Table of Contents
- The Keto Flu: An Anecdote
- Keto Flu: What is it?
- Keto Flu: Symptoms
- Keto Flu: Why Do We Experience It
- Keto Flu: How Long Does It Last
- Keto Flu: How to Fix it
- The keto flu is our body’s natural reply when we put limits on our carbs intake.
- It occurs during the transition period of fat adaptation, meaning when our body gets caught in between carb withdrawal and fat adaptation mechanism.
- Common symptoms of keto-flu are: Diarrhea, Bad breath, Headache, Stomach pain, Insomnia, Hunger and Cravings, Nausea, Muscle cramps, Brain fog, etc.
- For a regular guy, the keto flu stays for around a week. In some unusual case, the keto flu can linger up to month.
The Keto Flu: An Anecdote
It’s been a week Mr. William has started keto diet and he is eagerly waiting to reap the benefits of this popular diet. For last one year, He has heard about this diet so many times from his neighbor, his colleagues, his gym partners and even from the athlete like LeBron James, while he sits in front of the TV to watch his favorite game, basketball. Not only that, while he watches entertainment channels, he has seen celebrities like Halle Berry, Kourtney Kardashian talking about the benefits of this diet.
In order to avail those benefits, before starting the diet, he has gone through a lot of stuff over the internet and books for one month. During the last few days, he has noticed some changes in his body but he couldn’t identify them properly. One thing he notices is that he doesn’t get tired during office time after a hefty workload.
When he thinks about all other benefits he is about to get, suddenly from yesterday he is feeling poorly. He has had a headache whenever he faces strenuous task in office and got tired easily. Besides, he easily gets annoyed with his subordinates.
The way keto diet treats Mr. William is very common. What he is going through is commonly referred to as the keto flu. It’s not really a flu, and it’s not really infectious or perilous either. However, it can certainly be very nasty.
Keto Flu: What is it?
The keto flu is our body’s natural reply when we put limits on our carbs intake.
The keto flu is a bunch of symptoms some people experience when they try to reach ketosis immediately after introducing keto diet. It naturally bid us adieu when we become fat adapted.
It occurs during the transition period of fat adaptation, meaning when our body gets caught in between carb withdrawal and fat adaptation mechanism.
Up until keto adaptation our body runs on carbohydrates or glucose. When a suddenly rein in our carb consumption, our body forces to exhaust its stored glucose and sets ablaze fats to produce energy.
This metabolic shift may trigger some keto-dieters to experience flu-like symptoms which pave the way to name it keto flu.
Keto Flu: Symptoms
When we make a dietary change, our body faces a great challenge and may require time to adjust to that different method of eating.
This transition period – while our body starts to replace glucose with fat as fuel – can be cumbersome to some people.
We may experience keto flu at the beginning of the keto diet, usually within a few days of limiting carbs consumption.
For a regular guy, the keto flu stays for around a week. In some unusual case, the keto flu can linger up to month.
Some people fare with this transition period pretty well without any adverse effect, others may go through one or more of the below-mentioned symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Stomach pain
- Hunger and Cravings
- Muscle cramps
- Brain fog
Keto Flu: Why Do We Experience It
The irony is that science yet to come up with the solid reasons of keto flu. Some studies link it with a detox issue. Some experiments associate this keto side-effect with carbs withdrawal. Other research tie it with immunologic response. Other explorations verdict it as an outcome of an adjustment in the gut microbiome. Irrespective of the reasons, it looks like symptoms attributed to keto flu does pay a visit to keto dieters, to most of them if not everyone.
“Metabolically I’m not quite sure what causes it, but usually when people have a big change in their diet their body needs some time to adjust.”
says Teresa Fung, a professor at Simmons College and a clinical nutritionist.
Drop in Blood glucose Levels
With the bodily consequences of unexpected carb withdrawal, it is important to understand as to how our body produces energy. In this process, our body uses two main mechanisms:
- Glycolysis (energy creation using glucose)
- Beta oxidation (transformation of fat to energy)
Embracing a keto diet means we choose to force our body to alter its energy source from exhausting carbs (via glycolysis) to mainly using fats (beta-oxidation).
After some time, when our body starts to get fat-adapted, it typically begins to produce energy from burning ketones (through a procedure dubbed ketolysis) as a substitute for glucose. This shift takes place as our body cease fatty acids into ketones so that our brain can run on this new fuel.
