If you’ve been thinking about giving the keto diet a try, then you’ve probably heard of the dreaded keto flu. Although only temporary, the “keto flu” (also called the “carb flu”) is a series of unpleasant side effects (like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, dizziness, etc.) experienced by some people when starting the diet.
So What Is The Keto Flu?
The body is used to using carbohydrates for fuel (carbohydrates come from foods like grains, starches, fruits and dairy products). When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, the body has to go through a process of switching its preferred energy source to ketones. Ketones are produced by the liver when you do not have enough insulin in your body to use carbohydrates for energy. When the body goes through this drastic change, it may experience symptoms similar to withdrawal - including nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and more! However, some experts also speculate that the keto flu could also be due to detoxification, immune reactions or changes to the gut microbiome when switching to the low carb diet.
Will I Get The Keto Flu?
Not necessarily! Some people experience very mild symptoms, or none at all. It totally depends on how your unique body adapts to using ketones for fuel. Typically, symptoms start to appear within the first few days of shifting your diet and can last for a number of days. For most people, symptoms stop after about a week.
After experiencing these unpleasant symptoms for a few days, some people will stop the diet altogether. However, there are some things that you can do to make the transition more smooth.
How Can I Manage The Keto Flu?
- Make sure you’re eating enough carbohydrates
Although the keto diet is considered “low carb”, it is not considered “no carb”. Keto diets still typically include up to 50g of carbohydrates per day. Try transitioning into the diet slowly - work your way down to less carbohydrates and adding more protein/fat gradually instead of going cold turkey. This may help to reduce symptoms and allow the body to adapt. Over time, this may also help with carbohydrate cravings.
- Avoid hard exercise and get enough sleep
Since you may feel fatigued or dizzy while going through the keto transition, avoid any overly exertive exercising. In addition, make sure you’re getting enough sleep while your energy levels feel lower. This means 7-9 hours for most adults.
- Stay hydrated
Because of the transition that your body is going through and the types of foods included in the keto diet, you can become dehydrated easier. Make sure that you are eating enough salt and potassium-rich foods, including leafy greens and avocado. In addition to drinking enough water, this will help to ensure you are maintaining electrolyte balance.
If you’re interested in trying out the keto diet, make sure that you speak with your doctor to know if it is right for you. While the keto diet can be beneficial for some, people who have certain health conditions (like kidney disease) should avoid it.
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