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light headedness/faintness on paleo

by (626)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:17 PM
Created December 22, 2010 at 9:53 PM

So I've experienced light headedness on Paleo during a few occasions. It's always fairly acute--i.e. all of a sudden I get very light headed and feel the need to sit down. Not frequent (has only happened twice, maybe) in a year. This morning it happened again while sitting at my desk at work.

More details:

-I'm a male, early 20's, 190-200lbs, probably 15-18% bfp, 6 feet

-clean bill of health (My dr. is awesome and does comprehensive bloodwork at every checkup)...last one was a few months ago

-feel fine otherwise, lifting heavy weights no problem, doing hit and slow movements without shortness of breath etc (in general my circulatory/cardiac/respiratory health feels fine...I feel like i'm in pretty good shape), sleeping well, etc.

-typically happens during fasting days, or after not having eaten for a while

-tends to be preceded by super high energy, sometimes euphoric feeling

-almost positive every instance has been in AM before lunch (today it was like 10:45-11 am)

-To treat I usually drink a ton of water, deep breath to calm my self down (it can be a fairly unpleasant/little scary sensation) and then EAT something, typically complex carbs (i.e. a bagel, big sandwich, halal chicken and rice...yea I know not paleo and probably causes blood sugar spike, but when this happens I have the instinctual urge to eat and NOW...I've tried nuts and dried fruit but this doesn't do it for me in this situation) and a lot of it. This makes me feel better almost immediately, though leaves me feeling a little sluggish afterwords (both from the food and the adrenaline come-down) maybe slight head ache also.

-I think it may be hypo-glycemia or maybe just a reaction to general caloric deficit (one of the things I've had to watch for, contrary to every other diet I've ever been on, is eating ENOUGH for my size, as all the food is so filling)

-what's interesting is that this has never happened during a longer, sustained fast (i.e. a 24-36 hour fast), but rather happens say after doing two days of IF or restricted eating windows

-I do have a history of anxiety/panic attacks, which has largely abated with paleo nutrition, good sleep and regular exercise

  1. Have any of you ever experienced anything like this?

  2. If so, what do you do? How do you treat and/or prevent it?

  3. Any clues as to what this could be?

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2437 · December 24, 2010 at 2:13 AM

Salt helped me. I went super low salt for awhile and started to get dizzy. Started seasoning with salt again and am now fine

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9948 · December 23, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Eating protein does trigger a small insulin response in most people. There are ketogenic diet people that get no insulin response after a protein and fat meal but never get lightheaded meaning they do get a blood sugar increase from the protein. You may be one of those people that protein does not engender an insulin response. Thus the tuber.

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9948 · December 23, 2010 at 9:56 PM

Todd, have you considered that low heart rate and BP are the result of not consuming neolithic foods? Your arteries have become supple because you are not inflaming the arterial linings with the wheat and sugar products that used to spike your blood sugar. If you were not experiencing this prior to paleo, then have a microwaved tuber along with your breakfast eggs & bacon. This will raise your blood sugar a little and allow for some insulin rise. Your body does need some glucose & insulin is needed to transport the glucose and fat to the liver and to the rest of the body.

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5838 · December 23, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Interesting, Brandon. Im going to look into the orthostatic hypotension. Like I said in my answer, I'm still trying to pinpoint what this is. I actually had to go to the Cardiologist because they said I had an abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure. I was getting super tired and light headed / faint when standing up.

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5838 · December 23, 2010 at 6:34 PM

lol, exactly...

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM

sound advice. thanks!

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Yea I think its easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal (overall well being/health) in favor of shorter term stuff like "ooooh six pack". I also remember my martial arts teacher attributing a students sudden dizziness in class to the fact that he had recently lost a ton of weight and was very lean.

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

but anyway, yea our experiences sound very similar. especially the: "ooooh this stuff works, lets ramp up the intensity so it works even BETTER" (HITS WALL)

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

whats interesting for me is that it seems to be the length of time at caloric deficit, not the extent of the deficit. so a 24 hour fast is usually just fine. but 2-3 days of IF will tend to trigger (I find it hard to get enough calories in IF typically...but thats my own poor planning)

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:13 PM

guys thank you for your very helpful comments! I feel a ton better.

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18691 · December 23, 2010 at 12:32 PM

Laying off the coffee is never the answer! (Lalalala ***fingers in ears***) Your dizziness seems way more fun than mine. I never saw sparkles! Maybe I need MORE coffee.

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128 · December 23, 2010 at 12:45 AM

I have something very similar, but it's blood pressure. Such a rapid improvement in a short time - ie one week of 100% effort and my BP went from 170/110 to 120/80. Sure, could be blood sugar, but I'd also look at blood pressure - especially if it's upon standing from laying or sitting - orthostatic hypotension.

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5838 · December 22, 2010 at 11:11 PM

Definitely think this is related, and sound advice from Payam. I applied similar recommendations and has mitigated symptoms.

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851 · December 22, 2010 at 11:09 PM

sounds like low blood sugar.. remember paleo isn't low carb. If you are working out, your body still needs carbs. Eat some potatoes/sweet potatoes/fruit on your workout days and see if that helps. If you are doing IF, you need to make sure you are getting enough calories overall. IF and caloric deficit and workout out at the same time is asking for episodes of hypoglycemia.

