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Carbohydrate Tolerance & Weight Gain

SCD carb sources

Edit: I realize most people don’t want to gain weight, but for many recovering from Celiac and following SCD or GAPS, it can be quite difficult to get up to a healthy weight.

Since last summer I have been eating a lot more carbs, mainly in the form of fruit, honey and juices. For the first year (or two?) on SCD I ate mostly low-carb. I was pretty much eating what I could on SCD that my digestion would allow. After a while I started indulging in honey and fruit for a couple weeks at a time until Candida-like symptoms crept up (heartburn was always the first and most noticeable). I would then revert back to low carb until I felt better, then back to a more moderate/high carb for as long as I could. Eventually I found that I could go longer and longer on the moderate/high carb diet without getting Candida symptoms. The motivation for eating more carbs for me was that I wanted to gain weight.

I have heard stories from others on SCD or GAPS that once they included raw milk kefir in their diet, their tolerance for carbs steadily increased. This definitely happened with me. I added kefir this past fall and since then have had none of the symptoms I used to get when eating higher carb. Another thing I did was start to eat tons of carbs one day a week, usually in the form of bananas, other fruit, sweet potatoes, carrot juice and honey. Then I would eat normally the rest of the week. That one day a week of overeating carbs didn’t cause me any lasting digestive problems and seemed to help me increase my tolerance.

Lately my diet has been a much steadier higher carb diet. Although I initially managed to gain a bit of weight on SCD, I was still quite underweight. Over the past 6-8 months I’ve managed to gain noticeably more weight and keep it on, by eating higher carb while still keeping a high amount of fat as well. I think that’s the key to gaining weight after recovering from digestion problems, being able to eat lots of fat AND carbs. I never gained much weight eating a high fat SCD diet, no matter how much butter, coconut oil and fatty meats I ate.

Along with the weight gain, I’ve found that I can finally go without eating for longer periods if needed. Sometimes I’m done all my food I’ve brought to work before noon and don’t eat until I get home and cook something later in the evening. I’ve done this more than once without any problems. I can also eat more in one sitting; so having a big breakfast that keeps me full through the afternoon is a possibility. This makes it easy on the weekends when I’m out during the day and don’t want to worry about bringing food with me. Or, if I’m home I just have juices, kefir or yogurt with fruit all day and don’t worry about prepping a full meal until dinner time.

I’ve also been eating a lot more raw food lately. Raw egg yolks, butter, cream, kefir, vegetable juices, bananas, berries, honey, some fish and caviar. Again, this is nice because I don’t have to do a whole lot of prep for these foods. I’ve been cooking less than ever! Also nice is that I don’t have to use the microwave very much at work if I’m bringing all raw foods. My dinners have been simple soups, stir-fries, stews, and meatballs, usually beef or lamb with whatever vegetables looked good at the farmer’s market.

I never did well with the squashes and starchy vegetables so I haven’t ever had too much of that. I also don’t think they’re high enough in carbs to really help weight gain, unless you top them with tons of honey. I found fruit much more tolerable, especially when eaten during the morning. At first eating fruit at night meant I woke up a few hours later feeling hungry or weak. Now I can eat fruit alone or with dairy or meat any time of day.

I really wish I could go back to my early SCD days and try eating more fruit, honey and vegetable juices, without also trying to eat lots of vegetables. I always fell back to a mostly meat and dairy SCD after trying lots of vegetables because my stomach just couldn’t handle it. I think having carrots labeled as an early SCD food threw me off course a bit. I never tolerated carrots well, even if peeled and cooked until soft. I always thought that meant I just wasn’t able to handle raw fruit, so I didn’t even try it. I now know the root vegetables are not necessarily easier to digest than fruit.

I feel like I keep saying that “I wish I could go back and try…”. I guess that’s a good thing because I’m finally at a point where I genuinely feel great and have found what works. πŸ™‚

Kat

I have been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since January 2008 to recover from Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don't eat grains, sugar or potatoes and prepare all my meals from scratch.

28 Comments

  1. I now know the root vegetables are not necessarily easier to digest than fruit.

    Yeah, its not even close.

    Congrats on your progress πŸ™‚

  2. @Michael Yeah, every SCD intro/guide I ever saw kept saying raw fruit was harder to digest than cooked carrots. I have no idea who came up with that or if it was ever found to be true in some cases. Only fruit I ate early on in SCD was well cooked applesauce (not the best fruit to eat) and sometimes a banana.

  3. Finally!! I’m so happy to read this — I’ve been searching for a post like this for a while now! I have also struggled to maintain a healthy weight, pretty much all my life, and since eating traditional foods, I’ve been surprised to notice not a whole lot of gain. I thought that by nourishing my body more properly, it would just start to come naturally, but I think I am realizing that I might not have enough carbs in my diet for that to occur (I do still eat grains, however…)?

    So, just to reiterate, the carb-heavier foods you would recommend would be fruit (specifically bananas), sweet potatoes, veggie juices (sounds like I need to get a juicer!), and honey, while making sure to include fermented dairy/kefir? Can you explain why eating whole vegetables would not be as advantageous as juiced for weight gain? Or conversely, why eating whole fruits might be better than juicing them? Sorry for the question overload… I am just so excited to find a real foodie who understands how tough it can be to gain weight for people like us! πŸ™‚ Thank you for this post!

  4. @Emily @ ButterBeliever I spent a good 2 years on SCD ‘waiting’ for the weight to keep coming on and it never did. So definitely adding carbs helps while still keeping it high fat.

