I reduced carb consumption, and carbs hurt my stomach now.
December 5, 2016 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I cut down on carbs and did a few other things that really improved by blood pressure + overall health. However, since the change, bread upsets my stomach. I do not know if these are related things and would love some input.

I used to eat tons of bread and tortillas - I could make anything into a sandwich. I don't like sweets, have been a vegetarian for over 20 yrs, and exercise daily, so I never really worried about what I ate. Then I got a scary blood test that reminded me I was over 40.
I significantly cut down bread and tortillas, eliminated pasta entirely and added way more produce to my diet. Over the course of a month I lost 15 lbs, taking me from a 27 BMI to 24.5, and my blood pressure went from danger-zone to medical miracle. Plus, I have more energy and the tailored clothes I got in Thailand 10 years ago fit me again. It's mostly great!

The last few times I ate bread, it felt like something was gripping my stomach from the inside while simultaneously feeling bloated. I should also mention that I've had to start using antacids for the first time in years - any need I had in the past for antacids went away when I quit drinking.

Sometime starting in 2007, I was gluten free for a few years. At the time, I was always tired and constantly looking for ways to address. I had one day where I felt well rested the morning after a gluten free day and my desparate-for-a-remedy self was like "hell yea, problem solved". It didn't take long for my fatigue issues to come back, but I had a hard time noticing because I was too busy telling people how great it is to change my diet. Now I'm back to wondering (just a little...) if perhaps I do have some kind of sensitivity that is more apparent when I don't consume bread regularly. Considering all the changes, it could be any number of things, but I'm biased towards diagnoses that make my 2007 dietary decisions a little less embarrassing.

- Note 1: I know yall aint doctors - I've yet to find a doctor that offers anything beyond prescriptions
- Note 2: The Fatigue issues were largely addressed by seeing a personal trainer that taught me proper form when I exercise. My poor form + high motivation resulted in a body that did nothing efficiently.
posted by yorick to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you eat bread, how much of it are you eating? I cut down on carbs a while ago and even though I'm not at all strict about it, I find that two pieces of bread in a sandwich is way too much bread for me now, and I usually take the top layer off.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yeah I was you for a while. Then I cut out gluten for real for...idk 5 years? Then tested it again and WOW WAS THAT A BAD IDEA. It made me stupendously sick. Like I didn't leave the hotel bathroom for a day and felt like I had a fever (I didn't).

(And because I'm a thorough idiot, I tested a smaller amount of gluten some time after that -- like two bites of bread -- and had the same, only less intense, so it wasn't some bug.)

Turns out that uptick in my productivity, health, and overall life wasn't just about getting my shit together. It was because I stopped making myself sick.

If it makes you feel crappy, don't eat it. There is a lot of vitriol thrown around about "gluten intolerance" being bullshit, but I have to note that a) mostly women seem to experience it, and b) last time I talked to a doc about it they were like, it's not something that happens overnight. You can develop intolerances to lots of stuff, but there's sometimes like...a phase change.

If you don't get deathly ill from tiny amounts of gluten (or gliadin, whichever), just avoid it and don't let it make you crazy. I would be conscious about avoiding it until you figure what you can handle, though. (I don't worry about a bite of something with soy sauce on it, but a plate of noodles with a soy sauce based sauce will lead to sadness and badness.)
posted by schadenfrau at 1:06 PM on December 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

Totally normal! The Reddit Keto group even mentions it in their FAQ. It's an aspect of a very low-carb diet that I actually find very helpful in a "Yeah, that donut would be delicious but I will regret it all afternoon" sort of way.

Congrats on your improved health!
posted by beandip at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would test the theory that it's all carbs, and see if it's just gluten. Maybe go gluten-free, but higher carb, and see how you feel. If that goes well, then add the gluten back, and see how you feel. Even if it's just a sensitivity to gluten, which some people really do have, it'd be worth avoiding if it makes you feel bad.
posted by answergrape at 1:11 PM on December 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah you need to determine if this is "carbs" which is a huge category - or wheat/gluten. Does it happen when you eat rice? Fruit? Sugars? Oats? Gluten free breads?

