Episode 55: What To Expect When Adding Carbs Back Into Your Diet

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Thanks for joining us for episode 55 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Hi ladies. I’ve been listening to your advice about eating more carbs. For the past few years with Paleo, I’ve definitely been under eating carbs unintentionally. My question is, what is normal to expect with transitioning to a more moderate carb diet? I have a lot more energy and better bowel movements, but I am also having a lot of abdominal pain and bloating. This is a noticeable increase since a lower carb diet. My typical carb intake in a day is white potato or acorn squash with breakfast, chia seed pudding with banana/berries for a snack, potato again with lunch, sweet potato with dinner, and fruit with nuts in the evening, plus lots of non-starchy veggies. I’m a group fitness instructor and quite active.

P.S. I’m in Canada and just got accepted to a dietetic internship. Can’t wait to be a real food RD!”

Are you experiencing bloating or other digestive discomfort when adding carbs back into your diet after a period of restriction? Don’t throw in the towel just yet!

Many people experience some degree of gut issues when adding foods back into their diet. Often times these symptoms are not a sign that you need to keep avoiding the food, but rather a common occurrence when reintroducing foods. The good news is that the majority of the time the symptoms are only temporary as your body readjusts to eating a healthy variety of foods again.

We have been learning that restrictive diets may not be so good for us after all. Listen today as we discuss the consequences of restrictive dieting, common symptoms when adding foods back in, and how to navigate the adjustment process your body goes through.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • How it’s common to have gut symptoms when adding foods like carbohydrates back into your diet after being on a restrictive diet
  • Common symptoms of changing the amount of carbohydrates and fat in your diet
  • The role enzyme production plays in gut symptoms after being on a restrictive diet
  • The role of your gut bacteria in gut symptoms when reintroducing foods
  • How to tell if your symptoms are those commonly related to reintroduction of foods, or if it’s something requiring further investigation
  • The potential dangers to your gut health when making extreme changes to your diet and being too restrictive
  • The observed link between food sensitivities and a history of restrictive dieting
  • The importance of examining the amount of plant fiber in your diet when having gut symptoms
  • How to adjust the amount of a possible reactive carbohydrate source instead of avoiding it completely
  • The importance of diversity in carbohydrates choices for gut health

Links Discussed:

  • KettleAndFire.com – Use the code AncestralRDs for a 15% discount off your first order of Kettle and Fire bone broth!


Laura: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 55 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld, and with me as always is Kelsey Marksteiner.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: So Kelsey, how’s your week going?

Kelsey: Just pushing through apartment hunting still, unfortunately, and it’s like we’re really coming down to when we want to be moving very soon. So it’s like looking at two apartments everyday which is very, very tiring unfortunately.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: I’m pretty exhausted this week. How about you?

Laura: Yeah, I’m feeling pretty exhausted myself. I’ve been really busy. I just opened up my practice to new clients and it filled up pretty quickly. I kind of went from not taking new clients at all to all of a sudden having a lot, which is awesome, but it’s also a big change from the last couple of weeks of doing our program.

And just with that and some other stuff going on in my life right now, I’ve been under a decent amount of stress, which I’m a lot better at dealing with it now and I kind of know how to handle increased stressful situations.

But the one weird thing about this particular stressful experience is that my appetite has been really affected by it. Normally I’m always going in one or two directions. If I’m stressed, I either am eating because I’m stressed and it’s soothing, or I go the other direction and I stop eating which is not on purpose. It’s just I lose my appetite pretty easily when I’m dealing with emotional stuff.

So it’s just been really interesting because I’m all about eating enough, and eating lots of carbs, and not under eating. And the last couple weeks I’ve just literally not had the appetite and I’ve been trying to eat enough. And I know consciously that I’m not, but it’s been really hard.

It’s just been really interesting to see what’s happened just generally in my health over the last couple weeks compared to what I was feeling a month ago or so when I was really very consistently eating enough, exercising appropriately, sleeping really well, not working too, too hard. Just seeing how fast you can lose that, it’s a little upsetting. I mean, I’m not really sad about it. It’s just kind of frustrating because I was really kind of feeling very good a month ago physically.

