Keto flu: what is it and how to avoid it?

Although its name may imply a connection, the “keto flu” does not actually resemble the conventional flu and should not be mistaken as a genuine illness. Rather, it constitutes a cluster of symptoms that arise during the transition into ketosis. This metabolic state occurs when the body shifts from relying on glucose for energy to metabolizing fats and generating ketones. The temporary alteration in one’s sense of well-being stems from a notable decrease in carbohydrate consumption.

What is the keto flu?

The keto flu emerges as a bodily response to the utilization of fats in the production of ketones. This metabolic shift can perplex the body, potentially giving rise to feelings of discomfort upon entering a state of ketosis. In essence, the impact of reducing carbohydrate consumption becomes evident.

Furthermore, it’s important to emphasize that the keto flu is not a subject extensively covered in scientific literature or medical journals. Insights into this occurrence are often gleaned from fellow adherents of the ketogenic diet, diet-oriented websites, or social media platforms.

Regrettably, these symptoms are transient in nature and manifest quite frequently as a consequence of significantly curtailing carbohydrate intake. Regrettably, a lack of understanding about managing keto flu symptoms can result in some individuals prematurely discontinuing the diet before being able to fully embrace its benefits.

What Causes the Keto Flu?

Keto Flu

The emergence of this unwelcome side effect during the ketogenic diet can be attributed to various factors. Your body undergoes a transition from relying on carbohydrates for energy to utilizing fat for the creation of ketone bodies. This metabolic shift coincides with a decrease in insulin levels, prompting heightened kidney activity. Consequently, increased urination becomes one of the noticeable outcomes.

Additional factors contributing to the keto flu might encompass a transient dip in blood glucose levels due to reduced sugar and carbohydrate consumption, as well as potential deficiencies in minerals and imbalances in electrolytes. The reassuring aspect is that these effects are of short duration.

For individuals new to the ketogenic diet, the duration of these effects typically spans about a week. Alongside these, you might encounter certain digestive concerns such as constipation or diarrhea, stemming largely from your body’s adaptation to a diet rich in nourishing, high-fat foods.

To alleviate these symptoms, it’s advisable to ensure an adequate intake of dietary fiber. Incorporating fiber-rich foods like avocados, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables can be particularly beneficial.

What are the symptoms of the keto flu?

Transitioning from relying on glucose for energy to utilizing fats and ketones is a challenging endeavor. While the ketogenic diet boasts numerous health advantages, including scientifically supported positive impacts on specific conditions, these advantages are not attained without a degree of accompanying unease.

Symptoms of the keto flu may include:

  • headache;
  • migraine;
  • constipation;
  • diarrhea;
  • muscle pain;
  • convulsions;
  • abdominal pain;
  • fatigue;
  • bad breath;
  • thirst for food;
  • sleep disturbance;
  • irritability;
  • mood swings;
  • poor concentration.

How long does the keto flu last?

Usually, the keto flu emerges roughly 24 to 48 hours following the reduction of carbohydrates. For the majority, this phase lasts around a week; nevertheless, exceptionally rare instances exist where newcomers to the ketogenic diet contend with undesirable symptoms for up to a month.

This timeline hinges on a variety of factors, including your genetic inclination – certain individuals transitioning to keto have bypassed the keto flu altogether. The crux lies in your metabolic adaptability and the swiftness with which your body can shift and acclimate to novel metabolic conditions.

How to get rid of the keto flu?

get rid of the keto flu

In the majority of instances, keto flu symptoms subside within a week. Nonetheless, there are individuals who may require a slightly extended duration to successfully transition their metabolism, making fat their primary energy source in lieu of glucose.

Drink more water

Hydration stands as a fundamental pillar within the realm of the ketogenic diet, gaining particular significance during its initial stages. The adaptation phase often accompanies mineral loss, making vigilance towards staying hydrated crucial. If the hustle and bustle of life poses a challenge to consuming ample fluids, consider situating a water bottle within arm’s reach – be it on your workspace or prominently placed on the kitchen counter.

For those with a penchant for flavors beyond plain water, a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice can not only enhance the taste but also offer an additional boost to your metabolism. Although lemons hail from the fruit category, it’s noteworthy that the juice from a single lemon only contributes 3 net carbs.

Considering the recommended daily intake of 20-50g of net carbs while on a ketogenic regimen, these 3 net carbs constitute a mere fraction. Furthermore, indulging in lemon-infused water serves a dual purpose: detoxifying the body and diminishing uric acid levels – a known contributor to gout and kidney stone formation. Moreover, the infusion enriches your system with the beneficial presence of raw, fresh lemon juice’s vitamin C content.

