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Keto Flu- It’s symptoms and how to beat it

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If you’re anything like me, you took your time getting into the keto world. I had heard the theory of keto being tossed around by a handful of people who had unsuccessfully gone through several ‘pay to play’ programs. Then they had found Keto had lost a pile of weight because if it.  I watched from afar. I requested membership to several keto groups and in my uneducated state of mind, I guffawed at so many of the posts that came across my social media feed. These people had to be cracked doing this ‘Keto thing’ to their bodies. It couldn’t be good for you. Right?!?

We decided to reduce our carb intake and give that for a while. Nothing drastic, just trying to cut back a little.

We quickly realized that low carb seemed to be making a difference; we noticed some weight loss, reduced inflammation, and less aches and pains. The next step in our keto progress had us discussing keto and with my doctor. I can still remember sitting in my Doctors office, absolutely gobsmacked that she gave us the green light. We listened as she explained,

We’re now realizing that we (medical community) got it wrong. New research is showing that healthy animal fats are not bad for us, instead sugar has been the culprit all along. Ketogenic living, if done correctly can be a very rewarding and healthy lifestyle. *That means a well balanced diet with no potions, gimmicks  or pills, just real food.

She went on to explain how the sugar industry lied to us over the years and much of what we had learned about nutrition was wrong. (Click here to read about what my doctor told me)

The third step (and unfortunately you gotta do this part for yourself, nobody else can do it for you!) was diving head first into research and giving it a go myself. I discovered quickly that there was much to learn. I discovered to take baby steps and ease myself into the world of Keto. (Click here for our article on how to correctly start/ Keto 101 lesson) I realized that right from the get-go, I felt fabulous! Maybe there really was something to this keto stuff.  I revelled in the new feeling of not feeling bloated.

Then IT hit! I was sitting in the living room with Hubby and my father and I realized that I felt nauseated.  I didn’t think a lot of it at that point, I just put it down to something upsetting my tummy.

Shortly after, when I got up from sitting, I realized the nausea was accompanied by the oddest feeling of being off kilter. I wouldn’t describe it as dizzy, or even light headed. It was more an airy feeling in my head and a sensation that something was not right.

I didn’t want to say anything at this point.  Maybe I was over-reacting? Was I being silly? I quickly asked  Google about keto flu symptoms and stumbled upon a basic keto flu article and with it, the suggestion of drinking a cup of broth for temporary relief.

Easy, done! And fixed. Couldn’t believe how simple it was to fix.

A couple of days later it hit again . Hubby Geoff and I were running lunchtime errands on his lunch break and I was to continue on with the vehicle by myself. This time the off-kilter feeling was multiplied by a feeling of pressure in my head, kind of like a sensation of someone squishing my forehead and narrowing my field of (tunnel vision) vision. A weird fuzzy-type headache that affected me so much, I held tight and stuck to Geoff’s side for balance. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t function like this and I certainly couldn’t drive.

I remembered my quick fix! We stopped at a grocery store and bought a liter container of the cleanest  broth we could find.  I opened it up right there in the aisle of the grocery store and had some right on the spot. I continued to drink the salty broth as hubby drove. By the time we reached his drop off point, I was feeling good as new, I felt fine to drive but had a new resolve to figure this Keto flu thing out.

What is Keto Flu

Even though it known in the low carb and keto community as Carb or keto flu, its really an electrolyte imbalance that can happen to anybody at any time. Keto on not.

In most cases, in the keto world the main issue is lack of salt. Pre-keto, our body got used to high levels of salt in processed foods and when we cut these foods out of our diet, our body misses the salt.

Your body needs salt, it is one of our main electrolyte, which make up our body’s basic building blocks.s. For video explanations of why salt is needed, click HERE for an explanation from Dr. Ken Berry, HERE for an explanation from Dr. Eric Berg , HERE for an explanation from Dr. Stephen Phinney

**Always use salt as your first line of defense when an electrolyte imbalance occurs.

The keto flu. Yes, it’s a real thing, and it can happen when you drastically and suddenly remove carbs from your diet. This electrolyte imbalance is a wake up call from your body and you must act. Don’t try to push through. You’ve probably been experiencing this on some level your whole life, but didn’t know what it was. Some old thinkers would describe this as low blood sugars, but hat is not the case, unless you’re diabetici with hypoglycemic issues/tendencies, our human bodies do quite well with a low and steady BG level.

Ever over-do it on a hike and get a little weak? Did you ever unintentionally skip a meal and get a little woozy? Have you ever gotten a headache when you’re late for a meal? Most likely this was the lack of salt, not your blood sugars.

