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low-carb causing anxiety and depression

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this or has some insight.  Several years ago I went grain and sugar-free.  I felt great.  But after my daughter was born, I developed some bad eating habits (like eating late at night every time DD would be up - basically I was eating b/c I was so tired from lack of sleep) and started eating grains again regularly and some sugar (but not much) - I was still eating healthy and following Nourishing Traditions but def. eating too much.  I put on a bunch of weight and last year I finally decided that it was time to go back to my grain and sugar free diet.  I started reading a lot about Paleo and Primal diets and decided to give it a try.  I opted for Primal (Mark Sisson) as it allows raw dairy and we've been consuming raw dairy for years and I didn't want to give it up.  I've been on an emotional rollercoaster since summer 2011.  Here is what happens:  I start eating low carb (no grains, no sugar or any other sweetener, no fruit, no starchy veggies, just meat, eggs, cheese, lots of fats and veggies).  To speed up weight loss, I would go almost zero carbs some days (no or almost no veggies).  Physically I felt great and even emotionally I'd feel great at first.  However, after a few weeks, I'd notice that I was starting to feel more and more anxious.  Since carbs were always my go to comfort food, the anxiety would lead me to eating carbs again and I'd feel better in a few days (still no sugar, but eating starchy veggies and maybe some coconut flour baked goods with a little honey, a little bit of Ezekiel tortillas here and there).  I would then start gaining weight again and once I felt ok emotionally, I'd dive back into low-carb.  I have to say that when it was happening at first, I did not make a connection between diet and my emotions.  However, by fall, after maybe the 5th or 6th round of this, I started thinking that it was diet related.  It also seemed that each round it would take less time from going low-carb to feeling anxious.  Last month, I tried going low carb again, and this time it only took a few days to start feeling bad - severe anxiety with chest pains and racing heart, feelings of panic, etc.  This last round left me feeling severely anxious and even depressed (something I haven't dealt with in about 10 years). 

 

I started researching the diet/mood connection and read that you need carbs to convert amino acids to serotonin and other "feel good" brain chemicals.  I also read that women have about a third less serotonin than men.  And that people with lower serotonin levels (ex. people with a history of anxiety/depression) can deplete their serotonin stores pretty quickly through dieting and stress.  I even read somewhere that some people spiral into a full chemical depression when they go low carb.  So I think what happened is that each low carb round depleted more and more serotonin and the last round left me with nothing.  What I still don't understand is that I was eating low carb for a few years before without any of these problems. 

 

My research led me to reading about supplementing with amino acids to stabilize moods and I just bought "The Mood Cure" and have begun reading it.  I've started supplementing with 5HTP and Sam-e and had an almost immediate improvement in mood.  I'm still not 100%, but feeling much better.  I think it will probably take some time to rebalance my brain chemicals, but I feel hopeful that I can do it.  I haven't finished reading the book yet and haven't figured out my perfect supplement combo and dosages.  The book says that you can discontinue supplementing with aminos once you restore a proper level of brain chemicals and I plan on doing that.  However, I'm left wondering whether I'll ever be able to go low-carb again.  Not only is this the only way that I am able to lose weight, but I feel so much better physically when I go low carb.  I think that I can still go Paleo (no grains and no sugar) and not experience the emotional problems, but I don't think I can go very low carb (aka Atkins) to lose weight (not even for a short time).  I'd certainly much rather be overweight than have to deal with anxiety and depression.  However, I'd really like to get more physically healthy by losing weight.  I should add that I also exercise regularly - I follow Mark Sisson's guidelines - lift heavy things, sprint every few days, avoid chronic cardio - and I love it! 

 

I've decide to post my story in case others have experienced the same problems.  I'd also love to hear from anyone with similar issues and anyone who can provide any advice and guidance. 

post #2 of 25

Thank you for this insighful post! I don't have any advice or guidance but wanted to say that I experienced similar things when I went low/no carb no sugar. I was basically following a Candida diet (no sugars, carbs whatsoever) to help cure my gut/digestive issues and though people had reported feeling great after the inital "die-off" period, I felt more and more awful. Not total depression, but foggy, tired and sad all the time. I started to lose weight, but it got to a point where I didn't want to lose anymore. I started adding starchy/carby veggies back in (sweet potatoes, squash, carrots etc.) and started to feel better gradually after a few weeks. Now I eat a more paleo type diet with carbs/sugar through veggies and fruits and I feel much more stable and happier overall.

post #3 of 25

I haven't experienced this myself, but when I was eating a fairly low-carb diet for a few weeks I did notice some physical symptoms I didn't like (such as uncomfortably dry eyes). It doesn't surprise me at all to hear of your experience, though. I agree with folks like Stephan Guyenet and Melissa McEwen who point out that foods like starchy tubers have been a part of the human diet for a long, long time. I don't believe there is strong evidence that a very low carb diet is safe or appropriate for everyone. Maybe some people can tolerate it, but I suspect it might be like veganism: tolerated by some but causing others to crash and burn in various unpleasant ways.

