daily is an easy way to understand one’s metabolic status. By charting or graphing one’s temperature along with a food diary, it is much easier to notice the metabolic effects your diet is having. To learn more about temperature graphing, visit my website at biodynamicwellness.com.
Carbohydrates offer excellent sources for minerals and energy, fuel for the brain and support for the liver’s important task of blood sugar regulation and estrogen detoxification. Carbohydrates are indeed beneficial when they are carefully grown, properly prepared and accompanied by adequate protein and a variety of other nutrient-dense foods high in vitamins A, D, K2 and a wide range of minerals—all in accordance with the principles established by Weston A. Price.
PROPER PREPARATION OF GRAINS
Soak 1 cup grain in 2-3 cups warm filtered water plus 2 tablespoons yogurt, whey, fresh lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar for seven to twenty-four hours. For whole grains, prior to cooking drain water and proceed to cook per recipe. For rolled or cut grains (such as rolled or steel cut oats), you don’t need to pour off the water as it will be completely absorbed. Rice and millet are the lowest in phytic acid and therefore their soaking times are lowest. However, millet is suppressive to the thyroid and not recommended for those with signs of hypothyroidism. Cooking in bone broth will also help neutralize the mineral-binding effects of phytic acid. Quinoa contains saponins, which can be extremely irritating to the gut, so be sure to rinse quinoa at least once during its twenty-four-hour soaking time. Unsoaked grains in the form of commercial breads, pastries, granola and dry cereal are never recommended. True sourdough breads are a nice alternative to homemade bread. Gruels and porridges made from properly soaked grains provide a healthy replacement for boxed dry cereals. Don’t forget the butter!
Rice and millet: 7 hours minimum Quinoa: 24 hours minimum and rinse at least once All other grains: 12-24 hours
NEUTRALIZER AND WATER AMOUNT:
For most grains, use a 1:2 ratio grain:water and 2 tablespoons acidulator. For quinoa, use a ratio of 1:3 and 1 tablespoon acidulator
Whole (intact) grains: 45 to 60 minutes Rolled grains: about 20 minutes Cracked or steel cut grains: about 30 minutes
PREPARATION OF LEGUMES
Legumes such as lentils and beans, are a rich source of minerals; they should be soaked for seven to twenty-four hours, changing the water every seven hours. Soak in a neutralizer (also known as a “deactivator”) such as homemade whey, lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar or baking soda.
Lentils and garbanzos: Use whey, raw apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. Add 2 tablespoons of neutralizer to one cup of lentils or garbanzos. Kidney-shaped beans (kidney beans, pintos, Anasazi, navy, white, black bean): Use baking soda; a pinch of baking soda for one cup of kidney-shaped beans.
1. Do not use cold water for soaking legumes. Bring purified water to a simmer so that you begin with room temperature or slightly warm water.
2. Rinse legumes in a colander every seven hours and at least one to three times during the soaking process when soaking more than seven hours. Each time you rinse, add newly simmered water and another dose of the neutralizer.
3. The longer you soak your legumes, the shorter your cooking time.
4. Avoid using a pressure cooker. The extremely high temperature and pressure will denature the protein and can destroy other nutrients in the legumes.
5. Be sure to skim and discard the scum that may appear after beans are first brought to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer. Do not boil beans. This will cause them to become tougher and more difficult to digest. A slow cooker is perfect for cooking beans at a simmer.
6. Do not add salt to the cooking water as it will toughen the beans.
7. A strip or two of kombu seaweed can be added to the cooking water, especially for kidney-shaped beans; this will help break down the oligosaccharides, minimizing gastric distress. Kombu also adds minerals to your legumes.
Lentils: soak for 7 hours or more Kidney-shaped beans: 18-24 hours Garbanzos: 24-48 hours
All legumes should be cooked until very soft Lentils: cook 45-60 minutes Kidney-shaped beans: cook at least 4 hours or until very soft Garbanzos (also known as chickpeas): cook 4-6 hours or until very soft
REFERENCES 1. Lawrence Wilson, M.D.; Nutritional Balancing and Hair Analysis. Prescott: The Center for Development, Inc., 2010; pgs. 119-134.
