Do you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus after starting a meat only diet – or animal-based carnivore diet? Chances are, it’s not the flu bug, despite how miserable you feel. Here are five symptoms of the carnivore diet that no one is really talking about. (And new carnivores need to know!)
Personally, I’ve experienced all these symptoms when I switched to eating meat, and want to share all my insights and helpful tips for other newbies!
The bottom line – it’s worth it!
Let’s dig right in 😀
- What’s the Carnivore Diet Flu Exactly
- 1. You’ll have loose stools
- 2. Your autoimmune disease issues get worse before they get better
- 4. The scale goes up (at first) when you’re looking to lose weight
- 5. Your body temperature changes
- The Wrap – Carnivore diet adaptation symptoms
What’s the Carnivore Diet Flu Exactly
The “carnivore diet flu” is a phenomenon that some people experience when transitioning to a carnivore diet.
Research confirms it is caused by the sudden removal of carbohydrates from the diet and can lead to symptoms like confusion and discomfort.
The body goes into panic mode because it is used to being fueled by carbohydrates, and it takes some time for it to adjust to being fueled by fat instead.
As strange as it sounds, research has recently revealed that making drastic changes to one’s diet can lead to some pretty inconvenient side effects for weeks or even months after the transition. (The carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet, eliminating many food groups, so it warrants some body disruption!)
So if you’re considering going all in with a carnivore lifestyle, brace yourself! You just might experience symptoms of Carnivore Diet Flu despite all the promised health benefits.
Read on to learn more about these mysterious nuances of an all-meat diet that no one talks about + what you can do to combat them all….
1. You’ll have loose stools
I bet you’re not surprised by this one, but many advocates of the Carnivore Diet don’t share just how bad and uncomfortable this can be with explosive diarrhea, sharts, the shits, etc. And it’s one of the biggest side effects when starting a restrictive diet like carnivore!
Note: If you don’t want to hear about poop talk, skip down to the next section!
But when I started an animal-based zero-carb diet three months ago, I had to bolt to the toilet several times a day! I experienced this more intensely than those who came from the standard American diet.
Why? My body wasn’t used to processing/digesting fats on my vegan plant-based diet that was NO FAT, NO OILS.
If you’re experiencing the poops when you switch to carnivore, don’t fret – it’s super common during the adaptation period, regardless of what diet you’ve been on before
What’s happening to my body & stools? (animal fat!)
So, why do we have to suffer through this diarrhea? When you start eating more carnivore foods with dietary fat and higher protein, your digestive system gets confused and tells us so! This is due to several reasons:
Changing gut bacteria- An individual might have had a high-carb diet before switching to carnivore, meaning that their gut microbiome is full of bacteria that thrive on fiber and carbohydrate intake. Eating animal foods on a carnivore diet means that there are minimal carbohydrates.
Increased bile acid excretion- The liver produces bile acids to facilitate the digestion of fats, and when transitioning to a carnivore diet, the excretion of bile acids increases.
High protein intake- High protein intake is another reason for diarrhea in the carnivore diet. The body needs a lot of stomach acids to break down the amino acids.
Changes in gut microbiota- The carnivore diet can also cause changes in gut microbiota, leading to diarrhea very easily.
Food intolerance- Some people might be intolerant to certain animal-based foods and experience diarrhea after consuming them. If you’re just starting, it’s recommended that you start with ruminant meats (beef, bison, etc.) and avoid pork, poultry, and eggs – at least until you understand any significant food intolerances.
Vitamin deficiency- A vitamin deficiency can also cause diarrhea in individuals on the carnivore diet.
The duration of diarrhea while transitioning to a carnivore diet menu can vary from person to person. It can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but it ultimately depends on the individual’s diet background, and what your body has been used to processing (or not!), i.e., processed foods, high carb plant foods, sugary treats, etc. will cause flu-like symptoms once omitted.