And now I’ve just been dealing with some really low energy, my workouts have not been as good as they were a couple weeks ago. I was really crushing my workouts, PRing all the time, making really big progress, all that. The last couple training sessions I’ve been to have been really, really bad. When I say bad, I haven’t injured myself or done anything damaging. I just went from really making progress to I feel like I’ve taken a couple steps backwards. I mean this is not ironic, it’s understandable thatt I’ve also lost weight because of this low appetite, which definitely can affect how strong you are if you lose weight.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But it’s just really interesting because instead of getting upset about not making progress or dropping weight as far as oh well, last time we did this you could do 225 pounds and now you’re struggling with 205 pounds or something, I think it’d be really easy to feel really discouraged and kind of feel like you need to give up in that kind of situation. But luckily I feel like I’m at the point where I can be a lot more objective about it and not take so personally if I’m not making progress.

Became as much as strength and progress in your performance is important for an exercise program, It’s never going to be linear. And I think that’s something that  people really have to understand is that even if you’re making a lot of steps forward, sometimes you will take steps back, and that’s normal and it’s not something that should indicate that you should just quit or that things are terrible.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I even told my trainer when I went in. The first time I went in after being off for a week at the Perfect Health Retreat, my workout was just awful. I hadn’t lifted anything heavy for like a week and half and I hadn’t hardly eaten anything while I was at the retreat. I just was feeling really crummy and I was getting a little frustrated just because I knew I was going to fee weaker, but I didn’t realize how weaker I was going to feel. I really just felt very crappy. We modified the workout so I didn’t do anything excessive.

But then the second workout, I even told my trainer, I was like I know I’m not going to do as well as normal, and it’s okay. I really just want to try to have fun today and not do anything that’s frustratingly difficult because when things are really hard I get a little upset, which is kind of annoying that I get emotional about things being really, really hard.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But I just was trying to take a much more neutral approach and just say okay, I can do the workout. It doesn’t have to be the most amazing workout ever. That doesn’t mean it’s a failure. It just means I’m not as well fed and well rested as I normally would be. So we just modified the workout, did more mobility and kind of skills work as opposed to heavy lifting, which was good. I think it’s a good thing to balance out the lifting stuff with.

But yeah, it was amazing how much of a difference under eating made because I had been eating a lot, and really well, and eating lots of carbs, and eating big meals, and just eating enough to support my progress. Then the last couple weeks just because of my loss of appetite just like not having the energy to do anything.

Kelsey: Yeah. I was going to say that like for me, I’ve been still definitely a beginner in all this stuff, but I’ve been lifting. Going away for two weeks where I didn’t do anything, I was shocked at how much worse and weaker I felt when I came back. That was even including probably eating more than enough while I was away. But I can definitely understand that.

It definitely is frustrating too to come back especially if you’ve been away, or you’ve been doing something that is not super helpful to your workouts to realize that you are weaker. But I agree. It’s just important to remember that it’s fine. It doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. You’re going to get back to that. It just takes a little bit of getting back into your routing as well.

Laura: Yeah, I think it’s a good thing to learn how to be okay backwards progress, if we can call it that, because people get injured, or maybe a woman has a baby and obviously when you’re pregnant you’re not going to be doing the same stuff as you are when you’re not. Your body will change as you get older. I think just not taking loss of strength or loss of performance to heart and not letting it really get you to the point where you feel like quitting is really important.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I think a lot of people that I know, and myself included….when was in my car accident last year, there was a time that I was feeling very discouraged about my fitness levels and feeling like I’m just never going to be in shape again. That’s a really dangerous attitude because if you decide that you’re never going to be in shape again and you stop trying, then yes, you will never be in good shape again because you stopped putting the effort in.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s normal to have ebbs and flows. It’s normal to have periods of time where you’re not as strong as you used to be, or not as athletic, or fit, or whatever healthy. But not letting that kind of define the rest of your life for you, or even just the next year of your life, it’s really important to be able to take that step in stride. You don’t have to kill yourself to make up for it, maybe just get back into a normal routine, but you don’t want to just give up because oh well, now I’m not as strong as I was, so this is all pointless.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. I know and it can be hard to do that. It’s totally a mindset thing and maybe it will affect me more as I go through this and get further in my progress, but a least right now I’ve been just trying to be pretty kind to myself with all this stuff.

