We know that a lot of people started on the Keto Journey at the beginning of the New Year.
By now, many of you have happily reached Ketosis and may be experiencing some of the symptoms that go with switching over to being a fat burner.
Namely…The Keto Flu and maybe some cramping. Don’t worry, they don’t last long if you adjust your electrolytes to your new way of eating.
This post will explain why people get the Keto Flu and how it can be minimized.
After all, the whole point is to get onto enjoying the Amazing Benefits that the Keto Lifestyle has to offer.
One of the issues that Keto people have in the beginning of the Keto Journey is the result of electrolyte imbalances.
Even long time Keto devotees can be affected.
The pain of electrolyte imbalance has recently visited yours-truly.
I was very active for a day when I didn’t get enough salt, and even though I drank lots of water I got some painful leg cramps.
I ate some salt, and drank more water and they went away.
Electrolytes can easily get out of balance when you start Keto. A lot of times the imbalance results in the unpleasantness commonly known as the Keto Flu.
But don’t despair, there is an easy way to get those back in balance and get to feeling great.
One of the first things that happens when you hit Ketosis is that your body excretes the electrolytes it used to recirculate (sodium especially).
If you’re not used to eating salt, you will have to make a conscience effort to eat some extra salt. I know that salt has been vilified for a long time. But when you are eating Keto…you’ll need it.
You should discuss and lifestyle change with your doctor. If you are just starting Keto tell your doctor, and be sure to tell your doctor.
“Worth ones salt” and “salt of the earth” are ancient expressions that attest to the value of salt.
Most people don’t know the word “salary” was derived from the word salt. Salt was used as currency for trade as far back 6050 BC.
So why is salt such a “big-deal?”
The short answer is that we literally can’t live without it. Salt is an essential nutrient.
If you have a salt deficiency (hyponatremia), an extreme loss of sodium can trigger symptoms that range from muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness to shock, coma, and death.
The table salt that we put on our food is sodium chloride.
Sure there are are a bunch of different versions – pink salt, sea salt, kosher salt and the list goes on. But they all mean basically the same thing.
There are subtle differences in taste – I like the Himalayan – but essentially they are all sodium chloride (NaCl).
What is an Electrolyte?
An electrolyte is a substance that dissociates into ions and acquires the capacity to conduct electricity – nerdy right.
Your body needs sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and phosphate.
The three big ones are sodium, potassium and chloride.
Sodium and chloride are in regular salt.
Potassium and calcium come from other food especially nuts, cruciferous veggies (broccoli & cauliflower) and leafy green veggies.
The others – bicarbonate, magnesium, and phosphate – are excreted during ketosis and they will need to be replenished through food or supplements.
Why do We Need Electrolytes?
Without writing an entire book, we need electrolytes be cause our bodies are controlled by electrical impulses. For those impulses to be accurately transmitted and received, our bodies require electrolytes to stay at a pretty specific level.
If you would like a little more in-depth you can check out this post.
Water that makes up most 60% of your body. Your lungs muscles and kidneys are made up of over 80% water. Even your brain is about 73% water.
All that water is at a level of about 0.4% salt (sodium chloride). It’s roughly the same as sea water.
Sodium chloride and potassium are the main electrolytes but all of the electrolytes are important for nerve impulses and muscle control.
Potassium and phosphorus also support proper kidney function.
Magnesium keeps bones strong and keeps your heart healthy.
Bicarbonate helps with digestion and maintains the Ph of our bodies.
And of course calcium is a major component of strong bones.
The Keto Flu
If you look at the symptoms of almost any electrolyte deficiency you will notice that it is almost word for word the same as what has become known as the Keto Flu.
Muscle cramps, headache, irritability, brain fog, etc.
If the imbalance gets too bad it can cause irregular heart beat, vomiting and seizures.
An electrolyte deficiency or imbalance will cause these symptoms regardless of whether you’re on Keto or not.
The reason it is called Keto Flu is that when you achieve ketosis your insulin gets very low.
When insulin levels are low enough to be in ketosis, your kidneys stop recirculating electrolytes – especially sodium chloride/salt.
So in order to maintain your electrolyte balance in ketosis you will need to eat lots more salt.
I would recommend that you fill your salt shaker and don’t be afraid to use it.
Find some Keto friendly salty snacks and enjoy them regularly – I like the spicy pork rinds or peanuts.
Of course there are other electrolytes, and you can get them in your diet through food if you eat spinach, kale, broccoli, avocados, celery, almonds, pumpkin seeds etc. If you eat your veggies, you will be fine.
All of the symptoms of the Keto Flu may not be caused by electrolyte imbalance.
Other causes of discomfort in ketosis can be a lack B vitamins.
The best way to combat this is to eat your veggies especially the leafy green ones.
Not only do they have lots of vitamin B, but they are loaded with fiber which will keep food in your digestive tract longer helping vitamin absorption.
People with conditions including Crohn’s disease, Celiac, HIV, and alcoholism may also have a problem absorbing vitamin B.
If you have any of these conditions or you feel like you need a vitamin B supplement it would be a good idea to talk to your doctor.
There are lots of electrolyte supplements on the market. Some of them are even purportedly formulated especially for Keto.
I don’t recommend that you spend your money on electrolyte supplements for two reasons:
- First, because they don’t have much of what you’re paying for i.e. 2% RDA of potassium and 5% of magnesium.
An avocado has 27% RDA of potassium and 14% magnesium and maybe it’s just me, but I think avocados taste better.
- Second, because they cost too much.
If you think you have an electrolyte deficiency that requires taking pills, that can be serious, and you really should be talking to your doctor about it instead of reading the internet.
I would like to be clear, generally I am not “anti-supplement.” But when it comes to electrolytes, the best source is food.
If you would like to see more about supplements we have a great post, Do Keto Supplements Really Work?
Ketosis requires you to eat more salt.
No supplements required, just put the salt shaker back on the table.
Salt (sodium chloride) is the most prevalent electrolyte in your body.
When you are in ketosis, your kidneys excrete salt along with a water.
Potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and phosphate are best consumed in food.
Leafy greens, avocados, broccoli (and other crucifeous veggies) , nuts, legumes have plenty of the electrolytes you need.
The Keto Flu is primarily an electrolyte problem.
Eat some salt, lots of Keto friendly veggies and stay hydrated and you can at least minimize the Keto Flu.
Electrolyte Supplements aren’t worth the money.
If you want to spend lots of money to get your electrolytes eat avocados.
Sure they are expensive, but they are so much more delicious than pills.
More Great Keto Info & Recipes at CastleintheMountains.com