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Carbs and Anxiety: Is there a relationship?

by (300)
Updated about 4 hours ago
Created November 07, 2013 at 10:00 PM

I've read through all the questions here do to with alleviating anxiety, and have seen upping carb intake suggested a few times. But I'd like to understand this strategy better before I try it.

My quick history: I've been basically paleo for years, and recent bout of insomnia pushed me to try out a VLC diet and strive for ketosis, yet my anxiety seems to be getting worse. Of course it's hard to tell if my stress is related to diet or just the general stress of the world (Fukushima is admittedly freaking me out, and since tumors generally don't feed on ketones, the VLC/fat burning strategy appeals to me.)

I have been testing blood sugar with a glucometer lately, and VLC seems to have generally brought my blood sugar down. But I've discovered that when I feel panicky (which happens especially in the morning) my blood sugar will be high no matter what I eat, even after fasting for ten hours....The cortisol is pumping my blood sugar up! (And the belly fat remains.) So unless I get my anxiety under control, it seems that I won't ever reach ketosis or lose the baby weight I've gained.

So, here are my QUESTIONS:

Some have suggested eating more carbs. Why? And, how do I heal insulin resistance with more carbs in my diet? Will I ever get to ketosis on more than 50g of daily carb intake? Is ketosis not for me? Or does it simply take a long time to achieve equilibrium, and I should just stick with it?

Am I asking too many questions? (Tee Hee...)

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 14, 2013 at 2:38 AM

Very helpful answer, Raydawg. A recent conversation with @Dragonfly revealed similar advice. To save most of the carb intake for the last meal of the day, to boost glycogen stores and discourage cortisol production in the middle of the night. Maybe it will help me sleep, too. I will try it (even though it seems contrary to the "folk wisdom" that says we should eat light before bed. Not much folk wisdom to be had regarding ketogenesis, is there?) Thanks so much! I wasn't ready to give up on getting keto-adapted.

Medium avatar
15 · November 12, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Regarding my warning: The author clearly wants to suggest that anxiety/fatigue etc on ketogenic is just a normal adaptive thing and it's related from getting off those "evil carbs" and getting "fat adapted". Which I find are epic bullshit claims.

Medium avatar
15 · November 12, 2013 at 8:31 PM

There's some decent evidence showing diabetes is caused by PUFAs, elevated free fatty acids, iron overload and endotoxinemia. Eating a low-fat diet with safe carbohydrates (fruits and some safe starches such as potatoes and white rice), reducing iron intake and balancing it with copper and zinc and employing strategies to reduce your endotoxin load I would consider a pretty worthwile strategy to employ, without ever going ketogenic or low carb.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb
4458 · November 12, 2013 at 7:57 PM

I mention as i was just reading this "At first I assumed that taking raw honey before bed would throw me out of fat burning mode, but as long as MCT oil was taken with the honey, enough ketones were produced to stay in fat burning mode. Take 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey before bed if it helps with your sleep"

source: bulletproofexec.com/the-top-6-ways-to-improve-your-sleep-using-food/

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb
4458 · November 12, 2013 at 7:57 PM

i wonder if you take mct oil with your carbs at night that may help with ketone production

23fe01308e3320ecf144b47b99a135a4
144 · November 12, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Could be. To me it feels more like cortisol and adrenaline spikes. I don't think our bodies are meant to react that way. But I want to push on. Perhaps I'll do a teensy bit more carb at night (they recommend people have most of the carb at night) because it's unlikely to take me out of ketosis completely, as I'll slip back into it ketosis while I sleep. Good luck.

2abc7edf08d56505e360c1912008a0f5
123 · November 12, 2013 at 7:04 PM

When I was eating refined carbs and sugar, I would have terrible anxiety afterwards, especially if in large amounts.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Bukowski...So how would you suggest addressing insulin resistance? And, you say, "use caution" what advice in particular are you referring to?

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:32 PM

We have very similar thinking. Thanks for the ketotic.org post. That's an excellent article. Lately I've been thinking I need to up my fat, not my protein. Hmmm. I guess everybody's different. I just know I want to give ketosis a generous try, and hopefully get past the crazy symptoms I'm experiencing lately. Now that I'm in "fat burning mode" it could be that my symptoms could be due to the detox of burning up all those toxins stored in fat over my whole life. Make sense?

Medium avatar
15 · November 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM

"but I don't see how to address insulin resistance otherwise." This guy has no fricking clue what he's talking about. One should exert extreme caution before following such kind of advice.

