The Carnivore Diet – Symptoms and Cures

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Symptoms and Cures when Starting the Carnivore Diet

You may experience significant symptoms when getting adapted to The Carnivore Diet.

In this article, we’ll review common symptoms like diarrhea and low energy, and cures for overcoming these carnivore transition symptoms. 

Getting Started on The Carnivore Diet

Often, nearly always, when you start a Carnivore Diet, you will experience adverse symptoms and side effects. It is what we affectionately call the “Trough of Despair” or the “Trough” for short.

This is the adaptation period.

The symptoms you experience is your body’s natural response to carbohydrate restriction and the elimination of addictive agents and chemicals.

Carnivore Diet Symptoms

Common Symptoms of Beginning the Carnivore Diet Include:

Brain fog, headache, chills, sore throat, digestive issues, dizziness, irritability, bad breath/smells, bad taste in mouth (metallic), dry mouth, cravings (sugar!), muscle soreness, jaw soreness, nausea, diarrhea, poor focus, and decreased performance, energy, and drive, cramping, rapid heart rate, insomnia, night sweats, and nocturia (peeing a lot at night), hot or cold,

Even some experienced low carb eaters struggle with many of the symptoms when beginning a carnivore diet.

If you are coming from a ketogenic (keto) or high fat/low carb diet (HFLC), the transition is generally easier (but there are still symptoms you need to be aware of!) than someone coming from a Standard American Diet (SAD – yes it’s sad for a reason) that is high in carbohydrates.

These symptoms are a result of your body undergoing major metabolic and hormonal changes.

What’s Going On?

The 3 Major Adaptations

If you decide to venture into experimenting with The Carnivore Diet there are 3 major adaptations that your body is going to undergo.

1. Fluid Rebalancing

Since you are eating fewer carbs, your insulin levels drop, which sends a signal to the kidneys to release sodium from the body.

Losing 10 lbs of water in a couple days is not uncommon as water follows sodium out of the body.

Glycogen is then converted to glucose as the last energy usage before switching to mainly fatty acids.

2. Transitioning from Sugar to Fat for Energy

As your body switches from burning mainly sugar to fat for energy, your body needs to make many modifications on the way.

Your amount of suffering (or lack thereof) depends on your metabolic flexibility. This is your body’s ability to adapt to different fuel sources, which depends on a number of factors including genetics, and especially how you ate prior.

If you have been accustomed to eating a lot of high carbohydrate foods, it can feel a lot like giving up other addictions (nicotine, cocaine, etc.)

3. Hormone Response and Rebalancing

As a couple examples of hormones responding and rebalancing, let’s look at thyroid hormone and cortisol.

Thyroid Hormone

Thyroid hormone levels may decrease. T3 is a hormone produced by the thyroid that is closely connected with dietary carbohydrates. It plays a major role in regulation of body temperature, metabolism, and heart rate.


Cortisol plays many crucial functions in the body, including regulating blood sugar and controlling inflammation. During this transition, your body thinks, “I’m starving for sugar,” causing a release of cortisol to increase blood glucose. This is a natural sympathetic stress response, also known as “flight or fight” to go hunt for food.

Carnivore Diet Cures

You can dramatically lessen and perhaps even eliminate most of the suffering in the “Trough” by using some tricks to help bridge your body to the adapted state of bliss.

6 Tricks and Tips to Limit Or AVOID the “Trough”

1. Eat more meat.

Under-eating is the #1 Reason people unnecessarily suffer.

Carnivore Diet Symptoms and Cures

Early on, it’s common to feel extremely hungry. Eat.

Don’t try and restrict calories or track macros. Don’t worry about gaining fat in the beginning. If it happens let it (we can remove it later – see Masterclass at the end)

2. Hydrate

Carnivore Diet Symptoms and Cures

Make sure you are drinking water. No need to overdo it (that can exacerbate the situation) but you need to stay hydrated.

After adaptation, you drink to thirst (no need to measure/monitor) but if you are not feeling good – make sure you are hydrating.

3. Electrolytes

As you lose a lot of excess water, you also lose a lot of electrolytes: sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride.

Supplemental electrolytes can help immensely.

Salt your meat generously during this adaptation period.

This is adequate for some people.

Other people need some help by adding in the other electrolytes (like potassium and magnesium).

You have a couple options:

  1. Drink Meaty Bone Broth – In addition to water and sodium, this will give you some potassium which will offset some of the discomfort caused at a cellular level.
    • It’s important that the bones have some meat on them because that’s where the potassium is.
  2. Supplement – We recommend LMNT, best electrolyte supplement on the market.

