If this is your first approach at a Paleo or Primal diet after years of living on the SAD (Sandard American Diet) it is likely you will have detox symptoms. This isn't so different than that of a drug addict but less severe. You will have insatiable cravings for foods, you may have flu like symptoms, and you may just have lethargy and general fatigue. This may be referred to as a Herxheimer reaction. This is typically relegated to those taking antibacterials and resembles bacterial sepsis but I use the term for detoxing, while maybe not clinically correct in its usage it does apply here.
Detox reactions are occurring due to the fact that you're eliminating the diet of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. The die-off of critters in your gut happens at such a rate that the liver cannot handle the load and the result is a feeling of malaise. There's really little that one can do during this period which, depending on your state of health, may be a couple days or even weeks. Don't let this discourage you from taking on the change in diet though. You may go in feeling awful but on the other side it is worth the trouble and the elimination of the bad bacteria floating around the body. A lot of Paleo websites fail to mention this portion of things since there may be trepidation of those looking to change their diet and lifestyle. All I can say is to stay the course with it.
Things that can help during Detox:
- Epson Salt baths
- Magnesium Supplements
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- L-Glutamine (which helps rebuild the gut lining)
- Plenty of fluids to help flush
- Milk Thistle to aid the liver
- Relaxation and Patience
Candida is often the major culprit for this type of reaction while detoxing. When Candida (a form of yeast) dies it releases a toxin. A lot of people will get joint pains and or pains in the shoulder or neck area as the toxins are released from the yeast. I have read a handful of reports where people may experience multiple die-off periods as layers of bad bacteria are shed and some have rooted further into the intestinal lining. All of this bacteria leads to leaky gut syndrome where the bacteria have penetrated the gut lining and both good and bad items are freely floating past the intestinal wall into the body. This causes inflammation amongst other things and it will take some time for your body to repair.
Don't give in to the cravings either. It's not that your body needs a donut or a pizza. This is the bacteria talking, literally talking, to your brain and telling it that it is starving and needs sugar or carbs to keep going. This is not a healthy body response. Squash the urge, ingest some homemade bone broth, or a high fat food to kill the cravings. Rooibos teas are also mentioned as removing hunger cravings. Just know that certain food items such as gluten react in the intestines like an opiate and will signal to the brain to keep seeking that fuel to feed the bacteria. You are a food addict whether you like it or not. Understanding what is happening is half the battle here. Keep pushing along, stick with it, flush out the bad and welcome the new you once it is over. You'll know it is over when your brain seems to function like the edge of a sword, sharp and crystal clear. You'll also have renewed energy like you never had before.
So, Detox or Die, it is your choice.