The complete guide to the Keto or carb flu: what it is, how long it lasts, symptoms, causes, and six effective tips about how to get rid of it.
Keto flu is a condition that some people get when they first start following the ketogenic diet. It manifests as symptoms such as nausea, headache, fatigue and dizziness. It usually only lasts a few days, but it can be very unpleasant.
Looking for a keto flu cure? There are many things that you can do to avoid keto flu and what is more, there are also some things that you can do to treat the symptoms. The following article will discuss these things and more, so continue reading if you want to know how to avoid keto flu or if you already have it and are looking for a keto flu remedy.
The Keto diet as I have explained in more detail here, is not a high-carb diet nor a moderate low-carb diet. It is by design a very low-carb diet and lifestyle where dieters reduce carbohydrate intake to between 5 and 10% (which is a maximum of 50 grams of carbs per day) and replace carbs with fat. This metabolic flexibility starts a process called ketosis which is where, starved of glucose that is provided by carbohydrates, you use fat for fuel.
A diet that burns fat can massively increase weight loss and increase overall health levels.
In the early stages of a keto diet and as a temporary side effect of the body using ketones for energy instead of stored glucose, many people report flu-like symptoms. These effects are nothing to worry about, are typically short lived, and go away once your body adjusts to the new diet. It is worth noting that Keto flu is not actually like influenza and it is not at all contagious, it gets its name due to sharing some of the same symptoms.
Even though symptoms are short lived they are not fun to experience. The good news is that there are things that you can do to feel better and overcome symptoms.
Any diet that is low-carb can elicit Keto flu symptoms.
Despite the name it is not actually unique to the ketogenic diet and can occur in other low-carb diets like Atkins.
These flu-like symptoms are caused because your body has previously exclusively used carbohydrate as fuel. When you stop eating carbohydrates, your body goes into shock because it does not know how to use fat as fuel.
The symptoms will go away once your body adjusts to using fat instead of carbs for energy.
In the early stages your body needs to adapt to the change in diet of using fat rather than carbs for energy.
As you can imagine, our bodies are used to converting carbs into glycogen as for the average person this is how we have lived for the majority of our lives so changing this can have some effects on your body. Consequently, a body deprived of carbs will go through carb or sugar withdrawal. This is the primary cause of these flu-like symptoms.
Common side effects from keto diet that people new to the diet experience can include feeling fatigued or tired, stomach cramps, dizziness, and nausea. Irritability is also quite common due to craving carbs/sugar.
Headaches are also very common, though generally mild. I have written an article all about keto headaches which you can read here.
The Keto flu is a common occurrence during the first few days of starting a ketogenic diet. This typically only lasts for a day or two. It is rare for it to last longer than this, though in extreme cases it could last a few weeks.
How long Keto flu is different for individuals; some people might never experience any symptoms. It depends on how easy your body finds switching from glucose as your main fuel source to ketones.
If symptoms last longer than a week you might be eating too many carbs and not enough healthy fatty foods. You might need to evaluate what you are eating and reduce your carb intake further.
Below is an alphabetical list of common symptoms reported by people who have just begun the Ketogenic diet. It is worth noting that while these are commonly-reported symptoms it is rare for one person to experience all of them.
Fatigue or tiredness
Insomnia - hard time sleeping
Lack of motivation/enthusiasm - feeling listless
Low energy levels
Muscle cramps, spasms, weakness or soreness
Nausea - feeling sick or unwell
Poor concentration - brain fog
Restlessness or irritability
Sensitivity to heat - feeling feverish
Stomach cramps - pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
These symptoms don’t usually last longer than a week, but many people to give up on the diet due to how these flu-like symptoms makes them feel, which is a shame as the ketogenic diet is amazing for health and weight loss.
Often people feel like there is nothing that can be done about Keto flu, but this is a mistake. There are many things that can be done to reduce symptoms.
I will discuss some of the things that can be done to alleviate some of these things as I go over the key causes.
If you are currently experiencing some of these symptoms you might be wondering if there is a Keto flu cure. There may not be a cure for Keto flu, but it is easy to treat with changes that you can make.
Here are some tips about how to treat Keto flu that can help ease some of these short-lived symptoms.
When starting the induction phase of the ketogenic diet it is tempting to cut carbs as quickly as possible, but this is likely to make Keto flu symptoms worse. It is therefore best to start gradually to get your body accustomed to ketosis.
The initial change from carbs to ketones can stress your body. so start by gradually decreasing your carb consumption over a few weeks prior to properly starting the diet; you won't enter ketosis so you won't get the benefits of ketosis but you should prevent some of the negative affects of Keto flu.
Weening yourself off sugar for a few days is also a good start. Once you are used to reduced sugar it is time to start cutting starchy foods like potatoes and rice. At the same time you should also be increasing your fat consumption to help ease your transition into ketosis.
A typical western diet is primarily based on using carbs/glucose for fuel so getting your body ready for the change from a carb-rich to a carb-restricted diet should make the transition to the ketogenic diet much easier on your body.
If you are already experiencing symptoms of Keto flu one way to reduce these is to eat some carbs, this will stop you from being in ketosis but if it helps you to eventually stay on the ketogenic diet for longer then it might be worth a day or two over your daily carb limit if this stops you from giving up on the diet entirely.
Another common mistake that people make is not eating enough food. The ketogenic diet is about restricting carbs not restricting foods in general.
Eating enough healthy fats and enough calories will help reduce carb/sugar-cravings as well as giving you enough energy to combat tiredness.
For beginners I recommend The Custom Keto Diet as following this diet plan will help remove the guesswork from the ketogenic diet and help you get healthier and lose weight faster.