Why Low Carb?
Firstly: I didn’t choose the low carb life, it chose me.
Are you like me? Have you tried just about every diet plan you can imagine? All of them helped me shed a few kilo’s here and there but like every dieter, I found it hard to maintain the plans and inevitably went back to my old habits, resulting in years of yo-yo dieting and weight gain.
Even just a year ago, before writing this piece, I was a size 16 and the weight around my stomach was bigger then my boobs! I felt puffy and sluggish and just plain MEH!
Over the last year, I’ve been working on a web TV show called ‘Health Bites’ with Lynette Hill, a registered Naturopath, who talked me through our DNA and something called ‘Carbohydrate Intolerance‘. This was mind blowing for me and suddenly all the pieces started to fit into place. I realised I’d been struggling with this intolerance and symptoms of IBS for longer than I remembered and learnt that while some people can eat and process carbohydrates, my body genetically struggled to do so. The results were tiredness, bloating, fatigue, stomach upsets unexplained weight gain and…..well – I’ll save you from the gross details. Basically the food I was eating was creating inflammation in my body and that was messing with my blood sugars and all the amazing processes that our bodies go through to help us live in optimal health. The way I understand it was that I was putting diesel into a petrol car, resulting in poor performance…..if that makes sense?! (I’ll explain more below)
On speaking with Lynette, doing a heck of a lot of research and chatting with a variety of experts, their words made a lot of sense, so I started trialling the Low Carb lifestyle. The results have been amazing.
- My weight is now starting to sort itself out.
- I have better quality sleep
- I’m never hungry
- I no longer suffer with brain fog or carb coma
- No more bloating
- I no longer battle with cravings
- There’s no more rushed trips to the bathroom and best of all, I feel great!
For the first time in over 25 years I no longer feel like I’m on a diet which is probably the biggest win of all!
Here’s the science behind it, courtesy of Lynette.
Carbohydrate Intolerance is the inability of the body to completely process carbohydrates (sugars and starches) due to lack or inadequate amount of one or more of the enzymes needed for their digestion.
When someone is unable to properly process carbohydrates, this may lead to decreased energy and levels of fitness, and increased metabolic disorders such as weight gain due to the accumulation of fat around the muscles.
The reasons people may be intolerant to or find it difficult to digest carbs is varied and can range from a genetic predisposition, to historic gastrointestinal damage (from food poisoning etc); some medications can affect the gut flora and digestive tissues, as can some microbes and parasites. Eating disorders are often involved in chronic gut dysfunction.
AMY1A Amylase, alpha 1A
It may just be a simple spelling mistake … on your Genes. The Amy1 gene encodes an amylase isoenzyme produced by the salivary glands. British researchers have discovered a link between a gene that breaks down carbohydrates and obesity.
The salivary amylase gene plays a significant role in breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth at the start of the digestion process. Studies are suggesting that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene have lower levels of this enzyme and so have more difficulty breaking down carbohydrates than those with more copies, which may put them at a higher risk of obesity.
What are carbs – why do we need them?
Think of carbohydrates as fuel – like for a car – they are the primary source of energy. They are also one of the three major nutrients in the human diet. The other two being fat and proteins.
There are three types of carbohydrates: Glucose/Sugar and Sucrose which are Simple Carbohydrates (Sugars), and Starch which is a Complex Carbohydrate. The Sugars are monosaccharides and can easily go through the wall of the small intestine, but anything bigger, eg complex carbohydrates need to be broken down into simple carbohydrates by enzymes.
How our carbs are digested
Amylase produced by the saliva breaks down starch (eg rice and potatoes) into disaccharides (two sugars). Next other enzymes in the stomach or small intestine break them down into monosaccharides (simple sugars) ready to be absorbed through the small intestine.
– Lactose (the sugar found in milk) is broken down by lactase
– Sucrose (in cane sugar) is broken down by sucrase
– Maltose (in grains) is broken down by maltase
– Cellulose (in starches) is broken down by cellulase
Lack or inadequate amount of the required enzyme will leave the disaccharides and polysaccharides in the digestive system causing symptoms of food intolerance which can range from bloating to diarrhoea. If undigested sugars remain in the intestine, fermentation can occur causing gas, cramping, bloating and general discomfort. Food intolerance can be confused with food allergies, since the symptoms of nausea, cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea are similar.
SO: could you be carb intolerant like me? Here’s some questions to consider.
– Are you overweight?
– Do you feel fatigued much of the time, especially after eating a carb-heavy meal?
– Do you lead a largely sedentary life?
– Do you have the sense that your appetite is out of control?
– Do you frequently crave sweet or starchy foods such as bread, pasta, potatoes, or beans?
– Do you feel light-headed and dizzy when you get hungry?
– Is your blood sugar in the upper ranges of “normal” or beyond?
– Are you struggling with one or more symptoms, such a brain fog, anxiety, depression, skin problems, joint paint, aching muscles, hormonal issues, or sleep problems?
If you answered “yes” to one or more questions, please consider talking to a healthcare professional, your GP, a naturopath, homeopath or nutritionist and start gently on your new low carb lifestyle by cutting out of your diet all grains, legumes (beans and peas), starchy vegetables (potatoes, kumara, yams), and most fruit.
If you then experience a marked change in your symptoms, you might very well have discovered your own carbohydrate intolerance.
One thing that could also help is the ‘Carb Choice genetic test’, ascertaining your AMY1 levels. I’ve taken this and it’s given me an amazing overview of what I can eat, what to limit, what to stay away from and ways to increase my amalayse production! (yes, it’s possible!) To take the test, you can contact my Naturopath Lynette Hill and take the next steps. This is a game changer and a life changer, so feel free to email her here: firstname.lastname@example.org
So there you go. That’s what I’ve done and I’m in the best health of my life. I eat delicious food every day, I never feel like I’m missing out and the weight loss is now a beautiful by product of my well functioning engine. It’s a no brainer.