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low carb for depression?

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I'm trying to figure out why I felt so much better early in my Whole30, and why the last few weeks have been much worse. I did a Whole45, eliminating nightshades in the last 15 days and then reintroducing them. Then I started the fast roll introduction, but have suspended it because I am feeling worse every day. While the nightshades and legumes I reintroduced could be contributing, the problems with energy actually started well before I made any of those changes.


I think I felt better in the first few weeks because I was eating fewer carbs in the form of sweet potatoes and fruit. I know both are fine on the program, and the sweet potatoes really helped me stabilize energy and feel full until lunchtime. But now I'm feeling as depressed and tired as I was before I began the program. Plus, the roar of my sugar dragon has been deafening lately.


typical food intake:

breakfast--half a sweet potato, ghee, 1/4 lb. sausage or else 2 eggs, guacamole (1/4 c.)

lunch--5 oz. chicken or 4 oz. tuna or 6 oz. salmon; mayo, celery, toasted almonds, about 7-8 grapes

late afternoon--apple, 1/4. c. almond butter

dinner--one palm-size (or a little more) pork tenderloin, berry chutney w/mayo (3 T.), cauliflower/carrot/currant salad (1/2 c.)


(For a couple weeks I was eating a normal sized sweet potato at breakfast but I noticed I was tired afterward, so I cut back to half in the last week.)


I've scoured the forums for other people feeling tired, and one piece of advice I see frequently is to add more carbs. In the past, though, eating low carb has meant more energy and mental clarity for me. The problem is that low carb is hard to maintain, and the increase in carbs (sweet potatoes) did help me get from one meal to the next with little or no snacking on nuts inbetween. I was really liking that on Whole30 I could have sweet potatoes and fruit.


One other pattern I've noticed in feedback about fatigue is that people often recommend more protein. I thought I was getting enough, but as I look at my typical day, I wonder if it's enough.


Thanks in advance for any feedback or advice. I appreciate it.

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p.s. I also stopped losing weight and started feeling more achy. I lost 15 lb. during the first 30 days, but only 1.5 in the past three weeks. These changes plus the decreased energy and mood, having trouble getting out of bed, etc. are all telling me inflammation increased again. The question is what do I need to change?!

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Sometimes fatigue/ tiredness can be the result of other physical ailments. For instance, I'm a diabetic and if my blood sugar is too high and sometimes too low I get tired and sometimes depressed/moody. This can be simple to check with an inexpensive glucose monitor (monitors are cheap, strips aren't. So if you're gonna buy a monitoring system, make sure you get one that cheap refills like the up and up brand from target or some other store brands). Google for a good range (since I'm pregnant too, my parameters are different than normal and I don't remember normal....) and test 1-2 hrs after your first bite.

Another issue that's not as easy to home test for is thyroid. Hypothyroidism can also play a role with fatigue/moodiness.

I'm curious as to why you feel low carb isn't sustainable? Buying in season veggies helps with keeping cost down (so buying summer squash in December is going to be a little more expensive than buying it in July, at least in my area of the US) as will purchasing frozen veggies when they aren't in season. Also some people have different carb needs than others (although the 300g for2000 kcal diet is ridiculously high! Sorry FDA, I don't buy it). I think following the meal template is a good idea regardless. Maybe adding a bit more protein can help, but it's not a super high protein diet.

Sorry for rambling. This is just what popped in my head as I read your post.

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I would say in general you are not eating enough at all and I see no leafy greens. You need to up your veggies at all your meals. Your protein seems low at meal 1. Remember that when eggs are your sole source of protein you want as many as you can hold in your hand without dropping. Usually 3-4 for women.


I personally find that having my starchy veggies later in the day is better for my energy levels so I usually have them with meals 2 and 3. 


I'm a little confused about the nightshades part. Did you do a regular Whole30 + Whole30 with no nightshades and then start reintroductions? Did you feel wonderful at the end of 30 and 45 days and just started feeling bad again with reintros? What have you introduced? What was the reason for no nightshades? Any other changes around the time you started feeling bad again?

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Thanks, Karen and Physibeth, for your replies. I can see it's probably true that in general I'm not eating enough, but I didn't realize that might be true until I posted my typical meals. I know I don't have enough veggies, too. So those are some changes I can make right away. Diabetes isn't an issue for me, but I could definitely get my thyroid checked, and I will.


Here's the background for my process:

I did the Whole30 and was thrilled to have finished successfully, and I didn't want to add potentially problematic foods right away. I wanted more time with my new habits before I tested them. In addition, my usually severe GERD symptoms improved on the Whole30, but not to the extent that I could even think about decreasing medication, which is a goal for me. Since nightshades are problematic for some with GERD, I went two more weeks and eliminated nightshades, while continuing otherwise regular Whole30 eating. When I reintroduced nightshades, tomato wasn't a big deal, but peppers were, so I learned to avoid those.


After two additional days of regular Whole30 eating (a total of 50 days on plan), I reintroduced legumes. I had a lot of digestive trouble from them, so I've learned they are "not worth it" foods, for now, anyway.


During my Whole30, I felt mentally clearer and emotionally brighter pretty much right away. I felt physically tired a lot, but by the 3rd week I was feeling great. Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th weeks, things started to go downhill. But I was still doing better than before I began, so I continued and did the nightshades experiment. Depression is sneaky, though, and I have realized recently that I've somehow slid back into the lack of clarity and motivation that I was feeling before I started the Whole30.


