By Christine Hronec
If you are consistently overeating carbohydrates, one of the main effects is unwanted weight gain. In spite of their bad reputation, carbs are not bad, they are important to human function. There are tons of examples of lean and fit people who consume generous amounts of carbohydrates, however anything in excess will result in issues.
Unlike athletes or fitness competitors looking to gain lean muscle mass, the average adult cannot justify consumption of excessively large portions of carbohydrates. Unless you are Michael Phelps burning thousands of calories per day with your training, there is no practical reason to consume excess carbs above and beyond what your body needs to maintain your current body mass. This is not intended to be a sentence to a life of boredom and boring foods. It’s a wake-up call to take an aware approach to eating to avoid serious health issues that are easily prevented such as the following:
1. Hyperglycemia (Type 2 Diabetes) – This condition is the result of excess glucose in one’s blood stream. This is one of the key signs of diabetes a condition where the body cannot effectively lower one’s blood sugar due to irregularities with ones insulin levels. This results in frequent urination as well as a persistent thirst. Eating excessive amounts of sugar is the primary cause of this condition, however there are cases where the body is not able to effectively manage glucose metabolism due to the inability to create insulin (type 1 diabetes) or a case of insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes).
2. Bloating- Even if you eat a healthy and balanced diet, bloating is a part of life and sometimes seems to happen for non-obvious reasons. Consistent bloating is typically related to excess carb intake, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, IBS, or consumption of high FODMAP foods.
• Excess Carb Intake- Each gram of carbs binds approximately 3 grams of water. If one is eating the FDA’s recommended 300g of carbs per day that means the average person gain an extra 900g (or ~2lbs) in water per day. That’s assuming you are eating at the recommended allowance, imagine what happens when you eat double, triple, or even quadruple that amount. You can retain up to 8lbs of excess water.
• Gluten Intolerance- Quite a few carb sources such as baked goods, whole wheat bread, oats, and even some types of pasta contain a protein found in wheat commonly referred to as gluten. This causes an immune response in individuals with a condition known as Celiac’s disease. The best course of action under these circumstances is a nutrition plan that completely eliminates gluten, but not one that eliminates carbs. Examples of gluten-free carbs include rice, quinoa, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, squash, cauliflower, veggies, etc.
• Lactose Intolerance- Bloating after consuming dairy based foods that contain the milk sugar lactose tends to be confused with a food allergy. The real issue is that some individuals are missing a digestive enzyme known as lactase that breaks down the milk sugars through a series of biochemical reactions. Without this enzyme individuals will experience intestinal gas and bloating with the degree of severity varying from person to person. The key to uncovering if this is the root cause of your bloating is to try an elimination diet when you completely eliminate this food altogether to evaluate if this is the cause of your bloating. It is suggested to try small amounts to access your tolerance before completely writing off this ingredient because a lot of people arbitrarily eliminate dairy when it is not necessary.
• IBS- Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that results in intense bloating of the lower abdomen commonly associated with diarrhea and abnormal gastrointestinal issues. Eliminating very large meals, fried foods, carbonated beverages, alcohol, sugar, sugar alcohols, and caffeine is a good place to start. Outside of these variables, there are specific carbohydrates that are classified by their levels of FODMAPS. The term FODMAP stands for fermentable oligio-di- monosaccarides and polyols, which is a specific sub-group of carbohydrates, that tend to aggravate IBS. The following food groups are considered high in FODMAP’s: polyols, lactose, fructose, fructans, and galactans)
• Polyols (aka Sugar Alcohols): Sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, xylitol, and isomalt
• Lactose: Milk, soft cheese, whey, ice cream, butter, cream
• Fructose: Fruit with pits or seeds, high fructose corn syrup, agave, honey
• Fructans: Gluten, garlic, onion, barley, cabbage, chickory root, asparagus, ripe bananas
• Galactans: Soy, black beans, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black eyed peas, and broccoli
3. Acne- Nutrition plays such an important role in skin health. Excessive carb intake in the form of refined sugars can increase acne breakouts. Refined carbs breakdown into sugars that feed bacteria. While bacteria alone will not cause acne, it can stress existing inflammation. Selecting lower glycemic index carbs will help minimize nutrition related breakouts in addition to dialing your sugar intake to only 10% of your recommended carb content and keeping that level dialed in.
4. Fatigue- A common sign of excess carb intake will result in a shift in energy level. The problem is that refined carbs are processed very quickly leading to quick rises in energy levels, but results in a sharp drop in blood sugar that induces fatigue. When insulin is released from the pancreas it drops your blood sugar but it also causes an increase in your melatonin and serotonin levels in the brain resulting in a feeling of mild drowsiness after eating large portions of starchy carbohydrates. The key is to focus on carbs that break down slower and to combine them with veggies to keep your blood sugar stable.
5. Depression- Depression results from a reduction in ones serotonin levels in the brain. Excess sugar intake declines optimal brain function and increases overall inflammation in the body. A lot of people seek emotional comfort from food where carbs are a common go-to when one is feeling down. The problem is that excess sugars, artificial sweeteners, and fast foods, which are very high in carbs have been linked to cause a wide variety of mental disorders from ADHD to bipolar disorders. Unfortunately
6. Sugar Cravings/Addiction- Some studies show that sugar is up to 8 times as addictive as cocaine. * It was found that sugar actually stimulates the brains opioid receptors. In order to address sugar addition there are a variety of approached to free yourself from its hold on your body and mind. The first key is to focus on blood sugar stabilization and to minimize consumption of refined sugars. The next step is to get to the root of your triggers. More often than not unresolved emotional problems can be taken out on food. Instead of treating your issues with food, it is advised to talk about them with a trusted friend or counselor. Instead of arbitrarily stuffing your face with carbs, try journaling or working out when you are upset. Reflecting on what you are grateful for on a daily basis is a great way to shift your focus on constructive thoughts and feelings. This is not an overnight process but is a great place to begin.