What is Keto Flu?

As your body transitions from using simple sugars (glycogen) for energy, you are likely to experience some symptoms of the “keto flu.”

The keto flu, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, isn’t a literal flu bug; however, the symptoms are strikingly similar!

While symptoms can be uncomfortable, it’s important to understand that they are temporary and normal. Sugar is an easy--albeit unhealthy--source of energy that your body isn’t eager to lose. The withdrawal symptoms you may experience during the keto flu will subside and disappear as your body begins to produce ketones in the liver to access fat stores for energy.

Symptoms of Keto Flu

Switching from glucose to ketone energy

Withdrawing from sugar and carbohydrates isn’t easy. Several studies have shown that the process is similar to withdrawing from highly addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin.

Sugar triggers a release of the “feel good” hormone, dopamine, in the brain. In the absence of sugar, the brain sends a signal for more--which you experience as a craving. When these cravings aren’t satisfied, the body steps up its request in the form of more intense symptoms--also known as keto flu. These symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Cough and runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating and metal fog

Tips for Fighting Keto Flu

Keep these tips for success in mind as you become keto adapted. Most importantly, remember that the symptoms of the keto flu are temporary!

1. Patience and Self Care

While it only takes a few short days to enter ketosis and begin using fat for fuel, the uncomfortable symptoms of keto flu can last significantly longer, while your body adjusts. Be patient with yourself, and make an extra effort to be kind to yourself during this transition.

2. Drink Lots of Water

Ketogenic Hydration

It’s more important than ever to drink lots of water while transitioning through the keto flu. As your body begins using more fat for fuel, your cells will retain extra water to guard against possible dehydration. Stay hydrated, and your body will be less likely to retain this extra water.

3. Maintain Electrolytes

As you increase your water intake, you’ll also need to increase your electrolyte intake, since they will be more quickly flushed from your body. Low electrolyte levels are one of the biggest factors in the severity and length of keto flu symptoms. Pay special attention to increasing your intake of magnesium (artichokes, fish, spinach), potassium (avocados, almonds), sodium (broth), and calcium (cheese, seafood, broccoli).

4. Try BHB Supplements

BHB, or beta hydroxybutyrate is a ketone that’s produced naturally in the liver during ketosis to transform fat into energy. BHB supplements can help your body transition more smoothly into a ketogenic diet by helping the body access energy through fat--calming the body’s withdrawal symptoms from glycogen. BHB supplements are available in the form of salts, which help your body maintain electrolyte levels as well.

5. Stick to It

Don’t get discouraged if you “mess up” or succumb to a craving. It can take time to ease into a keto diet, and any step you take toward reducing your sugar intake and transitioning to fat as an energy source is a good thing. Stick to it, and don’t give up!