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  • I Need Help/carb craving hell and hormonal imbalance

    Hi there -

    This is my first forum post after years of reading the site. I desperately need some feedback and any thoughts or insights anyone can offer would mean the world to me.

    I'll keep it as short as I can. I'm a 25 YO female, 5'5" and about 110 pounds. I'm in pretty decent shape. I can run several miles at a good pace, take and enjoy a rigorous hike...I go dancing all the time, can do a bunch of situps/pushups, and I take 60 minute yoga classes 4-6 times a week. I enjoy exercise. Yet I have almost no muscle tone...more on that in a moment.

    I suffer from extreme fatigue (comes and goes), relentless and ravenous carb cravings, irregular periods, and acne.

    I have "gone primal" multiple times over the last four years, always for a month or more. I keep waiting for the part where I'm supposed to feel better, but instead, I just feel like I'm starving. All I think about are carbs. Not sugar...I don't have much of a sweet tooth...but rice. Potatoes. Pasta. Seriously, I crave plain rice. These cravings don't pass after 1-2 months, and they're not because I'm cheating. I can eat 1600-1800 calories a day of good meat, lots of healthy fats and vegetables, but feeling satiated just seems absolutely impossible. Primal carb sources like sweet potatoes help somewhat, but not really enough. I'm not just making an excuse to eat whatever I feel like.

    I recently had a hormone test done under the care of a naturopath. I have extremely low estrogen, extremely low progesterone, moderately high testosterone and normal cortisol/DHEA. Since supplementing with vitex chasteberry, my acne has almost completely stopped, but the carb cravings, fatigue, and inability to gain any muscle tone persist.

    My ND keeps telling me to lower my carb intake, as it could be driving my high testosterone. My carb intake is already about 100g a day, which frankly leaves me constipated. But any more carbs (primal or otherwise), and I just seem to get even more "squishy" and skinny-fat. I can't win. I don't know what to do.

    I do eat small portions of rice and gluten-free pasta (one a serving a day) because it's the only way I've found to not be totally miserable with these insane food cravings, and cutting them out altogether for months on end just never seems to DO anything, so it feels like suffering for nothing.

    The only time in my life I was ever able to gain any muscle tone and felt amazing was the year I spent on the Pill. I don't want to go back on it (caused me leaky gut which took a year to heal), but I'm so desperate and exhausted that I'm willing to do almost anything to get my estrogen levels up.

    What can I do? Anyone? Thanks so much if you took the time to read.

  • #2
    Leptin is the hormone that turns off hunger. Oftentimes, when our traditional expectations of weight loss/gain are defied, it is because this one, simple hormone is out-of-whack and is making other hormones appear non-functioning as well. For many, fixing the leptin hormone issue is a fairly simple DIY task that also has the benefit of correcting insulin, thyroid and adrenal issues too. It is about an 8 week temporary modification of paleo called the leptin reset. You can search "leptin reset" on this MDA site or on Dr. Jack Kruse's site for details. Its worth trying.
    Stop by to visit at http://primalways.net
    Old Paths ... New Journeys

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by IAmTK View Post
      I can eat 1600-1800 calories a day of good meat, lots of healthy fats and vegetables, but feeling satiated just seems absolutely impossible.
      I'm not surprised. I think the U.S. RDA for women is around 2000 Kcal. A hundred years ago the average intake seems to have been around 3000 Kcal (doubtless rather less for women and rather more for men). You're not average either, since you're very active. I doubt you're eating enough. Correction: I know you're not. Hunger is your body's signal that it needs to eat.


      I recently had a hormone test done under the care of a naturopath. I have extremely low estrogen, extremely low progesterone, moderately high testosterone and normal cortisol/DHEA. Since supplementing with vitex chasteberry, my acne has almost completely stopped, but the carb cravings, fatigue, and inability to gain any muscle tone persist.

      My ND keeps telling me to lower my carb intake, as it could be driving my high testosterone.
      I've no comment on that. But I guess if you're seeing this practitioner why wouldn't you do what he or she says - or go elsewhere?