 

I wonder if having your neurotransmitters balance out again will help with the weight gain. Having everything out of whack might affect appetite and metabolism as well.

post #4 of 25

One more thought. If I were in your situation, I would do a Paleo diet including starchy veggies but in addition I would try either Stephan Guyenet's low-reward weight loss plan or the Shangri-La Diet (involves ingesting calories with no flavor to supposedly reset your set point). Neither of those require low-carb and both are based on ideas that at least seem plausible.

post #5 of 25

I have been on a low carb, anti-candida diet for health problems, for about 2 years now.  For the first few months I felt great and thought I would never go back to eating carbs again.  However, after about 4 months I started getting very tired, low energy, loss of muscle use, general malaise, can't do things I used to do (I was always an exerciser, so to go from running a certain number of miles to half of that is frustrating).  Then, after a little over a year, I stopped menstruating.  I've had my thyroid and hormones tested, etc etc.  The only thing I can think of is the minimal carbs.  Some docs say that as long as I am eating fats and proteins I am getting energy there, but my gut feeling and the words of my current dr. is that ketosis is good in the short term but it is not for the long term.  I am scared to add carbs though as they wreak havoc on my skin, but I feel like I am doing more damage to my body this way.  I think that a balance is needed.  So if you are mentally not ok with out them, can you do just a little and create a balance for both mind and body?

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

 

I agree that starchy tubers have been part of the human diet for a very long time. I was avoiding them to lose weight, but they are back in my diet again - mostly sweet potatoes. While I initially felt awesome on a low carb diet, I'm pretty sure now that it's not for me. I was also a vegetarian/vegan for about 15 years (have been eating meat for about 9 years now) and that's when I experienced depression and anxiety for the first time. If the author of the "Mood Cure" is right it was because I wasn't eating enough quality protein and was under a lot of stress at the same time. I think that Paleo/Primal is right for me as I definitely don't do well eating grains and sugar, but I do need more carbs to feel well. I should also add that the 5HTP I'm onhas been really helping!  

 

 

post #7 of 25

This same problem has happen to me in the past. I think everyone has a different balance at different times in their lives. For instance-during pregnancy and nursing you're nutritional needs are going to likely change dramatically. Also during particularly stressful times in her life. etc. 

 

Why don't you go low-carb instead of no-carb and ad in exercise to help with the weight loss instead? Exercise is good for your mental health too, and it would allow you to make use of the carbs you do eat.

 

post #8 of 25
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TzippityDoulah View Post

This same problem has happen to me in the past. I think everyone has a different balance at different times in their lives. For instance-during pregnancy and nursing you're nutritional needs are going to likely change dramatically. Also during particularly stressful times in her life. etc. 

 

Why don't you go low-carb instead of no-carb and ad in exercise to help with the weight loss instead? Exercise is good for your mental health too, and it would allow you to make use of the carbs you do eat.

 



 

That is my approach now - increase carbs (starchy vegs) and get back to exercising. I've not been to the gym since the emotional issues got bad lately and I need to go back b/c I know I feel better when I work out. 

post #9 of 25

Grains are high in B vitamins, which are key depression fighters,- (necessary for serotonin and melotonin production and use) and magnesium.  So if you don't focus on those in your paleo diet, you will suffer.  My answer is to supplement with b complex, and extra inositol/choline, plus mag citrate and a whole other handful of stuff, based on the nutritional recommendations on the www.rebuild-from-depression.com website (an mdc mama) and on Adele Davis's work, and then there is the GABA link as well (b6 among other issues).  I feel better eating fewer carbs and taking supplements....my energy level is just crap on carbs.  5 htp I do keep around for emergencies...I think many paleo diets don't have enough tryptophan, so it is important to pay attention to as well.  If you are going to fight these issues nutritionally....Your first steps have to be a B stress complex, magnesium, and essential fatty acids with your 5htp and gaba.  Then when you are functioning better you can work on the rest...usually topical magnesium (epsom salts baths and oil) is helpful along with an oral glycinate or citrate supplement.  Okay I'm too tired to make much sense...but get some Mag asap.

post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 

It was always my understanding that animal products, esp. eggs, liver, dairy and meat are all great sources of B vitamins, and I eat plenty of those.  I don't know anything about this doctor, but his website provides sources of each B vitamin: http://www.alsearsmd.com/b-vitamins-better-than-drugs/.  I have references for each vitamin separately, but this is the only site that I found showing all.

