Why I Ditched Low Carb

by Ann Marie Michaels on February 10, 2012

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Low-Carb

Is your hair falling out? Do you gain weight just by looking at food? Do you have a low body temperature? Is your sex drive in the toilet?

Are you on a low carb diet?

You need to read this post.

When I woke up yesterday, I ate a bowl full of sliced apples and blueberries with some decaf coffee and raw milk. An hour or so later, I had a few homemade spelt banana muffins, a couple bites of scrambled eggs, and 1/2 piece of sprouted toast with butter and jam.

For lunch, I had a peanut butter and watermelon jelly sandwich (oh, boy, let me tell you about this watermelon jelly — do you have a few hours?) on sprouted bread with a couple glasses of coconut water plus some more blueberries and a few homemade corn tortilla chips.

For dinner, I ate a whole lot of homemade bean and cheese nachos with a couple glasses of wine — more than I normally drink, but it’s been a tough week.

I just entered it all into FitDay. (Yes, this is a sign of a crazy person. When FitDay is your friend.)

Maybe you should sit down. Ladies and gentleman, we’re looking at over 2,300 calories and over 300 grams of carbs.

And this is BEFORE I had that last muffin.

Holy insulin, Batman! I’m officially in Mark Sisson’s “Danger Zone”.

Oops — and I just ate another muffin.

Danger, Will Robinson!

What am I thinking?

If you’ve been eating low carb, restricting bread and pasta, avoiding fruit and anything sweet, and it’s working for you, that’s great!

But if you’re like me, and your health has been declining ever since you jumped on the low carb bandwagon, you may want to rethink this whole low carb fad.

Read on.

Why I Ditched Low Carb

This day is markedly different from how I used to eat. It’s a little less protein than I normally eat and a lot more alcohol. But otherwise it’s pretty on target.

I’ve dramatically upped the carbs in the past month or so. And amazing things are happening with my hormones.

My body temperature has shot up from the low 97s to averaging around 98.2 People, this is huge.

Not only is my temperature a lot higher, but it has also stabilized substantially. It used to be up and down every day ranging from all the way in the 96s up to the high 97s (I rarely got into the low 98s). In the past few weeks, it’s been averaging almost every day around 98.2. This is unheard of for me.

And you know what it means? It means my adrenals and my thyroid are getting better. According to Dr. Rind, you can tell by your temperature that your adrenals are getting better when your temperature stabilizes. A steady temperature day after day means strong, stable adrenals.

You can tell your thyroid is getting better when your temperature increases (That is, for hypothyroid or low thyroid. For hyperthyroid, you would want to see a decrease in temperature.) Like I said, I’ve never gotten up to the 98s, and never consistently.

Why I Ditched Low Carb

Why Track Your Temperature?

Dr. Rind and many other endocrine docs say that the temperature is the window into your hormones. As I explained above, by charting your temperature over several days, weeks or months, you can tell whether you have problems with your adrenal glands and/or thyroid.

It’s easy to start taking your temperature. You can either chart it every morning, before you get out of bed (basal body temperature) or you can take readings throughout the day and take an average.

I do both. I use a cheap Vicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer. I bought a few on Amazon. One lives on my nightstand, one stays in the kitchen, and I carry one in my purse.

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I take my temperature before I get out of bed in the morning to get my basal body temperature.

Then I take my temperature 2-3 more times throughout the day (I aim for 3; sometimes it’s only once).

Then I track all of these numbers on graph paper. It’s pretty cool to get a visual of how you are doing.

And folks, since I increased my carbs, my temps look 1,000 times better.

And did I mention that I have not gained weight and my blood sugar is normal?

If you want to read more details about the improvements in my health since I increased my carbs, read my answer to question # 3 in this week’s Q & A post.

How Do I Know It Was the Carbs?

You may say, Oh yes, but what about all the supplements you’ve been taking? What about the earthing? What about reducing stress?