2. Fery F, Bourdoux P, Christophe J, Balasse EO. Hormonal and metabolic changes induced by an isocaloric isoproteinic ketogenic diet in healthy subjects. Diabete Metab. 1982 Dec;8(4):299-305. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6761185
3. Hendler, RG, Walesky M, Sherwin, RS. Sucrose substitution in prevention and reversal of the fall in metabolic rate accompanying hypocaloric diets. Am J Med. 1986 Aug;81(2):280-4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3740086
4. Peat, Raymond. Natural Estrogens. raypeat.com/articles/articles/natural-estrogens.shtml
5. Nishii, Y. “n-Butyrate enhances induction of thyroid hormone-responsive nuclear proteins.” Endocrine Journal. 1993 Oct;40(5):515-21.
6. Wilson, ND, James. Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma. Smart Publications. 2001; p. 291.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2016🖨️ Print post
Great article. I have herd so much about the low carb diet and do not feel it is all cracked up to be what some say it is. This gives some insight into just that.
You have an agenda and would do well toward honestly by stating it. You seem to direct most of your non-peered reviewed “facts’ at a women’s-fear factor. When in fact no truth has been presented.
At what rate (grams) of carbohydrates in a daily diet do your alleged conditions present? How long must a person practice this low-level carb diet for your scary scenarios to present?
Facts remain that low and even extreme low carbohydrate diets are beneficial to the individual in practice. In addition, since you provide no parameters on the low levels of carbs you purport cause endocrine (biological/physiological) metabolic imbalances, one cannot make informed decisions on low carb nor your own diet plans. Disclosure, if any, would be helpful…altruistic?
In all things, not all conditions apply and not all persons will present with your stated conditions.
I am a male that has practiced extreme low carb lifestyle on several occasions. I feel every bit as well and better than when consuming mega caloric or even a “balanced diet” plan. My mother and wife have both benefitted by employing low carb lifestyles as well. Let’s keep in mind that NO diet/lifestyle must be engaged at all times. One (myself included) can as well point out how low carb and in general low caloric diets provide healthy results to the persons that employ them.
Nice try but one-sided agendas will never be the whole truth.
Tip: Increases in physical activity (increase in calories-eat more meat and cheese and vegetables) will provide an increase in metabolism. Imagine that.
I am not suggesting a high carb diet but that for many people, an extremely low carb diet over several years can be detrimental. A strict low carb diet is not ideal for everyone. Obviously an 800-calorie diet, as cited by medical researchers, is not sustainable regardless of its composition. Unfortunately, longer term clinical studies have not yet been done; however, we have many doctors and health practitioners who have confirmed hypothyroidism resulting in those on a long term low carbohydrate diet.
While there is no place in a healthy diet for refined carbohydrates, keep in mind that the primary concern about a low carbohydrate diet is that carbohydrates directly affect thyroid function. Glucose and insulin are necessary for conversion of the inactive T4 hormone into the biologically active T3 hormone. Without adequate carbohydrates in the diet, glucose and insulin are typically quite low. Low T3 leads to a form of hypothyroidism that often goes undiagnosed as many physicians fail to look at free T3 levels in their patients.
Cate Shanahan, M.D. describes what she calls “hibernation syndrome.” Hibernation syndrome occurs for many people after switching to a low to very low carbohydrate diet. Its notable effects include weight gain, insomnia as well as a need for more sleep and cold extremities. The biochemical marker for hibernation syndrome is abnormally high level of reverse T3. Increasing carbohydrates will typically cause the level of reverse T3 to return to normal.
The result is Non-Thyroidal Illness Syndrome (NTIS), also known as Euthyroid Illness Syndrome. Some practitioners appropriately call it “Low T3 Syndrome.” In NTIS, the person has normal levels of free T4 with low free T3. Conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver and other organs is impaired.
