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Ongoing Fatigue and the Carb Secret

by 0 · June 30, 2014 at 08:16 AM

HI Everyone,

I continue to struggle with signifiant low energy and headaches after 8 months of eating Paleo. A quick summary:

1) Started VLC, thinking this would be the best - For roughly 4-5 months I ate between 30 and 65 grams of carbs per day. I felt amazing for 2 weeks post paleo flu and then went downhill. I felt I just needed to keep on working through it and that I would feel fine eventually, but that never came.

2) In the last 2 months I have been working on increasing my carbs. I now eat between 100 and 200 grams of carbs daily. Mostly this is in the form of sweet potato, but I'm finding that I still feel exhausted, foggy, and headachy. Eating white rice helped a little bit, but not significantly.

3) In the last 2 weeks I have tried Quinoa and found that I felt a lot better. My headaches went away for periods of time and my fogginess and exhaustion improved. Interestingly, even though I tried eating a lot of it throughout the day (as an experiment) I still wouldn't have been eating more than 125 grams in a day. Now I'm trying to understand why Quinoa has helped so much. Clearly my gut health is not amazing, so I suspect that many of my symptoms are related to poor gut health / leaky gut.

My practitioner also thinks I may have Adrenal Fatigue (based on Insulin levels are twice what they should be for a regular normal western diet eating person and cortisol levels are a little high).

What do you think is going on here? What would you try? What would you investigate? Has anyone experienced anything similar?

Are there any other foods I an try that will help me to understand what is going on, or that would be a healthier choice for carbs / energy than Quinoa?

I eat a lot of healthy fat in the form of butter (mainly) and coconut oil, measure carb/fat/protein ratios for paleo etc. and eat a lot of healthy veggies. I don't eat any sugar, refined food of any kind, etc.

Thank you all in advance!! Obviously no one is going to be able to answer all my questions, but any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

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8 Replies

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0 · June 30, 2014 at 07:36 AM

This might be worth having for others for future reference:

RS1 Physically inaccessible or digestible resistant starch, such as that found in seeds or legumes and unprocessed whole grains RS2 Resistant starch that occurs in its natural granular form, such as uncooked potato, green banana flour and high amylose corn RS3 Resistant starch that is formed when starch-containing foods are cooked and cooled such as in legumes,[2] bread, cornflakes and cooked-and-chilled potatoes, pasta salad or sushi rice. The process of cooking out the starch and cooling it is called retrogradation.

RS4 Starches that have been chemically modified to resist digestion. This type of resistant starches can have a wide variety of structures and are not found in nature.

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0 · June 30, 2014 at 07:27 AM

@andrew Thank you so much for posting on this thread. This sounds like it might be a big piece of the puzzle, and could perhaps explain why Quinoa has worked for me as I often leave it to cool and it later - perhaps it also has resistant starch in some quantities.

Do you find that sweet potato also has the same effect, as I don't tend to find I feel any better after eating sweet potato. You specifically mention white potatoes but just wanted to be sure of your experience.

How much rice or white potato would you eat in terms of carbs in a day, or have you tracked this?

I'm very excited to find a new angle to explore! Thank you!

4888 · June 30, 2014 at 06:43 AM

@barefootal. I also began VLC for about a year, replacing my carbs with more fats, and found the same - energy levels plummeted after a couple of weeks of feeling good, focus vanished and I was dragging myself about hoping to "work through it". On the plus side, asthma improved, psoriasis vanished and weight dropped off. Then stomach issues got worse and worse (diarrhoea etc).

I read that white rice and white potatoes were good, so re-introduced potatoes; boiled with breakfast and then reheated boiled (fried or added to stews etc) and some white rice with other meals. The potatoes were a miracle - and I've stuck to this for the years since and find I can go hours after breakfast. In fact, lunch now is often just a piece of cheese or a boiled egg, with a few bits of fruit later.

Stomach issues persisted , but have improved since reading this thread

and introducing potato starch, kefir, sauerkraut and some probiotic capsules. I think the VLC killed off or reduced a lot of good bugs in my gut as well as depriving me of what seems to be a source of energy which I need.

