Today is all about the one ‘potential’ side effect of Keto diet, namely Keto flu and the symptoms and remedies for it.
The keto diet is an amazing diet that can help you lose weight fast and keep it off for the long-term.
However, there is something associated with the initial phase of this diet that strikes some users. Let me help you understand and deal with it.
Hello and welcome to Fearlessly Holistic.
My name is Irma and I want to share my journey to improved health by eating whole foods, moving my body and eliminating stress as much as possible.
It is my hope to inspire you to make daily changes. Why? Because eating fresh, seasonal food, getting some sunshine, and purging unhelpful thinking is the best way to increase longevity. But you do not want just a long life.
You want a quality long life, and you want to look and feel your best while you live it.
Ready to start keto? Grab my KETO FOOD GUIDE and start eating better today. Keto diet, and especially clean keto which I advocate for, it healthy and delicious and nourishes your body which encourages healing and weight loss.
My blog posts are my opinion and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. My opinions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. As well, there may be affiliate links in this post. Read more here.
A Bit of Keto Diet History
A keto diet was used for many years to treat intractable epilepsy.
Intractable epilepsy means that conventional medicines do not work, or do not work well.
One of the main reasons that keto diet works as a treatment is that it is a high fat way of eating, and quality fat feeds your brain.
Since epilepsy is a neurological condition, it stands to reason that improving brain health will lessen the symptoms.
Why fat helps the brain
On a Standard American diet, you eat most of your calories as carbohydrates (glucose).
This gives you quick energy, but it dissipates quickly also, so you must eat multiple times a day to hold back hunger.
On a ketogenic diet (keto), you eat the majority of your calories as fat.
When you eat a high fat diet, chemicals called ketones are made for your body to use for energy.
This process is referred to as ketosis, hence the word ketogenic (keto = ketosis and genic =producing/forming aka ketosis forming).
The main benefit of the ketosis is that it uses stored body fat for burning if fat calories are in balance.
This puts the body into a “fasted state”.
One of the only treatments for epilepsy that works for everyone is fasting, so the keto diet helped many people live better lives.
In 1970, Dr. Robert Atkins, a Cardiologist (heart specialist) developed a weight loss diet that restricted carbohydrates. The book was very popular.
This brought the keto diet into mainstream.
But it was when Dr. Atkins book was revised in the early 2000’s that the word ‘keto’ exploded and the world started paying attention.
That book was Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution.
Current studies now show that a ketogenic diet is not only healthy, but it solves many of health issues that were brought on by the high carb diets: brain fog, obesity, Type II diabetes, and heart disease.
And the health improvements happen without going to the gym for an hour, six days a week.
What Are the Keto Flu Symptoms?
There can be plenty of side effects when changing diet drastically. This could be going from a Standard American diet to Keto or to Vegan.
People on Keto and Vegan diets report hair loss as a symptom that last months before it stops.
But for people switching from burning primarily carbohydrates to burning body fat, there is a specific effect.
It’s called the keto flu, and it can make you feel like you have the flu.
Technically, it is not influenza. It’s just some of the symptoms feel like you are having the yearly flu.
It’s brought on by your body’s adjustment period when you switch from eating a lot of carbs to not consuming as many.
As your body begins to burn fat, it’s a change from getting your energy from carbs.
The symptoms of the keto flu can vary, but there are several common ones.
- Nausea or upset stomach.
- Brain fog: it feels like you have trouble making sense of things or can’t focus.
- Diarrhea or have constipation.
- Keto flu can cause muscle pain, much like seasonal flu
- Mood changes such as anger or irritability.
- Lethargy…they just do not want to do anything (no motivation)
- Sugar cravings (from switching to low carb foods)
- Muscle cramps (from switching to lower sodium foods)
The symptoms are temporary, but may feel like they last forever.
How Long Does Keto Flu Last?
Depending on what your diet is like when you switch to Keto, you may have symptoms in the first couple of days or the first few weeks.
While it can feel like the symptoms will never end, they will, once your body has had time to adjust to the change.
As your body gets used to its new fuel source, the symptoms will lessen and then disappear.
If you practice a few precautions, you can lessen or even avoid Keto flu.
Keep in mind that being in ketosis is the more natural state for the human body than burning glucose (carbs).
As hunter/gatherers, you would not eat unless there was food, which meant hunting or gathering.
If there was no food available, your body would use stored body fat for energy.
This is very efficient because it means that you are not constantly obsessing about what to eat next.
Contrast that with a high carb diet, which is one that requires food every few hours.
That type of diet is new for humans, who never had 24 access to food before the invention of modern food storage.
The rise in health problems like obesity and Type II diabetes exactly correlates with the increased pressure from health practitioners to eat a high sugar diet.
That is because as you eat more carbs, your raise your blood sugar.
Your pancreas then excretes insulin to bring your blood sugar back to normal.
If this cycle happens too often, or for long periods of time your pancreas cannot keep up and you get Type II diabetes.
