ARE YOU CARBOHYDRATE-SENSITIVE?
Take my carbohydrate sensitivity quiz to find out:
Your carbohydrate sensitivity score is 0.
What does my score mean?
The more YES answers you have, the more likely it is that you are sensitive to carbohydrates, and the more seriously you should consider cutting back on carbohydrates in your diet.
If your score is in the upper orange zone or in the red zone, you may be at higher risk for carbohydrate-related health problems, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
How can I be sure my symptoms are due to carbohydrates?
These symptoms are just a collection of common clues. For more accurate information about your ability to process carbohydrates, you can ask your doctor for special tests. Your doctor may want to consider a glucose tolerance test, a fasting insulin level, or a hemoglobin A1C test. These tests can help determine whether or not you are already on the road to diabetes and related health problems.
There are also other medical conditions which can cause some of these symptoms. So, first and foremost, see your health care professional for an evaluation to make sure that your symptoms are not due to an important medical problem, such as a thyroid condition.
If my score is low, is it ok for me to eat sweets and starches?
If your score is 0 or in the lower end of the yellow zone, your body probably handles carbohydrates better than the average body does, and you may be at lower risk for carbohydrate-related diseases. However, we do not know whether your risk is zero, because there isn’t enough scientific research available to answer this question.
Also, our ability to process carbohydrates tends to worsen as we get older. Some people do fine with carbohydrates until they reach a certain age or stage of life—puberty, or pregnancy, or middle-age, or menopause. This is partly due to natural hormonal changes, but also may be affected by the amount and type of carbohydrate we eat. So, even if your score is low now, it could rise over time. Choosing healthier forms of carbohydrate may help to keep your score low as you get older, and keep your risk of carbohydrate-related diseases low.
If my score is high, do I have to stop eating all carbohydrates in order to feel better?
Not necessarily. Some patients who have high scores do just fine if they simply avoid “high glycemic index” carbohydrates—these are carbohydrates like sugar and flour that raise blood sugar and insulin levels very quickly.
Are some carbohydrates healthier than others?
There is a big debate among experts about carbohydrates—are they all bad? Are only some of them bad? We know for a fact that carbohydrates are completely unnecessary foods, but if you choose to include them in your diet, which ones are best?
My opinion is that modern sweets and refined starches (sugars and flours, for example) are not healthy for any of us, but that some of us simply handle them better than others. We all know people who can eat sugar all day long, seem completely healthy, and never gain an ounce. Most of us can’t get away with that.
Fruits and root vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes) are “older” forms of carbohydrates—the types our ancestors have been eating for hundreds of thousands of years. Because humans have been eating these types of foods for so long, we may have developed the ability to process these whole food sources of carbohydrate better than “modern” sources, such as sugar and flour. Most fruit and vegetable sources tend to be more slowly digested and therefore do not cause dramatic spikes in our insulin levels, which is what we’re really trying to avoid when we talk about “bad” carbohydrates.
Is a carbohydrate-free diet the healthiest diet?
Maybe. Unfortunately the scientific research available can’t answer this question, mostly because scientists don’t ask this question. Current scientific studies do not compare the health effects of carbohydrate-free whole foods diets to the health effects of whole foods diets that contain natural sugars and starches.
We do know that humans who ate an extremely low-carbohydrate diet for centuries, such as the Eskimos, were virtually cancer-free and appeared healthy, but these observations were made a hundred years ago or more, before we had the ability to do the kinds of sophisticated medical testing we can do now.
We also know that traditional hunter-gatherers who ate lots of carbohydrate from whole foods, such as fruits and roots, were much healthier than the average American is today. However, we don’t what would happen if you could compare the health of the traditional Eskimos in the 1800’s to the health of the starch-eating hunter-gatherers; we don’t know which group would have won that health contest.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait for scientists to do these experiments. We do know that carbohydrate-free diets are safe, so if you’d like, you can do your own experiment and remove all carbohydrates from your own diet to see if that makes you healthier.