Keto Flu: What It Is, Symptoms and How to Beat It

Nausea. Stomach pains. Cramping. Dizziness. If you have recently changed to the ketogenic diet for its wonderful health benefits and to lose some weight, you may have also experienced some of the symptoms mentioned above.

These symptoms are just some that you may experience on the keto called commonly known as the Keto flu or also Carb flu.

This can happen when you abruptly and drastically attempt to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet.

ketosis, keto flu

What causes keto flu to happen?

The keto flu is caused by your body’s transition from burning sugar to burning fat for most of its energy needs.

We all know that the primary source of energy in our body is glucose (or carbohydrates).

Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into smaller sugars which are absorbed by the body and used as energy.

Carbohydrates (or carbs for short) are therefore necessary to power the human body like gasoline is necessary to power a car engine.

For this reason, it is necessary glucose is present in your body at all times.

However, when you switch from a high-carb diet to a low-carb diet, this, in turn, lowers your insulin levels.

When insulin levels drop, the body converts fat into ketones, which can be used instead of glucose.

On the ketogenic diet, your body changes its default settings and begins to burn fat for energy instead.

When this happens, your body has changed metabolic state into one known as Ketosis.

However, it takes your brain and body to adapt and get used to using fat for fuel instead of the sugar it’s usually used to.

When your insulin levels drop, your body responds by excreting more sodium in the urine, along with water.

Because of this, you’ll probably find yourself urinating a lot more often in the first week or so of a keto diet.

This change is also responsible for some of the quick weight loss that happens in the early stages of a keto diet.

However, losing a lot of water and sodium is responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms of keto flu.

The keto flu effects people in different ways, some may feel the symptoms more than others. However, the keto flu doesn’t have to be unbearable for anyone if the proper steps and precautions are taken to remedy it.

What are the symptoms of the Keto flu?

Symptoms of the keto flu can range from mild disturbances and brain fog to full blown flu symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea.

These symptoms normally show up about one or two days after the removal of carbs from your diet.

The levels at which you experience these symptoms vary and mostly depends on your sugar intake prior to the elimination of carbs from your diet.

For example, if your diet consists of highly refined sugar, you are more likely to experience tougher symptoms but if you had a mild sugar consumption rate, you are less likely to suffer from strong effects or symptoms of the keto flu.

One major symptom of the keto flu is the craving for sugar. Of course, this is understandable, given that your body wants to replenish the glucose content once had and by default tries to do it by taking more glucose in.

Other common symptoms to be experienced during this period include:

*Dizziness

*Cramping

*Brain fog (or difficulty concentrating)

*Stomach Irritability

*Nausea

*Stomach Pains

How long does the Keto Flu last?

Normally, the Keto flu should last for about a few days or a week at most. There are a few cases of the Keto flu lasting for up to a month, but that is very very rare.

How to cure keto flu

Symptoms of the keto flu usually disappear by themselves within a few days, as the body adapts. But rather than suffering needlessly during this time, why not address the cause and start feeling better right now? The first step is by far the most important, and it’s often all that’s needed.

HOW TO GET RID OF KETO FLU

increase your salt and water intake

The majority of keto flu issue arise from the loss of salt and water.

The standard American diet contains a lot of processed foods, which are high in added sugars and salts.

When we switch to a keto diet, most food choices that are high in salt are eliminated and sodium intake is drastically reduced.

Increasing intake of both sodium and water can help reduce symptoms significantly and often eliminate them altogether.

During the first few weeks of your keto lifestyle, whenever you develop a headache, nausea, dizziness or other symptoms, drink a glass of water with half a teaspoon of salt stirred into it.

This simple yet effective technique may help to get rid of your keto flu symptoms.

It is also important that you are drinking enough water. The early stages of the keto diet you’ll lose a lot of water,  so you will need to replace this water.

A good rule of thumb is to drink a minimum of 3 liters of fluid every day during the first week of your keto diet.

If you find it difficult to drink plain water include tea, coffee and herbal teas into your diet. This will contribute toward your fluid intake as well.

