Ugh! This Diet Isn’t Working… What Do I Do?

by Jordan Reasoner

Man banging head against wall

Earlier this week, I was reading through some Facebook comments from one of our book readers who wrote in:

“Hey guys, I’ve been following the SCD diet for the last 30 days… but I’m not feeling better yet. I still have bloating and constipation that feels like it hasn’t changed since I started eating SCD, what am I supposed to do now? Do you think I should ditch SCD and start WAPF or Paleo?” – Lucy M.

In this post, I’ll explain why some people get worse on Paleo, SCD, or GAPS before they can get better, and in this case, what Lucy should do next.

“I Tried This Diet and It Made Me Feel Worse!”

Maybe you’re following a diet like Paleo, GAPS, or SCD… but you’re still having problems, even though you’re avoiding all those “bad toxic foods.” Or maybe you’re like Lucy and you feel even worse after eating this new way.

The good news is: you’re not alone!

You’ve cut out grains, refined sugar, fake sugar, industrial seed oils, processed foods like pop or soy, and you’re now eating anti-inflammatory nutrient-dense food. That’s a HUGE step toward getting healthy.

But there are three common problems that people run into with a new diet like Paleo, GAPS, or SCD that can make them feel worse or seem like they’re not getting better.

1) Die-off Can Make You Want to Quit (it’s not fun)

The first, and the most problematic for people, is typically referred to as, “die-off.”

I’m not going to lie to you, die-off can cause pretty awful symptoms. And many times it will cause symptoms that are worse than before you started the diet.

Here are a few symptoms to watch out for:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Intense cravings
  • Joint pain
  • Fevers
  • Fatigue
  • Gas/Bloating

The experience of “die-off” is related to the shift in gut bacteria that happens when you stop feeding overgrown bacteria the food it’s used to thriving on. When I switched to the Specific Carbohydrate DietI had brain fog so bad all I could do my first 3 days at work was sit at my desk staring at the wall… seriously. It was probably one of the weirdest experiences of my life.

We get emails just about every day from people trying to figure out if they have die-off symptoms or not…

Here’s the best way to tell if die-off is what’s making you feel bad: see how long it lasts.

Symptoms related to the shift in bacteria usually last 3-7 days and anything longer than that is probably something else. That leads me to the second most common problem people face when starting Paleo, GAPS, or SCD… which is known as the “low-carb flu.”

2) The Low-Carb Flu Can Make You Feel Foggy and Fatigued

The low-carb flu is a nickname for the process of low-carb adaptation and some people have to deal with it and some people don’t. It’s very individual and seems to be based on body type.

It can cause symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, intense sugar/carb cravings, lethargy, etc.

These symptoms are a result of a shift in the way the body burns fuel from primarily glucose, to primarily fats. (Click here for a great article on it by Dr. Eades or click here for a another great article on it by Mark Sisson)

Both Mark and Dr. Eades say low-carb adaptation symptoms typically last 2-3 weeks and slowly fades away after that.

To summarize: “Die-off” symptoms might last anywhere from the first 3-7 days on a real food diet and symptoms related to low-carb adaptation might last anywhere from the first 2-3 weeks.

So, if you’ve been on Paleo, GAPS, or SCD for 30 days or more and still feel worse than before you started, there’s something more going on…

3) You Haven’t Customized Your Diet Yet…

Between die-off and the low-carb flu, the first 30 days on a diet like Paleo, GAPS, or SCD can feel even worse than before you started.

The honest truth is getting better won’t happen overnight. I wish everyone that started these types of diets had dramatic improvement and never gave up, because that would make it really easy for me to get more people to try it.

Healing gut problems is a gradual process that happens over a long period of time. When I started SCD, my diarrhea stopped in 7 days, which was a miracle to me, but it still took years to recover my health.

If you’re like Lucy and you still feel worse after 30 days on the diet, whether it’s constipation, gas, bloating, or diarrhea, that’s a big sign that you need to start customizing your diet more.

The third most common problem people face when they start a real food diet is they don’t customize the diet for their body. It doesn’t mean the diet isn’t working for them, it means that the current version of the diet they’re following isn’t working. Let me explain…

We’ve helped thousands of people with digestive problems start SCD over the past three years and we’ve found that most people can feel better eating a real food diet like Paleo, SCD, or GAPS… but it’s highly individual.

Let me be more clear. Each person has to do some testing and tweaking to create a custom version of a real food diet that works for them.

The diet that works for you will not have a name. It’s the “Lucy Diet” or the “Jordan Diet” or the “Steve Diet.” Sometimes we get stuck following the rules or the specific diet we chose to follow and it’s just not working as well as we thought it would.

If you don’t experience some degree of improvement after 30 days on Paleo, GAPS, or SCD… it doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you or you’re doomed to forever suffer in agony. It means that your body is telling you that it’s time to make some tweaks. It’s time to start customizing your diet, supplements, and lifestyle to help your body heal.