Supplemental Electrolytes Daily Ranges:

  • Potassium K+: 500 – 3500 mg/day (start with 1g – K+ chloride)
  • Magnesium Mg: 250-500 mg/day (magnesium citrate) – If you need help getting the bowels moving along, this will also help (more about GI issues next).
  • Sodium Na: 2-7g/day (5g is a good starting point – we recommend a high quality salt like Redmond’s Real Salt)

4. Solving GI Problems

Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are extremely common, especially if you are coming from a low fat diet. Sometimes referred to as “disaster pants,” experiencing diarrhea on the carnivore diet is not uncommon.

Even though you are ready to dive all in, your gallbladder and pancreas might not be ready to handle the increased fat intake. When first starting you may have inadequate bile and lipase to digest the increased fat intake. This leads to diarrhea and all kinds of GI distress.

One solution: You can reduce how much fat you’re eating by choosing leaner cuts of meat. I don’t recommend this approach. This will simply prolong the adaptation period. Translation = you will suffer far longer than you need to.

Much Better Solution: Supplementing for 2-4 weeks

Supplement Solution:

Start with a simple lipase supplement taken a few minutes BEFORE meals. Start with 1 tablet and if you still have some discomfort go to 2 (6,000 lipase activity unites LU).

For most people, lipase alone does the trick. However, some people need to use exogenous bile.

Ox bile + lipase, taken with meals, is your next step.

Your final step, if still having GI issues, especially, if they are GERD/acid reflux related is to help the stomach. Many people produce inadequate stomach acid to facilitate digestion and proper metabolic signaling. Yes. It’s low stomach acid that results in GERD, Heartburn, Acid Reflux.

A Betaine HCl supplement is the answer. Don’t take this with anti-inflammatories which could result in ulcers. It should automatically include pepsin in it, but worth checking just to make sure. Common dosage range is between 3-5g/meal.

Supplements are a BRIDGING STRATEGY – NOT A LONG TERM NEED. The goal is to be off all of these after the first month. They let your body catch up.

Rendered Fat

For some people, the type of fat is what causes the GI distress.

If the previously mentioned supplements don’t help, then you may need to remove rendered fats.

Rendered fat is fat that is cooked out of meats and becomes liquid.

For example, if you don’t handle rendered fats well, drinking the liquid fat in the skillet after cooking is a recipe for disaster (pants).

One Last Note On Poop Problems

You will likely notice that your bowel movement schedule changes. It’s very common to go less frequently. Much less frequently. Don’t worry you’re not constipated, and it’s normal. Volume also tends to decrease. Your body absorbs and uses meat very efficiently. Not a lot goes to waste.

Lastly, since it is very common to go less often, with less volume, (meat is absorbed extremely efficiently!) some people mistake this as constipation. However, some people do need help getting things moving along early on and Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Hydroxide can aid in bowel movements.

5. Sleep

Insomnia is common during adaptation, and since you are purging water, nocturia is also an interrupter. A few hacks that help:

Sleep hacks:

  • Keep your room pitch black (blackout curtains, cover LEDs) and COOL
  • Start winding down 2 hours before bed (no screens or at the least put them in night mode)
  • Don’t eat within a few (3-4) hours of sleep if you can help it
  • Be conscious how much you are drinking later in the day
  • Be asleep before 11 (a cortisol spike happens if you are not asleep around this time)

6. Sweat

Exercise helps.

Sweating is a natural detox mechanism.

Since you are finally giving your body the nutrition it has been craving, you give it the opportunity to expel toxins. Give your body a hand and help it detox by getting some exercise and sweating.

[ht_message mstyle=”alert” title=”Athletic and Training Performance” show_icon=”true” id=”” class=”” style=”” ]Athletic and training performance almost always decreases for anywhere between 1 and 6 months, before you find a whole new level.[/ht_message]

Carnivore Diet – “Brain Changes”

Besides the metabolic and hormonal changes mentioned, you may also experience alterations in “Brain Changes” that occur along the “brain-body highway,” a signaling control system between the gut and the brain.

This communication highway influences everything from hormones to neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA that play huge roles in mood, cravings, and addiction.

Not unlike many drug addictions, you may go through withdrawal symptoms from foods or other substances (especially sugar) which you have become physically and neurologically addicting.

