Everything You Need To Know About The Keto Flu
You may be a week or two into the ketogenic diet, and you’re losing weight, seeing progress, but then you’re just suddenly hit with brain fog, headaches, fatigue, and other flu-like symptoms.
If you’ve identified yourself with any of those mentioned, you might just be experiencing Keto Flu. Don’t worry, Keto Flu is one of the most common side effects of the ketogenic diet, and is one that is not there to stay as you progress in the diet.
This article will help you explore everything you need to know about Keto-Flu, why it happens, and how to fix it.
What is the Keto Flu
The Keto Flu, also known as the low-carb flu, is one of the popular terms associated with the Ketogenic diet. The Keto Flu is a term that describes flu-like symptoms keto dieters usually experience in the first few days or weeks into the ketogenic diet.
If you’re wondering whether the Keto flu is dangerous, or even contagious, it’s not. The Keto Flu isn’t even a flu. However, it just makes you feel uncomfortable and unpleasant, like how a flu does.
The Ketogenic Diet and The Keto Flu
As you know, the ketogenic diet works by restricting your body of your carbohydrate intake, increasing your high-fat intake, and maintaining your protein intake. When you do this, your body burns fats, which are converted into ketones to be used as fuel for your body. This is when your body enters the metabolic state of ketosis, which is the ultimate goal of the ketogenic diet.
Generally, fat only works as our body’s secondary or back-up fuel source behind sugar or carbohydrates in the form of glucose. So what happens when your primary fuel source is not enough? Your body then gets energy from your fat source, and once your body entirely switches from this, then you have officially entered the state of ketosis.
So the discomfort and unpleasantness you’re feeling is your body’s natural reaction to the transition that it goes through from burning glucose to burning fatty acids (ketones) as fuel.
How do I know if I’m experiencing the Keto Flu?
Does everyone who starts with the Ketogenic diet necessarily experience Keto Flu? Well, not all.
If you’re already in a healthy and relatively low-carb diet, then you may only notice mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. This is because your body has already adjusted to how the low-carb diet scheme operates. But if you’re someone who has just switched from a high-carb diet to a low-carb diet, then you’re more likely to experience the Keto-Flu symptoms.
If you’re starting the ketogenic diet and you want to check whether you’ve got the Keto flu, here are a few of its frequently mentioned symptoms:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps or soreness
- Food cravings
- Poor concentration
- Trouble sleeping
“Metabolically wired” to burn sugar.
If you’re following the usual Standard American Diet, then you’re most likely used to taking in 250g-350g of carbohydrates, including sugar per day. But when you adopt a ketogenic diet, you necessarily have to slash off your carb intake to 25g-50g daily, depending on the type of ketogenic diet you’re following. Now that’s quite a difference.
If you’ve identified yourself as that, don’t worry. Almost all who start a ketogenic diet is like you. You are not alone. The carb consumption problem has stricken more and more people over time.
Today, most people now eat so much processed carbs and refined sugar that we are “metabolically wired” to burn glucose for energy and store the excess as fat. Naturally, when you try to break this cycle, your body is then thrown out of balance, and this will cause temporary flu-like symptoms.
The Explanation Behind the Keto Flu
While there is no scientific consensus on the cause of the Keto-Flu, some researchers and medical experts attribute the Keto-Flu to the following:
1. Fat Adaptation
Fat adaptation is a metabolic state in your body that happens when you have stopped eating your regular carb intake, and when your body has achieved the state of ketosis. In this state, your body is adapting to using fats as energy as your body’s energy source. This transitional phase is where your body is trying to get the hang of switching from glucose to fats as its energy source.
Fat adaptation requires your body to burn almost all glycogen stored in your body, including the muscle glycogen or stored glycogen in your muscles. Once your glycogen reserves have been depleted and your body can no longer use it, your body begins to tao excess fat stores for energy. However, effectively transitioning from glucose to fats as its energy source can be quite taxing for your body. Some studies suggest that this process may cause lethargy and mood swings.
2. Electrolyte Deficiency
One of the most common causes of keto-flu is electrolyte deficiency. In a keto diet, the body burns and uses glycogen to fuel itself. It uses water for the metabolic process and subsequently flushing it out of the body. This water carries with it the electrolytes the body needs. Magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium are some of the electrolytes that are important for our bodies to operate effectively and efficiently.
This means that when the level of electrolyte in the body is imbalanced, you may feel sick and may experience flu-like symptoms. These include feeling sluggish due to energy being quickly depleted energy after a run or a day out.
3. Decreased level of insulin
One of the main reasons why the ketogenic diet is favorable is because of the decreased insulin level due to reduced glucose intake. The keto diet transitions you from a high carb intake to a low carb intake diet, which means that the glucose in your body is also low. Insulin, being the hormone that helps your body absorb glucose, is also low.
