If you haven’t heard of the keto flu, you may be wondering what the flu has to do with the keto diet. After all, isn’t the ketogenic diet supposed to make people healthier?
This way of eating calls for a strict limitation on carbs while filling up on lean protein and healthy fats. It is a diet that is meant to help the body dip into fat stores for energy rather than carbohydrates, resulting in a slimmer physique and more energy.
Lots of people have praised the keto diet for their weight loss transformations, but something they might not talk about are the negative side effects, such as the keto flu.
Here, we will go over what exactly the keto flu is, and how to recognize the symptoms of the illness, as well as how you can get rid of it as quickly as possible.
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What Is the Keto Flu?
The keto flu is sometimes referred to as the carb flu, since it results when dieters severely limit their carbohydrate intake. People who experience the keto flu usually start seeing symptoms shortly after adopting this diet plan.
While it is not the same as catching the flu in the wintertime, the keto flu symptoms that people experience mimic those of a typical flu virus.
So, why does this happen? This diet is supposed to help individuals rev up their energy levels and drop excess weight, not feel terrible!
Well, the keto flu is the way that some people’s bodies react to the sudden decrease in carbohydrates. Normally, the body would use glucose, provided by carbs, to support its energy needs.
When someone starts the keto diet, they all of a sudden don’t have those glucose stores anymore, so the body needs to use something else to get its energy supply. So, it turns to ketones, or chemical byproducts of fat that is broken down by the liver.
Everyone has ketones, but they are typically used as a secondary energy source, with glucose being the first. Those who restrict their carb intake no longer have the glucose, so their liver gets to work on producing ketones for energy.
The result is a sort of shock to the system, as the body is not used to relying on ketones instead of glucose. For some individuals, this brings on the keto flu, which can feel like the body is going through withdrawal from a drug or addictive substance.
What Are the Symptoms of the Keto Flu?
The body can usually adapt to a low-carb diet, although it might struggle in the very beginning. It’s not unusual for newbies to the diet to exhibit keto flu symptoms (1) while their body adjusts to the change.
In addition, the severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the person, ranging from mild to severe. There are some individuals who don’t get any keto flu symptoms at all.
However, the majority of people who start this diet will feel at least some side effects, even if they’re mild.
Symptoms of the keto flu include common side effects that one might experience if they were cutting their caffeine consumption.
For example, headache, irritability, weakness, and fatigue, as well as brain fog and poor concentration.
They may also have flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, muscle soreness or cramps, and abdominal pain.
These people may have trouble sleeping and might develop intense cravings for the carbs and sugars they’re depriving themselves of.
Dehydration is a common symptom of the keto flu, which makes sense since carbohydrate stores in the body (glycogen) bind water to the body.
Without glycogen, your body gets rid of water much faster than it normally would. Diarrhea can make dehydration even worse, so it’s critical that you keep the fluids coming throughout the duration of the keto flu.
Not only does dehydration come with its own woes, but when paired with the other symptoms of the keto flu, it can feel unbearable. These side effects can be so severe that some dieters need to ditch the keto plan and go back to their regular way of eating.
How Long Does the Keto Flu Last?
Usually, the keto flu lasts about a week, but it could be longer for some people. There have been instances in which people have experienced keto flu symptoms for several weeks while others barely had any side effects at all.
It’s just further proof that everybody is different.
As your body gets accustomed to this new low-carb way of life, your symptoms will begin to dissipate, usually over the course of a few days.
They may be a tough few days, but the typical experience is that with some rest and replenishment of fluids, people bounce back from the keto flu. There are instances, however, when symptoms can last for weeks on end.
If this occurs, it’s wise to seek immediate medical attention to rule out anything more serious.
How to Get Rid of the Keto Flu
Fortunately, there are some keto flu remedies that may help you shorten the duration of this difficult transition period.
You should already be drinking plenty of water as part of a healthy diet, but it might be good to increase your water intake even more. Keeping yourself hydrated is crucial to not only good health, but to easing your body through the keto flu phase.
Besides, the keto flu can further deplete water stores in some people, making it even more important to stay hydrated. Staving off dehydration will also help with the lack of concentration and focus, as well as muscle soreness and cramps.
Most people who follow the keto diet are also avid exercisers, but while they’re experiencing keto flu symptoms, they should back off on the strenuous movement.
As upsetting as it can be to put your exercise routine on hold, it will help your body get through the flu phase more quickly. You may already be losing fluids and nutrients due to the flu’s side effects such as diarrhea and vomiting.
This can result in rapid weight loss, which is not good for the long term. Adding heavy exercise to the mix will only make matters worse.
