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Depression, Fatigue, Low Carb

by (25)
Updated about 5 hours ago
Created April 06, 2012 at 11:19 AM

I'm in a damned if you do, damned if you don't, situation, and I'm desperate for some advice. I suffer from clinical depression, and am on antidepressants. I am also overweight (about 60lbs), and have a history of CFS, hypoglycemia, and poor adrenal function. I have a very sensitive body, especially to food.

I have been Paleo (very strict) since February. I find that if I severely restrict carbs during the day, I can function - but even a tiny bit of carbs (a quarter of a potato, for example) at breakfast or lunch will make me fatigued to the point of sleepiness, all day. It also makes my joints hurts.

But on the other hand, if I restrict my carbs, my mental state deteriorates. And I cannot sleep.

What do I do??!!

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367 · May 10, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Also, you might want to try CoQ10. I've started this a couple weeks ago and I'm not cashing in my chips quite yet with the "holy grail" concept, but so far, my energy and mood has improved and sensitivities (to which I have a zillion) seem much better. It helps with blood sugar levels apparently - has decreased appetite and helped with weight loss too, which is an unexpected but welcomed side effect. But the main thing is mood - however, I am experiencing insomnia and trying to find the smallest dose possible. Might just take one every few days. Anyway, just a possibility.

7636e1e02ef91a46f20a42e07b565a4b
367 · May 10, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Have you tried any other type of starch, such as white rice or beans? It sounds like you might be sensitive to salicylates. They can deplete glycogen and cause hypoglycemia in some people, which sounds like your symptoms; since they're present in high amounts in fruits and vegetables it could explain your reactions. As David Moss says below, plain glucose could help, and maybe if it's acceptable to you, white rice or beans (not "paleo" perhaps, but traditionally prepared beans are ok by Stephan Guyenet, at least, and I agree.)

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120 · April 09, 2012 at 11:20 AM

No problem. A walk in the forest is great Sometimes its easy to blame everything on diet but sleep, excersise and stress have equally important functions for the body/mind. When im being good i find yoga to be equally helpful. With my temprement though sometimes i just need a bloody good walk. It stands to reason that as animals (albeit developed) we should spend more time outdoors breathing fresh air and moving :)

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18671 · April 07, 2012 at 4:22 PM

Sounds like a fair trial. Just thought I'd check...

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 1:44 PM

I'm going to try that, thank you! I have been too tired to exercise, but dragged myself out for a 30 min walk yesterday, and will keep doing that.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 1:43 PM

I am taking extra magnesium, thanks for that suggestion.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 1:42 PM

about eight weeks.

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14877 · April 07, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Correction:I meant to put "not eating STARCH all day," not "not eating all day." I have my first meal in the afternoon where I eat protein and veg. For my last meal I eat slightly less protein and veg with as large of a sweet potato as I want, usually with a dollop of coconut oil.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · April 07, 2012 at 1:14 PM

You're very welcome. This has helped me out a lot, personally. I don't get tired really after eating sweet potatoes, but I can't sleep if I don't eat any starch. So, I save it for my last meal. It also has the benefit that you've really drained yourself of glycogen from not eating all day, so you'll be very insulin sensitive at this time and the starch will go to "all the right places." :)

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213 · April 07, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Cinnamon is great for stabilizing those crashes. I am caffeine sensitive, but find that cinnamon really stabilizes it, especially with fruit or yogurt.

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18671 · April 07, 2012 at 7:24 AM

How long have you tried restricting carbs? Long enough to be keto-adapted?

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 6:10 AM

Thank you, I'm going to try this from today.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 6:10 AM

That's really interesting - thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm not going to give up, that's for sure. I know this is the right way to go for me, and it's such a relief not to have food cravings / feel compelled to overeat any more.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 9:03 PM

I will look into that, thank you SO much!

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Thank you. I think tweaking is the only solution.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 7:33 PM

Thanks honey. I appreciate that.

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1492 · April 06, 2012 at 6:39 PM

Just want to offer support for your experience with depression. I don't have your dietary challenges, but paleo is helping me to manage my mood when anti-depressants did not. Keep at it and hope you find the balance you are seeking.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 4:13 PM

No, but I do take Vit D supplements every day.

