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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
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood

When the ketogenic phase really kicks in other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Bad breath
  • Weakness
  • 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.