What is the keto flu?
A common thing people keep asking me, is that after a few days into a ketogenic diet is, “why do I feel so tired, and have a horrible headache, maybe this diet isn’t working for me” many people in the community dub this induction period as the keto flu.
You see, as we switch our metabolism, from burning primarily glucose for fuel to burning fats, that transition takes time, and for many of us, we haven’t had to switch to a fat burning metabolism since we where children.
One of the common symptoms of keto flu is headaches, personally, I like to think of the headaches as sugar withdraw, it is similar to me as coming off caffeine, it truly resembles a drug like addiction withdraw, there are studies now that say sugar can be as addictive as a drug [study].
While personally I only had the headaches, here are the common keto flu symptoms, that people talk about:
- Craving Sugar, bread, pasta, potato rice, chocolate
- Brain fog
One of the primary reasons for these symptoms, is that a higher carbohydrate diet, holds onto salt with water in the body, and if you are like me and just dived in keto head first and went cold turkey, like many of us do, during the first few days you will find that your kidneys will dump water with salt quickly through your urine (this will show a huge initial weight loss and is water weight) if that dump of salt and water is not managed correctly, it causes a slight electrolyte imbalance, and can cause many of the symptoms listed above.
How Long does it last?
It really depends on the person, their previous diet, health and age all come into the equation.
Most find that day 3-4 is the worst and feel normal by day 5-7, while others may take a few weeks to fully adapt to their new dietary change.
But there are 2 main things, you should be focusing on, to ensure smooth transition and ongoing maintenance.
2 Tips to Deal with Keto Flu?
The most common Electrolytes we get from our foods are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride and magnesium.
As stated before there is an initial loss of the electrolyte sodium and pending on the person they may feel dizzy and b2, you have 3 simple options:
- Get someone to go to the local drug store and buy a sugar free electrolyte powder.
- Get someone to go to the grocery store and by a sugar free electrolyte drink.
- For a natural option add ½ a teaspoon of salt to a large glass of water, with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of stevia (For the salt, I recommend Redmond Real Salt, Ancient Fine Sea Salt, Unrefined Mineral Salt, 16 Ounce Pouch (1 Pack) salt, but any good quality sea salt will do)
Try to ensure your ketogenic diet contains the following minerals/vegetables regularly, to ensure mineral balance and micro nutrients (Sea Salt, Avocado, Spinach, Mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, almonds, Red Meat)
If you’re eating enough real food, from what I mentioned above potassium and sodium will look after itself, you shouldn’t have to substitute more unless a blood panel says your deficient.
Many people tell me about getting painful cramps in their legs when eating a keto diet, this is usually related to low magnesium.
The magnesium from green vegetables in a ketogenic diet should be enough, but sadly in the last 20 years magnesium in farmed foods is 30% lower and a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health shows that 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient, so you can see the risk of exacerbating a already low mineral state when transitioning your diet.
With these two factors, this is why I use magnesium Doctor’s Best, High Absorption Magnesium, 100% Chelated tablets and find they work really well, so I highly recommend adding magnesium into your daily supplement mix.
B vitamins are very, very important for transiting to keto, many people coming from a western diet will find they will be low in a few of the essential B vitamins, especially B1 (thiamine ).
The following B vitamins are used for Ketosis (B1, B2, B3, B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6)
Option 1: B Vitamins from Food
One of the natural foods that contains all these vitamins is Nutritional Yeast, I use Now Foods, Nutritional Yeast Powder from iherb.
Add 1tsp in the morning and at night to your meal. (It has a cheese flavour and I find it mixes well into the meal or just eat straight)
Option 2: The Supplement Approach
Personally I do not consume Nutritional Yeast every day and like to use a B supplement, I use Now Foods, Co-Enzyme B-Complex from iherb.
If your following a ketogenic diet or just started, it’s important to ensure you keep your electrolytes in balance, you do this primarily by foods and some supplements, this can make up the shortfall of bio available essential nutrients due to low levels in the food supply and our previous dietary habits. If you do this correctly and ensure your diet isn’t highly processed before you go cold turkey, you’ll most likely avoid keto flu, but if not I hope these simple tips will help you on your ketogenic diet journey.