For me too, coming from a place of not really having been active for a long time because of the health issues that I was dealing with, that’s a frustrating experience too because prior to all this happening to me I was fairly active. It’s like you think well I really feel like I should be stronger than I am. But I think it’s important to be kind to yourself, and be gentle with yourself, and just know that yeah, you can get back to that and it’s not going to be a problem, but you do have put in the work and the effort to get there and not beat yourself up over being in the place that you are right now.

Laura: Definitely. So yeah, it’s a phase that I’m going through right now and it’s fine. It is not as exciting as a couple weeks ago when I was getting crazy progress. But like I said, it’s short term and I’ll be back to normal soon I hope.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s one of those things that taking it in stride and realizing that it doesn’t indicate future progress or future ability kind of takes a little of the sting out of the reverse progress or going in the wrong direction essentially.

Kelsey: Definitely.

Laura: I will say I have more empathy for my clients who are not eating enough and then trying to do cross fit or something because I’m like wow, this feels awful.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: No wonder nobody wants to work out, you know?

Kelsey: Yeah, seriously. I can only imagine because as soon as I started lifting, I have to say that my immediate reaction to doing that was okay, how is what I’m eating going to fuel my next session? It’s funny how quickly your mind changes with that in terms of the way you think about food. For me at least, I don’t know if this is the same for you or other people, but it was a pretty quick shift to really viewing food as fuel.

Laura: Yeah. Even while I’ve been having this low appetite, I’ve still kind of force fed myself before my training sessions. I’m not totally on empty. But it’s amazing just not being able to eat enough at all the other meals, I just don’t have the gas in the tank.

Kelsey: Right, yeah.

Laura: But yeah, I’ve definitely had that switch up until recently and I think that people that have that switch get really good results with their training. If they don’t make that switch and they’re still in that restriction mindset, then no, they’re not going to get good results.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: So yeah, eating to perform is really, really important if you’re doing a lot of activity. I’ve even said to some of my clients, like if you’re going to train like an athlete, you need to be eating like an athlete.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: A lot of times people don’t realize that they’re not eating anywhere near the way an athlete would eat. A lot of people haven’t been athletes. I was an athlete in college and when I was on the volleyball team all my food was kind of like okay, I need to eat this much so I can get through my practice, or we have a game today, or something. It’s a very different perspective than the perspective of oh, I don’t want to eat too much because I’m trying to lose weight or something. It can be hard for people to get out of that mindset, but once they do, it just really shifts the perspective of what food is and what you should be eating.

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. Well, great. Let’s get to our question for today. But before we do, here is a word from our sponsor.

Alright. So our question for today is:

“Hi ladies. I’ve been listening to your advice about eating more carbs. For the past few years with Paleo, I’ve definitely been under eating carbs unintentionally. My question is, what is normal to expect with transitioning to a more moderate carb diet? I have a lot more energy and better bowel movements, but I am also having a lot of abdominal pain and bloating. This is a noticeable increase since a lower carb diet. My typical carb intake in a day is white potato or acorn squash with breakfast, chia seed pudding with banana/berries for a snack, potato again with lunch, sweet potato with dinner, and fruit with nuts in the evening, plus lots of non-starchy veggies. I’m a group fitness instructor and quite active.

P.S. I’m in Canada and just got accepted to a dietetic internship. Can’t wait to be a real food RD!”

Congrats by the way.

Laura: Yeah, exciting. So there’s a couple of different things that come to mind when I see this question. One thing that I would really want to know about this person is if they ever had GI issues with carbohydrates or any foods in general. Something that I’ve seen happen unfortunately with a lot of people that come to see me is that they never had GI problems before.

Actually yeah, I could say that this was probably an issue for me too where you never had GI issues in the first place, and then you go on a low carb diet for a while, either like a couple months, a year, two years, and then you start to add carbs back in and suddenly your gut is not tolerating it. I feel like that’s super common and you don’t have to have had gut issues before going low carb to have them come back, or just to have them in general on a moderate carb diet after being low carb.

