Thanks to generations of people over-consuming sugar and other refined carbohydrates, many people suffer from a condition known as carbohydrate intolerance, or (CI). This is perhaps the most well-hidden epidemic of our time.
Carbohydrate Intolerance—and the full spectrum of ailments that accompany it—begins as a hidden problem. CI then progresses to a functional disorder producing symptoms that negatively affect quality of life, such as fatigue. Gradually, this process generates serious illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Perhaps you are carbohydrate intolerant and don’t even realize it. To check how your body handles carbohydrates, use the following survey.
Carbohydrate Intolerance Health Survey. (Some Common Signs and Symptoms):
- Poor concentration or sleepiness after meals.
- Increased intestinal gas or bloating after meals.
- Frequently hungry.
- Increasing abdominal fat or facial fat (especially cheeks).
- Frequently fatigued or low energy.
- Insomnia or sleep apnea.
- Waist size increasing with age.
- Fingers swollen/feeling “tight” after exercise.
- Personal or family history of diabetes, kidney or gall stones, gout, high blood pressure, high cholesterol/low HDL, high triglycerides, heart disease, stroke, breast cancer.
- Low meat, fish or egg intake.
- Frequent cravings for sweets or caffeine.
- Polycystic ovary (ovarian cysts) for women.
While best viewed as a single, escalating progression of the same problem, carbohydrate intolerance has series of distinct stages:
The symptoms can be elusive, often associated with difficult-to-diagnose blood-sugar problems, fatigue, intestinal bloating and loss of concentration.
The worsening condition is known in the medical community as carbohydrate-lipid metabolism disturbance or hyperinsulinism. It causes more serious conditions such as hypertension, it elevates LDL cholersterol and lowers HDL cholesterol, it elevates triglycerides, and increases body fat.
It manifests as an array of more serious problems, including obesity, and various diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. These end-stage conditions are part of a set of diseases that are now well-recognized by modern medicine. They are referred to as Syndrome X, or Metabolic Syndrome.
Taking the Carbohydrate Intolerance survey is only the first step in reclaiming your optimal health. The next step is taking the Two-Week Test, which will help you determine just how sensitive your body is to carbohydrates.
The Two-Week Test
This evaluation will tell you if you are carbohydrate intolerant, and if so, how to remedy it. Yet I must emphasize that this is only a test and not a permanent diet, and it will only last two weeks—you will not be eating like this forever. Because the Two-Week test is not a diet, it should not be pursued beyond this 14-day period. Nor should you experience hunger during the test—you can eat as much of the non-carbohydrate foods as you want, and as often as you need.
Of all the clinical tools I developed and used for assessment and therapy through my career, the consistent results from the Two-Week Test surprised me the most: it’s amazing how a person can go from one extreme of poor health to vibrant health in such a short time. It’s simply a matter of removing a major stress factor—refined carbohydrates and excess insulin—in a person’s life and allowing the body to function the way it was originally meant.
The Two Week Test was unique because it required individuals to take an active role the process of self-evaluation. He or she would actually feel what it was like to have normal insulin levels, optimal blood sugar and, in many cases, be finally free of signs and symptoms associated with CI—all within a short time frame. This proved to be a far superior method of educating the patient.
Some people didn’t feel improvement because they were not carbohydrate-intolerant. But patients who were overweight, had blood-sugar problems, and simply could not escape the damage of eating refined carbohydrates now knew what it would take to quickly change their health.
It is not the purpose of the Two-Week Test to restrict calories or fat. It merely restricts many carbohydrate foods. And there’s no need to weigh food. For a period of two weeks, just eat what you’re allowed, and avoid what’s restricted. Nor is its purpose to avoid all dietary carbohydrates, or to go into ketosis (an extreme metabolic state of fat burning when little or no glucose is available for energy) like with some diet programs whose long-term success is questionable. It’s typical to gain weight once someone goes off these extreme diets.
How is the Two-Week Test Different?
I’m often asked how the Two-Week Test is different than being on a low-glycemic index diet. Today, there are a number of cookbooks and diet plans all based on a low-glycemic index approach.
The Two-Week Test is neither meant to be blindly followed, nor is it a fad diet. In fact, it’s not really a diet at all. It’s an evaluation that helps you individualize your own optimal eating plan for better health, not just for weight loss and reduced body fat.
Many low-glycemic diets offer gimmicks that teach you how to manipulate meals so you can eat refined carbohydrates and sugar by adding fat or fiber to unhealthy foods. That is not healthy eating. It’s cheating your body. On the other hand, the Two-Week Test teaches you which foods are best for your optimal health—everyone is different and responds differently to carbohydrates and other nutrients.
Low-glycemic diets just provide lists of foods with associated numbers to eat or avoid. However, the validity of these numbers has often been determined by testing just two or three subjects in a lab, leading many nutritional scientists to question these numbers. The test subject’s previous meals, variations in quality of the test food (where it was grown, how it was processed and prepared), and the effects of taste on blood sugar could create misleading results for a given food. These are among the reasons many people don’t respond well to low-glycemic diets—many of the foods don’t match their particular needs.
