The Low Carb Flu

If you've just started out on a low carb diet, or if you are thinking of doing so, you might have heard of or experienced something known as the “low carb flu”. While it’s not a contagious virus, like the regular flu, it is a real thing that happens to some people.

Of course, not everyone experiences this and if you haven’t started your low carb diet, you can probably avoid it with this one little trick.

What Is It?

The low carb flu (or the induction flu for those doing the Atkins) happens to some people for a variety of reasons, but the main issue appears to be a lack of minerals from excessive water loss.

Losing water in the beginning of a low carb diet is common. When your body loses water, it also loses minerals. Dehydration and a loss of minerals can lead to some unwanted, even if they are temporary, side effects. Some of the symptoms mimic the flu, hence the name.

The Most Common Complaints

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Brain Fog
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Leg Cramps
  • Bad Breath
  • Heart Palpitations

Prevention and “Cures”

When you cut back on carbs, your body will respond by removing water and sodium, along with other minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. By adding these back into your diet, you can avoid some of the most annoying symptoms.

Ideally, you will need to make sure you are consuming:

  • Sodium – This is the most important of the following 3 minerals. You should check that you are consuming at least 5,000 to 7,000 mgs each day.
  • Potassium – This is another important mineral that works in combination with sodium. You need, on average, between 1,000 and 3,500 mgs each day.
  • Magnesium – You will need to use magnesium infused oil or supplement to ensure you are getting a minimum of 300 to 500 mgs each day. Unfortunately, you probably cannot eat enough to get decent levels of magnesium because farming soil has been leeched of most minerals, especially magnesium.

How You Can Replenish Sodium

If you haven't started your low carb diet yet, you can avoid a great many of these problems by starting to drink plenty of water, with just a pinch of salt, every day for at least 7 days before you begin.

A half of a teaspoon of salt in a liter of water will go a long way in preventing most of the problems listed above. Salt will help to keep water in the tissues of the body.

If slightly salty water doesn’t sound appetizing, you can also consume a cup or two of chicken broth, bullion, or homemade bone broth each day. This is a tasty method of getting salt and water into the body, along with additional fat, which is another way of preventing some of the above symptoms.

How You Can Replenish Potassium

Potassium can be a tricky thing, not enough and your body will let you know by giving you irregular heartbeats, weakness to the point you can’t get out of bed, along with tingling or numbness of the hands and feet. However, too much will affect your kidney function, digestion, and more!

This is why it’s best to get your potassium from foods. Some of the best would be:

  • Spinach – With about 558 mgs per 100 grams of dark green spinach, you can easily get 1,000 mgs from a nice big salad each day!
  • Avocados – Who doesn’t love guacamole? Just 100 grams of avocado has 450 mgs of potassium.
  • Mushrooms – Add those little jewels to everything, because 100 grams is 318 mgs of much needed potassium.
  • Meat – Of course, this varies, but pork loin has a whopping 423 mgs per 100 grams!

How You Can Replenish Magnesium

Leg cramps and heart palpitations are usually a sign of a lack of magnesium. You can consume magnesium supplements, such as Slow-Mag, and be sure to drink plenty of water. If these don't solve your problems after a few days, consider upping your carb intake by 10 grams to see if this helps.

Your digestive system is going to take a few days to adjust to your new way of eating. If drinking plenty of water does not solve a constipation problem, consider adding more fiber to your diet by consuming psyllium seed husks mixed in water.

Dehydration and a loss of minerals is what are generally behind many of the above symptoms. These are temporary and usually pass within 3 to 7 days. If you have already started your low carb plan, start drinking more water with a bit of salt or broth each day to help relieve headaches, nausea, fatigue, and constipation.

Eat More Fat

Some of us have eaten low fat for so long that it has become second nature. A low fat, low carb diet is next to impossible and it's a sure recipe for disaster. Be certain that you are eating plenty of fat with each meal. You should never feel hungry on a low carb diet. So think cheese, butter, coconut oil, olives, salmon, nuts and saturated fats from grass fed meat. These will help keep energy levels up and brain fog at bay.

The Bottom Line

Most problems associated with the first few days of a low carb diet can be solved by consuming more water with a bit of salt or drinking broth each day.

Keep in mind that if you should experience some of the above symptoms, they are temporary in nature and they will pass. The benefits of a low carb eating plan far outweigh any temporary symptoms.