Another way is to drink bone broth. Bone broth provides electrolytes like sodium and potassium while also being hydrating.

If you don’t want to drink bone broth, supplement with magnesium and eat keto foods high in potassium like leafy green veggies, salmon, nuts, avocados, or mushrooms.

INCREASE FAT

Your body is no longer getting its energy from carbohydrates and sugars, so it needs plenty of healthy fat for fuel.

Make sure the calories from carbs are replaced by eating plenty of keto-friendly fats.

If you continue feeling unwell after increasing salt and fluid intake, try eating more fat.

Due to years and years of misinformation on the topic of fat and fat being unhealthy, it can feel quite strange to be told to eat more fat to people who are following a diet plan.

However, if you drastically lower your carb intake without increasing your fat consumption, your body will go into starvation mode. You will feel tired, hungry and moody.

Make sure to increase your intake of fat at the start of your keto journey until your body adapts to using fat and ketones for most of its energy needs.

Once your body gets used to the change let your appetite guide you in cutting back on fat, until you reach the point where you can easily maintain the balance between hunger and satiety.

INCREASE YOUR CARBS

We recommend you try to endure it for a few more days until the symptoms pass. Research has shown that a very-low-carb diet is best for weight loss and metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes.

If adding more water, salt and fat has not helped and you are still feeling poorly?  You can, however, try a somewhat controversial technique.

That is to slow down the transition to ketogenic eating by consuming a few more carbs, such as following a more moderate low-carb diet that provides 20 to 50 grams of carbs a day.

Eating more carbs may slow down weight loss but it can still lead to better health, especially if you are cutting out sugar and processed foods.

Once you’ve adapted to low-carb eating, feel free to try eating less than 20 grams of carbs again to see whether your body prefers this or slightly higher carb intake.

cut back on exercise

Although many people find that their energy and stamina improve on a keto lifestyle, trying to do too much in the early stages can make you keto flu symptoms worse.

Some studies show that physical performance decreases during the first week of very-low-carb eating.

The same study also shows that by week 4, people typically perform better than before they started keto.

Gentle exercise such as yoga, walking and stretching, is okay and may even help you feel better.

But when your body is already under stress from trying to adapt to a new fuel system, don’t place an additional burden on it by attempting any type of strenuous workout.

Take it easy for the first few weeks and then slowly increase your exercise intensity.

Who Should Avoid Ketogenic Diets?

The ketogenic diet may be beneficial for many people, it’s not suitable for everyone.

The keto diet may not be appropriate for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children and teens unless it’s being used under medical supervision.

This diet should also be avoided by those with certain health conditions like kidney disease, liver disease or pancreatic conditions.

Also, those with diabetes who are interested in following a ketogenic meal plan should consult their doctor to determine if this diet is safe and suitable for their specific needs.

Lastly, this diet may not be appropriate for individuals who are hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol, who account for around one-quarter of the world’s population

THE BOTTOM LINE

The keto flu is a collection of symptoms associated with the body adapting to a ketogenic diet.

Nausea, constipation, headaches, fatigue and sugar cravings are common in some people who are adapting to a high-fat, low-carb diet.

The Keto flu lasts for only a period of time and it is expected to disappear after that. There are a few things you can use to reduce the effect of the flu. They include

*Staying Hydrated: It is important you take lots of fluids during this period of ketosis as staying hydrated will help you reduce headaches and increase your energy levels when you feel dizzy and weak.

*Get lots of rest.

*Replenish electrolytes.

*Do light exercise like a brief yoga class.

*Eat more fat, especially when your sugar cravings are going over the edge.

When you start experiencing some symptoms, there is a tendency for you to want to give up or stop the Ketogenic diet.

Don’t give in to it. 

By using the healthy tips above you can help reduce symptoms and possibly even avoid the keto flu altogether.

The keto flu induction phase is just the beginning, and if you experience it, symptoms will subside; just give them time.

Once the hard part is over, you’ll be reaping the benefits of keto and thanking yourself for staying strong.

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