Why Low Carbohydrate Diets Fail

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The purpose of this article is not to bash low carbohydrate diets as most of the time they are the most highly recommended diet and can achieve amazing health results. However, everyone is different in his or her ability to thrive on a low carbohydrate diet and whether or not their health will improve on such a plan is dependent upon many factors.

I find most people initially get great results when low carbing but proceed to making the mistake of either dropping their intake too low for too long or not increasing other macronutrients enough which can both have detrimental consequences.

My hope is that by reading this article, you’ll be able to understand the many factors that are related to how a person may handle a low carbohydrate diet and how a simple adjustment to your macronutrient ratio could make all the difference.

A very low carbohydrate diet may not be working for you if:

1. You Have Candida Overgrowth

Eliminated sugar, sweeteners, alcohol, yeast and refined carbohydrates is undoubtedly the best approach for Candida overgrowth but according to a recent interview with health pioneer Chris Kresser, a diet or detox protocol that is too low in carbohydrates results in the production of ketones, which can actually be used as fuel for Candida.

The reason for this is that Protozoa and fungi pathogens have mitochondria and are able to metabolise either ketones or glucose for energy. As ketones are water soluble, these small molecules can easily cross the lipid membranes and diffuse into mitochondria to be utilised rapidly as fuel. Although fantastic at starving bacteria or viral infections, full Ketosis can also inactivate myeloperoxidase, which is central to many of the antimicrobial properties of Neutrophils.

At Amity Wellness our low carbohydrate raw candida cleansing programs are carefully designed with the right balance of carbohydrates, good fats, fibre and anti-fungals.

2. You have Thyroid Problems

Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disorder. Symptoms include; weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, cold intolerance, hoarse voice, infertility, irregular periods, depression, constipation and muscle stiffness. Every cell in the body has thyroid hormone receptors and they impact all of our major systems within the body.

Both carbohydrates and proteins promote the release of insulin, which is essential for correct thyroid hormone metabolism. A very low carbohydrate diet can cause chronically low levels of insulin, which is needed for the conversion of T4 into a metabolically active form of T3 so that the thyroid can function optimally.

I would recommend with at least 15-20% total calories from good quality carbohydrates to support the thyroid.

At Amity Wellness we have a special Thyroid raw cleansing programs designed to omit raw Goitrogenic vegetables and periodised to re-stimulate the metabolism and support the thyroids need for good quality fats and proteins.

3. You have HPA Dysregulation

HPA Dysregulation is more popularly known in layman’s terms as ‘Adrenal Fatigue’. Symptoms include; weakened immune function, severe fatigue, anxiety, depression, dizziness, hypoglycemia, brain fog, low libido, sleep problems, poor recovery, and reduced stress tolerance.

The stress response is governed primarily by the Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Stress induces a cascade of neuroendocrine signals that trigger the release of cortisol, noradrenaline (norepinephrine), and adrenaline (epinephrine), which are protective in the short term but can become destructive and dysfunctional in the long term if the stress becomes chronic.

The majority of people suffering with HPA Dysregulation also have problems with blood sugar regulation such as reactive hypoglycemia. A high or low carbohydrate diet is often a poor choice as it can escalate symptoms that are typical with this condition. I would suggest a moderate carbohydrate intake(15-30% of total calories) as low blood sugar can result in the release of cortisol, which could put further stress on the adrenals.

Fasting is generally considered a contraindication for people suffering with HPA dysfunction, a modified raw cleanse with adequate amounts of protein and good fats would be a more compatible option.

4. You suffer with Hypoglycemia

While not as common as high blood sugar, low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia) can cause a number of symptoms like shakiness, cravings, confusion, heart palpitations, anxiety, and visual disturbances, and complications as serious as seizure or loss of consciousness prevalent in diabetics.

Blood sugar disorders are characterized by an impaired ability to correctly and efficiently process sugars. Since all carbohydrates (other than fiber) are broken down into sugar, a low-carbohydrate diet is a good starting point for people with diabetes or blood sugar issues but the main focus needs to be on sugar, refined carbohydrates, dairy, grains, sweeteners, sodas, legumes, processed foods, alcohol, and industrial seed and vegetable oils.

A diet too low in healthy carbohydrates can cause a hypoglycemic state that can induce a stress response. To avoid this, I would suggest eating unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables but keeping the inclusion of sweet potato, taro, plantains, yuca, whole fruit and starchy vegetables to roughly 10 to 15 percent of calories from carbohydrates to prevent a blood sugar crash.

A good way to track it is to monitor blood glucose levels using a glucometer after meals to get immediate feedback about the effect of foods on metabolism. The goal is to try to keep blood sugar consistently under 140 mg/dL one hour after a meal or 120 mg/dL two hours after a meal but keep glucose consistently above 70 mg/dL to avoid hypoglycemia.

Fasting is contraindicated for patients with blood sugar dysregulation, diabetes or Hypoglycemia. A diet that encourages natural whole foods with regular small meals throughout the day is a far more effective way to treat hypoglycemia.

5. You are Pregnant

Carbohydrates are essential during pregnancy to ensure adequate fetal brain development and growth, which is why The Institute of Medicine recommends a minimum of 175 grams of carbohydrates per day during pregnancy. A high protein diet is also contraindicated during pregnancy, it is advised to restrict protein to about 15% of calories and to obtain 30% of calories as carbohydrates.

6. You are an Athlete

Each athlete is an individual and what works for one person, may not work for another. Usually a peak performance athlete will eventually burn out on a long-term carbohydrate diet if the intake is too low. This can result in poor performance, plateaus, weight gain, increased recovery time, fatigue, and eventual burnout.

Cycling high and low carb days or switching to a moderate carbohydrate diet with a minimum of 20% of calories from carbohydrate can boost energy and endurance significantly and provide quicker strength gains than before.

7. You have compromised gut Health

Long term low carbohydrate dieting has been linked to dysbiosis and a reduction in the diversity of the gut flora due to a reduced intake of important prebiotics (i.e. food for your gut flora) like soluble fiber and resistant starch.

These essential prebiotics are important for promoting the growth of beneficial gut flora to assist in the production of butyrate and other short chain fatty acids. It is a good idea to be mindful about incorporating adequate fibre, prebiotics, probiotics or supplementation during a low carb diet to support optimal gut health.

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