Keto Flu: Is It Normal?

Ketosis occurs when your body does not have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat to produce ketones, which it can use as fuel. Ketosis is a popular low-carbohydrate diet. Ketosis can make you feel less hungry in addition to helping you burn fat. It also aids in the preservation of muscle. Ketosis usually begins after 3 or 4 days of eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day in healthy people who do not have diabetes or are not pregnant. A keto diet (also known as a ketogenic diet) is a low-carb, high-fat diet that is very effective for losing weight.

Although losing weight is the most immediate effect of the ketogenic diet, there are other side effects that must be considered. After a few days or weeks of following the keto diet, you will notice that you are feeling ill, sluggish, easily tired, irritable, and have difficulty concentrating. This is a common side effect of the keto diet known as keto-flu.

Keto-flu is caused by the body’s response to carbohydrate restriction and can often mimic symptoms of the flu, thus the name “keto flu.” Our body is used to take a large number of carbohydrates, and sudden break-up to carbs by restricting your daily carbs intake will cause your body to react thus you felt those symptoms, but after few weeks (or months), your body will soon adapt to the changes, and you will start to feel better (and lighter). 

Many articles written by doctors and dieticians claimed that the symptoms of “keto-flu” are not recognized by medicine and that “keto-flu” itself cannot be found on PubMed (the library of indexed medical research journals). However, many people who tried this diet (including myself) confirmed that they experienced this brief ailment and recovered quickly after simple remedies.

Although the symptoms may have a minor impact on your daily activities, they do not last long, and some people experience only minor or no effects at all. This is because our bodies react differently or because of metabolic flexibility (how well you can adapt to using different fuel sources (such as carbs, fats, protein, and ketones)). Those who consume a lot of refined sugar and processed foods are more likely to have severe keto-flu symptoms than those who do not.

The following are remedies for the temporary side effects of “cleaning up” your diet.

  1. Start slowly. It would be advisable if you start on low-carb diet, then gradually shift to strict keto diet so your body will have an easier time to adjust. 
  2. Drink Water. Rehydrate yourself by drinking water like it is your job. Drinking enough water can help relieve these symptoms. If you’re active, drink more water. It will help with headaches and boosts your energy level.  
  3. Eat more fat. When on the keto diet, intake of healthy fats is crucial. Consume more healthy fats such as butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and macadamia nuts. You can’t do low-carb and low-fat at the same time. Try snacking on half of an avocado and some bacon, or loading up on egg yolks at dinner.
  4. Get enough rest. If your body is still under stress and tired, limit exercise for a while until you recover or do low impact exercise such as walking then gradually increase as your body adapt to the diet. 
  5. Eat as much as you can as long as you stay under 20g net carbs (or 50g carbs). If the symptoms still persist, gradually add carbs (but not too much), then “gradually” lessen it again. Listen to your body and be attentive to its needs. 

The keto flu symptoms sound awful, yet they don’t last long. You can use these suggestions to help manage the keto flu and its effects. Keep in mind that every person’s body responds to the keto diet differently. If you have any questions about the diet, speak with your doctor or ask a professional nutritionist for guidance.

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