If you are experiencing cramps and gases in your intestines and have tried various methods to linder the symptoms without success the culprit could be carbohydrate intolerance. There’s a simple test that can help you get rid of bloating and find out if carbs are to blame for your discomfort.

What is carbohydrate intolerance?

Carbohydrate intolerance means that a person doesn’t tolerate carbohydrates as they should. People who are carbohydrate intolerant can’t digest  food high in starches and sugar effectively. Carbohydrate intolerance should not be confused with gluten or lactose intolerance. These are both forms of carbohydrate intolerance caused by lack of intestinal enzyme. Both gluten and lactose intolerance can also induce bloating but usually there are accompanied  with other symptoms like watery diarrhea and cramps after eating carbs.

But even if you have all enzymes needed for digestion you can still be carbohydrate intolerant and have a bloated belly and gases.

The diet of the modern person has a lot of sugar typically refined sugars. Due to the permanent high consumption of sugar and starch, the body releases too much insulin to process sugars. This makes our body insensitive to insulin levels. At the end the insulin isn’t processing the sugars effectively anymore and our cells become insulin resistant.

Carbohydrate intolerance is the beginning phase of future insulin resistance. It can last for years and have very suptile symptoms which are usually attributed to other conditions. One of these symptoms are bloated, gassy intestines. Untreated it can result in very serious conditions including hypertension, cancer, high blood cholesterol, Type II diabetes, obesity, stroke, and coronary heart disease.

Why is our belly bloated from CI

Our large intestine contains a lot of bacteria. Food that wasn’t digested before it came to the large intestine is broken down into smaller particles by gas-producing bacteria.

Most gases in our intestines are produced from high-starch food like potatoes and wheat. People who are carbohydrate intolerant produce excessive gas when eating carbs. The formation of gas tends to build several hours after eating carb rich food and gets worse at the end of the day.

How to reduce bloating?

To find out if your bloating is caused by carbohydrate intolerance simply avoid any carbs in your diet for a two week period. This test was developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone. By cutting all carbs from your diet you will be able to see if you have less bloating and gases. Usually if a person is carbohydrate intolerant and doesn’t eat carbs for two weeks most symptoms disappear and your body cures itself without the stress of carbohydrate intolerance.

The two week test gives you an opportunity to find out what your carb tolerance is and if carbs and what amount of carbs produce a bloated belly. This is especially important if you haven’t had any success with the usual advises against bloating and gases ( slower eating, smaller portions, avoiding gassy food, avoiding sudden increase in fiber, using antacids,..)

The two week test

This method is simple and will help you to find out :

  • if you are carbohydrate intolerant and have related symptoms
  • the optimal level of Carbohydrate intake.

Before you start

  1. Before you start write down all your symptoms connected to bloating and gas. Take a note of:
    • at what time of day you feel bloated
    • how much time has passed after eating when you start to feel bloated and gassy
    • how often do you pass gas
    • anything else you feel is important
  2. Buy enough amount of foods you will be eating in the next two weeks so you are not tempted to give into cravings
  3. Eat enough food from the allowed food list. Don’t get hungry and eat any amount of the food you’re allowed to. It’s better to eat more small meals meal during the day since that way the blood sugar levels won’t peek and stay constant.
  4. If you slip during the two week period and eat carbs from the list you are supposed to avoid you must retake this test from the beginning since the results won’t be valid.
  5. This is not a diet. It is only a test to determine if you are carbohydrate intolerant and is not meant to be a long lasting diet regime.
  6. Mentally prepare yourself for two additional weeks after the test when you are going to gradually introduce carbs in your diet. This will allow you to determine your carb tolerance level. Don’t get immediately on your old diet after the first two weeks since you won’t find out your carb tolerance level this way.

Foods to avoid during the first two weeks

starchy food

Basically avoid all foods containing carbohydrates except vegetables. Here’s a detailed list

  • Breads, rolls, pasta, pancakes, cereal, muffins, chips, crackers and rice cakes from refined or whole grains
  • Sweets, including products that contain sugar such as ketchup, honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia and most processed food because of the added sugar
  • Fruits and fruit juice- fruit contains sugar so no fruits!
  • Highly processed meats such as cold cuts, which often contain sugar.
  • Potatoes (all types), corn, rice
  • Beans and legumes
  • Milk, yogurt, ice-cream. No soy or almond milk because of the added sugar.
  • So called healthy snacks, including all energy bars and drinks
  • All soda, including diet, and alcohol, except small amounts of dry wine.

Foods to eat during the first two weeks

Eat as much as you want of the following foods:

  • Whole eggs
  • Unprocessed, fully cultured cheeses, preferably goat or sheep cheese (it’s best to stick to ripe cheeses instead of soft white cheeses like mozzarella), butter, heavy cream, sour cream
  • Cooked or raw vegetables- that means all vegetables except potatoes and corn.
  • Unprocessed meats including beef, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, shellfish, and others
  • Tomato or other vegetable juices
  • Nuts, seeds, nut butters.
  • Oils, vinegar, mayonnaise, salsa and mustard (read the label to make sure there are no added sugars or hydrogenated oils)
  • Sea salt, spices, herbs, lemon
  • Plenty of water! During the Two-Week Test and forever after, be sure to drink water. Generally, the more protein you consume, the more water you will need between meals.Usually about 2 liters per day.

After the test- Evaluating the optimal level of Carbohydrate intake

  1. Take out your list of symptoms you wrote down before the test and reevaluate how you feel now. If you feel much better and without any symptoms of bloating and gas you are carbohydrate intolerant. If you don’t feel any better you may not be carbohydrate intolerant and your bloating could be due to something else.
  2. If you feel much better after the test it’s time to find out your optimal level of carbohydrate intake.
    • Begin adding small amounts of carbs to your diet with every other meal or snack. Take a small apple for lunch or half a potato for dinner. At the beginning introduce a carb serving with one meal and on day two add one more serving of carbs to another meal having one meal in between with no carbs.
    • After eating carbs pay attention if any of your symptoms are coming back. Look especially for symptoms that develop immediately after eating.
    • If any of your symptoms come back you have probably eaten too much carbs and reached your carbohydrate tolerance level. You want to adjust your intake of carbs to maintain the level where you have no symptoms. That is your optimal level of carbohydrate intake. Don’t eat big portions of carbs immediately after the first  two weeks with every meal.That way you won’t be able to determine your optimal level of carbohydrate intake. If you made it through two weeks you can hold on a little bit longer.
  3. During the next two weeks while evaluating your your optimal level of carbohydrate intake don’t eat any refined flours and sugars (e.g. white bread, pasta, soda, sweets, …) .

What you might feel during the two week test

During the two weeks your carbohydrate intake is drastically lowered and your protein intake is probably going to be much higher than usual. This can lead to constipation since you have less fibre in your diet and more protein. To avoid constipation add lot of vegetables (except potatoes and corn) to your diet, drink a lot of water and add a fiber supplement without sugar (check this since many have added sugar) to your diet if you feel that it is necessary.

Also some people report that they feel tired during this two week period which shouldn’t be an issue if you are eating enough and often of the allowed food, incorporate lots of vegetables, drink enough water and don’t eat any hidden sugars or starches. Of course consult your doctor if you have any health issues before changing your diet radically.

The results

Once you find your ideal level of carbohydrate intake you will balance your whole diet and relieve your body of the stress carbohydrate intolerance puts on it. This way you will be able to maintain a healthy diet avoiding insulin intolerance and any health related issues. By eating the right amount of carbs you will enable your body to function by itself as it is supposed to.


Photo credit: Starchy-foods