1

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Why do carbs make me depressed?

Commented on August 02, 2015
Created March 26, 2013 at 5:22 AM

I have a 15-year history with depression, including 3 episodes of major depression lasting 2-3 years. I've taken antidepressants sporadically, but have been off of them for almost 5 years.

I now eat almost-zero-carbs, which keeps me levelled off nicely. On the occasions I do eat carbs, even if it's only an extra 10 or 20 grams, I begin to regress and become depressed and anxious within days. What is the reason for this? Why do carbohydrates have such an immediate and negative impact on my depression?

3936d8e4644e08775d1fb8ee483765a0

(14)

on April 11, 2013
at 04:13 AM

So, I've read that carbs are actually essential for the production of brain chemicals that boost mood. In other words, limiting carbs can cause depression. It seems like kind of a kick in the teeth, though, since low-carb diets are now the most recommended way of dieting. I feel like trying to lose weight is especially tough on my mood. I feel like crap because I think I'm fat so I keep trying to lose weight, but the only thing that seems to work at all is limiting carbs which is most likely making me feel bad, too.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 09:21 PM

Good call, I'll send him a message. Thanks

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 07:58 PM

When I eat more carbs, it's generally carbs added over and above what I would normally have, eg I will have my normal dinner, and a couple of dates after, for dessert. This is an interesting idea, maybe I can experiment with trying a pure starch and observe the effects. Thanks

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 05:10 PM

I don't supplement, but mussels, oysters and clams are a near-daily staple for me

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 05:01 PM

I understand why this seems like an obvious answer, but when I eat carbs, it's not because I've given in to a craving: I don't have any cravings for carbs on ZC, when I eat them it's been in an experimental context. Fortunately, I have a really good handle on my diet and mood, I'm just curious about the mechanism.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:57 PM

My thinking is along these lines. I'm really curious as to why even a very small amount of carbs have such a potent effect on mood and energy levels, despite having a very small effect on blood sugar levels. I'm weight-stable, and don't feel guilt about eating carbs. I love fruit and tubers, I avoid them only because I can't find a way to include them without suffering this depressing effect. Thanks for the link, it's interesting. My blood ketones are between 1.5 and 2.5 mMol/L anytime I measure.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:51 PM

Thank you, I will check out her writing.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:50 PM

Your points are legitimate, but don't explain why low-glycemic-load carbs, eaten with fat, produce a depressing effect, nor why it takes days on zero-carb to reverse. Also, 10-20 grams of carbohydrates don't produce much change in my blood sugar (yes, I've measured), but still produce a significant change in mood and energy levels.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:47 PM

I don't have diabetes or insulin resistance, and my glucose tolerance is excellent: fasting BG 4.5mMol/L and never measured higher than 7.5mMol/L post-prandial. (I didn't downvote you, I think this is a valid suggestion, just not correct)

  • 532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

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9 Answers

best answer

2
048dd52752c45129c1212bfffb37ca72

on March 26, 2013
at 09:01 AM

It may come for many facts. At a psychological level, for instance, if you've gained weight (or did not but think you will or are doing it wrong with your goals) you could just be feeling guilty which will bring you nearer to depression if you have a tendency towards it. Would be the opposite of, for example, keeping with your goals, which should support a feeling of wellness and achievement. It's pretty normal if you think about it.

Nonetheless, there's some evidence that even at a physiological level, low carb diets are better for managing emotive responses, or put in on another way, high carb diets create so many body hormone imbalances that some unwanted nuisances may appear, depression is one those that could trigger. The fact that ketogenic diets have been used to avoid seizures and being researched as a possible way avoid Alzheimer seems that there's really something into it.

You could keep an eye to reactive hypoglycemia that could bring the anxiety you are describing.

Have a look at this article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201104/your-brain-ketones

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:57 PM

My thinking is along these lines. I'm really curious as to why even a very small amount of carbs have such a potent effect on mood and energy levels, despite having a very small effect on blood sugar levels. I'm weight-stable, and don't feel guilt about eating carbs. I love fruit and tubers, I avoid them only because I can't find a way to include them without suffering this depressing effect. Thanks for the link, it's interesting. My blood ketones are between 1.5 and 2.5 mMol/L anytime I measure.

1
1ff8a72e9e598b3075c589a3bafca77d

on June 26, 2013
at 11:28 AM

I have the same problem and no idea how that developed. There are many theories but little studies have been done on this.

If you ever find the answer to that question > please < contact me!

1
1963db946ae415764d9044222fbf4c5b

on March 26, 2013
at 08:11 PM

Could be an infection of some kind? I would ask Paul Jaminet at http://perfecthealthdiet.com/q-a/ it sounds like one for him to me.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 09:21 PM

Good call, I'll send him a message. Thanks

1
32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3

(5802)

on March 26, 2013
at 07:32 PM

I've recently had a similar experience. It's not depression for me, but more generalized anxiety and "snippiness."

