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Communicating with Your Doctor About Low Carb Eating


Updated January 06, 2008

You’ve heard it said, and it’s true – it’s a good idea to see your doctor before making a major change in your diet. However, sometimes people hesitate before asking their doctors about low-carb diets. Perhaps they have heard that many doctors don’t believe in them. Perhaps they are afraid their doctor will think they are going on a “dangerous fad diet”. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

Don’t Assume a Negative Reaction

More and more, doctors are catching on to the fact that many of their patients can become healthier by eating fewer carbohydrates. Examples (all different locations and doctors):
18 months ago, my husband went to the doctor to get the results of his blood tests. Because of his high triglycerides, and slightly high blood glucose, the doctor said “cut back on carbs”. My husband followed my nutritional advice and began to exercise. Today, he is 50 lbs lighter and all of his bloodwork looks great.

A female middle-aged friend was diagnosed with high blood pressure and was advised to begin following the “Protein Power” plan. Three years later, she still eats a moderately low carb diet and is 15 lbs lighter, with normal blood pressure.

A doctor told Susan, an overweight middle-aged woman, to “stop eating white stuff”. With that vague suggestion, she stopped eating foods with sugar, white flour, white rice, and potatoes. That was one year ago. The first thing she noticed was that she had much more control over her eating. She proceeded to lose 20 lbs and feels great.

I think it's interesting that even though only one of these doctors recommended a specific low carb diet, the patients followed their doctor’s advice with excellent results.

Inform yourself

If you take the time to learn about low carb diets, your doctor will have more faith in your ability to carry it out. Read at least one book about diets with reduced carbohydrates.

Engage in a Dialog

If your doctor seems hesitant, find out why. The most common worry a doctor may have is that your diet will lack vegetables, fruits, and fiber, and be high in saturated fat. If this is the case, address these concerns directly. Explain that you want to cut down on sugars and starches, but that you will be eating plenty of vegetables and some fruit. If saturated fat is a concern, you can assure the doctor that it isn’t necessary to eat a lot of saturated fat when cutting carbohydrates. Alternatively, instead of naming a specific diet, describe the changes you plan to make. I find that when I tell people, including doctors, that sugars and starches aren’t good for my body, they rarely associate that with an unhealthy diet.

Explain Your Diet History

If your doctor recommends a diet that hasn't worked for you in the past, tell the doctor that and explain why. Be specific. Example: “When I tried X, I felt hungry and irritable a lot of the time. I would like to see if cutting back on carbohydrates gets better results.”

Bring Reading Material

There are quite a few doctor-oriented medical articles about the values of low carbohydrate diets. For example, you could download this article by Volek and Westman (PDF file), print it out, and show it to your doctor (or email it).

Suggest A Supervised Trial

One of the advantages of seeing a doctor before changing your diet is that you can get basic blood tests done, and then check out what effects the diet has on health indicators like cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose. Even skeptical doctors will usually agree to a trial of a new diet when they can track these results.

What if my doctor is totally against cutting carbohydrates no matter what I say?

If your doctor won’t even agree to a medically-supervised trial, consider getting another opinion. Ask around to see if you can find someone who is more likely to be sympathetic.

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