Increase your salt intake

Is salt truly the root cause of all health woes? The answer is a resounding no. This widespread belief is not entirely accurate.

You might have come across claims linking salt intake to elevated blood pressure, potentially leading to conditions like heart disease, strokes, heart attacks, and kidney stones. However, research indicates that reducing salt consumption and adopting a low-sodium diet among individuals with normal blood pressure does not significantly impact their cardiovascular well-being. Notably, numerous processed foods boast high sodium content. Hence, when adhering to a ketogenic diet that largely excludes such processed fare, your salt needs might actually be greater.

Sodium takes the spotlight as the most concentrated electrolyte within our bodily system, governing pivotal functions such as muscle contraction, nerve signal propagation, and blood pressure regulation. In the initial phases of embarking on a ketogenic diet, the demand for sodium experiences an uptick.

Given the paramount role of hydration in alleviating ketogenic flu symptoms, incorporating salt into your water intake is a recommended practice. Furthermore, a subtle sprinkle of salt can enhance the flavor and nutritional balance of your broth, salads, and various dishes.

Eat more fat

Indeed, opting for a higher fat consumption equates to an increase in calorie intake. A gram of fat carries 9 kcal, in contrast to the 4 kcal found in both carbohydrates and proteins per gram. However, during the initial stages of your ketogenic journey, it’s advisable to refrain from calorie reduction, even if your aim revolves around weight loss.

The initial week of embracing a ketogenic diet proves to be a challenging period, as your body adapts to the utilization of fats and ketones for energy, in lieu of its accustomed reliance on glucose. Thus, prioritizing an elevated intake of nourishing fats serves as a rational approach, expediting the body’s acclimatization to this altered metabolic pathway.

To heighten your fat intake, focus on incorporating wholesome fats sourced from foods such as avocados, nuts, chia seeds, fatty fish, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil. A modest addition of an extra tablespoon or two of oil to your salad can significantly bolster your fat consumption.

Do light exercise

Amidst the transitional phase, an array of keto flu symptoms might manifest, potentially encompassing various discomforts. This juncture calls for prudence rather than vigorous exertion. The alteration in your metabolic state inherently places a stress load on your body, rendering the incorporation of additional exercise ill-advised.

Although engaging in moderate or intense workouts is discouraged, partaking in low-impact activities such as yoga, Pilates, and brisk strolls within your locality can offer relief from certain keto flu symptoms, notably addressing muscle tension and generalized bodily discomforts.

Gradually reduce the amount of carbohydrates

Three predominant strategies exist for inducing ketosis and prompting the body to generate ketones.

You have the option to:

  • Abruptly curtail your carb consumption.
  • Swiftly diminish your intake of carbohydrates.
  • Methodically taper off your carbohydrate consumption.

Every approach boasts distinct advantages. However, for those seeking to substantially mitigate or entirely sidestep keto flu symptoms, the gradual reduction of carb intake emerges as an optimal choice. Instead of swiftly slashing carbs, consider dedicating a week or even a month to progressively scaling back your carbohydrate consumption.

The initial “impact” experienced by your body when adopting a ketogenic diet largely stems from the elimination of sugar and processed food. As an illustration, consider embarking on a gradual reduction of your daily carbohydrate intake by 20 grams. While this might seem like a modest figure, in just a matter of days, you’ll likely observe yourself nearing the target range of 20-50g net carbs, emblematic of a ketogenic dietary approach.

If you’ve adhered to a ketogenic diet for a span of at least one or two weeks without encountering the aforementioned symptoms, well done! It’s worth noting that not everyone undergoes these effects, and even if they do manifest, they might be so inconspicuous that you scarcely perceive them. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the transition phase can prove taxing for certain individuals. In such instances, as you find yourself gradually encountering the potential side effects of the keto flu, it’s prudent to attune yourself to your body’s signals, glean insights from the experiences of others, and retain the recommendations outlined in this article.

Eileen Smoot

Eileen is a former preschool educator, turned mom, turned foodie with a strong passion for helping small businesses in her community. With early aspirations of becoming a writer, she attended the University of Arizona to study English literature and creative writing before making the switch to education. An early retirement from her teaching career, a baking business of her own, and two kids later, she is now rekindling her love for writing with Tucson Foodie.

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