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Keto Flu Symptoms And What Causes Them
KIAH CONNOLLY, MD October 3, 2020
No, it’s not all in your head, keto flu is real and can feel just like the real flu – which is exactly how it got its name. While it isnt life-threatening or dangerous, experiencing keto flu can feel pretty difficult be it can make many people feel awful.
Some may find it so bad, that it discourages them from continuing their keto diet journey. Because all of our metabolisms can behave just a little bit differently, the symptoms and the severity of each appear to affect everyone a little differently.
Heres your go-to guide for identifying and understanding keto flu symptoms.
How To Get Rid Of The Keto Flu
Keto flu can indeed be hard to endure for some people. The symptoms are not pleasant. The thing to keep in mind is that keto flu usually passes in about a week, and keto flu is a sure sign that your keto diet is working. Beyond these ideas, there are a few things you can do to help minimize the symptoms of keto flu. These include:
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Replenish Electrolytes And Micronutrients
You lose essential micronutrients and minerals when your body sheds excess water, and along with that water often goes electrolytes.
Most new keto-ers are electrolyte deficient and need to supplement electrolytes. This can be done quite easily through beta-hydroxybutyrate , which are ketone salts that contain high levels of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium . We use a ready-to-use ketone body that is clinically shown to provide a boost to your energy, performance, and focus in KetoLogic BHB Exogenous Ketones. Just 1-2 scoops of Keto BHB or KetoEnergy BHB per day should have you covered for electrolytes.If you find that BHB isn’t enough, opt for some Keto Electrolytes. You can also add some coconut or MCT oil to support ketosis. You can also replenish some electrolytes and other essential micronutrients through food :
- Potassium – found in avocados, nuts, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, salmon, plain yogurt, and mushrooms
- Magnesium – plentiful in nuts, dark chocolate, artichokes, fish, and spinach
- Sodium – salt, soup, broth, bacon, pickles, and sauerkraut
- Calcium – cheese, leafy greens, broccoli, seafood , and almonds
- Phosphorus – meats, cheese, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate
- Chloride – most vegetables, olives, seaweed, and salt
You can also try coconut water. Just be aware that some brands of coconut water add sugar, so check the nutrition facts.
When To See A Doctor
Keto flu should be temporary and generally goes away within a week or two of beginning a keto diet. If your keto flu symptoms last longer than ten days, or if they are actively painful or debilitating, you may want to reach out to your physician.
Keto flu symptoms can be confused with more serious problems, such as stomach problems or nutritional deficits. Your physician can help determine if your symptoms are the result of something more serious or if you should consider adjusting your diet to include more carbs.
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Signs Of Keto Flu & How To Treat Them
As your body is adapting to a ketogenic diet like Atkins20® or Atkins40®*, a number ofchanges may occur. These changes are often referred to as the keto flu. While these changesarent dangerous, and usually subside after a week or two, they can be uncomfortable andinconvenient. Below, weve outlined some helpful tips to help you identify signs of keto flu, curepesky keto flu symptoms, and break through this transition while sticking to your diet.
What is Keto Flu?
When your body begins to metabolize fat, ketones are created. Ketones have a diuretic effecton your kidneys, which speeds up the amount of salt and water they process. This, for some,may cause dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes. Additionally, as carbohydrate stores inthe body begin to deplete and you switch from a high carb to a low carb lifestyleyour bodymay begin to feel different in other ways.
Symptoms of Keto Flu
As every body is unique, you may experience just one or two symptoms, or a combination ofseveral. You may even experience none! Keto flu symptoms may last for a few days, or for up totwo weeks.
Common signs of keto flu may include:
- Brain fog
- Increased cravings
Find the Right Keto Flu Remedy for You
Do You Get Keto Flu Every Time You Start Keto
Hopefully, if youre starting a keto lifestyle, it will be for the long term. That being said, were all human and things happen, so people often ask me whether theyll experience keto flu again if they re-start after a period of not being in ketosis.
This varies from person to person. Some keto dieters become very efficiently fat adapted and dont get keto flu again if they cheat and then resume keto. This depends on your metabolic flexibility, as mentioned above.
Often times, people restarting keto may experience mild signs of keto flu, but they are not as severe as the first time. Or you might not experience them at all as your metabolic flexibility improves.
I highly recommend that you read my tips below for how to avoid keto flu altogether. Why go through it when you dont have to? You can avoid keto flu the first time and every time if you do have a slip-up.
