Trying Something New: the Low GL Diet

Sorry if this turned into a bit of a wall of text. I’m always a bit hesitant about posting the things I’ve tried for my M.E. especially when it’s anything diet related but I thought I’d do a bit of a post about a new diet that I’m trying because it’s not something I’d heard of before and see if anyone else has tried it, whether it was a success or not. Before I start I am definitely not a doctor or healthcare professional in any way and if you do decide to give this a go then do research and even check with your GP if you want, I did. 

One thing that I do get, which is apparently fairly common with M.E. patients according to an M.E. specialist I saw a couple of years ago, is post prandial hypoglycaemia (which I hope I spelled right!). Basically it means that a few hours after eating my blood sugar levels dip but, instead of just feeling hungry I actually almost faint. I say almost because I’ve always eaten something sweet when it gets to that point rather than test if I actually would. It’s like the effect diabetic people get but without diabetes (yes I have been tested for it, multiple times). This Low GL diet is aimed at getting your blood sugar levels even rather than a yoyo effect of highs and lows which can make you feel worse energy wise, never a good thing when energy is at a premium like with chronic illness, which has a knock on effect with energy, fat burning and generally feeling healthier.

A diet that was recommended to me is the low glycaemic index (GI) diet, where every food has a glycaemic index value with the sugar content compared to pure glucose (with that being 100) so you stick to foods with a lower number so your blood sugar doesn’t get highs and lows as often. I did try this diet for a while but it was very confusing and I couldn’t find any actual guidance on the best balance besides just eating the low numbers so I ended up giving up as it didn’t seem to have any real effect. The new diet I found, called the Low Glycaemic Load diet, uses a similar idea but it records the amount of useable sugar and how quickly it gets into your blood and gives you a portion size to get the right amount which makes it so much easier to follow. 

I always feel odd using the word diet in the original sense of it being the food you eat rather than going on a diet but that’s how I’m meaning it in this post, the food not the losing weight version. Although this is a diet and can be used to lose weight if you want this is not how I’m using it. I know I could do with losing some weight but I have decided that this year it’s more about focusing on my health and getting to the point where my energy levels are more even and I feel better in myself. If I do lose weight then it’s good but I’m not focussing on that when I’m doing this diet if that makes sense. 

I’m not going to do a very in depth post about the ins and outs of the diet as I can’t explain the science and everything all that well. If you want to learn about it more in detail than this post then I’ve found the Low GL-Diet Bible by Patrick Holford has good explanations in it and there’s quite a lot of recipes in there too. There are other books by him but that one comes in a kindle version too which brings the price down quite a lot if you’re just looking to read up on it. I’m also going to stick a few links at the bottom of the post that I found helpful when I was reading up on it before I bought the book. They’re much better at explaining the science and how it works properly than I am! 

The main idea behind the diet is to have food that releases sugar or carbohydrate energy slowly and keeps your blood sugar levels even. It’s also important to have a mix of protein and carbohydrate in a meal or snack rather than having one or the other so you don’t feel hungry and they somehow seem to help each other with the slower release of energy.

What I love about this diet is that a lot of the foods in it I already have in the cupboard. Some of the foods are pretty specialist but things like wholemeal versions of things, low sugar, fruit, veg, fish and chicken are already at home so I can start out with the food aspect of it almost straight away. There are some things in the diet that you’re meant to have every day that haven’t arrived as I’ve ordered them but I have started on the food side of this. There’s a multivitamin recommended for you to take daily and a specific mix of ground seeds to have in breakfasts but other than that I’ve struck to the food ideas.

As far as main meals go it’s fairly easy, the main thing I’ve found it getting the proportions right. The idea is having none quarter protein, one quarter starchy veg and half of the food is non starchy veg which can me unlimited, some of these are obvious like lettuce but there’s a good range on the list they give. Some of the portions they give seem huge, the porridge for example says a serving for one but I have over two days, and I’ve definitely not felt hungry on this one, or if I have it’s passed so it’s probably more a psychological thing rather than actual hunger. It’s also important to have the snacks through the day so it keeps your blood sugar levels even, it also helps with the hunger side of it.

