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What Is Keto Flu and How to Deal with It?

If you just started a ketogenic diet and went with low carbohydrate regimen, you might be experiencing some symptoms. If this makes you fatigued and exhausted, there are ways to solve this and to relieve these symptoms.

Don’t think this is going to last long and don’t think low carb is a bad idea and start wondering why you started in the first place. Just stay focused and informed. This phase is completely normal and is part of the process which is needed for the transaction from a diet with high-carb to a high-fat diet. It may feel unpleasant at first, but we assure you this is a symptom which appears for different reasons which can be dealt with.

What is Keto Flu or “Atkins Flu”?

Your body normally runs on carbs, if you are not on a different kind of diet. It is so used to using Krebs cycle for getting glucose that it needs a big change to shift to a different metabolism. Also, an important thing to state, Keto Flu is a misnomer, since these symptoms come from electrolytes and hormones change in the body. When you go low carb, you lose glucose which carries water with it. When you lose lots of water from your body, you lose Sodium, Potassium, and Magnesium which cause the symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Upset Stomach or Constipation
  • Cough
  • Sniffles
  • Irritability
  • Low Pressure
  • Leg Cramps
  • Bad Breath
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Reduced Physical Performance

and some less common symptoms which can be:

  • Elevated Cholesterol
  • Temporary Hair Loss
  • Gallstone Problems
  • Keto Rash
  • Reduced Tolerance to Alcohol
  • Gout
  • Potential Danger when Breastfeeding.

Many people blame the ketogenic diet for these symptoms and quit the regimen even before the start when these symptoms are all carbs withdrawal symptoms and your body is going to be better after this. Try comparing this with drugs withdrawal when you also feel bad, but need this to feel better.

Studies have shown that sugar has the same effects on the brain as heroin or cocaine, isn’t that interesting? The same areas of the brain activate and releases the dopamine which triggers the feeling of “high” state. The absence of sugar sends less dopamine to the receptors and you feel the sugar craving. If you soon don’t get your dose, you start feeling sick and your body get into a shock.

Keto-Adapted

When you quit the carbs, and go for a higher fat diet, it takes to get keto adapted. It takes from 2-5 days to become keto adapted and to enter the state of ketosis. Ketosis is a state where your body starts using fat and your liver begins with creating ketones which can be used by your cells and can go through your brain membrane and feed the brain. The liver breaks down the fatty acids and creates the ketones which can be used as a fuel. In this initial period, it is important to limit the carbohydrates (most textbooks recommend less than 50g) and proteins to stop the gluconeogenesis which can happen if we ingest high amounts of protein. This process turns protein into glucose and your body can’t go into ketosis. The body needs time for the adaptation and for full metabolism change it can take up to several months. The hormones that are being used in your everyday life and digestion is also being changed since your insulin levels are going to go down, and fat converting enzymes are going to rise.

Usually, the most severe symptoms appear on the second and third day of keto-adaptation since there is a glucose storage which can last up to 24h. This is called glycogen and is being stored in the liver. Since this is being used on the first day of the keto transaction, your body will quickly run out of its fuel. The glycogen is also stored in the muscles, but it can’t be pushed into the blood, so this muscle glycogen can be used only for the muscle contractions. The absence of the muscle glycogen can trigger the muscle cramps which can appear in the beginning.

Nausea can be the symptom which is caused by the lack of fat converting enzymes. They need time for production so your body would burn fat more quickly. At the beginning, the body is left with a great amount of fat which isn’t digested which can make people nauseous.

Replenish Electrolytes

One of the main reasons you are feeling the “keto flu” is the lack of the electrolytes. They are an important part of your metabolism and they are inside the body water which you lose with the glucose. This can also affect the acidity of your body (pH level) so this can contribute to muscle cramps which can appear with acidity.

When starting a ketogenic diet, you need to make sure you are drinking enough of water. Your body will need minerals supplementation such as for magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and chloride.

Electrolyte Rich Food

  • Sodium Rich Food: Broth Soup, Salt, Bacon, Pickles, Sauerkraut.
  • Magnesium-Rich Food: Artichokes, Fish, Spinach, Nuts, Dark Chocolate.
  • Potassium Rich Food: Avocados, Spinach, Kale and Other Dark Leafy Greens, Salmon, Mushrooms, Nuts, Yogurt.
  • Calcium Rich Food: Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Almonds, Cheese, Seafood (Sardines).
  • Chloride Rich Food: Olives, Seaweed, Salt, Vegetables.
  • Phosphorus Rich Food: Nuts, Seeds, Dark Chocolate, Cheese, Meats.

Other ways you can incorporate electrolytes is to drink coconut water. It has high levels of potassium, sodium, and calcium. You can drink it straight or add it to your smoothie. Look for the coconut water which has low carb levels in specifications and opt for an organic one. Don’t forget the bone broth which has plenty of minerals, but also vitamins, gelatin, and collagen. Stay tuned as we bring you more tips to start off with your healthy diet.