Keto flu: what it is and how to avoid it

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If you are unfamiliar with the keto diet, the name may confuse you, but keto flu is not a real disease and has nothing to do with the common flu.

The only reason to use this nomenclature is the symptoms of this condition that accompanies the process of entering ketosis.

This happens when your body stops using glucose as an energy source and starts processing fats and producing ketones for that purpose.

The temporary change in well-being is due to a significant reduction in carbohydrate consumption.

What is keto flu?

Keto flu is the body’s response to the use of fats to produce ketones. This process confuses your body and therefore you may feel bad when you enter a state of ketosis. Simply put, you feel the effects of a lack of carbs.

It is also worth mentioning that keto flu is not a phenomenon you can read about in scientific articles or medical journals. You will probably hear about it from other people on a ketogenic diet or through social media.

Despite these symptoms, which can range from mild to moderate, be patient – the list of benefits of a ketogenic diet is long and promising.

What causes keto flu?

There are several reasons for this side effect of the keto diet. Here, your body switches from using carbohydrates as an energy source to using fats to produce ketone bodies. Insulin levels also drop during this time, causing the kidneys to work overtime. Therefore, among other side effects, you may urinate more often than usual.

Some additional causes of keto flu may include transient low blood sugar due to reduced sugar and carbohydrate intake, as well as mineral deficiencies and changes in electrolyte balance. Fortunately, these effects do not last long.

People who have recently been on a keto diet should know that these symptoms will only last for about a week.

You may also notice a number of digestive problems, such as constipation or diarrhea, which are mainly due to your body adapting to eating nutritious foods high in fat.

To alleviate these symptoms, make sure you eat enough foods rich in fiber. Good sources of fiber are avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables.

What are the symptoms of keto flu?

The ketogenic diet has a number of health benefits, including positive effects on some research-supported health conditions.

However, all these benefits do not come without inconvenience.

Keto flu symptoms:

  • Headache
  • migraine
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Cramps
  • Stomach ache
  • Fatigue
  • Bad breath
  • Hunger
  • Sleep disorders
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Poor concentration
  • Brain nebula

How long does keto flu last?

Keto flu usually starts about 24-48 hours after a carb restriction. For most people, it takes about a week, and very rare are cases where beginners on a ketogenic diet have to deal with side effects for up to a month.

It all depends on several factors, such as your genetic predisposition – some people who switch to keto have never had keto flu.

However, it all depends on your metabolic flexibility and how quickly your body can switch and adapt to new metabolic conditions.

How to get rid of keto flu?

Most of the time, the symptoms of keto flu disappear within a week. However, some people need a little more time to shift their metabolism to using fat as their main source of energy instead of glucose.

1. Drink more water

Maintaining hydration is very important when you are on a ketogenic diet. This is especially important at the beginning of the ketogenic pathway, as mineral loss during the adaptation phase is not uncommon.

If you are not tired of drinking clean water, you can add freshly squeezed lemon juice to speed up your metabolism. The juice of one lemon contains only 3 net carbohydrates.

During a ketogenic diet, it is recommended to start with a daily intake of 20-50 grams of pure carbohydrates, so that 3 net carbohydrates are only a small percentage.

In addition, drinking water with lemon removes toxins from the body and reduces the amount of uric acid, which is known to contribute to the formation of gout and kidney stones.

2. Increase salt intake

You may have heard that salt raises your blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart attack and kidney stones.

However, studies have shown that eating less salt and a low-sodium diet in patients with normal blood pressure did not show a significant difference in their cardiovascular health.

Many processed foods are high in sodium, so a ketogenic diet in which you do not eat such foods may require more salt.

Sodium is the most concentrated electrolyte in our body and is responsible for muscle contraction, conduction of nerve impulses and maintenance of blood pressure. If we have too much sodium in our body, our brains tell us to drink more water so that we can excrete excess sodium in our urine later.

Especially at the beginning of a ketogenic diet, the need for sodium increases – especially if your kidneys are used to handling salt differently than before.

3. Eat more fat

Yes, eating more fat means consuming more calories. One gram of fat has 9 kcal, unlike carbohydrates and protein, which have 4 kcal per gram.

However, as you may have read in our guide to ketosis, reducing calories is not recommended at the beginning of your ketogenic pathway, even if your goal is to lose weight.

The first week of a ketogenic diet is one of the most difficult periods for your body as it needs to learn to use fats and ketones for energy instead of glucose.

Therefore, it is logical to eat healthier fats and adapt the body to this metabolism faster.

4. Do light exercises

Some or all of the symptoms of keto flu, such as headaches, muscle weakness, cramps, and fatigue, may occur during the transition phase. This is not the time for intense physical activity.

By changing your metabolic status, you are already putting a strain on your body and no additional stress due to exercise is recommended. Most athletes who switch to a ketogenic lifestyle report reduced performance in the first month.

Although it is not recommended to exercise at a moderate to high level, performing low-activity cardio exercises such as yoga, pilates and even brisk walks in the area can relieve some of the symptoms of keto flu, including muscle tension and general body aches.

5. Gradually reduce your carb intake

There are three most common approaches to achieving ketosis and getting the body to produce ketones.

  • Start with the post
  • Suddenly reduce your carb intake
  • Gradually reduce your carbohydrate intake

Each of these approaches has its advantages, but a slow reduction in carbohydrate intake may be the best option for those who want to significantly reduce or even avoid the symptoms of keto flu.

Instead of cutting back on carbs quickly, you can gradually cut down on carbs over a week or even a month.