Why Carbohydrates are Badass and Necessary for Women
Today's blog post covers my stance on why carbohydrates are vital to the body, and necessary for women. Let's be real...low carbohydrates diets are currently "in" or "trendy".
And because of this I've noticed a huge rise in the fear mongering around carbohydrates from practitioners and the wellness space, and overall confusion in the general public surrounding carbohydrates.
One of my concerns in both conventional and holistic medicine is that there is no individuality, no questions asked about the person's history, and not enough context. You have to remember when you are hearing experts, practitioners and even wellness gurus online discussing things like carbohydrates, they very likely are not talking to YOU.
YOU. My friend...are not an older, sedentary human who has spent decades of their life eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).
YOU. My friend...are an active, too active actually, eat possibly too healthy, young adult and in good health. YOU do not need to restrict your carbohydrates.
My clients fit this to a T. All young, active, healthy women who have an INTENSE fear of carbohydrates and therefore eat too little carbohydrates and are suffering from hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue and digestive issues.
Carbohydrates are your friend. Carbs are badass. And here's why:
Carbohydrates are necessary for ovulation and for a healthy reproductive system. Without carbohydrates, so many bodily functions cannot occur.
Your body wants to be happy and in the "fed" state. Very much so. This is a good thing. It signals to your body that it is safe and can reproduce. Consuming enough carbohydrates spikes the hormone leptin often enough to tell the hypothalamus that the body is indeed in the "fed" state. Without this and without enough insulin, the hypothalamus is unable to tell the pituitary to produce enough sex hormones.Insulin also signals the body that it is in the "fed" state and without enough consumption of carbohydrates, this will be difficult. I know insulin is seen as the bad guy these days, but let's remember it is an important hormone in the body. If you are not producing enough insulin because you are not eating enough carbohydrates to do so, this can be problematic. Too little energy intake, or enough energy intake without enough carbohydrates will trigger a starvation response in your hypothalamus that disrupts luteinizing hormone (LH) and will shut down ovulation.
Another badass thing we need carbohydrates for is our thyroid. Glucose is necessary for the conversion of T4 into T3 in the liver. Without enough glucose to produce enough insulin, the liver cannot make enough T3. T3 is the active form of your thyroid hormone and is critical for your thyroid to function optimally. While low-carbers will argue that the body can produce enough glucose via gluconeogenesis, it is taxing to the body and overtime may not be able to produce it effectively, especially for those who are already taxing the body via overexercising, undereating, etc. Without enough T3, issues such as hypothyroidism can present themselves.
If you are experiencing adrenal fatigue (correct term HPA axis dysfunction), it is critical to include carbohydrates in the healing process. One of the primary goals with improving adrenal fatigue is to regulate your blood sugar levels. This means eating enough carbohydrates and eating at regular intervals. Carbohydrates are also vital in improving our cortisol response, increasing tryptophan uptake and our brain levels of serotonin and the neurotransmitter GABA.
Y'all. This is JUST the ways in which carbohydrates touch a few of the body mechanisms, I didn't even touch the subject of gut health today (maybe the next post about this to come?). Damn, carbohydrates are amazing.
As you can tell, carbohydrates are necessary for a long list of bodily functions. But more importantly, they make food yummy. Satisfying. Filling. Joy filled. We spend so much time thinking about the nutrient content of food we forget too often of how the pleasure and satisfaction of food is far more important than the nutrient content. How we view food and how we enjoy the action of eating affects our health just as much as the components of that food (ingredients, macronutrients and micronutrients).
Please know that you are not alone if you are filled with confusion about carbohydrates. I, too, for a time struggled to decide how to include them in my diet. Manipulating carbohydrates was a part of my restricting and binge eating history and even more so for my orthorexia past. And, I too, lost my period when trying to go "low carb" like the cool kids. Losing your period is a VERY important sign that something is up. And you know what? The moment I fully became an intuitive eater, which includes lots of carbohydrates for me, my period and everything about my health issues changed for the better. Intuitive eating will guide you to the amount of carbohydrates you need. We DO NOT need to obsess or manipulate our intake of carbohydrates. I want us all to stop second guessing our bodies and instead tune in to what they are telling us. If you are cold all the time, fatigued constantly, suffering from major health issues or do not have a period (just to name a few of the consequences of not eating carbohydrates), its time to up the carbs.
If you experience an increase in digestive issues when consuming carbohydrates, this could either be due to ED recovery process or a functional digestive disorder like SIBO. Please know if it doesn't go "perfect" reintroducing them that it DOESN'T mean you should not eat them. Work with someone to determine if your body is still in recovery and simply needs time to be able to fully digest foods again or if a deeper issue like SIBO is present. And more to come on why carbohydrates are vital to gut health and why you absolutely can eat them when recovering from SIBO coming soon :)
P.S. Please note as well it may not be appropriate to eat low carbohydrate for PCOS, a common hormone disorder that is associated with low carbohydrate diets. It depends on the root cause of your PCOS, you can learn more in episode 19 of the Nourishing Women Podcast.