Glucose is necessary for the conversion of T4 to T3 in the liver. Without adequate glucose, the liver struggles to make enough T3, which is the form of thyroid hormone critical for healthy thyroid function. Without sufficient T3, hypothyroidism results. I, along with many other health practitioners, have seen countless women lose weight once carbohydrates are added back into their diets. The reason is that carbohydrates support the body in producing T3, the biologically active thyroid hormone, which speeds up metabolism.
Very well written article. I had my HTMA analysis completed by another practitioner and my CA/K ratio is at 65.5 rather than the ideal 4.2 and my Na/K is 4.0. And yes, I had maintained a low carb/no carb lifestyle for about 8 years in the hopes to help my fatigue and Fibromyalgia symptoms. All that to say not one type of diet is ever a one size fits all. The body is complex and it requires a lot of care and attention when looking at food diets and supplementation. In my opinion, it’s best to figure these things out with the help of a practitioner.
I am on LCHF for a long time now. I do NOT agree with everything you said. (Some generalized health info was OK. Nothing new. I am 61. Very healthy. Fit . Nothing crashed. My metabolism is great and I say LCHF is the way to go. For 20 years I did LCLF and THAT interfered with my metabolism and general well – being even though I was still healthy. Sorry, I cannot agree with you. Under 20g net carbs per day. Moderate protein and plenty good fats!
I think she knows EXACTLY what she is talking about.. I tried a IF/LOW CARB diet for 4 months.. After diligently working on my OVERACTIVE adrenals they had returned to normal prior to the new diet I embarked on.. After 4 months I have found myself in Adrenal Insufficiency with 50% energy loss or more.. I gained 4 pounds of body fat also and My thyroid and coincidentally my glucose sensitivity got worse.. I know these things because I just got my hair test back via HTMA and I had submitted hair sample at the tail end of Low Carb diet. And I was exhausted the whole time, I had no drive, no motivation to go anywhere, to do anything..My work life and personal life suffered greatly. So now back to the drawing board..
I am recovering from low carb with adrenal, cortisol, thyroid and blood sugar issues also. Wondering what you have found to help you?
Thank you for an article that is applicable to practice.
Brooks Butler MD says
I agree with this commentor. This article lacks any serious sciecnce and seems to be based on personal opinion and feelings. When hair chemical analysis is mentionened, watch out.
Much of this information is based upon work by Cate Shanahan, MD and other physicians working closely with hypothyroidism, along with patterns observed in my nutrition practice over the past 16 years. Personally, I do well on a relatively low carb diet but I have many hypothyroid clients and those with low adrenal function that find their vitality improves, cortisol and thyroid hormones normalize when they increase their consumption of unrefined properly prepared complex carbohydrates.
This article is bizarre. I am a woman who has been on a strict ketogenic diet for over a year now, and I have not experienced ANY of the adverse conditions listed above. And there are also statements that are outright wrong, such as, “One of the consequences of a long-term low-carb diet is that the liver suffers from a lack of glucose, diminishing its ability to regulate blood sugar.”
First of all, blood glucose is regulated by insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. Carbohydrates actually cause insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes and a host of other metabolic diseases (I went ketogenic because my genetic background is extremely carbohydrate intolerant). Secondly, the liver can make all the glucose the body needs via gluconeogenesis!
The required amount of exogenous carbohydrates needed by the human body is exactly ZERO. That’s why cultures around the world which eat little or no carbs at all (such as the traditional Inuits… they don’t have a problem with the cold, do they?) are able to thrive.
I’m shocked that the Weston Price Foundation would publish such drivel. Weston is probably rolling in his grave, he visited cultures that ate no carbs and found them thriving.
Christina, as I have mentioned in a comment above, no one diet fits all. And I do believe that the ketogenic diet is appropriate for many people. It is always my recommendation when clients are challenged by cancer, seizures, insulin resistance, and diabetes. I personally do fine with a relatively low carb diet but many who are hypothyroid (and especially those with consistently low cortisol levels) find their health improves when they increase the amount of properly prepared unrefined complex carbohydrates in their diets, such as what Dr. Price found in the diets of the Swiss people of the Loetscchental Valley.
A year on low carb is not long enough to feel the long term negative effects and damage it causes.
