Many people who try Atkins or the keto diet often stop in the first week because they experience the “keto flu.”
The so-called “keto flu” is a general feeling of achiness and tiredness that seems to happen to some people a few days after they’ve begun a low carb diet.
But some doctors are now suggesting that the keto flu is not from the body going through withdrawal from carbs, but instead from a lack of salt.
The keto diet is an opposite approach to the Standard American Diet (SAD) or the USDA food pyramid.
People following the keto diet get most of their daily calories from healthy fats instead of carbohydrates.
The keto diet first began in the 1920s when researchers found that it helped children with epilepsy control their seizures.
But doctors noticed that these children were also losing weight.
Further investigation showed that their bodies were producing more ketones, which were being used for energy instead of glucose in the blood, hence the name “keto” diet.
Dr. Robert Atkins first popularized the low-carb approach for weight loss in the 1970s, then again in the early 2000s.
However, just like the keto diet, many people noticed that when they initially started the diet, they felt weak, light-headed, or like they were going to pass out.
What people didn’t know at the time is when the body transitions over to a ketogenic state, the body starts losing a great deal of water, thus throwing off electrolyte levels.
People also have complained that the keto diet’s restriction on fiber has caused constipation—which can be reversed by increasing salt consumption.
Additionally, the cramps many people say they experience on the keto diet are not carb related but another signal that the body needs more salt.
Making matters worse, the federal government warns that consuming too much salt is dangerous.
But ultimately, if someone is following the government’s recommendation of 2-3 grams of sodium per day and following the keto diet, they could experience extreme hyponatremia, which can be very dangerous.
The Journal of Clinical Medicine says:
Hyponatremia is a very common electrolyte disorder, especially in the elderly, and is associated with significant morbidity, mortality and disability. In particular, the consequences of acute hyponatremia on the brain may be severe, including permanent disability and death. Also chronic hyponatremia can affect the health status, causing attention deficit, gait instability, increased risk of falls and fractures, and osteoporosis.
The good news is all of this can easily be remedied by adding an extra 1 to 2 grams of salt to your daily diet.
In fact, a recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people who eat 2 to 3 times more salt than recommended by the government live longer.
(Click here for the rest of the story on salt and the government’s dangerously low recommendations.)
Using pink Himalayan salt or grey salt from Utah is a great choice because they offer additional minerals like magnesium and potassium that help keep electrolytes in balance.
While many people do experience headaches, muscle aches, or an overall feeling of being run down when first starting a low carb diet, they don’t realize these are the same symptoms of low sodium levels.
This problem can become even worse if you are obese, already sweat a great deal, have a very athletic lifestyle, or begin a fast for medical, religious, or weight loss reasons.
If you ever feel faint when starting a low carb diet or fast, start paying attention to your salt intake and see if your symptoms improve.