Side Effects from a Carnivore Diet | What to Watch For!

symptoms on carnivore diet

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The word is out. People are talking about the benefits of an all-meat diet, and you’re ready to try it out. However, before you do, you need to know about the potential side effects. In this post, we go over the more common side effects of the carnivore diet.

If you plan on going for it and trying the carnivore diet, it doesn’t mean you will experience all of these.

However, if you are coming from a low-carb diet, chances are the side effects won’t be as severe, and you probably won’t lose your hair or get bags under your eyes. If you are coming from a high carb or Standard American Diet, then you might be in for some temporary discomfort.

That’s why we made this post so that you know what to expect when you dive it!

Bad Breath

From what I found, there are two potential reasons the carnivore diet can cause temporary bad breath (heads up eating gum on this diet is controversial too) (heads up eating gum on this diet is controversial too).

Reason #1

Prior to the carnivore diet, your body has been getting its energy source from carbohydrates, but now that you are on a carnivore diet, your body doesn’t have carbohydrates to use, so it switches to fat.

Your body is transforming into a lean mean fat eating machine!

This also means your liver is producing more ketones now! This is great because you may be able to experience the benefits of “ketosis.” This also means you have a larger amount of ketone bodies being produced like:

  1. Acetoacetate
  2. Acetone
  3. Beta-hydroxybutyrate

If your breath is funky and you have a metallic taste, it could be from the overproduction of Acetone. I’m told when your body adapts; this side effect usually goes away.

Reason #2

Obviously, when you go carnivore, you’re eating copious amounts of meat, and meat has tons of protein. When you eat large amounts of protein people, say that your body produces ammonia, and the ammonia is released both from peeing and in your breath.

Headache Art Mural

Headaches

Carnivore adapters have reported headaches as a result of switching to all meat.

Dr. Shawn Baker speculates that this could be due to the changes in electrolytes and fluids within your body during the adaptation phase.

He even had random headaches during the first 10 days he started the diet.

I’ve even heard him recommend increasing your electrolyte and water intake. We’ll talk about electrolytes shortly!

Keto Flu

This one is no joke. Recently I had a friend go carnivore, and he was really sick for 3 or 4 days. He comes from a bad diet of high carbs and lots of sugar, so it was expected.

Keto flu is another side effect of your body switching its metabolic engine from carbs and sugar to fat. (Some people even say it can make you smell bad.) . The symptoms are similar to the real flu…lots of nausea and fatigue.

This usually kicks in anytime within your first week of being on the diet and can last a couple of days or even longer.

Most Carnivore and Keto docs say it’s the result of a few things like:

  • Your body switching to fat for energy (fat-adaptation)
  • Withdrawal of sugar and carbs (sugar is one of the worst drugs on the planet)
  • Electrolyte depletion
  • Dehydration

The Keto and Carnivore doctors recommend stepping up your electrolyte game. When I went carnivore, I increased my salt and magnesium intake. Some people do that as well as take a potassium and calcium supplement.

These are what I use daily:

Also, I use these premade electrolyte powders from Redmond Real Salt called Re-Lyte. I even did a review!

We go really deep with the keto and carnivore flu in this article with some surprising findings and interesting remedies.

Skin Conditions

While reading “The Carnivore Diet by Dr. Shawn Baker” I saw that people have reported getting a rash when switching to the diet.

He said it’s rare but possible and believes it has to do with ketones. He says perhaps the abundance of unused ketones are being excreted through your skin cells which can cause irritation.

Apparently it goes away with time.

Muscle Cramps

Muscle cramps were a big one for me. I was getting cramps in my calf muscles a few times per week. It’s said that it’s due to hydration and electrolyte issues. At the time, I thought I was consuming a lot of electrolytes, but I guess not.

Dr. Baker also says that it’s possible to reduce the occurrence of cramps if you eat within a few hours of working out.

Joint Pain-Gout

A small number of people say they have experienced an increase in joint pain and gout pain. Doctors say this may be due to the body being in ketosis with elevated ketones, which can potentially raise uric acid levels.

With so many new ketones, it’s possible your body doesn’t know how to utilize them, and so it discards them, but by doing so, the uric acid goes to the end of the line and sits around in the body longer, giving you painful symptoms.

Over time, when your body settles down and knows how to handle ketones, the uric acid is dispelled properly, and everything should go back to normal

In Dr. Baker’s book, he mentions that people suffering from gout actually find long-term relief, and their symptoms can disappear.

Historically gout was a rich person’s disease as the rich were the ones who could afford both sugar and alcohol, and therefore they would get it.

With the carnivore diet, you are removing those two poisons, and so naturally, you could hypothesize relief as a result.

Diarrhea

This topic comes up a lot!

Naturally, people assume you would have to deal with constipation because you are removing fiber from the diet, but it’s usually the opposite.

On the carnivore diet, you are eating way more meat and fat than you are used to.

Usually, your digestive system isn’t ready. One of the systems that gets a rude awakening is the microbiome. Your bacteria that used to feast on fiber begin to die off and are replaced with meat-eating bacteria. This transition of bacteria can be the culprit behind the diarrhea symptoms and even bloating.

Another issue is that your colon is making changes too. It’s been used to storing and propelling food waste with fiber in it. The fiber generally soaks up the water in your digestive system, so by the time it reaches the colon, there is very little fluid.

Now that you do not have fiber soaking up fluids, the colon is bombarded with liquid and is unprepared. This means loose stools!

Is there a way to mitigate the runs?

Dr. Baker says that eggs and pork can contribute to diarrhea issues and too little or too much fat. You have to find the sweet spot with fat. The same thing with marinades and spices; don’t overuse those.

I’ve had disaster pants from adding too much tallow to minced meat and also most recently as I added way too much spice to a batch of meat. It’s crazy because now that my stomach and body are adapted, certain amounts of spice can jack it up fairly easily.

For more constipation and fiber questions check out these disgustingly thorough posts:

Acid Reflux and Gallbladder Problems

Some people generally have a hard time digesting fat, and as a result, acid reflux becomes a problem and overall nausea. Yet, according to Dr. Baker, he says it can get better over time.

I’ve never had these problems, but he recommends either lowering your fat intake and including a digestive supplement. For supplements, he recommends HCI or a bile supplement like ox bile.

One other thing he mentions is reducing or not drinking water close to mealtime as that, in theory, can make your stomach less acidic and less potent for when it needs to break down meat and fats.

Sleepy Girl

Sleep Issues

I’ve had friends that have had problems with sleeping early on in their carnivore diet experiment. What they have told me is that they would wake up in the middle of the night with a stomach ache or just feel nauseous. I think we can chalk it up as more of an adaptation issue.

For me, I have sleep problems while on the carnivore diet if I do these two things:

  • Eat too much too close to bed time
  • Overdo it on the lard or tallow

I try to eat as soon as possible after work. Anytime before 6 seems to be optimal. If I know I’m coming home late I modify the amount of food and eat a smaller portion.

I know I should eat more but honestly at this point a good night’s rest is more important. I’ll just eat a heavy breakfast to increase calories and protein the next day.

Conclusion

Going carnivore is no joke and not easy. For people that have been on a SAD diet their whole life, this may be even more of a challenge as your symptoms may be more severe. If that is the case then perhaps you may want to consider easing into the diet over time. Dr. Baker explains this process in his book, The Carnivore Diet which I highly recommend.

Need inspiration and to find other people and their results from the Carnivore Diet then check out MEATRX.com.

Either way I hope this post was able to prepare you for your adventure in health.

Check out our Carnivore Diet Recipes at the Wild Lumen YouTube channel!

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.

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