The other effect of eating this way is that your body gets inflammation from eating the wrong kind of food (i.e processed carbs).
Inflammation is the root cause of heart disease and strokes, Arthritis and joint issues, allergies, COPD, and Type II diabetes.
Keto Flu Remedies
I always recommend easing into Keto specifically so that you avoid Keto flu.
I mean why have keto flu if you don’t have to?
The way to do this is to:
- Clean out your cupboards, fridge, and freezer of your high carb foods (eat them or throw them away)
- Start adding in more keto foods at the same time (more quality fats, clean meats with no breading or coatings)
- As you start running out of high carb foods, increase the amount of low-carb foods
- Do this transition over a period of a few weeks, getting closer to the 5% of total calories from carbs.
Some people develop keto flu because their electrolytes are off
This happens when you switch from processed food, which is high in sodium, to cleaner foods.
You can also start drinking bone broth with some added salt. Be sure to use good quality salt, like pink Himalayan salt.
You can also increase the amount of the other main electrolytes (potassium and magnesium). See more on this below.
Be sure that you’re drinking enough water every day when you start keto diet.
If you get dehydrated, it can cause the keto flu.
Also, check your calories to make sure that you haven’t accidentally dropped the amount you’re eating too low.
If you have, increasing the calorie count a bit will help treat the symptoms of the keto flu.
Keto Diet and Electrolytes
The keto diet can be the answer you’re looking for if you want to lose weight.
However, sometimes on the keto diet, your electrolytes can get out of balance.
Eating low carb, especially under 20 grams of carbs, means that the way electrolytes are processed in your body changes.
It’s these changes that can lead to an imbalance along with dehydration.
The biggest risk is right at the beginning of the diet, but it can happen at any time.
Because you’re eating so few carbs, you won’t be needing the same amount of insulin that you once did.
Your pancreas will slow production of insulin.
When that happens, your stored glucose ends up well below the amount you once had.
You can even reach the point where your body is no longer storing glucose.
Once the body reaches that point, you’ll experience a faster weight loss because your kidneys are kicking into high gear to rid the water, rather than keeping it.
With a water weight loss, your drop in weight will be noticeable right away.
You’ll see more pounds lost on the scale than ever before.
While losing your water weight isn’t really a problem, what is a problem is that your electrolytes are being lost right along with the water.
When you don’t have the right balance of electrolytes, your body will make this known:
- You’ll experience headaches and muscle cramps.
- You may have digestive problems.
- Your heart can race and you might feel sick to your stomach or dizzy.
Watching out for your electrolyte balance is something you need to take care of long before it’s ever a problem.
Make sure that you have plenty of salt in your keto diet.
Salt helps the body hold onto water and you need sodium when you’re on the keto diet.
Without enough sodium, you’ll notice that your muscles aren’t working well and you’ve experiencing pain and cramping.
You can use more salt in your food or make dishes using broth, which is high in sodium.
Include foods that are high in potassium in your keto diet.
You need potassium for your heart’s sake. Eat foods that are rich in this mineral.
Good choices are:
- Leafy greens
- Hemp seeds
Also make sure that you’re also getting enough magnesium.
If not, it can cause muscle cramps, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, fatigue, nervousness and poor bone health over time.
If I have leg cramps, I first check my diet for high salt foods, like bacon or canned tomatoes.
Then I try to balance that with more potassium and magnesium rich foods.
Note that many foods rich in potassium are also rich in magnesium like almonds and avocado.
Foods to eat for magnesium are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Leafy greens (see a pattern here?)
- Dark chocolate (the low sugar kind)
Dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses.
They contain a lot of best nutrients, which is why they are one of the first fresh foods to grow.
This would give hunter/gatherers a health boost after a winter of eating mostly meat and fish. It was good for them, and it is good for us!
Homemade electrolyte drink
It is not a good idea to supplement with commercial electrolyte drinks. They contain high amounts of sugar.
A super easy replacement is:
- Unflavored sparkling water (like Bubly) or soda water (which has sodium)
- A pinch of sea or himalayan salt (sodium/magnesium)
- A tablespoon of fresh lemon or lime juice (potassium)
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
Mix together, add ice if you like, and drink using a straw, because the vinegar can be harsh to your tooth enamel. You can sip this throughout the day.
This is also good to drink if you are fasting and need something to get you through.
You can add powdered magnesium if it is available to you and you think you need more.
Or take a mag supplement at bedtime; magnesium is a muscle relaxant.
Do not take too much though, as magnesium is also a solution to constipation 😉
I love eating low-carb and being in Ketosis; it has healed so many areas of my health. I have made the Keto diet to fit my life and the concepts that I am aligned with, which are clean, seasonal eating.
If you are interested in how I do Keto, please sign up for my free keto food list and quick start guide –
Holism targets overall wellness, and when we are well, we only get better with age.
Eat the best food that you can afford to give your body the building blocks it needs for optimal health, longevity, and looking good for as long as possible 😉
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Until next time, here’s to our health!