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What The Keto Flu Is And What Causes These Unpleasant Symptoms
During the initial few days of the keto diet, the body is essentially adjusting its metabolic machinery, says Stephen Phinney, MD, chief medical officer and co-owner of Virta Health, in San Francisco, a company experimenting with nutritional ketosis in its treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms that Grieger and Gorin have seen in ketogenic dieters include:
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating or brain fog
It often takes up to two weeks for symptoms to pass. But Gorin notes that bloating and constipation, which can result from not getting enough of the fiber that many carb-rich foods contain, may persist as long as youre on the keto diet.
In other cases, symptoms can actually be serious, as was the case for Michelle Alley, a blogger in Utah who writes about health and nutrition for iFit. Alley says she lost feeling in her limbs after following a version of keto where she ate three parts of fat for every one part of protein and carbs. They call it the pins and needles, says Alley, explaining she stopped the diet after seven days.
Indeed, there are numerous types of the keto diet out there. Grieger says some of her clients who have tried it simply eliminate grains and fruit, and increase their fat intake with foods such as nuts, oils, bacon, and avocado. But the popular form of the plan calls for getting 70 to 80 percent of your calories from fat, 20 to 25 percent from protein, and 5 to 10 percent from carbs.
Do You Have The Keto Flu Why You Might Feel Sick On The Keto Diet
The keto diet has been taking the United States by storm, with cookbooks and snack companies churning out keto-friendly products galore. If you or anyone you know has tried the keto diet, you’re likely aware that it can make you feel sick, and you might find yourself suffering from what’s become known as the “keto flu”which seems counterintuitive for a healthy diet, right?
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Eat More Fat & Calories
If you are not eating enough, this can cause some symptoms similar to keto flu. Be sure to eat enough that you arent hungry. Remember, the primary fuel source on a keto diet is fat, so you need to add enough to keep you satisfied and to help you adapt to burning fat for fuel.
Resist the urge to make your diet both low carb and low-fat, which will just put your body into starvation mode. Youll be hungry, miserable, and are bound to run into the telltale signs of keto flu.
As you increase fat, watch the type of fat. You may need to watch your medium chain triglycerides , such as coconut oil:
- If you have abdominal pain, you may need to ease into MCTs slowly to avoid stomach issues. Balance them out with long chain triglycerides, such as olive oil or avocado oil.
- If you can handle MCTs without a problem, try increasing them because they will get you into ketosis faster.
How Long Does Keto Flu Last
Symptoms usually occur within the first day or two of starting your new diet. How long the keto flu lasts varies from person to person. Some people dont get the keto flu at all, while others could experience it for close to a week.
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Either way, the symptoms shouldnt last more than a few days and should go away once your body is adapted to burning fat for fuel.
One thing to remember: keto flu isnt dangerous and it only lasts during your transition into ketosis before disappearing for good. During that time, however, you may experience side effects like fatigue, trouble focusing, sugar cravings, and headaches.
If keto flu presents over and over again, you might be going in and out of ketosis. Check your diet for hidden carbs and make sure to track your macros especially during the first month or so.
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If Your Head Is Throbbing
Carbohydrate withdrawal might initially give you a nasty headache. The pounding of this keto flu side effect should ease up within a week or so, but in the meantime, drinking plenty of water can help. Your liquid needs go way up when youre eating ketoand dehydration can both cause headaches and make existing headaches worse, say Harvard Health experts. In order for the body to remove ketones, urine production is amped up slightly. When youre in a ketogenic state, your body also doesnt store as much water in the muscles or liver, Stefanski says.
How much should you sip? Everyones water needs are different, but in general, you should aim to drink enough so your urine is clear or very pale yellow, says Stefanski.
Keto And Stomach Distress
GI issues might be the #1 complaint of people on the keto diet, with constipation leading the way, thanks to a lack of fiber-rich whole grains and fruit on the plan, which help keep traffic moving. To help, experts say to drink a lot of water and include plenty of fibrous, keto-friendly vegetablesbrussels sprouts, cauliflower, chardas well as avocados and nuts. And berries, which are allowed on the diet in moderation, are a great source of fiber.
Alternately, you might run into a bout of diarrhea, especially if youre replacing sugary drinks and sugar-filled products with artificial sweeteners. You can ease some of this stomach distress by choosing natural sweeteners like stevia.