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8933 · April 06, 2012 at 3:42 PM

Did you test your vitamin D yet?

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25 · April 06, 2012 at 1:28 PM

I am doing that. I probably should have mentioned my average days food, right? Breakfast: 3 egg & spinach omelette, 3 rashers of bacon Lunch: mackerel/salmon with huge dressed salad Dinner: some form of meat, lots of veggies Before bed: Greek yoghurt (not strict Paleo, I know, but it helps me sleep)

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Yeah, fruit doesn't work for me in any configuration, even at the end of a protein/fat heavy meal. I don't eat coconut oil, but I do have coconut milk. My multivit has brewers yeast in it.

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8933 · April 06, 2012 at 12:58 PM

what about fruit + protein? Do you eat coconut oil? Did you ever try brewer's yeast?

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25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:44 PM

I can tolerate non-starchy veg carbs, as long as they aren't too high. For example, I'm fine with a mixed salad, but when I add an avocado, I get sleepy. Fruit I really cannot tolerate, it makes my blood sugar spike and then crash. I can't have caffeine for the same reason.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:43 PM

I have had thyroid issues in the past - auto-immune thyroiditis - but I'm assured that my thyroid levels are normal at the moment.

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25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:42 PM

This is my next plan, to try this for a few days. Only having carbs with my evening meal.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:41 PM

I really cannot tolerate any fruit at all (except for berries) - I get shaky and dizzy. I have weird blood sugar issues.

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8933 · April 06, 2012 at 12:02 PM

You tried fruit yet? I don't tolerate starch well, fruit is fine.

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15 Answers

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107
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15593 · April 06, 2012 at 12:00 PM

What about eating all your carbs right before bed, so as to aid sleep while reducing the downsides of fatigue? Also have you experimented with different types of carbs. I sometimes find that fibre, even in potatoes, doesn't sit with me well, but I have no problems with plain glucose.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:42 PM

This is my next plan, to try this for a few days. Only having carbs with my evening meal.

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14877 · April 07, 2012 at 2:54 AM

eat your carbs at night so you're sleepy around bedtime.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · April 07, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Correction:I meant to put "not eating STARCH all day," not "not eating all day." I have my first meal in the afternoon where I eat protein and veg. For my last meal I eat slightly less protein and veg with as large of a sweet potato as I want, usually with a dollop of coconut oil.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 6:10 AM

Thank you, I'm going to try this from today.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · April 07, 2012 at 1:14 PM

You're very welcome. This has helped me out a lot, personally. I don't get tired really after eating sweet potatoes, but I can't sleep if I don't eat any starch. So, I save it for my last meal. It also has the benefit that you've really drained yourself of glycogen from not eating all day, so you'll be very insulin sensitive at this time and the starch will go to "all the right places." :)

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174 · April 06, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Ask your Dr about adding Deplin to your antidepressant--it's NOT another antidepressant drug but a fully converted form of folic acid (l- methylfolate) which is a cofactor that helps your body convert precursors to Serotonin,dopamine etc. It has made a huge diff to me being in the same boat as you. Nothing else has ever worked. You can buy L- methylfolate online but Deplin may be cheaper if you have prescription coverage. I take 7.5 mg per day--I cut the pill in half as it is a 15 mg pill--cheaper and that dose is sufficient according to my doctor.

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25 · April 06, 2012 at 9:03 PM

I will look into that, thank you SO much!

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807 · April 06, 2012 at 3:04 PM

How's your fat intake? Keep it up during the first few months. You can adjust as time goes on.

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25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Wow, you guys totally rock - such quick responses! I'm so grateful, thank you all.

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0 · April 23, 2014 at 4:18 AM

Ha, I had the same issue and so have many of my clients.