Tips to Beat Carnivore & Ketogenic Diet Diarrhea
To help alleviate the symptoms of diarrhea, I personally highly recommend the following:
- Hydrating- It’s essential to stay hydrated when experiencing diarrhea. Increase your salt intake with electrolytes, and add bone broth to your carnivore meals!
- Electrolytes- Adding electrolytes to your water can help replace the lost salts and minerals and help keep those pesky leg cramps at bay!
- Solving gut problems- If there are underlying gut problems, it’s essential to solve those first to alleviate diarrhea. You may even want to add back in some low carb/less toxic carbs as your body acclimates. Note: not all carbs are created equal! Choose wisely…
- Getting enough sleep- Adequate sleep can help boost your overall health.
- Sweating- Physical activity that leads to sweating can help reduce diarrhea symptoms.
- Eat cold meats/fats- Cold meats & fats are less likely to RUN through you than hot rendered fats. (So it’s ok to blot your ground beef – reach for cold butter instead! (for now!)
- Cut down the dairy- For many other reasons, dairy can be problematic, especially if you have poop problems at the start of a carnivore diet! Make sure you’re getting all your essential nutrients through other meats and organ meats.
Remember, I’m not a doctor, so it’s always best to consult with your healthcare professional if your meat-only low-carb diet symptoms persist for a long time or you feel sick and ‘shitty’ (pun intended) for too long.
2. Your autoimmune disease issues get worse before they get better
These diseases can affect different parts of the body and cause various symptoms that can seem uncontrollable, even with proper care and medications.
Often, changing to an extreme diet that focuses on deep healing gives many hope again. (It did for me!)
However, it’s important to note that this way of eating CAN initially exacerbate symptoms before leading to any improvement.
3. Detoxing and Oxalate Dumping
More research is needed, but it’s thought that when we eliminate all processed sugars, seed oils, toxic plants, etc., our body begins to detox, which can cause some unwanted side effects (at first). The most popular and well-known is a condition called oxalate dumping
What’s Oxalate Dumping?
Oxalate dumping is a condition that occurs when an individual reduces their intake of oxalates too quickly, causing the body to eliminate oxalate stores rapidly.
Oxalic acid is a toxic defense mechanism found in some plants, such as dark leafy greens, nuts, and sweet potatoes, among others.
When these plants are consumed, oxalates can bind with minerals in the body, including calcium, and have various adverse effects on the body, including painful bowel movements, skin rashes, crystal formations on the skin, kidney stones, high blood sugar, mood changes, gout, joint pain, and severe fatigue.
You may experience these oxalate dumping symptoms because the carnivore diet quickly eliminates plant-based foods, which are high in oxalates, from the diet, which can lead to the rapid elimination of oxalate stores and result in oxalate dumping.
Depending on how much oxalates/plant toxins you have stored in your body will determine how long it will take to fully detox. For me, it took 4-6 weeks…
Symptoms of Detox & Oxalate Dumping
Joint Pain – especially in my hands – it was crippling! I could barely hold a pen for several days
Unrestful sleep – I’ve always been a good sleeper, but as I transitioned and my body detoxed, I could not relax enough to get asleep or stay asleep for several weeks.
Skin rashes – My lupus rash got a lot worse, before it ANY better…
Tips to Manage Detox & Oxalate Dumping
- Animal-Based Diet- Continue a low-oxalate animal-based diet to keep detoxing
- Avoid high oxalates- Ditch foods such as – spinach, avocado, and ALL nuts
- Avoid excessive carbohydrates– remove sugars, seed oils and high-carb foods
- Add (some) oxalates back – Use lemon juice, green or black tea to add SOME oxalates back to ween you off slowly (Adding a little bit of oxalates back in will help the body release oxalates at a slower rate and mitigate the symptoms).
- Add Supplements – add detoxing vitamins & minerals to your diets such as Glutathione and N-acetylcysteine (NAC), Vitamin C, Milk Thistle, B Vitamins, and magnesium supplements.