Also, fat itself might be responsible for a case of the runs, since your body is most likely not use to having to process such copious amounts of it. Because you can lose a lot of water with diarrhea, be sure to gulp more H2
You can also try adding sugar-free psyllium fiber supplements, which can bulk up loose stool.
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Normally, your body burns carbs for fuel. On keto, you cut carbs out of your diet, training your body to burn fat instead.
Staying in a fat-burning state comes with a lot of health benefits, and its great for long-term, sustainable weight loss.
However, your body can take a week or so to get used to such a big metabolic change. When youre first starting out on keto, you may experience keto flu a few days of flu-like symptoms as your body learns to switch over from burning sugar to burning fat.
The good news is that there are a few simple tips and tricks to relieve and even prevent keto flu.
This article will cover why keto flu happens, keto flu symptoms, and how you can get rid of keto flu.
Dont Consciously Restrict Food Intake
Some people find that they arent very hungry the first week of keto because they are nauseated or have a headache that reduces their appetite. Yet others may get pretty hungry and worry that theyre eating too many calories to achieve the kind of fast weight loss theyve heard about.
The Atkins diet begins with induction, its strictest phase that allows for maximum fat burning and getting into ketosis quickly. On this diet, as long as carbs are restricted to 20 or fewer grams per day, you can eat as much of the allowed foods you need to feel full.
Its not a good idea to focus on calories when youre trying to become keto adapted. Letting yourself get hungry or stressing about the amount of food youre eating might even make keto flu symptoms worse.19 Once youre steadily in ketosis, your appetite will likely go down, and youll naturally end up eating less.20
Eat as much of the allowed foods as needed until youre no longer hungry, and have keto snacks like hard-boiled eggs available in case hunger strikes between meals. On the other hand, make sure to avoid getting overly full by eating slowly and paying attention to hunger and fullness signals.
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Keto Flu Cause: Electrolyte Deficiency
electrolytesElectrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium are crucial for your body to operate efficiently. When you have an electrolyte imbalance on keto, you experience flu-like symptoms. If you’ve ever felt sick, sluggish or depleted after a long run in the heat or a day at the beach, or if you’ve ever experienced a hangover, you’ll know what we mean.
With The Right Approach You Might Be Able To Avoid The Keto Flu Completely
Switching to the keto diet doesnt have to leave you feeling absolutely awful. Now that you understand how surprising a low carb, high fat diet can be for your body, you have the knowledge you need to avoid the keto flu completely.
While some unpleasant side effects or symptoms can still appear as your body adapts to relying on fat instead of carbs for fuel, you may be able to minimize your flu-like experience. Just make sure your body is getting all of the important nutrients it needs, from water to electrolytes to your usual vitamins and minerals. And, if youre leaving a carb-heavy diet behind, youll want to make slower shifts in your eating habits to ease the internal transition.
As you transition to the keto diet, make sure youre covering all of your nutritional bases with more information:
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Who Should Avoid Ketogenic Diets
Although the ketogenic diet may be helpful for many people, its not suitable for everyone.
For example, the ketogenic diet may not be appropriate for pregnant or breastfeeding women, children and teens, unless its being used therapeutically under medical supervision.
Furthermore, this diet should be avoided by those with certain health conditions like kidney disease, liver disease or pancreatic conditions.
Also, those with diabetes who are interested in following a ketogenic meal plan should consult their doctor to determine if this diet is safe and suitable for their specific needs.
Lastly, this diet may not be appropriate for individuals who are hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol, who account for around one-quarter of the worlds population .
The ketogenic diet may not be safe for pregnant women, children, people with kidney, liver or pancreatic disease and those who are sensitive to dietary cholesterol.
Increase Your Water Intake
While your body is becoming keto-adapted, it excretes more water than the average glucose burner. During the first few days of the keto diet, you may notice that you have lost a few pounds. This is usually due to water weight and not fat. That is a significant amount of water to lose and without ample hydration, it can lead to many of the above symptoms. The best way to stave off keto flu symptoms is to drink more water. It is important to remember that the 8 glasses a day rule may not be enough to meet your bodys water requirements but rather a good rule of thumb is to drink water until your urine is a very pale yellow.
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What Are Common Symptoms
Common keto flu symptoms can include headache, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, and more. One important way to differentiate the keto flu from the seasonal flu is a fever. The keto flu does not cause a fever.
If you are at all concerned about your symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider to rule out other potential causes.