If you are interested in switching over to a ketogenic diet, you’ve probably heard of the keto flu and may have some concerns. First, the keto flu is temporary—the symptoms of the keto flu occur as your body, and your mind, are transitioning to this new fat-burning lifestyle.
Keto flu symptoms are typically mild to moderate, and will only last a few days, or possibly as long as a week. While your body is adapting to a dramatic reduction in carbohydrates and an increase in healthy fats, you can expect some physical and mental changes.
Once you reach ketosis and excess weight and stored fat start coming off, the symptoms of keto flu may not feel quite so troubling. The keto diet can take a while to adapt to—physically and mentally—so be kind to yourself and be sure to follow the seven keto flu remedies highlighted below.
9 Signs You Are in Ketosis
When you start the ketogenic diet, the goal is to hit optimal ketosis as quickly as possible. But, if you’ve never done the diet before, you may not know when you’ve transitioned to fat-burning mode. Here are the most common signs of ketosis.
1. Waning Appetite
When you hit ketosis, your appetite starts to wane. This is a sign that your body is turning to stored fat for energy, not the foods you are consuming now. It is important to note that as your appetite decreases, you must continue to eat, especially high-quality fats and vegetables to maintain strength and to help prevent keto flu.
2. Rapid Weight Loss
When you are in ketosis, and maintain it, you are a fat-burning machine! In the early stages of the ketogenic diet, you’ll lose water weight, and then the stored fat will start to fall off. This is not the time for a cheat day! Stick with the ketogenic diet for weight loss and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make in a relatively short period of time.
3. Dry Mouth
You can expect to be thirsty, and even have dry mouth when you reach ketosis. This is a natural phase, and it is one that is easily remedied by drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. Remember, water is essential for flushing toxins from your system, and it can help you lose weight by keeping you satiated longer.
4. Keto Breath
Keto breath is one of the most disturbing, and public, signs that you have reached ketosis. As your body burns fat for energy, your breath can start to smell almost fruity (not pleasantly so) and pungent. Some describe it as the smell of nail polish remover. You can help relieve keto breath by staying hydrated and watching your macros—too much protein may be the instigator.
5. Increased Energy
Once you hit ketosis, you’ll feel energized—perhaps more so than you’ve felt in a long time. The process of burning fat for energy produces a much more intense and deep-seated energy than the energy you get from carbohydrates. This may make you feel as if you could run 5 miles or more, but use caution because, at the beginning of a keto diet, too much exercise can give you keto flu symptoms.
6. Improved Mental Focus
If you’ve been eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates, it is possible your mental focus has suffered. When you reach ketosis, you’ll start to notice that you are thinking more clearly and your brain responds more quickly to everyday tasks. This is a good thing. Some people even describe this phenomenon as a curtain lifting, allowing more capacity in the brain.
7. Digestive Upset
At the early stages of the ketogenic diet, you can experience digestive upset, including nausea, diarrhea, and constipation, as your body adapts to ketosis. As you continue on the program, these symptoms will likely abate. However, if they continue, it may be possible that you aren’t consuming enough carbohydrates, or perhaps you are consuming too much protein. Watch your macros carefully.
Insomnia is a dangerous habit to fall into. It is crucial, especially when you are trying to lose weight, to get ample sleep. Our bodies simply must have a “reset” period each day where we can physically and mentally recover. Keto insomnia typically resolves itself within a month or so as your body adapts. You may find after the first few months on a keto diet that you either need more sleep or perhaps less sleep. Listen to your body and adjust your schedule as necessary to get the sleep you need.
9. Keto Flu
The keto flu! This is a real thing when you first start a keto diet. The keto flu is a collection of symptoms, generally mild to moderate in strength, that resembles the flu. Don’t worry—it is one of the signs you’ve reached ketosis and are on your way to losing stored fat and unwanted weight.
What Is the Keto Flu?
If you’ve just started a ketogenic diet and you are feeling worse than when you started—good! This is a sign that you are starting to burn fat and experiencing carb withdrawals as your body goes through the process of detoxing.
Ketosis, withdrawal, and detoxing can all cause unpleasant symptoms both physically and mentally. Hang tough—the keto flu will only last a few days to a week. Be kind to yourself and your body and give yourself the time and space needed to adapt to this dramatic change in your diet.
Some keto flu symptoms are caused by dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. As you will see below, there are natural remedies for fighting the keto flu that can help you feel better and stay on track.
9 Symptoms of the Keto Flu
Here are the nine most common symptoms of the keto flu. As you’ll see, many of these symptoms mimic influenza symptoms or even food-poisoning symptoms. If you’ve been exposed to influenza or food-poisoning, don’t ignore those symptoms—consult with your doctor for treatment.
1. Brain Fog
Above we note that increased mental focus is a sign you are in ketosis—and this is true. But it is also true that brain fog can occur when you are just starting a ketogenic diet. If you have the ability to take the first few days off of work when you start a keto diet, then do so. Support your body and your mind through this transitional phase to fat-burning and weight loss.
2. A Headache
Headaches can be caused by dehydration, overexertion, electrolyte imbalances, withdrawal, and lack of sleep. While your body adapts to a low-carb diet, try using essential oils for headaches or other natural treatments to relieve the discomfort. Remember, keto flu symptoms will pass in just a few days.
3. Malaise/Low Motivation
Withdrawal from carbohydrates can deplete your mental and emotional energy, resulting in poor motivation and overall malaise. This keto flu symptom may last a touch longer than the other symptoms on this list, but if you stick with it, you’ll soon find you’ve got not just physical energy, but emotional energy to spare.
