How to tell if you’re carbohydrate intolerant and which foods to steer clear of.
Do you find yourself feeling tired, bloated, and craving sweets after meals, even though you’re eating all the “right” foods? It’s possible that even the healthy carbohydrate foods you’re eating could be causing your body distress. This digestive issue is called carbohydrate intolerance, and it’s more popular than you may think.
Read on to discover more about carb intolerance, and solutions you can try if you think you’ve been suffering from it.
What Is Carbohydrate Intolerance?
Carbohydrate intolerance is essentially the inability of your body to digest certain carbohydrates. This can either be due to a genetic deficiency of enzymes that help digest carbs, or it can be acquired through a diet that is consistently too high in carbs and sugars.
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When your body can’t digest carbs effectively, a condition called hyperinsulinemia, or insulin resistance, can occur. Normally, when you eat carbs, your body releases a corresponding amount of insulin into your bloodstream to help lower your blood sugar back to baseline levels.
However, when you’re constantly eating a high-carb diet and aren’t breaking them down properly, your cells can become “resistant” to the effect of insulin, which then causes chronically high blood sugar levels.
Once this happens, your body will start to release more and more insulin to try to get your cells to respond.
This entire process can cause all sorts of not-so-fun symptoms. See if you’re suffering from any of the symptoms listed below.
5 Symptoms of Carbohydrate Intolerance
Below are some of the most common symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance.
1. Weight Gain
Have you been noticing that you’re gaining weight for no apparent reason, even though you’re eating “healthy” foods such as sweet potatoes and quinoa? This may be due to excess carbs and sugars in your bloodstream.
When the carbs you eat aren’t broken down and used immediately for energy, your body does whatever it takes to get rid of them to keep your blood sugar stable. This could result in storing carbs as excess fat even if the sources of those foods are often considered healthy. (1)
2. High Blood Sugar
Of course, one of the major indicators of carbohydrate intolerance is high blood sugar. This is because when you’re not breaking down and digesting carbs effectively, they can remain in your bloodstream and send your blood sugar skyrocketing.
Now keep in mind your blood sugar doesn’t necessarily have to be off the charts to signal a carbohydrate intolerance; you may just simply be on the high end of normal blood sugar readings. If this is the case, see if you have any other symptoms going on that could signal carbs may be to blame.
3. Bloating and Gas
When carbs aren’t broken down properly, they can end up sitting undigested in your stomach or colon. This causes fermentation that can let off gas, causing bloating while also creating an environment for bacteria in your gut to feed on food particles. These bacteria can then further give off gas. (2)
If you find yourself bloated all the time, especially after eating carbs, carb intolerance could be the case.
You may find that you’re feeling constantly tired throughout the day, or after you eat your meals. Carbohydrate intolerance can affect your energy levels due to blood sugar spikes and lows caused by not absorbing carbs efficiently, or by not being able to use their energy effectively.
Studies show that glucose metabolism – in other words, our ability to process carbs and use them for energy – is associated with fatigue when not functioning properly. This is especially true in diabetics, who often experience fatigue as well as feelings of psychological fatigue like “burn out” and feeling mentally worn out. (3)
5. Constant Cravings for Sweets
The problem with not being able to digest carbohydrates effectively is that your cells may start to “crave” glucose, as it’s the preferred energy source for your brain and body.
When you’re carbohydrate intolerant and not able to use the carbs you’re consuming for energy, your body starts craving more in order to force you to get this energy. Unfortunately, this ends up becoming a cycle of endless cravings, since you’re not absorbing the very thing you’re craving.
Are You Carbohydrate Intolerant?
Still not sure if you’re carbohydrate intolerant? Answer the questions below, then find out what you can do about it if you are.
- Are you overweight?
- Do you feel tired often, especially after eating a carb-heavy meal?
- Are you mostly sedentary?
- Do you feel hungry all the time, or have intense cravings for carbs or sweets?
- Do you feel lightheaded or dizzy when you get hungry?
- Is your blood sugar in the upper ranges of “normal” or do you experience blood sugar swings?
- Are you suffering from brain fog, anxiety, depression, skin problems, joint pain, aching muscles, hormonal issues, and/or sleep problems?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions, you may be carbohydrate intolerant.
You can also get blood work done to verify your suspicions. Take a look at your hemoglobin A1c levels, which provides a snapshot of your average blood sugar levels over the last three months. Has your diet been clear of sugary foods, yet the number is above 5.5?
What to Do If You’re Carbohydrate Intolerant
With a few diet tweaks, you can easily manage carb intolerance and regain your energy. Follow the tips below to get started.
1. Avoid Starchy Carbohydrates and Grains
This includes potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, quinoa, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, and other carb-rich foods. Replace these with leafy greens like kale and spinach and green veggies like Brussel sprouts, fennel, and broccoli.
2. Remove Dairy
Replace with non-dairy options, like coconut and almond milks and yogurts, which have fewer carbs. Be sure to choose unsweetened varieties.
3. Eat Only Low-Sugar Fruits
This includes berries, lemons, and grapefruit. Avoid high-sugar fruits like pineapples, pears, and bananas.
4. Add More High-Quality Fats
Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
5. Avoid Alcohol
If that’s hard to do, stick with one glass of dry red wine at a time.
6. Eat Dark Chocolate for Dessert
Indulge in just one square of 75% cacao or above as a treat. Avoid candies, honey, maple syrup, and other sweets.
7. Supplement with Digestive Enzymes
They can help your body break down carbs.
8. Eat Probiotics
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi can help improve your overall gut health.
It’s also important to keep in mind that conventional carbohydrate recommendations may be too high. Try to keep your carbs under 100 grams a day.
Alternatively, you can also check out the Keto Diet, which has many beneficial effects on your metabolism and can even help you lose weight. Read more about the Keto Diet here.
The Bottom Line
Carbohydrate intolerance can be a manageable issue. Once you know the foods to avoid and the right foods to eat instead, you can beat your cravings, reduce fatigue and improve your digestion.
(Read This Next: Top 5 Ways to Improve Digestion Naturally)