When you first start eating a ketogenic (keto) diet, you may experience a brief period where you feel under the weather, almost as if you have come down with something. While this does not happen universally, it is quite common. It is referred to as “low-carb flu.”
Low-carb flu is unpleasant enough that it discourages some dieters from continuing. This is unfortunate, since it is usually a short lived experience, and a low-carb diet has many benefits.
In this post, we will give you some recommendations for how you can prevent low-carb flu or at least tone down its effects. But first, let’s explain a little bit more about what low-carb flu is and why it happens.
Low-carb flu refers to a phase of flu-like symptoms as your body undergoes the metabolic shift toward ketosis.
Common symptoms of low-carb flu include fatigue, headache, leg cramps, constipation, heart palpitations, bad breath, confusion and irritability.
During the phase where you are transitioning from burning carbohydrates as your main fuel to burning fats as your main fuel, your kidneys excrete water and sodium in large amounts. They also become more efficient.
Both of these changes tend to deplete your fluids and electrolytes. That is what causes the symptoms of low-carb flu.
Indeed, if you stop to think about it, you will realize that these symptoms are not just flu-like; they also closely resemble how you tend to feel anytime you get dehydrated.
Now that you understand what causes low-carb flu, it should be pretty clear what you need to do in order to prevent or minimize the symptoms.
Make sure you are drinking extra fluids each day as you transition to a keto diet. If you work outside the home or go do other activities, you should consider carrying a water bottle with you to ensure you do not fall behind on your hydration needs.
Along with water, you need to replenish your salts. While you can just add a little salt to your water each day or eat broth, another option is to take a daily supplement that includes a blend of healthy electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, chromium, sodium and more.
Indeed, this is vital not only because your kidneys are excreting extra salts, but because your efforts to hydrate yourself mean you may also be flushing them out more rapidly than usual.
While low-carb flu is no fun at all, the good news is that it should not stick around long.
WebMD says, “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.”
Now you know how to manage and reduce that discomfort as much as possible. Good luck, do not give up, and enjoy the benefits of a low-carb diet. Before long, hopefully you will be feeling not just better, but great.
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