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    driver8's Avatar
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    Primal Causing Vision Problems?

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    Primal eating is causing me vision problems. Specifically, whenever I start eating primally, within 48 hours, I am start having accommodation problems with my eyes. I get a lot of strain and headaches. Driving is the worst, but it happens in any situation where I have to rapidly change focal distance (e.g. crowded rooms). If I add back in wheat products, my eyes return to "normal" very quickly.

    My doctors (ophthalmologist and general) don't think it is blood sugar related (it's not high when eating a conventional diet) or vitamin problems (would take longer than 48 hours to show up). All other blood work is normal.

    The theory we're working on now (and it could be a stretch) is that I'm sensitive to gluten in that it suppresses my serotonin levels. This makes sense, because improvement of low serotonin levels is one thing I really notice while eating primally. The connection to my eyes could be that a side effect of SSRIs (which also boost serotonin levels) is the same vision problems I'm having. This is the most reasonable explanation we've come up with to account for the rapid onset of the problem when I cut gluten and it going away when I add gluten back in. Note: i get the problem whether I'm high or low carb level primal, so I'm pretty certain it is the gluten.

    I want to eat primally. Other than the vision issues, it is very positive for me... rapid, consistent weight loss, improved mood, sustained energy, easy to do. I ate primally for 6 months last year and lost 80 pounds. I had the vision problem the whole time. It was only when I stopped, that I made the connection to diet. I've started many times since and only make it a week or so before I revert back to conventional eating to "fix" my eyes.

    Has anyone else experienced this? Did it go away? Perhaps I need to set up a schedule to ween myself off gluten more slowly than going cold turkey. If I determine that I need to keep some gluten in my diet, are there less bad versions?

    Edited to add: I don't add anything to my diet when I go primal, just removing things--refined grains, sugar.
    Last edited by driver8; 04-16-2013 at 06:21 AM.

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    So you are on SSRIs? You could try weaning off of them and switching to amino acids instead, like L-Trytophan or 5-HTP. Check out the book "The Mood Cure" for more details. On a primal diet, you may not need anything for mood support at all, just good food, but it will probably take some time for your body to adjust.

    "Less bad" would be sprouted grains, I think, but ultimately, you should get off the gluten. There is no need for it.

    If you are not adding anything to your diet, how are you eating more carbs? What is "high carb primal" to you?
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    No, I'm not on any SSRIs. The theory my doc has is that eliminating gluten boosts serotonin just like SSRIs and that the vision problems could be a similar to those caused by SSRIs. Going primal does improve my mood. It is one of the most dramatic (and quick) impacts. One that I particularly like. My mood/anxiety is pretty bad when I eat conventionally. Pretty sure that my bad eating habits are in part an effort to regulate my serotonin with sugar.

    Primal is entirely beneficial for me except for these vision problems. I started a Whole30 last Friday and yesterday, I had a splitting headache around my eyes. Ended up spending most of the afternoon/evening with a warm compress over my eyes. I know I will benefit from primal (in terms of general health), but I also know that if I eat a pizza for dinner tonight, my eyes will be normal tomorrow.

    I've done primal anywhere from <50g carb/day to around 200g. When at the higher end carbs are from root vegetables, fruit, and some rice.

    When I eat primally, it is about eliminating the stuff I don't need (bread, bakery stuff, ice cream, lots of sugar) that I eat between meals. My meals stay about the same (grilled chicken on a salad instead of sandwich, for example). When not primal, I eat a lot more simple/refined carbs and calories than I need.

    I wear glasses/contacts. The problems are not one of prescription (i.e. I still see 20/20 when I'm having the problems). It is one of comfort and strain.

    It's been hard to stick with this despite knowing the long term benefits when my vision problems are so immediate.


    Edit to add: The vision issues may have nothing to do with serotonin. That's just the most likely of the theories I've discovered. It has something to do with what is removed when I go primal. That's all I'm certain of. Can't figure out the mechanism.
    Last edited by driver8; 04-16-2013 at 07:48 AM.

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    Lewis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by driver8 View Post
    The theory we're working on now (and it could be a stretch) is that I'm sensitive to gluten in that it suppresses my serotonin levels.
    It sounds like a stretch to me, too.

    Dunno. It may depend on what "primal" means to you. For example, if it means mega-doses of vitamin D, then I guess that could mean that your vitamin A intake is too low in respect of how much D you're getting.

    And doubtless there are factors that may play a part that I don't even know about.

    I'd ask around and see what responses you get.

    Robb Wolf would be one place to ask:

    Contact Us

    I'd also try Jack Kruse. He actually has an "Ask Jack" forum. I know many paleo aficionados don't like him -- I don't know why, and am not sure whether he's to blame or whether they are. There's a weird paleo-lady -- Megan, Melissa, Madeleine, something like that -- who pursues him round the blogosphere with insults and why I don't know. Maybe she's obsessed with him, like in Play Misty for Me:

    PLAY MISTY FOR ME - YouTube

    But Jack has an interesting approach and a very sharp mind. I'd try what he has to say:

    Ask Jack

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    driver8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis View Post
    It sounds like a stretch to me, too.