    Vegetables, even carrots and squashes, just don’t have enough carbs/calories for weight gain. Regular potatoes do, but I couldn’t have enough of them to make it count (nightshades – joint pain). Carrot juice made it easier for me to get more quantity. I also juice apples (1/2 carrot, 1/2 apple mixed) but most other fruit I’ve been eating whole because I enjoy them and find I can eat them easily with high fat dairy. I would suggest including fermented high fat dairy, but if you like coconut then that is another high fat food that goes well with fruit. Bacon too πŸ™‚

  5. Glad I’m not the only one that can’t tolerate carrots. Haven’t been able to for years. Always wondered why they were introduced so early on SCD/GAPS. Even cooked to mush I just can’t handle them.

    Glad to hear you’re making such progress!

  6. Great post, Kat. Thanks for it. I have the opposite problem, so trying to stay low-carb, but it’s encouraging to see you tweaking where you need to. What is your exercise level? Do you feel that eating more carbs is giving you more energy or less?

  7. @Melanie Oh I definitely have more energy when eating lots of carbs now. Back when I would get symptoms from eating carbs they often made me feel sluggish though.

    I’m exercising quite a bit right now, lots of walking, biking to work or around town a couple times a week, sports a few times a week. I also do some strength training exercises. I gained most of the weight first and then added exercise (only for fun) once I felt like I had extra energy to expend and my weight was steady. I think I’ll need another post on energy and exercise soon. πŸ™‚

  8. Great Kat! Gotta love the no food prep πŸ˜‰ Except for in the beginning when I was “doing it wrong” fruit has been by far easier to digest than anything, including cooked veggies by a long shot. Sweet fruits are truly the only thing I can count on to not give me bubble guts.

  9. @Grok “bubble guts” ha! Now if only I could eat as much as you can, this weight gain thing would be so much easier.

  10. Interesting Kat,

    I have a horrific time with carbs and also have allot of gut inflammation. Will send my blood sugars in a spin and make me extremely lethargic after eating. I am also very slender and could use a little more flabbage.

    You kind of explained in the post but was there a turning point that enabled you to tolerate carbs a little better?

  11. @Matt When the cherry tree in my yard bloomed I gorged on them for a couple days and it didn’t do me much harm. Then I just kept eating a lot of fruit once a week for a while. Once I added in raw kefir I did notice a huge improvement. The best fruits I found early on were bananas and papayas. If you notice blood sugar problems, try having fruit with meals or just before, or with high fat dairy.

    @Michael I don’t recall you saying much about fruit or veggies actually, other than potatoes πŸ™‚

  12. Awweeesome. I’m trying to work my way up to raw milk kefir. I am now drinking pasteurized milk kefir from a starter. I my next goal is to work with actual kefir grains and then after I can tolerate that try the raw milk with kefir grains.

  13. @Reid B. Kimball I found raw milk kefir I made at home the easiest to tolerate. Pasteurized milk I don’t tolerate as well. So if you don’t have success with pasteurized milk using a starter, it’s still worth it to try other methods.

    @john I drink about 1-2 cups a day usually, sometimes less if I don’t have any made on hand.

  14. Thanks for this post. I’ve never heard about heartburn being a symptom of candida(?) I’m on GAPS and trying to figure out what works best for me and my breastfed baby. I suspect candida for us both. When you say that you ‘weren’t able to tolerate’ something– what does that look like? I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but I have trouble figuring it out for my own body. Thanks!

  15. @Colleen Sugary things would cause heartburn, blood sugar downs (shaky feeling), and cause me to wake up in the night hungry. Fibrous things would cause loose stool and/or stomach cramps. Nightshades would cause joint paint. Sometimes I noticed certain foods causing acne breakouts but that was never consistent. It’s hard to figure out what’s working for you, all you can do is trial and error sometimes.

  16. Hi Kat,

    Could you maybe explain what low-carb meant to you and how much fat you’d consume?…like how many grams approximately and from what veggies?(you mentioned something about root veggies…did you eat,carrot,beets and pumpkin?)

    I know certain fats are healthy,yet I’m still a bit afraid of them and through Paleo now also in relation towards too much veggies and on a lesser note proteine.

  17. @Joey Low-carb to me meant under 100g of carbs. Most of the first 2 years on SCD I was eating approxiamtely 60% calories from fat. I was using extra butter and coconut oil to get to that amount. I have never eaten a lot of veggies, but was eating a small amount of carrot, beets and squash.

    For what are you afraid of fats? Digestion, weight or heart health?

  18. @Kat @Kat Well basically for becoming obese again and still not feeling better (Lyme) and lost in life&keep on struggling with this lifestyle. Yeah,but basically also consuming too much fat in relation to carbs,not doing the Paleo exercise thing etc. (I just feel like I’m never doing/moving enough….and when I actually feel good,energetic,strong etc. I get scared bc I feel so good and think I don’t need so much fat/food anymore.)
    I’m thinking about incorporating some GAPS measurements like the bone broths,Ghee,fattier meat and fermented veggies…however they tend to make me feel like not wanting to be active/sleepy and I get the feeling the fat only adds to me instead of giving energy.

    (There are some sources online that state that one with Lyme should stay below 20grams of carb and moderately proteine in order to not feed anything with glucose.)

  19. @Joey I have seen that Lyme does better on lower carb. Try adding lots of bone broths first without the fattier meats and see how you feel. The broth shouldn’t cause sleepiness. Are you on any protocol for treating Lyme?

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