What’s the “Low Carb Flu”?

Low Carb Flu - Thermometer


The fact that it’s symptoms can closely resemble traditional flu symptoms is where the term “low carb flu” comes from. In actuality it’s not a real illness, but it can sure feel like one!

This can occur when someone switches their diet from one that is carb-heavy to a diet with a dramatically reduced carb intake. People can experience headaches, tiredness or exhaustion, and an inability to think clearly. Often, people will take to bed thinking their body needs rest.

What’s going on is that, when given a choice, the body will burn carbs for energy. When an individual switches from a diet plentiful in carbs to one with a greatly reduced carbs intake the body becomes somewhat perplexed. It’s used to burning carbohydrate to get it’s energy and doesn’t immediately make the switch to burning fat when no carbs are present. This can lead to an insatiable hunger in someone who should not be hungry, but their body is craving energy and wants carbs to produce energy.

Fortunately, the body does not need to rely solely on carbs for energy. In the absence of carbohydrate, it’s perfectly capable of burning fat for energy… the problem is that most of our bodies are have fallen out of this habit. When we switch to a low carb diet, there’s a period of adjustment as our bodies adjust to using fats as a primary source of energy.

Will this happen on the Paleo diet?

There is no guaranteed that it will, but the chances generally increase with the amount of carbs in someone’s current diet.

Most people have an imbalanced diet that’s heavily weighted towards carb intake. The change to a diet lower in carbs will prove a challenge to our bodies, in the short term. However, once that period of adjustment is over, you’ll feel the difference and find that your carb cravings diminish considerably, if they don’t disappear completely. Imagine your computer is running slowly and you give it a factory reset – that’s kind of what you’re doing to your body.

The level of “low carb flu” symptoms you experience are going vary depending on several factors, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll make yourself ill transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle. You should maintain some level of carb intake when you make the switch (veggies and fruit), particularly if you’re exercising regularly.

The other factor to remember is that the Paleo diet isn’t necessarily a low carb diet anyway! It can be, but you need to decide if that’s right for you and your activity level.

Have you been hit with the “low carb flu”? Tell your tale in the comments below.

And don’t forget to share!