 

However, I will def. consider supplementing as stress can really deplete your vitamin B stores. As for magnesium, I have the oil spray and take epsom salt baths but def not enough.  I may want to supplement too.  As for tryptophan, animal products have a lot of it - the question is whether the body can utilize it without carbs - I've read that you need carbs to convert to melatonin and serotonin. 

 

Thanks for your suggestions!

post #11 of 25

Yes, I would describe my experience as foggy, too.  But, the super weird thing, is that after being primal for a long time, getting pregnant and eating more TF, then back to primal after the baby...with my reintroduction of more grains into my diet I am losing MORE weight now.  What gives? 

post #12 of 25

On this issue, I agree with Dr. Mercola's thought that people are not one size fits all.  He suggests there are Protein types, Carb types, and mixed types (both protein and carb).  I'm for certain a protein type and do well on high protein, high fat diet, but even so I make sure I include veggies with every meal or I start to feel unbalanced.  If you are avoiding starchiness, there are tons of veggies that are considered less starchy.  I'm on the GAPS diet right now, which limits starchy veggies.  Here is a helpful link with a list of "eat this" foods which have tons of non-starchy veggie options:

http://gapsdiet.com/The_Diet.html

post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 

I did Dr. Mercola's test and the results showed that I'm a protein type.  I feel physically much better on a very low carb diet, tons of energy, etc.  But I can't do it b/c it causes symptoms of anxiety and depression for me.  So I'm back to a TF diet and supplementing so that I can get back to feeling normal.  I do feel more tired and slow with more carbs esp. grains and I'm not losing any weight (but I prefer this to being depressed!).  There has got to be a middle ground....  just haven't found it yet. 

post #14 of 25

I took the mercola test, too, but honestly I am not sure it worked really well because the choices were a little odd (though I took it a long time ago so I dont completely remember).  I found it hard because I would have chosen a mixture of some of the choices rather than just one.   But, it I do think I am a mixed type.  When I was doing the primal thing, I def had tons of veggies - I always have, but it didnt make up for the lack of grains for me.  I still didnt feel "solid."

post #15 of 25

Katc8910, I found your post through google and after reading it, I picked up the Mood Cure, I started taking 5HTP and it has helped me.

 

I am writing you this to say thank you, you have helped me a lot by making that post. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

I see you have trouble staying on a non low carb diet, maybe you want to try this book which I stumbled upon today "The Serotonin Power Diet: Use Your Brain's Natural Chemistry to Cut Cravings, Curb Emotional Overeating, and Lose Weight". A found it after I read a scientific paper written by one of the authors. I've not read the book but it looks promising although apparently it's been written for people who take SSRIs.

 

Good luck with everything.

post #16 of 25

What a wonderful post. Thanks. I have just made the connection between low carbs and feeling low. I went on a no sugar, no grain diet and have been on it for a few months. Went great first of all but lately I have been feeling extremely fatigued, very sad and I am not sleeping, sometimes until after 5am in the morning. Something is way out of whack and I tend to be very sensitive to chemicals and various foods. I've been keeping a food diary now for quite a while and it's very interesting. Of course, NO ONE should ever touch caffeine in any form. It causes anxiety, depression and thought and sleep disorders and our whole society is built on it yet many are saying 'WHAT is causing the massive increase in depression?' Caffeine and anti depressants especially SSRIs. There is a great paper on the net written about how SSRIs CAUSE depression by causing the very thing they purport to fix. Our body naturally responds and tries to balance whatever we put into it. The only improvement that's ever been seen with anti depressants is 'some' improvement in severe endogenous depression but personally I think, and there's plenty of evidence written about this, that they are some of the most dangerous drugs on earth. You should only take drugs if you have a life threatening brain infection or something.

 

Anyway, low carbs. I have been living on protein and low GI carbs. I'm pretty sure I am no good on grains and sugar and even dairy but I'm still experimenting. I need to find some healthy ways to get enough carbs and I think I'll introduce sweet potatoes. I have come to be amazed at how my body responds to what I put into it and what I put on it. It's SO obvious really but it's great to keep an accurate diary and watch the response. Thanks for your posts as they basically reflect my exact experience. Interesting.

post #17 of 25

this was a great thread!  i do well on low-carb, but had to learn which carbs do work for me, and when to add in more carbs for mood and balance.  for me, non-grain, non-starchy carbs are BEST, followed by root veggies, and then some soured/fermented grains are my last resort.  i guess i've been on this journey since going gluten-free 11 years ago, and naturally healing infertility and depression/mood swings, and still working to improve the rest of my life.  i used GAPS as a healing diet, and SCD, and Paleo style as well.  since i've had 5 pregnancies in the last 7 years, it takes a lot more work to make sure i'm getting enough of everything for everyone!  i've learned to fight to keep the balance and to listen to my body as my needs can change day to day, week to week, and certainly month to month!