What to Do if Your Diet Isn’t Working for You

I’m going to share the first two most common tweaks we give people who are 30 days into a real food diet and still don’t feel better… or even feel worse like Lucy. If you’re stuck there, choose one of these tweaks and test it this week:

1. Leaky gut makes these 4 foods cause problems…

Leaky gut syndrome can make it tough to tolerate four common foods that people eat when they switch to a real food diet. We see it all the time and nicknamed these 4 foods the “Four Horsemen of SCD Setbacks.”

This is the number one diet tweak that helps our readers.

Read this article to find out what those 4 foods are and try removing them for 3-4 days: The Four Horsemen of the SCD Diet

2. Fat and protein cause problems… 

If you have trouble breaking down fat and protein when you switch to a real food diet that’s made up of more fat and protein, it’s a recipe for feeling worse. Don’t panic, there are supplement tweaks that can help.

See if you’re a good candidate for Betaine HCL here, or try using digestive enzymes.

And finally, if you need more help creating a custom diet that works for you, I highly recommend you get a copy of our book. It’s a step-by-step guide for creating a custom real food diet that works for your body:

–> http://scdlifestylebook.com/

In good health,

– Jordan

P.S. – The most important thing? Never give up trying to take control of your health. I know it’s frustrating, I’ve been there… but I believe in you and know you can do this. If you need more help, we can walk you through it with our book: http://scdlifestylebook.com/

Is Your Body Secretly Suffering from a Leaky Gut?

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About the author

Jordan Reasoner Jordan Reasoner is a health engineer and author. He was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007 and almost gave up hope when a gluten-free diet didn’t work. Since then, he transformed his health using the SCD Diet and started SCDLifestyle.com to help others naturally heal stomach problems. You can check out his story here and find him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet Works

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennie June 27, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Hi, I tried strict Paleo a couple months ago and since I’m only 90 lbs to start with I felt like fainting constantly. I gave up after a couple weeks and ate a bunch of food, but now I’m back to trying it out and adding in enough carbs to help me feel full. Eating sweet potatoes and a specific gluten free bread has helped me and I feel great this week. Lots of meat and veggies. Still learning how to navigate the diet to heal eczema. Thanks for all the info!

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Jessica Anderson June 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Awesome article! Wish this was available to encourage me when I hit my 60-90 day “I don’t feel better yet” phase. I had to deal with this and am still tweaking my diet. Often we think just because food is “healthy” that it will agree with our bodies. There were several very healthy foods, including bananas and chicken, that I’ve had to cut out of my diet. Our healing processes don’t come with cookie cutter molds, so don’t give up along the journey!

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Jeff Mahkorn June 27, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Wish you guys would have told me about the four horseman months ago, lol. I struggled with fruit not knowing what the problem was, cutting out one then the other with no improvement. Then I realized maybe to much fruit at one time was the issue and instantly worked. I found one serving of fruit per meal and not a grape more and I was fine, any more and felt like I just had bread.

And to anyone who hasn’t started eating natural yogurt is missing out, finally a month into scd and I started yogurt and have felt so much better. Helped more than all the pills and enzymes by far.

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Jennifer June 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm

I have Hashimoto’s, and my tweaks were: getting off the AIP eating plan and adding in carbs and dairy again! I knew I wasn’t having withdrawl from the typical American diet because I NEVER ate that way. I did Paleo for 2 months before trying the AIP, and THAT’S when I felt worse. See, what those of us with Hashi’s forget is that YOUR BODY NEEDS CARBS TO CONVERT YOUR THYROID MEDS. No carbs, poor or no conversion. Also, I lift weight 4 days/week. My workouts suffer without SOME carbs. And sweet potatoes and fruit won’t cut it.

I still don’t eat wheat or soy. I go full paleo on my days off from lifting. I try to keep it safer to just quinoa for my carb in the AM, but am back to my beloved Greek yogurt with oj for my recovery drink. Also? I felt fine BEFORE I started the AIP diet. I did it to heal my gut, since I must have leaky gut, as I have Hashimoto’s. That’s when my brain fog started.When I went from feeling fine to feeling bad, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working. AIP was robbing my life of joy and full-functionality. Glad I’m back to what works for me!

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Julie June 27, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Thanks for the article. I have been on the diet for a month 1/2 and still have had gas and bloating. People keep suggesting I take digestive enzymes but one of the primary reasons I got on the diet was so I no longer had to rely on digestive enyzmes. Also, how will I know if I tolerate a newly added food if I take enzymes with it?

