Keto flu: what is it? What are the symptoms and how to get over it

You learned about the health and weight loss benefits of the keto diet and are looking forward to getting started. But you might also have heard about the so-called “keto flu”.This usually occurs when you are a few days into your new ketogenic eating plan. You find yourself feeling under the weather, your head is aching, you feel irritable and tired and you might find it hard to concentrate.

Many people experience one or more of these symptoms during the early days of a keto diet, as the body is adapting to the lower amount of carbs. There’s no need to worry. It’s not an actual flu, and it’s not dangerous or infectious. It is called the keto flu and luckily, these symptoms are easy to remedy, and you’ll soon feel full of energy again.

What are the symptoms of keto flu?

While many people never notice any of the side effects when they start their low carb diet, others experience various symptoms of the keto flu, like:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Sugar cravings
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • “Brain fog” or poor concentration

What causes keto flu?

When you change from a high carb intake to a low carb keto diet, your body switches from burning sugar for its energy needs to burning fat. The insulin levels in your body become lower, and your body starts to convert stored fat into ketones, which your body then burns instead of sugar. When this occurs, you have achieved ketosis.

But your body and brain need a little time to get used to burning ketones. Your body will respond to lower insulin levels by excreting more urine. Increased urination means your body might become dehydrated and experience a lacking in sodium. While urinating more often accounts for some of the rapid weight loss when you start a keto diet, losing a lot of fluid and sodium is the cause of some of the keto flu symptoms.

The body’s response to entering ketosis is very individual: some people don’t notice any symptoms while others might feel a little unwell for several days. But there’s no need for anyone to suffer as there are several options for treating these keto flu symptoms.

How to treat keto flu

If you start gradually and avoid vigorous exercise during the first few days, you’ll probably find you don’t have keto flu at all. And any discomfort that may appear will gradually disappear as your body adapts to ketosis. But there’s no need to suffer. Our tips will help you ease any keto flu symptoms and keep your diet on track.

Increase your water and salt consumption

Most keto flu symptoms are the result of a loss of water and salt (urine and sweat), so the first thing to do is to keep yourself well hydrated and increase your salt intake. Doing so will alleviate the symptoms and banish them altogether.

Make sure you’re drinking enough water – at least 2.5 litres per day. Your body eliminates a lot of water in the early stages of the keto diet, and you need to replace it. It doesn’t have to be plain water: coffee, tea and herbal teas also count towards your fluid intake. Try not to exceed three cups of caffeinated drinks per day as too much might cause further dehydration.

Whenever you feel tired, nauseous, dizzy or have a headache, drink a glass of water with ½ teaspoon salt dissolved into it. Do this up to twice per day as required. Alternatively, drink bone broth (not the low sodium version) or regular bouillon or stock, and if you like, stir a little salted butter in. Your symptoms are likely to improve within half an hour.

Constipation is another symptom of keto flu, but consuming enough water, salt and electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium should resolve this issue. Go-Keto Electrolytes are capsules that contain all the minerals needed to help you transition into ketosis without any discomfort.

Consume more fat

While boosting your intake of water and salt is often enough to resolve any symptoms of keto flu, some people find that eating more fat is an effective way to treat keto flu. In conventional weight-loss diets, fats have been seen as something to avoid, but they’re central to the keto diet.

If you follow a low carb eating plan without increasing fats, you’ll feel hungry, miserable and tired. Upping your fat intake will make sure that you feel satisfied after eating and you allows you to  go for several hours between meals without feeling tired.

Increase your fat consumption right from the start of your keto diet. The easiest way to boost your fat intake is to include butter or MCT oil in your meals. Once your body has adapted to burning fat, and you’re in ketosis, you can try reducing your fat intake a little and see if you can cope with eating less while still feeling satisfied.

Don’t try to restrict your food intake too much

Everyone is different when starting a ketogenic diet. Some find that they feel a little nauseous or have a headache, and this can reduce their appetite. Others might feel hungrier than usual and be anxious that they’re consuming too many calories for the weight loss they wish to achieve.

In the early stages of your diet, it is advisable not to focus too much on the calorific value of your food. If you are feeling hungry all the time, any keto flu symptoms will feel worse. Be patient: once you’re in ketosis, your appetite should reduce, and you will naturally want to eat less. But be careful to avoid overeating by paying good attention to your body’s signals that you have eaten enough.

Eat as much of the allowed foods as needed until you are no longer hungry. On the other hand, make sure to avoid getting overly full by eating slowly and keep paying attention to hunger and fullness signals.

Keep some keto-friendly snacks available to satisfy hunger pangs between meals. Try hard-boiled eggs or a piece or two of keto chocolate. Keto bars or protein bars are handy to keep at hand or in your gym bag. They’re naturally sweet and as satisfying as a candy bar but will not kick you out of ketosis.

Finally, keep in mind that while keto flu is real for some people, it is nothing to worry about. If you experience any discomfort, persevere, follow our tips, and the symptoms will disappear in a few days.