Low Carb Diet Side Effects
What Are The Side Effects Of A Low Carb Diet And What Can You Do About It?
Low-carb diets (like the Keto Diet, for example) are really popular right now, especially when it comes to losing weight in a hurry and melting fat like a furnace.
At the same time, a lot of people have myths and misconceptions influencing the way they go about a low-carb approach – myths and misconceptions that not only holdback the success that they could be enjoying, but also put them at risk for some pretty significant low-carb diet side effects.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
A lot of the popularity of the low-carb diet comes down to how simple and straightforward it is to implement.
After all, all you really have to do with this dietary approach is restrict your carbohydrates as much as possible – essentially putting your body through a carb withdrawal.
Carbohydrates are largely responsible for packing on so much of the excess weight that so many people are carrying around these days. Combine that with our sedentary lifestyles and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster that has made obesity and diabetes two of the most dangerous mass health epidemics in our modern world.
By restricting your carbohydrate intake (and doing your level best to all but eliminate carbs from your diet altogether) you’re able to “starve” your body of this essential building block of fact completely.
This forces your metabolism to kick into high gear, melt fat from your body as an energy and fuel source, and help you lead a healthier life by reducing inflammation, evening out your blood sugar levels, and so much more.
But while there are a host of benefits to this kind of dietary approach, the truth of the matter is there are some significant side effects of no carbs, too.
Let’s dig a little deeper into those side effects right now.
Side Effects of a Low Carb Diet
Low Carb “Flu”
One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when switching to a low-carb diet is what’s known as the “low-carb flu”.
One of the most common symptoms of carb withdrawal, when you go from a carbohydrate rich diet to an almost total restriction of this nutrient your body is going to go through some serious biochemical changes.
It’s not at all uncommon to feel wiped out, exhausted, cranky, fatigued, nauseous, and confused for anywhere between two and seven days immediately after you make the switch.
The severity of most low-carb flu situations has a lot to do with your unique biochemistry and the amount of carbs you were consuming on a regular basis before you made the switch – but almost everybody goes through this process.
Cramping (particularly in your lower extremities) is usually a pretty minor side effect of the low-carb approach, but it can also turn into one of the long-term low-carb diet side effects as well if you aren’t addressing it properly.
Plenty painful when it becomes chronic, the only way to effectively combat low-carb cramping is to flood your body with as much water as possible as well as extra magnesium, potassium, and zinc. There are a lot of multivitamins out there that will help you do exactly this, pushing back against cramping and all but eliminating it entirely.
Constipation is a possible side effect of the low-carb approach, too – but again it’s one of the milder side effects that you may have to contend with and one that can be addressed pretty easily.
Your digestive system is going to need a little bit of time to adjust to your new dietary restrictions after making the switch.
In the meantime, you want to drink plenty of fluids, get the right amount of sodium into your body on a day-to-day basis, and eat high quality sources of vegetables (especially fibrous vegetables) to help you become more “regular”.
Believe it or not, a lot of folks that make the switch to a low-carb dietary approach report one of the most common low-carb diet side effects to be a major changed the way that their breath smells.
Many of these folks report their breath smelling like nail polish remover, and that’s because your body is going to be producing a lot more acetone than it did in the past.
While this side effect can be a little bit uncomfortable and embarrassing it also means that your body is melting fat around-the-clock, converting fat to ketones, and that the low-carb diet is working the way you’d hoped it would.
A somewhat elevated heart rate is pretty commonplace when you go with the low-carb approach, especially for the first seven days to 14 days or so (and maybe even a little bit longer than that).
Dehydration and a lack of sodium can contribute to these heart palpitations, which is why it’s a good idea to make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and getting enough salt in your daily diet to combat and counteract this side effect.
Going hand-in-hand with the “low-carb flu” that we highlighted above, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to see some reduction in your overall physical capabilities for about 14 days after you make the switch to this diet, too.
Again, it has a lot to do with the fact that your body isn’t getting as much fluid as it used to, that your sodium levels are down, and that core vitamins and minerals may be lacking.
Combine that with all of the different biochemical and hormonal changes happening as your body switches to ketones as an energy source with the low-carb diet and you’re practically guaranteed to feel at least a little bit wiped out with normal activity levels compared to how you felt previously – at least for a short while.
Why Do Side Effects Occur?
Anytime you make a radical change to the way that your body has been fueled you are going to be shaking up your internal biochemistry, hormonal dumps, and a whole host of other biological triggers that either weren’t operating at the same levels previously.
We touched on why many of the specific low-carb side effects highlighted above occur, but when you get right down to it the bottom line is that you are going to be changing the main fuel source for your body from carbohydrates and glucose to ketones – and that’s going to change pretty much everything about the way that your body operates from a biochemical and digestive standpoint.
Are the Side Effects of Low Carb Diets Dangerous?
While it isn’t ever fun to deal with low-carb diet muscle pain, low-carb diet side effects headaches can bring about, or other common low-carb side effects altogether the odds are pretty good that you aren’t going to have to worry about any serious side effects threatening your short or long-term health.
Truth be told, our bodies weren’t ever designed to consume carbohydrate rich diets.
Our ancient ancestors were out there eating anything they could hunt or gather and they didn’t find a lot of “bread bushes” along the way. Carbohydrate heavy diets are very much a more modern convenience than the way that our digestive system is programmed, and while eating carb rich diets feels pretty normal it definitely isn’t the way that we are set up.
By making the jump back to a more “ancient ancestor” approach to diet and nutrition you’re able to kind of reboot and reset your body. You may deal with some side effects for a couple of weeks, but after that you’ll look and feel fantastic.
How Can We Resolve Low Carb Diet Side Effects?
The overwhelming majority of side effects that we highlighted above can be significantly curtailed by drinking a lot more water on a daily basis (maybe more than you have ever consumed in the past) and supplementing with sodium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Obviously, you’re also going to want to be supplementing with other core vitamins (especially Vitamin C and Vitamin D) but those four minerals are going to go a long way towards calling down any of the side effects you may have been contending with – especially if you’re flooding your body with plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
The Wrap Up
At the end of the day, the odds are pretty good that you’re going to have to contend with side effects that aren’t all that pleasant in the first week or two after you make the switch to the low-carb diet.
Yes, it’s possible that the low-carb diet causes headaches, fatigue, constipation, cramping pretty frequently.
But almost all of the side effects are short-term in nature, will disappear as your body adjusts to this new way of eating and the new ketones fuel source, and can be mitigated or eliminated entirely with proper supplementation and hydration.