Of course everyone always talks about how amazing they feel on their low carb diet, because your body is producing so much cortisol that you’re in a prolonged high. Eventually this will wear your adrenals down and you will crash and you will burn.
Take this from personal experience. I practiced low carb for almost 5 years, felt amazing and bragged about how amazing I felt like every other low-carber does, and now years later I’m still trying to recover from the damage as that awesome feeling suddenly turned into constant exhaustion, pitiful immunity, chronic constipation and bowl disorder.
Can’t even go for a walk anymore without the fatigue cutting it short. My mother who is in her late 60s now has more energy than me. Best to turn around now before you are stuck in my position trying to get yourself back in order.
Or don’t listen to me, *shrug* no one ever does lol.
Thank you for the comments. It’s nice to hear from educated people with another side of the picture. I’ve been on a low-carbohydrate diet for 3 weeks and the weight I’ve been trying to lose, through many different diets, was just hanging on. Now I’ve lost 17 pounds by severely limiting my grain and dairy carbohydrates. I’m absolutely unharmed by this choice.
So glad to hear this, Nyla. And certainly I would agree that many people benefit by reducing or lowering certain carbs. This article was not intended to be a dictate that all people need to eat more carbohydrates. Some do. Some don’t. And congrats to you for your recent weight loss!
Robert Gardner says
What has happened to WAP since Mary died?
All I read is how bad carbs are. I am an 83 old man who has been on a low carb diet for 20 years. The benefit besides lower weight is my increased energy. I play golf 3 or 4 times a week and beat my younger friends.
It seems you have lost your way and regressed into the politically correct unscientific dogma.
In no way am I encouraging the consumption of refined carbohydrates but rather pointing out that some people due to metabolic conditions, especially hypothyroidism, benefit from increasing their intake of unrefined complex, properly prepared complex carbohydrates, such as what Dr. Price observed in the diets of the Swiss people of the Loetscchental Valley.
Keep up your golf game, avoid refined carbohydrates and live well!
To all the critics in the comment section, yes, some people can preform very well in a low carb diet. However others need more carbs then 30 grams in a single day. Talk to any respectable reputable naturopath and they will tell you it’s not a one size fits all equation. A ketogenic diet can literally wreck some people’s thyroid function. The keto crowd is becoming almost as pretentious as the vegan crowd and I’m sick of hearing it. I use to eat around 60 carbs a day and did fine for about 5 weeks until my adrenals crashed, The majority of humans thrive in the 150-200 gram range with carbs. I personally do not like to eat grains, I eat more paleo friendly carbs like fruits, nuts, and root vegetables. I do eat some sprouted legumes and sprouted corn tortillas on occasion though. So anyone suffering from hypothyroid like symptoms one of the first things they should check is their carb intake. Too little carbs and too little fat will both suppress thyroid.
Thank you, Barry. This is my point. Not every diet fits all. We need to be flexible and recognize the signs our bodies give us to change up the mix a bit. And always include good fats with the unrefined properly prepared complex carbs, as you said. 🙂
Keep doing wonderful things Kim; if it wasn’t a little divisive – it would probably be time to question your message. LCHF burned me up over the course of 5 years or so. I am half the athlete I was, and it remains to be seen whether I can reproduce. I think I can dodge this particular bullet, since I am young, but I can’t believe the hold this had on me for so long, in the face of what obviously took place.
I basically turned into a “coffee-faster,” as I continually chased the purported incredible benefits.
It is hilarious, in retrospect. As you say, not every diet fits all.
I also became a coffee faster, and eliminated my trusty oats. Over the last several years I have suffered a gradual decline in virtually every vitality marker, and my gut sensitivities have outpaced my dietary restrictions. Finally, I found myself listening to advice to basically eat ghee and salt because butter might cause a histamine reaction. When you reach this level of restriction and lethargy, it might be time to question things.
Kim, After eating a low carb diet for one year with great success, absolutely everything you described happened to me, plus autoimmune antibodies. That was 10 years ago and I am still working at getting my thyroid function back. It has been a long hard road trying to research and find my way back.
