How To Use Carbohydrates To Beat Stress & Anxiety

Research confirms that over two-thirds of us are living in a constant state of stress we can feel in our body.

This is why today we’re discussing how you can use CARBS, good ole fashioned, carbs to calm that stress state and beat anxiety.

You’ve heard of the book, Potatoes Not Prozac, right?

Dr. DesMaisons was onto something with this way back in 2008 but somehow, as diet fads do, we all got carried away and started demonizing this medicinal macronutrient food group that is CRUCIAL for our mental and emotional well being.

Today’s episode of Food as Medicine TV is not for some of you, it’s for EVERYONE (because everyone eats, right?!).

As always, we cut through the fads and dispel myths with TRUTH backed up by real science and an abundance of direct clinical application.

80% of our society is not able to convert the food they eat into fuel. If we don't have fuel, our body cannot work efficiently.

We eat food for energy, but is the food we’re eating allowing our body the ability to convert that food into fuel, providing our cells the energy it needs to perform at its best?

Proper conversion means we feed and fuel our mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells.

It also means we produce feel-good neurotransmitters (or brain chemicals) during and as a result of the conversion process.

When we convert our food into fuel, we are better able to fight off infection and keep all systems in check.

When we are NOT utilizing food for fuel, we are left with exhaustion, anxiety or depression, insomnia, and poor digestion.

Interestingly, when we polled you, our beloved tribe of 130,000+, asking you what your biggest health issues were, here were the top four:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Poor digestion

Diet is the most significant factor in all of these symptoms.

There are three main macronutrients: fats, protein, and carbohydrates.

Individually, they have unique roles in the body, and together, they are the key to good health.

We cannot demonize an entire macronutrient food group such as carbohydrates. There is a reason we have three main macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates)—our body thrives on a healthy, individual balance of all three.

A Note About The Ketogenic Diet

We have openly discussed our thoughts on the ketogenic diet previously; overall we think it can be clinically useful for those who need to run on ketones for medical conditions. Science concludes that a ketogenic diet can be supportive of epileptic seizures as well as Alzheimer’s. However, we now see that it can be dangerous to stay on it for long periods.

Remaining on a long-term high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate diet can throw your entire hormonal code off and force your body to prioritize short-term survival instead of long-term health.

We see it more and more, as the diet continues to be a trend; people are using it to lose weight quickly, get lean or cut or mitigate specific symptoms.

This is fine for 6 to 12 weeks, but long-term ketosis can set up the body to live in constant fight-or-flight mode which is a constant state of stress that wreaks havoc on the body.

We are starting to see it more often within our community:

  • Individuals have undigested fat in their stools (check out our understanding fat digestion blog)
  • Women are losing their menstrual cycles
  • Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high
  • Weight that may have been lost (remember, the ketogenic diet has a diuretic effect) is quickly gained back due to high levels of circulating cortisol and the “spare tire” becomes a permanent fixture.

Let’s Move On To The Solution…

What Are Healthy Carbohydrates?

Healthy carbohydrates are our lifeblood. Our bodies and our brains prefer carbohydrate sources as fuel. In fact, every cell in our body needs glucose – that's 37.2 trillion cells that need glucose (as well as oxygen and thyroid hormone) if we are to maintain healthy sleep, weight (in the right way), as well as good, stable energy and moods.

We are not talking about processed corn syrup, artificial sweeteners or processed bread and starches, which can be inflammatory and spike our blood sugar and increase insulin levels to a potentially unhealthy range.

The Key Is Customization And Moderation

When we customize our carbohydrate intake based upon our current state of metabolic health, we can strategically meet the needs of our cells, hormones, and metabolism.

Over time, when we achieve balance with all of these, we create better cellular and nervous system health and symptoms such as anxiety, poor sleep and digestion, and fatigue disappear.

An adrenally-fatigued person is not effectively converting food into fuel or energy—80% of our society is not able to fully transform their food into fuel.

Picture Your Plate

The goal is to have a balanced plate through combining carbohydrates, proteins, and fat with every single meal (this includes snacks too, friends).

By combining all three, you will meet the energy requirements your cells need to thrive, build energy, turn off stress hormones and slow the breakdown of your food, thus regulating your blood sugar.  

The results of doing this consistently and slowly (remember, one meal will not fix years of no-carbohydrate living) will strengthen your metabolism, which will create balance in your hormones and the most natural form of weight loss available today.