My thought is that there’s probably some issues with a combination of gut bacteria balance and then also the amount of enzymes that the body’s creating to digest carbohydrates. With digestive enzymes and digestive function in general, if you haven’t been eating a food for a really long time and then suddenly start adding it back in, a lot of times the body’s actually down regulated the production of the enzymes that are necessary to digest that food. There’s a lot of different types of carbohydrate digesting enzymes that if you’re not eating carbs on a regular basis, your body starts to slow down the production of those enzymes because it’s not even necessary to have them if you’re never eating carbs. Sometimes what can happen is if you suddenly add carbs back in without any real transition period, your body’s really not digestively prepared for that food and that’s when you can sometimes have indigestion, or bloating, abdominal pain, that kind of thing.

Kelsey: Yeah, I see that a lot even for other foods especially if someone has been on a really restrictive diet for a long time often because there were GI issues to begin with. But it’s really common for people to get to a point where they’re like okay, I feel like I should add some foods back in, and I usually agree with them.

So we decide on some foods to add back in. And then when they add them back in, I really do tell them that I want them to really try to differentiate just sort of growing pains I would call them, basically getting used to a food that you haven’t had in a long time verses something that’s actually a true reaction to a food.

That can be a difficult line to decide which side it’s on. But the more you can kind of think about it, typically if you’re just having just a little bit of bloating for example, especially with carbohydrate intake when you’re increasing that, to me I wouldn’t say that’s too abnormal. Like you just mentioned, Laura, often it’s just related to a down regulation of the enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates.

But if you’re having really significant bloating like you feel like you’re three months pregnant or something, or this person is saying they have abdominal pain, and to me that triggers sort of starting to think about other things potentially being wrong here.

But if you are truly just experiencing just a little bit of bloating, maybe just a little bit of feeling uncomfortable versus like true abdominal pain, I would say that’s really quite normal.

Laura: Yeah, so I think sometimes the abdominal pain and bloating can be related to changes in the bacteria in the gut.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: That’s your expertise I would say. So do you have any thought about that?

Kelsey: Yeah. I mean if there is excessive bloating or there is true abdominal pain, I would say that it’s a least worth ruling out SIBO. That’s small intestinal bacterial overgrowth for those of you that don’t know. Essentially that’s when you have bacteria in your small intestine and it overgrows there. It’s not supposed to be there normally. So once there’s any amount of bacteria, it tends to sort of go crazy. When there’s bacteria there and you’re eating more carbohydrates then you’re used to eating, that bacteria will “eat” the carbohydrate, and when it eats carbohydrate it produces gas as a result. So that’s what’s causing the bloating that’s really very indicative of having SIBO.

But again, you don’t want to jump to conclusions I would say. Don’t just assume you have SIBO because you have some degree of bloating when you’re eating carbs, especially if you have not eating been eating carbs in the recent past. If that’s the case, again, not really something that I would worry too much about. I would just continue eating the carbohydrates for…give yourself a couple months. You can even add in some digestive enzymes if you feel like you need some extra help to get yourself used to it, and then wean yourself off of them.

But for the most part, I actually would just recommended that as long as it’s not too terrible, which it shouldn’t be. If it is terrible, again, we want to kind of rule out some other things. So if it’s not terrible, I would just say keep eating the carbohydrates. Eventually I would say max a couple months, you should be feeling like you can tolerate them just fine. If at that point your feeling like you can’t tolerate them still, then at that point I would say, okay, it’s probably worth exploring other things even though the bloating is fairly minimal or anything like that.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: So yeah, definitely get tested for SIBO if it’s bad, which I am a little bit worried about for this person just because they do mention the abdominal pain. And that’s not too normal I would say. You don’t want to be experiencing pain per se.

It’s unclear how long this person has been eating more carbohydrates. So that would be another factor that I would consider here. If it’s been quite some time and you’re still feeling this way, that would be another indicator to me that we want to do some exploration here.

So SIBO would be the first bacterial thing that I would think of here and that’s mostly due to the fact that there’s bloating involved. Usually what I would say is to rule out SIBO first. So you can do a breath test for SIBO. And then if that comes back negative, I would do a stool test from a functional medicine lab like Doctor’s Data or Genova, one of those labs, and see if there’s anything going on in the large intestine. But typically with these kinds of symptoms, it’s more related to the small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

Laura: Now interestingly, what I’ll mention is that since I’ve been eating a higher carb diet, I find that if I have a really high fat meal, I actually can get similar symptoms. For example, my mom tends to cook with a lot more fat than I have been eating lately. I went to have dinner with her last night and we had liver with onions and bacon cooked in bacon fat or something. And then I forget what the vegetable was. But I think the vegetable was also sautéed in oil. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. My mom is on the whole Paleo type Weston Price diet anyway.