    Dunno. It may depend on what "primal" means to you. For example, if it means mega-doses of vitamin D, then I guess that could mean that your vitamin A intake is too low in respect of how much D you're getting.
    Thanks for the thoughts. Primal means eliminating grains and refined sugar.

    For example, prior to starting the Whole30 on Friday, I was eating like crap (fast food, pizza, baked goods, etc.). Basically the anti-primal diet. My eyes were fine. Started Whole30 friday (no grains, no dairy, no sugar) and have been 100% compliant since. Vision problems and headaches started Sunday and were really bad yesterday.My medications and supplements were the same before and after.

    I know from multiple personal experiments that if I were to eat cake or pizza today, my eyes will be normal tomorrow. I don't think a vitamin imbalance or deficiency could happen so quick.

    I don't think it is blood sugar as my fasting level when not eating primal is about 105 and mid 80s when eating primally. The docs don't think that is a big enough shift to have this dramatic an impact.

    I don't think it is my carb level as it happens whether I'm at an aggressive <50g/day level or if I'm eating rice and dark chocolate and getting 250g/day.

    When not eating primally, my carb load is pretty high and of course, there's gluten involved.

    I'm stumped as to the mechanism at play here. Most everything I read doesn't seem that it could happen that fast. That's why the doc mentioned serotonin issues as my symptoms are not an uncommon side effect to people starting SSRIs. That, and I get dramatic mood improvements when I eat primally (the other impact of SSRIs). If not for the vision issues, I would love this WOE. Better mood, better energy, easy weight loss... what's not to love? The metaphor I've been using is that primal is like a great pair of shoes that would eliminate all my knee and back problems, but i have to keep this stone under my heal.

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    I wonder... You could make an experiment of this. Get some vital wheat gluten or whatever, have a tablespoon of it. Does that resolve the vision problems?

    When you talk about headaches, I think you might be experiencing something like a migraine and not having problems with your eyes.

    I also wonder if your salt intake has changed. You say you simply cut out bread, but if you do that, you may be working on a calorie deficit. You say that even eating more carbs, the problem persists, but have you tracked to see if you are actually getting close to an adequate amount of food?
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    Likely that you need a Magnesium supplement. Grains are a reasonable source of Magnesium, so it may be the culprit here.

    It doesn't hang out that long in the body, so you should see a pretty quick response.

    Magnesium does wonders for headaches. Try 400-600 mg Mag Glycinate (or Citrate, if you have constipation) capsules before bed.
    Last edited by Dragonfly; 04-16-2013 at 01:06 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by namelesswonder View Post
    I wonder... You could make an experiment of this. Get some vital wheat gluten or whatever, have a tablespoon of it. Does that resolve the vision problems?

    When you talk about headaches, I think you might be experiencing something like a migraine and not having problems with your eyes.

    I also wonder if your salt intake has changed. You say you simply cut out bread, but if you do that, you may be working on a calorie deficit. You say that even eating more carbs, the problem persists, but have you tracked to see if you are actually getting close to an adequate amount of food?
    I'm sure my sodium intact is down. That could be at play. My calorie intact (even if reasonable) is a lot lower than my less thank optimal previous diet. I'll track for a week or so to see where my numbers are. Thanks


    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonfly View Post
    Likely that you need a Magnesium supplement. Grains are a reasonable source of Magnesium, so it may be the culprit here.

    It doesn't hang out that long in the body, so you should see a pretty quick response.

    Magnesium does wonders for headaches. Try 400-600 mg Mag Glycinate (or Citrate, if you have constipation) capsules before bed.
    I have some magnesium around. I'll try that. Thank you.
    Last edited by driver8; 04-16-2013 at 05:27 PM.

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    What is the longest you have been primal? It is possible this is just a "carb flu" type symptom for you that will just resolve itself in time. Also, dehydration, loss of salt, and magnesium can all occur during the early transition to primal. So I would add in magnesium supplement and some homemade chicken stock with plenty of sea salt.
    Using low lectin/nightshade free primal to control autoimmune arthritis. (And lost 50 lbs along the way )

    http://www.krispin.com/lectin.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by jammies View Post
    What is the longest you have been primal? It is possible this is just a "carb flu" type symptom for you that will just resolve itself in time. Also, dehydration, loss of salt, and magnesium can all occur during the early transition to primal. So I would add in magnesium supplement and some homemade chicken stock with plenty of sea salt.
    Seven months. The issue never really resolved during that time. I didn't connect it to the way I was eating (thought is was just getting older) till I stopped eating primally and took up all my old habits. The vision corrected pretty quickly. Since then, I get motivated to start again, but I usually only make it a week or so before I give up (which relieves the eye strain/headaches).

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