Keto Flu: Top 3 Remedies

Keto flu is a group of conditions that might appear pretty early after you start keto. It can be managed very easily, without supplementation

25-Jul 2022, by Lee Sandwith

Keto flu

Although keto is very effective for weight loss, it doesn’t come without its risks. If you’re experienced, you’re probably aware of this, but if you’re a newbie, there are a few risks that you need to be mindful of. Keto flu is definitely the most popular so let’s take a look.

What is Keto Flu?

Keto flu is a group of conditions that might appear pretty early after you start keto. Not everyone experiences keto flu but, although empirical data is limited, one study from Bostock et.al in 2020 suggests that it might affect around 30% of people1.

Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches, Fatigue, Brain fog, Nausea, Irritability
  • Sleep issues, Diarrhea or constipation, Muscle cramps, Sugar cravings
  • Low energy levels

What Causes Keto Flu?

There is very little research into keto flu so the causes aren’t completely understood.

Theories range from things like immune reactions, changes in the gut microbiome, insufficient calories and even carb withdrawal2.

However, the most popular theory is that the main cause is dehydration and issues with electrolyte balance.

So what’s the solution?

Here are my top three recommendations on how to avoid and manage keto flu.

Not everyone experiences keto flu but, although empirical data is limited, research suggests that it might affect around 30% of people.

1. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is critically important to health and not surprisingly it’s the top priority when trying to avoid keto flu.

Hydration on keto is even more critical as you’ll be losing a lot of water weight from the outset, so you need to replenish that to avoid dehydration.

Keep it simple though. Drink often enough so you don’t get thirsty and aim for at least 2 litres per day. When you go to the bathroom, your urine should be clear, if it’s yellow, you’re dehydrated.

2. Increase electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals which are needed for the body to function normally, and the major ones are calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

They’re super important in the context of keto as when you lose water weight, your kidneys will excrete electrolytes so you can easily end up with a deficiency.

Keeping on top of this is easy though.

Firstly, I really would not recommend a supplement at the start as you can get all of the electrolytes you need from nutritional sources.

The first thing to do is to use quite a lot of high-quality salt like Pink Himalayan Salt which is rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Add plenty to your food and add a few turns into your drinking water so you’re topping up throughout the day.

Then there’s food.

Foods rich in potassium are avocados, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini, pumpkin seeds and leafy green like spinach and fish such as salmon and clams.

Calcium rich keto friendly foods include broccoli, leafy greens, chia seeds, sardines, and salmon.

3. Don't cut calories

When you’re transitioning into keto, it’s generally not the best time to cut calories.

Like we’ve discussed in previous articles and videos, a calorie deficit is the most important thing for weight loss.

But while you’re just starting out on keto, it’s best to concentrate on cutting carbs only.

That means you’ll need to track carbs and calories using an app like Carb Manager.

Take away

Like I said, there is very little research into keto flu so it’s not cut and dried.

However, there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that focussing on hydration and electrolytes is the best solution for most people.

As you get a bit more experienced you might wish to try supplementation, but I’d really like to encourage you all to try to get everything you need from nutritional sources. That is, proper, wholefoods.

For those of you in the UAE, if you need any support on things like this, the best way to start is by joining our Facebook group, Keto & Primal Health UAE.

Also feel free to contact me personally at any time as I’d love to hear from you, and if you’d like to schedule a free consultation with me, you can do so here.

References

  1. Campos, M. What is Keto Flu? Harvard Health Review. 2018.
  2. Bostock ECS, Kirkby KC, Taylor BV, Hawrelak JA. Consumer Reports of "Keto Flu" Associated With the Ketogenic Diet. Front Nutr. 2020 Mar 13;7:20. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00020. PMID: 32232045; PMCID: PMC7082414.

About the Author

Lee Sandwith holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition and is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. You can book a free 30 minute consultation with Lee here.

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