Kelsey: Yeah.

But I do notice now that because I’ve been eating more carbs and not as much fat, I don’t tolerate high fat meals as well anymore. I think that was one of the problems when I was at the retreat is that I think Paul Jaminet’s diet recommendations are higher fat than I’ve been eating. So I was getting a decent amount of cramping, and bloating, and stuff after meals. I actually think part of it is because I’ve been avoiding high amounts of added fats and maybe my digestive function for fat is reduced. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that necessarily.

But what I think is a big problem for a lot of people, especially in this day and age where we are always trying new diet and oh he says to do that and I’m going to try it, switching your macros that fast can sometimes…again, your body’s not ready it and that’s when you can sometimes have digestive issues.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: For me it’s not that fat itself is the problem. I don’t add a ton of fat to my food, and I’m eating a lot of carbs, and then all of a sudden I have a meal that’s like 50 percent fat and my body’s just not ready for it, you know?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: I do want people to remember that,  that if you’re making these massive shifts sometimes you can actually experience a lot of symptoms that are just literally from the shift that’s happening and not just from there being some kind of like infection or some kind of pathology or something. So, just to keep in mind, because again, I feel like switching diets this quickly is not normal in the grand scheme of human diets.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Usually people have a general diet plan that they’re on for their whole lives, or at least pretty similar. If you live in the same area of the world for your whole life and that what food is available, that’s pretty consistent, you get the bacteria that are digesting the right stuff, you get your enzymes producing to digest the right stuff, and you don’t have a lot of these problems. I think it could go either way if you’re making a big shift in either direction if either going high carb to low carb, or going low carb to high carb, you can experience some digestive distress in the beginning.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: So for me, I had a couple of meals that are higher fat and I felt really not well, which is probably another reason why I was having a hard time eating. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not able to tolerate fat. It just means that I switched too quickly.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And you did already mention this, that if it’s only been a couple days or a week or something, don’t freak out. But sometimes I think people when they transition to a different diet, if anything goes wrong they just immediately just think oh this is bad, I shouldn’t be doing this.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I think it’s pretty rare for people to make those big changes without at least experiencing some kind of discomfort or weirdness about the bowel function.

Kelsey: Oh for sure. Yeah, I would say probably most people switching from a high fat to a high carb diet, or vice versa, you are going to experience some degree of discomfort. For some people, that’s going to look like excessive gas or different bowel movements. Other people it’s going to be bloating, and maybe some cramping, or abdominal pain, that kind of thing.

But again, it shouldn’t be really intense. If you feel pretty terrible and it’s happened more than once, I always like to kind of get clients to be able replicate it too more than a couple times because I think people get really scared off of food when they haven’t had it for a while and they add it back it. That’s really what I try not to let happen with a lot of my clients.

And I think that with carbohydrates specifically for whatever reason, it tends to cause a little bit more discomfort when you start to add more back in when you’ve been really low carb then potentially some other things like high fat. I don’t know. I feel like normally people do a little bit better when they first start that versus going back to higher carb for whatever reason just can be a little bit tough on the GI system.

Laura: Yeah, I think the switch to high fat usually affects cognitive function. Or if we’re talking about GI stuff, I would think liver and gall bladder function.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Because if you think about the gallbladder, usually it’s storing bile to help digest fat. And the more fat you eat, the more that stimulates bile production, so the more bile you have available for a meal in general.

Kelsey: Yep.

Laura: I think what happened to me is that my bile production probably dropped because I wasn’t eating a ton of fat.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: And then I ate all this fat and I was just like pretty sure my liver just was like whoa lady, what are you doing? So yeah, I think those would be the GI symptoms from a low carb switch.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: People talk about the low carb flu and that kind of stuff. I honestly think anytime you make a big shift in anything with your diet, you’re going to have some problems.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I think that’s a really good reason to stay as not extreme as possible because the more extreme you go with your diet, the harder it is to get off that extreme diet. I had one client one time that didn’t have any health problems, and I’m not really sure why he did this. I think he just like read a website, or a blog, or something that was suggesting to go ketogenic. So he went ketogenic for a couple of weeks, or months, or something, and he felt really bad and wasn’t really doing well. So he was like alright, I’m just going to go back to normal carbs. But then he couldn’t tolerate carbs anymore.

