If you’ve decided to cut back on sugar by doing a 21-day detox, shifting to a Paleo-style diet, or simply trying to cut back on simple carbs in your diet, you may have experienced a bout of the “low-carb flu.”
For those of you who are used to eating more refined-grain carbs every day (bread, pasta, oatmeal etc), once you cut them out, you may begin to experience some flu-like symptoms. I've been through it before and it is not fun – headaches, tired, a “foggy” brain, super pissy mood; you're so hungry you could eat a small child.
This is normal. It is the body SCREAMING at you like a small child for easy-to-digest sugars and carbs. It is the body readjusting to burning fat for fuel rather than the easy choice of sugars and simple carbohydrates. The ability for the body to switch between burning carbs and fat is known as metabolic flexibility.
Just like having the actual flu, going to bed early and getting plenty of water can really help you get through the carb flu, which should only last a few days.
Another “cure” for the carb flu is to focus on higher quality and quantity fats. When your body doesn’t have carbs to burn, it instead starts burning fats ,so it’s imperative to have good fat readily available in your system to ward off the carb flu.
I take MCT (medium-chain trigylceride) oil in the mornings to provide my body with medium-chain fatty acids, the kind of fats your body can most readily convert into energy. You can buy it at any local co-op, at Bulletproof Executive or even Amazon.
Another thing that helps me with carb flu is tricking my brain into thinking I'm having bread. These are my favorite two paleo "breads" – they are VERY different and both fabulous. Remember, Kerrygold brand butter, or another grass-fed variety of butter, if you go with butter on these.
Grain Free Sandwich Bread
Easy Homemade Paleo Bread
My personal favorite: Life Changing Loaf of Bread
Finally, half of an apple slathered with no-sugar-added almond butter is ridiculously amazing and I think I lived on those my very first low-carb eating experience.
This is a process; if you're new to this, do not beat yourself for what feels like constant snacking. Focus on high-quality foods and staying away from processed foods, and just get through these few days.
By day seven, the carb flu does go away. But be warned: If you succumb and eat sugar or bread the whole roller coaster starts again. So make some paleo bread, eat those apples and almond butter, and go to sleep early.