Oxalate dumping and detoxing is the main reason you may feel WORSE on carnivore get before you feel any better. So often, many of the carnivore diet promoters don’t share this unwanted but very real symptom of shifting to an animal-based carnivore diet.
If this sounds like you, transition into Carnivore SLOWLY, so that your body ‘dumps’ these oxalates a little bit at a time.
Note: you may be able to add low-carb vegetables back in (like I have!), but it takes time for your gut, brain and body to heal from the build-up of oxalate toxins!
4. The scale goes up (at first) when you’re looking to lose weight
While it might be frustrating, weight gain at the beginning of a carnivore diet is very common and can happen for various reasons.
- Increased water retention: A diet high in animal protein can cause an increase in sodium and water retention, which can lead to a temporary increase in weight – but note this is TEMPORARY!
- Increased calorie intake: Eating only animal products, particularly fatty cuts of meat, can lead to a higher calorie intake, resulting in weight gain if you’re not careful. However, this is most common with individuals who were previously UNDEREATING and finally serving their body with the nourishing animal-based protein/fats that it needs to thrive.
- Increased muscle mass: As you eat more protein, your body may also build muscle, increasing your weight slightly. HOWEVER, the increase in muscle also ups your metabolism, which in turn helps you burn more without hours and hours of cardio!
So, remember that weight gain at the beginning of a carnivore diet may not be solely due to body fat. However, as your body adjusts to the diet, water weight may decrease and the rate of weight loss may become more steady with a decrease in inflammation and healing with optimal nutrients.
I gained 10lbs my first two months on an animal-based diet, but I felt AMAZING, so I kept going! (and you should too!)
The scale should not be a tool to determine if you’re succeeding on a carnivore-based diet, but here are a few tips for managing the transition:
- Track your meals/macros- while tracking is tedious and unnecessary on an animal-based diet, it might be important for a few weeks to see where you’re getting your calories. Plus, it’s important to see if there are any other food intolerances you need to be aware of moving forward.
- Use a mood journal- Sometimes, the non-scale victories are right in front of us – try keeping track of your mood for a few weeks and see just how much your mind and body are recovering
- Focus on YOU– Somethings, you have to UNLEARN what you THOUGHT you knew about health. (Or what other people think is healthy)
- Prioritize Carnivore- Make your carnivore diet a way of eating for – not just a 30-day diet. Remember, you’re in it for the long run, not just a quick fix!
5. Your body temperature changes
Are you feeling extra hot, sweaty, and a little flushed starting your carnivore diet? Say hello to the meat sweats!
This one surprised me – especially since I’ve always been FREEZING COLD all day, every day. And now I was burning up!? Could it really be all the meats?
Yes. By eating primarily animal-based protein and fats, our body requires more energy to these digest these foods, therefore increasing the thermogenic effects we feel in our bodies. However, this lift will only take place for about 4-6 weeks until the body stabilizes.
I especially noticed this heat wave at night, but I ate my largest meal in the evening, close to bed time, so my body was working extra hard overnight!
How to avoid the meat sweats – Carnivore diet side effects
To prevent meat sweats, it’s recommended to eat less meat and spread your meals out throughout the day.
- Don’t skip meals– Avoid OMAD, and do at least 2MAD (Preferably three meals a day!)
- Make dinner your lightest meal – allow your body to process all that protein before hitting the sack!
- Exercise – Go for a walk or slow jog to help metabolize out all that heat energy building up in your body.
Note: In some cases, meat sweats can be caused by a meat allergy or intolerance, so it’s important to be aware of any food sensitivities by keeping a journal.
And remember, the heat from meats won’t last forever – it does go away!
The Wrap – Carnivore diet adaptation symptoms
And that’s a wrap on carnivore diet flu symptoms no one talks about!
I hope this gave you some ideas on what to expect if you plan on trying out the carnivore diet.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, please reach out and tell me about it. I love hearing people’s stories and learning from their experiences.
P.S. Here’s one of the best resources I’ve found on carnivore diet/ketovore diet side effects!