- Anyone who has suffered the symptoms knows it’s for real and can include feelings of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and more.
- We share some great keto diet flu remedies that work to ease the symptoms while your body resets to its new normal.
- When you have eaten processed foods and high carbohydrate meals for years, it makes perfect sense that you will experience withdrawal in the form of flu-like symptoms.
It’s a tough way to start a new eating plan. You’ve got all your food bought, prepped, and ready to go.
You’ve learned everything you need to know about what to eat and what to avoid. You are prepared to enthusiastically meet the challenge!
And then it happens. You start to feel run down, headachy, and nauseous. This can’t be right — what’s happening?
It’s most likely a bout of the keto diet flu.
What is the Keto Diet Flu?
It’s more a feeling than an exhaustively researched medical diagnosis. But anyone who has suffered the symptoms knows it’s for real.
It can include feelings of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, dehydration, hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar), dizziness, muscle cramps, and/or fatigue.
There is plenty of speculation about what causes it. Carb withdrawal, detox, changes in gut microbiome?
It seems safe to say that when you cut out sugar, gluten, and processed foods, you body will have an initial shock to the system.
You also are shifting your body from using glucose for energy to using ketones.
Really, it’s no wonder that many people have a couple of days of keto diet flu symptoms as they adapt to a new way of nourishing their bodies.
Ways to Reduce or Ease the Keto Diet Flu Symptoms
The symptoms do a fantastic job of mimicking stomach flu, complete with nausea and a headache.
They don’t affect everyone and shouldn’t last more than a week (although occasionally they can last longer).
But one thing is for sure — they are a great motivator to not cheat while on the keto diet since that can take you out of ketosis and you would have to start all over again.
There is good news, however. There are some keto diet flu remedies that work to ease the symptoms while your body resets.
This isn’t a race, and no one is keeping score. By starting gradually, you give your body the chance to adapt slowly and not shock your system all at once while hopefully avoiding some of the keto diet flu symptoms.
If the ultimate target for macronutrients is 75% fats, 15–20% proteins, and 5–10% carbohydrates, then try starting with 50% fats, 30% proteins, and 20% carbohydrates. You may have a greater chance of success by gradually working up to the target.
Drink More Water and Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is good for overall health, but it can also help alleviate some of the keto diet flu symptoms.
The keto diet causes the body to purge glycogen (stored carbohydrates) which further depletes water from your system where you could run the risk of becoming dehydrated.
Add to that diarrhea, which is a common symptom of keto diet flu, and you could end up even more dehydrated which can bring on muscle cramps, fatigue, and further nausea.
Rather than get into that vicious cycle, it’s better to keep drinking water throughout the day and evening to stay hydrated.
Eat More Fiber
With some of the leading keto diet flu symptoms being diarrhea or constipation, eating more fiber can help reduce the problem.
Why does fiber help two opposing problems? It seems contradictory, but fiber helps normalize and regulate the digestive system.
If your problem is diarrhea, you have food moving too quickly through your digestive system.
Soluble fiber found in over-the-counter psyllium husk drinks such as Metamucil, will slow down the food allowing your body more time to do its thing.
If you are constipated, insoluble fiber will do the trick to help move things along. Try:
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Leafy Greens
- Raw Coconut
Focus on Long-Chain Triglycerides at First
When you first start the keto diet, substantial amounts of medium-chain triglycerides, like coconut oil, butter, and MCT Oil, can make you feel nauseous and even cause muscle cramps.
While these oils and fats are fantastic for the long-term, you may want to limit them until you are past the keto diet flu.
Instead, try eating long-chain triglycerides, like olive, macadamia, or avocado oil, in the first days of the keto diet to avoid flu-like symptoms.
Other sources of long-chain triglycerides include fish and seafood, as well as meat and eggs.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep will help you regulate your body and feel better when first starting out on the keto diet.
Unfortunately, in the first weeks, it’s natural to experience fatigue, restlessness, and irritability when you are first getting used to keto and that can add to the keto diet flu symptoms.
To feel better and improve your mental and physical health, it’s important to get plenty of sleep. If you find yourself having a problem dosing off, try one or several of these viable solutions:
- Take a relaxing bubble bath to unwind
- Reduce caffeine late in the day and in the evenings
- Take a break from screens (blue light); you want a dark, restful environment so turn off your phone, TV, or computer to enjoy a more restful night
- Enhance your circadian rhythm by getting plenty of bright exposure to light during the day — this can help improve the quantity and quality of sleep
- Even though you may be feeling sick, try not to nap
- Try a melatonin supplement — 1 to 5 mg about 30 minutes before you go to bed or follow the instructions on your brand.
Ease Off the Exercise
At least take it down a notch or two until you are past the flu-like feelings.
Give your body a rest from strenuous exercise — it’s only for a week or two. Remember, it takes time for your body to adapt to a new, unfamiliar energy source like ketones.
When you start on the keto diet, cut back on your hard-core cardio and lifting regime and focus on more gentle exercises like yoga, walking, or Tai Chi.
These are great alternatives to keep you active, but don’t impact or exacerbate keto diet flu symptoms.
When the flu-like symptoms dissipate, you will feel great and be ready to jump back into your high-energy workout schedule.
Watch Your Electrolytes
Part of the keto process is converting ketones into energy and reducing glucose by significantly limiting carbohydrates (or sugars).
With reduced glucose comes lower levels of insulin causing the kidneys to purge sodium from your body and lowering the available electrolytes the body needs.
On top of that, when you are experiencing keto diet flu symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, you may be losing additional amounts of water and hydration, and with that a ton more of electrolytes.
This can cause muscle cramps, headaches, insomnia, or feeling fatigued.
To avoid this problem, be sure to eat foods rich in potassium and magnesium to help with replacing dietary electrolytes, including leafy greens and broccoli, nuts, and avocados.
And for a quick boost of electrolytes that meet keto diet parameters, try a glass of water with fresh lemon juice and a half teaspoon of table salt.
It’s a DIY sports drink that you can mix up and take on the go.
Supplement Your Diet with Probiotics
When introducing a whole new way of eating, your gut health is going to respond loudly.
If you don’t already, consider adding a probiotic supplement to your diet to balance out your digestive system, as well as your immune system. Your stomach will thank you.
To Summarize — Carbohydrate Withdrawal is Real
Some people refer to it as ‘carbohydrate withdrawal’ or you can call it the keto diet flu.
When you have eaten processed foods and high carbohydrate meals for years, it makes perfect sense that you will experience withdrawal in the form of flu-like symptoms.
The severity of the withdrawal is directly related to the length of time you have eaten in an unhealthy way.
The keto diet has helped millions of people to lose weight and lead a healthier life. One to two weeks of flu-like symptoms are a small price to pay to reap the benefits of a healthy keto lifestyle.
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