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0 · June 29, 2014 at 10:10 PM

Hi Raydawg, thanks for the nutritional link. I hadn't seen that website before. Very interesting. No, you're right, it doesn't seem to be special in any particular way. Perhaps that's part of the clue... Perhaps it's low in something that sweet potato is not, for example.. I'll have to compare.

Thanks for the cooking tips. Didn't realise that cooking in fat would make any difference. I already soak but perhaps should soak for 15 minutes, but perhaps should soak longer.

16813 · June 29, 2014 at 09:57 PM


Doesn't seem very high in anything in particular, take a look:

Were you missing any of the micronutrients it provides? Yes, anything you eat can change your gut flora. It could also be a coincidence where something else was going on at the same time you had the stuff. You can test this by elimination. Eat nothing but quinoa one day, and then don't touch any quinoa the next day and see if you feel differently.

The trouble with quinoa are the saponins it has - these are literally soap like molecules which can punch holes in our gut lining, so you'd have to cook it very carefully in both water and oil (so the saponins bind to the oil you cook them in and the water and perhaps soak them first.)

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0 · June 29, 2014 at 09:53 PM

Matt posted a resonse which, oddly, isn't showing up here... He said: No stats or rationale for going paleo… Overweight? Diabetic? Chronic health problems? Depending on where you are and where you want to be the answer may very well be different.

Overweight, a bit - could loose 25 lbs at the time... Have dropped weight a bit and could still stand to loose 10 lbs or so. Diabetic - No, however have always (since I was young) been sensitive to not eating meals on a regular basis and would feel hypoglycaemic even though I was not (tested and tested hundred of times with HBA1C, Fasting Glucose, GTT, and Glucometers). This was one of the reasons that I decided to go Paleo - I wanted to give the body a different energy source other than glucose and thus even out the peaks and valleys. I'm current not very active, as I have not been feeling a lot of energy over the past 8 months.. I used to walk a lot of ride my bike. I don't have a lot of muscle.

Hopefully that adds to the picture a little bit.

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0 · June 29, 2014 at 09:49 PM

Hi Raydawg,

Thank you for your reply. It's a very reasonable question. At first, many months ago, I was probably not eating enough food in terms of caloric intake. I have always eaten good quality fats and protein - but carbs at first were also very low, but are now much higher.

While eating VCL I had a continuous headache, lethargy and foggy brain. Energy levels were consistent, but very low. When I reintroduced higher cabts - 100 - 150 g/p/d I had periods where the fog would lift, energy increase a bit (but not dramatically) and headaches subside, but found I needed to eat every 2 hours or more or I would feel terrible. Whatever I did I was on a roller coaster of feeling poor and a bit better.

Now with Quinoa, I have a more consistent energy source and feel better a lot more of the time. I'm still very sensitive to timely eating but can probably push to 3 hours rather than 2. I'm also still on a bit of a roller coaster ride with energy and fog, but the dips are a bit less shallow.

I'm convinced this isn't all about carbs, but carbs are clearly playing a role. I also know Quinoa isn't a magical food - in fact it appears to behave much like grain in the body and thus is something I really don't want to continue needing to eat, but the reaction is very clear and different so I know there is something to be learnt here... But what is it?

Could it be something to do with gut bacteria and Quinoa being different than the other carbs I've been eating? Would the body react differently? Does Quinoa have a different nutrient that I'm otherwise missing? Does digesting Quinoa somehow differ and thus change chemistry in the gut? There has to be an explanation and I feel like understanding it will aid me in resolving whatever is going on for me.



16813 · June 29, 2014 at 01:03 PM

Ok, so when you decided to go low carb, did you keep up the same level of food/calories? Did you replace what you ate with good quality fats? Or did your level of intake dip below your basal metabolic rate multiplied by 1.2?

When you go low carb, you need to provide an alternate source of energy for your mitochondria in the form of ketones and fats, long enough for them to notice it and to start using it.

Quinoa isn't a magic seed, it happens to have protein along with carbs. So, if that's the only difference, did you get enough protein? i.e. 3 palm sized portions of meat a day?

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