      My carb intake is already about 100g a day, which frankly leaves me constipated. But any more carbs (primal or otherwise), and I just seem to get even more "squishy" and skinny-fat. I can't win. I don't know what to do.
      100 g is not a problem for most people. Very metabollically deranged people seem to need to eat fewer carbs than that. But that's not you. And, as I say, I've comment on what it may or may not be doing to your hormones - I'm not a doctor.

      What dropping to 100 g of carbohydrate won't do is give you constipation. Some people sometimes get constipated for a short while when switching to low carb, but this is a matter of gut bacteria adjusting and it almost always goes away in a few days. Usually drinking a little more water helps. And if that doesn't taking a little magnesium citrate does. If time and simple strategies like that don't help, then it's best to take medical advice.

      What I would conclude is that you're clearly not eating enough fat. You don't need to eat more carbohydrate (though you may not need to eat less: that's between you and your naturopath), but you can't be eating enough fat if(a) you're only eating 1600 Kcal as day and (b) you never feel satiated.

      I do eat small portions of rice and gluten-free pasta (one a serving a day) because it's the only way I've found to not be totally miserable with these insane food cravings, and cutting them out altogether for months on end just never seems to DO anything, so it feels like suffering for nothing.
      Perhaps it's the only way you've tried. Try eating more fat. Melt a tablespoon or so of butter over your vegetables, scramble your eggs with it (or coconut oil), put a real lot of olive oil on your salad.

      Comment


      • #4
        The way I see it, you have two choices. You can up your (healthy) fat intake or up your (healthy) carb intake. The fact that you are hungry with carb cravings all the time suggests you may succeed with upping carbs rather than fat. You say more carbs make you 'squishy' or skinny fat but have you really tried it for a decent length of time with proper healthy carbs? I do best when my main carb sources are potatoes, rice, fruit, dried fruit and the occassional ice-cream or dark chocolate treat.

        Alternatively, you could try upping your fats. It sounds like you have chopped and changed around quite a bit - whatever you try you need to give it a good long time to see if it works.

        Comment


        • #5
          If it were me, I would up the protein and add some strength training. A lot of what you describe is more cardio. While the yoga is generally great for stretching and flexibility, unless you are doing the hard core strength stuff, you're going to tone your muscles really well, but not be building them as you would with a nice weight workout. I wouldn't start pouring on globs of fat to my food, I would instead add nice healthy cuts of fatty, grass fed meats, fish and increase the eggs. 110 at 5'5" is pretty slim, I don't think you need added fat just for the sake of fat, I think you need muscle.

          Comment


          • #6
            couple things, not necessarly in order of importance:
            • you're very light for your height
            • you're very active
            • it's VERY hard to get to 100 gms carbs with non-starchy veg and no fruit
            • "going primal" doesn't mean you have to be low carb
            • hormone testing can be very tricky if your practitioner isn't starting with your previous personal baseline numbers
            • constipation results from the gut biome being confused, deprived, or insufficiently varied
            • how is your sleep and stress?
            • have you had your d-levels and iron stores checked?



            the back-and-forth of trying to eat lc and just being miserable has to stop. as does the constant gnawing hunger. you need more carbs. eat fruit, potatoes, other tubers, rice. do not fear them. have some at most meals. DO not eat wheat or foods with added sugars. the chronic deprivation may be whacking out your hormones more than you think. since you're small, i don't know that you need 2000 cals, but 1600 is unlikely to be enough. you'll have to play around with that.

            feed your gut. fermented foods, resistant starches, pre- and pro-biotics (from food, not pills.) add gelatin. this will help heal your gut.

            are you eating enough protein? it's the most sating of the macros, so don't skimp.

            start resistance training. with weights. it will build muscle and burn more fat.


