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Let’s Call Keto Flu What It Really Is: Carb Withdrawal

What is Keto Flu?

The keto flu happens when a person goes from burning glucose to burning fat as a primary fuel source. This is done by drastically reducing carbs while eating high fat and moderate amounts of protein. Insulin production slows and fat-burning begins. There is a metabolic shift at the cellular level as cells begin to “remember” how to burn fat.

People report various symptoms after 1-2 days of carb restriction. These can include headache, nausea, dizziness, muscle cramps and bowel changes. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Sometimes people discontinue the diet because they can’t get through the initial phase. In general, the more carb dependent you are, the worse your carb withdrawal.

The Degree of Carb Dependence= Severity of Keto Flu

If you jump into a keto diet after years of eating lots of carbohydrates, you’re symptoms will be more severe than someone who is already following a low-carb or whole foods-based diet. In other words, the worse your baseline diet, the more severe your keto flu.  

It may seem abnormal that so many people have such severe carbohydrate withdrawal but it is actually a sign that the majority of people in our society are carb addicted. This is not unusual for a person in the modern world since food is abundant. However, on a physiological level, carbohydrate addiction is not an optimal state. The human body was meant to fluctuate easily between glucose burning and fat burning. I have explained in a previous post how we should naturally fluctuate between fuel sources like a hybrid car. You can read more about that here.

Increase Electrolytes And Fluids

Insulin increases fluid retention. When you go through carbohydrate withdrawal your body naturally loses water. You should increase fluid intake and get more electrolytes into your system. You’ll mostly need sodium, potassium and magnesium. You can get these through various methods:

  • Drink Bone Broth.
  • Put electrolyte drops in your water. I like these.
  • Take sodium tablets if feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

If you feel exhausted, rest. If the withdrawal symptoms are still too much to handle, you should probably eat some carbs and start again by slowly decreasing carbohydrate intake over time. Start by replacing refined carbs with healthy carbs and make your baseline a whole-foods diet. Quit eating refined sugar. Ease into things. Get help from an expert who can help guide you through this process.

Be Patient With Yourself, You CAN Do This!

Most of all, be patient and support your system with electrolytes as you make this transition. It’s worth it. The shift to metabolic flexibility has a huge payoff. Some things to look forward to when the keto flu lifts:

  • Less hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Increased Energy
  • Mental Clarity
  • Increased Athletic performance
  • Increased Stamina
  • Increased Libido

Part of this journey away from carb addiction is about being honest with ourselves. We are a carb-addicted nation. Diabetes is now a world-wide epidemic. Dialysis clinics are popping up everywhere. Standard of care for diabetes and weight loss sucks. The recent trend of keto diets has spotlighted how carb-addicted we are. So let’s call the keto flu what it really is: Carb Withdrawal.

If you have questions about keto flu or carb withdrawal and are interested in changing your diet and lifestyle, please call the clinic at 415-635-9933 for an appointment or click here to schedule a free consultation!


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