My stress level has been at an all-time high these past few weeks due to work stuff. I haven’t been sleeping on my earthing sheet a lot of nights because I end up sleeping with my daughter half the time. And I’ve been REALLY bad about my supplements lately. Just been super busy.

So yeah, it’s gotta be the carbs.

How I Developed My Fear of Carbs

For the past few years, I have been so paranoid about carbs that I would actually feel guilty for eating a piece of bread. I had this holier-than-thou attitude that grass-fed meat and coconut oil were better than a banana or mac and cheese or a bowl of rice, or other high-carb foods.

Where does this come from? Probably from blogs like Mark’s Daily Apple with his posts about The Asian Paradox (how rice makes you fat).

I love Mark Sisson. Seriously, he is the nicest guy. Right up there with Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb, whom I also adore. Lovely guys with great blogs that I enjoy reading.

But really? Asians don’t gain weight from eating rice all day because they “move frequently at a slow pace”. Huh? Does this sound like r e a c h i n g to you?

And it isn’t just Mark Sisson. It’s all the blogs out there with their carb-phobic, grain-free, gluten-hating focus. The “Gluten is Bad, Bacon is Rad” t-shirts you see all over Facebook. The constant posts about how lectins are the devil and how we need to keep our carbs to less than 50 grams per day.

Good Lord! How can one even eat a small stack of pancakes on 50 grams of carbs per day? One pancake equals about 15 carbs. Not to mention the maple syrup. Just eating a couple of innocent pancakes blows your allocation of carbs for the whole day! One sandwich on sprouted whole wheat bread uses up HALF your carbs for the day.

Paleo is the hottest trend going right now. I’ve got no issues with Paleo folks. If it works for you, more power to you!

But the fact is, this is a new trend. It may seem like an old way of eating since it harkens back to the Stone Age, but the fact is, we don’t really know what paleolithic man ate. There’s new evidence showing that hunters and gatherers were eating grains 100,000 years ago — 90,000 years earlier than we thought.

caveman like pizza!

Bottom line: Low carb paleo didn’t work for me and it actually harmed my health. The more I ate that way, the more my thyroid function slowed down, the worse my hormones got. (And please, no comments that I “didn’t do it right.” I know my body and my diet better than you. I live in this body and I see what goes in my mouth every single day.)

And I am trying to get pregnant again. It may be too late, since I’m 43, but I know women who had babies at 45 and 46. I think I may still have a shot and I really want to try.

My hormones being effed up is not something I can afford.

How Low Carb Can Be Harmful to Your Hormones

Just the other day, Chris Kresser did an interview with Chris Masterjohn on his podcast. You can go here to listen or read the transcript.

In the podcast, Chris Masterjohn said:

“I think that if you find that T3 or reverse T3 are out of whack, probably the best way to address that is to try increasing the carbohydrate intake — not necessarily meaning you have to go on a high-carbohydrate diet, but, you know, like, Paul Jaminet had sort of concluded at the end of that series that he still advocates a low-carbohydrate diet, but it’s possible to go too low for some people, and that’s when you might get deficiency in thyroid signaling.”

Chris Kresser responded:

“And I definitely see this, Chris, in my practice, and this is purely anecdotal, but I often get people who come to me who have been on a low-carb Paleo Diet, not for any particular reason, just because that was their understanding of the Paleo Diet, you know, as a low-carb approach. And then they’re suffering from the classic hypothyroid symptoms: Their hair is falling out, and their hands and feet are cold, outer third of the eyebrows thinning, you know, low metabolic symptoms. And then they start eating some more starch and starchy tubers and fruit and increase their carbohydrate intake; and in almost all cases, their symptoms improve significantly.

Want to Get Pregnant? Eat More Carbs!

