Updated: Nov 10, 2019
Good afternoon from The Keto Pantry. I thought I would share a little information regarding the Keto Flu. Both the husband and I have been very lucky as we didn’t suffer from keto flu but we know so many people do. We did a fair amount of research before starting keto and made sure we had some electrolytes in the cupboard to help manage any symptoms. In our starter pack we have included electrolytes as they are important to help keep the keto flu at bay. When cutting out the bread, cereals, rice and pasta etc, the last thing you need on top of that is to feel unwell! We hope you find the information below helpful.
When following the ketogenic diet, you may experience minor short-term symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and headaches. This is known as the keto flu. The symptoms develop when the body enters a state of ketosis during which, it burns fat for energy.
You can manage or prevent the keto flu by:
· altering the types of fats that you eat
· consuming more fibre, vitamins and minerals in the form of electrolytes and water
What is keto flu?
Keto flu refers to a set of symptoms that you may experience when you start the keto diet. These are usually minor and short term, lasting between a few days and weeks. Symptoms of the keto flu include nausea, vomiting, headaches and fatigue. Symptoms can occur as your body gets used to operating with fewer carbohydrates and as it enters a state of ketosis. The symptoms result from temporary imbalances in energy sources, insulin and minerals in the body.
Why does keto flu happen?
Carbohydrates are our bodies main energy source. On the keto diet, we reduce our carb intake to between 20 – 100g per day, compared with the recommended minimum intake of 260g in the UK.
When our bodies do not take in enough carbs to use for energy, the liver begins to produce glucose for energy, using up its stores. This process is called glucogenesis. Eventually, the liver will not be able to produce enough glucose to keep up with the energy demands of the body.
Our body then starts to break down fatty acids, which will produce ketone bodies, in a process called ketogenesis. Body tissues then use ketone bodies as fuel and the body enters a state of ketosis.
The medical community considers nutritional ketosis to be safe for most people. However, you may experience symptoms of the keto flu.
The lack of carbohydrates decreases the amount of insulin in the bloodstream. As a result, people may experience an increase in the amount of sodium, potassium and water that is released in the urine, which can cause dehydration.
Insulin is also involved in transporting glucose to the brain and before the brain starts to use ketones for energy, it will have less fuel. This will occur for about the first 3 days of the diet before blood glucose returns to regular levels.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the keto flu are usually mild, begin when you start the diet and may only last a few days to a few weeks. The symptoms normally ease off when your body enters a state of ketosis.
The keto flu can involve the following symptoms:
· difficulty with tolerating exercise
Researchers have reported additional symptoms, which usually peak between day 1 and 4 of the diet, such as:
· bad breath
· muscle cramps
· general weakness
Other symptoms, which tend to be preventable or easy to treat include:
· low blood sugar episodes
· low energy
People on the keto diet may have bad breath. When the body has reached nutritional ketosis, the liver produces a ketone called acetone, this enters the lungs and gives off a characteristic smell when you exhale.
Despite these symptoms, researchers suggest that the keto diet can be beneficial for people with endocrine diseases, such as diabetes and obesity or neurological diseases, including epilepsy.
Treatments and home remedies
The keto diet can help a person lose weight and help achieve an overall better lifestyle but some people are put off by keto flu symptoms. The symptoms are temporary and treatments and remedies can ease them.
The following strategies can help:
Eat different dietary fats
Choosing certain fats, such as olive oil, can reduce the risk of keto flu symptoms.
If you experience abdominal symptoms when on the keto diet, dietitians may recommend changing the types of fats you eat.
High levels of medium chain triglycerides from foods such as coconut oil, MCT oil and butter can cause cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting. Eating fewer of these foods and more of those with long chain triglycerides, such as olive oil, nuts, avocado, fish and meat may help prevent abdominal symptoms when starting out on the keto diet.
Eat more fibre
People may have constipation or diarrhoea when on the keto diet. Dietitians may recommend eating more high fibre vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, Brussel sprouts, green beans and asparagus.
Drink more water
When on the keto diet you may experience dehydration. If you are suffering from diarrhoea, the risk of dehydration is higher. It is recommended when following the keto lifestyle to ensure you consume enough fluid and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
People with keto flu most commonly report abdominal symptoms, headaches and fatigue. Making certain dietary changes — including consuming plenty of fluids and electrolytes — can help manage symptoms of the keto flu.
If symptoms of the keto flu develop, it may not be necessary to consult a doctor. The symptoms are usually short term, minor and easy to manage at home. However, persistent nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain may require medical attention. If you are unsure whether your symptoms are to be expected should consult your doctor.
It is a good idea before deciding to follow a keto diet or any other diet to consult your doctor, to ensure that it is safe. As with any diet/lifestyle choice, it is not always safe for everyone.