Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is LC Healthy? Part I: What's with the Cramps?

At the risk of needing a hankie for my moist and dreamy eyes, I can't help but notice that so many seem so almost brainwashed to equate VLC with healthy, they don't listen to their bodies.  The two most recent blog posts by Dr. Eades, here and here, are illustrative for examining the validity of the "healthy low carb lifestyle" mantra.  

Let me say off the bat here that I do not consider the "induction flu" or a couple of days of feeling like crap whilst getting keto-adapted to be dangerous or unhealthy.  I've never experienced this myself.  But I have experienced one of the other side effects of low carbing -- that being severe cramps, usually in the middle of the night -- and I must say they were excruciating and worse by a mile than my worst menstrual cramps.  In his second post, Eades relates what I would consider rather scary episodes of cramping:
... When MD and I were driving over to Napa one day, the cramps were so severe I could hardly drive. I had to keep the seat back as far as I could get it so I could straighten my leg when one hit me. Then my hands started cramping just holding them on the steering wheel. I pulled off the freeway and made a beeline for a convenience store and grabbed a one liter bottle of diet tonic water and proceeded to chug the entire thing as I drove down the road. Miraculously, my cramps subsided. So, I figured tonic water (quinine) was the solution.
One night – after being out of tonic water for a few days and being failed by my bride in resupplying – I had another brutal night of cramps. The next day I was scheduled for blood donation. After going through the long list of questions that must be answered verbally (and fighting down the impulse to tell my interrogator that I had recently paid for sex while imprisoned in Africa – those who have given blood lately will know what I mean), I was sent to actually have the blood taken. The phlebotomist couldn’t find my vein, which had never happened before because I usually have rope-like veins in my forearms. She asked if I was dehydrated. I told her I didn’t think so since I had had my normal four of five cups of coffee that morning along with my gulp of water. She brought me a couple of 16 ounce bottles of water that I drank, and, bingo, there were my veins. Big and robust as usual.
It finally occurred to me that my cramping problem might be due to dehydration ...

Now, near as I can tell from his various postings, Mike Eades used to be overweight decades ago, and lost weight doing a low carb diet.  Although we're not offered up "before" pictures, apparently the weight loss was considerable enough for some of his patients to notice and ask about.  So eventually this morphed into his practice becoming one centered on weight loss.  He and his wife wrote some books, developed middle aged bellies (I think we have a clue to the origin of at least Mike's now) and remained staunch advocates of low carb dieting.  At some point Eades became obsessed with the notion that LC worked by some magical metabolic advantage and ran with that to sell people on his diet and books.  

Now, although the Eades have admitted to not being LC 24/7/365 -- for example when they tried IF they didn't follow LC during it -- I think it is safe to say they are dedicated practitioners of the lifestyle.  This being the case, when Eades speaks of these cramping episodes, this is his "daily life", not merely a couple of days of his body getting used to eating low carb.  

For all those Grokkies out there, it seems common sense to me that such a persistent condition would not have been evolutionarily advantageous to Grok and Grokette.  When I've had them, the effect is nothing short of paralysis!  Now whether it's sodium depletion or dehydration -- and Eades seems to conclude that dehydration is the main issue -- we'd have to ask ourselves whether a diet that induces a dehydrated state is, ultimately, healthy.  I contend it is not.  

The fact of the matter is that we get plenty of fluid from our foods on essentially a meat and veggie diet.  I don't drink a lot of plain water most times.  Some use this as an appetite controlling tool or whatever, and I've done that many-a-time here and there.  But I've noticed my own cat's water consumption is way down since we switched his diet from dry to wet food.  If anything then, when switching from a carb-based lower water content foods diet to a higher water content foods diet should not lead to dehydration per se.  If it does, and that state leads to this severe cramping, we have to question how humans survived the condition.  If someone can get so dehydrated that a phlebotomist can't find their veins and they pop right back up after consuming a quart of water, that doesn't sound like a healthy diet to me.

I imagine clean drinking water was not always easy to come by for paleolithic humans, and certainly the whole  hydration-mania is a rather recent phenomenon.  Gatorade is only around as old as I am -- and I'd note it contains carbs to improve hydration.   The bottled water craze is even newer still.  If one thing is pretty universally agreed upon in paleo circles it is that our ancestors took in much less sodium than we modern humans do.

Now I'm in the camp that doesn't believe old NaCl (table salt) is an evil compound or plays anything more than a minor role in hypertension, etc.  But any diet that requires someone to add more salt to foods over the long haul seems a bit counterintuitive to me.

I'm going to suggest another cause for Eades' problem with cramps.  That being the "upping of alcohol consumption".  The alcohol is not dehydrating him, it's taxing his liver.  Our livers are multi-tasking organs, but apparently they're not all that good at the multi-tasking.  Pre-occupy your liver with metabolizing ethanol and it tends to be less able to perform it's other functions such as metabolizing fructose and, especially in the low carber, gluconeogenesis.  One diabetic on Jimmy's forum shared once that to pass his military (I think) physical he would limit carbs the day before and have several shots of booze the night before.  This way, apparently, his FBG would be low enough.  Muscle cramps are yet another symptom of hypoglycemia.