While consuming a low-glycemic diet can result in weight loss for many people, long-term success is better achieved by understanding how to eat for overall optimal health rather following food lists.
Let’s summarize the basics of the Two-Week Test:
- Write down a list of all your signs and symptoms.
- Weigh yourself before starting.
- Always eat breakfast.
- Plan your meals and snacks—buy sufficient foods allowed on the test, and get rid of those not allowed so you’re not tempted.
- Eat as much and as often as you need to never get hungry.
- After the test, re-evaluate your signs and symptoms, including weight.
- Begin adding natural, unprocessed carbohydrates to every other meal or snack, and evaluate whether this causes any of your previous signs and symptoms to return.
The following sections discuss each of these steps in more detail, in order to help you through the testing process.
Before The Test
- Record health problems. Jot down any health problems that you might have, such as insomnia or fatigue. This may take a few days since you might not recall them all at once. You will review these complaints after the test to see which ones have improved and which have not.
- Weigh yourself. The main purpose of weighing yourself is to have another sign of how your body is working, especially after the test. This is about the only instance I recommend using the scale for body weight—it’s not a measure of body fat, but it is a good pre and post evaluation. During the test you may lose some excess water your body is holding, which will show on the scale, but you’ll also go into a high fat-burning state and start losing body fat (which won’t show on the scale). I’ve seen some people lose only a few pounds during the test, and some 20 or more pounds.
- Stock up on the right foods. Before you start the test, make sure you have enough of the foods you’ll be eating during the test. (These are listed below.) In addition, go through your cabinets and refrigerator and get rid of any sweets, foods containing them, and all breads and products made from refined flour. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted. Many people are addicted to sugar and other carbohydrates, and for the first few days without them you may crave these foods.
- Plan Correctly. Schedule the test during a two-week period that you are relatively unlikely to have distractions — it’s a bad idea to do the test during holidays, or when social engagements are planned. Don’t worry about cholesterol, fat or calories, or the amount of food you’re eating. This is only a test, not the way you’ll be eating all the time.
Most importantly, eat breakfast within an hour of waking.
Following the test for less than two weeks probably will not give you a valid result. So, if after five days, for example, you eat a bowl of pasta or a box of cookies, you will need to start the test over.
During The Test: The Menu
You may eat as much of these foods as you like during the Two-Week Test:
- Eggs (whites and yolk), unprocessed (real) cheeses, heavy (whipping) cream, sour cream.
- Unprocessed meats including beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish and shellfish.
- Tomato, V-8 or other vegetable juices, but no carrot juice.
- Water—drink it throughout the day between meals.
- Cooked or raw vegetables such as squash, leaf lettuce and spinach, carrots, broccoli and kale, but no potatoes or corn.
- Tree nuts (almond, walnut, macadamia, etc.), seeds, and their associated nut butters.
- Oils, vinegar, mayonnaise, salsa, mustard and spices.
- Sea salt, unless you are sodium sensitive.
- All coffee and tea (if you normally drink it).
Be sure to read the ingredients for all foods, as some form of sugar or carbohydrate may be added. Especially focus on ingredients in peanut butter, mayonnaise, sour cream and even sliced meats.
You may not eat any of the following foods during the Two-Week Test:
- All sugar products (anything with honey, sugar, agave, fructose, or cane in its name, for starters).
- Bread, rolls, pasta, pancakes, cereal, muffins, chips, crackers, rice cakes and similar carbohydrate foods.
- Sweets such as cake, cookies, ice-cream, candy, gum, breath mints.
- Products that contain hidden sugars, common in ketchup and other prepared foods (read the labels).
- Fruits, fruit juice, carrot juice.
- Processed meats and fish such cold cuts and smoked products which often contain sugar.
- All types of potatoes, corn, rice and beans.
- Cashews and peanuts.
- Milk, half-and-half, and yogurt.
- So-called healthy snacks, including all energy bars and sports drinks.
- All soda; this includes “enhanced” mineral water, and diet drinks.
- UPDATE: Quinoa cannot be eaten during the TWT, for both omnivores and vegans.
A Note on Alcohol
If you normally drink small to moderate amounts of alcohol, some forms are allowed during the test.
You may include these kinds of alcohol: dry wines, and pure distilled spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey, etc.), and those mixed with plain carbonated water, including seltzer, tomato juice, or V-8.
Avoid these kinds of alcohol: Sweet wines, all beer, hard cider, Champagne, alcohol containing sugar (rum, liqueurs, etc.), and those mixed with sweet ingredients such as tonic, soda or other sugary liquids. If in doubt, avoid it.
Click here for some meal ideas to use during the Two Week Test.
After The Test
Re-evaluate your original list of complaints after the Two-Week Test. Is your energy better? Are you sleeping better? Are you feeling less depressed? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions or you lost body fat, you probably have CI to some extent. People who have a high degree of CI may feel dramatically better than they did before the test, especially if there was a large weight loss.
