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).

16 thoughts on “Carbs are poison: carpal tunnel or peripheral neuropathy?

  1. *@Petros, Sorry to hear that you weren’t feeling well, But CONGRATULATIONS on a great job taking control of your health. That is fantastic!!.Keep up the good work!!

  2. Good luck Petros, dieting is such a hard thing to do. It requires Big changes in life style, so it is no small task you have taken on. I have a sister in a similar situation, and she has yet to conquer the problem, in spite of being a life time vegetarian which is supposed to be a healthy diet. Best wishes

  3. Thanks everyone.

    @Just Me, It would be hard to do this as a vegetarian, for a person with blood sugar problems it is not at all clear how a low carb diet is feasible, because so many of the foods just wouldn’t be on the list (beans, for example). In this case, vegetables and tofu would be ok, but she might have to add eggs, cheese and fish to make it work, because you can’t eat tofu at every meal–or at least, I would find that impracticable.

    If she stuck with low-carb protein supplements (hard to find), coconut oil, tofu, and vegis, it could be done, but it would be a pretty boring plate.

  4. After doing a few stints on Atkin’s (on the perpetual struggle with 10 lbs) I am very familiar with the low carb diet. The best part of the experience was learning how the body metabolizes food and seeing the results. Congratulations, you’ve now stopped diabetes from progressing and in fact have reversed some of the damage that insulin resistance may have caused. The drawback is that the low carb diet is very restrictive, but it’s also not meant to be a way of life either. Introducing new foods that contain a lot of fibre offers the “antidote with the poison”, as fibre reduces the net carbs. I’ve become a very good low carb cook, I’d be happy to share some of the recipes I’ve come up when I was at my wit’s end dreading another breakfast of bacon and eggs.

  5. Thanks Bubblebustin. My understanding is that insulin sensitivity increases once one is at a good weight and once glycemic control is established. I may introduce a few carbs lower on the glycemic index later on. For now I am very strict. I am aware of the concept of net carbs–antidote with the poison is one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is Richard Bernstein’s very ascetic strictness:

    The interesting part is the comments after the video at Youtube. No one praises Bernstein’s sparring partner, only Bernstein. Also I should mention that Gary Taubes issues a warning about the re-introduction of carbs and that is that they are extremely addictive and that can lead the person back into the cravings.

  6. @bubblebustin, Oh, and I forgot, please share recipes.

    For breakfast, I eat eggs, sausages, hot dogs (sausage only), mushroom omelets, and corned beef and cabbage.

  7. @Petros
    I’ll think of a few recipes and email them to you. I recommend this incredibly informative video about the ubiquitous fructose and how it wreaks havoc on our hormonal system. Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin. It’s a lengthy video, but if you’re interested in health and the stupid politics behind this poison you’ll be at the edge of your seat.

  8. The guys I follow are more progressive on the research than Taubes. The newer research shows that Diabesity is caused by chronic, low-grade inflammation. This inflammation is caused by dietary food toxins like Grains (Gluten, WGA, Lectins), Legumes (Lectins/Phytic acid), excess fructose (sugar is 50% fructose found in everything), and Omega-6 (Omega 6 with lack of Omega 3 is pro-inflammatory). Also leaky gut (toxins getting into the bloodstream from a leaky gut from the wrong types of gut bacteria,that cause inflammation), environmental toxins (BPA in plastics, mercury, etc), chronic stress/poor sleep (from the IRS–sorry had to slip that in there), blue/green light after dark, lack of exercise (exercise helps because it lowers inflammation and improves insulin sensitivity–not because it burns calories), etc. Lack of micro nutrients (Vitamin D, Magnesium, K2, are some of the big ones)

    Once you get the inflammation, it causes lehptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that controls insulin and energy usage in the body. Virtually anyone >30lbs overweight and/or “skinny-fat” (i.e thin people with diabetes, low HDL high trigs), etc is leptin resistance.

    Leptin resistance occurs in the brain, liver, and muscles. Once that happens you can’t metabolize carbohydrates (even the “healthier” ones) properly. So while you can do a low-carb diet and fix the “symptoms” or you can try to go a step further and fix the cause of leptin resistance.

    Kruse and Kresser have a variety of methods for reversing the problem and not the symptom

    Re-establish circadian rhythm biology with
    –Kruse’s Leptin Reset Rx
    –Blue light blockers at night
    –Grounding yourself (His EMF series)

    Lowering inflammation and fixing leaky gut
    –Paleo or even better Epi-Paleo diets (High seafood based)
    –Cold Thermogenesis
    –Omega 3 and Magnesium supplementation (Diabetics are very deficient in Mg and Mg curbs carb cravings
    –Grounding (EMF)
    –Fixing Leaky Gut (his Leaky Gut Rx), Kresser also has articles how do it, or GAPS type diet
    –Fixing Adrenal Fatigue (Pregnenalone steal syndrome)
    –Eliminating toxins

    Once you correct these problems, it is possible to go back to eating the non-toxic types of carbohydrates, although Kruse believes Carbs should only be eaten during spring/summer months (and only paleo type carbs like tubers, some dairy, and fruit…never grains/legumes/processed foods.

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