There are a number of people that develop unpleasant symptoms when they abruptly lower their sugar/carb intake dramatically. This has become popularly known as the “keto flu”. The reason “keto” is used in this term is because when we eat little-no carbs/sugars the body starts breaking down body fat to generate the glucose needed by the cells as a fuel source. During this biochemical process a chemical called “ketone bodies” is spun off, hence the name “ketosis”.
Symptoms of this abrupt carb/sugar withdrawal may include:
- Intense cravings for something sweet
- Intense cravings for other carbohydrates, like chips or pasta
- Depressed mood
When the ketogenic phase really kicks in other symptoms may include:
- Muscle cramps
- Bad breath
- Constipation or diarrhea
High sugar foods interact with the “pleasure/reward” centers in the brain and when we dramatically lower the intake of these foods, many/all of the above symptoms may develop.
Most of these symptoms are transient, only lasting for a short period of time. We have found in the SP Program that the serotonin nutraceuticals have been very helpful in lessening/obviating these “keto flu” symptoms.
The human body often will react to “new” situations with some negative symptoms even when the new situation is ultimately a healthier lifestyle. So, if you begin a high protein/low carb diet and start having some carb-withdrawal symptoms, try to hang in there as they are bound to disappear in fairly short order.
The reverse situation occurs as well: Many patients tell us that when they have been off of carbs/sugars for awhile and then reintroduce sugars they start feeling poorly.
If carb withdrawal symptoms are severe, go to a dietary pattern that does not completely eliminate sugars but instead, lower the amount of intake gradually.
And always remember this: the “Keto Flu” is lots less dangerous to you than the myriad of medical co-morbidities that accompany poor weight control.