Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 10: Carb Flu, Cravings & Brain Fog, Oh My

When you are fueling your body primarily with quick-energy carbohydrates (sugar) and then suddenly eliminate them from your diet, it takes awhile for your body to convert to using mainly fat as an energy source. In the meantime, you go through withdrawal just as if you had given up smoking or caffeine. In the Paleo community, this is "affectionately" known as carb flu. It can, indeed, feel like the flu, with symptoms like body aches, headaches, and fatigue, as well as irritability and strong cravings.

When I went gluten free last August, I experienced some of this ~ not to the degree that I felt like I had the flu, luckily. Mostly I was just super tired and drag-ass all day. Like, falling asleep at my desk and I don't care who sees me kind of tired. Also, maybe a little cranky. I'm sure my kids never even noticed. Not.

This time around I haven't experienced any of that. In fact, I skipped right to feeling All the Energy. All the Time. Maybe it's because I am including more "safe starches" like white potatoes? I'm thrilled to have skipped right over that phase of the transition, because really...

One thing that many people stop experiencing with the elimination of gluten are mental health issues such as brain fog, anxiety and depression. These things have virtually disappeared for me in the last 10 days. To be honest, I attributed it to the change in my thyroid medication (I switched from synthetic, generic levothyroxine to natural Armour brand desiccated thyroid), but then last night I came across something I had written in my journal last year about two weeks after I made the switch to Paleo right after my injury (funny how I can't remember the day I quit smoking three years ago, but the day I nearly broke my ankle six miles into a 12 mile hike with four complete strangers from a meetup group will be forever etched in my brain).
"I've got so much going on in my head right now. It's awesome! I don't think I've felt this buzzing in awhile like I have since I quit eating grains. FASCINATING."
Holy shit! What's fascinating to me now is that I completely forgot about that revelation ~ I guess it was swallowed up in the brain fog that enveloped me once I went back to eating all the carbs not too long after I wrote that (my personal life took some hard knocks in January and I turned to my old friend comfort food to help get me through it). I did connect eating badly with feeling badly physically, but I guess brain fog is like real fog ~ sometimes you can see it better from a distance than when you are in the middle of it.

I also noted at that time that although I wasn't losing weight, and I couldn't exercise at all because of my ankle, I did go down a pant size, so I'm kind of waiting for that to happen again, too!

The most important thing to remember if you are going through carb withdrawal is that it is temporary and you will come out on the other side feeling better than ever. Here are some tips to help get you through:

  • make sure you are getting enough protein for breakfast ~ this will keep you satiated much longer and help reduce cravings
  • if you need to, ease up on your workouts until you are feeling better (in other words, do as I say and not as I do, and cut yourself a break)
  • add some additional starches to your diet ~ sweet potatoes are Paleo-friendly or, if you are "ish" like me, white rice and white potatoes are also considered "safe starches"
  • drink bone broth ~ Mom wasn't kidding when she said chicken soup helped you feel better, just make sure it is good, healthy, preferably homemade stock and not the crap that comes in a red can (or off the grocery store shelf, period)
  • find a community, whether it's reading other blogs, participating in forums, or listening to podcasts ~ it helps to know others are going through it or have survived, as well as helping you stay motivated!
Wow ~ I can't believe we are 10 days into this challenge (and closer to the holidays). I am really enjoying blogging every day, even though I have definitely been staying up way past my bedtime to get a daily post up! I really hope that something I've shared has helped someone out there in some small way!

Oh, and PS...

Yes, I got 'er done. And yes, I realize that it looks like the poor chicken face planted into a dish of vegetables and that I cooked it upside down. I told you I am no Julia Childs ~ just slicing up some vegetables is an accomplishment for me. Don't be like me ~ here are some great instructions for roasting a chicken, just be sure to read past "preheat oven to 450" or at least look at the pictures! Either way, it was tasty, I have leftovers for lunch (barely), and I am going to make some chicken stock tomorrow. 

1 comment:

  1. I can relate to this. I was suffering from depression, hypothyroidism and the trials of menopause and went to see a naturopath. She recommended an elimination diet and switching to Armour. I didn't think I would be able to do it - I love my chocolate, ice cream and cookies. But fate intervened - I got bit and contracted Lyme Disease. For ten days I didn't feel like eating anything and for another week I really didn't have much of an appetite. After about a month, I noticed I was feeling better than I had in years. I'm hoping that the feeling continues. But I do have to admit that I've started having a sweet every week or so and right now I have been really craving a slice of pizza. Maybe someday.