As fashionable as it is for even non-diabetics to monitor BG levels, there are legions out there who have no clue what their blood sugar levels are fasting or otherwise, or the effects of low carbing long term on them.  If you're cramping all the time or even periodically, it may behoove you to figure this out.

In any case, whether it's dehydration or hypoglycemia, or perhaps some mix of the two, if the "adapted" body has this reaction to sugar and starch deprivation, it doesn't seem to be a healthy diet.  I'd also suggest that if you are inclined to consume alcohol on a low carb diet, you at least give your liver a break and eat around 100g starch carbs to give it a rest on it's other functions rather than putting extra stress on it.


Melissa said...

Last year I had cramping so severe that I fainted! Interestingly, when I went to the hospital they couldn't find any electrolyte deficiencies. Since switching to fruit/starch ad libitum, I have not had cramps at all.

Mirrorball said...

Aren't the cramps due to low potassium? When I was silly enough to try VLC, my thighs hurt until I started taking potassium supplements. I also started wondering if a diet could be healthy even though I had to supplement one of the most important minerals.

Muata said...

When I did a keto diet for close to a year, my leg cramps would literally wake me up in the middle of the night. Man, I don't miss them ...

Princess Dieter said...

I always assume when I'm crampy--which is kinda rare, maybe cause I love my fruit, though I have this crampy spot on my right side that occasionally acts up in Pilates--I assume it's potassium. I just hit coconut water or coconut milk or some potassium rich fruits or K supplements. That takes care of it. Why does an MD not even consider dehydration or potassium issues (electrolyte issues). I mean, that's what immediately comes to MY mind and I didn't go to med school.

Granted, I never had the sort of debilitating cramps he describes. If you have to chug tonic water...something is not normal. At least get a check-up. Is this dude really a doc? ; )

Sanjeev said...

Mirrorball said...
Aren't the cramps due to low potassium?
there are a LOT of causes.
One major cause is potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium mismatches in nerves and muscles.

It's easier to trigger in muscles whose motor units have high conductivity (low resistance) - like the postural / slow-twitch muscles of the legs, which are always close to being triggered and are slow(er) to release contractions.

Stimulants can make it worse. Much, much worse. My personal pet theory is the LC-stimulated increases of circulating adrenergic amines (AKA adrenomimetic or sympathetic amines) are the actual cause, and fixing the mineral imbalances is a treatment of the SYMPTOMS, not the cause. Just a pet theory.

CarbSane said...

Yeah Mirrorball, taking K supps helps a lot of folks. Early on I was taking an herbal diuretic for my then still swollen ankles that had K in it. The one thing they did find when I had my "racing heart" and such symptoms that landed me in the ER on stint 2 was low potassium. Many on Jimmy's use the "lite salt" which is half KCl to get their potassium in. I dunno, that's one of the issues I have these days with various supp regimes. A healthy diet should at least come close to meeting these micro needs.

Yeah Muata, getting woken up was the least convenient part of night cramps! Trying not to scream in agony and wake up my hubby was no fun either.

eulerandothers said...

In Part I of his 'jump starting low-carb' refresher course, Dr. Eades says this:

'The surest road to failure in the first few days of low-carb dieting is to listen to your body. The whole notion of listening to your body is one of my major pet peeves. In fact, just hearing those words makes me want to puke.'

In Part II, he talks about how being dehydrated made him cramp up. I think he should have just said, with the first wave of cramps: 'OK, body, shut up! I'm not listening to you!'

Diana said...

I have had problems with leg cramps for about 10 years....Hmmmm. About as long as I have been low-carbing. But I still get them and I'm eating carbs.

When I have the energy I'll post about how low-carbing caused me to collapse once. It's a bad memory and I don't want to relive it now.

I can't believe how brainwashed I was.

Tonus said...

Hmm... I did not know this until I did a search now, but apparently we haven't pinpointed the actual cause(s) of muscle cramps.

I get them rarely, but always in my right foot or right calf. I can usually feel them coming on and stop them before they start, but I do recall the one time I awoke suddenly with my right calf so tightly cramped that it felt like a chunk of cement. I have not had any since I changed my diet in February, which includes not only changes to how I eat, but I take supplements and drink more water. So I can't really say what has changed, if anything.

MM said...

One of the first things I remember noticing when I stopped eating VLC was that I wasn't nearly as thirsty as I used to be. On VLC I figured out I was drinking nearly 2 gallons of tea (mostly green, white and herbal) daily. That's a lot, but I really was that thirsty. I never had cramping issues, but maybe it's because I was chugging tea. :)

CarbSane said...