            As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

            – Ernest Hemingway

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Vainamoinen View Post
              I'm not surprised. I think the U.S. RDA for women is around 2000 Kcal. A hundred years ago the average intake seems to have been around 3000 Kcal (doubtless rather less for women and rather more for men). You're not average either, since you're very active. I doubt you're eating enough. Correction: I know you're not. Hunger is your body's signal that it needs to eat.
              Thanks for your input. Eating more proteins, fats, veggies, etc doesn't take care of the carb cravings, even if I'm full.


              Originally posted by Vainamoinen View Post
              But I guess if you're seeing this practitioner why wouldn't you do what he or she says - or go elsewhere?
              I am listening to my practitioner. I could have been clearer on this point. I've cut my carb intake in half, bringing me to where I am now, and eat a diet that is very close to primal, with the exception of one serving of rice or corn a day.


              Originally posted by Vainamoinen View Post
              What dropping to 100 g of carbohydrate won't do is give you constipation. Some people sometimes get constipated for a short while when switching to low carb, but this is a matter of gut bacteria adjusting and it almost always goes away in a few days. Usually drinking a little more water helps. And if that doesn't taking a little magnesium citrate does. If time and simple strategies like that don't help, then it's best to take medical advice.
              Low carb intake does equal constipation for me, and not for a short while. It can go on that way for months for me, not a few days. Great suggestions re: the hydration and magnesium citrate. I'll look into it.

              Originally posted by Vainamoinen View Post
              What I would conclude is that you're clearly not eating enough fat.
              I think 90-110 grams of fat a day from pastured lard/tallow, EVOO, avocados, free range eggs, coconut oil, nuts and mostly grass-fed meat is actually a pretty generous amount. Is that uncommonly low in this community?

              Originally posted by Vainamoinen View Post
              Perhaps it's the only way you've tried.
              No. When I say I've 'gone primal' repeatedly for months at a time, I mean I've given up grains and starches over and over again, waiting for the benefits but only ending up with voracious carb cravings that paleo-approved carbs don't nix. I said that cutting out these foods for months on end doesn't ever seem to do anything for me. I have tried many approaches many times. Perhaps you misunderstood me and I should have explained more clearly. I would hate to think you're implying that I'm cheating or not really doing what I claim, but I guess that's the risk one takes when one asks for help in an diet-oriented forum.

              Thanks for taking the time to respond.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jenster7 View Post
                It sounds like you have chopped and changed around quite a bit - whatever you try you need to give it a good long time to see if it works.
                It's absolutely true that I've gone back and forth in the approaches that I've tried. I really do give things a good run, though - never less than a month and usually more.

                Thank you for listing your main carb sources. If potatoes and small amounts of rice can be reconciled with being primal, I may be able to get this to work for me after all. I do know I get 'squishier' when I eat higher carb...is that something that goes away for some people in time, if they're active? What would you consider a "decent length of time"?

                Thanks for taking the time to respond to me.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Barefoot girl View Post
                  If it were me, I would up the protein and add some strength training. A lot of what you describe is more cardio. While the yoga is generally great for stretching and flexibility, unless you are doing the hard core strength stuff, you're going to tone your muscles really well, but not be building them as you would with a nice weight workout. I wouldn't start pouring on globs of fat to my food, I would instead add nice healthy cuts of fatty, grass fed meats, fish and increase the eggs. 110 at 5'5" is pretty slim, I don't think you need added fat just for the sake of fat, I think you need muscle.
                  Hi - thanks for responding to me. I do eat a lot of protein - I would say I average about 90-100g a day - but classical strength training is NOT something I enjoy and I've long wondered if this was the answer. I do prefer and practice the "hardcore strength stuff" when it comes to yoga, but I mix it up with other types. I'm planning to focus more on that and see where that gets me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by noodletoy View Post
                    couple things, not necessarly in order of importance:
                    • you're very light for your height
                    • you're very active
                    • it's VERY hard to get to 100 gms carbs with non-starchy veg and no fruit
                    • "going primal" doesn't mean you have to be low carb
                    • hormone testing can be very tricky if your practitioner isn't starting with your previous personal baseline numbers
                    • constipation results from the gut biome being confused, deprived, or insufficiently varied
                    • how is your sleep and stress?
                    • have you had your d-levels and iron stores checked?
                    Yes, I'm very slim and I make it a point to stay active. The 100g of carbs comes from non-starchy veg, some fruit, and the one small serving I allow myself per day of a carb - usually brown rice or organic corn, sometimes quinoa or something.

