Can a Low-Carb Diet Actually Destroy Your Body? Here’s What We Know

Bad things happen when you take a diet too far. Whether you diet because you want to lose weight or because it motivates you to eat healthier, if you don’t know what you’re doing, your body will suffer. Going on a low-carb diet is a beneficial and healthy choice for many individuals, depending on their goals. But if you’re starting to notice physical symptoms and don’t know where they’re coming from, your food choices might be the root cause.

Your low-carb diet might confuse your brain

grilled chicken on a plate of salad.

Feeling moody? Your body might be missing those carbs. | Jatrax/iStock/Getty Images

Cutting back on your carb intake can cause mood swings, brain fog, irritability, and other unwanted psychological side effects. It’s possible that going low-carb interferes with your brain’s ability to synthesize serotonin, says Fitness Magazine, which helps regulate your mood. Your brain needs healthy carbs to keep you running at optimal capacity. If a sour mood makes it harder to get out of bed, you might not be eating the right foods, which can eventually lead to deficiencies and other negative physical symptoms.

You might accidentally become vitamin deficient

Vegetables cut and placed into containers.

Don’t sacrifice vitamins and nutrients during your low-carb diet. | Ben6/iStock/Getty Images Plus

If you take things too far cutting back on or cutting out major food and nutrient groups can be dangerous. Men’s Fitness says a low-carb diet can lead to vitamin B and antioxidant deficiencies, which increases your risk for a number of diseases. They may have carbs in them, but don’t shun vegetables, which are vital sources of vitamins. Also keep in mind that you can go low-carb without severely restricting carbs, which is the safest option for most people.

Low-carb diets and high cholesterol

Open refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables.

Don’t shun the healthy carbs from your diet. | AndrewRafalsky/Getty Images

According to Healthline, some people experience higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels on very low-carb diets. The exact reasons for this, unfortunately, aren’t scientifically clear. However, possible increased intake of saturated fat and ketosis — the stage at which your body uses fat as energy — could be to blame. High LDL cholesterol, regardless of the cause, can increase your heart attack and stroke risk and give you heart disease.

You could damage your kidneys

Raw pork neck meat in nonstick frying pan, spices, vegetables, olive oil.

Overdoing it on the protein could have consequences. | ChesiireCat/iStock/Getty Images

When you go on a low-carb diet, you tend to eat more protein. Many common protein sources, like meat and seafood, are considered low- or no- carb. Unfortunately, diets high in protein can lead to kidney damage if you aren’t careful, warns Prevention. Eating too much protein forces your kidneys to go into overdrive to filter out added waste products. This can reduce your kidney function over time. Figure out how much protein you actually need and try to keep your intake within a normal range as you reduce unhealthy carbs.

It might back you up

A woman holds her stomach in pain.

A significant change could affect your usual fiber intake. | Champja/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Many low-carb diets encourage you to consume fewer fruits and vegetables, which can significantly reduce your fiber and water intake. When you aren’t getting enough fiber and you don’t drink enough water to compensate for this loss, you can become constipated. Livestrong.com suggests eating plenty of high-fiber, low-carb foods, including green leafy vegetables and different types of berries. Drink water with meals and snacks to keep up your fluid intake.

You could deplete your energy levels

A woman sits at her desk taking a break.

You can expect to feel lethargic during the day. | Mihail Ulianikov/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Carbs readily supply your brain and body with the energy it needs to keep you alert and fully functional. When you deprive your body of high-quality carbs, you might start feeling fatigued — which is both discouraging and inconvenient. Don’t depend on caffeine to give you a boost — stimulants don’t last. Eat foods that naturally boost energy, and avoid snack foods and drinks that drain your energy (even though they’re low-carb!).

You’ll probably crave more foods high in sugar

Citrus fruits. Oranges, grapefruits and mandarins on a wooden table.

Fresh tasty fruit can satisfy your sweet tooth. | Voloshin311

Sugar cravings can lead to overeating, weight gain, and the end of your diet. In the early stages of a low-carb diet, says SF Gate, you force your body to transition from using simple sugars for energy to burning fat as a prominent energy source. This switch isn’t easy, which is why it’s common to crave “bad” sources of sugar. To keep your cravings under control — and prevent overeating — snack on plenty of fruit, say no to processed foods, and avoid artificial sweeteners.