Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard from a few low carbers who had questions about some issues they experienced. They all say that they had rapid weight loss, but some had severe headaches, some had joint pains, one even claimed they had diarrhea. One lady thought that I didn’t know these diets can do this, but alas I was fully prepared. These people were suffering from dreaded keto flu symptoms.
Not only was she wrong in assuming I didn’t know about these pains, I’ve actually experienced all of these over the last few years. Some of these are easier to manage than others, but any one of these will send you running to the nearest fast food restaurant.
That’s why I wanted to write everything I know about the keto flu and how to get over each of these common symptoms.
Update: If you take a look at the comments section, you’ll see that MCT oil is my recommendation for many of the issues people ask about. So, I decided to write a few posts on what it is and why you HAVE to include MCT in your diet. Here’s the first post!
Keto Flu Symptoms
The format for this post will be where I list each of the common symptoms and I’ll describe it as best as I can. After that, I’ll write everything I know about how to beat the pain. Most of my recommendations come from my own experience while others will be from trusted sources. Also, I’ll continue to update this page as people reply with more symptoms.
The Ketosis Headache
Often describe as a migraine, the ketosis headache is one of the most painful of the keto flu symptoms – in my opinion. This mostly occurs in the first 24-76 hours of an LC diet. People suffering from this describe the pain as being in the head but hard to pinpoint it to any particular region. The entire outer head feels stuffy and the pain is often sharp. It mainly starts as a small annoyance and builds in intensity over several hours. It mostly subsides with rest (carbs will also make it stop, but that’s not what we want to accomplish).
How to beat it – A lot of dieters claim they can easily avoid this symptom, but I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with it almost every cycle before finding the right combination. I’ve noticed that it’s best to keep the headache from even occurring – it’s very hard for me to stop the pain from increasing once it starts.
Most people over at the Reddit Keto subreddit will tell you to drink more water with a teaspoon of salt, but that wasn’t enough for me. I’ve found that I have to add my teaspoon of salt to a hot cup of chicken broth to keep the headache at bay.
Bottom Line – add ZERO CARB chicken broth to a microwavable cup, add a full teaspoon of salt, microwave and let cool, and then drink the entire cup. Do this once everyday for your first 3 days of going low carb.
Keto Flu Fatigue
When you begin a keto diet, you will often feel tired and unfocused for the first 2-3 days. This is mostly because your body hasn’t yet figured out how to use its fat stores. This means your body will expect carbohydrates (really it’s glucose, but we’ll just call it carbs for now) until it’s prepared to convert the energy store, fat, into something usable. It depends on the person, but this process can take 1-5 days to finish after cutting carbs. During that time, you will generally feel… well… just blah.
How to beat it – For the uninitiated, this can be nearly impossible to beat without breaking the diet. It’s just chemistry, really. Without the necessary hormones and enzymes to basically convert fat to energy while you aren’t feeding yourself carbs, your organs will simply lack the nutrients.
On the other hand, you can speed up this process by eating large amounts of fatty foods. Eating foods high in fat won’t immediately give your body the fuel it needs, but it helps to send the right signals to your body – the signal that fat will now be the main source of energy.
You can also cheat! If you don’t want to suffer through the fatigue and simply give you body the right type of energy, you can “cheat” and consume MCT oil. I use this during the first two days heavily and then sporadically throughout ketosis. Without getting into the details here (I’ll write about MCT oil in another post), just know that MCT oil can be used immediately as a fat-based energy source. That means your body will have the energy to keep you out of the fog.
Bottom line – Eat foods high in fat. If you want to avoid the fatigue all together, consume a tablespoon of MCT Oil by mixing it in a drink or with food (I would suggest the chicken broth from the headache section or use it as salad dressing).
General Aches and Pain
This one isn’t specific to first timers or during the first few days. No matter your experience, if you aren’t careful you could end up dealing with a wide variety of keto flu symptoms. Generally, these other aches and pains are not inflammatory because the diet is effective at reducing inflammatory body wide. But you may find that you’re generally weak and then becoming progressively more sore. With that being said, because you’re cutting out a significant portion of foods, you will probably end up micronutrient deficient.
How to beat it – A lot of first timers give up the diet when they first experience this. This type of thing is very easy to treat and prevent, though. Whenever you do a diet that has you restrict any food group, make sure that you’re taking a good multivitamin to help prevent these minor pains. It’s most likely that you’re deficient in a basic need, especially when on an LC diet.
When you cut carb-rich foods, you’ll likely not have a source for micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium, copper, selenium, and a whole host of vitamins. To fix this problem, find a good multivitamin that contains at least all of the above. If you can’t find one, then you can supplement for what’s not included.
Bottom line – Get a good multivitamin that has potassium, magnesium, copper, and selenium. You can get supplements for anything not included in your multivitamin.
Still Having Problems?
I want to underscore everything by saying that you should have consulted your family physician prior to starting a keto diet. There are certain metabolic conditions that will prohibit you from safely entering ketogenesis. When this happens, ketones will accumulate in your blood and you’ll become ketoacidotic.
Be sure that you are properly screened by your family physician before starting any diet (especially this one!) and, by also following the tips above, you should avoid these nagging problems.
If all that is true and you’re still dealing with keto flu symptoms, please leave a comment below! If I know how to help or can find something else to help you, I’ll update this article to help others deal with the same keto flu symptoms.