CLASSIC euler! Absolutely classic! ROFLMBAO!!

Note: B = broken -- my cat decided to puke up a furball with a bunch of fluid causing me to take a butt plant on my hardwood floor. I think I broke my ass!

OnePointFive said...

The only time I've ever had severe leg cramps was in the months before T1 diagnosis. I very much doubt I was hypo, more probably hyperglycaemic but I was also ketotic and losing weight very rapidly.

Sanjeev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sanjeev said...

eulerandothers said...
The whole notion of listening to your body is one of my major pet peeves. In fact, just hearing those words makes me want to puke.'
sanjeev: ;;snicker - good catch
compare to another recent entry on cutthecarb
Richard David Feinman
Posted June 28, 2011 at 3:03 PM

You did what low-carb people have been recommending. Find out what works. Unfortunately, we spend so much time defending low-carb against the mindless attacks of doctrinaire “experts”
or click
sanjeev: ;;snicker;;
yeah, that's EXACTLY what Taubes & Eades propose

Is Feinman joining Jimmy? Diana's post there is great

Dr. Feinman also feels the need to defend Fred Hahn's indefensible BS - too bad FRED makes it so hard
or click

# Richard Feinman Says:
December 22nd, 2010 at 6:14 pm

When you asked for the endorsement for SPEED, I did not hold it to the standard of a scientific paper which it would not begin to meet. I consider that the test of a popular book is whether there is evidence that the basic ideas is useful to people who try it. I suspect that, like the low-fat proponents who would oppose your ideas, you have not spoken to many people who have tried slow burn. More important, there is more to science than science. There is basic understanding of common goals and I at least try to maintain a collegial approach with people whose ideas I disagree with.

Melissa said...

Have any of you tried pickle juice? there are some promising studies.

Sue said...

Melissa, I think Eades recommended pickle juice once.

Melchior Meijer said...

OnePointFive, my uneducated pet theory is that lack of insulin signalling - be it zero insulin floating around (like in IDDM) or no one listening to it's knocking (like in VLC-induced 'physiological' insulin resistance) - makes it harder for cells to properly exchange electrolytes. Type 1's typically experience severe cramping prior to diagnosis. Of course they are also becoming dehydrated at that point, which makes things worse and could be the sole explanation, but I find it remarkable that cramps are a symptom of IR related conditions (like PCOS) too.

Layla said...

Funny, I have never had even a mild cramp on LC and my water intake has gone down.
On LFHC diets I couldn't stop drinking water, I was always thirsty. Now I have to force myself to drink water, because I don't seem to need it anymore.

I find it really strange that so many people have weird problems on LC, it almost makes me think they must be doing something wrong. My life and health greatly improved and I have found no ill effects.

CarbSane said...

Yes, Layla, this is what is so counterintuitive to me. I never had the other stuff, but the cramps -- oh my. I have a pretty high pain threshold and those exceeded it.

For me I just had to wait for them to pass and then I would take extra potassium which seemed to do the trick.

Melissa, speaking of pickle juice ... One of my pet peeves with the hubby is that he likes to drink the stuff. I don't know how many jars of pickles with no juice left in them I've found in the fridge over the years! Chiding him about it doesn't help ;-)

I saw that Sanjeev -- yeah right -- those guys are always encouraging folks to find what works for them. I guess that's what Freddy was doing when he came on this blog and told me what a proper low carb diet is and how it's the only healthy diet. All these people talking about how carbs will kill you, they're like rat poison or shards of glass flowing through your veins.

CarbSane said...

Melchior, I'm coming across a boatload of information looking at insulin signalling and hydration and electrolyte balance. You're on to something there ... more to come. Time for another Eades fact check post too as this uncovered another inconsistent claim he makes.

Steph said...

Just my FWIW, but starting last fall I had awful leg cramps nearly every night. This post jogged my memory - I've not had an episode for a couple months now, ever since I started eating lots of carbs again. (Another change - my hair has stopped falling out.)

Tonus said...

Off-topic, but since I saw the bit about "encouraging folks to find what works for them" I am reminded of a post I read about an hour ago:

I think his approach is what we should be aiming for in regards to how to eat.

Melchior Meijer said...

Steph, lol. There was a guy not so long ago on Jimmy’s show claiming that low carb cures alopecia ;-).

Now, that might be true for him though. I find Layla’s observation very important. Many people do see incredible (and I mean incredible) improvements on low carb. The different ‘clinical outcomes’ in the wild population of low carb experimenters boggle my mind, because I am not a big fan of the ‘everybody is different’ mantra. If the longer term adverse effects some very low carbers report are due to insulin signaling eventually becoming too weak (which is completely hypothetical), then there must be a sweet spot. A very insulin resistant carb loader initially becomes more insulin senstive upon eating less carbs, right? Hence all the truly miraculous anecdotes. Then at a certain point he/she would become insulin resistant again, but without the hyperinsulinaemia that was present in the high carb (read high calorie, overfed) state. Practical solution? I bet on ‘macro nutrient neutral’ paleo, including fruits and tubers. Still don’t trust wheat and n-6 richt oils.

