You Might Be Carb Sensitive If…

By Joan Kent, PhD

There are simple ways to tell if you’re more sensitive to carbohydrates than the average person — other than an avid fondness for Oreos, for example.

This “carbohydrate sensitivity,” discussed in science journals, is about insulin.

It shows up as an excessive insulin release after eating sugar and other carbs. Insulin helps to transfer glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream. That brings blood sugar down. Lots of insulin — say, after eating lots of Oreos — can bring blood sugar down very far, very fast.

The response to that fast glucose drop might be cravings for foods that will bring glucose back up quickly. Sugar or other simple carbs would do the trick.

Another response to the glucose drop might be hunger, so the carb-sensitive person could both crave sugar and eat quite a bit of it.

Could You Be Sensitive To Sugar Specifically?

Yes! A related phenomenon is sugar sensitivity. It combines carb sensitivity and brain chemistry.

People who are sugar sensitive release extra-high insulin when they eat sugar (or other carbs). They also seem to start with lower-than-normal brain levels of 3 chemicals: endorphins (beta-endorphin), dopamine, and serotonin.

Since all three chemicals are linked to mood, the low baseline levels may make sugar-sensitive folks feel crummier than normal in everyday life. That in turn may make them susceptible to seeking a way out — something that will change that crummy feeling — a window of normalcy, if you will.

Eating sugar would fill the need in that regard.

When a sugar-sensitive person eats sugar, there’s an exaggerated release of insulin AND an exaggerated release or production of all three of the brain chemicals above.

The high release of endorphins and dopamine makes the sugar very reinforcing and likely to be craved again in the near future. Meanwhile, high serotonin — produced because of the high insulin release — causes some strong seeking behaviors. It might explain a 2:00 am Oreo-and-ice cream run to 7–11.

But, other than a partiality to ice cream or Oreos, how can you know if you’re one of the folks who react more sensitively to carbs and/or sugar?

5 Ways To Tell If You’re Carb Sensitive

You might be carb sensitive if any of these apply to you:

• family history of alcoholism

• family history of diabetes — including mature onset

• family history of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

• family history of obesity

  • family history of hypertension — even one parent with high blood pressure can make you more sensitive to carbs.

5 Ways To Tell If You’re Sugar Sensitive

You might be sugar sensitive if any of these apply to you:

• family history of alcoholism

• family history of substance abuse

• family history of depression

• family history of other mood disorders

• personal history of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

What Difference Does Any Of This Make?

Maybe you’re okay with the food quirks and preferences you have — and that’s perfectly fine. But maybe you’re unaware of how some of the foods you tend to eat often may be affecting you. And maybe you’d be interested in knowing more about that.

Carb sensitivity and sugar sensitivity can affect your health, your appetite, your moods, your productivity, your sleep — and much more. Those are topics for a future post, coming soon.

If you’d like help with a nutrition issue — sugar or something else — please visit and request a free Food Breakthru Session. No obligation!

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