Cravings are common and the best solution is to make sure you are eating enough fatty meat. Not eating enough meat and eating meat that is too lean are the top mistakes.

In the gut (a hub in the brain-body highway) the microbiome is undergoing a battle and large shift where the “good bacteria” are growing and populating and the “bad bacteria” are starting to die off. These bad bacteria that thrive on sugar are being starved, and they are going to do everything they can to try and get you to eat sugar, especially via sending you strong cravings. If you stay strong, starve the bad guys, the cravings will die with them.

The Key to Carnivore Success: COMMIT

This is an experiment you have to commit to.

If the commitment is loose, I’d recommend waiting until you find a burning desire or some urgency.

Most people experience adaptation symptoms which can range from annoying to a certainty that you are going to die.

There are also psychological and social pressures you have to overcome.

Commit by knowing why you want to experiment and always keep in mind the pot of gold that just might be on the other side of the rainbow.

To learn more about how to transition to a meat-based / Carnivore diet and avoiding the biggest pitfalls, I highly recommend watching the Meat Health Masterclass:

About The Author

Photo of author

Dr. Kevin Stock
Dentist with a focus on health through a meat-based diet, sleep, and fitness. Researcher, author, inventor of the NED Device. Founder/CEO at Meat Health LLC, Scriptis LLC, and NED LLC. Blog, "Notes to Self," at:

16 thoughts on “The Carnivore Diet – Symptoms and Cures”

  1. Carnivore for over 3 months now. It took all of that to adjust. Would recommend that people commit to three months to get through the tough period. I feel like I am in age reversal and I have much less arthritic inflammation pain and more energy with increased mental clarity. I’m in my mid 60s and ski all the runs,trees moguls, groomed….and keeping up with those much younger. Once in a while have loose bowels, but this just tells me to adjust my fat intake.

  2. I have been carnivore for 6 weeks. Only 1 cheat item 3 wks ago. I suddenly started having burning in my legs, especially when I sleep. What could be causing this. I raise my own grass fed meat, no fertilizer or weed killers . And my own cage free eggs.
    How do I stop this? Oh and my weight loss stalled a week ago.

  3. Hi, I was searching for information about acid-reflux on the carnivore diet and found you. I suddenly have acid-reflux, when habitually I don’t. Could it be from the extra butter and fat not metabolising well? I do have cirrhosis from AI hepatitis, and other Auto immune issues and hope that this diet can help.

  4. I wish I had found blogs like yours A year ago when I first tried the carnivore diet and failed. I wasted a year being discouraged and sick on other diets. I only recently discovered that I need to eat I have enzymes when I eat the meat and the fat – at least for now – and I am currently successfully 28 days into the diet.

  5. I love your work. Thank you for all that you are doing to educate and heal people; you do it succinctly and brilliantly.
    I am in month 6, and still don’t feel adapted. I am relentlessly thirsty, have cotton mouth (so badly at night, it is so awful!!), headaches, nocturnia, heart palps, and always feel hungry. I came from a year of keto.
    I eat three salted steaks per day, lots of butter, three ish slices of cheese, cream cheese, and sometimes replace a steak with 4eggs and cheese. I do not limit quantity and my weight is stable. I drink 5 or more litres of water per day with potassium chloride, magnesium chloride and a pinch of salt. My thirst is never quenched.

    • Dairy. Dairy contains hormones that cause a calf to grow by nearly one kilogram a day! Forget the lactose, it’s the hormones.

      Really, you should only have steak, liver, kidneys, salt and water for between 1 to 2 months before adding ANYTHING else, slowly one at a time, to see what messes up and thus avoid that in future.

  6. I feel horrible. I am so tired and have minimal appetite. I have been doing carnivore for 3 weeks. After reading your article this is normal?

    • 2 wks into starting the carnivore diet and my body has gone into fight and flight mode. Been a anxious mess for months now. Wakes me up every morning. Only thing that helps is exercise temporarily but always returns. It’s not regular anxiety this. I’m at my wits end. I even added carbs back this last wk. But worse than ever any idea what’s happening to me?

  7. Hello Dr. Stock,

    Thank you for the informational article. Can you help equip me to meet with my doctor.
    I just received my lipid panel results and my total
    Cholesterol is 283,
    HDL 53,
    Triglycerides 91
    LDL 209.
    Fasting blood sugar 83.
    All other tests are nearly in the middle of the ranges.

    Please provide any direction you deem appropriate.

    Thank you,
    Ralph D.


Leave a Comment