Diana said...


Are you left handed or right handed? I am right-handed and my cramps are always in my left calf, or left foot arch. Just curious.


Thanks! I didn't even want to post about that because it is such an upsetting experience for me, but I had 5 minutes and Feinman is one of those names that just sets my teeth on edge, along with Eade$. At some point I will relate in greater depth what happened to me that awful weekend. But I remember distinctly that I did it as a result of reading Feinman, who wrote that the human body and brain do not need carbs - at all.

To CS, Sanjeev, and anyone else with an intereste in gluconeogenesis:

I also have HUGE questions about the gluconeogenesis business. Let me begin right here.

One of Feinman's Big Things (endlessly parroted by Eade$, Taube$ and Jimmy Moore) is that we don't need carbs because of gluconeogenesis.

Well, I'm not surprised that the body (actually, everything seems to do it, including plants) has evolved a defense against starvation. There are probably many other metabolic pathways that have evolved to outwit starvation. I'm not that scientifically literate. Are there? (Fat storage might be considered one....)

But my question is: is it good? Is it optimal to put the liver and kidneys through such consistent stress? Was the liver really meant to carry on a defense against starvation constantly, which, it strikes me, is what the low-carb "glucos" tell us to do?

I don't know. Can anyone here address this? Do you think my question is a good one?

It strikes me that the "glucos" are saying to us, "go ahead and deprive your body of an essential nutrient. Put your body under stress. Don't listen to it, otherwise Big Daddy will ridicule you as being a 'moist and dreamy-eyed female'. We'll see what happens a decade or two down the road - if you can stick to a low-carb diet, which most of us can't.

Diana said...

PS I just put an angry comment on Hans' site, which I will not be visiting again. It explains in greater detail how "the human body needs no carbohydrates" nearly killed me. True story. I looked so bad they put me in the top triage level -along with a gunshot wound - (this was a Manhattan emergency ward! True, the gunshot wound was superficial and he was stabilized by time he reached the EMD (and I was shaking uncontrollably), but still.....

CarbSane said...

Hi Diana, I've perhaps not addressed this in a blog post here, but I've mentioned it many times before. I don't think it is optimal to charge the liver with having to manufacture all of our glucose. Great idea for a blog post. After the launch of new templates, I'll address "the essential carbohydrate"!

Melchior Meijer said...

Diana, what was wrong with you, if I may ask? Feinman is right when he says that healthy human beings can do without exogenous carbs. It’s probably not optimal, but to get critically ill on a very low carb diet you need to have an underlying condition, like some glycogen storage disorder.

CarbSane said...

Melchior, that's sort of the point of all of this if you ask me. Perhaps many of us have some degree of underlying glycogen storage disorder or whatever so that some even spend a few days in bed during the first few days of induction. Feinman is no advocate of doing what works for a person, that is just a flat out lie that he claims that to be the advice of the LC folks. The excuse is feeble -- it's basically similar to Sisson's rationale for using incorrect simplistic lingo so long as it gets folks to "buy in" to the message. Humans can also do without many of the amino acids and almost all exogenous fats. Actually if one is to restrict any of the three macros completely for a short time, it's probably carb restriction that has the greatest potential to elicit a health crisis like Diana experienced.

Tonus said...

Diana, I am right-handed.

Regarding diets, one thing I realized recently is that the short-term effects of any sudden change in our eating habits gives us a warped view of how diets affect us over the long term. It is this "mis-perception" that makes fad diets so common; they often lead to quick and painless weight loss within days. Not surprisingly, most fad diets are designed to last only a week or two, before the reality of how our bodies work catches up to them.

But it also leaves us with the belief that if we sustain a diet, the pounds should continue to melt off at the rate that they did previously. I found it to be a deeply-ingrained view on my part (ie, it was a subconscious belief that held even when I consciously determined otherwise). I had to really convince myself that my current changes are not a diet, but simply my day-to-day way of eating.

I think that what is happening in many LC circles is a form of this. People who were overjoyed at the early results from eating low-carb are reaching the point where the going gets tough. And-- having been told that it would be smooth sailing once you had settled into it-- they're disappointed to find that their weight is stalling or even increasing again. LC is pitched by some as a self-maintaining diet, where your appetite controls itself and you never have to worry about counting calories. Thus, when followers reach the sticking/reversal point, they may be at a loss as to how to explain it or even deal with it.

It's why I have settled on the approach that we need to find what works for us. Each of us, as individuals. Most of us have lost weight before and regained it, so we discarded everything we tried. My approach now is to look back, and keep the things that worked while only discarding what did not, and remain open to changes and experimentation (which includes trying some of the things that I have discarded, just in case it wasn't the problem in the past). And most important, understanding that my goals might take a long time to reach, even if the previous goals were reached very quickly.