Laura: Like literally getting histamine response to carbs.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Yeah, it was really bad. I felt so bad for the guy because I was like you didn’t have to go on that ketogenic diet.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: There was no reason for him to do that. Then he really messed up his gut health. To be frank, to this day I have not been able to figure out what to do with this guy because every time he tries to add carbs back in it’s just like severe bloating and gut pain.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Yeah, it’s really unfortunate. That’s kind of a word of warning to people that are listening to this podcast that you’re not in a vacuum when you make these massive changes to your diet. There are potential consequences. I’m not saying they’re impossible to get over, but you really have to think about if you’re going to go on a really extreme diet, you really have to know why you’re doing it. If it’s something that if it’s something that you would be able to basically maintain for your whole life, or if it would even be worth maintaining for your whole life, because if you’re going to cause some major shifts in your gut function by making those massive changes, and then you try to go back to normal and then you’re not tolerating the normal diet anymore, I just feel like it’s a really challenging situation.

Kelsey: It is.

Laura: And to be honest, I think that my experience with doing a very low carb diet back in college to lose weight did mess up my GI function. Now I think there’s other things that probably have not benefitted my GI function including eight months of antibiotics for Lyme disease, and stress.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But I also remember when I was on the low carb thing for like six months or something, lost like 15 pounds or something, which I didn’t have that much weight to lose so I was definitely pretty skinny. Then I guess at the end of the year of college, I just got to the point where I was like I don’t want to be on a diet anymore. This is ridiculous. I’m just going to eat whatever. I was just having really bad gut symptoms from even eating things like fruit. I really do think that going on a very low carb diet and then trying to switch back to a higher carb diet can cause gut symptoms in a lot of people.

Kelsey: Yeah. I have to say that I work with a lot of people with supposed food sensitivity issues and a common theme that I tend to see with these clients is that they’ve done some sort of really restrictive type of diet in the past. And again, a lot of times they started it because they were having gut symptoms or something. But often times it seems to actually get worse as they’re on this diet.

We’ve talked about this with like GAPS and stuff before. That tends to be the kind of diet I’ll see someone be on for a while and then they’ll come to me and they’re like I want to add foods back in, but I can’t tell what is an actual sensitivity to anything, if it’s any food, or what is just me getting used to eating a wide range of foods again. And honestly, sometimes it’s really hard for me to tell too.

A lot of times with those kind of clients, I do just have them push a little bit with experiencing some of this discomfort because I think that you tend to sensitize yourself to just being more sensitive to food changes and a wider variety of food intake when you are on a really restrictive diet for a long time. That can be restrictive in terms of the macronutrient type, or it can be restrictive in terms of the food type, or both. But I think people get themselves into a real big rut when they do those sort of things. So I’m very, very cautious at this point about putting anyone on a very restrictive type of diet because I honestly think more often than not, it makes things worse.

Bringing up food sensitivities, I do want to mention that it is possible that this person is maybe reacting to one of these carb sources that they mention here because anytime you start to add in a whole category of macronutrients that you really haven’t been eating that much of, you’re adding in different types of food that maybe you weren’t eating for a long time. It is possible that you are maybe sensitive to one of these foods, but I almost hesitate to even bring it up because I don’t want you to think that you need to take all these things out and do all these crazy things. But I would just pay attention to the severity of the symptoms in relation to when you’re eating each of these foods and see if you can kind match up any more intense symptoms to one of these carb sources.

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: And then if you notice that, you can take that one thing out for a while and see if that makes any difference.