 

we focus on having healthy grass-fed meats and raw dairy on hand, and veggies from local farms, along with some raw organic nuts.  fruits are less common in our house, but they are greatly appreciated.  and anything else is incidental.  

post #18 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rooo View Post

Katc8910, I found your post through google and after reading it, I picked up the Mood Cure, I started taking 5HTP and it has helped me.

I am writing you this to say thank you, you have helped me a lot by making that post. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I see you have trouble staying on a non low carb diet, maybe you want to try this book which I stumbled upon today "The Serotonin Power Diet: Use Your Brain's Natural Chemistry to Cut Cravings, Curb Emotional Overeating, and Lose Weight". A found it after I read a scientific paper written by one of the authors. I've not read the book but it looks promising although apparently it's been written for people who take SSRIs.

Good luck with everything.

Hi roo,

I haven't been back to this thread in a long time and I just read your post from March! I'm so happy to hear that my post helped you! Thank you for the book suggestion. I'll check it out.
post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucky Jane View Post

What a wonderful post. Thanks. I have just made the connection between low carbs and feeling low. I went on a no sugar, no grain diet and have been on it for a few months. Went great first of all but lately I have been feeling extremely fatigued, very sad and I am not sleeping, sometimes until after 5am in the morning. Something is way out of whack and I tend to be very sensitive to chemicals and various foods. I've been keeping a food diary now for quite a while and it's very interesting. Of course, NO ONE should ever touch caffeine in any form. It causes anxiety, depression and thought and sleep disorders and our whole society is built on it yet many are saying 'WHAT is causing the massive increase in depression?' Caffeine and anti depressants especially SSRIs. There is a great paper on the net written about how SSRIs CAUSE depression by causing the very thing they purport to fix. Our body naturally responds and tries to balance whatever we put into it. The only improvement that's ever been seen with anti depressants is 'some' improvement in severe endogenous depression but personally I think, and there's plenty of evidence written about this, that they are some of the most dangerous drugs on earth. You should only take drugs if you have a life threatening brain infection or something.

Anyway, low carbs. I have been living on protein and low GI carbs. I'm pretty sure I am no good on grains and sugar and even dairy but I'm still experimenting. I need to find some healthy ways to get enough carbs and I think I'll introduce sweet potatoes. I have come to be amazed at how my body responds to what I put into it and what I put on it. It's SO obvious really but it's great to keep an accurate diary and watch the response. Thanks for your posts as they basically reflect my exact experience. Interesting.

Over time, I figured out that I do best on no sugar and no grains. I'm fine with dairy, but I only consume raw dairy. I'm ok with nuts but I tend to eat too many so I try to avoid them for the most part. I have also realized that I cannot fast. While I'm fascinated by all I've read about intermittent fasting, as soon as I try it, the anxiety and depression start creeping back in. So currently, I'm eating regular meals, not restricting veggies (no white potatoes though) and I limit my fruit intake to occasional berries. This approach seems to work best for me. Unfortunately, in times of stress, I go back to old eating habits - bad carbs - and then I feel worse again. But it's not depression and anxity; it's lack of energy, brain fog and water retention. I still haven't figured out why I'm drawn to foods that make me feel good only temporarily and then make me feel sluggish and unwell. I guess that's the addictive nature of grains and sugar. I can definitely report though that the anxiety and depression that propmpted me start this thread are gone.
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by HouseofPeace View Post

this was a great thread!  i do well on low-carb, but had to learn which carbs do work for me, and when to add in more carbs for mood and balance.  for me, non-grain, non-starchy carbs are BEST, followed by root veggies, and then some soured/fermented grains are my last resort.  i guess i've been on this journey since going gluten-free 11 years ago, and naturally healing infertility and depression/mood swings, and still working to improve the rest of my life.  i used GAPS as a healing diet, and SCD, and Paleo style as well.  since i've had 5 pregnancies in the last 7 years, it takes a lot more work to make sure i'm getting enough of everything for everyone!  i've learned to fight to keep the balance and to listen to my body as my needs can change day to day, week to week, and certainly month to month!

we focus on having healthy grass-fed meats and raw dairy on hand, and veggies from local farms, along with some raw organic nuts.  fruits are less common in our house, but they are greatly appreciated.  and anything else is incidental.  

Your diet sounds very similar to mine! Except that for me, even fermented grains don't work. I do soak, sprout, ferment grains and legumes for my 3 year old and she does fine with them. I am thinking about trying GAPS, hoping that it may help me address all these food cravings I still experience.
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