Melchior Meijer said...

“Perhaps many of us have some degree of underlying glycogen storage disorder or whatever […]”

That crossed my mind too, CarbSane. There might be great variability in the healthy population in the ability to break down glycogen into glucose (a proces that has to happen, or you get seriously ill, no matter how ‘fat adapted’ you are). The ability to tap into your glycogen stores when needed doesn’t seem to be an all or nothing thing, considering the dozen or so recognized glycogen storage disorders.

Sanjeev said...

Melchior Meijer said...
healthy human beings can do without exogenous carbs. It’s probably not optimal,
We may be calling "optimality" and "necessity" different things ... and, I've been pretty well convinced by Paul Jaminet's mucus argument that carbohydrate is absolutely a necessity - gluconeogenesis really doesn't provide enough.

In the face of extreme carbohydarte restriction one's DNA "chooses" more important (than mucus) uses for GNG-produced glucose, but as I see it this is similar for example to the body sequestering vitamin C to tissues that need it more when there's not much available.

Sanjeev said...

Diana wrote:
Is it optimal to put the liver and kidneys through such consistent stress? Was the liver really meant to carry on a defense against starvation constantly, which, it strikes me, is what the low-carb "glucos" tell us to do?
there is one group that can partly answer the question - anorexics. If their treatment doesn't hold they die of heart attacks as the heart loses too much muscle to be able to function properly.

That doesn't directly speak to low carbohydrate diets, just general starvation.

And "what they eventually die of" is not a very good metric, of course. I've done some reading on anorexics and never seen a compilation study of the sort "we studied 500 long term sufferers who eventually succumbed and this is what happened to their liver, kidney, intestines, spleen ... "

When I went on low carb 2 arguments from the earlier low-fat fads I had to overcome for myself were

1. low carb = ketoacidosis
2. "high protein is hard on the kidneys "

I once got a librarian at the local university to help me search medical literature about #2 and I've occasionally searched the internet since then (the search is flooded with unsupported repetition of the slogan) & absent kidney disease this doesn't seem a realistic concern, even on long term low carb / high protein. In fact to the extent that low carb tends to lower blood pressure it may be good for the kidneys (keeping in mind that the anti-epilepsy ketogenic diet produces higher kidney stone incidence)

number 1 is patently false

What would concern me now is mainly the mucus argument,

and not a concern but a question mark (because I've seen nothing definitive about it) - the possibility of fatty liver on the very low carbohydrate, ultra-fatty versions.

Diana said...

"Diana, what was wrong with you, if I may ask?

Nothing. Not a thing. I have a mild hypothyroid condition, completely managed by Synthroid.

Regarding a "glycogen storage disorder" - I have no idea whether I have that or not. It's possible. I've heard of storage disorders with respect to the brain, but this is a new one on me.

"Feinman is right when he says that healthy human beings can do without exogenous carbs."

For how long? For life? He's wrong. You're wrong. There is no human population anywhere that does without exogenous carbs. This includes the Eskimos, who lived mostly on meat. Meat contains carbohydrates. Organ meats contain a lot of carbohydrates.

And - I have read that in fact Eskimos DID eat vegetable matter. But the white guys who studied them (for how long?) spent most of their time with the heroic male hunters, and no time with the lowly female gatherers, so we didn't hear about that.

CS has written about the enzymes in human saliva that evolved to metabolize starch. Why would this have happened, if not for "exogenous carbs?"

In short: BS.

Feinman is a dogmatic liar, like Eades and Taubes.

eulerandothers said...

Tonus wrote: 'It's why I have settled on the approach that we need to find what works for us. Each of us, as individuals.'

Hear, hear!

I'd add to that: when the approach no longer works, if you no longer lose weight or in fact GAIN weight, change course!

If you don't want to change course, then you can yell about the 'medical establishment,' 'Big Pharma,' 'Big Agra,' the ADA, the AMA, the AHA, or the CIA (Culinary Institute of America...), but it's all sound and fury. You're stuck and you'll stay stuck!

Melchior Meijer said...

Diana, from your explanation I understand that you were taken to the ER in what looked like a critical condition. They examined you and found... nothing? Was it a panic attack?

It's funny how you to try to convince me that humans evolved to handle starches. You should know how often I use the amylase argument in discussions with rabiate carbofobics. You don't have to convince me that very low carb is probably not optimal. However, it is of little use to dismiss the basic physiology that Feinman et al are referring to.

Sanjeev, I found Paul Jaminet's arguments compelling too.

CarbSane said...

