6

votes

Brain Hackers: Wanted

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 20, 2011 at 1:46 PM

My paleohack - Can carbs cause irritability/mood swings/depression, clinically, or anecdotally within this community?

A 'summary' of my current position:

  1. I have been eating 97.654% paleo for about the last 6-8 months. I've gone through various phases (whole30, low-carb, Mark Sisson-esque), for varying amounts of time (pretty scattered dude, in truth), as over that same period I have researched Paleo in all its forms intensely. Sometimes I find it a little hard to stay consistent with any one idea, as the merits of another promise something else. In short, my n=1 leaves a little to be desired for, although I'd say I score top marks for self-observation and hypothesis testing. Recording would be a good idea, but again I have found it hard to stay disciplined with that for a long enough period to draw any solid conclusions. I have a vague memory of feeling more stable on low-carbohydrate, but my performance also suffered somewhat.

  2. I have suffered with mood/anxiety disorders of various severities since about 16 (now 24). I have been diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder and cyclothymia in the past, but have since had those diagnosis' revoked on grounds of variability. I have been on SSRI's for about 3 years, tapered off to zero in the last 4 weeks. I can generally manage my moods with exercise and meditation; I read psychology at university and have spent my time since then training as a psychological therapist of sorts for the NHS in the UK. - I understand the landscape, at least psychologically, of these illnesses and what to do about them. 3. I am generally managing fine without the SSRIs. Symptoms seem to be about the same as the time I was using them.

  3. My latest direction has been towards the "Perfect Health Diet". My motivations are primarily financial - eating Robb-Wolf-esque costs me through the teeth, as I generally run on around 3,000kcal per day (210lb, ex-bodybuilder, heavily muscled...hell if I were a car I'd be a Hummer, for sure) - but also for reasons of health; my research is generally leading me towards the 'safe starch' camp for optimal longevity, dietary satisfaction and fiscal prudence.

Having said all this, recently, I have been noticing more periods of intense irritability, where almost anything can set off that internal knife and keep it there. This seems to have correlated (at least in memory) to the introduction of more carbohydrate. A distressing experience, I'm sure you'll agree.

Sometimes, meals will calm me. Meals heavy in protein, fat and vegetables are sometimes the best. At other times, carbohydrates make me feel better. At other times, carbohydrates will make me feel better for around 1-hour, before I feel the cranky kick back in.

My collection of contradictory hypotheses a.k.a "spaghetti junction" is as follows:

  • Dysregulated serotenergic system is exacerbated with the introduction of carbohydrate
  • Dysregulated serotenergic system is currently more sensitive to carbohydrate, given an extended period of lower-carbohydrate.
  • I am still too close to SSRI withdrawal to make any solid relations to diet, i.e. dysregulated serotenergic system....blaaah....
  • There is another imbalance at the neurotransmitter level (dietary aminos creating diet/mood link?)
  • A more psychological imbalance from earlier teenage years (sensitivity to negative mood states, a tendency towards self-criticism etc) is the predominating maintenance factor.

I have spent time on evolutionary psychiatry, amongst others (not least of all Paleohacks.com), researching these ideas, but cannot find enough hard evidence to sway me one way or the other.

Has anyone had any relevant experience in this field?

My thanks in advance for any contributions, no matter how 'small'.

Rick

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 07, 2011
at 08:43 PM

It's charlie agian btw. Now I feel like I'm on coffee all the time, naturally, without it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 07, 2011
at 08:43 PM

it's coffee dude, why else do you think it's so hard to give it up. I've been there

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:07 AM

I haven't removed caffeine yet, but after 2-3 weeks eating higher carbohydrate, I don't seem to be getting the post-meal irritability as much any more. Just an update.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 22, 2011
at 03:00 AM

hey sry the gods here deleted my account on random again, but keep posted what your results are.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 06:41 PM

I'm betting you 100 bucks this works for you

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 21, 2011
at 07:02 AM

I'm quite surprised that, considering you were drinking around 200-500mg caffeine a day that you're still feeling like you're adapting 2 months later. I'm going cold turkey today so I'll update this thread with any significant results. I'm also going strict Perfect Health Diet, with my moods logged against it (also including sleep amount/quality, alcohol, caffeine as well as any modern food toxins and dairy).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 12:31 AM

oh, I would make pretty strong local organic coffee every morning and have 1-2 cups, sometimes with coconut milk.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 12:27 AM

well, coffee was just a strange mood booster for me. I wasn't my personality if I was off it. But now I think I'm slowly healing, but all I do is sleep all the time, which I guess is a good sign. I value feeling stable rather than depending on coffee.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 08:23 PM

That's a great story. What symptoms did you have with your previous coffee habit? What kind of dosages etc? You're not the first person to have said this to me, and I have read anecdotally many times that those with bi-polar type tendencies (e.g. me) should say ixnay to caffeine/alcohol as much as possible. Just today I felt irritable, and had a coffee. Guess what? I felt fine for about 4-5 hours. Coincidence? Doubt it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2011
at 07:35 PM

it's amazing how much more mentally stable I am after caffeine free, but my body is still struggling with getting my adrenals online after 2 months! That's how dependent I was on coffee just for my personality to feel normal.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2011
at 07:34 PM

uhh, I think going caffeine free will solve your problems.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on September 20, 2011
at 06:13 PM

As a long term carb addict, I find NOT eating carbs causes extreme anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. Eating too many also cranks up the addiction, so the closest I've found to a balance that shuts down my "binge fever" attacks is Mark Sisson's moderate primal recommendations.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 05:51 PM

Not to mention the ever-changing density and bio-availability of the micro-nutrients of any given foods...and that's BEFORE storage and preparation. It would be a guessing game at best.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 05:49 PM

Your reflections on the complexity of food & mental health mirror my own, and I think that your insight into the micronutrient value of food is a very good one. I suppose it wouldn't be beyond the scope of a highly informed/assisted n=1 to track the micronutrient intake of various kinds of diets (low-carb, mod-carb etc), as for sure our habits would likely vary on those, but let's face it, it would be a real arse-ache! I feel many of us came to the paleo-sphere searching for simplicity, feeling that vitality should come with natural eating. Perhaps this is easier said than done, however...