                    Iron is ok, but I haven't had my vitamin D checked in awhile. My sleep is good overall (I could probably stand to get another hour a night), and I'm doing everything I can for my stress levels (I left a job that was destroying my health in favor of a MUCH better one this past summer. I practice self-care and deliberately do things I enjoy to help with my stress levels, and I've made a lot of progress.)


                    Originally posted by noodletoy View Post
                    the back-and-forth of trying to eat lc and just being miserable has to stop. as does the constant gnawing hunger.
                    Can I just take a second and thank you for how you phrased that? I usually reap a lot of judgment and criticism when I try to talk to people about this, and trying to find what works for me is an incredibly frustrating and exhausting journey. I just want the struggle to stop too. Thank you.


                    Originally posted by noodletoy View Post
                    the chronic deprivation may be whacking out your hormones more than you think. since you're small, i don't know that you need 2000 cals, but 1600 is unlikely to be enough. you'll have to play around with that.
                    I've wondered for awhile if all of this has shocked my body somehow. Feeling like I'm denying myself and ignoring ravenous cravings doesn't seem like a healthy thing to do (it's not like I'm craving processed garbage). I do plan on upping my calorie intake by taking the time for breakfast every morning, so hopefully that will help.

                    Originally posted by noodletoy View Post
                    feed your gut. fermented foods, resistant starches, pre- and pro-biotics (from food, not pills.) add gelatin. this will help heal your gut.
                    I love fermented food and I take Great Lakes gelatin every day Will look into resistant starch.

                    I think I've addressed everything else you brought up. Thank you again for your sympathy and suggestions - they actually make some of this sound workable and not like hell, which is says a lot in the midst of my frustration with trying this.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You do too much cardio and you don't eat enough. You need to eat twice as much and lift HEAVY ASS weights. Do squats, deadlifts and bench/overhead presses. Drastically reduce all that cardio. It's eating your muscles away and making you too hungry. Whatever you add to your diet, make sure it's high protein.
                      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                        You do too much cardio and you don't eat enough. You need to eat twice as much and lift HEAVY ASS weights. Do squats, deadlifts and bench/overhead presses. Drastically reduce all that cardio. It's eating your muscles away and making you too hungry. Whatever you add to your diet, make sure it's high protein.
                        This is probably the most important thing I've learned on this forum.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Pamela M View Post
                          This is probably the most important thing I've learned on this forum.
                          Yeah, me too. I came here after long distance hiking ruined my metabolism. I'm surprised how eating more protein and lifting weights has really restored my carb sensitivity and health. The low carb thing helped at the beginning but really the lifting weights and sprinting-type stuff has been a huge improvement in making me feel normal. I still hike and enjoy endurance things, I just don't do them so regularly and I don't feel like I need to for weight management or for staying in shape.
                          Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by sbhikes View Post
                            You do too much cardio and you don't eat enough. You need to eat twice as much and lift HEAVY ASS weights. Do squats, deadlifts and bench/overhead presses. Drastically reduce all that cardio. It's eating your muscles away and making you too hungry. Whatever you add to your diet, make sure it's high protein.
                            I am going to try weight training. As well as eating more. But...twice as much food? That's over 3,000 calories. I know calories aren't the most important thing but that's just a TON of food. Yikes.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Okay, maybe not twice as much, but a lot more than you're getting, and you're probably underestimating what you're getting. And not just "weight training" but a strength training program that has you make incremental gains every workout and doesn't use machines. A good resource for how many calories and how much protein you need, is this one. Half way down is a chart that you can use to calculate. You don't want the fat loss numbers if you are going to strength train.
                              Barbell Medicine | To Be A Beast
                              Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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