What Is Keto Flu? (PLUS 6 Ways To Cure It)
You’re tired and dizzy, you crave sugar, bread, pasta, and your mind wanders like crazy. You just started a ketogenic diet (or a Paleo or other low carb diet) and you’re suspicious if your new diet is making you feeling this crappy.
Removing carbohydrates from your diet all of a sudden may well be the reason why you’re barely able to concentrate on this sentence! This can happen even on a Paleo diet if you remove too many carbs from your diet. And all this feeling of crappiness is due to something people call Keto Flu (or Carb Flu). Read on to find out what is keto flu, how long keto flu lasts, and of course, how to cure keto flu.
(CARB FLU = KETO FLU)
KETO FLU INFOGRAPHIC – please pin!
Please feel free to pin and share this infographic about the keto flu.
WHAT IS KETO FLU?
Keto flu describes the flu-like symptoms that people starting a low-carb diet often experience.
Why does this happen for some people? Certified Keto Coach Lori Ballen says, “The possible answer to the question, ‘what causes keto flu?’ lies in three significant factors; adaptation to keto, electrolyte imbalance and drastic withdrawal from carbohydrates.”
Most people starting a keto diet are used to receiving carbohydrates from the food they eat and cannot easily change the body’s energy source when they stop eating carbs. (If you’re interested in the science, then this article provides a very detailed explanation of why keto flu happens.)
Some people explain keto flu as symptoms resulting from withdrawal from carbohydrates (think drug addiction here). And indeed, there are studies showing that sugars (which are a form of carbohydrates) can cause drug-like additions.
Keto flu is inconvenient, but thankfully temporary. Registered Dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, says, “At one point, during a heated discussion about dog food, [my husband] suggested, in a very loving and compassionate manner, that perhaps I eat a piece of bread. It was a rough start. And then, it wasn’t. The cloud lifted. I went from irritable and “hangry” to feeling great.”
So don’t panic if you think you have keto flu. I’ve listed several ways to shorten that period of feeling crappy below.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF KETO FLU?
If you just started a low carb or ketogenic diet, then you might experience keto flu symptoms like:
- Sugar cravings
- Difficulty focusing (or Brain Fog)
- Difficulty Getting To Sleep
- Stomach Irritability
HOW LONG DOES KETO FLU USUALLY LAST?
This is a tough one as it varies from person to person.
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.”
Generally, most people find the keto flu symptoms are worst in the first week of ditching carbs from their diet.
Some people will find symptoms linger into the second week. A few people report keto flu lasting 3-5 weeks.
(If you haven’t started a low carb or ketogenic diet yet, don’t despair as keto flu doesn’t affect everyone and even if it does, it’s usually very short lived.)
There are of course also some tricks to shorten your keto flu period…
HOW TO CURE KETO FLU
Below are 6 methods for curing keto flu.
And if you keep reading, I suggest a really easy way to incorporate many of these tips in one simple drink you can have daily.
Eat More Fats
This is one of the common methods people use to combat keto flu symptoms. Your body still needs energy and since it’s not getting its energy from sugars and other carbohydrates any more, it needs to get energy from fats you eat.
So eat plenty of healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, tallow, lard. Plus, to go into ketosis, you’ll need to eat plenty of fats anyway. Adding some MCT oil to your diet can help boost your ketone level, which will help your brain feel a bit better.
Eat More Calories
It’s easy to eat too little food in general when you first start a low carb or ketogenic diet. Most people just eliminate the high carb foods from their previous diet without increasing the other food intake.
Many people are also confused about what they can eat on a low carb or ketogenic diet because they’re so used to filling their plates with pasta, rice, bread.
So, if you’re feeling down, try to eat more. Check out our low carb and ketogenic recipes here for ideas on what to eat. Or download our comprehensive ketogenic diet food list by clicking here.
Eat A Few More Clean Carbs (especially if you are active)
While cutting down your carb intake all at once may result in faster weight loss, the simple fact is you’re not going to lose any weight unless you stick to that low carb or ketogenic diet. So, your first priority should be to ensure you’re not going to give up on the diet because you feel too crappy with your keto flu symptoms. If that’s going to be the case, then try reducing your carb intake slowly.
Add More Salts To Your Diet
When you go low carb, your insulin levels will tend to go down, which in turn means you don’t hold on to as much sodium as before. You also get rid of excess water that you’ve been holding on to (hence why you’ll usually experience decreased bloating when you go low carb or keto).
So, to combat this decrease in sodium, the simple answer is to take in a bit more salt as sodium deficiency is also a huge issue.?? If you’re afraid to eat too much salt, then rest assured that if you’re cutting out all the junk food, you’re already consuming way less salt than before (even bread contains salt so you were probably eating way way more sodium before).
Drink Enough Water
Dehydration can often give you headaches, nausea, and fatigue so make sure you also drink plenty of water during this period.
Exercise (If You Can)
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind right now as you woozily read this article. But studies have suggested that exercise can help you become more metabolically flexible. (Being metabolically flexible means that your body can switch between using carbs and ketones for energy more easily. So in general, people who don’t endure very long keto flu symptoms are more metabolically flexible as they can switch to burning ketones quickly when carb intake stops.)
Additionally, Dr. Tommy Wood, M.D., PhD. suggested during a Q&A session on the Keto Summit that supplementing with carnitine can help with keto flu. This is because it can help move the fatty acids to the mitochondria.
Registered Nurse Rachel Nall, RN, notes that once the symptoms of Keto flu pass, people are free to experience the benefits of a ketogenic diet. “However,” she adds, “people must carefully watch their food intake to ensure they are getting enough calories and nutrients to support good health.”
THE EASIEST SOLUTION TO CURE KETO FLU
Many people suggest diluting a bouillon cube in water and drinking that to cure keto flu. But if you’ve ever looked at the ingredients in bouillon cubes, you’ll probably think twice about using them again (they read like a nutrition nightmare regardless of what diet you’re on)!
So, my suggestion is to make your own bone broth and add salt and spices to it.
Here’s a simple recipe you can follow for making bone broth in the slow cooker. And just keep the slow cooker going so you can have continuous access to bone broth. Not only is bone broth super nutritious, but it also provides more fat, more calories, more salt, and more water to your diet. (Yep, that hits up 4 out of the 6 tricks for curing keto flu.)
If you’re averse to making bone broth, you can also purchase chicken broth (like this one) that has pretty clean ingredients or in many parts of the US, you can also purchase ready-made bone broth (check out this website for purchasing bone broth).
While the symptoms of keto flu (or carb flu) are painful, they are worth it! Not only do most people experience weight loss after that initial period, they also find they have more energy, less bloating, fewer digestive issues, and a bunch more benefits.
But as I mentioned above, the diet only works if you stick to it. So if you find the symptoms unbearable, then try to introduce more clean carbs like sweet potatoes and other vegetables or some fruits.
And if you do give up or end up cheating on your diet, don’t despair! Just pick it back up again the next day. There’s no guilt – just your journey to better health.
Images: Copyright (c) Halfpoint from Fotolia