I’ve written on here a number of times that carbohydrates of all types have been causing my tongue to swell and my throat to be sore. Of course, that would be weird as I’ve eaten carbohydrates my whole life (to greater or lesser degrees) without this problem. It was the strangest thing though – every time I ate carbs I would get these symptoms within an hour. It made going low carb again very easy – the alternative was serious discomfort that would last hours or even the rest of the day. Well, I figured out what was going on.
I mentioned last time that I thought I was probably having a bad reaction to the blood pressure medication I started 2 1/2 months ago – Losartan. But I couldn’t figure out why the reaction (the tongue and throat thing) only happened when I ate carbs. Then at some point I remembered Ray Peat saying that sugar lowers stress hormones. For example:
In monkeys living in the wild, when their diet is mainly fruit, their cortisol is low, and it rises when they eat a diet with less sugar (Behie, et al., 2010). Sucrose consumption lowers ACTH, the main pituitary stress hormone (Klement, et al., 2009; Ulrich-Lai, et al., 2007), and stress promotes increased sugar and fat consumption (Pecoraro, et al., 2004). If animals’ adrenal glands are removed, so that they lack the adrenal steroids, they choose to consume more sucrose (Laugero, et al., 2001).
If protein is eaten without carbohydrate, it will stimulate insulin secretion, lowering blood sugar and activating the stress response, leading to the secretion of adrenalin, cortisol, growth hormone, prolactin, and other hormones. The adrenalin will mobilize glycogen from the liver, and (along with other hormones) will mobilize fatty acids, mainly from fat cells. Cortisol will activate the conversion of protein to amino acids, and then to fat and sugar, for use as energy.
So in my efforts to stop eating sugar – and really all dense sources of carbohydrate – in order to get my gut bloating and blood sugar under control, what probably happened is stress hormones increased – cortisol, likely – which has masked the symptoms caused by my blood pressure medication.
This is important so I’m going to say it again.
I think taking carbs out of my diet caused an increase in stress hormones, which in turn removed the pain and inflammation caused by my allergy to my blood pressure medication. Then as soon as I ate anything with any form of sugar in it – fructose, glucose, sucrose – stress hormones would lower and I’d be in pain.
The brilliant folks on my Ray Peat Facebook page talk about this phenomenon sometimes. New people join the group and complain that they can’t eat sugar because it causes them to have various kinds of pain. The coaching they receive is usually that the sugar isn’t causing the pain – the sugar is reducing the stress hormones that are masking the pain. So when sugar is consumed….pain is the result.
Since I realized this a week or so ago I’ve been experimenting with it. I stopped taking the medication last weekend. Over the course of the week I’ve eating carbs every day to see if the symptoms (the tongue and throat stuff) get better or stay the same. Each day the symptoms are less severe than the day before. Yesterday, 7 days after getting off the Losartan, there was no tongue swelling at all, and just a little bit of throat pain and a little cough left. The sugar/carbs weren’t the allergy. It was the med.
So where do we stand now?
I’m continuing with the mostly-low-carb diet for now, as I wait for test results and further instructions from Amelia. Even without the allergy symptoms my blood sugar is very high (fasting around 155 these days), but that may be related somewhat to high stress hormones. I notice my blood sugar was lower when my tongue was swollen. Tongue swollen = the result of lowered stress hormones = lower fasting blood sugar. It’s all very complicated.
On the plus side I have gotten some test results back. No parasites, no yeast overgrowth, no obvious and serious gut issues. There’s really no substitute for testing.