Why the Metabolically Broken Can’t Eat Carbs

As we’ve posted about several times, the entire family went on the 21-Day Sugar Detox after indulging a bit this holiday season. This post is the result of Stacy doing the detox. Now, I want to be very clear about what “indulge” means for us because I think it’s important to understand in the concept of why my results are so drastic.

Why we ate sugar at all to begin with

We are not Paleo Perfectionists. We eat sugar, sometimes. Mostly it’s treats for the kids. Sometimes it’s treats for others. And not seldom, it’s recipes we’re making to perfect and share on the blog and our cookbooks. Sometimes these treats add up and sweep us off our feet, tricking our mind into needing more and more of them. It is at this point we sometimes need a “reset” in order to change our taste-buds and desire (or lack thereof) for sweets.

We’ve heard it before, “If you’re paleo why do you need a detox? Aren’t you already not eating sugar.” It is agreed that Stacy is and stayed paleo. We strictly avoid the big no’s as part of our everyday diet – no matter what – like gluten, grains, seed oils, low quality dairy, legumes and refined sugars. But it is absolutely not the case that this means we’re not eating sugar. That’s just not true. Dates, fresh fruits, maple sugar, and honey are all “sugar”. Also, hard cider, wine and gin aren’t exactly low-carb no-sugar, yet fall into that grey area that we paleos love to enjoy – especially during special occasions.

Sugar & Carbs are Highly Palatable Foods

You’ll note that the thing all of these foods have in common is sugar & carbs. Foods rich in sugar & carbs are the thing that I desire when given the remote possibility of an opportunity. They’re highly palatable foods. They’re addictive to a sub-section of our population, especially to those of us who have at any points in our lives been metabolically broken or obese.

Those of us who were metabolically broken and obese have compromised gut and digestion. I’m going out on a limb by making that blanket statement, but I’ve yet to meet a single person who defies that definition. I’m sure there are exceptions, and there’s plenty of “healthy” individuals with bad guts. If that’s you, then this also applies to you – so listen up!

What happens to someone who’s formerly been addicted to palatable foods is that the reintroduction of it, in most any capacity (even fruit) can trigger an emotional and chemical response in your brain that makes you want to add it back into your diet. Looking back, we were even serving starchy and dense veggies at almost every meal – it was carbohydrate city in our home for the month of December! Ultimately, these special occasions with special treats become less special and ultimately one find themselves without any pants that fit and a constant craving for more sweets and carbohydrates.

Why My Pants Didn’t Fit

Alright, maybe it’s just me that had tight pants. But, I know at least Matt was in the same boat too. And quite of few of you have let us know you also had this struggle… so, I found an interesting write-up from Jaminet on why carbohydrates (of any kind) retain water in the body.

Here’s the thing, the second I go back to a low carb paleo diet, my body drops an excessive amount of water weight (see this, this, and this to prove my point). I took pictures this time to prove I hold this water in different parts of my body; mainly I get an excessive belly bloat from too many sugary and simple carbohydrates.  This is not photography trickery. I am wearing the same pants and shirt. [edited to add, the 2nd set of photos does include a sports bra, as this was post-workout, which did not “affect” my belly] Both were taken with an iPhone. These pictures were taken NINETEEN days apart.

21DSD B&A frontview by @PaleoParents

21DSD B&A sideview by @PaleoParentsAdmittedly, I also started CrossFit during this time period, notice the arrival of a booty!

It looks like I lost a carb-baby (you have that joke in your house too, right)? You might be surprised to learn that the before and after photos are only 8.5lbs apart. What’s more interesting? I lost 7.5lbs the first week and then .5lbs each on the 2nd and 3rd week. That, my friends, is water weight that was lost. You’ll notice in these photos that my belly is completely distended in the “before” photos. Why, oh why, was my body so miserably bloated?

My body is jacked.

It could be SIBO. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (or SIBO) is a chronic bacterial infection of the small intestine, characterized by excessive number and/or abnormal type of bacteria growing in a part of the gastrointestinal tract that normal contains relatively few microorganisms.  These bacteria can cause a variety of problems by interfering with digestion and absorption of nutrients and by damaging the lining of the gut, causing a “leaky gut” (I addressed the many health problems that can arise from a leaky gut in this post). The most common symptoms of bacterial overgrowth include abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, gas, belching, flatulence, chronic diarrhea, and chronic constipation. The Paleo Mom

It could be Candida. What are your thoughts on candida? How much does it affect cravings and weight gain? Is it possible to starve it and get rid of it with the right diet or not? “Candida is 100% an outgrowth of too many carbs…” Robb Wolf

I think, however, that the answer is Insulin Resistance from years of obesity. I experience stable blood sugar and lack of cravings when I adhere to an autoimmune paleo protocol, take my digestion supplements (ox bile & HCL) and eat organ meats, bone broth and fermented foods. I know the reason for this is because when I fuel my body with nourishing foods it is able to easily absorb all of the nutrients I’m putting into it, instead of being unable to properly digest foods and craving more nutrients (food) as a result.

I hadn’t found material to put together that the gut health and nutrient absorption were linked to blood sugar until I read the recent genius series of posts on Carbs & Paleo by Robb Wolf: Lowering glycemic load can be incredibly powerful in reducing inflammation and metabolic derangement. One could likely get as much benefit from a moderate LC approach (75-100g/day) as a strict ketogenic approach. [interestingly, this is my exact problem and the range that works well to resolve it for me – Stacy] In addition to our knowledge that overeating is likely the impetus for insulin resistance, Mat Lalonde has made the point that nutrient deficiencies are also a big factor in all this. If we have inadequate substrates for antioxidant production, ROS species increase inflammation, which itself deranges metabolism and insulin sensitivity, regardless of calorie intake.

So how did I deflate?

  1. I followed Level 3 of the 21-Day Sugar Detox following a tailored autoimmune protocol that works for my body. [edited to add, this includes fermented food, bone broth & organ meat to heal the gut]
  2. I slept a minimum of 7 and a goal of 9 hours of sleep at night.
  3. I focused on de-stressing every and anything in my environment.
  4. Kick-starting my metabolism with a tailored exercise routine that would help my body heal and get stronger, while not creating an overly inflammatory or overly strenuous exercise that would ruin my cortisol or other hormone regulation.

Lesson learned. I can’t booze it up. I can’t eat a bunch of honey sweetened marshmallows and paleo cookies. I’ve got a past I’m looking to avoid ever seeing in my future. So, I was happy to have mango and berries for breakfast this morning. But I sincerely hope that the refined sugar baked goods will continue to taste sickeningly sweet for quite some time, because sugary treats are the last thing my metabolically broken body needs.


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