What’s really going on when you feel worse after you try to eat healthy?

There’s several common reasons why you may feel worse after switching to a healthier lifestyle.

And the bottom line, people don't know what they don't know, so they interpret these signals as, that diet didn't work for me OR I need to do the carnivore diet and need to avoid fruit veg OR I need to have a high carb diet because I feel like I’m starving on the paleo diet, etc etc.

As it’s the new year, many are starting to try out different diets or start the year off by eating healthier, I thought it would be important to de-bunk some common myths why you might feel worse when switching your diet to a healthier one.

Myth 1

Too much protein makes me have upper belly bloating, nausea, pain & diarrhea

Why is this happening?

This could be caused by low stomach acid.

Here is how I take basic laboratory tests and look for clues of hypochlorhydria:

I look for some suboptimal values in the comprehensive metabolic panel and complete blood count. A pattern consistent with low stomach acid, aka hypochlorhydria typically shows several of the following abnormalities:

  • Elevated BUN, MCV, MCH, MCHC, CO2 and or Globulin

  • Low Chloride, anion gap, phosphorous, alkaline phosphatase, protein and or albumin

If there is no concern for an ulcer, then a stomach acid challenge can be performed under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.

A stomach acid challenge will pinpoint the exact degree of stomach acid insufficiency, and provide the dose that would be appropriate for replenishing your stores and activating your own production once again.

Myth 2

Eating more fruits & veggies causes me to have lower belly bloating, gas, pain and fluctuating constipation and diarrhea.

Even though I LOVE my veggies and think they are the most underrated secret to long-lasting vibrant health, I see many people struggling to consume more at the begging of their health journey because it causes unwanted GI side effects.

So WHY is this happening?

When this happens, it’s usually a sign of a dysbiotic gut aka not enough of the “good bacteria,” such as lactobacillus plantaris, which eats the plant material we consume so it doesn’t ferment and cause gas.

The other common cause of these symptoms persisting despite eating more fruit and veggies is it may be a sign of a bacterial overgrowth and should be properly evaluated with a comprehensive stool analysis and possibly a glucose breath.

Myth 3

I feel worse after you try to increase your good fat intake.

Here’s what’s really going on:

There’s several common reasons why you may feel worse after switching to a healthier lifestyle, including incorporating more good fat into their routine.

However, here’s an insight into why “good fat” could be making you feel worse.

If you have liver or gall bladder dysfunction to begin with, an increase in fat, regardless of the type could be making you feel worse.

Some of these symptoms include right sided flank pain, upper trap pain, light colored or yellow or green stool, diarrhea, and fatty stools (sticking to toilet bowl or floating)

Addressing this issue may require a multipronged approach, working with a functional medicine practitioner who assesses your history and labs to identify the location of the dysfunction(s): stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, intestine (microbiome) can be identified and then treated.

The treatment may include one or a few of the following: low inflammatory diet (focusing on cold pressed oils, limiting nuts/seeds, more fish less red meat and chicken etc, lots of colorful veggies), supplements to support stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes (lipase), gall bladder support (bile salts), liver support (silymarin).

Myth 4

I get HANGRY all the time after switching to a low-carb diet (like paleo or keto)

I often hear clients tell me that they’ve already tried a paleo-like (or keto) diet & that it didn’t work for them because it just made them want #allthefood

Counterproductive right?

What’s *really* going on in your body:

  • Poor nutrient absorption

  • The gut bugs are to blame

  • Metabolic inflexibility aka (only able to process sugars as fuel and thus riding the blood sugar dysregulation roller coaster.)

So this doesn’t mean that a low carb / keto diet isn’t right for you, it simply means that you have to get the above two things under control first.

You do this by working with a functional medicine specialist who is able to identify with history and basic blood work if there are compromises in the function of the stomach (produce stomach acid), pancreas (produce digestive enzymes) and or gallbladder (produce bile salts) and then supplement accordingly.

Specialized nutritional testing can be very helpful to unveil amino acid, vitamin/ mineral deficiencies.

For example, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter responsible for calming the nervous system. It is made from glutamine, an essential an amino acid often low in digestive issues and leaky gut. When GABA is low it will prompt you to eat more sugar.

There is also the possibility that the microbes made you do it!

Some strains of intestinal bacteria (such as acetobacter and lactobacillus strains as well as candida) are known to be the culprits of sending signals from your digestive tract to your brain telling you to eat carbs/sugar.

Once digestive issues are addressed, and your body heals, nutrient digestion and subsequently nutrient absorption will improve.

Myth 5

You feel worse and/or have more intense symptoms 2-3 weeks after starting your plan

Often after cleaning up your diet or going onto a new plan, the first 2-3 weeks you can actually feel worse (& have more intense symptoms) than before you started the plan.

What’s really going on?

When you detox your body, through food or other means, the “bad” bacteria in your don’t like it.

In fact, they’re rebels & put up a fight -- which increases your symptoms. This can also be called the “die-off” effect.

However, if you’re going through this, it could mean that your detox pathways or your body isn’t being supported properly.


We always do healing first, get some resolution of symptoms prior to going after an infection. So, usually the focus is on their #1 symptom first, anxiety, pain, GI distress, then when we implement a treatment for an infection it goes relatively slowly.

The ones who feel worse at this point it usually means we cut back and see if we can better support detox, then reattempt. If they fail again, it's a discussion, do you want to push through, or do you want to continue the gut healing protocol for longer and then reattempt the elimination of the infection.

This is one reason I strongly suggest working with a Functional Medicine Practitioner instead of following along with plans found in a book or on the internet.

In addition, when you’re trying to figure out of a practitioner is the right fit for you, and you don’t want to go through the detox effect (again) make sure to ask them if they find it normal for you to feel a bit worse before feeling better.

Bottom line, people don't know what they don't know, so they interpret these signals as, that diet didn't work for me, I need to do the carnivore diet and need to avoid fruit veg, or need to have a high carb diet because I will starve on the paleo diet, etc etc.

If you feel like you need help navigating the murky waters of healthy eating, please reach out and sign up for a free 15 minute health call.