Carbs are poison: carpal tunnel or peripheral neuropathy?

Carbs are poison (for those with elevated glucose levels)

I’m going to start a new tag/category called “Carbs are Poison”. This is my new motivational motto as I have entered a major lifestyle change that took place two months ago.

About sixty days ago, I learned that the tingling I feel in my hands was related to elevated glucose levels in my blood stream. I’ve had this tingling in my hands for about ten years now, and it affects my comfort when driving, playing a guitar or ukelele, typing on a keyboard, and even holding a cell phone to my ear. I would have to lower my hands below my waist and shake them out to get rid of the tingling.

For years I thought that it was carpal tunnel, and generally speaking, my investigations into the question showed that carpal tunnel was work related, i.e., caused by repetitive use of, e.g., a keyboard or a jack hammer. But the more accurate term for my condition is peripheral neuropathy, a condition whose most common cause is diabetes. Once I learned this about two months ago, I was certain that I was diabetic.

Well, I also have four risk factors: I am (1) Asian, (2) obese, (3) over 40, and (4) I have a family history in that my brother, my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather all have/had type II diabetes. So I immediately went into get tested for diabetes and the hbA1c test came back 6.0, which means that I am prediabetic (between 5.6-6.9; 7.0 is considered diabetic).

But later, through reading Nikolaos Papanas, Aaron I. Vinik, and Dan Ziegler, “Neuropathy in prediabetes: does the clock start ticking early?” (Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 7 [2011] 682-690), I confirmed that my symptoms were related to prediabetes–this is one that my physician couldn’t answer, “If I’m not diabetic, then why do my hands tingle?” The article shows that prediabetics with impaired glucose tolerance are more likely to have peripheral neuropathy and non-diabetics with peripheral neuropathy are likely to be prediabetic. The elevated glucose levels in the those with impaired glucose tolerance, i.e., those whose glucose levels don’t immediately come down from a high carb meal, can have the nerve damage that is related to peripheral neuropathy. The damage was so severe that I had for about one year started to experience severe arthritis in my finger joints.

It stands to reason that a low carb diet would have the benefit of helping me to control my glucose levels. I was especially informed by Dr. Richard Bernstein, who has made numerous appearances on Youtube. But I’ve also had some experience with low carb dieting in the past. So on November 28, 2012, I used the occasion of the twelve hour fast for my blood test, to begin a new low carb regimen. This is day 60, and here are the results so far:

  1. My blood glucose levels went down immediately from HbA1C 6.0% (=3 month average of about 7.7) in my blood test to about 5.4 (when testing with personal glucose tester).
  2. Within two weeks my blood pressure has come down from high (140/90) to normal levels (127/82).
  3. The tingling in my hands largely subsided immediately after beginning the low carb diet. At day 60, I’ve been typing at this keyboard for several minutes now, without any tingling.
  4. My arthritis is almost completely gone with some mild problems in only a few of the joints, particularly my right middle finger. Nevertheless, I can snap my fingers in both hands with no severe pain as before.
  5. I’ve lost about twenty-five pounds.
  6. I’ve come down two pants sizes, as my waist has shrunk from 43 to 39 inches.
  7. I feel less sleepy after eating.
  8. I have greater energy levels and enjoy exercising and long walks (except when my knees give me problems).

My low carb diet does require fat: it is not a low fat diet! However, I am consciously trying to eat only to satiety. I snack on low carb foods when I feel cravings or hunger between meals, but after the first few days, the intrusive thoughts of food and the cravings subsided. I now avoid all sugars and starches to the degree practical. Here are the main foods I avoid:

  • any thing with flour
  • bread
  • desserts with flour and sugar
  • potatos
  • carrots
  • lentils, beans, peas
  • sweet potatoes
  • milk
  • rice
  • candy
  • fruit

Here are some typical foods that I eat:

  • meat, fish, poultry (including the skin and organs)
  • spam, corned beef, sausages (kosher salami, summer sausage. pepperoni)
  • eggs
  • hard cheese (brie, gorganzola, blue, cheddar, gruyere, etc.), low carb/high fat yogurt
  • 18% table cream; whip cream (in home-made non-sugar, low-carb ice cream)
  • coconut milk or cream
  • tofu
  • pumpkin
  • onions and garlic
  • avocados (ca. 1 per day)
  • tomatoes
  • green vegetables: cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini
  • olives
  • non-sweet pickled cucumbers and asparagus
  • mushrooms
  • turnips (small amounts in soup)

I am drinking no sweetened beverages. I have lowered my caffeine intake because I find that it stimulates the cravings for carbs. I drink a lot of water flavored with lemon or lime juice (e.g., Real Lemon), and now copious amounts of cold, weak green tea (1 tsp loose tea or 1 tea bag makes three litres). Since one is in a state of ketosis (using one’s own fat for energy), the low carb diet requires drinking a lot.

Finally, I am abstaining from alcoholic beverages for until I’ve reached my weight loss goal (at least 65 lbs–or down to about 180 lbs).

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