The ketogenic diet has been popularized recently as "low carb-high fat" diet that claims to help with weight loss while minimizing inflammation. By consuming less carbs and more fat, this forces the body into a state known as "ketosis," in which the body burns fat for energy in lieu of sugar.

The process of becoming keto-adapted can be rocky for some people, particularly those with existing vulnerabilities in their health. There are several potential side effects that can arise which everyone should know about before attempting to start on the keto diet.

Keto Flu

sick woman lying on the couch blowing her nose with a headache
Subbotina Anna/Shutterstock

The "keto flu" is perhaps one of the most well-known side effects of transitioning into a ketogenic state. Often beginning early in the diet, the keto flu can encompass a variety of flu-like symptoms including a runny nose, fatigue, nausea and headaches. These symptoms come about as a result of the drastic switch in diet in which there the glucose levels in the blood are significantly lower. About a week into the high fat, low carb routine should put an end to these symptoms. Simply stick it out, and you should be burning fat in no time.

Sugar Cravings

woman peeking over a table looking at cupcakes

As the body is adapting to the sudden drop of sugar in your diet, there is one common side effect seemingly designed to test your willpower -- increased cravings, particularly for high-sugar foods. The reason behind this is that the body has previously been relying on the sugars from the foods you to supply that energy. Now that you are no longer ingesting a substantial amount of sugar in your diet, the brain sends signals to your body urging it to seek out sugary foods. If you stick with your diet, soon enough your body will adapt by producing ketones to replace the sugar as an energy source.


woman falling asleep at work

Between relying on sugar for energy and transitioning to using ketones from fat, there will likely be a brief period in which your body is unsure how to sustain normal function. As such, your body may feel noticeably groggyfor a few days, as if you're suffering from a lack of sleep or a mild hangover. On the bright side, this side effect can often be corrected with some keto-friendly bullet coffee.

Reduced Strength And Athletic Endurance

woman fatigued after lifting weights

When first starting the keto diet, your brain and body are hard at work learning to adapt to using fat as a source of energy. This may leave little room for physical exertion past the minimum necessary to function in your daily life. Use this time as an excuse to give yourself a break while your body adapts to your new lifestyle. When the benefits of ketosis finally kick in, you will be back and stronger than ever.

Heart Palpitations

man clutching his heart

Those in the early stages of the keto diet n may notice some heart palpitations before ketosis has fully set in. This can typically be attributed to lower glucose levels in the new diet. The body responds to the lack of sugar by releasing cortisol, a stress-related hormone that provokes the release of stored glucose in the body. his chemical process can temporarily disrupt normal heart rhythms, which can be a common side effect when the body is experiencing any form of stress. Keeping up a regular intake of essential minerals can help combat the palpitations by helping reduce blood pressure.


woman drinking out of water bottle

Minerals and electrolytes are two key factors to maintaining hydration, and both of them are removed from the body through urination in higher doses than usual when first entering ketosis. This can leave you getting severely dehydrated fairly frequently. To combat this, drinking fluids that are rich in electrolytes such as broth and taking mineral supplements help regain the electrolyte and mineral balance in your body. Avoid drinking sports beverages because, although they are rich in electrolytes, they often have a high sugar count, which is bad for the keto diet.

Constipation And/Or Diarrhea

When doing a drastic switch in diet, your digestive system is sure to experience some discomfort as it adjusts to the new lifestyle. For those going on keto, the mineral and electrolyte imbalances can lead to constipation and/or diarrhea. To combat this, stay hydrated with fiber-rich meals. Fiber works miracles on an irritated digestive system. Also, while foods such as eggs and certain dairy products are staples in a keto diet, they can be particularly tough on the digestive system, so it's best to hold off on these food sources until your body is more well-adjusted to the keto diet.

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