THE KETO FLU

So its been a few days now since you started your keto diet and with all the benefits of it in mind you, happen to be met with quite the opposite of what you expected. You’re probably feeling tired,having headaches,easily getting annoyed and boy are you having a hard time concentrating. Well congratulations,you have the “keto flu“,but before you freak out and think the worst,lets inform you that this isn’t really a flu, and it’s not contagious or dangerous, but it can definitely be very unpleasant.

It is important for you to also know that it is common within the first few weeks to experience such symptoms especially within the first 3-5 days.

But!!,,here is the great news. These symptoms can be relieved in a few minutes, and we will give you some advice about a few remedies,so keep reading.

Symptoms : Fatigue, Headache, Irritability, Difficulty focusing (“brain fog”), Lack of motivation, Dizziness, Sugar cravings, Nausea, Muscle cramps.

Cause

So here is the thing,your body is designed to primarily burn sugar for energy,but in extreme cases of low sugar availability,it burns fats instead. In this diet,you deliberately reduce your sugar intake so your body switches to burning fat for energy. This transition is what is responsible for your flu like symptoms.

Switching from a high-carb diet to a very-low-carb diet lowers insulin levels in your body. This is not only healthy but also one of the primary goals of a ketogenic diet. When insulin levels are very low, your liver begins converting fat into ketones, which most of your cells can use in place of glucose. When your body is mainly using ketones and fat for energy, you’re in a state of ketosis. 

Unfortunately,it takes your brain and other organs a while to adapt to this new mechanism of fuel synthesis. Due to reduced insulin in your body,your body responds by excreting sodium in your urine and this will cause you to urinate frequently during the first few days of this diet. This however comes with the benefits of the rapid weight loss which is experienced within just a few days of this diet,but of course is also responsible for the flu like symptoms as your body is trying to adapt.

Now it is also important to note that not everyone will experience these symptoms. Some people have been known to only feel a bit tired with no other major symptoms and this only lasts a day or two during the first week of the diet,while others have recorded a complete package of all the symptoms for at least 3-4 days. However,these symptoms can be well managed and easy to get over with the few solutions we have put together for you.

Remedies

Now,please note that the keto flu symptoms tend to self resolve after a few days as the body adapts to the transition,but there is no need for you to keep feeling awful when you can relieve them, so here are some helpful solutions. 

1} Increase your water and salt intake

This is by far the number one most effective way to relieve symptoms of the keto flu, since loss of salt and water is responsible for most keto flu issues. Increasing your intake of both can help reduce your symptoms significantly and often eliminate them altogether. 

So whenever you develop a headache, lethargy, nausea, dizziness or other symptoms, drink a glass of water with half a teaspoon of salt stirred into it. This simple action should help alleviate your keto flu symptoms within 15 to 30 minutes. If you like, do this twice a day or more, if needed. 

Now that can be a bit boring to drink right?,so for those of you that would like an alternative,try drinking consommé {a type of clear soup made from richly flavored stock}, bone broth, chicken stock or beef stock and stir in a spoonful of salted butter, if you prefer. Or, if you’re using low-sodium bone broth or stock, add a pinch or two of salt. These taste so much better than just water and salt.

The key is to keep hydrated especially the first days as you will lose quite a lot of water. So do make sure you drink lots and lots of water.  A good rule of thumb is to drink a minimum of 2 liters of fluid every day during the first week of your keto diet.

2} Slow transition

This is a major change for your body and it will take some time for it to adapt. For this reason, we highly recommend that you try a slower transition method which allows your body to transition smoothly. The best is to start with a diet which allows a moderate intake of carbs, such as low-carb diet that provides 20 to 50 grams of carbs a day.

This might slow down your weight loss or slow down the rapid manifestation of the healthy benefits of the diet,but this will help your body adapt faster and better. The key is to reduce on sugars and processed foods. Once your body is showing signs of adaptation,you can further reduce the carbs till you get to the right amount of fats you desire.

3} More fat

If after increasing your fluid intake as well as salt intake you still have the symptoms,try increasing your fat intake. 

See, your body has used sugar as energy source for years and using fat as its source comes into play only during starvation. If you reduce your carbs intake without properly increasing your fat,your body can interpret this as starvation and you will enter into energy conservation mode,which makes you feel tired,hungry and overall miserable. 

A well-balanced keto diet includes enough fat so that you are not hungry after a meal, can go for several hours without eating, and still have ample energy. 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 you’re fat adapted, let your appetite guide you in cutting back on fat a bit until you reach the point where you can easily maintain the balance between hunger and satiety.

4} You might want to reduce your physical activity.

Although many people find that their energy and stamina improve on a keto lifestyle, trying to do too much in the early stages can worsen keto flu symptoms. Well-known ketogenic research has conducted studies in endurance athletes as well as obese individuals demonstrating that physical performance decreases during the first week of very-low-carb eating. Fortunately, the research also shows that by week 4, people typically perform better than before they started keto.

Walking, stretching, or doing gentle yoga or other mind-body exercise should be fine 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.

These few things should help you reduce the symptoms and make you feel a whole lot better. But remember,any new changes to your diet should be taken slowly to give your body enough time to adapt and this will prevent any “weird/unpleasant/sick like” symptoms from happening in the first place. 

Do read about some of the mistakes to avoid while on this diet in our next blog post.