What Is the Keto Headache?
The keto headache is also known as keto flu headache. It is one of the symptoms associated with the keto flu. When you start your keto diet, your body undergoes a major switch in its energy source from carbohydrates to fats.
The symptom every person feels is different from others and can be more or less severe, depending on your carbs’ consumption before making this shift. As your body tries to use fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates, you can experience some flu-like symptoms, such as headaches. This is what you call the keto headache.
This type of headache is dull and nagging, causing you to feel outright pain, blurred vision, and discomfort.
Causes of Headaches on Keto
There are many reasons for keto headaches, which usually happen in the first week of your keto diet.
Low Blood Sugar Levels
Glucose is a kind of carb, which is the primary source of fuel for your brain and body. But when you are on a keto diet, you widely reduce your carb intake and start consuming fats. This takes your body into ketosis, a metabolic state in which the human body uses fat as fuel for energy.
So, when you begin the diet, your body starts focusing on ketone bodies instead of glucose. This process significantly drops down sugar levels in your body, leading to low blood sugar. These body changes can stress your brain, which leads to discomforting headaches and other problems like brain fog and mental fatigue.
When your body releases water, it also loses important electrolysis such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium. This results in the imbalances in your body.
These imbalances can lead to various problems because electrolytes play a great role in the nervous system function and the process of fluid balance within the body. One of the major problems can be a serious headache.
Magnesium is a great supplement to reduce the severity of the migraine. Some studies suggest that sodium deficiency can stimulate the pain receptors in your brain, making you feel that you are having worse headache pain, which is not the case. The pain receptors are only making you think that your low pain is actually a devastating one.
Before experiencing the headache pain, your body may face disruption in electrolyte homeostasis, which is also the reason for overstimulation in the brain. When your body goes into ketosis, sodium levels usually reduce more than any other electrolyte.
Dehydration is also one of the most common reasons for keto headaches. It happens because people urinate more than the usual days when their body switches to ketosis. During a keto diet, your body uses the stored carbs, known as glycogen. Glycogen in your body contains water molecules and releases water when your body uses them.
Not to mention, your body also generates less insulin, a hormone that is responsible for absorbing sugar from your body. This happens because you have a lower carb intake. Moreover, this significant drop in insulin levels can impact electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, responsible for keeping you hydrated.
For instance, when you are on ketosis, your kidney liberates a high amount of sodium because of the low insulin levels, which leads to dehydration. All of these factors collectively lead to worse headaches. With headaches, you may also face dry mouth, impaired vision, and dizziness.
Other Potential Causes
Certain other factors also increase the risk of having headaches on the keto diet. These factors may include the overuse of diuretics, medication, and some drugs that lead to dehydration. Moreover, your lifestyle and age factors also have a great role in this, such as stress, poor sleep, and skipping meals.
How Can You Prevent Keto Headaches?
These are various ways to prevent the keto headache from discomforting you. You can keep yourself properly hydrated and consume a large number of nutrients to lower the risk of developing the headaches. Both of these things can alleviate a headache or even prevent it from happening in the first place.
The following are some ways that can help you treat or prevent your keto headache.
Drink a Lot of Water
As you have learned, in the beginning, you can lose lots of water. Hence, it’s vital to drink plenty of fluids. Try to drink at least 68 ounces or 2 liters of water regularly.
Decrease Your Alcohol Consumption
You may not know that alcohol is a diuretic. This means it encourages your body to urinate more than the normal day, which can make you dehydrated.
Consume Water-Rich but Low Carb Foods
Foods like cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, celery, raw tomatoes, and cabbage have plenty of water in them. All of these foods can help you stay hydrated as well as help you to lose weight. Some of these foods are also great to intake electrolytes.
Consume Electrolytes-Rich Food
Food that you can eat in a keto diet like spinach, avocados, tomatoes, and mushrooms are rich potassium sources. Moreover, kale, almonds, oysters, and pumpkin seeds are also great and high in magnesium.
Increase Salt Intake
Consider putting light salt in your food to maintain the electrolyte balance in your body.
Use an Electrolyte Supplement
Using an electrolytic supplement widely lowers your risk of having dehydration. It also helps to reduce the overall keto flu symptoms.
Avoid Excessive Exercise
For some time, while you are doing a keto diet, avoid intense workouts. The exercise tends to stress your body, which leads to extensive headaches. Moreover, you only need to do this in the beginning days of the keto diet. Once your body becomes used to it, you can start your regular exercises.
If you feel headaches after several days and even weeks of your diet, you need to consult health experts to know if you have any underlying health problems, which are the main reason for it.
Keto headache is pretty common. You can prevent it from the start if you use the prevention tips mentioned above. Moreover, don’t panic if you experience pain for some days, as it will get resolved after a week or so.
About the Author
Lori Bogedin is a health and wellness writer and editor of TwigsCafe.com. She is in the restaurant business since 1999. In 2016 she was named one of the "Top Women in Business" by Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.