23fe01308e3320ecf144b47b99a135a4
144 · November 12, 2013 at 8:18 AM

This link is good too, makes me think maybe I need to up my protein.

http://www.ketotic.org/2012/07/ketogenic-diets-and-stress-part-i.html

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 11, 2013 at 8:17 PM

Yeah, FishGelatin, that's what I would expect! A lessening of anxiety, not an increase! What gives? That's what I'm trying to find out. I already had issues with anxiety before, so it could be that I might not be getting enough calories, or enough fat, and that might be causing the anxiety, rather than ketosis itself. I haven't given up on trying to shift over to fat-burning by any means. I've just started exploring. Thanks for your two cents...

D371623b5671d11fa678b201ff23442b
0 · November 10, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Complete opposite for me. Higher carb intake = more anxiety attacks. Ketosis = no anxiety attacks.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 10, 2013 at 5:52 PM

I do understand why making the leap over to keto might initially be interpreted as "stress" the body, hence the anxiety, but I don't see how to address insulin resistance otherwise. And it seems that blood sugar dysregulation might be driving the adrenal depletion in the first place, since insulin is a hormone that can pull all the others off balance when it's constantly and relentlessly flooding the bloodstream for decades. That's why adding a bunch of carbs back in doesn't seem to make sense. (continued)

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 09, 2013 at 6:08 AM

And I've also heard the opposite: that a ketogenic diet is "great for obese people trying to lose weight but not for lean people." I'm quite lean, but still have blood sugar dysregulation issues (what American doesn't, these days?!) that I want to address. That's why adding a bunch of carbs back in doesn't really make sense for me. I'm wondering if my anxiety is being caused perhaps by eating too little fat, rather than ketosis itself. Anybody out there feel the anxiety, and then get past it as they became keto-adapted? Please chime in...

Af679502f1e31c0c59c79bd08f324b35
519 · November 09, 2013 at 12:48 AM

Oh and I went to ketosis to drop that last bit of body fat and it didn't work for me

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96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84
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17412 · November 13, 2013 at 11:51 AM

I have been testing blood sugar with a glucometer lately, and VLC seems 
to have generally brought my blood sugar down.  But I've discovered that
 when I feel panicky (which happens especially in the morning) my blood 
sugar will be high no matter what I eat, even after fasting for ten 
hours....The cortisol is pumping my blood sugar up!  (And the belly fat 
remains.) So unless I get my anxiety under control, it seems that I 
won't ever reach ketosis or lose the baby weight I've gained.

That's exactly what's happening. Your blood sugar goes low in the middle of the night, unfortunately when this happens, cortisol is signaled, not (just) as a sign of stress, but in order to invoke gluconeogenesis. That process may overshoot and raise your blood sugar beyond what you would like it to be, and perhaps this is a different problem to address. (I'm not sure how you'd go about doing that though.)

This means that your body doesn't have enough glycogen reserves to get you through the night and into the morning, and it overshoots the amount needed.

Getting your anxiety under control will not work as long as the reason is low glycogen stores. The only way to fix that is to raise your glycogen stores.

To do that, I would suggest eating more carbs at night before sleeping, and possibly backing off the VLC for a while, and I would also raise protein as well - if you're not consuming enough excess protein for the conversion, that cortisol signal is also catabolic to muscle tissue. You might imagine, no big whoop, I'll give up a bit of muscle tissue and make it up later, however, please realize that the heart is a muscle too and this can affect it also.

If you're doing both VLC and fasting, you will fail, in this exact manner. Sorry, but you can choose one or the other, not both. (And as Teppie mentioned in another answer, you do need extra minerals when in VLC.)

If you want to raise ketosis, there's a very simple way, consume some coconut oil, or MCT oil. This will immediately create ketones, but you should do this away from carbs.

If you're worried about cancer cells, you could do a prolonged fast once a year, or once every six months, but from what this shows, you've gone too far.

Since you mention Fukushima, there's a very simple thing to address that worry. Purchase a small handheld radiation meter. They go for around $200, and you can measure the background radiation for about a minute, then place it near any foods you suspect for a minute.

If it's significantly higher, don't consume it. I did exactly this (Japanese green tea, toasted seaweed, fish), and to date have found zero items that were hot. I know the meter works because it does go off rapidly when placed near vaseline glass. It is possible that the amount is very little, but in that case, it's also unlikely to be as harmful.