I've kept detailed notes of what I've eaten each day, and I can see that I started using more sweet potatoes and ghee in the 3rd week. They really seemed to help with the fatigue. Since then, I've had one nearly every morning, which is quite different from before. Pre-sweet potatoes, I would have had an omelette with spinach and guacamole or something similar. Also around the 3rd week, I increased fruits to 2 or 3 servings a day, whereas before I had kept them at 1 or 2. With those changes, I felt more satisfied physically, but mentally/emotionally I was getting duller and flatter. The aching in my joints increased, and I stopped losing weight, too.


Who knows. Maybe it was the weather! Maybe my body is just adjusting to being 15 lb. lighter. I have to admit that today I fed my sugar dragon for the first time in almost two months. Tomorrow, though, I will begin another Whole30, with more protein at breakfast and more veggies at every meal. If you have any recommendations beyond that, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll go with that plan and check in as needed. Thank you!

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I used to do a lot of low carb before I came to Whole30 and balancing your blood sugar is important, even if you're not diabetic.

Often people who feel better on low carb feel better because it keeps their blood sugar more stable (no spikes and dips), you can have erratic blood sugar (common in those with thyroid issues, on medication and a whole bunch of other things, not just people with a sweet tooth), particularly at the fasted stage (in the morning, before you eat), mine was a complete mess, like a yoyo.


Some people find low blood sugar is a trigger for depression or feeling suddenly vulnerable, which is why you will often see posts about eating more starchy veg, but it is individual, bodies have their own rhythms and things they're dealing with, so you may need more than X but less than Y, somewhere in the middle and it may alter up and down over a 30 day period. If your blood sugar is sensitive, you may find too much makes you feel less well, just as much as not enough does (if you can, try and "feel" the difference, even if you can't, try from time to time, I find I'm much better at hearing what my body is trying to tell me and it keeps getting better).


Did you keep a Log on the forums of your food? We might be able to see other things.


I find when I start having more than 2 serves of fruit a day, it's because I'm not eating enough and I'm hungry (fruit will give you a quick spike to your blood sugar), so it's possible your balance shifted then, especially since you've had some weight loss :) Sometimes your body has to do some adjusting after a big loss and it wants more of different things as it's changing it's priorities. Achy joints do sound like inflammation so nightshades might be something to monitor. Did you have any trouble with nightshade spices like paprika?


If you do want to check out your blood sugar, there are the home meters for both blood ketones (not the same as ketostix) and glucose (I'm in Australia where the monitors and strips are cheap, but I've heard they're cheaper in Canada for Americans, so shop around). There's also a lab test called AC1 A1C which is kind of a snapshot of the last three months, your blood sugar over time but in a single test. Generally my AC1 always came up fine, but my individual daily blood measures were completely erratic (deranged and erratic were words my doctor kept using and he classed me as Prediabetic - this was before my first Whole30). There was no point checking my post-food levels as my real issue was my erratic fasted blood sugar (my body's regulation overnight) as my metabolism was weird.


For me the medication I was on had a lot to do with it, but it happens naturally as well and I think I had problems before starting the medication as I'd usually felt better on low carb (I think grains are very disturbing to my metabolism). I was on a corticosteroid for 8 years and it took quite a toll (it's a diabetogenic medication - it induces diabetes in otherwise healthy people and I wasn't very healthy).


The good part is it's completely reversible and fixable (I now test as Normal :wub: thanks to Whole30 and now healthy enough to be off all medications - this didn't happen in 30 days, I had a lot of things to fix), if you can low carb you'll have no trouble at all managing your blood sugar, but you might be surprised at your fasted levels if you've never done any regular testing. Now I can "feel" when my blood sugar is funny.


There's also a lot of nutrients that help fight depression, as they're linked directly to the body functions that are involved with symptoms.

  • Vitamin B - the whole family, B12 and B6 deficiencies are known depression triggers but most people with depression test lower in all B vitamins.
  • Omega 3 - this is a ratio against Omega 6, so if you're having a lot of Omega 6 you need even more Omega 3
  • Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, baked potatoes with skin on, mushrooms, green leafy (including spinach and mustard greens) are rich in serotonin.
  • Fruits such as bananas, kiwi, pineapple, plums, grapefruit, mango, honeydew, cantaloupe (rockmelon) and plantains are all good for boosting serotonin.
  • Vitamin D3
  • Magnesium

Exercise also has positive impacts on depression (and lots of other health factors) in ways we're still trying to understand the science on, so if you're feeling up to it, it can be helpful, even if it's just a walk around the house or lifting some heavy things.

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Praxisproject, thanks for your thoughts about both blood sugar and depression. I really haven't considered that I might have problematic patterns, but since I don't know what's going on, I think I should check with my doctor about it. I can imagine that losing 15 lb in 30 days does take quite a bit of adjustment for the body, and it might take a while to adjust. Also, I will emphasize the foods you listed, especially the veggies which I need to eat more of!


I didn't keep a food log online. Instead, to keep myself on track, I have a chart with four columns. The headings are meals plans, food preparation (what I need to make), what I actually ate, and then notes.


You're absolutely right about exercise. My favorite book about the power of exercise to improve brain health is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise by Nicholas Ratey, M.D. In fact, the last time I could wear the jeans I am wearing now was a time when I was working out at least 30 min. every day. I wasn't eating especially well then. Now it's time to put my good Whole30 nutrition together with the exercise that also makes me feel good.


Thanks for the encouragement and information. I really appreciate you and the other moderators and advanced members. You are generous and helpful. Thank you!

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