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How to avoid transition symptoms when starting a Carnivore Diet

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Have you been thinking about starting a carnivore diet, or tried in the past and weren't successful?

Many people never start or quit early on because of the side effects associated with transitioning from a Standard American diet to a fat adapted diet. These side effects are well known as the keto flu. They can occur within the first 18-24 hours when the body depletes its glycogen stores and is learning how to use fat as its main energy source.

Are you wondering what to expect while your body is adjusting to this new way of eating? Do you feel overwhelmed by all of the information out there and don't know the best way to get started?

Common transition symptoms that people may experience are:

  • poor energy

  • changes in bowel movements

  • indigestion or heartburn

  • increase in pain

  • rashes

  • headaches

  • muscle cramps

You may be thinking, why in the heck would I want to do a carnivore diet if I might experience these symptoms, right? Well, these symptoms don't always occur and when they do, they are usually temporary. From coaching clients, these are some of my top tips on how to avoid or lessen transition symptoms so you can be successful.

Tip #1 - Talk to your healthcare provider before you get started

It's always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before starting a new diet or exercise plan. If you have chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure your physician will need to monitor your blood sugar and vital signs. A carnivore diet has the power to reverse chronic disease and many people are able to come off of medications, but your physician is the only person qualified to make adjustments to your medications.

If you have a history of gout, you could experience a temporary increase in pain during the transition phase. This can be caused by ketosis which elevates uric acid levels due to the body being inefficient at using ketones. For most people this will gradually improve as your body becomes more skilled at eliminating ketones, but if you are prone to gout then talking to your healthcare provider about prevention of gout may be a good idea.

Tip #2 - Add salt to your food

Fluid and electrolyte shifts that occur with a ketogenic diet can cause symptoms known as "keto flu". The keto flu can cause headaches and low energy. Increasing your fluid and electrolyte intake can help prevent or lessen these symptoms as your metabolism prepares to make the switch to using fat for fuel instead of carbs. Some people may also experience muscle cramps. Adding a little extra salt to your food or using an electrolyte solution such as snake juice can help as your body adjusts.

"Just eat a damn steak; repeat when hungry" – Shawn Baker MD, The Carnivore Diet

Tip #3 - Increase your fat intake gradually

A carnivore diet is much higher in fat than most people are used to on a Standard American Diet. As your body adjusts to a higher fat content in the diet, and your gut microbiome changes towards digesting meat you may experience gastrointestinal symptoms and diarrhea.

If you struggle with gastro-esophogeal reflux disease or GERD, you may experience an increase in symptoms as your body adjusts to a higher protein and fat intake. This is because protein and fat are harder to digest. Using hydrochloric acid or bile supplements may help, but check with you healthcare provider before taking them.

If you don't have your gallbladder you may experience loose stools because the gallbladder's main function is to emulsify or break down fat. Have no fear, it is still possible to do a carnivore diet without a gallbladder. Using lipase and bile supplements, limiting fat, and eating small frequent meals can help until you get through the transition period.

Tip #4 - Start with a carb taper approach if you're not fat adapted

If you are new to a low carb or ketogenic diet and eat a considerable amount of carbs, then it may be easier for you to adopt a low carb diet for the first few weeks prior to going full Carnivore. One method of doing this is by incorporating a few full carnivore meals into your diet each week and gradually increasing the number of meat based meals that you eat over a period of several weeks to a month. This method will take you longer to transition, but the transition symptoms may be less likely to occur or more mild.

Tip #5 - Go all in if you're fat adapted

If you're motivated and already fat adapted from eating a mostly animal based diet such as keto or ketovore and looking to dive right in, then ditching carbs and veggies cold turkey may be a good option for you. Transitioning this way is much quicker, but the transition symptoms can be more severe.

Last but not least, don't give up!

There's no doubt that reading all of this can be discouraging and may cause some people to quit or not even start in the first place. Remember to listen to your body and be patient. Having support can keep you on a journey towards health. I recommend working with a coach who has experience with carnivore or animal based nutrition when you are getting started to help make the transition more bearable.

If you're interested in learning more about my coaching services click here . If you want to schedule a call to see if coaching is a good fit for you, then I offer all of my potential clients a free initial consultation. You can book a free coaching session here.

Reference: Baker, S. (2020). The carnivore diet. Victory Belt Publishing.

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