Cfc7dee889a66db9cd76c4f348109294

(1652)

on September 20, 2011
at 04:43 PM

I've had a similar observation (I think, again memory) that I feel more mentally stable/alert on low carb, but physically stronger on higher carb. That is my "very petite" contribution.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 03:47 PM

Around 4 weeks back I was drinking around 700mg a day on average (yikes), but have tapered to around 200mg coming from tea/coffee....

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 03:45 PM

Haha....the percentage was a spin off from a Robb Wolf joke....love that guy!

6229cd9a7ca9882590259fae022e2647

(3209)

on September 20, 2011
at 02:39 PM

Rick, you sir are awesome to be so self aware.

F910318b9aa27b91bcf7881f39b9eabe

(1164)

on September 20, 2011
at 02:25 PM

97.654%? That's what i call precision!

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on September 20, 2011
at 01:58 PM

I highly recommend Julia Ross' book, The Mood Cure.

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2 Answers

1
Df7e22dbbb8c39f5006d0784feb03845

(175)

on September 20, 2011
at 04:24 PM

I've wondered if carbs cause mood swings. But, there is so many variables that even with my n-1 experimentation I can't give myself an honest answer. I like Dr. Emily Deans blog. From here research I'm realizing how many different vitamins/minerals are responsible for mood swings. Therefore, if I feel better eating less carbs I have to ask myself am I getting more of a particular vitamin/mineral that I was missing on a moderate carb diet, but these things are extremely difficult to track from day to day. For example on lower carb I might be eating more vegetables like collard greens and broccoli and therefore I might have more vitamins/minerals available for brain health. And sometimes it feels like I'm happier if my protein is at 30% for a 1500 calorie diet, but I it could be the extra B vitamins and not the protein. But, I can't say for sure that the carbs matter, it's just a lot of starches that I can eat don't have that many vitamins and minerals in them. I have digestive issues with sweet potatoes.

I have never been very low carb. I don't know how that would effect me. I'm fine eating some fruit every day, usually tomatoes. I should track the carbs, again. But, even when I think they're high from eating potatoes twice a day, they're only at 20% of my daily calories.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 05:51 PM

Not to mention the ever-changing density and bio-availability of the micro-nutrients of any given foods...and that's BEFORE storage and preparation. It would be a guessing game at best.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 05:49 PM

Your reflections on the complexity of food & mental health mirror my own, and I think that your insight into the micronutrient value of food is a very good one. I suppose it wouldn't be beyond the scope of a highly informed/assisted n=1 to track the micronutrient intake of various kinds of diets (low-carb, mod-carb etc), as for sure our habits would likely vary on those, but let's face it, it would be a real arse-ache! I feel many of us came to the paleo-sphere searching for simplicity, feeling that vitality should come with natural eating. Perhaps this is easier said than done, however...

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2011
at 02:56 PM

do you still drink coffee/any caffeine?

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 03:47 PM

Around 4 weeks back I was drinking around 700mg a day on average (yikes), but have tapered to around 200mg coming from tea/coffee....

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2011
at 07:35 PM

it's amazing how much more mentally stable I am after caffeine free, but my body is still struggling with getting my adrenals online after 2 months! That's how dependent I was on coffee just for my personality to feel normal.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 20, 2011
at 08:23 PM

That's a great story. What symptoms did you have with your previous coffee habit? What kind of dosages etc? You're not the first person to have said this to me, and I have read anecdotally many times that those with bi-polar type tendencies (e.g. me) should say ixnay to caffeine/alcohol as much as possible. Just today I felt irritable, and had a coffee. Guess what? I felt fine for about 4-5 hours. Coincidence? Doubt it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 12:27 AM

well, coffee was just a strange mood booster for me. I wasn't my personality if I was off it. But now I think I'm slowly healing, but all I do is sleep all the time, which I guess is a good sign. I value feeling stable rather than depending on coffee.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 20, 2011
at 07:34 PM

uhh, I think going caffeine free will solve your problems.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 12:31 AM

oh, I would make pretty strong local organic coffee every morning and have 1-2 cups, sometimes with coconut milk.

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on September 21, 2011
at 07:02 AM

I'm quite surprised that, considering you were drinking around 200-500mg caffeine a day that you're still feeling like you're adapting 2 months later. I'm going cold turkey today so I'll update this thread with any significant results. I'm also going strict Perfect Health Diet, with my moods logged against it (also including sleep amount/quality, alcohol, caffeine as well as any modern food toxins and dairy).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 22, 2011
at 03:00 AM

hey sry the gods here deleted my account on random again, but keep posted what your results are.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 21, 2011
at 06:41 PM

I'm betting you 100 bucks this works for you

5740b342b3b4ca4af7625f9505f7eb5d

(281)

on October 06, 2011
at 11:07 AM

I haven't removed caffeine yet, but after 2-3 weeks eating higher carbohydrate, I don't seem to be getting the post-meal irritability as much any more. Just an update.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 07, 2011
at 08:43 PM

it's coffee dude, why else do you think it's so hard to give it up. I've been there

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 07, 2011
at 08:43 PM

It's charlie agian btw. Now I feel like I'm on coffee all the time, naturally, without it.

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