Wednesday, July 19, 2006

'Strange Pain' In Side Related To Low-Carb?

A reader e-mailed me yesterday about something that reminded me of something my wife Christine has been going through this year. You might remember me talking about Christine having a mysterious pain in her side that was causing her a lot of pain and test after test after test kept coming back negative. Finally, she saw a surgeon about it last month and he determined it was her gall bladder. It was removed a few weeks ago and Christine is now feeling a million times better.

So when I read about this very active 26-year-old, 115-pound woman having "a strange pain appear on my lower right abdominal side," I immediately perked up. However, unlike Christine who is NOT livin' la vida low-carb, this woman has been on a low-carb diet for health reasons since April 2006 and was seeing fantastic improvements in her health and skin.

But then that "strange pain" hit her with a nearly constant feeling that felt like she was "stabbed inside, swollen, crampy." It has come and gone several times, but has gotten progressively worse and worse with no signs of improvement. She has gotten tested with x-rays, an ultrasound of various regions of her abdomen, blood tests and everything has come back normal. In fact, since she started livin' la vida low-carb, her lipid profile has been excellent and she has not had any problems with indigestion or acid reflux.

One area of her health that has change is her period cycle which she said has been "messed up" since all of this started.

"I bleed between periods for a day or two, and also the first period after I began with my low-carb diet was missing (or was at least very delayed)," she wrote.

There are a lot of things this could be and I wrote back to her stating I am by no means an expert on these kinds of conditions, especially regarding women's health. But she's looking for an explanation for what is happening to her and whether it has anything to do with her low-carb lifestyle or not.

"Does this sound like anything you've ever encountered after people went on low-carb?" she asked. "I'm very scared and I really don't know whether to attribute this directly to the diet or if it is indirect (like the diet made some problem I had before obvious, or it was perhaps too rapid a change for me to make?)"

Despite these health issues she is having, she assured me that she thinks livin' la vida low-carb is "really great" and that "it's really hard to imagine for me this could be causing me problems directly, especially in this way and in such a short term!"

Have any of my readers here at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog run into anything like this before, especially my female readers? She's the first person I've ever heard of with this specific problem. I did have this reader who had complained about her tongue tingling when she was on low-carb, but that's it. Of course, I'm not one to blame my low-carb diet on every little ailment that people have either. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

By the way, here is a sample menu of what my e-mailer says she eats as part of her healthy low-carb program:

4 eggs with bacon and lard
Various vegetables
Glass of coconut milk shake with berries
Piece of dark chocolate

Occasionally some fruit (mainly berries or other low-carb fruit)

Bone broth with vegetables
Steak (usually fatty, like pork ribs) with salad or vegetables
A piece of fruit

Her fat intake is near 150g, including daily doses of coconut oil, and she gets 70g protein along with less than 70g carbs since she is NOT trying to lose weight. As for supplements, she takes cod liver oil and a probiotic. Alos, she does not take any prescription medications.

One possibility that has come up is PCOS, which low-carb has been found in studies to help with, despite the fact that she is not overweight or obese. Only a reproductive endocrinologist or specialized OB/GYN will be able to properly diagnose that condition and she is very seriously considering making that appointment very soon.

Comments anyone?


Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Jimmy: the condition of this woman may have something to do with a too low intake of cholesterol. If a diet low in fat (the "healthy diet") is used for a long time, the gall bladder will form gall stones as a result, as a mechanism to survive. It forms "reserves" in the stones.

After changing to a REALLY healthy diet, with plenty of fats, the gall bladder will change strategy. In other words: you need to give your body what it needs, in this case more cholesterol. Once your body is convinced that you are serious and will provide it with a steady stream of cholesterol, which it desperately needs to stay alive, it will give up the flawed strategy of storing extra, the stones will dissolve and you will be well again. It is well know that the stones will be completely dissolved after some time. Thus, this woman may very well be getting better!

Actually, you might want to thank your gall bladder for devising such an innovative strategy for keeping you alive until you learned how to eat in a way that provides your body with the materials it needs to be healthy.

The best way to provide your gall bladder with cholesterol is to eat plenty of animal fats. If you eat a lot of vegetable oils and trans fats, the gall bladder is likely to become inflamed.

If you are on a lowfat diet, the gall bladder atrophies because it does not have enough work to do.