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Gina October 3, 2014 at 11:00 am

I’ve been doing the SCD for about one month now. I have thyroid issues, arthritis & had gout out of the blue. Iam in good shape and already ate healthy!! First week I lot about 4pounds which I liked, but my energy is awful. I assumed it would get better…it has not not. If anything I’ve been in a depression, not following through with workouts the way I use to and just a feeling of almost dispare. I have found my self binging on certain foods ever just to try and feel better. Then so sick I’ve thrown up!
Iam a Pilates instructor a holistic health coach myself…this is not good for business when you can’t get off the couch. I just want to feel better. Was trying to be proactive. I assumed by all my research that I must have leaky gut!! So hear I am.
My blood work even came back with my bad cholesterol high. First time in my life!!! Everything is becoming contradictory to the research. The only positive had been that my skin is clearer! I’ve gained back back the four pounds & feel much worse emotionally.
Please help clear up my confusion…is this not a good fit for thyroid issues. (Low) ??
I’ve even bought your program. Which was quite confusing as well. I did the intro then began adding foods one at a time slowly. Then I purchased another program from you for a considerably more money and there was nothing about the intro or puréed veggies & fruits.
Very depressed and concerned that I’m doing more harm than good!!!

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Lori Jo Berg October 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Hi Gina,

Thank you for reaching out today! You will certainly need to address the root issue here, and for you it sounds like that is your thyroid. We suggest working with a practitioner to get treated for this issue and if you are in need of one, you can search here: http://scdlifestyle.com/practitioners/

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Kathy January 4, 2015 at 2:21 pm

I am on day 12 of this diet. The diarrhea started on day 4 and hasn’t stopped. I took out the eggs and the meat patties, as my stomach got very crampy soon after eating them. I am not eating any dairy, or grains, or nuts, or fruit. I am taking a probiotic and a digestive enzyme. I’ve tried introducing new foods, and all are running right through me. All I seem to be able to eat is broth and mashed squash, and sometimes even that sends me to the bathroom in a hurry. I assume I should not try to introduce any more new foods until my system stabilizes because there wouldn’t be a way to tell if the new food was causing additional symptoms or just exacerbating the symptom I already have. I guess I’m in a holding pattern until this symptom passes? But surely it can’t be healthy to only eat broth and squash for30 days. There aren’t enough nutrients in that. Since I’m past the 3-7 day window mentioned in the blog post above, I assume that means “it’s probably something else.” I’m not sure what the something else would be, though.

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Lori Jo Berg January 5, 2015 at 9:47 am

Hi Kathy, thanks for reaching out. You may want to check the probiotics you are taking, as sometimes these can cause unwanted symptoms. Please read this article here: http://scdlifestyle.com/2011/08/scd-probiotics-what-you-really-need-to-know/ Also, please check out these links on diarrhea triggers and how to stop your diarrhea fast:

Diarrhea Triggers Video 1 http://scdlifestyle.wistia.com/medias/zaxbfu2e18
Diarrhea Triggers Video 2: http://scdlifestyle.wistia.com/medias/3pe1g6an8v
Diarrhea Triggers Video 3: http://scdlifestyle.wistia.com/medias/ce42dsbzsc
Diarrhea Triggers Video 4: http://scdlifestyle.wistia.com/medias/s3uwzak5n1

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Nia July 11, 2015 at 8:45 pm

I’m trying to troubleshoot and just thought of something because I ate less meals today and feel really good… Is it possible I’m holding myself back by eating too often and too much? (phase 1 and starting phase 2 foods). I’ve been so concerned about gaining my weight back that I’ve been eating every 2 hours and eating a lot! Will eat every 4 hours again tomorrow and less food and see how I feel. Has this ever come up? Thanks!

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Mariel Heiss July 13, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Hi Nia! We don’t ever want you to go hungry while following the SCD diet, but you should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If you’re worried about eating enough, we recommend you check out page 48-49 of the eBook and learn how to track your calories. You can also supplement with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil at meals to help boost your calorie intake. SCD is about finding a customized approach that works for you – this might mean eating less often if that helps you to feel better.

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Nia July 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Hi Mariel, I’ll look into those pages in the SCD Lifestyle ebook. I purchased it & always have trouble opening it. I’m on fitday.com and track calories that way. I’m finding it difficult to eat more than 1600-1800 calories of just butternut squash, carrots, flounder, turkey burgers, chicken and spinach (all broiled or steamed). Oh & a cup of scd chicken soup sometimes. I’ve just added 1 – 2 TBL spoons of coconut oil per day which is a help-gets me up to 1800 some days but need 2000 to gain. Don’t want to add too much because I want to see b. rm. progress before I add anything else new. Any other advice would be appreciated! Embarrassed about my weight loss is affecting my life and if I could add at least 5 lbs that would make a huge difference. thanks.

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Mariel Heiss July 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Hi Nia, the easiest way to add more calories is to double your portions of meat at every meal and to supplement with coconut oil (or other tolerated healthy fats)
You might also want to check out these resources, if you haven’t yet: http://scdlifestyle.com/2010/08/5-easy-ways-to-add-calories-to-the-scd-diet/

http://scdlifestyle.com/2010/07/are-you-starving-yourself-on-the-specific-carbohydrate-diet/

Please email us at [email protected] if you ever have problems accessing the book, we’d be happy to help out 🙂

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