So while Fukushima concerns aren't unreasonable, they are perhaps overblown.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 14, 2013 at 2:38 AM

Very helpful answer, Raydawg. A recent conversation with @Dragonfly revealed similar advice. To save most of the carb intake for the last meal of the day, to boost glycogen stores and discourage cortisol production in the middle of the night. Maybe it will help me sleep, too. I will try it (even though it seems contrary to the "folk wisdom" that says we should eat light before bed. Not much folk wisdom to be had regarding ketogenesis, is there?) Thanks so much! I wasn't ready to give up on getting keto-adapted.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:35 PM

@Teppie

Many thanks: You are the first to say "HANG IN THERE!"This is what I need to hear!I will gladly try the olives and pickles, as I love those foods. But I feel I'm pretty careful about minerals already. I have been putting the ConcenTrace Minerals drops in my water for a couple years now, and I take a Natural Calm (mag citrate) in the evening before bed (problem is, I get real loose if I take the recommended dose) and use the topical Mg oil as well. I drink lots of homemade bone broth with plenty of salt. I will mos def check out slow mag, and I will get the Phinney & Volek book.

[META COMMENT: I am sorry that I am posting so many answers!!! These are supposed to be comments, but whenever I click "SUBMIT" nothing happens. A search through HELP has shown me that others are having this trouble as well. Maybe it's a bug in the new system? Hope it gets fixed soon! But for now, I'm going to have to post as "answers" instead.]

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:22 PM

@Demon.of.Chouka Yes! Anxiety is the lynchpin for me! I can eat ZeroCarb and wake up the next morning with my blood sugar testing over 100. My health seems to hinge upon getting my cortisol under control. This is my challenge. I am trying ketosis to get my insulin under control. My idea is that insulin may be pulling the rest of my endocrine system off balance, and causing my adrenal fatigue, and crazy cortisol release (hot flashes, insomnia, panic). So I need to address blood sugar dysregulation first. Perhaps it's a case that my anxiety is getting worse before it gets better...I don't want to resort to immediately upping my carbs. I want to give my body a chance to adjust to ketosis before immediately returning to the familiar (carb eating.) Does that make sense? Id love to hear other other long-term "ketogenerians" chime in here (@Rob from ketocure.com, @KetoWarrior @Ambimorph @Dragonfly) Anyone else feel anxiety at the beginning of their ketogenic journey, and then come to equilibrium?

[META COMMENT:I am sorry that I am posting so many, answers!!! These are supposed to be comments, but whenever I click "SUBMIT" nothing happens. A search through HELP has shown me that others are having this trouble as well. Maybe it's a bug in the new system? Hope it gets fixed soon! But for now, I'm going to have to post as "answers" instead.]

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:07 PM

@Mr_Snowman I absolutely believe I have Adrenal Fatigue. But I don't understand why ketosis would be considered detrimental to me. I actually have been assuming that healing my blood sugar issues would alleviate stress, and possibly even help to recalibrate my endocrine system in general. Isn't it possible that a poor relationship with insulin (a powerful hormone in itself) might even be tipping my entire hormonal system off balance, creating adrenal depletion? This is why I don't want to give up on ketosis. Though, it seems I won't ever get there with constant cortisol being released. A paradox?

[META COMMENT:I am sorry that I am posting so many answers!!! These are supposed to be comments, but whenever I click "SUBMIT" nothing happens. A search through HELP has shown me that others are having this trouble as well. Maybe it's a bug in the new site. Hope it gets fixed soon! But for now, I'm going to have to post as "answers" instead.]

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:04 PM

@Teppie Many thanks: You are the first to say "HANG IN THERE!"This is what I need to hear!I will gladly try the olives and pickles, as I love those foods. But I feel I'm pretty careful about minerals already. I have been putting the ConcenTrace Minerals drops in my water for a couple years now, and I take a Natural Calm (mag citrate) in the evening before bed (problem is, I get real loose if I take the recommended dose) and use the topical Mg oil as well. I drink lots of homemade bone broth with plenty of salt. I will mos def check out slow mag, and I will get the Phinney & Volek book.

[META COMMENT: I am sorry that I am posting so many, answers!!! These are supposed to be comments, but whenever I click "SUBMIT" nothing happens. A search through HELP has shown me that others are having this trouble as well. Maybe it's a bug in the new system. Hope it gets fixed soon! But for now, I'm going to have to post as "answers" instead.]

