The low carb flu is not quite what it sounds like, but is named this because the symptoms can manifest themselves in a remarkably similar way as the traditional flu. Low carb flu can occur when there is a dietary change from one that is carb-heavy to a diet with a dramatically reduced carb intake. Common symptoms are:
- Brain fog
- Body aches
What is happening is that the body burns carbs for energy and when a diet plentiful in carbs is changed to one with greatly reduced carbs, the body reacts. With no carbs to burn as previously, the body doesn’t adjust immediately to burning fat instead. This dietary change can initially lead to an extreme hunger reaction even when enough food has been eaten. The body, however, is still craving carbs to produce energy and will need time to adjust to different dietary nutrients in order to burn fat properly.
So, will this happen on the Paleo diet? There is no guaranteed answer, but it can occur. This is true simply because most people have an imbalanced diet that is high in carb consumption. The change to a diet lacking in carbs will prove a challenge to the body, at least in the short term. However, once the period of adjustment is over, your body will begin to function metabolically healthy.
You will definitely feel the difference and lose your carb cravings. If, however, your body functions relatively well in burning both carbs and fat even before switching to a Paleo diet, you may have little to no problems.
There’s no need to suffer through an uncomfortable episode of low carb flu. In fact, the intensity of the low carb flu that you experience will depend on a number of factors. One thing you can do is to maintain some level of carb intake when you switch to the Paleo diet. The other factor to remember is that the Paleo diet isn’t necessarily a low carb diet! It can be, but you have a choice over that, so you can avoid the low carb flu completely if you prefer.
Paleo Leap states, ” For people who are metabolically unhealthy, a low-carb version of Paleo can be very therapeutic, but you don’t have to go from 0 to 60 overnight. A better strategy is to step down gradually. First, try plugging a day or two of your current diet into any nutrition calculator online, to see how many carbs you already eat. Then start slowly pushing that number down while increasing fat and protein intake. Try to replace grain carbs with Paleo carbs as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to eat those potatoes! This will help your body adjust without the need for a brutal week of “carb flu.”
If you do experience some symptoms of low carb flu, they can be greatly reduced by gradually changing your diet, drinking lots of water, increase your fat intake, exercising and making sure to get enough electrolytes (salt and potassium). You can expect an episode of low carb flu to last from a couple days to over a week, depending on the various factors already discussed.
But, if you’re relatively healthy and have eaten a pretty balanced diet before you switch to a Paleo eating plan, you may not have any symptoms at all. You can also control your transition by easing into your new diet and realizing that eating Paleo isn’t just a diet…it’s a healthy lifestyle for the long term.