What is Keto Flu

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I mentioned in Monday’s blog post that I had a carb overload over the weekend. I also mentioned that I might have carb withdrawals from that. The “keto flu” is a label given to a set of carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms that may occur in people who start a low carb diet that results from altered hormonal states and electrolyte imbalances that may occur with it. In other words, it describes a cycle in the body adapting to a newly started low carb diet.

Keto stands for ketogenic, a very strict low carb eating plan. The term should really be “low carb flu” since the ketogenic diet is not the only low carb plan.


No two individuals are alike, so the symptoms can range from nothing, to mild, to a full-blown flu-like condition, and include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Mental Fog
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • In some extreme cases, high blood pressure and arrhythmia

How Long Does Keto Flu Last?

The duration for keto flu varies for each person. While some may have slight and even unnoticeable symptoms for a day or two, others might have an over the top symptom for a  week or more. It really depends on how quickly your body adapts to a reduction in carbs.

Once keto flu is over, you can expect a huge surge in energy levels. Once the sugar habit is fully kicked, often people feel better than ever.

Being patient as your body adapts is key. Know that it will pass. If it does not, you should seek the attention of a qualified medical professional. For most people any symptoms that occur will end within two weeks time. Normally it’s only a few days.

A Misunderstood Condition

People who experience keto flu after going on a low carb diet are sometimes forced to believe that they are suffering due to the diet they are on and carbs are good for the health after all. However, this only shows how dependent they have been on carbs, as their body is trying to survive without carbs and sugary substances.

In truth, carb intake, and especially refined carbs that come from processed food, sugar, sugary food and drinks, is at epidemic levels. Carb addiction is rampant in the United States and other parts of the world.

It’s not your fault. Carbs are everywhere. Congratulate yourself on making changes for the better with a low carb diet.

How to Reduce Keto Flu Effects

Keto flu can be nerve wrecking, no doubt. It is also sometimes a necessary evil. There are some things that can be done to reduce the symptoms if they appear.

Replenish your electrolytes: Lack of electrolytes in the body is on the major causes of keto flu. Electrolytes are the minerals found in the body and they effect its water content, acidity of the blood and functionality of the muscles.

Additionally, low carb diets feature lower insulin levels that can signal the kidneys to discard excess water, making you drink more. This results in the flushing of electrolytes where sodium, potassium and magnesium deficiencies can occur. You will have to replenish them by using and supplements and with food.

  • Add in some salt: Normally, the average diet is overloaded with salt, but a ketogenic diet eliminates refined and processed food and focuses on eating whole real food. When you start keto you will naturally reduce salt intake, which reduces water retention. Since a low carb diet is naturally diuretic, there is no need to worry about water retention.

Generally, 5 grams of salt daily is ideal for keto flu and to replenish electrolytes. I recommend pink Himalayan Sea Salt. After my carb load weekend, I’m adding salt to every other cup of water I drink. It really does help. You can also get it from drinking 2 cups of broth or adding soy sauce or other sauces that have potassium to your meals.

Bone broth works well too. It only requires the simmering of chicken, beef, lamb or any meat bones in water for a about a day. Even canned broth or stocks from the store work well too. Just make sure to read the labels for added ingredients or preservatives that you do not need. Drippings from cooked meat have a high concentration of potassium, so use them to make sauces.

  • 300 mg of magnesium can be taken in supplement form: My favorite is Natural Vitality Natural Calm. It dissolves in any liquid.

Keto flu is the process that most dieters undergo while starting their weight loss or weight gain journey. While it cannot be avoided for some, you can reduce the symptoms while your body adapts.

I have noticed that since I’ve been low carb for awhile, my symptoms are not as bad as when I first started. I do have Healthful Pursuit’s Keto Lemonade in my arsenal now though, so that might be helping too. If you need meal plans or ways to get started, check out Healthful Pursuits book The Keto Beginning. You can get it here. So much great information.

I hope your week is going well. Talk to you soon,

Tammy 🙂

(This post contains affiliate links.)


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