What is it?
The keto flu, also known as keto induction, refers to a set of symptoms that newcomers to the diet may experience from the get-go. However, they are usually very minor and short-term, lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. To begin, let’s breakdown what is going on here.
Why does it happen?
In a typical ‘normal’ diet, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. The keto diet greatly reduces a person’s carb intake from the recommended 200-300 grams (g) per day to fewer than 50 g. Once the body recognizes this lack of fuel, the liver begins to produce glucose as new fuel in a process known as glucogenesis. However, the liver will eventually be unable to meet supply with demand, causing the body to then start breaking down fatty acids. As a result, ketone bodies are released in a process known as ketogenesis. As the body adjusts, it enters a state of ketosis -- where the body burns fat as its primary energy source.
The medical community considers nutritional ketosis to be safe for most people. Some research even suggests that the keto diet may be beneficial for people struggling with diabetes, obesity, or epilepsy. That being said, people may experience a range of symptoms.
The lack of carbohydrates decreases the amount of insulin in the bloodstream. As a result, people may experience dehydration due to an increase in the amount of sodium, potassium, and water that is released in the urine. Insulin is also involved in transporting glucose to the brain. Before the brain starts to use ketones for energy, it will have less fuel. This could occur for the first couple of days of starting the diet before blood glucose returns to regular levels. The chance of 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.
Symptoms of keto flu may include nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, dizziness, sleeplessness, difficulty with tolerating exercise, and constipation. Other symptoms (which usually peak between day 1 and 4) include bad breath, muscle cramps, diarrhea, general weakness, and rash development. Additional symptoms that are easily preventable and easily treatable include dehydration, low blood sugar, and low energy.
Although people may want to give the keto diet a chance, they may feel the cons far outweigh the pros. Below are a handful of home remedies to help alleviate symptoms as well as fears:
EAT DIFFERENT DIETARY FATS
If a person on the keto diet experiences abdominal symptoms, try changing the types of fats in the diet. High levels of medium-chain triglycerides, from foods such as coconut oil, butter, and palm kernel oil, can cause cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Eating fewer of these foods and more of those with long-chain triglycerides, such as olive oil, may help prevent abdominal symptoms in people on the keto diet.
People may have constipation or diarrhea when on the keto diet. Try eating more high fiber vegetables or taking fiber supplements to people with constipation. If these dietary changes are unsuccessful, it may be time to try some carbohydrate-free laxatives.
People on the keto diet may experience dehydration. If you also have diarrhea, the risk of dehydration is higher. Doctors recommend that people on the keto diet make sure to consume enough fluid and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
One possible long term effect of the keto diet is vitamin and mineral deficiency. A doctor may suggest taking vitamin supplements to ensure that the body is receiving adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium. Some people find that supplements for the keto diet can help reduce symptoms and promote the effects of the diet.
People with diabetes who follow a keto diet may experience episodes of low blood sugar known as hypoglycemia. Before a person with diabetes begins a keto diet, they should consult a doctor. The doctor may need to modify insulin and oral drug dosages.
If any symptoms ever worsen or more serious side effects arise, contact your doctor. In general, it’s highly suggested that you consult your doctor before going on the keto diet in order to make sure that it’s safe for you to do so. The diet is not safe for everyone and may cause serious health complications. Hopefully, the keto diet isn’t too rough on you beginners out there and you can brave the storm. Because I promise you, once those scary grey clouds have gone, there’ll be nothing but blue skies.