When glucose is low, the liver starts to convert fat to ketones. Even the cells in our body use these ketones as a substitute for the low glucose level. The body then enters ketosis since the new primary source of energy now is the ketones and fat. However, the body may need a more extended period of time to adjust to these new sources, having previously relied on glucose. At this point, the body starts to get rid of the excess water (water loss) and sodium in the body. This means that at the start or until the first week from the start of the keto diet, you may experience frequent bathroom breaks as you may need to urinate more often.
The body getting rid of the excess water also the reason why you may experience weight loss at this stage of the keto diet. This means that the body is getting rid of the sodium in your body. However, aside from weight loss, you could also feel flu-like symptoms or the keto flu.
Overall, some also notice improved brain function, energy level, blood sugar level, the lesser instance of seizures, etc. after they transition to such a low carb meal plan.
Treating your Keto Flu Symptoms
Treating the symptoms means that the keto flu is the necessary effect of the body transitioning from your current diet to the keto diet. It does not necessarily mean you are sick; it just means that the body is adapting to the new way you are treating your body. Generally, these symptoms do not pose any serious underlying condition, and these symptoms may make you feel uncomfortable. However, you do not need to worry since it is straightforward to address these symptoms.
Here are some easy remedies to the keto flu:
The transition to a low card diet makes your body get rid of your stored water, making it essential for you to replenish and hydrate. You need to drink plenty of water to aid what your body is losing.
Drinking an adequate amount of water can relieve you from fatigue, muscle cramp, and even diarrhea.
2. Take electrolyte supplements and micronutrients
Once your body starts to get rid of your stored excess water, you also lose essential micronutrients, minerals, and electrolytes. This will lessen the amount of electrolyte in the body – electrolyte deficient.
To aid your body from this deficiency, you may take supplements such as the beta-hydroxybutyrate or the exogenous ketones. This is a kind of a ketone salt that contain high levels of the four essential electrolytes of the body. These include potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. There are ready to use beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) that you can choose from, and one to two scoops of such supplements should be enough to cover your electrolyte deficiency.
To support your body while undergoing ketosis, you could also opt for some keto electrolyte supplement substitute or coconut oil or MCT oil.
If you find it a bit hard to look for these supplements, there are natural alternatives such as avocados, nuts, salmon, yogurt, and fish. To fill up on your sodium deficiency, you could try soups, bacon, pickles, and sauerkraut. If you have phosphorus deficiency, focus on meats, cheese, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolates. You can supplement your chloride deficiency mostly with vegetables, olives, seaweed, and salt.
If you want to hydrate yourself more, you can also try coconut water. However, make sure to check the label and nutrient contents.
3. Gradually cut off your carbohydrate intake
The keto diet is not only a change in your diet but your lifestyle as well. If you are having a hard time adapting to the ketogenic diet, gradually cutting off your carbohydrate intake might help you.
You can try easing your carb restriction into a more moderate low carb diet. Instead of immediately cutting back to twenty (20) grams of carbohydrates per day, you can adjust it to fifty (50) grams per day while increasing your fat and protein intake.
Even if you have adjusted your carb intake and still find it hard to adapt to the ketogenic diet, finding the “good” carbs and essential micronutrients might do the trick. Choosing healthier and cleaner carbohydrates can help your body adjust to this new diet routine.
4. Take your time
By pursuing the keto diet, you are taking on a journey that affects your body. The body is adapting to the new fuel source. This does not come easy for the body. Therefore, the process needs time, and so does your body. This means that you have to listen to your body.
Take it easy at first. Choose easier exercise methods such as walking, yoga, or even simple stretching exercise at home. Do this for a couple of days to help your body transition through the process. Once it becomes a routine, your body can slowly progress through the next step. Gradually move to the moderate methods until your body becomes accustomed to the change.
While physical activities are essential, it is equally important to take a rest if you feel too tired or if you need a few days to replenish your energy. The human body needs to recharge. It is not advisable to push yourself too hard because instead of helping your body manifest the benefit of the keto diet, it might disrupt the process and be disadvantageous instead.
5. Get some sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential to help the body rejuvenate from the day’s stress. In the fast-paced world we live in, we readily overlook the benefits of sleeping. It is crucial for the body to take a breather. Sometimes, you might find it hard to sleep quickly or peacefully due to stress and the environment. If you have trouble tucking in every night, you can try these activities to help you through. Some of these activities are:
- Take a salt bath before sleeping.
- Drink night tea.
- Turn away from any mobile device two hours before the estimated time you want to go to bed.
- Practice simple yoga routines such as plank pose or cobra pose.
- Follow guided meditation sessions.
Disclaimer: This content provides general information only and not a substitute for a qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your doctor for more details.