For those who have been following a diet that only consisted of protein and vegetables and you’ve felt like something was missing, either during your meal or after your meal, or you’ve been craving something sweet after eating or when you’ve been stressed – you want candy or sweets – this is often a sign that your blood glucose has dipped too low (hypoglycemia) due to not pairing your protein and fat with a carbohydrate source.

Feeling well-rested and having enough energy is our ultimate goal. By eating fruit and root sugar the way we outline (along with protein and fat with it), you will decrease the stress hormones in your system and increase thyroid hormone, breaking a negative hormone cycle and helping you to feel the way you want to feel while also healing both your thyroid and adrenals.

Carbohydrates are your body's primary (and preferred) source of energy that can be used as immediate energy within the body. Traditional foods, such as root vegetables and fruits—including tropical fruits—should not be demonized for being high in sugar because you're not going to eat them alone. Eating them alone can disrupt your sugar balance.  

Quality Over Quantity

The quality of your carbohydrate sources is one of the most important factors when starting to include them in your diet. Flour and sugar can be problematic, as it can influence hormonal shifts, the inflammatory response, and disrupt our gut microbiome. Flour, sugar, and some grains, especially gluten, that are commonly consumed in today's diet are contributing to the high amount of SIBO, gut dysbiosis (leaky gut), diabetes and obesity challenging modern society.

Why has the low-carb trend been so successful for some? These diets do have their benefits, as they get individuals off of white and processed simple carbohydrate sources. We want to continue to avoid these simple carbohydrates—complex carbohydrates have a better nutrient profile and provide the body with what it needs.

The History Behind Carbohydrates—Ancestral Diets

Don’t let the recent diet trends fool you. Ancestral diets-—like that of the Kitavan Islanders of Melanesia, a society who have little access to western foods—are carbohydrate-rich, meaning 60-70% of their intake is in the form of carbs, which is typically fruit or tubers. Despite their high-carb intake, they show healthy glucose and insulin levels, even when compared with a traditional western diet.

It's about having the right hormones (not cortisol and adrenaline unnecessarily pumping through your body) and training your cells to use carbohydrates to meet their needs. If your body does not know what to do with carbohydrates, then it will store them as fat. So, the key is to train your body how to use this fuel to maximize your physical and emotional well-being.

This is exactly how you recover from adrenal fatigue (blood sugar stabilization, getting mental-emotional stressors in check, and improving digestion) and the only long-lasting way to do it, because you're healing the root issue—blood sugar instability and the overproduction of stress hormones which damage the gut. Once this step is achieved, your body can naturally start to stoke the fire inside the cell to support excellent thyroid and hormonal health.

You may be thinking to yourself… “But I gained weight when I tried a high carbohydrate diet?”

If your body doesn't know how to use or metabolize carbohydrates, it will store them as fat. However, you can reverse this. But you have to start slowly if you haven't been eating them or you will gain weight—and by slow I mean adding in two tablespoons and increasing by two tablespoons as your body learns to use carbs (instead of fat/protein) as its primary fuel.

If you don't add them in, you'll remain in fight-or-flight mode (and even if you're eating keto that spare tire around the belly will remain stubborn because of the interference of the stress hormone cortisol) and you will develop adrenal fatigue or thyroid problems or worsen them if you already have them, not to mention the rest of your hormones.

This creates a domino effect that will also compromise digestion and immunity by remaining locked in fight-or-flight because you are starving your cells and damaging your nervous system, which is the foundation which ALL the systems in the body rest upon and rely upon for stability and security. Think of the nervous system like the foundation for your house. If an earthquake comes and rocks it, the house is going to start breaking down, as will your digestion, immune system, endocrine system, and brain.

We have direct experience helping nearly a thousand people get their lives back using this clinical strategy.

They are sleeping through the night, waking up feeling rested and enjoying a calm and peaceful mood. From a science perspective, they have changed their hormones and metabolism with the help of fruits, roots and healthy sources of protein and fat.

Want To Learn More About How To Use Carbohydrates To Beat Stress & Anxiety?

To find more information about how to exact this process (with the guidance of myself and clinically trained nutritionists), please visit theadrenalrecode.com or take our free mini-course to try out this philosophy on yourself.

Using Carbs To Beat Stress & Anxiety

Listen to the Audio File (mp3) of this episode.