Thank you for your article to warn others that it can happen to them because I have found that most Doctors have no clue if the thyroid drug they give you doesn’t help.
Being a huge Mark Sisson fan, I did the low carb thing for about 4 years and was absolutely fine on it, dropped a stone of excess weight, easily maintained my new weight, energy levels great, slept very well etc. However, I reached a stage when I just started to not feel quite as good as I had previously, and then I started noticing my eyes felt very dry and I started suffering from really puffy eyes every day, plus I developed a cervical polyp and nose polyps. I didn’t attribute these symptoms to my diet at all and carried on with the low carb for another year but in reading an article on the Perfect Health Diet website about the role of carbohydrates in production of mucous, I wondered if this was my problem (I was eating less than 50 g of carbs a day). So I upped my carbs to probably around 150 a day in the form of mostly starchy veg, occasional brown rice, legumes and occasional sourdough bread. A few months later and my puffy eyes cleared right up and I felt much better overall. So for me, the low carb was fine as a weight loss tool but long-term, it didn’t work. Plus my weight stayed the same, despite introducing the additional carbs.
Concerning the soaking of grains, there are articles on the Web that state you should not use dairy (such as yogurt) to soak grains. Here’s an excerpt from one of them:
“While it’s true that lactobacillus bacteria and acidic mediums both help break down phytic acid, it turns out that calcium can block the enzymatic breakdown of phytic acid. If reducing phytic acid is your goal, soaking your grains in plain water may be a better bet. “
Thank you so much for this article. I am currently doing a detox 30-day program to learn how different food groups affect me personally by introducing each good group when my 30 days is up. No refined carbs allowed, no sugar, no processed foods, no grains or legumes. Basically I eat healthy meats, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats. Also lots of root vegetables and ghee. I can’t have nightshades, nuts, seeds or eggs either because I have RA. After reading your article I feel confident that I am getting the complex carbs I need with sweet potatoes, squashes, ghee, coconut oil, etc. I really look forward to adding some sourdough bread to my diet when I am finished with my 30 days. Thanks again for your informative article!
Thank you so so much for writing this. I’m a 35 year old woman who is very worried I’ve ruined my health (which was great before!) by doing a Low Carb Ketogenic Diet for a few months. I initially felt great them my health started to suffer…I now have chronic/adrenal fatigue a rubbish metabolism and thyroid issues despite bringing plentiful carbs back in. I’m very sad as I would really like to have a baby but that seems impossible at the moment as I can barely walk. I’m just hoping my body will recover. I’m very sad I read nothing about these risks before doing the diet. It can be so dangerous for some people especially slender women. Thank you again for the article xx
Ginney Nataluk says
I agree with other commentators here. I lost 130 lbs with LCHF then I reached a plateau and went lower with my carbs to under 20 a day. The weight would not budge but my hair started falling out, I got dermatitis in my ears and scalp, anxiety every morning and an inability to handle stress of any kind. My energy hit the floor. I had never experienced any of these symptoms before and could not understand what was happening to me. I had a complete thyroid panel and found out I was at the very bottom of the range for ft3 and the very high end of the range for rt3. Now I’m in this place where no matter what I eat I gain weight and it will not come off. I still feel that low carb high fat is a good life style but there has to be a carb up a few times a week, especially for women.
Gayle Hardine says
Does Dulse work as well as Kombu. I really like the taste of Dulse, so I would prefer to use it if I could.
Laurie Warner says
hi gayle! I would say try it out for yourself. Laurie Warner
Laurie Warner says
I am 72, and remain a fast-burner after twenty years on low-carb. I do not have these symptoms, but I have never been able to do extreme low-carb due to drops in blood-sugar. I lost 30 pounds immediately after shift. To maintain my weight I must also avoid dairy. Grains and potatoes are too starchy for me (candida comes back) but I can use nuts, beets, summer squash, and carrots freely, also winter squash and yams, but infrequently. I use these carb foods carefully to maintain even blood sugar (officially called “consistent carbs” by the ADA) and remain satisfied throughout the day.
