Keto Headache

    It’s no secret; the ketogenic diet has gained massive popularity recently. The diet is highly regarded as the best way to lose weight and boost overall health. However, transitioning into a ketogenic diet is a bumpy ride with multiple, noticeable side effects that can be stumbling blocks for keto enthusiasts. 

    One of the salient complaints about embarking on ketogenic diet is the dreaded keto headache. Keto headache is an initial side effect experienced by many dieters at the beginning of their ketogenic journey. The headache can be discouraging especially when one is trying to find the motivation to lose weight and put life back on track. 

    This article will dig deep to reveal all the critical details about keto headache. We’ll help you understand what keto headache is, what causes it, and discuss how to prevent it from making your transition into a keto lifestyle more satisfying. 

    Ready? Let’s get started.  

    what is keto headache?

    If you have never taken a keto diet, there is a good chance; your body has adapted to using carbs as the primary source of energy. When you take the big step and turn to a keto diet, your body must transition and start using a fat-dominant diet for energy. This transition often confuses the body metabolism and causes many discomforts. 


    During this induction phase, it’s normal to experience keto flu; which is a collection of flu-like symptoms. One of the most salient keto flu symptoms is the keto headache. Keto headache is one of the most dreaded keto flu symptoms, and it is the reason many dieters abandon keto diet before they get the desired results.


    To achieve any goal, you must strive to overcome the hurdles that come your way. The purpose of living a ketogenic lifestyle is to reach a state known as ketosis [1]. The hurdles are many, but the main one is the keto headache. 

    Now, to wade through this hurdle, you must understand what causes it. Initially, the transition to ketosis was thought to be the leading cause of keto headache. While this is partly true, there are four main reasons why many dieters experience keto headache. These include:

    Sugar or carbohydrates withdrawals 

    The traditional diet usually contains large amounts of carbohydrates or sugar. It is the large quantity of sugar that gives the body the energy it requires to function normally. If you are a western food enthusiast, your body is probably addicted to sugar, and you do not know. 


    Sugar affects your brain via the reward system [2] often associated with hard drugs such as cocaine. Your body must remain “sugar high” to prevent cravings for sugar. When you cut sugar intake drastically, your brain becomes cranky, and this the reason you experience keto headache. 



    If you are planning to take a keto lifestyle, there a fact you should know; keto diet causes unusual dehydration [3] in the initial stages. Dehydration is caused by a drop in the levels of glycogen [4] and sodium in your body. Glycogen is a simple sugar that binds to water in your body. When carbohydrate intake is reduced or cut, the level of glycogen drops and more water is excreted [5]. 


    When the water levels in your body drop, your brain shrinks, leading to a headache. Remember, the brain is approximately 75% water, which means water is vital to its normal function and health. 


    Electrolyte deficiency 

    Another cause of keto headache is electrolyte deficiency. When on keto lifestyle, the intake of carbohydrates is deficient, and this leads to excessive excretion of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium from your body in urine. Electrolytes are vital for bodily functions and are required for survival. 


    When electrolyte levels fall below the healthy levels, your body may not feel the best. Studies have shown that when the level of insulin falls [6], the kidney excrete more sodium into the urine. Sodium deficiency is one of the causes of keto headache [7], while magnesium and potassium deficiency is the leading cause of muscle cramping. However, the levels of other electrolytes such as phosphorous and calcium record insignificant fluctuation during keto. 


    Caffeine withdrawal 

    If you consumed large amounts of coke, energy drinks, or other caffeinated drinks before embarking on this journey, you would most likely experience keto headaches. 

    Caffeine is highly addictive, and numerous studies have shown that its withdrawal symptoms [8] often include headaches.Caffeine withdrawal abruptly increases the flow of blood [9] to the brain, which in turn changes the brain’s electrical activity. The abrupt change in the brain’s electrical activity is what causes headaches.  


    There is no definitive answer to how long a keto headache can last. But, typically, it takes the body 2 to 5 days to start generating ketones and enter ketosis. Ideally, this is the transition duration, and the keto headache should last roughly the same number of days. 

    However, this doesn’t always happen, and how long the keto headache lasts depends on several factors. For example, if you never tried a keto diet, it may take a long time for your body to fully adapt to using fat as the source of energy. 


    As a result, you could experience lengthy keto headaches. Also, depending on how fast your body adapts to fat, keto headache may last between 3 days up to 21 days. The level of electrolytes deficiency during keto lifestyle may also dictate how long the keto flu symptoms last [10].


    If you are in the early stages of your keto journey, you are probably experiencing keto headaches. Fortunately, there a numerous ways to get rid of the keto headache: 

    Stay hydrated 

    As mentioned earlier, dehydration is one of the major causes of keto headache. Therefore, drinking enough water during the keto lifestyle is necessary to keep the headache away. For immediate headache cure, take a glass of warm, salted water. Ideally, mix a glass of warm water with a half a teaspoon of salt. 


    Replace electrolytes 

    Another way to cure keto headache is supplementing the intake of electrolytes. Replenishing the dietary electrolytes helps reduce the intensity of keto headaches. 


    It’s important to balance the intake of sodium with that of potassium. This is because the two electrolytes work in tandem to streamline nerve-cell communication. Besides, when there is a good sodium-potassium balance, hydration is maintained. To increase potassium intake, eat foods such as salmon, avocado, and broccoli. 


    Eat enough fats 

    During keto lifestyle, your body primary burns fat for energy. Eating enough fat reduces cravings for restricted foods and keeps you satisfied. In some case, it’s advisable to eliminate carbs gradually, rather than abruptly, while increasing the intake of fats. This smoothens the transition while decreasing keto flu symptoms such as headaches. 


    Drink buttered coffee 

    Drinking buttered coffee can cure keto headaches caused by caffeine withdrawal. Besides, fighting headaches, buttered coffee, also known as keto or bulletproof coffee, offers numerous benefits. For example, it increases the energy levels in the body.


    There is no denying; keto headaches are frequent in the early stages of the keto lifestyle. As bad as they sound, keto headaches can be a sign that you are headed in the right direction. Therefore, when they occur, do not be discouraged; instead, take heart and understand that your body is adapting to a new way of life. 


    Replacing electrolytes, staying hydrated, drinking buttered coffee, and eating enough fats are ways to cure keto headaches. If the above methods fail, taking aspirin can be the last resort to get through severe keto headaches.


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