@Melchior: Y'know, after my discussions with Mario on thyroid (and Diana says she's mildly hypo controlled well with Synthroid), and my own stint in the ER, I'm beginning to wonder if there's any sort of "acute thyroid" attack that can occur. After all, I was sitting in the ER hooked up to the heart monitors and I wasn't panicky or anything and for no reason my heart would take off. I had all manner of tests run back then -- including wearing a Holter monitor -- and they found nothing wrong with me. They did give me some potassium in the ER saying it was "a little low" but apparently my blood sugar was normal. Perhaps a hypo triggered it all, but again, I wasn't hypo in the ER.

At the time I concluded that maybe it was panic attacks, but somehow I've never had one elicited by anything other than VLC.

There's such a thing as pancreatitis that can be brought about through diet. A quick search on thyroiditis doesn't turn anything up, but maybe it's possible?

Sanjeev said...

Melchior Meijer wrote:
Sanjeev, I found Paul Jaminet's arguments compelling too.
I haven't seen anything showing lower dietary carbohydrate actually reduces mucus, so it's a provisional conclusion.

Maybe instead of google I actually need to get back to a good university library (and a university-science oriented librarian; my med-type search skills are suboptimal) to find that study.

so I'm sorry my previous statement's a little "off"- this one:
Sanjeev wrote:
... pretty well convinced by Paul Jaminet's mucus ...
convinced by mucus ...

caseytoussaint said...

I've had cramp issues on a moderately low carb diet as well, but I also had them in the past with low calorie (low-fat) diets when losing weight too quickly. I blame dehydration in both cases. Adding magnesium has eliminated the problem for me every time. I am having a hard time keeping levels up, though, and if I miss a few days of supplementation the cramps come back.

Diana said...

"Diana, from your explanation I understand that you were taken to the ER in what looked like a critical condition. They examined you and found... nothing?"

Did you read my comment on the other website? I had a cholesterol level over 500.

"Was it a panic attack?"

Is this a polite way of asking if I'm a crazy hysterical broad?

"It's funny how you to try to convince me that humans evolved to handle starches. You should know how often I use the amylase argument in discussions with rabiate carbofobics."

Why should I know this? I have no idea who you are outside of this website.

"However, it is of little use to dismiss the basic physiology that Feinman et al are referring to."

Why is that? Show me a human population that exists without carbohydrates, and I include the Eskimos. There are carbs in muscle meat, there are carbs in organ meats, and according to a commenter here, whose website I did read (but I forget her name) Eskimos ate greens when they could.

I have no storage disorders, no psych disorders, no propensity for breakdowns. I was eating low-carb and not losing. (That's because I was eating TOO MANY CALORIES but didn't want to admit it at that point.)

I decided to exclude ALL CARBS from my diet, because I read that Richard Feinman said it was OK.

I collapsed.

I was taken by a friend to the ER. Because he was there, the resident in charge said they did not revive me as they would a drug addict - which would have been pretty bad. (They inject you with some kind of other drug. Ugh.)

They took bloods and found a completely whacked out profile: cholesterol over 500, tryglicerides over 100 (high for me), I forget what else.

I was stabilized, sent home and spent the next three days in a really bad state. Will spare details.

Now if you want, you can dismiss me as a crazy broad with psych and other underlying physical issues.

I'd say it was because I ate 900 calories or so of fat for four days, little protein, no carbs.

Stupid stupid diet.

PS - This happened in 2009 and for two years I still bought the low-carb bullshit least I lost 5 pounds over the ordeal. Can you say, "brainwashed"?

Nigel Kinbrum said...

@Diana RE Eskimos ate greens when they could:
Are you thinking of Melissa McEwen (who commented above)? She recommended the book Plants That We Eat: Nauriat Niginaqtaut - From the traditional wisdom of the Inupiat Elders of Northwest Alaska by Anore Jones

Diana said...

Yes, thank you so much for doing my legwork. I remember coming across that book and thinking, "the last nail in the low-carb coffin." Ya see, when it comes to statements like "the human body doesn't need carbohydrates - at all" my response now is to challenge these people to come up with a human population that lives without them.

I don't wanna hear what goes on on a cellular level.

I don't wanna hear gluconeogenesis.

I don't wanna hear about this person or that, or this study or that.

I want to hear about REAL PEOPLE living REAL LIVES. Working. Playing. Day after day. Year after Year. I want to hear about how many women have had successful pregnancies and nursed babies up to age 3 (the norm in traditional societies) with NO CARBS.

I don't think that is dogmatic of me. I think it's what we call "keepin' it real" in my world. And I think it's important for scientists to do that, too, especially in a subject like this. It's not an abstruse issue of string theory. We are talking about human beings.

When I first stumbled upon low-carb, I thought they were saying refreshing things about the lipid hypothesis, and so on. Now I think they are a bunch of first-class quacks.

Thanks, Nigel.

paleotwopointoh said...

Nursing til age 3 is extremely variable and in fact not a fixed norm. The range is a few months to a few years, and forcible weaning is not uncommon. In trading one set of dogmatic inaccuracy, it's hard not to jump into another set.

