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What Is Keto Flu And Its Related Symptoms?


The Keto diet is a term that has gained tremendous popularity in recent years. It is a diet that is very low in carbohydrates. The idea is to get more calories from proteins and fats than carbs.

This diet is aimed at losing weight and improving overall health. We used the term ketosis frequently while talking about health and nutrition.

When you eat a very little amount of carbohydrates each day, your body runs out of fuel (blood sugar) which usually takes three to four days.

Eventually,  you’ll begin to break down protein and fat for energy, potentially resulting in weight loss. Ketosis is what the term is used for this process.

It’s vital to remember that the ketogenic diet is a short-term diet designed to help you lose weight, next to intermittent fasting which is also a weight-loss diet regime.

Keto or ketogenic diet, apart from weight loss, can also help in managing certain medical conditions, like epilepsy, heart disease, certain brain diseases, and even acne, but there needs to be more research in those areas.

What is Keto flu and how long it lasts?

A ketogenic diet is usually a safe play for people looking for weight loss management but sometimes, it may also come with unexpected side effects. 

These side effects or symptoms are coined as Keto flu or carb flu. 

When people begin the keto diet, they may encounter some symptoms known as keto flu. These are usually minor and temporary, lasting a few days to a few weeks.

The common symptoms one can experience with keto flu are-

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches and exhaustion 

These symptoms occur when the body enters the stage of ketosis characterized by fewer carbohydrates in the body. Keto flu leads to imbalances in the body’s energy sources, insulin, and minerals.

Why does Keto flu happen and how to treat it?

Keto flu and its related symptoms may feel more like normal flu outcomes. They need to be controlled at the right time to prevent further health complications.

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. On the keto diet, a person’s carb intake is limited to less than 50 grams (g) per day, as opposed to the recommended 200–300 g per day.

When the body doesn’t have enough carbs to consume for energy, the liver starts producing glucose from its reserves which are also termed glucogenesis.

The liver will eventually be unable to produce enough glucose to meet the body’s energy requirement.

In a process known as ketogenesis, the body will begin to break down fatty acids, resulting in the production of ketone bodies. The body then uses ketone bodies as fuel, and it enters ketosis.

This abrupt reduction may create withdrawal symptoms, similar to those encountered when weaning off an addictive stimulant like caffeine.

Although nutritional ketosis is generally considered non-threatening and safe for people, the symptoms might concern them and worsen the condition.

When the body runs low on the carb for a prolonged time, it eventually decreases the insulin in the bloodstream. 

This results in an increase in sodium and potassium levels inside the body with excessive water being released as urine. Ultimately, this calls for dehydration.

The primary source of energy and function for the brain is glucose and one of the major sources of glucose is the optimum intake of carbohydrates.

Now, in a keto diet, as the carbs intake go drastically low, the brain has less fuel to run until the body starts using ketones for energy. This will happen during the first three days of the diet before blood glucose levels return to normal.

Symptoms associated with Keto flu

Keto flu and its related symptoms are initially mild when the body just starts to experience change. Once it fits in with the whole low-carb diet, the symptoms wither off.

According to research, Keto flu comes along with the following symptoms-

When the flu is at peak ( between 1-4 days), the symptoms may progress to the following-

  • Muscle cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Bad breath

Some short symptoms which alongside get triggered are-

  • Dehydration
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Less immunity

“ Keto flu is associated with bad breath which due to the production of a ketone called acetone by the liver which gives an off-smell during exhaling.”

Remedies to treat Keto flu

Keto flu is not a deal to be greatly worried about. These simple remedies can help you ease your flu symptoms-

  • If you experience abdominal symptoms while on a keto diet, try changing the dietary fats. Avoid medium-chain triglycerides foods like coconut oil, butter, etc, and focus more on long-chain triglycerides, olive oil being the best source.
  • Cannot stress this enough, but hydration is the key. One of the constant symptoms of keto flu is dehydration, over which you need to consume enough fluids and electrolytes.

The foremost approach is to keep drinking water. Even water has numerous forms with different hydrating properties in it. To get an insight, visit here.

Apart from water, you can choose electrolyte drinks and water-rich foods to keep you hydrated.

  • During a keto diet, people may experience constipation and diarrhea. In such cases, high fiber foods come to the rescue, Consume more green leafy vegetables and low-carb fruits to relieve your bowel problems.
  • Sometimes, one might also need to consume medications to get over the acid reflux issues they face as a carb flu side effect. Histamine 2-receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors are usually recommended by doctors.

If the symptoms persist for a very long time coming along with severe complications like kidney stones, hypoproteinemia ( low levels of protein), vitamin deficiency, etc., it is advised to consult your doctor.

Bottom Line

Overall, it’s vital to keep in mind that experts are skeptical about the keto diet’s long-term health impacts. Anyone who follows this diet should inform their doctor so that any major consequences can be monitored.

If you wish to start a keto diet, initiate slow and take care of your hydration the most to manage the symptoms of the keto flu.

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