This is the diet that I designed to get around these issues:

http://selfhacked.com/2013/06/15/the-cause-of-brain-fog/#The_Safest_Foods_for_People_Sensitive_to_Everything_An_Elimination_Diet

I would also suggest you read why you get tired in the day (and coincidentally why your joints hurt):

http://selfhacked.com/2014/04/13/people-get-tired-even-enough-sleep/

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30 · May 10, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Dee,

All your symptoms point towards a thyroid issue. You mention above that you have been assured on that count but I urge you to look up this website,www.stopthethyroidmadness.com. The authors stress that your symptoms are a better indicator of thyroid disease than your labs.

I have been paleo for the past 7 months and for the last 2, have struggled with the same issues as you have listed. I also struggle with my adrenals and in fact thats what made me turn to Paleo in the first place. Even a small amount of exercise makes me sick so thats never an option for me. Also, I am sure I have undiagnosed issues with mood and depression. I eat mostly low carb, have GI issues with starch and mostly don't do fruit. I might add I need to lose about 25 pounds and have stalled on this low carb version so far. The reason is an under-active thyroid although my TSH values are in range but Free T3, the active thyroid hormone is low.

Two weeks ago I started taking a Thyroid Complex from Vitamin Shoppe and have felt immeasurably better. The formula is far from ideal but it is making me function for now. Some people here will point out that the thyroid complex isn't good and more likely to cause harm due to a variety of reasons. Now, I live in India and you wouldn't believe the kind of challenges I face in following this diet(don't even get me started!). So for me this was the only option. If you are situated in the US you could consult with a naturopath or holistic practitioner on supplementing with Natural Desiccated Thyroid or synthetic T3 or even a combination. Again, lots of good info on the website I mentioned. They even have a lot of good resources for people with adrenal issues. Ofcourse the Thyroid Complex I mentioned isn't an option for you since it contains iodine and you have an autoimmune thyroid condition. But a number of other thyroid supplements could be of help to you.

I second the recommendation for magnesium, Vitamin D and a good multi. All the best and I hope you feel better soon. I really can understand what you are going through.

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0 · May 10, 2012 at 6:58 AM

I have the same EXACT problem. Adrenal, blood sugar, and mental imbalances. I'm a blood type O and this is quite common for blood type O's. Women also have a tendancy to have about 1/3 less seratonin than men. And as we know carbohydrates are important for the conversion of this "happy" hormone. I've been low carb/primal for years. I've tried different things but always go back because it seems to be my "safe" zone. Well I was recently inspired by a well known blogger to eat high amounts of everything. I think some will know who I am talking about. Anyways, it was a great experience in which 2 things happened: 1 I felt great, 2 I felt horrible. Let me explain, I ate a large amount of carbs, fat, and protein just as instructed, and I mean LARGE. The next day I would feel bloated, and like a fat weighed down cow with intestinal discomfort, but you know what? I had a lot more energy and my moods were a lot better with more of a pep in my step. Not as much of the adrenal draggy feeling. So I did that for about a month sporatically, and got nice and fat. Then I was tired of being fat and followed a ketogenic diet program to a T for 1 month. The results? Same old dang tired and depression again BUT with a 8 lb weightloss and handcuff release from my evergrowing hunger, blood sugar rollercoaster. I'm a sad sad sucker for carbs and know what they do to me, so I'm just trying to figure this business out while maintaing my blood sugar. Insulin disorders run rampid in my family.

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120 · April 07, 2012 at 10:54 AM

You could try supplementing with higher doses of niacin (b3) I heard that this is an effective cure for depression. Usually you would start with smaller doses say 25mg after each meal and then build up to a higher dose. There is lotsof info on the web about its effectiveness in curing depression.

I find that fermented dairy eg kefir is a good way to get my carbs in and it also helps me sleep

Do you excersise during the day, i find that a good walk helps me sleep much better, stops my head spinning at night

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 1:44 PM

I'm going to try that, thank you! I have been too tired to exercise, but dragged myself out for a 30 min walk yesterday, and will keep doing that.

