Keto Flu Symptoms 101: Transform Challenges into Triumphs

Unlock the Secrets to Beating Keto Flu Symptoms with Ease!

How Long Do Keto Flu Symptoms Last?

💡Keto flu symptoms can improve within a few days or last for weeks. In most cases, people find relief within 10 days. Severe symptoms may require medical advice.

If you’re starting a weight loss journey, you might be considering the popular ketogenic diet. It’s a high-fat, very low-carbohydrate diet that can help with weight loss and overall health.

When you start a ketogenic diet, your body goes through adjustments that can bring about changes, particularly in the initial weeks. While generally safe, this diet can lead to unpleasant side effects known as the keto flu. 

These symptoms may occur when starting the keto diet and can last from a few days to several weeks. Join us as we explore the keto flu, its causes, and practical tips to reduce keto flu symptoms.

Keto diet plan with low carbs, moderate protein, and high fats
Keto diet plan with low carbs, moderate protein, and high fats

Table of Contents

What is Keto Flu?

The keto flu or carb flu refers to a set of symptoms that some individuals may experience when they begin the keto diet. These flu-like symptoms occur as the body adjusts to a low intake of carbs.

Usually, our body stores fat as an energy reserve. When you decrease carbohydrate intake, your body switches to a state of ketosis, burning fat for energy. It uses ketones instead of glucose. 

A control knob labeled "fuel" switched from glucose to ketones
A control knob labeled “fuel” switched from glucose to ketones

Ketones are produced when fatty acids are broken down and become the primary source of fuel when following ketogenic diets. 

In a keto diet, carb intake is usually limited to 20-50 grams per day. This significant decrease may shock the body and can cause withdrawal-like symptoms, similar to those experienced during the process of reducing dependency on substances like caffeine.

Keto Flu Symptoms

The keto flu is likely due to the switch from relying on carbs to using ketones for energy. However, it hasn’t been formally studied and there’s still a lot we don’t know about it.

Switching to a very low-carb diet is a big change. Your body may need time to adjust to this new way of eating, which can be especially tough for some people.

A woman who is tired and sleepy
A woman who is tired and sleepy

Keto flu symptoms may appear shortly after reducing carb intake, typically within the first few days. The symptoms and severity can vary among individuals.

While some individuals transition to a ketogenic diet without experiencing side effects, others may experience keto flu symptoms like:

What Causes Keto Flu?

keto diet
Common keto-friendly foods arranged around the word “keto” in wooden blocks

Individuals react differently to ketogenic diets. While some may encounter keto flu symptoms for several weeks, others may transition to the new diet without any negative effects.

The symptoms people experience are related to how their bodies adapt to a different fuel source. Normally, carbs supply energy to the body in the form of glucose. When carbs are significantly reduced, the body starts burning ketones from fat instead of stored glucose.

People who consume a lot of carbs, especially refined carbs like pasta and soda, could face difficulties when starting the ketogenic diet. Some might find it more challenging to switch to a high-fat, very low-carb consumption, while others may adapt more easily with fewer symptoms of the keto flu.

The reason why some people adapt to ketogenic diets more easily than others is still unknown. However, it is believed that genetics, electrolyte loss, dehydration, and carbohydrate withdrawal contribute to the uncomfortable symptoms of keto flu.

How Long Does Keto Flu Last?

The discomforting symptoms of the keto flu usually fade away within a few days for most people.

However, some people may struggle more with adapting to this high-fat, low-carb diet. For these individuals, symptoms could persist for up to a month.

Usually, these symptoms will lessen over time as your body becomes accustomed to converting ketones into energy.

Although keto flu symptoms are common when transitioning to low-carb diets, if you’re feeling extremely unwell and experiencing fever, prolonged diarrhea, or vomiting, reach out to your doctor to rule out other potential causes.

How to Get Rid of Keto Flu Symptoms

The keto flu can be extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce symptoms and make it easier for your body to navigate through this transition period.

Stay Hydrated

A woman drinking from a cup while working from home
A woman drinking from a cup while working from home

It is important to drink enough water for good health when on any diet. Staying hydrated can also help alleviate keto flu symptoms.

A keto diet can cause dehydration by depleting the body’s water stores. This happens because glycogen, which is the stored form of carbohydrates, binds to water in the body. When you decrease your carb intake, glycogen levels decrease as well and the body excretes water.