Normal is a moving target even in traditional societies, no matter what part of the lifestyle and diet we are speaking of.

Diana said...

I thought it was pretty obvious that I offered nursing for 3 years as one example of a variety of factors that make up normal life. I'm certainly not saying that it's the definition. Can you provide an example of a human population that has existed healthfully without carbohydrates? What is your point, besides nitpicking?

Galina L. said...

Hello from Moscow! My mom just got connected to the net and I can now read your discussion. I feel well on VLC, sorry to hear about other people suffering. It makes me wonder again, what makes the difference? I spent almost 4 years in ketogenic state, but while in Moscow, I couldn't keep up with my diet because of social inconvenience. When I started LC 4 years ago, one of symptoms that vanished with LC was leg edema. I experienced some leg cramps for sure. Now, when I eat more carbs then before, on days of carbs eating edema is back, next day I try to fast and get mild cramps, until swelling is gone. Magnesium supplements doesn't make any difference. To my surprise, I am not hungry now as before after eating carbs, nor I gained weight(looks like I lost some). Migraines are worse. I am having a lot of fun!

Melchior Meijer said...

Diana, you misunderstand me. Partly because English is not my native and not even my second language, but I suspect also because you are upset.

You gave the impression that you landed in hospital in a critical (life threatening) condition, which according to you was caused by eating low carb. You talk about medical staff 'stabilizing' you. If patients have to be stabilized, in Holland this means they will die without the apppropriate medical intervention. What do you mean by it? I asked you what diagnosis you got. Your answer: nothing. There was nothing wrong with you (except for high lipids). Now excuse me, but merely fainting is not a particularly strong case against low carb. You seem to never have been in danger, correct me if I'm wrong. I am very happy for that, but just visiting the ER cannot be used as an argument to blame a carb restricted diet.

You are also misinterpreting my question about the possibilty of a panic attack. People suffering anxiety attacks are not crazy, as you suggest, they are suffering from a very real, sometimes extremely debilitating brain disorder. In some people low carb seems to help normalize brain function, while others, without prior anxiety problems, seem to develop them on low carb. I hoped your story could help to identify some clues.

I didn't expect you to know that I use the amylase argument. If you read carefully you will see that I mean 'If only you knew how often etc.', even if you have never been outside the USA.

Nobody is argueing that there are populations that eat zero carbs, not even Richard Feinman. It's a non issue.

Good luck.

Melchior Meijer said...

CarbSane, I’ve now heard so many stories from healthy people (athletes) who experienced scary bouts of tachycardia upon carb restriction, that I no longer think the problem originates ‘up north’. Combined, these stories remind me of Da Costa’s syndrome (soldier’s heart). Exercise intolerance, tachycardia (especially upon starting exercise or changing posture), an unpleasant awareness of a strong pulse and generally not feeling well. Da Costa’s turned out to be pure stress. Or over training. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cardiac symptoms described by these low carbers find their origin in chronically ramped up catecholamines, depleting already depleted glycogen stores even more and potentially causing episodes of vagal withdrawel. With no brakes on the heart, you will have the impression you are dying, which does not make things better ;-).

Sorry, I really know nothing about the thyroid. Worth pursueing! There’s a lot to be learned. But Anthony does:

Tazchick said...

For me, leg cramps are a symptom that I'm eating like crap. Low carb, but still way too many Zero Carb Rockstars and not enough veg.

Diana said...


This exchange has officially entered crazy territory, and I'm not engaging further. You obviously have a huge psychic investment in low carb and I'm familiar with people (especially men) who encounter people (especially women) who have the temerity to disagree with them. In short: I will not put on a public website all the details of what happend to me, and BUH-BYE!!

To the rational commenters here:

To repeat: there is no human population that exists without eating carbohydrates. Therefore to say that carbohydrates are not a necessary macronutrient is wrong.




I've got a proposition: I wish that Gary Taubes, Michael Eades, and Richard Feinman would force (yeah force) their wives to go through a pregnancy on zero carbs.

I realize that Mary Dan is a bit past it but I am speaking theoretically. If people don't need carbs, put your money where your kid's health is.

I'm sure that all of them would be quite horrified by my proposition, because while I do not think they are right about carbs, I don't think they are monsters (despite what I said about Feinman on Hans' website - sorry Richard, if you are reading this).

They would be as horrified by this, as they would be by their wives or daughters going through a vegan pregnancy.

I mention pregnancy because that seems to wake a lot of people up. Every vegan I know or know of when becoming pregnant, immediately went off that crazy diet. It is one thing to eff up your own body on a crazy diet, quite another to a growing fetus. Becoming pregnant scares most women sane.

So let's hear it: any no carb successful pregnancies out there?

I didn't think so.

Helen said...

I haven't read all the comments, so I may repeat some information here.