5f52a0bdbb94470bf7563b445702cfcc
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0 · November 12, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Going Low Carb affects your electrolyte balance as your kidney become very efficient at flushing out excess water, and therefore sodium. Minerals and electrolytes are essential for proper nervous system function. Stay in ketosis, but add a cup of bouillon once or twice a day, eat pickles and green olives as snacks, salt your food and water with a good quality sea salt. You might also do a 20-day course of magnesium chloride (slow-mag is a good brand, 3 times a day with meals, for 20 days), add a potassium supplement twice a day, some D3, and CoQ10. Hang in there. Source: The Art and Science of LowCarb Living, by Drs. Phinney and Volek.

A3db46eeb92ff43246ba05aace88bc5a
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15 · November 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM

Not a comprehensive answer, perhaps, but my $0.02 on some of the talk in this and related threads:

First off, cancer isn't the normal state of the human body. It happens, yes, but unless you're living in an area where the environment is conducive to cancer/consuming a lot of really nasty processed or contaminated food, your chances of developing it are likely slimmer than that of your average Joe. Moreover, your body is going to do everything it can to NOT develop cancer. Your body doesn't want cancer, so if there's something wrong with your body-- if there's some need that isn't being filled and putting you at greater risk for the development of cancer-- then you're eating the right diet to correct it. Eating a varied diet of nutrient-rich foods, supplementing wisely and learning from others in the community what cues to look for (like you're doing in this thread re: anxiety), is a great way to fortify yourself against a potential cancer.

Also, not to burst your bubble or anything, however (as I understand it), a ketosis diet has not been shown definitively to stop cancer in its tracks. I can't remember where I've read it-- I think it might've been Paul Jaminet-- but it's been suggested by some that maintaining ketosis may enable certain types of cancer. I hold that the best way to avoid neolithic disease (cancer, included), is not to develop it to begin with. Doing what you can to nourish your body and create a healthy inner environment will go a long way towards that. And, you know, don't import a bunch of Japanese seafood or play in puddles of radioactive waste.

Anxiety? Yeah, I've noticed anxiety. When I first started HFLC, things were great for the first week or so, however when I increased the fat and kept trying to do the ketosis thing, I began, for the first time in my 25 years, to develop severe anxiety. It was strange and really scary to me. Heart began to race, I felt I was developing palpitations. Even had a co-worker hook me up to telemetry to see if something was actually wrong. Nope. It was all anxiety. I have a stressful life, but I've always managed my stress very well. I figured, then, that the cocktail of low carb, lots of caffeine and, potentially, MCT oil, led to increased anxiety. I loved the benefits and fullness I experienced on a high fat, low carb diet, but obviously hated this side-effect. Now I just have higher carb days throughout the week. No more anxiety.

Anxiety is awful, and it's probably just as bad for your health as a lot of SAD, cancer-causing foods. Try increasing your carbs and perhaps look into methods of coping with stress/anxiety. Meditation, neurofeedback, stuff like that.

Just my thoughts. Sorry to have rambled so. Hope it was useful, haha.

23fe01308e3320ecf144b47b99a135a4
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144 · November 12, 2013 at 8:00 AM

You are asking the same questions I've been wondering. I keep trying the whole ketosis thing, and always am left with my stress levels skyrocketed. I have read that some people's livers just aren't that good at manufacturing glucose from proteins as others and need a bit more carbs. I'm thinking I may have to try and increase it a bit. It's unfortunate because I wanted the whole ketosis thing to work...I only have 3 kilos to lose and I'm a weirdo who worries about cancer for no reason (everyone seems to get it...I want to be HFLC so I don't feed it if it ever comes)

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:32 PM

We have very similar thinking. Thanks for the ketotic.org post. That's an excellent article. Lately I've been thinking I need to up my fat, not my protein. Hmmm. I guess everybody's different. I just know I want to give ketosis a generous try, and hopefully get past the crazy symptoms I'm experiencing lately. Now that I'm in "fat burning mode" it could be that my symptoms could be due to the detox of burning up all those toxins stored in fat over my whole life. Make sense?

23fe01308e3320ecf144b47b99a135a4
144 · November 12, 2013 at 8:18 AM

This link is good too, makes me think maybe I need to up my protein.

http://www.ketotic.org/2012/07/ketogenic-diets-and-stress-part-i.html

8292546789ca48c32ead34c6e884d059
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1040 · November 12, 2013 at 5:45 AM

I did a test last year. I wasn't sure if it was gluten or carbs that caused my anxiety attacks. To my surprise, it was carbs. White rice gave me trouble. While I don't have to be in ketosis all the time, I do better in ketosis. As little as three servings of rice per week is enough to get me into pre-anxiety states. I can feel the lead up to an attack. I'm ok if I leave it at veggies.

