Oftentimes, when people transition to a Keto diet after years of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), there are a number of carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms collectively known as “the keto flu”. Though the effects can be uncomfortable, they are actually a sign that your body is rebooting and preparing to transition to full-on fat-burning mode, and THAT is a wonderful thing.
How does it feel?
Every body is different and has been subjected to different treatment, food, and thoughts throughout its life. This translates to symptoms being different for each person.
For myself, I transitioned to Keto after having been on a pretty anti-inflammatory and gluten-free diet for many years. I did not experience much in the line of symptoms myself.
The same can not be said for all of my clients, who among them have experienced some of the following things mildly or had full-blown withdrawal symptoms! Fear not – no matter how strong your case of “keto flu” is, we have tried and true strategies to help you get through it.
• Mental fog/trouble focusing
• Sugar Cravings
• Trouble falling asleep
These are all manifestations of your body getting used to your newfound carbohydrate restriction and the resulting shift in electrolyte balance.
Things To Remember:
1. THIS IS NORMAL – I see people get really worried that the troublesome symptoms are warnings that their bodies are being harmed by restricting carbohydrates. It IS scary when you feel a painful or uncomfortable sensation in your body and you can’t identify the source. And then, (if we can concentrate enough) we consult Dr. Google and discover that they’re all the same symptoms of a deadly tropical virus we may have contracted three years prior that has been miraculously laying dormant ever since. NO. It’s NOT THAT. It’s normal, the vast majority of people who embark on a low-carbohydrate regime experience the same things.
2. THIS IS TEMPORARY – That’s right! Keto flu does not last the duration of your journey. Its span is usually 3 – 5 days, though it can stretch out to a couple of weeks if you are either sabotaging yourself with carb-dosing to make yourself feel a little better or not giving your body what it needs.
3. THIS IS TREATABLE – If there’s one thing we should focus on when combating Keto flu, it is ELECTROLYTE BALANCE. When we cut carbs, the lower insulin levels tell our kidneys to release water and sodium. We drink more water to stay hydrated, and that flushes out even MORE sodium, potassium, and magnesium, three super-important minerals that have a hand in regulating pretty much every important process in our bodies, leading to that fatigue, weakness, and brain fog. A simple way to fight the imbalance is to supplement, which can be as easy as adding more pink Himalayan salt to our food.
Strategies for fighting keto flu
The primary one IS going to make sure your electrolytes are on point, but here are a few handy tips:
1. Eat more salt. It sounds counterintuitive since salt has traditionally been pooh-poohed as something that makes you bloat and is not heart-healthy. In reality, our hearts would stop beating if we did not have enough sodium in our body. Freely use salt on your food when starting Keto, and even start incorporating “Sol Water” into your day.
2. Choose foods high in potassium. Believe it or not, one of the foods highest in potassium is BACON! There are 539mg per 100g of bacon – that’s amazing! Beef, salmon, pork, and oysters are also great choices. Leafy greens, particularly spinach and Swiss chard, are also very high in this key electrolyte, as are mushrooms and avocadoes.
3. Make sure you don’t forget magnesium! Spinach, Swiss chard, and avocado do double duty for potassium and magnesium, so kill two birds with one stone! Nuts like almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews are also wonderful choices. Bonus food? DARK CHOCOLATE! That’s right, treat yo’self! Just make sure to get 85% or higher cacoa and low-sugar or sugar-free.
4. When in doubt, you can utilize supplements. For magnesium, I like Natural Calm, but you can also use magnesium citrate tablets for an option that will not upset your stomach. Potassium chloride or citrate tablets are optimal choices for potassium, but you do not need very much. Another option for you is to use oral rehydration solutions. There are ready made drinks like Propel and Powerade Zero, but I tend to avoid those because of the artificial sweeteners. There are also premade blends that you can stir right into water like H2ORS.
Otherwise, you can make your OWN! Check out my super yummy Keto Raspberry Lemonade Electrolyte Drink recipe.
Balance is key
The keto flu is real, but it doesn’t have to be a real pain. We will further discuss electrolytes in my next educational post just so you understand HOW incredibly important they are. In the meantime, are there any further questions about easing into keto that I can help you with? Let me know in the comments!