Keep a good food and symptom journal. Try some gluten free breads and see if you have the same problem. See if it happens with different carb heavy meals.

For reference I haven't eaten wheat in over 2 years. I don't know if I can ever try it again because I remember how sick it made me. I also have to be on a crazy medical diet which includes reducing carbs and sugars because of a bacterial overgrowth. So therefore it's important to figure out if it is carbohydrates as a whole or if it is wheat or gluten.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

FWIW, if vegetarians try meat again, they often report pretty bad stomach upset (bloating, constipation, etc).

When I started eating high-fiber fruit and vegetables after a long period of having a shit diet, they gave me wicked stomach cramps and gas.

If it has been awhile since you ate bread, I suspect your recent sensitivity is because your gut simply got used to your diet, and doesn't like change, not because you have some underlying intolerance.
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on December 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

I think Crystalinne's advice is the best so far. Keep a food and symptom journal. Go see your primary care doctor. There is a simple blood test you can have done as an initial test for celiac. It would be good to know the results before going gluten free. (If you're on a gluten free diet, the blood test won't be accurate.)

If your test results for celiac come back negative, then you can start experimenting with whether it's all carbs or just gluten or what. The most recent research in the gluten realm has found evidence for non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but there is no test for it.

(Prior to my diagnosis with celiac, " it felt like something was gripping my stomach from the inside while simultaneously feeling bloated" was exactly how I felt when I ate pancakes for breakfast. I otherwise had few digestive complaints. Now if I were to eat gluten I would get incredibly ill.)
posted by purple_bird at 1:32 PM on December 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

My general understanding is that your body treats food the way you feel about friends - if you haven't seen someone in a long while, there is a lot more information to talk about / effort to digest. Overall, you generally want the most nutritious foods to be the friends you see the most often. This doesn't mean that something that is difficult is poisonous. It might seem strange to see an old friend again but end up being a lovely experience. It's not an absolute metaphor.

I haven't eaten wheat for 4-5 years now. I never regret it.

Everything you stopped eating contained wheat. I identify with the statements "I was always tired" and "like something was gripping my stomach from the inside while simultaneously feeling bloated." You probably could "stay friends" with wheat, but if you feel so much better without it than why would you do that? Why and why and why.

This could be more like a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin D and Vitamin B are commonly taken as supplements, especially if you're a vegetarian.
posted by aralymn at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody! I realized some of my language was misleading. The upset is not all carbs - I regularly consume such Rice and Couscous and they go down just fine. Plus, my breakfast and pre-exercise meals are Soylent/fruit smoothie (despite my allergy to predictable "It's people" jokes). The few times I've had bread recently - it's been part of some kind of cheese or bruschetta thing at some kind of function. I should also mention that when I went back to gluten in 2010, I didn't feel any worse - but I also had super lousy posture that limited my lung capacity + a grouchy disposition so its hard to know what was really happening.
posted by yorick at 3:11 PM on December 5, 2016

Quantity matters. Couscous has some gluten, it's a wheat pasta, but it has nowhere near as much as bread. Bread might put you over your threshold.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:29 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no problem with most carbs, and some things with gluten (like beer, which has gluten-containing barley). My issue is specifically with wheat, and it makes me feel like I'm being stabbed in the stomach with a knitting needle a few hours after eating it. Combined with dry heaves and hot-and-cold spells, and plenty of the big D.

A recent study linked a different protein from wheat with inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which makes sense to me -- my Crohn's disease has been completely in remission since going gluten-free, but doesn't flare when I have gluten from barley or rye. It's only a problem when I eat wheat.
posted by themissy at 3:50 PM on December 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you see this as a serious problem, and depending on how exact you want your diet to be, you should research many sources regarding ingredients and food groups, perhaps focusing on allergens you are concerned about. It does get dizzying, so you're right to ask for advice. It's all about you though. Soylent fit my diet but it tasted gross to me.