Medium avatar
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1097 · November 12, 2013 at 3:14 AM

Some bodies don't appreciate ketosis, I've heard. We're all so different, I say add some carbs back in and see how it goes. Your body just might be struggling too much to get into it and stay there.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 12, 2013 at 3:00 AM

I've been gluten free (and grain free) for quite awhile...

0f8f77156cd0667d43194fc4b8bc3b5d
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125 · November 12, 2013 at 1:48 AM

Not sure if this may be your n=1, by my anxiety is triggered only by carbs which contain GLUTEN. No matter if I eat VLC or mid range (say 80-120g), or 200+ gms, for me, it's not the grams of carbs, it's if gluten is amongst them.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
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300 · November 10, 2013 at 3:31 PM

@KetoWarrior
 @Rob from ketocure.com
@ketoguy
I do understand why making the leap over to keto might initially be interpreted as "stress" the body, hence the anxiety, but I don't see how to address insulin resistance otherwise.  
And it seems that blood sugar dysregulation might be driving the adrenal depletion in the first place, since insulin is a hormone that can pull all the others off balance when it's constantly and relentlessly flooding the bloodstream for decades. 
That's why adding a bunch of carbs back in doesn't seem to make sense.  I'm wondering if this anxiety is being caused perhaps by not eating enough fat, or enough total calories, rather than ketosis itself. 
Such a change for the body!  It makes sense that there would be a period of adjustment, doesnt it? I would much prefer to try getting really adapted to fat-burning, rather than to scurry immediately back to what's familiar (namely, eating carbs) & lick my wounds.    
Anybody out there feel the anxiety, and then get past it as they became keto-adapted?  Please chime in...

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 12, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Bukowski...So how would you suggest addressing insulin resistance? And, you say, "use caution" what advice in particular are you referring to?

Medium avatar
15 · November 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM

"but I don't see how to address insulin resistance otherwise." This guy has no fricking clue what he's talking about. One should exert extreme caution before following such kind of advice.

736662d9fd6314d426cc6de1896aa045
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175 · November 09, 2013 at 3:36 AM

I went VLC and found an increase in anxiety and depression.

I followed Peter at Hyperlipid, and my conclusion is that the high fat diet is great for lean people - but not for me. Instead, I go with intermittent fasting and only eat carbs in the evening.

On insomnia: epsom salt spray. Try it and like it.

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 09, 2013 at 6:08 AM

And I've also heard the opposite: that a ketogenic diet is "great for obese people trying to lose weight but not for lean people." I'm quite lean, but still have blood sugar dysregulation issues (what American doesn't, these days?!) that I want to address. That's why adding a bunch of carbs back in doesn't really make sense for me. I'm wondering if my anxiety is being caused perhaps by eating too little fat, rather than ketosis itself. Anybody out there feel the anxiety, and then get past it as they became keto-adapted? Please chime in...

Be803dcde63e3cf5e21cc121097b8158
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529 · November 09, 2013 at 1:20 AM

Have you read much about Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Seeing your health problems through the lens of AFS might be very helpful.

AFS focuses on stress hormones, blood glucose, etc.

It's generally believed that VLC is detrimental to those with AFS -- it's just another contributor of stress for an already stressed out person.

Get Dr. Wilson's and maybe Dr. Michael Lam's books on AFS.

Af679502f1e31c0c59c79bd08f324b35
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519 · November 08, 2013 at 10:35 PM

let me say this... I too tried ZC/VLC and let me just say it sucked. I had memory issues, long muscle soreness etc. I went from 0-15 g of carbs to now 100-200 g of carbs. Guess what I gained no weight, feel calmed, rarely are my muscles sore for anything more than 1-2 days. I eat close to 2 lbs of Sweet Potatoes a day and I get absolutely no "crash" nor do I get hungry after a big warm, butter covered sweet potato. My best advice for you is to try new things to find your optimal human diet. Tweak until you feel great all around.

Af679502f1e31c0c59c79bd08f324b35
519 · November 09, 2013 at 12:48 AM

Oh and I went to ketosis to drop that last bit of body fat and it didn't work for me

F79dd33c17d9fbb55cc7e202dfa30e6e
300 · November 10, 2013 at 5:52 PM

I do understand why making the leap over to keto might initially be interpreted as "stress" the body, hence the anxiety, but I don't see how to address insulin resistance otherwise. And it seems that blood sugar dysregulation might be driving the adrenal depletion in the first place, since insulin is a hormone that can pull all the others off balance when it's constantly and relentlessly flooding the bloodstream for decades. That's why adding a bunch of carbs back in doesn't seem to make sense. (continued)

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