Congratulations on bravely launching out into the keto lifestyle. If you stay the course and apply the principles of this lifestyle properly, you will certainly meet your weight loss goals and improve your overall health.
Congratulations aside, let us talk about a real challenge in the keto lifestyle. Yes, I said it. There are challenges.
If you are over two days into your keto journey, you might be experiencing one of those challenges right now.
You might be experiencing a keto headache and possibly other symptoms. In this article, we will discuss why people end up with a headache on keto diets and how to minimize the intensity of these headaches. (1) (2)
Why Does a Low Carb Diet Cause Headaches?
There are several factors that converge behind a keto diet headache.
A reduction in blood sugar levels: The typical human diet is loaded with carbohydrates. As a result of this, the average person’s main source of fuel for their body is glucose.
When one decides to adopt a keto diet, your carb intake is significantly reduced, and the carb supply is replaced with a robust supply of fat. This is indicative of your body falling into ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state where your body burns fat as its primary source of energy.
When your body begins to depend on ketone bodies as opposed to glucose, your body’s blood sugar levels decrease significantly. This state of low blood sugar results in uncomfortable keto headaches.
Your body becomes dehydrated: One of the most common side effects of shifting into ketosis is dehydration. This is experienced by those who adopt a keto diet because urination levels drastically increase during the process.
Another cause of dehydration is that while your body is depleting its store of carbs (glycogen) a lot of water is lost. This is because glycogen is bound up with water in your body.
When your body begins to shift from using carbs to fat, it begins to produce less insulin. This reduction in insulin typically has a negative effect on electrolytes like potassium and sodium. These two electrolytes are critical to maintaining hydration.
Water loss has been proven to be something that results in migraines. A study by MS Bhatia, R Gupta and S Srivastava, revealed that water-deprivation is one of the most common causes of headaches.
All these factors combined can contribute to you have a keto diet headache. To know if you are dehydrated while on keto, you should look out for dry mouth, dizziness, and impaired vision. (5)
Toxins from your body’s fat store: As you may already know, the fat stores of your body also store toxins; therefore, when your body enters ketosis and you begin to burn your fat stores these toxins are released into your bloodstream. These toxins usually result in headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
While these are among the main causes of keto headaches, there are still other factors that can cause you to experience headaches while you launch into the keto lifestyle. Here are some of these factors:
- Excessive intake of medications, diuretics, and other drugs that typically result in dehydration
- Failing to get sufficient sleep or good quality sleep
- Poor stress management
- Skipping meals
How Long Does a Keto Headache Last?
A headache on keto is one of the symptoms of the “keto flu”. When it comes to the length of the headache, it varies from person to person. Nonetheless, it is usually experienced at the very beginning of a keto diet.
As you get into the swing of things and regain the balance of all that has been lost in the transition, the headache will begin to subside. Be warned that these headaches can happen at any point in the day.
Many people who join the keto lifestyle usually launch out by consuming loads of processed foods that are labeled ‘keto’. As a result of this practice, they consume a lot of food that are hard to digest.
Since your body will now have to work much harder to clear these meals on a keto diet, it will result in headaches, brain fog, aches, and pains.
What Helps a Headache on a Ketogenic Diet?
We hope that you have not been scared away by this information so far. While headaches are common at the beginning of your keto journey, it will get better in no time. Here are some things that you can do to treat or prevent headaches on keto: (6)
Drink sufficient water: Naturally, you will lose a lot of water while transitioning to a keto diet. This means that you will need to load up on water to replace that which is lost.
Hydrate in the morning and then sip water and other hydrating liquids throughout the day. A great indicator of your progress and effectiveness is the color of your urine.
If you are properly hydrated, you will notice urine that is of a light-yellow color. It should be as close to clear as is possible. A deep amber or light brown color is an indicator that you are not drinking enough water.
Reduce alcohol consumption: It is wise to abstain from alcohol while you are transitioning to a keto diet. When your body is moving into ketosis, your liver will be working overtime.