Imagine a situation where our body yet to learn the art of burning fat and create ketones, while glucose is running low. Exactly at this point hypoglycemia comes to the fore. The outcome is a momentary energy shortage in the brain as blood sugar level drops.
Remember, our body is going through a transition period. These efforts need to use fat and ketones as energy source differs from person to person, subject to a mix of genetics and routine diet. Some people exhibit a better metabolic adaptability than others. The more flexibility our body shows to this metabolic change, the lesser symptoms of flu we would go through.
Salts are the main source of electrolytes in our body. Electrolytes are basically the minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium etc. Electrolytes are very important for our body to do and maintain some critical functions like heartbeat setting and muscle flexing. Here it is worth mentioning that our body’s electrolyte levels are organized by kidneys.
Keto diet leads to electrolyte imbalance because limit in carbs intake cuts insulin discharge. Insulin sends signal to our body cells to grip glucose in the blood flow. At the same time, it also hints the kidneys to accumulate water.
Reduced carb consumption means lesser insulin levels means the kidneys now retain less water. The consequence is dehydration and releasing out of electrolytes in the course.
Besides, we also observe modifications in our body parts where carbs are stored. Two such organs are muscle and liver.
Moreover, we observe a close relationship between glycogen and fluids levels. Research reveals that every gram of glycogen trap three grams of water. Therefore, it is a common knowledge that with the depletion of glycogen, the accompanying water will be released.
Together, low insulin levels and glycogen loss can trigger release of excessive water and electrolytes. In response, we may experience some keto flu symptoms like, keto diarrhea, insomnia, headache, cravings, abdomen pain etc.
Reactive Hormonal Stress
If we don’t set our keto diet properly, like one insufficient in calories and micro-nutrients, our body may face starvation response, which triggers a surge in our body’s stress hormone, cortisol.
Discharging cortisol our body aims to shield the brain by raising blood sugar, in an attempt to compensate for the low blood sugar caused by limit in carb intake. However, excessive cortisol release can put stress response and blood sugar stability in peril and they can become out of control.
Besides, thyroid hormone is another aspect to take into account as they play a vital role in regulating and upholding our body’s energy metabolism. Studies have revealed a strong correlation between carbs consumption and thyroid function. In fact, a study has drawn the conclusion that carbs is a significant supervisory feature in T3 generation in men.
Moreover, the same study also exposed that limit on total carbs intake (near 0 grams per day) initiated 48% reduction in T3. T3 is hormone stems from our thyroid gland. This is a very significant revelation as T3 is considered to be a most effective thyroid hormone produced in our body. Therefore, when we rein in our carb intake, T3 hormone take a dip.
This development can cause some bodily symptoms like brain fogginess and fatigue during keto adaptation period. On the contrary, some theories reveal that dropped T3 can also take along some benefits if thyroid works as per standard. Maintaining muscle mass and better longevity are to name among the benefits this lower T3 brings along.
Keto Flu: How Long Does It Last
The keto flu generally pay a visit to keto dieter’s life within 24 to 48 hours after carb withdrawal. Usually flu symptoms leave us within a few days. In some cases, may last from two weeks to a month at highest. According to Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D.,
“Most people feel one or more of these symptoms during the first week of a keto diet, especially days 3-5. Fortunately, it’s temporary, and you’ll soon feel fine again. In fact, you’ll likely have more energy than before you started the diet.”
Our metabolic flexibility indicates as to whether we experience this flu or not. If we get affected, then to what degree. Metabolic flexibility means that how our body reacts and adapts to diverse fuel sources.
The good news is that these symptoms will disappear over a period of time as our body learns the act of transforming ketones into energy.
Keto Flu: How to Fix it
The keto flu can be cumbersome and cause a lot of pain in our life.
Fortunately, there are remedies to these nagging flu symptoms and help our body to deal with the keto transition period with ease.
Give a Raise To Water Intake
Being hydrated in imperative, especially when we put a limit on our carb intake. If we don’t consume sufficient water on keto diet, we can easily fall prey to dehydration and run into keto flu symptoms. Dehydration may cause flu symptoms like keto headache, nausea and fatigue.
Besides, when we experience keto diarrhea, replenishing water is of utmost essential as diarrhea can lead to more fluid loss.
Remember, water rules supreme when it comes to strike out the keto flu, particularly with a pinch of unrefined salt.
