What is the Keto Flu and How to Cure it
The keto diet focuses on eating calorie appropriate meals that consist of high fat, moderate protein and little to no carbs. The initial phase of the ketogenic diet includes adapting to ketosis. How long it takes to adapt depends on your body’s metabolism. Being in ketosis, your body uses fat as its energy supply instead of sugar or carbs. Ketones are fueled by healthy sources of fat including the body’s stored fat and are only accessible when fatty acids break down as a result of a low carb diet. The goal is to replace carb calories with fat calories resulting in ketones being the primary source of energy as opposed to sugar.
Advantages of the Keto Diet
From weight loss to heart health, sustainable energy, mental clarity, balanced hormones and reversing diabetes–the keto diet can feel like a cure-all way of eating. Success on the keto diet is the result of hormones, specifically leptin, reacting to a lack of blood sugar resulting in the body using stored fat for energy.
The ketogenic diet also boasts to be one of the few diets to actually reduce cravings. Due to a stabilized blood sugar, keto dieters rarely suffer the need to cheat. However, the nations most popular diet isn’t all smooth sailing, at least initially.
As the body transitions from carbs to fat as its primary energy source, withdrawal from sugar and carbs can result in a few uncomfortable symptoms. Referred to as the keto flu, a few discomforts may arise as you being to experience sugar detox. The keto flu is known to last 3-10 days where you may experience the following keto flu symptoms.
Keto Flu Symptoms
- Sugar cravings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle soreness
- Stomach pain
- Reduced concentration
- Muscle cramps
Some say the keto flu or carb flu is a necessary evil that signifies your body is keto-adapting. But what if it’s not?
Keto-adaptation is the body’s transition from a high-carb diet to a very low-carb diet and it starts with beta-oxidation. Beta oxidation is the scientific term that refers to the breakdown of fatty acids. This catabolic reaction to sugar and carbohydrate deprivation results in the production of ketones, the bodies new and more efficient energy source. Thus, the name for the Keto diet.
Though ketosis happens at the cellular level, for many it can feel like a full body experience in the form of keto flu symptoms. Metabolic flexibility refers to how quickly the metabolism adapts to using ketones as its primary energy source. Each body is different, and the adaptation rate is greatly impacted by how severe ones metabolic damage is or isn’t. If the body has experience years of yo-yo dieting or lack of proper nutrition, it may be more challenging to adapt and enhance keto flu symptoms. Though ketosis happens at the cellular level, for many it can feel like a full body experience in the form of keto flu symptoms.
What Causes Keto Flu Symptoms?
As the body transitions from sugar to fat as its energy source, the brain and organs need time to adapt their functioning. One of the first things to happen is the reduction of blood sugar. Lowered blood sugar means your body has to produce less insulin to control it. Whatever insulin has already been created will be excreted and it carries with it sodium and water into the urine. Much like sweating, this drop in salt and water often results in an imbalance of electrolytes and dehydration.
Carbs also play a large role in storing sodium in the body. As you stop consuming carbs sodium is lost. Carb flu symptoms may begin on the first day of the ketogenic diet. This water loss shows up on the scale almost immediately. The most weight is lost on the keto diet in the first couple weeks due to the adaptation period. Here is how you may continue to see those results without suffering from keto flu symptoms.
Managing Keto Flu Symptoms
Some people may never experience keto flu symptoms. This doesn’t mean keto-adaptation isn’t taking place. For those that begin to suffer the symptoms, there is the option of waiting it out. As long as you are sticking to the ketogenic diet, it will work and the keto flu will pass. But, if symptoms become too hard to bear, here are ways to manage them.
Ways to Manage Keto Flu Symptoms
- Stay hydrated
- Increase electrolyte intake
- Eat fatty fish/take fish oil
- Eat more healthy fats
- Increase food variety
- Reduce vigorous exercise
- Get more sleep
- Take supplements
- Be consistent
- Be positive
The break down of fatty acids, the excretion of insulin and the drastic reduction in carb intake all result in a loss of water through urine. Some believe it requires an immense amount of sweating to become dehydrated but, in fact, going pee frequently causes dehydration much quicker. Remember, separate the idea of thirst and hydration. If you are following the ketogenic diet and want to avoid the keto flu drink 8-14 cups of a water a day. This habit will not only reduce keto flu symptoms but also encourage continued weight loss and maintenance.
Increase electrolyte intake
As the kidneys continue to dump excess sodium the loss of electrolytes causes a temporary hormonal imbalance. To avoid irritability, brain fog, and overall body aches, enjoy foods rich in sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Reach for Himalayan sea salt, leafy greens, and avocados.
Eat fatty fish/take fish oil
As fat breaks down to be used as energy a few things are released including ketones (new energy source) and arachidonic acid from adipose tissue or AA. AA causes a temporary inflammatory reaction that can lead to long-lasting headaches or migraines. Eating fatty fish, among other immense health benefits, may counteract the inflammation and reduce one of the most complained about keto flu symptoms. Fish and fish oils are also an important part of the ketogenic diet.
Eat more healthy fats
Now’s the time to begin introducing your body’s new fuel source. Eat foods plentiful in high-quality fats like organic coconut oil, butter, eggs and grass-fed beef. The sooner fat becomes a regular part of your meals the quicker the body will recognize it and adapt.
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Increase food variety
Make your diet colorful to combat nutrient loss and to receive as many vitamin and minerals as possible. Many keto dieters confine their options at the beginning of a ketogenic diet. This is a sure way to get bored, feel sick and potentially give up. Get creative with keto recipes, keep the carbs low and the fats high!
Reduce vigorous exercise
The first couple weeks on the ketogenic diet isn’t the time to amp up your cardio. Intense biking or lifting is also not recommended. As the body is changing the way it accesses its new energy source, keto flu symptoms could be irritated if these sources are depleted quickly from exercise. Move slow, the time to hit the gym will come soon.
Get more sleep
Rest is a very important tool for overcoming the keto flu. To give your body every opportunity to recover, avoid coffee and other stimulants in the first few weeks of the ketogenic diet. At night, keep all electronics out of the bed to avoid light exposure that will keep the mind alert. 7-9 hours of sleep is a regular part of a low carb lifestyle, especially when first entering ketosis.
The ketogenic diet requires the removal of a few whole food groups including fruits, grains and some high-carb vegetable. Replace these with nutraceuticals including multivitamins, probiotics, and lipase-based digestive enzymes. Make the most of your shift toward a healthier lifestyle with supplementation.
The keto diet isn’t effective if done on and off. Going a day eating low carb then eating a regular carb diet the following day isn’t a pattern that will forgo the many benefits of the ketogenic diet. Each time the ketogenic diet is restarted it will be time to battle keto flu symptoms all over again. Get it done once, adapt to ketosis and it will be smooth sailing.
Like body, like mind! Going into the ketogenic diet with a bad attitude and strong belief that the keto flu is an impending doom will likely result in such. Change is never easy but when it comes to facing the keto flu, a positive mindset can make all the difference.
Is it Worth it?
Abiding by the keto flu cures is very likely to reduce every symptom. In the event that headaches, exhaustion and other flu-like reactions occur, it may be tempting to give up. Don’t. The ketogenic diet is designed to flip the script on a body that’s been dependent on sugar and carbs. There will be a certain level of discomfort in the beginning as the body reverses everything it’s done for years. Renewed energy, weight loss, improved cholesterol, beautiful skin and the reversal of illnesses make it worth it.