Dealing with alcohol at the same time can be a challenge for your body. While you can locate low-carb alcoholic options, it would be wise to simply avoid alcoholic beverages until you have settled into your new lifestyle.
Consume low-carb foods with a lot of water: You will find that there a lot of low-carb food items that are conducive to a keto diet that are also rich in water. Some options are cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, bell pepper, asparagus, and tomatoes. You will find many others that can be had on a keto diet that will offer you much hydration and nutrition.
Eat more foods that are rich in electrolytes: One tasty item you can add to your plate is fatty fish such as salmon. These are an excellent source of protein and fats. They also supply you with omega-3s.
Fatty fish can also give your body the electrolytes that you need. There are also other non-meat food options that offer these same benefits.
These include dark leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables like mushrooms, kale, spinach, and artichokes. You will also get other much-needed nutrients such as magnesium and potassium from these.
Use adequate salt in your meals: Using salt in your meals can help to minimize the possibility of an electrolyte imbalance. Adding salt also helps to keep your nerves and muscles functioning how they should.
Bear in mind that salt does not need to be consumed in large portions. As a matter of fact, your body only requires a small amount of sodium to function properly. The maximum amount of sodium that you should consume according to nutritionists and major health organizations is 2,300 milligrams per day.
While this sodium limit is important to note, when you are transitioning to ketosis, you may need more than that so as to ensure that your body has adequate sodium.
Of course, if you have issues with high blood sugar, you should ensure that you maintain the levels prescribed by your doctor.
Use electrolyte supplements: It is important that your body gets enough electrolytes overall. However, it is critical that you have enough electrolytes while transitioning to a keto lifestyle.
To do this, you could consider using electrolyte supplements. These will help to reduce the risk of dehydration. You can purchase these at any pharmacy without a prescription in powder or pill form.
Take a break from intense workouts when transitioning to a keto diet: As you work out your body loses essential electrolytes.
While your body adjusts to using ketone bodies as opposed to carbohydrates as a source of fuel, you want to avoid intense exercise.
An intense workout will bring additional stress out your body. This will increase the possibility of you having keto headaches.
Consume enough fat: Ensure that your daily diet on the keto lifestyle features sufficient fat. This may sound strange in light of the fact that you have adopted the keto diet to lose fat.
Getting the right amount of fats in your body is critical to your transition. Eating enough fat will help you to prevent a low blood sugar headache. It will also help you to manage your hunger while on the keto diet.
Ensure that you have a balanced intake of nutrients: It is important that you be deliberate in getting all your nutrients from foods that are keto-friendly. Also, be sure that the keto meals that you consume provide your body with the electrolytes that it needs.
Ensuring a proper supply of electrolytes is as important as getting adequate macronutrients. Take the time to plan your meals with research or with the help of a nutritionist who understands the keto lifestyle.
By doing all that you can to get the nutrients you need you will minimize the possibility of you getting a headache on keto. Adopting this approach to your diet can also reduce the intensity of keto headaches if you are already experiencing them.
If you are experiencing headaches while transitioning to a keto diet, do not worry keto diet headaches are completely normal. The changes that your body are going through will result in a number of factors that will cause a headache.
As mentioned in this article, the lowering of your blood sugar levels, as well as the likelihood of dehydration during your transition, are the main culprits of your headache on keto.
While these headaches are typical of the transition process, there are a few things that can be done to minimize its intensity or prevent it overall. By drinking enough water, having less or no alcohol, having food with high-water content, eating foods that are rich in electrolytes, consuming enough salt with your meals, using electrolyte supplements, avoiding intense exercising, eating enough fats and maintaining a balanced intake of nutrients, you can greatly increase your chances of a keto transition that is free from headaches.
The ketogenic diet can provide you with loads of health benefits. However, it is important that you approach it with proper information and guidance.
There are many who practice certain eating patterns while transitioning with the hopes of achieving ketosis but end up harming themselves. Seek professional advice as it relates to your ambitions to begin or continue a keto lifestyle.