The ‘keto flu’ could be the reason why you feel sick after starting the keto diet — but there are simple ways to combat it

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  • It’s common for people starting the keto diet to experience unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, brain fog, lethargy, constipation, and leg cramps. 
  • This condition, in which your body is adapting to a ketogenic diet, is known as the “keto flu.”
  • It is important for someone following the keto diet to consume enough foods that are rich in electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. 


The following is an adapted excerpt from “Simply Keto” by Suzanne Ryan:

During the first few weeks of starting keto, it’s common for people to have an electrolyte imbalance. If not properly managed, this imbalance can lead to a temporary condition known as the “keto flu.” It is associated with unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, brain fog, lethargy, constipation, and leg cramps. These symptoms occur primarily in the early phases of keto, and things often balance out once a person is keto-adapted. Even after keto-adaptation, some people (especially those who are very active) may require electrolyte supplements if they do not consume enough foods that are rich in electrolytes (see below). (Remember that it is important to talk with your doctor before taking supplements, especially if you have health issues.) On a ketogenic diet, the main electrolytes to focus on are sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

Here are a couple of key ways to prevent or minimize the symptoms of keto flu:

General keto flu symptoms:

Add sodium (salt) back into your diet. The general recommendation is to supplement with two to seven grams of sodium each day: two to five grams for the average person or up to seven grams for very active people. Adding sodium is easily done; simply drink one or two cups of bouillon or salted broth or add more salt to your food or beverages. Also, be sure to drink lots of water and other fluids! Dehydration can make you feel pretty awful, so be sure to stay hydrated.

Leg cramps:

Increase your intake of magnesium.

Constipation:

Drink more water and increase your fiber intake. Coffee sometimes does the trick, too!

Magnesium-rich foods:

  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Dark chocolate
  • Fish
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms, especially white and portobello
  • Nuts, especially almonds
  • Seeds, especially pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach

Potassium-rich foods:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Fish, especially salmon
  • Kale/leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes

Calcium-rich foods:

  • Almonds
  • Bok choy 
  • Broccoli 
  • Celery
  • Cheese
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, and so on)
  • Sardines
  • Seeds, like sesame and chia 

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