If you are hit by keto flu, while you feel terrible, you need to keep in mind that the keto flu is very temporary. Not only will these keto flu symptoms pass, but we can offer suggestions to get you through it quickly and without much fuss. Truth be told, we suggest you start these suggested actions before the keto flu even strikes. Nip it in the bud before it even happens, but first, let’s take a quick look at why the keto flu happens when you go low carb.

Why does Keto Flu Happen?

Your body, up until this point has been sluggishly burning glucose or sugar (carbs) to survive. When you start a low carb or keto lifestyle, you restrict carbohydrates and your body must learn how to burn its backup energy source, fat. In order to do so, changes happen from the cellular to hormonal level.

Specifically, there are three changes that occur when you cut out carbs:

1. Water and sodium flush:  When you restrict carbs your insulin levels drop to a more normal level, this signals your kidneys to release sodium from the body. Our body has been quietly tucking away things it couldn’t process over the year and encapsulating them in fat cells.  So you system starts to flush/push out these things out of your system.  Your body is recognizing that you’re trying to get healthy and it starts to shuttle toxins out of your body to help.

This causes a loss of up to about 10 pounds of water weight as water shuttles sodium (as well as other electrolytes and toxins) out of your body. Yes, unfortunately that big initial weight loss is water weight, but this is still a great sign! Keto is starting to work for you.

This usually occurs in the first couple of days. This can cause dizziness, nausea, muscle cramping, headaches, and gastro issues, like diarrhea and constipation.

2. Thyroid hormone levels decrease: Dietary carbohydrates and thyroid function are closely connected, so when you cut carbs, some thyroid levels can also fall. This hormone helps to regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. As your body learns to adjust to a ketogenic diet, lower hormone levels may leave you with brain fog and fatigue.

3. Increased cortisol levels: A ketogenic diet tells your body that you’re making a big change and then it somewhat temporarily panics. In an effort to restore normal and preserve  energy levels, your body triggers the release of stress hormones or cortisol.

Don’t worry, your body will get used to a new normal and thrive on it! If you experience irritability and insomnia, that’s usually a sign that your cortisol levels have changed.

Keto Flu Symptoms

  • Sugar cravings
  • Dizziness
  • Brain fog/headache
  • Irritability/ Moodiness
  • Stomach pains
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Lack of Concentration, Confusion
  • Muscle soreness / cramps
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Heart flutters / arrhythmia

Steps to manage Keto Flu.

Back in high school, we all learned that our bodies were made up of 96% water. While this is not incorrect it’s definitely an oversimplified explanation. Or bodies, or our cell structure is made up of three major complements; potassium, magnesium, and sodium. The ‘water’ is really a carrier for all these elements. It acts as a conductor or carrier for these electrolytes to be distributed throughout our entire system.

If you aren’t getting enough of these elements from your diet, incorporate them by-way of supplements or your body will protest in a big way. Lets look at our electrolytes and how we should correct them.

  • Potassium: Never supplement potassium without consulting with your doctor.   Potassium is directly connected to the cardiac system, if your current levels are too high or too low, you could get yourself into cardiac trouble. Instead, eat fish, meat, leafy greens, winter squash. If you are battling cramps, constipation, or muscle weakness, increase potassium rich foods.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium Glycinate is the most bio-available formula, this means our body can use more of what we are providing, instead of expelling it as waste. Citrate (mixed with Citric acid) is not recommended for long term use. Its great for times when you are having difficulty ‘going’  (yes, we mean poop) Long time citrate use  may make your bowels become dependant on it to function. Eat spinach, chicken, beef, fish or supplement with 300-500 mg per day. Magnesium helps with keto flu symptoms like muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Sodium: Particularly important as the keto diet is a natural diuretic in the early days and especially if you drink a lot of water (drink water to thirst only, never force water into your body). We recommend using a clean sea or Himalayan pink salt, supplement with 5,000-7,000 mg per day. Cramping is alleviated with proper sodium intake. Sodium is your friend.

Do you have a box of table salt in your cupboard? Go check the ingredients. Chances are there is not just salt in there, most are also laced with sugar!! Be ware.

Being proactive with these electrolyte corrections can save you from a bout of keto flu. Please be aware that electrolyte imbalances can pop up at any time during your life (keto or not) especially of you’re sweating a lot, working hard or if you’re fasting in any way. Always use salt as your first defense and correct quickly,

It’s worth noting that some people take an electrolyte supplement or drink at least once per day. Commercially bought Electrolyte sports drinks, typically contain processed sugar in some form, and are not recommended. Avoid these by making your own keto-friendly sports drink at home using 1 cup of water, 1 tsp Himalayan salt, and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.

Personally, I have a little jar of salt that I dip into whenever I feel the slightest symptom. Fixes me right up and gets me back to feeling keto-fabulous.. Salt sodium correction. Dip in and right under the tongue

Remember, your body is not just shedding fat, we don’t have sat spigot that quickly drains out the excess. It took you a long time to gain weight and likewise this too will take time  Its not just going to happen over night. Trust me, you don’t want to lose weight too fast, your skin will be flabby, you will have dark circles under your eyes and you will look and feel poorly.

