Healthy Living

Trying Keto Diet Amid COVID-19 Pandemic? You Need To Expect Flu-Like Symptoms

The much talked about keto diet involves sacrificing nearly all glucose food and deriving 60 to 70 percent of daily calories from healthy fats. This sudden switch to a low-carb regimen consisting of 5 percent of the regular diet pushes the body into a state called ketosis, causing withdrawal symptoms comparable to symptoms experienced after giving up smoking or caffeine. 

When the body cannot use glucose for energy production, fat is the next go-to fuel option, which produces ketones during the breakdown of fatty acids. This process is referred to as ketosis. It is experienced when people are specifically fasting or abstaining from food.

Adapting to the keto diet strains the body initially, with a common cluster of side effects known as the keto flu. Symptoms include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, muscle cramps and soreness. A new study, published March 13 in the journal of Frontiers in Nutrition, searched online forums to understand personal experiences of the keto flu to quantify symptoms accurately. 

What The Research Found

Researchers conducted an online search of forums using keywords such as “keto flu,” “keto-induction” and “keto-adaptation” in the URL. Upon reading several anecdotes, the experiences shared by users were categorized further based on severity, time and remedies as per various patterns of symptoms. 

Overall, the search included 43 online forums with 448 posts written by 300 unique users. Of them, 101 users reported 256 different symptoms, helping the researchers draw a composite picture. Common among them were fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, nausea, headaches, discomfort in intestines, heartbeat changes and feeling lightheaded.  

The finding of the study reported that all the aforementioned symptoms peaked within seven days of adopting the diet and receded within a month. 

keto diet Keto requires people to significantly cut their intake of glucose while eating more fat and protein. Pixabay

“We sought to characterize the nature of keto flu, as there was a disjunct in the amount of popular media reports of its occurrence versus the academic literature,” Dr. Emmanuelle Bostock, co-author and researcher at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania in Australia, said. “We found that a number of users of online forums self-reported flu-like symptoms, usually occurring in the first few weeks of commencing the diet.”

Anxiety Related To Outbreaks

Following the keto diet during the flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic might confuse people because the symptoms could overlap, especially considering the number of people diagnosed. The flu season of 2019-2020 affected 36 million people, including 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths. 

While anxieties are high due to the uncertainties pertaining to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are several people making false claims regarding potential remedies. A recent outpour of social media posts in the United Kingdom claimed that following the keto diet could help prevent people from being infected by COVID-19. 

Dr. Grace Farhat, professor of nutrition and food science at Liverpool Hope University, explained to the Daily Express tabloid in the U.K. that those claims are not true. “There are certain claims being made that adopting a keto diet could help to boost your immune system, and therefore stop you being infected with coronavirus,” Farhat said. “But I can say with confidence that there is no scientific evidence to show that ketosis can help ward off viruses – particularly coronavirus – in humans. As ever, you should always be discerning about any medical claims made on social media.’’

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