Not only will you be dropping too much weight too quickly, but your body won’t be able to recover from the exercise. That can make symptoms feel even worse.
If you need to move your body, a walk or some light yoga stretches can help to relieve cramps and soreness, while fighting fatigue and weakness.
In fact, some medical professionals say that light exercises such as these may improve some keto flu symptoms. Just make sure that you’re staying hydrated and replacing lost electrolytes such as calcium, potassium, and sodium.
In fact, electrolytes are going to be key to speeding up the recovery process and getting rid of keto flu symptoms. Since the keto diet limits carbs, it decreases the amount of insulin in the body.
Insulin is responsible for absorbing glucose from the bloodstream, but since there isn’t much glucose now, insulin levels plummet. When this happens, the kidneys respond by expelling more sodium out of the body.
When you don’t have enough sodium, your keto flu side effects can get even worse, so be sure to salt your food to replace lost sodium in your body.
In terms of potassium, this electrolyte and mineral is naturally found in many foods that are off limits on the keto diet, such as beans, fruits, and starchy veggies.
A lack of this critical electrolyte can lead to irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms and weakness, fatigue, and numb limbs. You can get potassium from keto-approved foods such as avocados, mushrooms, salmon, and green leafy veggies.
Lots of people who have experienced the keto flu swear by bone broth, which is full of fats, electrolytes, and water to keep you hydrated and nourished. If you need to, you can supplement with electrolyte tablets or drink mixes, too.
Sleep is another important component of fighting the keto flu. You will be fatigued anyway, so it’s pertinent that you get enough z’s. A lack of sleep will worsen irritability and lethargy, plus it increases cortisol, the stress hormone.
If you’re having trouble getting enough sleep, try incorporating some relaxing activities into your day, such as a hot bath or meditation.
Furthermore, light exercise during the day and limited exposure to blue light (screens) in the evening will help you drift off to sleep faster.
How to Avoid Keto Flu
Perhaps the best way to get rid of the keto flu or bypass it all together is to reduce your carb intake slowly.
Many people who adopt the ketogenic diet do so right away without planning out how they will transition into this new way of eating. Therefore, they end up shocking their bodies and bringing on all sorts of negative side effects.
You are bound to have better results and a less traumatizing experience if you ease your way into a reduced carbohydrate lifestyle. Getting enough healthy fats will also help to fight carb cravings and keep you feeling satisfied.
Moreover, if you previously snacked on lots of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, then your transition to a ketogenic lifestyle will be a rough one.
You can increase your chances of avoiding the keto flu by slowly decreasing the number of carbs you eat on a daily basis, rather than drastically cutting your intake right off the bat.
Researchers still aren’t 100% sure why some people get the keto flu while others don’t, but they suspect that genes play a role.
Besides that, it’s all about setting yourself up for success and reading about the ketogenic diet and its side effects prior to adopting the lifestyle yourself.
It’s important to note that this diet is not meant to be a long-term way of eating, but rather a way for individuals to kick-start weight loss and a more balanced way of eating.
Keep in mind that women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or plan to get pregnant should talk to their doctors before trying the keto diet.
The same is true for teens and younger people since their bodies are still growing and developing and may take to the ketogenic diet differently. Individuals with kidney or liver disease, as well as pancreatic conditions, are poor candidates for this diet.
Those who have diabetes may want to try the keto diet to improve their health, but they should consult with their doctor first to determine if it’s safe.
For these individuals, the best way to avoid the keto flu is by staying off the ketogenic diet altogether or at least discussing it with their doctor.
These particular groups of people need to take special precautions for their health and wellbeing, so trying to limit something such as carbohydrates can pose a serious health risk.
Of course, there will be some people in this subset that can experience positive effects from the ketogenic diet. Still, it’s always best to have a conversation with a doctor or qualified nutritionist before deciding to try out a new diet.
How Do You Know When You Have the Keto Flu?
You will be able to recognize the keto flu if you have recently started to limit your carb intake and follow a ketogenic eating plan.
What’s essentially happening is that your body is not fat-adapted, meaning that it hasn’t adjusted to using fat for energy in lieu of carbs.
You’re probably also deficient in electrolytes, which is contributing to your fatigue and muscle soreness.
If you’re feeling weak, tired, sore, and nauseous, and you’ve recently gone keto, then odds are you’re dealing with the keto flu.
Even if you aren’t going totally keto, but you have drastically cut down on your carb intake, then the symptoms you are experiencing are probably due to the keto flu.
Remember to ease into a ketogenic diet, do your research beforehand, and keep up with other healthy lifestyle habits such as staying hydrated and getting adequate sleep and exercise. Best of luck!