It’s no secret by now that keto diets are great for weight loss, reversing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and improving a long list of other conditions. They can help banish brain fog, address high blood pressure, and even get rid of acid reflux.
But considering how much carbohydrate the average person eats, it’s only natural that the transition from a high-carb diet to a very low-carb ketogenic diet would be a bit bumpy. It’s a pretty radical change, so it can take the body a little while to adjust.
Let’s see what newbies to keto can expect as their body makes the switch from burning mostly carbs to burning mostly fat.
Most people sail through the transition to a ketogenic diet just fine, with few to no hiccups along the way. For the people who don’t, “keto flu” is the shorthand used to describe the unpleasant symptoms they experience while their bodies adapt to being without sugar and starch. Read more about the keto flu here.
A common problem for those dealing with the keto flu is that they don’t have enough electrolytes or their bodies aren’t hydrated. An easy way to get electrolytes is to take supplements, like electrolyte drops. Combine those electrolytes with your favorite drink, and now you’re hydrated!
Any big dietary change can lead to some adjustment time for your digestive system. Some people find they might be heading to the bathroom a little more (or a little less…) often when they first start. Your body needs time to adjust to the higher levels of fat and lower levels of fiber that you are likely eating on keto. Certain ingredients that you might be more likely to consume on keto can also contribute to gastrointestinal distress, such as high levels of certain artificial sweeteners and/or MCT oil.
As with any medical concern, it’s important to speak with your physician or other healthcare professional. In general, however, be mindful of what ingredients are in the keto foods you’re eating and take note if any seem to cause particular gastrointestinal issues for you. Everyone is different, so a favorite keto food for someone else might not leave you feeling your best. Pay particular attention to what kind and what amount of keto sweeteners you are consuming and make adjustments according to what works best for you.
Another unpleasant “side effect” of keto is foul breath. This isn’t considered part of the keto flu but it’s definitely something you want to be aware of, especially if you’re in close proximity to other people at work or at home!
Keto breath has been described as fruity, metallic, sweet, or just flat-out bad. Whatever word you use for it, it can be off-putting to people around you, but it’s actually a positive sign: it means you’re in ketosis!
When your body burns fat, it makes ketones as a byproduct, and these ketones can be measured in your blood, urine, and breath. (This is why there are meters and test strips available to measure these levels for those who like to see the data.)
Acetone is the ketone that gets released in your breath, and while it doesn’t smell or taste so great, it’s proof that you’re breaking down fat.
The remedy for keto breath is to stay hydrated—drink plenty of water—and use sugar-free gum or mints if you’re especially concerned that people around you can detect it. You can also increase your carbohydrate intake just a little.
You may not need to be in deep ketosis to get the weight loss and health benefits you want from a low-carb diet, so if you eat just slightly more carbs, you might be able to reap those positive effects while taking the edge off the bad breath.
Now that people are catching on to how powerful keto diets are for health, they’re looking to use keto to address multiple medical conditions and are often taking several prescription medications when they get started.
The good news is, keto is effective for reversing or improving so many of these issues. The even better news is that keto starts working so quickly that doses of insulin, other diabetes medications, and blood pressure medicines sometimes need to be adjusted on the very first day someone starts keto, or very soon after.
The only bad news here is, if these medications aren’t adjusted properly, people can experience light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, or even dangerous hypoglycemia and fainting. But don’t blame keto for what the medicines are doing!
These unpleasant issues are a sign that the beneficial effects of keto are already kicking in and the doses of medicine are now too high. If you take medication for diabetes or hypertension, it’s important for you to understand what to look out for ahead of time, so that you can contact your doctor when it’s time to adjust things.
(If they’re savvy with keto, they might even give you instructions on how to do this right from the beginning. You can search for keto-friendly medical professionals here and here.)
The best news of all is, the minor unpleasant things you might experience when you’re new to keto pale in comparison to the long list of great things that happen once your body fully adapts to running on fat.
Lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure are near the top of the list, but how about getting rid of migraines? What about reversing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? Keto helps to normalize the hormone imbalances in PCOS, and most people find that joint pain goes away or gets much better.
If you’re caught in the throes of keto flu and need some positivity to cling to until it passes, check out this list of 14 ways to tell that keto is working for you totally separate from weight loss.
Now that you know about the keto side effects and the best ways to avoid them, check out an easy way to keto: Keto Chow.
Keto Chow’s meal replacement shakes provide you with one third of your daily recommended nutrients. Just add your choice of fat (whipping cream, butter, avocado oil), water and a packet of Keto Chow into a BlenderBottle. Then shake, refrigerate and enjoy! You can choose from over 30+ flavors.
Can’t have dairy? Check out dried egg white protein, which can be added to shakes or baked goods. Dried egg whites can even replace your regular egg whites that are cooked on a pan.