When it comes to troubleshooting with keto, there are some common problems that come up again and again. Let’s look at how we can overcome these problems.
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Let’s start with the dreaded ‘keto flu’ (it’s not really a flu and you haven’t caught anything!) It’s simply the signs and symptoms of your body adjusting to a new way of working. You will also be under additional mental strain as you figure out how to make keto work for you. Anything new brings with it challenges and confusion at first, but I promise you it is well worth it.
Let’s look at your first few days in a bit more detail and find ways to understand and overcome any difficulties. When you first start adjusting to keto your body has to put in extra do things a little differently. Specifically your body needs more water than usual since ketosis has a diuretic effect, making you pee more.
Many of the early keto flu symptoms are in fact symptoms of dehydration: brain fog, dizziness and tiredness can all be significantly reduced by ensuring you are well hydrated. That means drinking 2 to 3 L of water throughout the day, (not all at once).
Also you need sufficient magnesium, potassium and sodium. You can take these as supplements and re-hydration or electrolyte salts. Alternatively ensure you are consuming salty foods to get the sodium and potassium you need.
Many people who embark on the keto diet are currently eating a lot of addictive foods, particularly if you’re used to eating the SAD (Standard American Diet). Just like addicts, when we come off these ‘drugs’ there are withdrawal symptoms. Beware that your junkie mind doesn’t try and persuade you to dip into old habits. Sugary foods stimulate the brain to make us feel pleasure, just like heroin.
You can experience several days of craving sweet foods while you adjust to your ‘clean’ regime. Don’t worry, the desire for sugar and carbs will gradually reduce and mental clarity will increase as you get into ketosis. To stave off the withdrawal symptoms and ease in your transition it is advisable to treat yourself a little more gently than usual in the first few days.
Make sure you have plenty of non-food based distractions to keep you amused and plan your food so that when you do eat it is enjoyable. Cancel any commitments which stress you out or place a physical burden on your body. For example, Keto day 1 is not an ideal time to: start a new job, meet your new mother in law or do your 1st 10km run!
Crucially you need to find other ways to keep yourself happy, entertained and not obsessing over food until your appetite reduces and you begin to enjoy keto benefits. Feeling relaxed and calm will help your body cope better with ketosis until it is adapted and ready to take on the world.
Another common issue is constipation. Since the keto diet focuses on macros some people forget to eat their greens. Well, they are really important, not just for nutrition but also to keep your bowels moving. Dehydration can also cause constipation but more often than not the cause is a lack of fiber.
There are a few ways you can support your digestive system to ensure it also enjoys the transition to keto:
- Magnesium Supplement – these naturally increase the ability of the gut to move food around
- Coconut Oil – eating it ‘raw’ from the jar will help loosen bowels with a gentle laxative effect
- Fibrous Vegetables – for example asparagus, leafy greens, salad leaves, cucumber or celery
- Ground flax or chia – these seeds naturally cleanse the bowel and keep things moving
- Laxative tea – if you are having severe problems consider a natural laxative tea or supplement
The keto diet in itself does not cause constipation, but a lack of vegetables and dehydration can!
You Might Not Catch Keto Flu
Back to keto flu, which really is a collection of symptoms, experienced differently by each individual. It is worth noting that some people have absolutely no symptoms at all. So don’t expect to get sick, it’s not actually a necessary as part of your transition. If you work hard to keep yourself hydrated and listen to your body’s needs with regards how quickly you transition you can reduce or even eliminate symptoms altogether.
Individuals who have been on a diet rich in processed foods and refined carbs may have more problems. This is because in addition to transitioning to keto their body is also detoxing from the old way of eating. Processed food specifically is packed with chemicals and additives in addition to the carb.
Some people even experience more uncomfortable symptoms like keto rash. This is an example of the body taking an opportunity to get rid of some toxins. The skin is a major organ of detoxification and we sweat out our troubles. The keto rash, like many other symptoms will be reduced with plenty of hydration to wash out the toxins. You can also increase your sweating, in a sauna or steam room, if that’s something you enjoy.
Symptoms can start as quickly as 10 hours after cutting down carbs and can in some people last up to 2 weeks. So, you may also wish to speed up your transition into full ketosis to reduce the time you spend with keto flu transition symptoms, like mental fogginess and lethargy. You can achieve this by reducing your carbs to under 10g per day for the first week. This makes your body use up stored glucose and get into fat burning even quicker.
Or you could use MCTs or exogenous ketones to speed up the adaption phase, giving your body a helping hand. Taking MCTs or ketones directly will also start to deliver the benefits we have been promising you more rapidly. Typically symptoms will reduce after a few days and gradually you will start to feel the benefits including increased alertness and energy.
However, if you have more extreme symptoms you may need to take some action. Mineral deficiencies can lead to changes in the heart rate or rhythm called palpitations. Muscle cramps and low blood pressure can also be the result of a lack of minerals.
Embarking on ketosis should be done with as much preparation as possible to make the transition smooth. Consider your medical history, current health status and really get clear on the supplements you need to support your new keto lifestyle. You may need to experiment with a few to find the perfect balance but at least consider a high quality multivitamin containing 100% of your RDA of magnesium.
The other common problem people experience when starting out is not getting INTO ketosis. The reasons for this are usually simple – you are eating too much carb or too much protein. Go back and check your macros and record your food intake. Asses your ketone levels and be honest with yourself.
Carb creep, eating more carbs than should be consumed, is an easy accident. A little nibble here and there and oops, your not in keto! Be very mindful in the first few days and you will go into ketosis. It is not some mystery state you need to work towards, you do it every night. We are just teaching the body to do it in the day too.
As with any significant lifestyle change you need to listen to your body and decide yourself how you feel. Ask yourself is this a mild discomfort (like a bit of brain fog) or is something seriously wrong. Keep in mind the importance of Water and Minerals. Also ensure you are eating enough fat, you can’t get fat adapted if you aren’t getting enough!
- Many people experience transition symptoms called keto flu
- Many symptoms are actually from dehydration
- If you’re coming off a poor diet you will find the transition harder
- If you experience constipation you may want to add more magnesium supplement, coconut oil, fibrous vegetables, ground flax, chia or laxative tea to your diet.
- The key to success is preparation, make sure you study our free resources to get all the information you need to make your keto journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible