The low carb flu is not quite what it sounds like, but it is named because the symptoms of the low carb flu can manifest themselves in a remarkably similar way to the traditional flu.
This occurs when someone switches their diet from one that is processed-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. This is not necessarily true.
Carbs or Fat For Energy?
What is happening is that, when eating our usual diet of many processed carbs, the body will burn carbs for energy. When an individual switches from a diet plentiful in carbs to one with greatly reduced carbs, the body is perplexed. It is used to burning carbs for energy and doesn’t quickly 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 it is trying to use carbs for energy.
Fortunately, the body is not meant to rely solely on carbs for energy. In the absence of carbs, it is perfectly capable of burning fat for energy – the problem is that many of our bodies are quite out of this habit. When we switch to a low carb diet, there is a period of adjustment as our bodies remember what it is they’re supposed to do!
Will I Catch This “Flu”?
So, will this happen to you on the Paleo diet? There is no guaranteed answer, but the chances are reasonably high. Most people have an imbalanced diet that is heavily weighted towards carbs. The change to a diet lacking in (processed) carbs will prove a challenge to our bodies, at least in the short term. However, once that period of adjustment is over, you will feel the difference and lose your carb cravings. Imagine your computer is running slowly and you give it a reboot – that is what is happening inside you.
The level of the low carb flu that you experience will depend on a number of factors, but that doesn’t mean that you should let yourself become seriously ill while going through the process. If you feel yourself losing energy and feeling badly, it may be better to maintain some level of carb intake as you switch to the Paleo way of eating.
The other factor to remember is that the Paleo diet isn’t necessarily a low carb diet! You’ll definitely want to get away from processed carbs, but remember that fruits and veggies are carbs, too. So it can be a low-carb diet, and you have a choice over that, so you can avoid the low carb flu completely if you want to!