Rice and wheat are not the same plants. Both are extremely common. However, if you are allergic to one, you would not consider them equivalent at all. In my research, dairy causes a lot of problems for adults and may be a secondary issue to address.

In my opinion/experience, a grouchy disposition is a symptom. "Super lousy" is not a natural condition of posture and may also be a symptom of poor lifestyle.
posted by aralymn at 4:37 PM on December 5, 2016

Aralymn, I'm need to disagree on the posture thing. Nothing has improved my life more than having a trainer + a Ghokale method workshop teach me how to sit/stand/move in a way that was nondestructive to my body. It was way more complex than "sit up straight" and the benefits have been infomercial-level amazing . i would have done it much sooner had it not been for professionals consitiently suggesting the pain and discomfort was psychosomatic, but sometimes the pain and discomfort is root of the problem, and that was definitely the case for me. (And apparently I still feel strongly enough about it to devote a paragraph long response)
posted by yorick at 6:31 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think we're both saying that posture is important to health. I haven't heard of the Ghokale method before so I'm reading some more about it, this is great. I've previously researched the Alexander technique but couldn't find any teachers in my area. It seems they both have some youtube videos for beginners.
posted by aralymn at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2016

Hey, I found this, too! After doing a month of Whole 30, where I felt Great during it, but couldn't maintain the restrictions. Then I went for a year? More? Having bagels/cookies/bread/pasta maybe one time a week or so, suffering the digestive consequences (including, ohgawd, stomach pain), before I finally decided that while I wanted to be a rational mefite-type who was sure she didn't have celiac, I also had So Much evidence to tell me that I really, really, needed to stop eating wheat to feel better. And that worked!

So I went a year or two with almost never having wheat, but doing fine with rice, other carbs. I had a few "ooopsy" experiments where I did things like eat a barley pilaf (not remembering barley has gluten in it) and then suffer Hugely, which lead me to think maybe my problem really was gluten (and maybe not all in my head! That was an exciting blind-experiment of stomach doom). FODMAPS sometimes seemed problematic? But I never figured out exactly how much/when, so I focused on wheat. And then after a long stretch of avoiding wheat and feeling better I had one little tart, and no reaction. Then a roll awhile later. And was fine and I was astounded that maybe I was... cured? Had changed something in my gut? Baffling!

So I've been eating wheat again for more than a year now, not tons of it, but it'd been creeping to higher and higher levels until recently. When I realized that my digestion, while not IBS-bad like before, was decidedly suboptimal. So I'm trying to cut way back again, and I Think it's helping.

Moral of the story: I'm glad to learn there are others who have experienced this. But I have also learned that no matter what, you have to work with the data at hand, ie, how do you, the only "n" that really matters for you, feel after eating various foods. Good luck!
posted by ldthomps at 3:21 PM on December 6, 2016

I'm 95% sure I found the culprit, but I'm not interested in the experimentation required to be certain. I've been drinking Soylent smoothies for breakfast for nearly a year without issue and it's a great way to make sure I'm adequately nourished despite being a short-attention-span vegetarian.

I wasn't aware they changed formulas, and the 1.6 formula I was drinking had a small percentage of customer reporting stomach pain issues related to algae. Fortunately, there were no reported health risks beyond the discomfort itself.

I stopped the Soylent 1.6 and the stomach pain went away, but I can't be absolutely sure as the symptoms were already improving gradually. Last week I received a box of the updated 1.7 formula, and I'm digesting it just fine. I'm sure there are plenty of online Soylent haters who would gladly tell me how dumb I am for going back to it after an earlier version likely caused me stomach pain. Everything seems fine, though, and I've yet to find another lifestyle-compatible way of getting the same benefits.
posted by yorick at 2:19 PM on December 26, 2016

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