Low Carb Diet and Adrenal Function
by Dr. Ron Cherubino
Question: How many carbohydrates should I be eating each day on a low carbohydrate diet?
Answer: The answer to this question is far more complicated than most people think. It is dependent on individual factors that will be unique to you alone. When low carbing it, people generally need to eat between 50 and 180, net carbohydrates per day. Exceptions do occur, but they are rare.
Let’s begin by looking at the answer from a holistic view of your body: (I’ll be blogging an answer to all of the following questions, one at a time, over the next several weeks)
- What is your overall state of health? In particular, how functional are your vital organs?
- What has your diet consisted of for the last several years?
- Are you suffering from an adrenal deficiency, exhaustion or fatigue?
- Are you glucose sensitive?
- Are you diabetic?
- Are you hypoglycemic?
- Do you suffer from hyperinsulinism, are you pre-diabetic or do you suffer from metabolic syndrome?
- Are you overweight, underweight or ideal weight?
- Do you currently suffer from or have you ever suffered from a food addiction or other eating disorder?
Answer from question number 3 perspective: If you are dealing with any adrenal concerns be aware that your carbohydrate metabolism needs to be precisely balanced. The state of your adrenal glands will markedly effect your carbohydrate metabolism.
If you are attempting to heal your adrenal glands or lose weight then it is very important that you do not stress them unduly with carbohydrate intake that is too low or too high.
In the case of weight loss, every step of the process requires adrenal gland involvement. It is all too easy to force the adrenals to overwork when they are called upon to assist with various glucose-based processes.
For example, too low of a carbohydrate intake will result in the body breaking down protein and fats in order to provide ample glucose for basic bodily functions. This process is highly adrenal dependent and can overtax adrenal glands in the process if undertaken too rapidly. It can be argued that the entire process is all a matter of degree, however finding that middle of the ground “sweet spot” is paramount when limiting your intake of carbohydrates.
On the other hand, if your carbohydrate intake is too high, then your adrenal glands will be called into action to assist in the management of blood glucose levels that are periodically too elevated. And of course the type of carbohydrate that you consume is all important. As most low-carb dieters know, high glycemic foods and processed sugars are counterproductive and harmful. Trust me, your adrenals wholeheartedly agree about these foods.
From a holistic standpoint carbohydrates are only one piece of an intertwined puzzle. Protein intake and overall daily caloric intake will also influence how your body handles its energy and its carbohydrates.
I have seen a number of my patients run into trouble when it comes to weight loss or when they are looking for other benefits from low carbohydrate food intake. These problems usually arise when a person looks at carbohydrates as a singular and separate entity. Low nutrient intake coupled with low carbohydrates can easily lead to a state of anxiety, depression and mental fatigue.
So, how many carbohydrates should you be eating in a day? Here’s the advice I give my patients.
First, start with a nutritional workup with your holistic doctor. He or she will be able to give you guidance that you simply can’t get from a book or come up with on your own.
Next, monitor the food that you are eating every day without fail. It may be annoying or out right difficult but it is important to have that information in front of you. Trust me, you will not accurately remember it from day today. There are number of free applications online including my favorite, from the folks at sparkpeople.com. This program will also help you determine what your nutritional needs are day-to-day.
I also highly recommend that you read the book entitled Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig.
Be sure to catch my next low carbohydrate blog, part two. I’ll answer one more of the above 9 questions to help you determine how to navigate your carbohydrate intake.