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

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. (Check out this great article on it by Dr. Eades or 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:


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:

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