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10 · December 22, 2010 at 10:22 PM

When did you start paleo? Is this a sign of getting into Ketosis?

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4 Answers

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822 · December 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM

Hypoglycemia is pretty unlikely... and a blood glucose monitor can answer that definitively. Remember even zero carb folks usually don't get hypoglycemia. More likely you have mild hypotension. Try getting your blood pressure checked.

I think getting lightheaded occasionally, especially when standing up, is normal if you haven't eaten for a while... If I fast for a few days I experience something like orthostatic hypotension almost every time I stand up, sometimes so bad that I can't see at all or nearly pass out. After a while you get used to it. Sometimes even turning my head too fast causes me to feel a little out of it or see sparkles. All of it goes away when I eat more calories and more frequently.

I heard drinking more water and eating more salt might help since it causes you to retain more water and increases blood fluid volume. In my case laying off the coffee would probably help too. :)

B22e5946e28a1845a6006737e59edfc6
2437 · December 24, 2010 at 2:13 AM

Salt helped me. I went super low salt for awhile and started to get dizzy. Started seasoning with salt again and am now fine

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458
9948 · December 23, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Eating protein does trigger a small insulin response in most people. There are ketogenic diet people that get no insulin response after a protein and fat meal but never get lightheaded meaning they do get a blood sugar increase from the protein. You may be one of those people that protein does not engender an insulin response. Thus the tuber.

06d21b99c58283ce575e36c4ecd4a458
9948 · December 23, 2010 at 9:56 PM

Todd, have you considered that low heart rate and BP are the result of not consuming neolithic foods? Your arteries have become supple because you are not inflaming the arterial linings with the wheat and sugar products that used to spike your blood sugar. If you were not experiencing this prior to paleo, then have a microwaved tuber along with your breakfast eggs & bacon. This will raise your blood sugar a little and allow for some insulin rise. Your body does need some glucose & insulin is needed to transport the glucose and fat to the liver and to the rest of the body.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10
5838 · December 23, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Interesting, Brandon. Im going to look into the orthostatic hypotension. Like I said in my answer, I'm still trying to pinpoint what this is. I actually had to go to the Cardiologist because they said I had an abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure. I was getting super tired and light headed / faint when standing up.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705
18691 · December 23, 2010 at 12:32 PM

Laying off the coffee is never the answer! (Lalalala ***fingers in ears***) Your dizziness seems way more fun than mine. I never saw sparkles! Maybe I need MORE coffee.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10
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5838 · December 22, 2010 at 11:09 PM

I feel like this may be something similar to what I went through. After 3-4 months of Paleo, and limitless energy, I began trying intermittent fasting and focused more and more on shedding weight. I feel like this lead to caloric restriction to the point where I feel I might have been Hypoglycemic. I started eating more, emphasis on fat. I know you said eating fat doesn't help (and I'm assuming you mean in the couple hours after eating), and in my experience it doesn't. But what it does do, is set me up properly for the next day or two. I really think you might just not be getting enough calories.

I feel like I have pinpointed this feeling (which is near hell) to if I run a heavy caloric deficit for more than a two days.

Hope this helps. Also, looking to hear other answers.

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5838 · December 23, 2010 at 6:34 PM

lol, exactly...

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

but anyway, yea our experiences sound very similar. especially the: "ooooh this stuff works, lets ramp up the intensity so it works even BETTER" (HITS WALL)

710a2d86803b176778ce7db770944bb7
626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:15 PM

whats interesting for me is that it seems to be the length of time at caloric deficit, not the extent of the deficit. so a 24 hour fast is usually just fine. but 2-3 days of IF will tend to trigger (I find it hard to get enough calories in IF typically...but thats my own poor planning)

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18691 · December 22, 2010 at 11:12 PM

I've spent the last few years getting light-headed really easily. I had blamed it on my high blood pressure, but now that I'm eating Paleo, it's been gone.

I think it was a combination of under-feeding (I ate 1200 calories for 6 years while losing weight, now 1400/1500) and not being hydrated enough (from a diuretic I take for blood pressure).

There are far too many reasons you could get dizzy, but that it comes on fasting days and you fix it by drinking a ton of water makes me think that maybe it could be the same reasons I was dizzy.

This isn't really something you want to play with, dizziness is not usually a sign of anything good. I would drop the fasting.

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM

Yea I think its easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal (overall well being/health) in favor of shorter term stuff like "ooooh six pack". I also remember my martial arts teacher attributing a students sudden dizziness in class to the fact that he had recently lost a ton of weight and was very lean.

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1288 · December 22, 2010 at 10:34 PM

For me yes - it still happens after nearly 6 months Paleo

For me I think its a hypo - it passes - eating more fat does not make it go away - nor protein for that matter

For me exercise and fat ( not together) - especially fat - if my meal is more fat than protein for sure - can happen an hr or so after eating.

I make sure I have a salad with my bacon eggs ( or just skip the bacon ) and I dont have cream so much any more. Just tweaked my diet that's all

Oh yeh - for you it could be simple as DONT FAST - only do things that feel good for you - your a hungry 20year old man - go feed yourself!

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626 · December 23, 2010 at 3:17 PM

sound advice. thanks!

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