What is keto flu?

-Sanjana Subramanian

What is Keto flue

If you’re about to follow the keto diet or are even toying with the idea of getting started, it’s important to know everything before diving in. We’ve said this in the past and we’ll say it again – always do your research thoroughly before taking up any kind of new diet. It’s never a good thing to go in unprepared. So, first things first.

What is a keto diet?

A keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that people bank on to help them lose weight. Research also suggests that this diet has a number of health benefits. Essentially, when you’re on a keto diet, you need to cut down on your carb intake and replace it with healthy fats and a moderate level of protein. Doing this helps swing your body into a state of ketosis, which means that your body will now begin burning fat at incredible rates.

The keto flu

Unfortunately, some people even experience the keto flu. But don’t panic. That’s just your body reacting to the sudden reduction of carbohydrates. Call it ‘withdrawal’, if you will. When your body enters a state of ketosis, it starts burning fat instead of glucose and this is the time when the keto flu typically starts to set in. Your body is actually used to reserving fat as a secondary option for energy, when glucose is not available.

The symptoms

The keto flu is characterized by a certain set of symptoms that people may experience when they first start the keto diet. These symptoms are bound to feel just like the flu. It’s important to remember that this is a big switch for your body and that it needs time to make the transition.

You may notice symptoms of the keto flu even in the first few days of beginning your diet. They could be mild or even severe and this differs from person to person. Some people also enjoy a seamless transition, with no symptoms whatsoever. This also depends on your level of carb consumption prior to following the diet. If you’ve grown habituated to consuming pasta, bread, sugary cereal and other refined carbs, you’re bound to face a higher level of difficulty in beginning the keto diet. Nonetheless, watch out for the following symptoms:-

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach ache
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Headaches
  • Sore muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Sugar cravings

How to tackle this

Yes, having the keto flu is miserable. But there are a few things that you can do to reduce the intensity of your symptoms. For instance

  • Drink lots of water! When you’re on a keto diet, your body is shedding a lot of excess water. This can lead to dehydration, which aggravates the symptoms. So, always keep yourself hydrated. Doing this also helps relieve muscle cramps and keeps fatigue at bay.
  • Don’t strain your body! Staying active and fit when you’re trying to lose weight is very important. But,  it won’t do to take up an intense form of exercise when you’re on this diet and especially when you’re down with the keto flu. Your body needs to rest in order to adapt to this new diet, so exercises such as running, weight lifting and even cycling will have to be put on hold until you feel better. Yoga or short, leisurely walks on the other hand, are good.
  • Maintain a healthy electrolyte balance! Following a keto diet leads to a decrease in your body’s insulin levels. When this happens, the kidneys release excess sodium. And then there’s the fact that keto diets do not allow the consumption of potassium-rich foods. So, it’s only natural for your body to need sufficient amounts of important nutrients to be able to function and cope better. So, incorporate avocados and green leafy veggies into your diet, to keep up a good electrolyte balance. These foods also contain magnesium, which relieves muscle cramps and headaches.
  • Sleep well! If you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol, which can have a negative effect on your mood. It can also intensify the symptoms of the keto flu. If you happen to have difficulty sleeping, consider an eye-mask or earplugs to block out extra light and sound. Consider meditation before going to bed. Some people report that taking a bath before bed helps them sleep better.
  • Eat enough fat! When you’re switching to a low-carb diet, it’s absolutely vital to remember to eat enough fats. This is of course, your primary source of energy now! So, make sure to include healthy fats in your diet. Alternately, consider cutting back on carbs gradually, instead of all together, to help your body adapt better and to decrease the intensity of the keto flu.

The keto flu can last anytime between a week to several weeks. Again, this differs from person to person. When your body starts getting used to the idea of converting ketones into energy, the symptoms will slowly disappear. However, if such symptoms persist and you’re not feeling up to it at all, it’s always better to consult with your doctor.

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