At the urging of my crossfit coach I tried Paleo Zone for 2 months. I was miserable. It was way more carbs that I usually eat, and less fat. (I usually follow a PHD ratio). My question for you is, when you are eating more carbs, are you eating less of something else, like fat? I am planning a little personal experiment to try and tease this out:

(1) more carbs, less fat, but carbs ALL starches, no fruit (is it the fruit/fructose?) (2) less carbs, more fat (is it the fat?) (3) les carbs, less fat, more protein (is it the ratio of carbs to fat?)

Etc. Not exactly scientific, but if I journal I can usually track it down. In addition to anxiety, I also notice a change in my bowel habits and my sleep habits. It all goes together.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 07:58 PM

When I eat more carbs, it's generally carbs added over and above what I would normally have, eg I will have my normal dinner, and a couple of dates after, for dessert. This is an interesting idea, maybe I can experiment with trying a pure starch and observe the effects. Thanks

1
Medium avatar

on March 26, 2013
at 05:03 PM

My wild guess is that because carbohydrate metabolism requires more magnesium, there is a transient depletion occurring that is pushing you beyond the threshold for perceptible depression. Do you supplement with magnesium glycinate?

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 05:10 PM

I don't supplement, but mussels, oysters and clams are a near-daily staple for me

1
Ab4a71840ac6e20cb0279a284476a219

on March 26, 2013
at 04:52 PM

I think that maybe because you try so hard to stay away from carbs, and because you're so successful at it, giving in makes you feel that you don't have control. I may be wrong, but coming from a similar situation (sort of). I feel that when i'm successful in controlling what i put in my body, then i am successful in controlling one aspect in my life, which makes everything else seem in control as well. But as soon as i veer away, i find myself feeling absolutely lost, almost like a falilure, like if i can't control this- what i eat- how can i expect to be able to do anything? I assume that avoiding carbs is a way that you cope with your depression, so it would make sense that stopping that would have an effect on you. Although i don't strongly recommend using food to make problems go away, mostly because i do and i know it's not very healthy, you do need carbs in your diet. But you live your life, i live mine, i cope my way, you do yours. As long as it helps you, because without mental health and confidence, i know that i become a total wreck. So my advice is suppose it just to stick to it, and if you can wein off then great! Get addictted to running or something. I don't know,

much luck, i hope i helped. And i think what Albert83BCN makes a lot of sense too.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 05:01 PM

I understand why this seems like an obvious answer, but when I eat carbs, it's not because I've given in to a craving: I don't have any cravings for carbs on ZC, when I eat them it's been in an experimental context. Fortunately, I have a really good handle on my diet and mood, I'm just curious about the mechanism.

1
3936d8e4644e08775d1fb8ee483765a0

on March 26, 2013
at 08:12 AM

Depression is not just sadness. It is a lack of physical, emotional and psychic energy that combines with a sense of desperateness and feebleness, and then literally scattered with self-hatred.

Carbs raise your blood sugar then drop it very fast. This can cause a slump that, yes, could probably be interpreted as depression and can definitely leave you tired. There are many ways which help you in fight depression.

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:50 PM

Your points are legitimate, but don't explain why low-glycemic-load carbs, eaten with fat, produce a depressing effect, nor why it takes days on zero-carb to reverse. Also, 10-20 grams of carbohydrates don't produce much change in my blood sugar (yes, I've measured), but still produce a significant change in mood and energy levels.

3936d8e4644e08775d1fb8ee483765a0

(14)

on April 11, 2013
at 04:13 AM

So, I've read that carbs are actually essential for the production of brain chemicals that boost mood. In other words, limiting carbs can cause depression. It seems like kind of a kick in the teeth, though, since low-carb diets are now the most recommended way of dieting. I feel like trying to lose weight is especially tough on my mood. I feel like crap because I think I'm fat so I keep trying to lose weight, but the only thing that seems to work at all is limiting carbs which is most likely making me feel bad, too.

0
7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0

on March 26, 2013
at 09:08 AM

It's usually the other way around, maybe you have diabetes

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:47 PM

I don't have diabetes or insulin resistance, and my glucose tolerance is excellent: fasting BG 4.5mMol/L and never measured higher than 7.5mMol/L post-prandial. (I didn't downvote you, I think this is a valid suggestion, just not correct)

-1
Eccdc4a151a251107ade4d052c3978df

on March 26, 2013
at 11:14 AM

How's your gutflora? Maybe your feeding the pathogenic ones when you're eating carbs. Look up Emily Deans, she has some great information about this subject.

59061662bcf2cc42a57e722180ac7935

(0)

on August 02, 2015
at 06:54 PM

I too suffer depression unless I really limit my carb intake to less than 150 daily.  Wonder why?????

532cfd279d793e8fcc23b9f6d91dde5c

(1981)

on March 26, 2013
at 04:51 PM

Thank you, I will check out her writing.

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