Any fat loss during the test is not due to reduced calories, but rather to the increased fat-burning resulting from reduced insulin (many people eat more calories than usual during this two-week period). Although some of the change in weight may be due to water loss, a significant amount will be due to fat loss.
If you are on medication for high blood pressure, ask your health-care professional to check it several times during the test—and especially right after. Sometimes, blood pressure drops significantly and your medication may need to be adjusted or eliminated, which should only be done by your health-care professional. As insulin levels fall to normal, high blood pressure typically falls as well.
If nothing improved during the Two-Week test (and it was done exactly as described above), then you may not be carbohydrate intolerant. But if the test cleared up your signs and symptoms, the next step is to determine how many carbohydrates your body can tolerate without a relapse. This is done by adding a little bit of carbohydrates to your diet.
The Post-Test Period
This period is meant to determine if any of the carbohydrates you eliminated cause the return of any of the original signs or symptoms, including weight gain. At this stage, having just completed the test, your body and brain will be more sensitive to the slightest amounts of carbohydrates. Basically, you’ll become more intuitive to how your body responds to food.
Use these guidelines to incorporate carbohydrates correctly:
- Add single-serving amounts of natural, unprocessed carbohydrates in every other meal or snack. This may be plain yogurt sweetened with a little honey for breakfast, or an apple after lunch or dinner.
- For a snack, try tea with honey.
- Avoid all refined carbohydrates such as sugar and refined-flour products (like white bread, cereals, rolls or pasta).
- You can also include brown rice, sweet potatoes, yams, lentils and beans.
Most bread, crackers, cereals and other grains are processed and should be avoided. Even those labeled “whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat” are typically processed in some fashion. Read ingredient lists carefully. Use real-food whole grain products, if you can find them. These include sprouted breads, whole oats (which take 30 to 45 minutes to cook), and other dense products made with just ground wheat, rye, or other grains. If in doubt, avoid them.
Since insulin production is partly influenced by your previous meal, don’t add carbohydrates in back-to-back meals or snacks. During this period, make a note of any symptoms you had previously that were eliminated by the test. In particular, look for symptoms that develop immediately after eating, such as intestinal bloating, sleepiness or feelings of depression.
If any signs or symptoms that disappeared during or following the Two-Week Test have now returned, you’ve probably exceeded your carbohydrate limit. For example, if you’re getting cravings again, or are gaining weight again, you probably added too many carbohydrates. Likewise, if your blood pressure rises significantly after it was reduced, it may be due to excess carbohydrate intake. If any of these situations occur, reduce the carbohydrates by half. You can also experiment to see which particular foods cause symptoms and which don’t. Some people return to the Two Week Test and begin the process again.
In some cases, people can tolerate simple carbohydrates, such as fresh fruits, plain yogurt and honey, but not complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, whole grains, beans or other starches. (Some people with CI have difficulty digesting starches.) During the post-test period, it’s easy to determine whether an individual can’t tolerate any wheat products due to a sensitivity or even allergy to gluten.
From time to time, you may feel the need to go through a Two-Week Test period again to check yourself, or to quickly get back on track after careless eating such as during the holidays, vacations or periods of stress.
Many people find the loss of grains in the diet leaves the digestive tract sluggish and a little constipated. After years of eating lots of carbohydrates, your intestine gets used to that type of bulk. If you become constipated during the Two-Week Test, or afterwards when a lower amount of carbohydrate in the diet is maintained, it could be due to a number of reasons:
- Lack of Fiber. If you require a fiber supplement, be sure to use the ones that do not contain sugar, so read the labels. Psyllium is a high-fiber herb that is an effective promoter of intestinal function. Adding plain unsweetened psyllium to a glass of water, tomato juice, or healthy smoothie can keep your system running smoothly. Add one teaspoon a day for a few days to make sure it’s tolerated, then move towards one tablespoon a day.
- Dehydration. If you don’t drink enough water, you could be predisposed to constipation. During the Two-Week Test, you’ll need more water—up to two to three quarts or more per day—which is a normal amount for a person of average weight.
- Other Nutrients. Adequate intake of natural fats can also be helpful in preventing constipation. Vegetables, legumes such as lentils, and fruits are also great sources of fiber. So if you become constipated, it may simply be that you need to eat more vegetables and fruits.
Occasionally, some people get tired during or after the Two-Week Test. Most commonly it’s from not eating enough food, or eating often enough. The most common problem is not eating breakfast. Most people should not go more than three to four hours without eating something healthy.
Maintaining Your Food Balance
Once you successfully finish the Two-Week Test, and add back the right amount of tolerable carbohydrate foods, you should have an excellent idea of your carbohydrate limits.
Now, you’re on your way to balancing your whole diet. During this process, take the time to learn which of the choices available in supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and elsewhere are truly healthy, and which should be avoided. While there’s nothing radical about the notion that refined carbohydrates are unhealthy, many radical diet plans make it seem like all carbohydrates are deadly. They’re not. It’s a lot more important to find your level of tolerance. Once you know it, eat only healthy carbohydrates—lentils, fresh fruit, unrefined grains (if tolerated), and organic honey as a sweetener.