One part of the diet, or lifestyle around the diet, it says to include that I haven’t been able to is the physical exercise part. It says do 15 minutes a day that frets your heart rate up which I just can’t do how I feel at the moment but as weight loss isn’t my main goal I’m not too bothered if missing out on that means I syntax the same weight but feel better energy wise. Also, if the energy boost aspect of the diet works maybe I’ll be able to actually start doing exercises more. I do toning ones anyway to keep my muscles from getting achy from just walking when I go shopping or something but I’m planning on doing a 15 or 20 minute walk most days when I’ve got the energy so that’ll help. Either way if you have M.E. this is definitely part that you need to know your limits on. You do with all of it but don’t just jump right in to exercising every day if you don’t already.

I have been doing this for nearly a week and so far I have actually found that I am craving sugar a lot less than I would and I don’t get the shaky feeling in the middle of the afternoon so it seems to be doing the job as far as levelling my blood sugars out. One thing that surprised me is that I’ve always had to have my coffee strong and pretty sweet to really enjoy it, even since going decaf. I’d have two heaped teaspoons of sugar in a very big mug, think those oversized coffee cups in Friends, but now I’ve got it down to one level teaspoon and enjoying it without having to really ween myself off and everything seems to taste sweeter to me, I guess it’s the lack of sugar in everything. 

I’ve had no problems with sticking to it hunger wise but I have found that there are times in the afternoon where my stomach feels empty. This isn’t a bad thing but it does make my body suddenly panic and think I’m going to get the shaky feeling, I just have to know to go through it and have a biscuit or something sweet nearby in case I actually do feel shaky. I know it’s not a part of the diet but I would rather do it this way and see if I can go through that feeling than eat something extra. So far I have just gone through it so it’s been a case of retraining my brain and body with that. 

So far so good but, as I said at the start, if you’re thinking about trying it then do your research and check with your GP or M.E. specialist and see if they’ve heard of it or think it’s worth trying. If nothing else it might help them in the future when talking to other patients with a similar condition if it works out for you. This is especially important if you’re on medication, I know that at least one of the tablets I take in the morning say not to take with anything containing zinc so I’ll have to take the multivitamins at a later time than them. Definitely don’t want anything interfering with anything you’re doing that’s helping you already.

After trying so many different things over the years for M.E. it’s refreshing to find something new that’s easy to try, doesn’t cost a lot and isn’t a huge change to what I already do but might have good results. It seems like everything out there is claiming to be a miracle cure for something or other so I’m taking the reviews on this one with a pinch of salt but you never know, it’s might work and it’s definitely worth trying something new.

I’m not sure if anyone would be interested but I’m thinking of maybe doing an update when I’ve been on it longer, see whether the effects are longer lasting or if it’s a case of feeling like this because it’s something new I’m trying. Also, I have taken a note of my weight and measurements as it will be interesting to see if it does change, or in the future if I start to record them or want to compare it’d be a bit hard without the starting point!

Have any of you guys heard of this, or tried it before? Or anything similar? It’s probably not a unique diet with keeping blood sugar levels even. Did it work for you and do you have any tips or websites/books worth checking out about it?

If you want to read more here’s some of the links I found useful. It seems to be one of those diets that recommended for a few illnesses so please ignore other information on the websites if it’s based on a specific condition, unless you have it in which case maybe it’s something that will help with that problem too. I would recommend doing your own research too, these quite a lot out there on the low GI diet but I found it harder to find things on the Low GL one. Maybe you’ll find something I didn’t that’s a better resource that you could leave in the comments for others to find. A great explanation on the difference between GI and GL Some examples of low GL alternatives to different foods Has a bit of an interview from Patrick Holford so not the most unbiased information but does answer questions on what it is and how it works Has a list of foods to avoid and eat, though it’s mainly about low GI rather than GL the foods are similar A basic overview of the diet and links to some books Recipes so you get an idea of what you can eat in the diet Patrick Holford’s website has some interesting blog posts and news articles about the diet and information on what it is. If you do decide to do the 100% health test thing that’s linked it’s really not aimed at people with chronic illnesses like M.E. as mum did it to see what it was and a lot of the questions would give very low results if I was answering them. It might be interesting to do but I know that I’d score very low going by the exercise, memory and general health questions so it won’t be a fun read at the end. 

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