Laura: So one thing I’m thinking with this particular person is its’ possible that she’s also just eating way too much fiber.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Because if we look at what she’s eating, not that potatoes got a ton of fiber in them, but they do have fiber. Squash, acorn squash definitely has fiber. Chia is a pretty high fiber thing.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Banana and berries both have fiber. Sweet potato has fiber. Fruit has fiber. Nuts have fiber. And then she says “lots of non-starchy veggies.” So it might be a little bit weird to say that you’re over eating on fiber, but when you’re eating that much plant food, it’s definitely possible to overdo the fiber.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Maybe your GI system is not tolerating it. I would maybe track the food intake and see what the fiber intake is. If it’s much more than like 40 grams a day, I would definitely cut down on the high fiber starches. So maybe do more like white rice, or buckwheat, or something that’s lower fiber just to see if that affects it. For me, buckwheat for example just sits so well with me. But if I have a lot of sweet potato, I’ll get some GI symptoms. It’s just one of those things that I think people think plant foods are free foods, you can just eat as many of them as you want.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Which I’m not saying don’t eat vegetables, but eating a ton of them maybe isn’t really ideal or even necessary to get the benefit.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: That was just a though that I had when I was looking at her carb choices. They’re all definitely fibrous carbs. Maybe adding in a little bit less fibrous, more kind of… I don’t want to say refined, but taking some of the fiber out of this situation to see if that reduces some of the pain and the bloating. Because honestly, fiber, you’re not able to digest fiber. So if you’re for whatever reason, if you’re overdoing it, it can definitely cause some gut symptoms or gut pain especially if there’s a lot of raw vegetables in there too.

Kelsey: Yeah. The other thing I would think about here too is that if she did track to think about food sensitivity, sometimes it’s not food sensitivity at all. It’s more of like an intolerance and I would think that it would be an intolerance maybe to the type of fiber in one of these carbohydrate sources.

That generally means that you don’t have to like take that out and be worried about any sort of exposure to that type of fiber. It just may mean that the amount that you’re eating in a sitting is too much for your digestive system to handle. So let’s say you’re eating a cup of sweet potato usually and you start to track and you see that for whatever reason you’re reacting a little bit more strongly to the sweet potato when you eat it, you could just try maybe doing half a cup or just switching that out for a different carbohydrate source fully if you wanted to do that as your preference. It may just mean that you can’t eat as much of it in one sitting.

I see that happen a lot too and people just think, oh my God, I can never eat this food because I’ve tracked it and I’m reacting to it. But I often will have them try a smaller portion to see if they do any better with it.

Laura: Yeah. I’ve had some clients before that say if they eat more than like three sweet potatoes a week, they’ll start to have GI symptoms. This is another reason that variety is so important because if you’re eating the same foods all the time, sometimes that can actually cause some GI symptoms. So making sure that you’re getting diversity of carb choices, and again, maybe adding in some grains in there, or adding in legumes, or something that’s a little different than what you’re eating right now could actually help with some of the gut symptoms. There’s a lot of different things that can affect gut symptoms. I think I feel like gut symptoms are some of the hardest symptoms to deal with.

Kelsey: Yes.

Laura: Because there’s so many different things that can affect them. Sometimes food’s not even involved. Sometimes it’s stress. Then somebody will be stressed out about something and then have a GI symptom, and they’ll be like what did I eat today? You know?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It can be really hard. But I just think this person probably just needs to make sure she’s getting lots of variety, make sure she’s not eating too much fiber, try to identify if there’s any particular carb sources that may be a bigger problem. So if she feels extra bloated after sweet potatoes, maybe just cut those down or remove them for a couple days and see if that makes any difference. Also just give it time if she hasn’t been trying this for very long.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. I’d say that’s the biggest thing, honestly. If she’s only been doing this for a week or something, time is going to be her best friend here. But yeah, once you sort of go through all of that and if you’re still having problems, I would say it’s probably worth getting a SIBO breath test done. But especially if this has been a short term thing and you just started doing this, it’s not necessarily the first place I would go.

Laura: Definitely. I mean it’s one of those things that it’s super common and SIBO testing for some people can be expensive if their insurance doesn’t cover it. So I’m definitely of the mindset that let’s wait on those expensive tests if we don’t think they’re necessary.

Kelsey: Yeah, and for some people they just want to rule it out, which is fine, happy to sort of help people do that. But for many people, you’re right. It’s like too much of an expense and especially if you’ve only been adding in carbs for a week or two, I mean chances are more often than not you’re going to be completely fine in another couple weeks and you won’t even have any issues.

Laura: Definitely. Well I think that covers that question. Kelsey and I are going to try to be shortening our podcast a little bit so that way we don’t just ramble for an hour. So we are going to try to be a little bit more concise with our answer. That’ll will be it for today. But thanks for joining us everybody and we will see you here next week.

Kelsey: Alright. Take care, Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.





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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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