Cf89b6767687599fbbd8733757b5f215
120 · April 09, 2012 at 11:20 AM

No problem. A walk in the forest is great Sometimes its easy to blame everything on diet but sleep, excersise and stress have equally important functions for the body/mind. When im being good i find yoga to be equally helpful. With my temprement though sometimes i just need a bloody good walk. It stands to reason that as animals (albeit developed) we should spend more time outdoors breathing fresh air and moving :)

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213 · April 07, 2012 at 9:14 AM

If you can't sleep because you are twitchy/get anxious, try magnesium. How are your BMs? Constipated or smooth? This has a lot to say about magnesium levels.

Also...give yourself time. Adrenals need to function properly to handle diet and vice versa. Try not to strip your nutrients with caffeinated beverages.

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25 · April 07, 2012 at 1:43 PM

I am taking extra magnesium, thanks for that suggestion.

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670 · April 07, 2012 at 2:50 AM

Hi Dee! I also started early this year and I also similar issues: depression, the food sensitivities (especially to carbohydrates). I am still new to this so my advice should be taken with several heaped tablespoons of salt, but I wanted to tell you that I didn't really see that much improvement with paleo in the first months.

It was discouraging, but I think it's important to remember that this is an ongoing process. Many of us have underlying issues that will take time to heal. It's super important to get sleep, sunlight, be around others and reduce stress as much as you can.

Paleo reduced my anxiety a bit, but it's only now I'm experimenting now with GAPS that I'm feeling energetic and positive about my life. I had gone low-carb before this, but like you it made my depression worse. It is an elimination diet that focuses on repopulating your gut flora and healing the gut lining. I've always had digestive issues and I suspect that it isn't doing any favours for my depression and constant fatigue- if this resonates, I'd really recommend checking it out! It basically favours bone broths, fats, soft cooked vegetables and probiotic foods. My mood is stable without the carbohydrates and digestion is easier than it would be if you were relying on ground beef and eggs like some hardier folks do.

Best of luck and don't give up. I don't think we can go wrong with favouring unadulterated foods, but figuring out what our personal needs are makes it difficult and it can be frustrating when the general 'paleo template' doesn't work so well for us.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 07, 2012 at 6:10 AM

That's really interesting - thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm not going to give up, that's for sure. I know this is the right way to go for me, and it's such a relief not to have food cravings / feel compelled to overeat any more.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f
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3924 · April 06, 2012 at 4:48 PM

You might try getting your carbs from low carb veggies like leafy greens, onions and cauliflower or the lower carb berries like blueberries and strawberries. I find that the really starchy carbs like potatoes make me fatigued during the day, but the same amount of carb from leafy greens and blueberries makes me more energetic. I also find that when I eat the right carbs for my body I do better on more carbs so:

The best for me: 50-100 grams carb per day from lower carb sources The next best: 30 - 50 grams carb per day from lower carb sources The next best: 30- 50 grams carb per day from a mix of lower and higher carb sources

After that it all gets ugly!

Good luck with tweaking your diet

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Thank you. I think tweaking is the only solution.

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864 · April 06, 2012 at 12:56 PM

try upping the fat

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 1:28 PM

I am doing that. I probably should have mentioned my average days food, right? Breakfast: 3 egg & spinach omelette, 3 rashers of bacon Lunch: mackerel/salmon with huge dressed salad Dinner: some form of meat, lots of veggies Before bed: Greek yoghurt (not strict Paleo, I know, but it helps me sleep)

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100 · April 06, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Vegeatable and fruit carbs rather than starchy carbs . . . ?

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213 · April 07, 2012 at 9:16 AM

Cinnamon is great for stabilizing those crashes. I am caffeine sensitive, but find that cinnamon really stabilizes it, especially with fruit or yogurt.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:44 PM

I can tolerate non-starchy veg carbs, as long as they aren't too high. For example, I'm fine with a mixed salad, but when I add an avocado, I get sleepy. Fruit I really cannot tolerate, it makes my blood sugar spike and then crash. I can't have caffeine for the same reason.

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291 · April 06, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Get your thyroid levels checked.

A3a11155a43b077dca5bc5a46b7f589a
25 · April 06, 2012 at 12:43 PM

I have had thyroid issues in the past - auto-immune thyroiditis - but I'm assured that my thyroid levels are normal at the moment.

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