Dizziness is a common keto flu symptom, and it should be taken seriously. It is possible that your blood sugar levels have dropped too low to be safe. When dizziness occurs, sit down immediately and have a snack and see if the symptoms disappear.
Fatigue is another symptom to take seriously. If you find yourself nodding off or unable to concentrate, you should avoid driving for a few days. Fatigue is pretty common when you are just getting started on this journey, so rest when you can and limit the intensity of your exercise as your body adapts.
When you make massive changes to your diet and lifestyle, it is perfectly natural to be irritated. Remember, your body is learning to harness energy from stored fat, and your body is detoxing. And, let’s not forget, you have removed many of your favorite foods—some of which you likely would have turned to in the past for emotional eating. Stay strong and remember keto flu symptoms and your irritability will pass.
7. Digestive Distress
Any dramatic change in your diet can cause gastrointestinal distress symptoms such as vomiting, constipation, heartburn, nausea, and even keto diet diarrhea. This is normal, and the discomfort should last a short time. Be sure to drink plenty of water and organic herbal teas during this time to help soothe your gut. Probiotic-rich foods and drinks like kimchi or kombucha can be helpful as they repopulate your gut with friendly bacteria.
8. Muscle Cramps
If you experience muscle soreness or cramping when you first start a keto diet, you aren’t alone. Muscle cramps are often caused by an imbalance of electrolytes and dehydration. You can be especially prone to cramping if you participate in strenuous exercise, even if you do it at the same intensity, and for the same period of time, that you did before starting a restricted carbohydrate diet.
9. Sugar Cravings
Be warned—heightened sugar cravings are natural in the first week of a keto diet. It is probably equal parts physical withdrawal and mental withdrawal. Don’t worry, as soon as you have reached ketosis and sustained it for a few days, your sugar cravings should diminish. In the meantime, make sure you have keto-friendly sweet treats available to keep you on the plan.
Causes of the Keto Flu
The keto flu is caused by drastic carbohydrate restriction. This is a totally natural reaction as your body transitions from burning sugar to burning fat for energy. Before you move to a keto diet, your body relies on glucose to fuel your body, while your fat stores are used as a backup source of energy when there is no sugar.
So, as your body goes through carb withdrawal and retrains itself to harness energy from fat instead of sugar, you can experience keto flu symptoms. The symptoms you experience will likely be more severe if you dramatically change your carbohydrate consumption.
Keto flu symptoms are often related to:
- The body detoxifying itself as fewer carbs are processed in the digestive tract.
- Thyroid hormone levels decreasing, resulting in changes in metabolism, body temperature, and even heart rate.
- An increase in cortisol levels as your body believes it is responding to starvation mode.
- The mental side of eating—including the removal of emotionally soothing foods.
7 Natural Keto Flu Remedies
If you have keto flu, you know how miserable it can make you feel. Here are some natural remedies to help you manage your symptoms while your body adapts to a ketogenic diet.
1. Stay Hydrated
It is imperative when you are on a keto diet to drink plenty of water. How much water should you drink, you ask? Well, a good rule of thumb is 6 ounces to 8 ounces for every 10 pounds of body weight. This doesn’t have to be all water. You can enjoy coffee and herbal teas, just avoid any drinks with artificial sweeteners, as they are packed with unhealthy chemicals. You can quickly tell you are dehydrated by the color of your urine. The darker it is, the more water you need to flush through your body!
2. Balance Electrolytes
When changing your diet, you will likely go through a period of imbalanced electrolytes, as you aren’t getting the same amount of sodium, magnesium, calcium, and other electrolytes. One of the best ways to balance electrolytes on a keto diet is to supplement with a BHB oil that contains calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Our BHB Oil Powder boasts a Fit-BHB Blend that activates ketosis quicker while balancing these essential electrolytes in your body.
3. Eat More Fat
You may be experiencing keto flu symptoms because you aren’t eating enough fat! Focus on adding more healthy fats to your diet to help you overcome the temporary discomfort. The cleaner the fat, the better; a great way to do this is to enjoy a cup or two of keto coffee to boost your mood, energy, and fats. And what’s the ideal fat to add to keto coffee? MCT oil made from pure organic coconuts that triggers your body to make more ketones to kick keto flu to the curb.
4. Cut Back on Exercise
Yes, we know that you want to change your diet and exercise routines dramatically and all at once. But that simply isn’t wise and may set you up for failure. Don’t worry; in just a week or two, you will have more energy than you do now, and it will be easy to increase the intensity of your workouts to aid in the toning of muscles and fat loss.
5. Add More Carbohydrates
For individuals who were eating a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates, one of the best ways to combat the keto flu is to add some more carbs—temporarily as your body adjusts. Just be sure to consume healthy complex carbohydrates (in moderation) during the transition, like berries. If you were eating 100 grams of carbs a day before the keto diet, try tapering off 20-30 grams a week to keep keto flu symptoms at bay.
6. Get More Sleep
Yes, insomnia is a sign of the keto flu, but it is worth mentioning again that you need adequate sleep as your body is moving into a ketogenic phase. Rest when you are tired, go to bed earlier, and you can even try natural insomnia remedies to help you fall asleep. Magnesium supplements, diffusing lavender essential oils, valerian root supplements, or a homeopathic sleep remedy may help you get the sleep you need.
Any significant lifestyle change takes a toll on your physical and mental health. As you emotionally and physically detox from unhealthy foods and practices, it is imperative that you take self-care to the next level. In the evenings, take a long, luxurious soak in the bathtub, listen to soft music while you practice mindfulness, and get regular massages to help release pent-up toxins and to benefit from human touch therapy.