7/19/2006 10:40 PM  
Blogger LCforevah said...


Ditto to everything you've written!
Dr Mike Eades has a great blog post regarding the gall bladder that explains what happens when going from low fat to moderate or high fat.

The more I read about low fat, the worse it seems.

7/20/2006 12:00 PM  
Blogger Sparky's Girl said...

I agree with what science4u said. I can attest to this from experience! After several years of a lowfat diet I started having pains that would double me over. It took 3 months for my dr. to diagnose it as gallstones. I had emergency surgery and they found 40 gallstones in there. They removed them and my gallbladder and I've never had a problem since. My dr. also said he thought it was because my gallbladder wasn't being used enough - and that was back in 1996!. I was eating less than 20 grams of fat a day and only ate margarine (plastic in a tub) and other fat free "healthy" foods. I'm so glad I know better now. I just wish I would have known then. I might have been able to save myself pain, a hospital bill, and yo-yoing weight for the years following.

As far as her diet being the culprit, I highly doubt it. If she is having health problems, it's likely the years of her previous diet that are the culprit. If I remember right she's only been doing lc since April - her cycle should start evening out soon. It's common for a change in diet to mess with the cycle, just like hormones and stress will. If she is REALLY concerned though, she should seek a doctors opinion. No sense taking any chances.

7/20/2006 9:31 PM  
Blogger Sparky's Girl said...

Just had another thought. I know this sounds incredibly simple, but could it be gas (is there a technical name for this.. gas sounds strange)? Gas pains can be excrutiating at times. If she is eating more fiber than she did on her previous diet, it would make sense that her body is still adjusting to it. That bloating, crampy feeling that comes and goes sounds like gas pains I have had in the past. That's also something that is not gonna show up, no matter what kind of test they do.

Just a thought...

7/20/2006 9:48 PM  
Blogger Ronald said...

Gall stones hurt real bad. When it's 5:30am and the medic arrive at your house, the fetus position is "good."

Source of problem: I am a Pepsi-oholic. My intake of sugar is through the roof. I need my fix everyday to be liberated.

7/21/2006 1:33 AM  
Blogger the witch said...

She should get checked over by a doctor in case she has appendicitis!

If the problem IS gallbladder stones, there are a couple of reasons:

Firstly, as the folks have said above, gallbladder stones can form on a diet too low in fat & cholesterol. When someone starts a high fat diet, they experience pain as the stones slowly dissolve and get smaller and get pushed into the bile ducts.

Doctors normally recommend a low-fat diet, which takes away the pain caused by the gallbladder trying to excrete bile and pushing the stones into the bile ducts. However, it causes further accumulation of stones!

Secondly, a variety of stones including gallbladder usually contain calcium oxalate, which is the result of eating foods high in oxalic acid (such as leafy greens like spinach, and drinks like tea, foods like nuts and legumes). A low oxalate diet (search the net) will allow the calcium oxalate to dissolve naturally. Malic acid, and calcium citrate and magnesium citrate supplements will also help this process. A minority of stones are caused by other factors, which she should research.

Menstruation changes can be caused by weight loss or stress to the body, so it is not surprising that she missed her first period after a change in diet. Is she under any emotional stress?

Bleeding between periods can be a sign of estrogen dominance. Is she taking phytoestrogens, any herbal remedies, or eating soy foods or legumes?

I doubt that low-carbing per-se is the problem, however, she should consider the detail of her diet to see if certain food chemicals are involved. Salicylates can disrupt the menstrual cycle, and they are found largely in green vegetables, berries, fruits, nuts, and coconut and olive oils, of which she is eating a lot!

There is more information on my blog (use the search), if she is interested in finding out more about any of these things.

7/21/2006 6:39 AM  
Blogger syd said...

I've had the exact symptoms she is describing, but it had nothing to do with lo-carb. I had chronic appendicitis. No doctor could prove it, blood tests and ex-rays show nothing. But when my appendix ruptured, my urologist saved my life by taking me emergency surgery, calling in a surgeon enroute. If it gets suddenly worse with a tight, hot, pain radiating around her midsection, she needs to get to an emergency room pronto. Mine went on for a couple of years before it ruptured, hurting on and off.

7/21/2006 1:56 PM  

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