You were promised all the good things when the lazy keto diet was suggested to you. The weight loss. The lift in your moods. The increased energy levels and even the clearing of your skin. So why are you feeling so terrible instead? Why does it seem like you’re experiencing the exact opposite of the benefits you were told would happen? What is going on here?
Introducing the keto flu. Also known as the carb flu, it’s a common condition that sets in within the first two days of starting a keto diet, as your body switches from burning glucose to fats for fuel or in other words, you’re showing signs of ketosis. While some blessed, blessed people never experience it at all, and some unfortunate souls get it for 3 to 5 weeks, for most it typically lasts a week or more. It all depends on your genetics and your metabolic flexibility, or how well your body transitions between the two fuel-burning mechanisms, and whether your previous diet has been high in refined carbs. Symptoms can include:
- Dizziness and confusion
- Concentration problems (a.k.a. brain fog)
- Muscle cramps
- Sugar cravings
- Mood swings
- Insomnia (i.e. difficulty falling or staying asleep)
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Heart palpitations
But don’t panic! There are ways to combat the symptoms and shorten the period and remedies for keto flu. To better understand how these methods work, let’s talk a bit more about why keto flu occurs. Aside from the keto-adaptation (or your body’s adjustment to ketosis) mentioned above, the flu-like symptoms are also caused in part by electrolyte imbalance, dehydration and carbohydrate withdrawal. As you move into a low-carb diet, insulin levels drop, causing the kidneys to expel excess sodium and water, which is what leads to the former two. As for carb withdrawal, it triggers the mood swings and sugar cravings due to the addictive nature of sugar.
Now that we’ve covered the hows and whys, what are the remedies for keto flu? Well, to begin with, you could:
Increase your Fat Intake
If you find yourself seriously struggling with sugar cravings, then eating more fats is the way to go. Add some whipped cream or butter into your daily coffee; snack on almonds and cheese sticks; top up your meals with mashed avocado, olive oil or sour cream. All this will go into speeding up your body’s transition to ketosis.
Re-introduce some Clean Carbs to your Diet
However, if you’re very physically active, or if your previous diet featured refined carbs and processed sugars heavily, your body may be unable to withstand going low-carb at once. In which case, we suggest allowing for an adjustment period by re-introducing some starchy vegetables and fruits (such as bananas and corn) into your meals, and then slowly decreasing your carb intake from there.
That said, the default approach to remedies for keto flu should always be an upping of your fat intake first. Only opt for more clean carbs if that doesn’t work.
Take Exogenous Ketones
At this point, you may want to ramp up your body’s keto-adaptation and add to your remedies for keto flu even more by ingesting ketone salts. These will help raise energy levels by boosting the concentration of ketones in your blood. They are by no means a substitute for an actual keto diet, but may provide the perfect complement for lowering fatigue.
Supply your Body with more Electrolytes
Try increasing your salt intake to slow down the excess water loss so as to counter dehydration. If you’re concerned about shooting over your daily sodium intake limit, remember that the depletion of sodium here is rather dramatic, and your body needs all the help it can get.
You can also consume some bone broth, which is rich in electrolytes, fat and salt, thus covering 3 of your necessities as part of remedies for keto flu. Here’s Paleo Flourish‘s recipe for a flavorful bone broth that’s easy to make:
Simple Bone Broth
3-4 lbs of bones 1 gallon water 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Add everything to the crockpot.
- Cook on low setting in crockpot for 10 hours.
- Cool the broth, strain and pour broth into container.
- Store in refrigerator.
- Scoop out the congealed fat on top of the broth.
- Heat broth when needed (with spices, vegetables, etc).
Vegan or vegetarian? Take a supplement, or look to foods rich in minerals like dark green leafy veggies, avocado, nuts or tofu. For an energy drink substitute, mix in 1 cup of water with 1 teaspoon of mineral sea salt and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice to meet your exercise requirements.
Considering how miserable you feel, the last thing you’d want to do is probably exercise. Yet studies have shown that exercise can increase metabolic flexibility, which would help further keto-adaptation. Exercise can relieve muscle cramps as well, and aid in the release of endorphins to lighten your mood. We recommend gentle exercise 2-3 times a week, such as power walking or restorative yoga as part of the remedies for keto flu.
Get Sufficient Amounts of Sleep
As a new keto dieter, you’ll need your 7 to 8 hours daily more than ever. Take a power nap of 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day, and try out these tips for a better sleep:
- Turn off any electronic devices as well as your TV (and maybe even cover the digital clock on your nightstand) an hour before bed.
- Take an epsom salt bath.
- Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bedding.
- Avoid eating too much before bed.
- Drink chamomile or valerian root tea.
- Try to stick to the same sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Do guided meditation.
The keto flu might feel unbearable, especially if you’ve had a particularly unhealthy diet prior, so it helps to keep in mind that this is only temporary and there are actually remedies for keto flu. Take care, and be kind to yourself. Remember that the merits of a ketogenic diet will come to you sevenfold once you get pass this setback.