Since releasing of salt and water is identified as the main perpetrator behind almost all keto flu matters, a surge in water consumption can help decrease the symptoms considerably and most of the times remove them completely.
Furthermore, water not only excrete bad things from our system but also helps prevent our mouth go dry. And dry mouth can lead to another keto side-effect in the form of keto breath.
Now the question is as to how much water we should drink. Reportedly, a good threshold level is drinking water half of our current body weight in ounces. For instance, if one weighs 160 POUNDS, s/he should minimally drink 80 OUNCES of water per day. Read full keto drinks guide here.
Normally, almost all the keto flu symptoms are subsides with salt and water consumption. However, if those symptoms persists, even after taking sufficient water, we can give a raise to fat intake.
Most of the keto dieters suffer from fat phobia due to the taboo that we uphold for centuries: fat is unhealthy. However, our body will get a wrong signal that we are starving, if we drastically cut our carb intake without increasing fat consumption. As a result, we will feel tired, hungry and sick.
To help accelerate the ketosis process, we need to feed our body with more fat. Fat delivers our liver cells with acetyl-CoA that help produce more ketones.
A well-proportioned keto diet consist enough fat that gives us a feeling of satiety after a meal. Hence give us enough energy to go several hours without refilling. From the beginning of the keto journey we have to keep our fat intake up until our body gets fat adapted.
There is one issue to be discussed though. Most fats aren’t freely used as fuel as they don’t enter into our liver directly. They got to wander all the way through our lymphatic system to our heart, muscles and fat cells before getting into the liver.
At this juncture, MCT oil can help us big time. MCT oil is different types of fat that enters directly into our liver, just like carbs. So, they can be used with immediate effect.
Supplementing our morning coffee with MCT and coconut oil can fulfill the demand of instant fat and can help us prevent keto flu symptoms.
Refilling those lost electrolytes at the early stage of keto diet may help diminish keto-flu symptoms. When we embrace keto diet, levels of insulin falls due to the restriction on carbs. Insulin is a key hormone that grip glucose from the blood flow.
In response, our kidneys discharge excessive sodium and potassium from our body, when insulin levels take a dip. This can trigger headache, muscle cramping, fatigue, constipation etc.
“Keto acts as a natural diuretic, so to counteract that you have to make sure you’re giving your body extra sodium,”
Suzanne Ryan, best-selling author of “Simply Keto” explains.
We can add leafy greens like spinach and avocados in our diet to meet the demand of potassium until we get fat adapted. Besides, we can easily replenish our lost sodium by sprinkling a tinge of unrefined salt on our meals and in water.
Magnesium is another essential minerals, though we don’t lose much of magnesium when we check carbs intake. However, it is imperative to prevent muscle cramps, keto insomnia and insulin sensitivity. Almonds and pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium.
Doing Exercise with Low Intensity
Start your day with a long walk, and don’t forget to take a bottle of water with salt mixed it. We should set our walking pace such that we don’t have to catch breath if talking. A half an hour of such walk would be enough.
At the begging of the keto diet, experts recommend mild exercise in an attempt to decrease cortisol levels. Therefore, we can relieve our stress through anything that suit us. Yoga and moderate walk can help in this cause. If we don’t like to do body exercise, meditation can be a wise option as it discharges endorphins to aid lift our attitude and motivation.
Bottom line is it would be a serious blunder if we go for a full-pledged gym until our body learns the art of fat adaptation.
Get Sufficient Sleep
Tiredness and crankiness are two symptoms people often talk about at the beginning of the keto lifestyle.
Stress hormone cortisol’s levels take off, when we spend a sleepless night while on keto. Excess of this hormone can adversely affect our mood and can make those keto-flu indicators poorer.
A sound sleep at night can help us big time to overcome those keto flu. It keeps stress hormone cortisol in control, which play a vital role in reducing keto flu symptoms.
Keto flu symptoms are like passing shower, they don’t last that long. Besides, they go to exile when our body gets keto adapted.
Lifestyle is an important factor to decide the longevity and brutality of the keto flu of a person. Studies found that individual, who leads a high-carb diet before embracing keto diet, has a greater possibility to get affected by keto flu.
Practicing the above-mentioned tips can help decrease symptoms and even prevent the keto flu.
Once we get over the hard time, we will start to enjoy all the benefits of keto and it would a big reward for staying strong during difficulties.