How I survived the keto-flu

Keto-flu is the common way of referring to the nutrient imbalance which your body may experience in the beginning of keto-dieting. It's an uncomfortable experience and one of the reasons it's best to do this diet under the supervision of a trained health practitioner.

First, lets recap; keto is about changing fuel for our cells, from glucose (carbs) to ketones (fats). In order to achieve this, we have to starve our body of glucose for enough time for all the stored glucose in the liver and muscles to be used up. (see my first post of keto)

On day 3 of my keto-journey, I was feeling very unwell. I had a nasty little headache, I was tired and very irritable, to the point of being cranky. At this point I was getting comfortable measuring my macros, ie carbs, fats and proteins, but I also had to start looking at my micros. The two most important micronutrients you have to consider in keto are sodium and potassium, next to them are the other electrolytes calcium and magnesium, but very important are also B vitamins and vitamin C.

Sodium-Potassium pump (from Wikipedia).

Sodium and potassium?

Here is a quick recap of basic biochemistry; sodium and potassium are used to control cell wall activity. Their electrical charges swap places inside and outside the cells and create an electrical current in the cell membrane. If we run low on these we can feel very out of sorts, as they energise the membrane of every cell in the body.

They may be lost in large quantities for us in keto as we run out of glucose and our insulin levels drop, and we loose a lot of water. Loss of water in the human body always transcribes to a loss of electrolytes. This may happen when we sweat or have diarrhoea, but also when we loose water through lowered insulin levels.

So, when starting keto, it's important to get a good balance of extra sodium and potassium in your diet. This can be tricky, and I recommend getting professional advice on how you can best do this, for your body and your holistic health.

So why did I mention vitamins?

Well, as you transition into this way of eating, you may struggle to eat with enough variety to ensure all the basic nutrient are absorbed. Most of our B vitamins come from the grains we eat, which are all excluded in keto. Vitamin C is mainly found in fruits, which are all excluded in keto. Of course you can get plenty of B vitamins from green leafy veggies and red capsicum is abundant with vitamin C, but at the rate that your body may need these nutrients in your keto diet that may not be enough.

Why is that?

Well, your body may be going through a detox with your keto. How that works, and what you can look at doing to support your body through that process, I will discuss in my next blog post about my keto-journey.

Peeing on a stick

I measured my ketones for the first time on the morning of the 4th day of my keto-journey. I sat and peed on a stick, very excited about the positive outcome... something I haven't done for a long time haha... I was officially in ketosis after 72hrs of keto! Checking your ketones is very easy with a cheap dipstick from the chemist.


Harvey, Cliff J. C., Grant M. Schofield, and Micalla Williden. 2018. “The Use of Nutritional Supplements to Induce Ketosis and Reduce Symptoms Associated with Keto-Induction: A Narrative Review.” PeerJ 2018(3).

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