Anti-Diet Challenge, Day 11: Carbs Are Not Evil

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carbsnotevil

Today I was reminded yet again of the inexplicable freak out that comes after someone says that carbs are not, in fact, evil.   Eating carbs, starches, sugar, and salt will often raise body temperature and help metabolism.  You can read all about the mechanisms that make it so in the ebook Eat for Heat.

Or you can just take your temperature every morning as you continue the Anti-Diet Challenge and see how your body responds.  I have had readers report temperatures as high as nearly 99 degrees!

Inflammation vs. Eating for Heat

There also seems to be confusion about whether or not the warming quality of starches, carbs, sugar, and salt is in fact inflammation.  It is not.  Feeling a rush of warmth and even sleepiness after a meal is not a bad thing.  It is your body’s way of saying, “Ahhh!  I am well fed and relaxed.  The parasympathetic nervous system will now take over, thankyouverymuch!”

Inflammation is linked to toxins, trauma, infection and hypersensitivity.  Chances are, if you have sought out real food as a healing protocol, that you are dealing with a health challenge with a factor involving inflammation.  And these days we have more exposure to toxins in form of pesticides, fragrances, and other human-made materials.

There is a difference between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation, similar to the dynamic we have talked about in relation to stress.  Acute inflammation or stress will not harm you as much as the chronic varieties.  Example: a head cold is over in a few days and doesn’t hurt you as much as gluten-sensitivity generally.  Another example: your kid running into the street is over in a few seconds and doesn’t hurt you as much as living in fear of an abuser when you have been exposed to trauma.

So if you have gluten-sensitivity, what should you do?  Many people would say that you should stop eating gluten.  I would say: maybe.

On the one hand, you should listen to your body.  If you feel better not eating gluten, then go for it.  But does avoiding gluten stress you out?  That’s a source of inflammation!  This is why I think Eat For Heat is such a good option.

We tend to make the mistake that if gluten is causing inflammation in our body, then it is the root cause of inflammation If you are truly allergic to gluten, and have a bonafide case of celiac disease, then yes: avoid gluten!  But for most people, we are simply assuming that because a lot of people are saying that grains are bad and we (supposedly) didn’t evolve to eat modern wheat, then it is better to just cut out all grains and live like that for the rest of our lives.

You can do that if you like, but it’s not your only option.  I prefer to think that if I heal my metabolism, then my sensitivities will resolve.  This includes any problems I might have digesting foods like grains, starches, and carbohydrates in general.

Consider the idea that the root of your digestive and inflammatory problem isn’t gluten, but your metabolism.  Your body can learn how to properly digest grains and even gluten again.

How?  The Anti-Diet Challenge!

A Word on Female Bodies

If you are female, you may notice that during your ovulation days your temperature will burn a little hotter.  This is normal, of course, and to know more about your cycles I really recommend reading the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  But the point is this: there is nothing wrong with you.

As you eat more carbs, your waking temperature should find homeostasis around 98.6 degrees.  As you eat your drier breakfasts and get used to drinking as little as possible in the morning hours, your 10am cold-hands-and-feet crash should disappear.  As you eat Big Lunch instead of Big Dinner, you should see more energy in the afternoon, even at that infamous time of day when everyone gets sleepy and needs a nap.

Can You See the Forest? Or Just Trees?

We need to stop looking so closely at nutrition all the time.  Step back and look at the big picture sometimes.  Carbohydrates are a macronutrient.  It’s completely insane for anyone to truly believe that carbs are generally bad, responsible for all the health ills in our society, and that they should be avoided in the long term.

In general, it is better to have whole, real foods.  I have not changed my mind on that, and I never will.  It just makes sense.  Eating clean, local, organic foods is better than eating fast foods, convenience foods, and processed foods.  …Except when they aren’t.  Sometimes you can ruin a good thing.

To dogmatically hold to the ideas that carbs are the root of all evil is taking the idea that “processed foods are bad for us” to a whole new level.  We have moved from reading Nourishing Traditions, eating healthy traditional fats, and soaking grains, to a whole new realm where you cannot eat a potato without some Carb Nazi demanding to know why you want to eat such horrible, starchy, inflammatory foods.  Insanity!

So Low Carb is Evil?

No!  You did that black-or-white thinking thing again.  Stop it!

Low carb is simply one diet option that may or may not work for your body and your level of movement.  If low carb works for you, then go for it.  But don’t ignore the signs that low carb is not working for you.  Typically, low carb feels great for about 6 months.  Then you start to feel pretty exhausted.  There is a really great article on why that is here.

However, if you continue to feel awesome on low carb, then embrace it!  You are the expert on your body.  And even if you feel crummy, you can still make it work.  I have not tried it myself, but I think that you could even play with being low carb 5 days a week, and then eating a lot of carbs 2 days a week to keep your body from going into ketosis or fight-or-flight overload.  And that is only one option.

That’s not to say that low-carb diets, primal, paleo, GAPS, and SCD are bad for everyone.  I just think they are overused.  It’s one thing to say that GAPS may work for certain people.  It’s quite another thing to say that GAPS should be used by most people, and for 2 years+.

And it’s one thing to have a genuine allergy to gluten, and quite another to feel that you are taking the moral and nutritional high ground when you abstain from gluten because you read Wheat Belly and you think it’s bad for everyone.

As you know, GAPS has worked well for many people, especially kids with autism and people trying to overcome allergies in the short term.  But GAPS is a temporarydiet.  And unless you have a situation where your health is severely compromised, then I do not recommend taking on GAPS to solve all your health woes.

I made the mistake of thinking that a very restrictive diet like GAPS would be the solution to all my health “problems”, but it makes much more sense that I simply had an underlying metabolic problem.  And restricting my food choices wasn’t helping me one bit.  Instead, I found that reintroducing grains, starches, sugars, and dairy helped my digestion get better and my temperature soar.

You can read the full version of the Anti-Diet Challenge guidelines here.  Here is the condensed version so you can join in!:

  • Eat foods that sound good.  Be intuitive.
  • Don’t drink anything unless you are thirsty.
  • Follow the meal outline below.  See how you feel.
    • Starchy breakfast without much liquid
    • Big Lunch with protein and dessert.  Fruit is best at this time.
    • Small vegetarian dinner with more liquid.  Veggies are best at this time.
  • Break the meal outline rules above.  See if tweaking it helps you feel better or worse.  Trust your results.
  • Embrace sugar and salt.
  • Work out if you feel antsy.  Take a nap if you are tired.
  • Take your temperature.
  • Sleep enough.

I also recommend reading Diet Recovery and Eat for Heat.  Share your favorite quote or “a-ha!” moment from the book in comments or on the daily thread on Facebook and Google+ for you to chat, ask questions, and so on.

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