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. According to people who promote the keto diet, it is easier to maintain than other forms of dieting once you get past the keto flu.
For people who experience the keto flu, symptoms can vary. Most people report problems like achiness, headaches, nausea, and constipation, likely due to the sudden change in diet.
It typically takes around a week for these side effects to typically resolve, as long as the person on the diet remains strict about their limited carbohydrate intake. However, that week can be uncomfortable. Appropriately treating your keto flu symptoms can help you move past them sooner and with less discomfort.
Remedies and Treatments for Keto Flu
Keto flu remedies mostly focus on supporting your body during the transition into ketosis. Your body uses carbs to support a number of functions, including your electrolyte balance and hydration, so suddenly and drastically cutting carbs can cause discomfort. While your body transitions into ketosis, you can use these simple treatments to feel better.
Your body stores extra sugar in a molecule called glycogen. Glycogen is generally kept in your cells, along with a lot of water. When you go into ketosis, your body dumps the water that was stored with the glycogen, potentially leading to dehydration.
When you start a keto diet, make sure to drink lots of water to prevent this. If you were drinking many sugar-filled drinks before starting this diet, this is even more important, since you are cutting what may have been an important source of hydration.
When your body dumps water, it often dumps electrolytes, too. This is especially true when insulin levels also decrease. Many of the keto flu symptoms may be caused by your body’s reaction to low levels of electrolytes. If you are noticing symptoms like fatigue, muscle cramps, or body weakness, electrolytes may be the solution. Adding more salt to your food or drinking sports drinks that are high in electrolytes can help your body adjust to ketosis more smoothly.
Part of the purpose of the keto diet is to reduce the appetite and make it easier to consume fewer calories each day. However, when the decreased appetite of ketosis is combined with nausea from keto flu, it may be difficult to eat enough calories daily.
Make sure you are getting healthy fats in your diet and that you’re eating enough calories daily. You may find that your energy levels increase and your nausea is reduced.
While your body adjusts to a new diet, it is important to rest and allow it to work. Avoid heavy exercise for the first week while your body adjusts. Instead, take time to sleep and do lighter forms of exercise, such as yoga or stretching. Once you feel better, you can get back into your normal exercise routine.
Consider a Slower Transition
Finally, many of the symptoms of keto flu are the result of a sudden dietary shift. If you find that keto flu makes it difficult to stick with a keto diet, you can ease into it instead of immediately and severely limiting your carbohydrate intake. Reducing your carb intake over the course of a few days or weeks can help your body adjust to your new diet naturally and without the negative symptoms of carb flu.
When to See a Doctor
Keto flu should be temporary and generally goes away within a week or two of beginning a keto diet. If your keto flu symptoms last longer than ten days, or if they are actively painful or debilitating, you may want to reach out to your physician.
Keto flu symptoms can be confused with more serious problems, such as stomach problems or nutritional deficits. Your physician can help determine if your symptoms are the result of something more serious or if you should consider adjusting your diet to include more carbs.