How to Beat the 'Keto Flu'

August 08, 2020 6 min read

How to Beat the 'Keto Flu'

When you make the choice to remove, or severely minimize, carbohydrates from your diet with a keto-style approach, the body can go through some pretty significant adaptations that leave you feeling like you got hit by a bus. 

We want to help you avoid as many of these symptoms as possible by explaining what is going on when you experience the ‘keto flu’, and how to best prepare for it!  

Why Does the ‘Keto Flu’ Happen?

When we completely remove a food group, we don’t just remove that food, we remove a lot of things that food does for the body and the interactions it can create. 

  • Sodium and Water are Flushed Out 

We may know that carbohydrates help spike insulin in the body to shuttle sugar into the cells, but you may not know the impact insulin has on the kidneys.  As insulin rises, it alerts the kidneys that there is excess energy and for the kidneys to store sodium and water.  As soon as insulin drops, sodium is released from the body and water goes along with it.  When you completely remove carbohydrates from the diet, we excrete A LOT of sodium and water.  This is usually the reason people see such drastic weight loss in the first week - that weight is coming from the water. (Source).

Another reason we lose so much water is because water follows carbohydrates.  For every gram of carbohydrate we consume, we store about 3 grams of water with it.  

With this level of water and sodium loss, you can end up with pretty extreme dehydration and in turn, the symptoms that go along with it like cramping, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and more. 

  • Stress Levels Rise 

As we mentioned in a previousblog about Keto, this is not the diet if you have a very high-stress lifestyle because the keto diet actually causes our stress hormones to rise.  Due to the extreme restriction of carbohydrates, the keto diet creates somewhat of a ‘famine’ mode within the body.  Carbohydrates produce insulin, as we just mentioned, and insulin is inversely related to cortisol, meaning it helps bring the stress hormone down.  This is why we often recommend carbohydrates post-workout to help reduce the stress response of exercise.  

With the combination of the famine-like response, as well as the lack of insulin response, cortisol levels can increase and bring along the nasty effects of the stress-response with it including poor sleep and irritability. (Source). 

  • Decreases Thyroid Hormone Production

Carbohydrates have actually been shown to be more important to thyroid hormone production than calories.  Carbs seem to have an intimate relationship with T3 (triiodothyronine), our most active form of thyroid hormone, and help regulate the production of this hormone.  When we completely restrict carbohydrates, like on a ketogenic diet, some research has shown up to a 47% decrease in the production of T3. (Source).

For anyone that has dealt with hypothyroidism, they know that low thyroid production can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and even depression.  

Other Common Symptoms

So we can clearly see that removing carbs from the body can be a bit of a shock to the system.  Although our body can fully manage being low-carb for quite some time, the initial days or weeks may feel rough.  Here are some other common symptoms you may experience with the keto-flu:

  • Sugar cravings
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Confusion
  • Muscle soreness
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea 

We are not saying you will experience all of these, you may only experience one or two of these!  A lot of how you will feel depends on your metabolic flexibility, or in other words how capable your body is at switching its fuel source from carbohydrates to fats and vise-versa.  If you are someone that eats a lot of carbohydrates and has for a while, you may not have the same metabolic flexibility as someone who has utilized both types of food and fuel sources in the past.  

With that being said, we also want to help you avoid as many of these symptoms as possible.  

How to Remedy It? 

So if we know what causes the keto flu, then we can get ahead of it and make sure to limit the possibility of the extreme deficiencies that low-carbohydrates can bring.  

  1. Up Your Hydration 

Although weight loss is great, if you are losing 5-10 pounds of water weight in a week, that can be really taxing on our body.  We’d much prefer a bit slower weight loss without the nasty symptoms that come with dehydration and to make sure you don’t end up in the hospital!  We recommend drinking a bit more water than you would usually do, and add a pinch or two of pink himalayan sea salt for sodium as well.  

Daily Water Suggestion: 

  • Drink ½ your body-weight in ounces per day and include 1-2 pinches of pink sea salt.
  • Weigh yourself each day, and for each pound you lose - increase water intake by about 16-20 ounces over your baseline.  We recommend doing this for the first 5-7 days. 
  • You can also utilize a product likeHydrate to help with electrolyte balance too, which can drop significantly from the sodium drop!  
2. Add Extra Nutrients to the Diet

Sodium and potassium get depleted quite a bit because of the low insulin production from lack of carbohydrates.  To help improve our nutrient balance and lessen the symptoms like fatigue, constipation, and lightheadedness - include foods like leafy greens, broccoli, mushrooms, and avocado in your day.  Then like we discussed in the previous tip, just adding a bit of sea salt to your water or meals can help a ton with sodium!  

Magnesium is a nutrient that doesn’t necessarily get depleted on low-carb, but it can help with your transition to the keto diet.  Magnesium is important for lots of different beneficial functions of the body including sleep quality, reducing muscle cramping (which can happen from dehydration), and it improves insulin sensitivity. (Source).  Some keto-friendly foods high in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, and spinach. 

3. Utilize Keto Magic!  

A big part of why the keto-flu happens is because your body is in a transition phase - it is transitioning from utilizing carbohydrates as fuel to utilizing fats and ketones for fuel.  The faster we can get that transition going, the sooner you will get to feeling better!  The problem with utilizing food-fat sources, like animal fat or dairy, alone to do this is that they have to go through the full digestive process first before your body can utilize them as a fuel source.  This can take days! 

The good news is that we have a solution to this issue!  You can utilize MCT Oil, which is found in ourSuper Collagen, because MCT is made of medium chain triglycerides, which is a type of saturated fat that can go straight to the liver after digestion.  The liver is where they are converted to ketones and utilized for energy quickly!  

OurKeto Magic product also helps you reach ketosis in just 15 minutes!  Utilizing both of these products can assist in getting you adapted to the keto diet much quicker and in turn, experience fewer negative side effects of the ‘keto flu’. 

4. Include Low-Intensity Exercise

High intensity workouts ideally utilize carbohydrates for energy, whereas low-intensity workouts can function great on fat-stores.  While you’re adapting to the keto-diet, we recommend doing more walking, swimming, and other lower-intensity workouts to help reduce the stress on the body and get your body into ketosis faster! 

5. SLEEP! 

We know that stress can be higher on the keto-diet, especially in the beginning, and one of the best ways to reduce stress on the body is getting adequate sleep.  Without adequate sleep, it can actually become much harder to reach ketosis.  

We recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night (every night!), and if you’re struggling falling asleep you can try removing screens/blue-light 30-60 minutes prior to bed, turn down lights in the house at night, and ourSLEEP product provides great support for falling asleep and staying asleep! 

There can be great benefits to utilizing the keto diet for periods of time, but the ‘keto flu’ is no joke!  That is why we recommend taking some precautionary measures to make sure your transition to ketosis is as symptom-free and enjoyable as possible!

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