Hungry all the time? Sleep quality could be the cause.

Written by: Dr. Lacey Chittle

Do you find yourself HANGRY all the time after switching to a low-carb diet (like paleo or keto)? I often hear clients tell me that they’ve already tried a paleo-like (or keto) diet & that it didn’t work for them because it just made them want #allthefood. Counter-productive right? What is REALLY going on in your body?

It doesn’t mean that a low carb/keto diet isn’t right for you, it simply means that you have to get these three things under control:

    1. POOR NUTRIENT ABSORPTION

If your patient history has been dealing with severe nutritional deficiencies or have tried supplementing the organs for a period of time without success then it would be time to dig deeper!

Specialized nutrition can be very helpful to unveil amino acid, vitamin/ mineral deficiencies.

Take GABA for instance. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for calming the nervous system. It is made from glutamine, an essential an amino acid often low in digestive issues and leaky gut. When GABA is low it will prompt you to eat more sugar.

    1. GUT BUGS

There is also the possibility that the microbes made you do it!

A comprehensive stool study will aid in identifying any imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria or yeast.

Some strains of intestinal bacteria (such as acetobacter and lactobacillus strains as well as candida) are known to be the culprits of sending signals from your digestive tract to your brain telling you to eat carbs/sugar. If they don’t get what they need to survive (sugar) they will die.

If there is additional history to suggest a concern for a gut infection or no matter how hard you try, you cannot kick the sugar addiction, it may be gut bugs to blame. When this is the case I strongly recommend a comprehensive stool analysis be performed and interpreted by a trained professional.

Once digestive issues are addressed, and your body heals, nutrient digestion and subsequently nutrient absorption will improve.

    1. METABOLIC INFLEXIBILITY

Metabolic flexibility may be to blame (a simple description is it’s about your body’s ability to use fat in place of sugar for energy production).

Metabolic flexibility improves with practice (reversing insulin resistance) in the presence of a healthy adrenal system. Assuming your adrenals are healthy enough a few tips to improve metabolic flexibility are:

    • Fasting:  Implement a time restricted eating window of 8-12 hours, aka intermittent fast. (Fasting overnight is the easiest way to start this, attempt a 12 hour fast, if you can only make it 10 hours, that’s okay, overtime with practice you’ll get to 12 hours no problem!)
    • Fasted exercise. Specifically sprints, 3 x 45 seconds has been shown to increase leptin sensitivity in the muscles which leads to increased insulin sensitivity
    • Eat all the veggie colors!  Phytonutrients in herbs, spices, vegetables, & fruits support the metabolic processes and increase insulin sensitivity
    • Manage stress. The stress hormone cortisol wreaks havoc on digestion and is catabolic (destructive) to muscle tissue. Implement a daily restorative practice such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercising, or time in nature.
    • Get enough sleep! Without adequate sleep, the body suppresses production of leptin and boosts production of ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone responsible for satiety; ghrelin is the hormone responsible for hunger. Work on your sleep quality and quantity and you may find your sugar craving resolves.
    • Reduce the servings of carbs per day, then look to make them whole foods such as yams, green plantains or legumes (if you tolerate them) and always pair these carbs with protein and/or fat. This will help sustain your blood sugar between meals, and eventually going low carb will feel easy peesy!

So how to find out which one (or more) of the three contributors are making you HANGRY? 

You do this by working with a functional medicine specialist who is able to identify with history and basic blood work if there are compromises in the function of the stomach (produce stomach acid), pancreas (produce digestive enzymes) and or gallbladder (produce bile salts) and then supplement accordingly.

It’s time to dig deeper, and get a trained functional medicine detective on your side.

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