The Keto flu is not really the “flu,” but a combination of metabolic conditions that can make one feel uncomfortable or drained in the beginning phase of a ketogenic diet.
It is due to the adaptation of the body as it is being forced to switch fuel sources from carbohydrates and glucose to fat and ketones.
It is also caused by the flushing of glycogen and electrolytes from muscle cells. There is also the theory that some people have withdrawals due to the elimination of sugar from their diet (sugar addiction).
What are the symptoms of the keto flu?
Difficulty sleeping, body aches, constipation, digestive issues, chills, fatigue, lack of energy, headaches, irritability, lethargy, and lack of focus, nausea, drowsiness, sugar cravings, cramps, brain fog, dizziness, and lightheartedness.
*Instruction on how to make a Keto Flu electrolyte drink (tonic) listed below.
Sugar and carbohydrate addiction from years of eating refined carbs and especially sugar can become very addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Just like a drug abuser that can’t get any drugs, the sugar addict feels ill. Here is an interesting study that shows sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
The other likely cause is metabolic inflexibility. Your body has not adapted to using fat as energy and has not yet become efficient at it. The mitochondria, liver, and gallbladder haven’t developed the ability to convert all that fat to energy yet.
Your body and cells needs time to “learn” how to do it. You have burned glucose for energy your entire life and now, all of a sudden, you are trying to make it burn fat as energy. It’s going to take some time and patience for that to happen.
Eating a ketogenic diet can force your body to start burning fat and the fat adaptation process can take approximately 3 to 4 weeks. Expect to feel drained with a lack of energy until you become fat adapted.
The biggest reason for the Keto flu though is the flushing of the electrolytes out of our cells. One of the first outcomes of the ketogenic diet is the release of excess water weight.
You are probably retaining a lot of excess water weight and you can expect an approximate 10-pound weight loss in the first 10-14 days due to the ketogenic diuretic effect. When I started Keto my fingers, face and ankles lost their swelling almost immediately.
When we are consuming a high carbohydrate diet, our body stores lots of glycogen.
When restricting carbohydrates while on the ketogenic diet, our glycogen stores progressively deplete and at the same time flush the excess stored water. As we lose this water, we also lose electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
A low glucose environment also means a low insulin environment and remember insulin is the master storage hormone. So we also lose water due to a reduction in insulin levels.
Higher insulin levels stimulate our kidneys to retain sodium (salt), so when our insulin levels drop, the stored sodium is excreted.
We lose even more water as we excrete our electrolytes through urination. Also, if we are sweating we lose even more electrolytes through our sweat glands.
What is the keto flu remedy?
Cut the carbohydrates slowly
The first thing to remember is to ease into the ketogenic diet gradually. You don’t have to start fasting on the first day and you don’t need to go extremely low carb on the second day. Slowly lower your carbohydrate intake over a few days or even weeks.
Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and gradually reduce other carbohydrates. Flaxseed meal is a good addition to your diet as the fiber makes you feel full and helps with regularity.
Start counting your daily carbohydrate intake. As an example, lower your carbohydrate intake to 150 grams the first week, then 100 grams the 2nd week and then by the start of the 3rd week you can begin full Keto with 30 grams a day. Lack of patience is one of the reasons People are not successful on the Ketogenic Diet.
Some people feel symptoms of the keto flu because of sugar withdrawals. Sugar is a mood altering chemical similar to other addictive drugs. It is commonly referred to as having a “sweet tooth” and is not taken seriously enough.
The spike of blood sugar creates a euphoria similar to cocaine and methamphetamine. Some people actually have physical withdrawals from cutting out sugar and that withdrawal can feel like a flu-like symptom. The only “cure” is just abstinence. Over time the addiction will subside.
Eat more vegetables and salt your food
Drink water, add extra salt to your food and eat green leafy vegetables. World-renowned pro-ketogenic Doctors Phinney and Volek recommend 3-5 grams of sodium per day which averages around 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of salt. Bacon, by the way, has a lot of salt in it.
Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage are all great food choices. The vegetables will help with your keto digestion (prebiotics), give you slow release, low glycemic carbohydrates, and most importantly, vitamins and minerals.
Take extra electrolytes for keto cellular balance.
Take a sugar-free, calorie-free electrolyte supplement. Take supplemental magnesium citrate. If your potassium levels become to low, you could develop a condition known as hypokalemia. It can cause fatigue, insomnia, depression, muscle fatigue, and cramping.
It can also cause cardiovascular complications such as an abnormal heartbeat. Spinach has 800 mg of potassium per cup and milk kefir has about 400 mg per cup. Eat plenty of avocados and sprinkle some salt on them, avocados are high in potassium. Use cream of tartar, it has 495 mg of potassium in one teaspoon.
Here is a keto flu drink (tonic) remedy.
Time needed: 15 minutes.
How to make keto flu electrolyte tonic:
Add one cup filtered water
pour in quart sized container
Add one serving sugar free electrolyte powder
Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.
Add one serving magnesium citrate.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt.
Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
Add 1 squirt of lemon juice
Mix well and refrigerate. Drink as needed for a keto flu remedy.
*If you develop night cramps, get up and drink some keto flu tonic. You can keep some in the refrigerator ready to go.
Focus on getting keto adapted
Make sure you are eating enough fat so you become fat-adapted. MCT oil can help with the fat adaptation process.
Your body has to adjust to a new fuel source (ketones) and your liver has to heal before you can get fully adapted. The adaptation process can take between 3-6 weeks.
Sometimes while you are “adapting” you have flu-like symptoms (keto flu) where you feel drained and exhausted. Don’t give up though, it will be worth it in the long run. If you start dragging you can snack on:
Nutritional yeast is also a recommended supplement because the extra B vitamins will help with energy metabolism. Additional supplementation of good a B-complex vitamin will help, especially the bioavailable form of B-12 (Methylcobalamin).
The other keto flu supplements I recommend are:
Fish oil capsules
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Creatine and HMB
B Complex vitamins
Enzymes (lipase and protease)
Matcha green tea
Make improving your digestive health a priority
Constipation and difficult bowel movements can sometimes be associated with Keto flu. You are taking in less waste and energizing your body with a new fuel source, so you should expect to have less frequent to your bowel movements.
In conclusion, don’t let the keto flu scare you away from the Ketogenic Diet. I didn’t even get it and many people don’t. If you follow the above steps, you probably won’t get it and if you do, it will be very mild.