Keto is a lifestyle about quality and quality takes time .Trust your body and know it’s  working hard behind the scenes to get you healthy! Following are some other suggestions to help ease your symptoms and help you on your way to overall full body wellness.


Staying hydrated will help relieve headaches and boost your energy levels when you’re feeling sluggish. If you forget to drink enough water during the day, keeping a full glass or bottle of water within reach at all times will help. Don’t overhydrate drink to thirst only! Google water intoxication, its no joke!

If you’re a person who works out, or works in heated environment listen to your body It will tell you how much it needs.

Drink Bone Broth 

Salted bone broth adds a serving of salty water to your diet and a dose of electrolytes – sodium and potassium – which will offset some of the discomfort you feel at a cellular level. Its also full of collagen and all kinds of nutrients.

A commercially available broth will do for emergency situations, but you should get in the habit of at least saving your own both from meat and veggies that you cook! That pot liquor from a boiled NL dinner? It’s liquid gold! save/freeze it in ice cube trays and then store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag for later down the road.

Eat More Fat

If your carb cravings are so intense, you’ve begun to dream of fresh baked bread, donuts, and pasta, skip the carb and eat the just the fats instead. Increasing your fat consumption can help speed up the adaptation phase. Have another tablespoon of coconut oil in your coffee or tea, snack on half of an avocado and some bacon, and especially MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) oil is different than most fats as it goes straight to the liver after digestion so it can be used immediately. Supplementing with MCT oil may even help you avoid keto flu altogether.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t recommend you guzzle bacon juice. Learn how to harness your fats and use what your body requests each day by way of hunger.

The secret to curing obesity is to cure hunger. How do you are hunger? By learning to properly incorporate  healthy dietary fats into every snack and meal!

On days where you’re working hard, you will burn more energy and need more fuel. Use extra fats on these days to keep you feeling full and satisfied. On days where you’re a coach potato and binge watchmaking Netflix, you are not burning much energy so you wont need as much fuel. Eat less fats that day  Its simple.

Gentle Exercise

Don’t get me wrong, you can lose wight without exercise at all through keto, but our bodies were meant to move. Mild exercise in the early days such as a yoga class, gentle walks or meditation, can help relieve muscle pain and tension and release endorphins to help boost your mood and motivation.

In the early days your body is working hard to swap fuels. Its going back and forth between dinosaur fuel (carbs) and being super-fueled (fats and ketones). As it switches back and forth you will have energy highs and lows. Give your body a break during this time…easy does it.

After fat adaption your body will act like the energizer bunny at all times. You will be super fueled. See our video on fat adaption HERE

Get Lots of Sleep

 A good night’s sleep is a good thing when it comes to conquering keto flu. It keeps your cortisol levels in check, which will likely lessen your flu symptoms. Try for 7-9 hours a night, and use these tips to sleep soundly:

  1. Take an Epsom salt (found at any grocery store or pharmacy) bath to soothe and relax your muscles and improve electrolyte absorption.
  2. A keto friendly tea with a blend of herbs that promote restful sleep have a calming effect on your nervous system, and can help promote deeper sleep.
  3. The blue light from tablets, laptops, and smartphones can seriously interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Cutting off electronic use at least 2 hours before you go to bed, is an excellent way to improve your sleep quality.

Up your Carbs

If all else fails, up your carb intake ever so slightly with green and leafy veggies. For some people, increasing fat simply won’t curb keto flu symptoms. If you’re tried everything else and even tested your limits by adding more fat and are still experiencing symptoms, you may want to up your carb intake just a bit.

Sometimes we try to force the change just a little too quickly, adding a few veggie type carbs back in giving your body the chance to adjust to burning fat and ease the overall transition.

The biggest point I want to leave you with is, this is a very temporary passing phase. Make a correction and react fast. Hunker down, keep lots of clean broth or salt under the tongue for immediate relief and nurse yourself along during this transition phase. With a little TLC and self awareness, you’ll quickly surpass keto flu level and leave it behind.

You next exciting stage is fat adaption, where your body turns itself into the human equivalent of a locomotive train, one that has no problem staying on the tracks, efficiently burns its own fat for fuel and is on its way to being healthy, happy, fit and slim.

Keto on!

That’s it for this time! Thanks for joining me for another East Coast Keto Life Lesson.  There’s still a lot to learn and we’re glad you’re along for the ride!

Keep Keto-ing with one foot in front of the other. Keto seconds lead to keto moments, Keto moments lead to keto days. Keto days will take you on a successful keto journey life time. We’ll meet you THERE!!

Our before and after
Our before and after

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