Then Chris told a really fascinating story from Dr. Weston A. Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

Chris said:

He says: “For the Indians of the far North this reinforcement” — he’s talking about reinforcement of nutrition for pregnancy — “was accomplished by supplying special feedings of organs of animals. Among the Indians in the moose country near the Arctic circle a larger percentage of the children were born in June than in any other month. This was accomplished, I was told, by both parents eating liberally of the thyroid glands of the male moose as they came down from the high mountain areas for the mating season, at which time the large protuberances carrying the thyroids under the throat were greatly enlarged.” So, what he’s saying is when the moose were about to reproduce, they naturally went into a kind of hyperthyroid state where their thyroids were enlarged, and the people there would harvest the thyroid glands so that they could reproduce, and as a consequence, most of their children were born nine months after the moose mating season.

And what the indicates to me is — I mean, it’s difficult to interpret it because he doesn’t go into great detail, but I think what we might be seeing here is up in the Arctic circle — and these are the inland people, they’re not seacoast, so they probably don’t have a lot of iodine in the diet, they certainly don’t have a lot of carbohydrate in the diet. It seems like they, as part of their natural adaptation to their environment, they supplemented with thyroid hormone so that they could convert their cholesterol to sex hormones so that they could increase their fertility, and I think what we’re witnessing is perhaps a natural acknowledgement that under those certain conditions where you have an extremely carbohydrate-restricted diet, you may need supplemental thyroid hormone in order to maintain that fertility.

OK, does that blow your mind or what?

Folks, we are not living near the Arctic circle (well some of you may be, but I sure as heck am not). We have access to carbohydrates! We don’t need to kill moose and harvest their thyroid glands in order to get pregnant. We don’t need to take Armour thyroid or maca or sixteen other supplements. We can just eat some waffles! (I can almost hear the 180 Degree Health fans cheering right now.)

Note that Price said BOTH parents ate the thyroid gland. So this isn’t just about women’s fertility. If you are a man on a low carb or paleo diet and your testosterone is low or you lost your mojo, there’s a reason for that.

Paul Jaminet Concurs

This brought to my mind a post Paul Jaminet wrote a couple weeks ago on his Perfect Health Diet blog. He said that a higher carb diet is actually better for people who want to have children.

Jaminet writes:

For most people, I believe a slightly carb-restricted intake of 20-30% of calories is optimal. Most people are not currently seeking to have children or engaging in athletic competition. (Source)

In other words, if you want to have children, don’t eat low carb.

When it comes to thyroid health, Jaminet does not mince words:

“Eating more carbs raises T3 levels, and eating fewer carbs lowers T3 levels.”

Jaminet goes on to present his thoughts on appropriate carb intake, depending on an individual’s personal goals:

So a 30-40% carb diet is a neutral diet, which probably places minimal stress on the body.

A 40-50% diet is a carb-overfed diet, which probably promotes fertility and athleticism.

A 20-30% diet is a mildly carb-restricted diet, which probably promotes longevity.

Jaminet concludes his post with this sage statement:

Let everyone design the diet that is best for them. And there is room for difference of opinion about the optimal carb intake.

Here’s what I have to say to that: Bring on the pizza and nachos!

What If You’re On the GAPS Diet?

I wrote a post about this a few days ago: GAPS Diet Myths.

It is absolutely not necessary to be low carb on the GAPS Diet. If you do well on low carb and are on GAPS, then stick with it. But if you are experiencing hormonal problems, you may want to consider increasing your carbs.

I’ll write a post soon with some suggestions for how to increase your carbs on the GAPS Diet.

Share Your Thoughts In the Comments

Go ahead, throw doughnuts and potatoes at me. I know this post is going to piss a lot of people off.

How do I know? Because the amount of vitriol that I’ve endured in the past few weeks as I’ve explored this topic on my Facebook page has been off the hook!

Please feel free to share. This is an open forum and I always encourage open discourse. We are all learning, myself included. And I do very much appreciate all that you guys bring to the table. I learn so much from you!

Just please try to play nice.

And if you’ve got a similar story to share about how eating low carb threw your hormones out of whack, I’d love to hear it.

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