For all the excellent benefits of the ketogenic lifestyle, getting there can be a physically rough road. The primary reason for this is what is known as the “keto flu”. Almost everyone who has changed their life to the healthy ketogenic lifestyle has had to deal with the keto flu, and some have had a worse deal than others.
The keto flu is the common name for the induction phase of ketogenesis. That means it’s the period of time when your body is getting used to the changes you have made to what you eat. When you change what you eat, you change everything about how your body operates and functions. Inside your gut (where close to 70% of your immune system lives) are billions of bacteria, and they are all battling for dominance. If your diet consists of highly refined carbs, the types of bacteria that thrive in your gut (e. coli, h. pylori, candida a, etc.) will be inflammatory and detrimental to your immune system. By changing your diet to be high in fat, those same bacteria die off rapidly, because they don’t have their preferred energy source. This massive bacteria death has consequences. These consequences are typically:
- Lack of mental focus and clarity
In short: You feel like you have the flu. That’s because, in a way, you do. Your immune system is taking a beating when you make the change, because it has grown accustomed to the way things have been. But once you get through the induction phase, and you start to feel better, your immune system will be several times stronger and more efficient. That’s one of the reason that Ketovangelists don’t get sick (and when they do, it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been).
Changing Fuel Sources
The best way to think about what you’re doing to your body is to imagine you are disconnecting one fuel tank (carbs) and connecting another fuel tank (fat). The new fuel tank is bigger, more efficient, and preferred by the vast majority of your body. But, because you have spent so much time burning the old fuel (carbs), your body isn’t quite prepared to make the shift, so it takes an adjustment period. During that adjustment period, your body puts things in “maintenance mode” and spends some time getting rid of things that don’t work and play well with fat burning fuel. It takes a little time to build everything back up to be efficient at burning the new fuel, but it will.
Some people suffer minor (almost unnoticeable) symptoms for a day or less. Some people, like me, suffer from a full blown flu-like feeling for several days. Then there are the unlucky few who suffer for up to three weeks of very difficult adjustments. It’s rare, but it does happen, and it’s a sticky wicket. But the only way to get through it is to get through it.
How To Deal With Keto Flu
There are a few things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms.
- Add salt
- Drink water
- Eat more fat
- Limit your protein
You’ll be surprised at how much a teaspoon of salt will help.
This is a no-brainer. You need as much water as you can get.
You may not feel like eating, but when you do, make it fatty.
Just make sure you don’t over do your protein. You need it, but not too much.
My Keto Flu
I mentioned earlier that I had the keto flu for a few days, and here’s a little about why. I am not the type of person to wade into anything. When I make up my mind, I belly flop my way into whatever I’m keen on. Sometimes that can be bad. In this case, it was bad. I went cold turkey off of carbs, all carbs. I woke up one morning and decided I was going to eat fat, and lots of it. So I started that day with coconut oil and butter coffee and followed it up with nuts and fatty food for lunch and dinner. By the time evening rolled around, I was in severe discomfort.
I spent the next couple of days feeling fluish and running to the bathroom. And I don’t recommend it. However, I know what I can take, so I know that if I tiptoed into the ketogenic lifestyle, I would have failed. I have to go all in from the start or I won’t be successful. So, if you’re like me, and the idea of easing into a new lifestyle doesn’t sound appealing, I say two things: Go for it and be prepared for some nasty adjustments.
If, however, you’re not a fan of self-inflicted suffering, I’d recommend you start slowly and work toward your goal methodically. That won’t prevent you from having the keto flu, you still might, but it will likely not be as severe.
How about you? What’s your keto flu story? Let me know.