I was close to VLC for a while (I was counting 60g carbs a day, but was counting zucchini, broccoli, and onions, so it may have been functionally lower) and got cramps and heart palpitations and a huge surge in insomnia.

After a while, I figured out that not only was it probably a lack of potassium and magnesium, but that my diet was probably too low in thiamine, which I might need more of anyway, since I'm borderline diabetic and diabetics (both type I and type II) excrete 15x the thiamine a non-diabetic does.

I also think lactic acid buildup may have played a role. In any case, I feel better being on a higher-carb, lower-fat diet with a lot of soluble fiber.

Helen said...

@ Melchior -

Thought you might be interested in the following. I forgot to mention, I got panic attacks on low-carb, too. I've gotten them at times not on low-carb, but got them more on low-carb, and felt generally more easily angered.

Melchior Meijer said...

Thanks for sharing that, Helen. Couldn’t resist to do a quick search on serotonin. O man... Low carb greatly reduces serotonin production (I didn’t see anything on uptake and homeostasis yet, but...). Apart from making you anxious and depressed, low serotonin seems to prevent the beta cells from releasing insulin, thus decreasing glucose tolerance. Finally, serotonin plays an important role in maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Wow. Enjoy your potatoes. I’ll have mine tonight ;-).

CarbSane said...

To Diana & Melchior: If I may interject here -- well of course I can, it's my blog! LOL -- I think any hurt feelings here are solely the case of miscommunication. Melchior has been a regular commenter here for a very long time (and defended my honor at that) but hasn't contributed that much of late. So I can see where one might take a comment or two out of context to think he's very pro VLC or something.

OTOH Melchior, I'm not sure if the medical establishment, male doctors, and even men in general are the same where you live, but there is a fair amount of sexism existing to this day where treating the sort of "attacks" that Diana and I (not saying they were the same, but at least somewhat similar) have experienced. Quite often they are written off as "panic attacks" and those are not generally seen as having a physiological underpinning.

I've never been prone to such or had one that I can think of. And while I was under a lot of stress when my ER visit episode occurred, the source of that stress was not there (my brother had died suddenly of a massive heart attack, something I intend to blog on now that I've identified myself) when I was running high having gotten down to a size 12 on VLC but experiencing the problems with the slightest exertion or none at all prior.

So to Diana, I would say that I don't believe for a second that Melchior meant any sort of "she just has a case of the vapors" condescension, but to Melchior I would say perhaps now you can see why Diana thought otherwise.

Nice to see you back Galina!

I hope to get to the rest of the comments shortly.

lynn said...

Re: thyroid and low carb - long term low carb is a great way to downgrade thyroid function. In some cases,a dormant hypo conditions comes out on LC and never leaves.

Matt Stone and Anthony Colpo both write a lot about the link between LC and hypothyroidism. As to whether it can trigger an attack of thyroiditis specifically, well if the LC diet was high in soy or other fake LC foods, that is a possibility. Plus, VLC diets are very low in iodine, which is theorised by some to cause thyroiditis.

Diana - Have you been to the stop the thyroid madness website? How do you eat now?

Melchior Meijer said...

Evelyn, women are ruling my world and the mere thought of attributing 'weak traits' to females is completely foreign to me. It's like having a toddler sitting on your knee and some bystander shouting: 'Look, that man is a pedofile' ;-). Must be a cultural difference indeed.

The majority of our physicians are female. A guy in my swimming pool went to the ER a couple of years ago, convinced he was having an MI. A (female) cardiologist set things straight and told him: 'Your problem resides up north, dear boy. You were having a panic attack.'

l clearly explained that panic attacks are physiological in my world. They can and do happen to men and women. To dismiss them as 'a case of the vapors' would be beyond stupid.

I'm sorry about your brother. I would say it strenghtens the possibility that your tachycardia was the result of massive stress, aggravated by eating very low carb (see above).

CarbSane said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences Helen. I'm wondering if the higher carb diet contains more of the minerals that help?

Welcome lynn! I've been reading quite a bit from those two gents of late. For me my LC diet contained no frankenfoods except for splenda in my coffee (that I have had for almost as long as the product has been around) so soy wouldn't be an issue. It's possible to have too little or too much iodine for the thyroid. It's all rather confusing at times!

Melchior: Perhaps the ER episode itself was a panic attack -- I can't rule that out -- but it didn't start out as one. I was having episodes before this occurred. IOW, that stressful time came on instantly and wasn't there before then when I was experiencing what I guess were hypos? I only ever felt like that a few times this go round back in 2009 (I was IF'ing at the time ...) Thanks for the clarification. I hope you didn't think I was accusing you of something there, just that this one-dimensional form of communication across the globe can lead to unintended misunderstandings.

CarbSane said...

Oh ... except now I do take soy isoflavones in my Estroven. Haven't had anything but improvements in other areas since doing that.

Post a Comment

Moderation is currently on. Thanks in advance for your patience.