Symptoms of Carbohydrate Intolerance


by Dr. Craig A. Maxwell

When you eat carbohydrates, your body should break them down into basic sugar molecules so they can be transformed into energy. If you have carbohydrate intolerance, the enzymes needed to metabolize carbohydrates (salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase, maltose, and alpha-galactosidase) are not as abundant as they should be.


Symptoms of Carbohydrate Intolerance


  • Belly bloating after a meal (especially of sweet, starchy foods)
  • Upper GI pain
  • Excessive flatulence
  • Constant hunger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weak legs and knees after eating
  • Frequent yeast infections


Reheated Carbohydrates May Worsen Your Symptoms

If it seems your symptoms worsen after you eat a re-heated starchy meal, it isn’t in your head. Re-heating a starchy food changes its molecular structure, causing it to turn into a “resistant starch “. This type of starch cannot be digested by the small intestine but rather passes into the large intestine, where it is broken down. This often produces offensive gas, abdominal cramping, and bloating.


Carbohydrate Malabsorption and Insulin Resistance


Carbohydrate intolerance can result in a condition called hyperinsulinemia, which causes your body to become ineffective at managing the sugars and starches in your diet. When you eat a carbohydrate, say a piece of bread or a slice of cake, your pancreas should release just the right amount of insulin to assimilate and process that sugar.


Hyperinsulinemia causes your pancreas to release too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrate consumed. Continued release of excess insulin results in sugar being processed too quickly and blood glucose levels to dip to noticeable lows. This condition is called hypoglycemia and often accounts for that jittery, anxious, (and even angry) feeling you get when you don’t eat regularly.


Over time, more and more insulin is needed to process even small amounts of carbohydrates. Eventually, the insulin becomes ineffective at delivering the sugar into your cells where the nourishment is needed. 


This is when insulin resistance develops.


The Health Risks of Untreated Carbohydrate Intolerance


In addition to the development of insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia can also cause your adrenal glands to over-produce a stress hormone called cortisol. This can result in a condition called adrenal burnout or adrenal fatigue.


Once all these metabolic and hormonal systems are off balance, it can leave you vulnerable to the following chronic health conditions:


  • Hypertension


According to a study published by The American Heart Association, “There is increasing evidence that insulin resistance/hyperinsulinemia may play a key role in the pathogenesis of hypertension in both subtle and overt abnormalities of carbohydrate metabolism.”


  • High Blood Cholesterol


Your triglycerides (blood fats) often become elevated due to excessive carbohydrate consumption along with inability to properly metabolize it.


  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome


Your liver uses a specific type of enzyme system to convert cholesterol into a master steroidal hormone called pregnenolone, which is responsible for the production of hormones such as progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone. An imbalance in these hormones may result in polycystic ovarian syndrome.


  • Chronic Pain and Inflammation


Lack of sufficient nutrients and overtaxed adrenals may result in chronic muscle and joint inflammation.


  • Type II Diabetes


Adult-onset diabetes has been directly linked to carbohydrate intolerance.


  • Stroke


According to Stroke Magazine, published by the American Heart Association, hyperglycemia, both recognized and unrecognized is considered a significant risk factor for stroke.


  • Obesity

If you are obese and have difficulty losing weight, carbohydrate malabsorption may be to blame.


  • Heart Disease


Despite what you may have been lead to believe, high insulin levels, not high cholesterol levels, are the most common indicators of impending heart disease.


Treat Carbohydrate Malabsorption Naturally


Reduce Dietary Starches


Reducing your intake of dietary starches can help you determine if carbohydrate intolerance is causing your symptoms. Slowly wean off highly-processed foods, especially wheat pasta, refined-flour bread, pre-packaged cookies, cakes, pies, and the like. Trade them in for grass-fed beef, organic poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and healthy fats like coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil.


Take the Right Supplements


  • Digestive Enzymes


A digestive enzyme supplement containing pancreatin and betaine can help you better digestive carbohydrates. Pancreatin helps supplement the salivary amylase necessary to digest these foods. Betaine increases your stomach acid naturally, which improves your overall digestion. An enzyme containing alpha-galactosidase will also help you digest both simple and complex carbohydrates.


  • Probiotics


Studies have shown that probiotics containing lactobacillus acidophilus can help reduce the digestive discomfort associated with carbohydrate malabsorption. It’s important not to overdose on probiotics, especially if you have trouble digesting carbs.


Excessive doses of probiotics for those with carbohydrate intolerance can cause a rare, neurological form of lactic acidosis called D-lactic acidosis. Symptoms include altered mental status, loss of balance, and slurred speech with an appearance of alcohol intoxication.


If you suspect you have carbohydrate intolerance, getting it under control is very important. Eat less carbohydrates, more protein, and use digestive enzymes and probiotics daily. Start keeping a food journal so you can better pinpoint your reactions to the foods you eat.


You can also go to Direct Labs and pick up the Alcat Comprehensive Wellness 1-Kit. This kit will reveal exactly which foods and chemicals you might be sensitive to, and how severely. Just take it to the nearest LabCorp office for a quick blood drawing and they pack it and send it off for you.


You should receive your results in 7-10 business days!


Click to Order Now
Click to Order Your Test Now




  1. Hi, i would like your oppinion. I have been to many doctors and im just not getting any results,and im at the end of my rope! About five years ago i started rapidly gaining weight after a heart attack (i was 29 and i was 5/10 220lbs) i started gaining the weight so fast that within a yrar i was over 100lbs heavier! They kept testing me and couldnt figure out what was causing it. About three years later they said i had thyroid desease.. They put me on synthroid but it changed nothing. They later told me i was pre-diabetic,and put me on metformin,it didnt help with my weight either. Im skipping so much,id have to rite a book to tell u everything! But its been five yeats now,im on all kinds of meds,im sooo tired/weak all the time,my body aches,i have glands swollen under my chin,on my neck,on the sides of my breast,in my groin area,my fingertips on my rite hand tingle and feel like there on fire from time to time,my feet n legs swell so bad i cant find shoes to wear,my belly gets hard as a rock after i eat,the list goes on. I recently went on the adkins diet,well a year ago. I lost about 70 lbs fast,and almost half my symptoms dissapeared.. But as soon as i eat a carb,my feet n legs swell and all those symptoms come i try to stay away from carbs,but now it seams no matter if im strictly no carbs or some,the symptoms wont go away! I need help,idk what to do,and i dont know where to go,i cant seam to find a docter that wants to treat me as a priority. And at this point,i cant handle another day of being so swollen and being sooooo weak,please please help,do u think that i have a carbohydrate intolerence,because i do,but i think there are other things at play. Please give me your thoughts. Thank u

    • Hello Amanda,
      Thank you for sharing this information with me. I am sorry to hear about all you have been through.
      I am available to consult with you by telemedicine (phone) or at our Integrative Medical Center.
      I look forward to helping you!
      Warmest regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

  2. Great article. I suffer from this and have known for a few years. I was not however awaited of any risks associate with this intolerance. Thank you!!


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