So, you’ve embarked on the ketogenic diet and instead of the hot keto warrior you were promised, you’re a hot mess; irritable, headaches and brain fog throughout the day, nauseous and not sleeping at night. What happened to all the amazing keto benefits you heard about; fabulous fat burn, a clear mind, sharper focus, increased energy. Well, let me acquaint you with the culprit: The Keto Flu.
It’s a natural response that happens to your body as it makes some modifications to how it runs; switching metabolism from burning glucose to burning fat for fuel. Do not fear: because, it’s really not that scary. As long as you know how to fight it, and fight it, we will. Don’t let it stand in your way of going the full distance and achieving keto victory! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m here to help you win.
THE KETO FLU SYMPTOMS
- Difficulty focusing (brain fog)
- Muscle soreness, cramps or fatigue
- Stomach aches & irritability
- Sore throat
- Sugar cravings
- Difficulty sleeping
WHAT CAUSES THE KETO FLU?
Here’s a quick knowledge digest, to understand what’s really going down in keto-town. When restricting carbs, your body switches metabolism, not only learning to burn a new energy source, but also becoming familiar with fats being its new preferred fuel. For this to happen, positive changes take place from the hormonal to cellular level.
Here’s what happens when you ditch the carbs:
Sodium and water flush: when you restrict carbohydrates, insulin levels drop (yay) – this triggers the release of sodium from your kidneys which the water then shuttles out of your body. Which is why in the first week of going keto, people can have a loss of about 10 pounds of water weight. The loss of glucose or glycogen and low insulin levels can cause nausea, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramping, diarrhea or constipation. It’s super important to be drinking lots of water, whilst also replenishing your electrolytes (more on this later).
T3 levels may drop: the thyroid gland produces the hormones T3 and T4 which regulate the body’s metabolism, temperature and heart rate. Dietary carbs and thyroid function are closely connected, as you adjust to a low-carb ketogenic diet these hormone levels can initially fall resulting in fatigue and brain fog – getting adequate sleep may assist in alleviating these symptoms.
Cortisol levels could increase: the thyroid, being the master hormone, has a close relationship with the adrenal glands and may trigger higher cortisol levels. Whilst making the switch, the ketogenic diet puts your body into starvation mode (even though you are far from starving!), appetite reduces due to the body burning excess body fat for fuel. The body triggers the adrenals to release cortisol, the stress hormone, to help increase energy levels during this period which can lead you to experiencing symptoms like irritability and insomnia. Need not fear, as your body adjusts to utilising fat and ketones as its new (and wonderful) fuel source, your cortisol levels should regulate themselves.
HOW LONG DOES THE KETO FLU LAST?
The carb withdrawal symptoms generally kick in at the 24- to 48-hour mark and typically last from a few days to two weeks, and in more extreme cases, up to a month at most. Whether you experience these symptoms – and to what extent – can totally depend on your metabolic flexibility (your ability to adapt to different fuel sources).
Your metabolic flexibility can be influenced by genetics and/or lifestyle habits. For instance, the more carb and sugar laden your diet was prior to going keto may set you up for more severe flu symptoms (especially from the sugar). If you ate a diet low in refined sugar and starches, it’s more likely you’ll experience only mild symptoms, if any at all. But need not fear, we’re going to get to the remedies very soon!
FINALLY THE TIME HAS COME: 7 KETO FLU REMEDIES TO KICK BUTT
Take comfort in knowing that fabulous weight loss and elevated energy are on the other side of these symptoms. You’re going to be a hot keto warrior in no time – you got this!
- Hydrate all day, every day. This is a tip for life, not just for the keto flu; water is king and most of us wander around totally dehydrated! Here’s a calculation to figure out the amount of water you need per day, minimum: your current body weight (in pounds), divided by two = fluid ounces of water you should be consuming. For example, a person weighing 140 pounds should be drinking 70 fl.oz of water daily, if not more. But remember, your body only absorbs water in small amounts, so consume glasses of water throughout the day, hydrating after you pee.
- Electrolytes. Electrolytes. Electrolytes. Need I say it again? Electrolytes. Keeping your electrolytes replenished is super important when going low-carb and absolutely key at kicking the keto flu where it hurts. One tongue dip into a palm filled with Pink Himalayan salt can make that headache disappear.
Magnesium: eat spinach, Brazil nuts, beef, chicken, fish, dark chocolate (85%+ cocoa). Supplement with Natural Calm drink about 300 to 500 mg per day and/or Epsom salt baths or foot baths should do the trick. Common magnesium deficiency symptoms; muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue, it’s also great to take before bed for a good night’s rest.
Potassium: eat an avocado a day, eat fish, meat, leafy greens, we need about 1g to 3.5g per day so adding Cream of Tartare powder to your water helps reach this during the keto flu. Common symptoms for potassium deficiency; cramps, constipation, muscle weakness.
Sodium: important enough as is, but even more so if you work out or live in a hot climate. Quality matters; pink Himalayan salt or Celtic grey sea salt are great, supplement with 5g to 7g per day. Common symptoms for sodium deficiency; cramping, headaches and drinking lots of water yet still feeling dehydrated.
- Electro-Lemonade: our all-natural, body-loving recipe to get your quick and easy electrolyte fix in a glass of deliciousness! Recipe here.
- Enter the holy grail that is, bone broth! Any water you can get into your diet will help you towards keto rebound. But bone broth adds a serving of water AND a dose of electrolytes – boom! Bone broth provides a good dose of sodium and potassium, which will offset some of the discomfort you feel at a cellular level, as well as being super gut friendly. Get our bone broth recipe here.
- Consume more fat: this can speed up your keto-adaptation phase and get your fat-burning bod into motion quicker. MCT oil comes out on top here because it bypasses the lympathic system and heads straight to the liver, rapidly metabolising into ketone bodies to be used for energy. MCT oil can be blended into your morning coffee, drizzled over salad, used in cooking.
- Get good rest: getting adequate sleep is very important to help your body rest and adjust in order to overcome the keto flu (and with most things to be honest). Getting 7-9 hours of restful sleep per night with help to reduce cortisol levels and alleviate flu symptoms.
- Exercise and meditate: the goal here again is to balance your cortisol levels so anything that assists in relieving stress will help your body. It’s important to note that mild exercise will serve you best; yoga, pilates, light weight training, jogging or brisk walking. If exercise ain’t your jam, try meditating. Help your body ease into its new metabolism of becoming a fat-burning machine.
Recommended electrolytes supplements: