Healthy Living Advice

Tips for health, strength, weight-loss, and nutrition

Side effects on the Paleo diet

Changing your diet from a high-carb, low-fat standard Western diet to a lower carb and higher fat diet requires your body some time to adapt. This time can vary from nothing and feeling better from day 1, to the first 4 days and some people 3 to 4 weeks.  These changes that occur while your body is adapting are not dangerous. Think of it as a cleansing or rehab for your body. Years of eating badly your body and your body now has certain wants and cravings. Taking these away is going to cause upset and a little shock to the system. 

What are the possible side effects that may occur when getting started with the Paleo diet?

- Headaches
- Fatigue
- Lack of energy / concentration
- Weakness
- Lightheaded / dizziness
- Irritability
- Constipation and cravings

What are causing these side effects?

Fat-adaptation: Turning your body from a sugar burner into a fat burner. Changing from high-carb, low-fat diet to a lower-carb and higher-fat diet.

Dehydration: Refined carbohydrates and grains allow your body to hold more water, but by cutting out these foods it has a diuretic effect and allows you to get rid of this extra unnecessary water. Losing this water without keeping properly hydrated however will cause headaches, dizziness and lightheadedness.

Withdrawal symptoms: Grains, dairy and sugar are addictive and can have a strong effect on your brain chemistry, effecting your moods and energy levels, just like drugs but to a lesser degree. Eliminating these foods from your diet can cause a withdrawal reaction as your body learns how to function without these substances. It can take up to 4 weeks to cut these food addictions and feelings.

Tips to stop ongoing side effects?

If you are still struggling with this way of nutrition it is completely common, here are a few adjustments that can be made to help. This is only for those people having trouble, if you are feeling all the benefits and no side effects, stick to what you are doing as it’s working for you.

Make sure you are eating enough fat: You need to get your energy from somewhere and now that there are no grains or sugars you will need them from fat. As a general rule of thumb, most people benefit from including about 1 to 2 tbsp. of extra natural fat  from coconut oil, ghee, extra-virgin olive oil or even organic butter, at each of your meals. Avocado, coconut, olives, nuts and nut butter are also good ways to increase your fat intake.

Eat at regular intervals: Eat every 3 hours, start by having 3 main meals and 2 snacks. If this doesn’t cut it eat 5 meals a day by making your meals a little smaller but eating more often.

Drink enough water: Decreasing your carb intake can have a diuretic effect, make sure you stay properly hydrated. Drink 0.037 litres x body weight per day (0.037 x 60kg = 2.2 Litres a day).

Add in some good quality salt: This will help your body retain enough water. Crystal mineral-rich salts, such as Himalayan salt, Murray River salt or Celtic sea salt are best. Sprinkle about ½ tsp. per day over your food or in your water. Also try drinking 1 coconut water a day to replenish your electrolytes and prevent, or at least alleviate, side effects.

Medications: If you have a medical condition or take prescribed medications, especially diabetic or blood pressure medications, your medication might need to be adjusted or stopped.

Stick to it and be patient: Be patient and resist temptation, things will get a lot easier. Give yourself at least 3 or 4 weeks of eating Paleo. This is undoing your whole life of poor nutrition so far, so it’s going to take sometime. 


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