Staying hydrated helps with symptoms such as fatigue and muscle cramps. It’s important to replace fluids, especially if you have keto flu diarrhea because it can cause additional fluid loss.

Limit Strenuous Activity

A woman drinking a glass of water after a light exercise
A woman drinking a glass of water after a light exercise

Exercise is crucial for maintaining health and managing body weight. However, it is advisable to avoid intense exercise when experiencing keto flu symptoms.

During the first week of following a ketogenic diet, it’s common to experience fatigue, muscle cramps, and stomach discomfort. Giving your body a rest can be a wise choice in such situations.

Intense workouts may need to be temporarily avoided as your body adjusts to new fuel sources. If you are experiencing keto flu, it’s best to steer clear of these types of exercises. 

Instead, opt for light activities such as walking, yoga, or simply doing chores, as they may help alleviate symptoms.

Supplement With Electrolytes

Replacing dietary electrolytes can help alleviate symptoms of the keto flu. 

On a ketogenic diet, insulin levels decrease. Insulin, a hormone that assists in glucose absorption from the bloodstream, is affected. As a result of lowered insulin levels, the kidneys excrete excess sodium from the body.

Additionally, the keto diet limits potassium-rich foods such as fruits, beans, and starchy vegetables. Consuming sufficient amounts of these essential nutrients can greatly support the adjustment period of the diet.

To avoid electrolyte imbalance, try salting your food to taste and including potassium-rich, keto-friendly foods such as green leafy vegetables and avocados. It’s a great way to ensure you’re getting the electrolytes your body needs.

These foods are also rich in magnesium, which might aid in alleviating muscle cramps, sleep problems, and headaches.

Get Adequate Sleep

People new to a ketogenic diet often experience fatigue and irritability. Insufficient sleep leads to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, worsening mood, and exacerbating keto flu symptoms.

If you struggle to fall or stay asleep, consider cutting back on caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can disrupt your sleep. If you consume caffeinated drinks, limit them to the morning to minimize sleep disturbances.

To promote restful sleep, create a dark environment in the bedroom by turning off cell phones, computers, and televisions.

Eat Enough Fats

Whole food sources of healthy fats
Whole food sources of healthy fats

Switching to a low-carb diet can make you crave foods not allowed on keto, like bread and sweets. But, eating plenty of healthy fats, the main fuel on keto, can help curb cravings and keep you feeling satisfied.

In fact, studies show that low-carb diets can effectively reduce cravings for sweets and high-carb foods.

If you find it challenging to adapt to the keto diet, gradually reduce your carb intake instead of eliminating them all at once. This approach of slowly reducing carbs and increasing fat and protein in your diet can help make the transition smoother and minimize keto flu symptoms.

Who Should Avoid the Keto Diet?

While the ketogenic diet can benefit many individuals, it may not be suitable for everyone. For instance, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, children, and teens should avoid it unless used therapeutically with medical supervision.

Additionally, individuals with health conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, or pancreatic conditions should avoid this diet.

Additionally, individuals with diabetes who are considering a ketogenic meal plan should seek guidance from their doctor to assess its safety and suitability for their unique requirements.

Finally, this diet may not be suitable for people who are hypersensitive to dietary cholesterol, which includes about 25% of the global population.

Final Thoughts

To successfully start a ketogenic journey, it’s important to understand and manage the temporary challenges of the keto flu symptoms. By being aware and taking proactive measures, we can transform this initial phase into a stepping stone towards long-term success.

By acknowledging that fatigue, headaches, and other symptoms are part of the body’s adjustment to a low-carb lifestyle, individuals can approach the keto flu with a positive mindset. Hydration and electrolyte management emerge as pivotal strategies to ease the transition, ensuring a smoother adaptation to ketosis.

This guide empowers both experienced and new keto enthusiasts with practical insights to turn setbacks into triumphs. As you begin or continue your ketogenic journey, remember that patience and persistence are crucial. The initial discomfort is temporary, and improved energy, mental clarity, and weight management are waiting for you on the other side.

To achieve optimal health through a ketogenic lifestyle, it’s important to embrace the learning curve. With new knowledge and a commitment to self-care, you can overcome the challenges of the keto flu and successfully progress towards wellness. Cheers to a healthier and happier you!