To the haters: Be careful, lest you fall into the trap of monumentally backward dietary thinking. The “high cortisol diet” as it should be called, essentially ruined my formerly excellent health. I built a very strong body stupidly restricting FATS almost completely, on high-carb and an extreme energy balance strict diet, eating very frequently.
I believe now that carbs are probably more protective and healing for the HPA axis and endocrine system in general than are fats, though both are incredibly important obviously.
Fasting constantly and LCHF is a unicorn diet for people with low-stress lives or who are extremely knowledgeable about endocrinology. Whether it will catch up with a given person is anybody’s guess, but I ran myself into the ground doing it to the point where I can scarcely function in a do-nothing job, have basically no ambitions, can’t think, can’t exercise habitually (I crash, badly), can’t sleep, can’t draw a deep breath, and can scarcely figure out even what to say in prayer because I am so burnt out and lacking in mental clarity.
I am of the opinion that fasting is incredibly healthy apart from the ridiculous, constant stress of modern life. I do not think it is a healthy practice for someone predisposed to stress or leading a stressful life.
By the way, this cratered health manifested in a mid-twenties male. Use caution with this stuff.
If you want to do it right, protect yourself with lots of organ meat and keep your stress to an absolute minimum.
Not sure why folks are chastising people simply reporting what cultures successfully did for hundreds, or thousands of years here on WAPF. Does it seem more rational to listen to a person who can point to a hundred healthy cultures that reproduced good results for millennia, or some individual that could easily be an outlier, whom time has not yet tested?
Cautioning against the flow towards zero-carb on the basis of what has worked for a long time is wise. It seems logical to me that this burnout phenomenon is related to beating up our systems with yet another deprivation fad.
As to accusations about ulterior motives, these guys’ message is not overly profitable. It doesn’t appeal to humanity’s “magic pill” sensibilities. The message is to put a whole lot of effort into proper living to create energy to support proper living. The charlatans out there have a very different message, amounting to “one weird trick” or another to “drop 30 pounds by Christmas.” WAPF isn’t appealing to vanity or the path of least resistance.
Mały Gyrzyba says
I am no longer using the keto diet, but whenever I did, I saw bruising. I felt good on the diet, but because of this symptom I would cycle off it and then try again and again. It kept happening. No one has ever heard of this symptom or knew why. It is important for me to understand what mechanism was at play. I should add I am ApoE3/4 and celiac. It happens even with low saturated fats. I also do not tolerate olive oil, butter, or coconut oil. I seem to do better with fats contained within foods. I experience hand numbness every single time I try to use oils or butter. During sleep it wakes me up from pain from lack of blood flow, I imagine. It does not happen otherwise. I do however take 1/4 tsp green pastures cod liver/butter blend daily for years. It has kept me immune to whatever bugs are going around and for the fat soluble nutrients. Maybe you can help me to understand?
Thank you for this article, i am sad that i have not read this sooner, because after eating very low carb/ keto for many years i now am slowly introducing more whole food carbs again and feel better, brain fog is going away, i feel warmer, more energy, not so tired anymore, i slowly feel better again. Yes i lost 33 kg on low carb/keto but my reverse t3 was so high, my inflamation also, my hormones were not good, my insuline resistance was getting worse, i felt sick, i looked sick, alway so pale, no i have collor again on my cheeks 🙂 i have energy again to work out, before i was losing more and more mussle mass despite i ate enough protein… i will look more into this way off eating. I really think for some people low carb/ keto is good, but not for me. Hope people think twice befor going long term on such a restrictive way of eating.
David Spector says
I have had great success with a moderate-protein (mostly from tofu and whey), moderate fat (from cheese), and extremely low-carbohydrate diet for many years now. My type 2 diabetes is under good control without drugs, and my only supplement is a multivitamin each day. Five years ago I had stage 4 cancer (hereditary) and recovered relatively quickly. I work out in a gym every other day. I am 76 years old. The only challenge I had initially with my ketogenic diet was satisfying the desire for sweets. But there are many sugar substitutes and excellent sweet-tasking protein bars. I eat many of them each day and am happy and healthy.