Keto flu or carb flu is a temporary side effect of starting a ketogenic diet, also known as the “keto” diet. A ketogenic diet is very low in carbs, but high in fat and protein. The intention is to put your body in a state of ketosis, where your body burns stored fat instead of stored glucose.
What is keto flu?
The Keto flu is a group of symptoms that may appear two to seven days after starting a ketogenic diet. Headache, foggy brain, fatigue, irritability, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and constipation are just some symptoms of this condition, which are not recognized by medicine.
Why does keto flu happen?
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. On the keto diet, a person reduces their carb intake to fewer than 50 grams (g) per day, compared with the recommended 200–300 g per day. When the body does not take in enough carbs to use for energy, the liver produces glucose for energy, using its stores. This process is called glucogenesis. Eventually, the liver cannot produce enough glucose to keep up with the energy demands of the body.
The body will then break down fatty acids, which will produce ketone bodies in a process called ketogenesis. Body tissues then use ketone bodies as fuel, and the body enters a state of ketosis.
The medical community considers nutritional ketosis to be safe for most people. However, people may experience symptoms. The lack of carbohydrates decreases the amount of insulin in the bloodstream. As a result, people may experience an increase in the amount of sodium, potassium, and water that is released in the urine, which will cause dehydration.
Insulin is also involved in transporting glucose to the brain. Before the brain uses ketones for energy, it will have less fuel. This will occur for about the first 3 days of the diet before blood glucose returns to regular levels. Symptoms may reduce as the body reaches a state of nutritional ketosis. This involves the blood concentration of a particular ketone body, called beta-hydroxybutyrate, being 0.5 millimoles per liter or more.
What are the symptoms of the keto flu?
Fatigue, headache, irritability, difficulty focusing (“brain fog”) lack of motivation, dizziness, sugar cravings, nausea, muscle cramps.
What causes keto flu?
Well, we don’t really know why some people feel so bad after this dietary change. Is it related to a detox factor? Is it because of a carb withdrawal? Is there an immunologic reaction? or is this a result of a change in the gut microbiome? Whatever the reason is, it appears the symptoms attributed to the keto flu may happen, not to everyone but to some people, after “cleaning up” their diet.
What to do if you have keto flu?
If you decide for whatever reason to change your diet and feel tired and a little off, do not become frustrated and lose hope. Here are a few tips:
How to cure keto flu?
Symptoms of the keto flu usually disappear by themselves within a few days, as the body adapts.
6 Tips for keto flu
- There is no need to go online and buy any expensive supplements. Many websites are trying to make big bucks selling products to make you feel better with no data to back up those claims.
- Despite its name, this is not like the flu. You will not develop a fever and the symptoms can hardly ever make you incapacitated. If you feel very ill, consider visiting your doctor, as something else may be happening.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water. Some diets can make you dehydrated.
- Eat more often and make sure you have plenty of colorful vegetables. Food is not only calories and energy, it is communication to your cells.
- Do not give up if you are committed to a plan. You may feel exhausted for a few days, but at the end of a week, your energy level will most likely return to normal and you may feel even better.
- If everything else fails, consider easing into the new diet more slowly, instead of “cold turkey.”
Undesirable symptoms may show up in the first few days after changing what you eat. But this should not be the deciding factor when choosing what to put on your plate. Ideally, you should have the most comprehensive and nutritionally dense diet possible, and the Mediterranean and DASH diets have the best evidence to support living a long and healthy life.
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