April 24, 2024
Food & Spices

Keto Side Effects – What You Need To Know


Due to its potential to aid in weight loss, enhance cognitive function, and improve metabolic health, the ketogenic diet has become more and more popular. Like any diet plan, though, there could be adverse effects as well, particularly in the beginning stages of transition. We’ll look at seven typical ketogenic diet side effects in this guide, along with their causes and practical management strategies.

1. Keto Flu

Keto flu, also known as the induction flu, is a collection of symptoms that some individuals experience when transitioning to a ketogenic diet. While not everyone encounters keto flu, those who do may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, irritability, nausea, muscle cramps, and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms typically occur within the first few days to weeks of starting a ketogenic diet and can vary in severity.
The causes of keto flu can be attributed to several factors associated with the metabolic shift that occurs when transitioning from a carbohydrate-rich diet to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet:

  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Reduced carbohydrate intake can lead to a decrease in insulin levels, causing the kidneys to excrete excess water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium. This loss of electrolytes can result in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, contributing to symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps.
  • Dehydration: The initial reduction in carbohydrate intake can cause the body to shed water weight as glycogen stores are depleted. This increased fluid loss, coupled with reduced thirst sensation common on a ketogenic diet, can lead to dehydration and exacerbate symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and headaches.

2. Digestive Issues

Digestive issues are common side effects experienced by some individuals when adopting a ketogenic diet. These issues can include symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. While not everyone encounters digestive problems on keto, those who do may find them challenging to manage. Understanding the potential causes and implementing strategies to promote digestive health can help alleviate these symptoms and support overall well-being.

Several factors may contribute to digestive issues experienced on the ketogenic diet:

  • Changes in Gut Microbiota: The composition and diversity of gut bacteria can be influenced by dietary changes, including shifts in macronutrient intake. Transitioning to a ketogenic diet may disrupt the balance of gut microbiota, leading to digestive discomfort and irregular bowel movements.
  • Inadequate Fiber Intake: A common challenge on the ketogenic diet is obtaining sufficient dietary fiber, as many high-fiber foods such as fruits, legumes, and whole grains are restricted due to their carbohydrate content. Low fiber intake can contribute to constipation and other digestive issues, as fiber plays a crucial role in promoting regular bowel movements and supporting gut health.

3.Increased Cholesterol Levels

Increased cholesterol levels, particularly elevated LDL cholesterol, are a concern that some individuals may encounter when following a ketogenic diet. While the keto diet has been associated with various health benefits, including weight loss and improved metabolic markers, it may lead to temporary increases in LDL cholesterol levels in some individuals. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and implementing strategies to manage cholesterol levels can help address these concerns and promote cardiovascular health.

  • Mechanisms of Increased LDL Cholesterol: The ketogenic diet is characterized by high-fat intake, which can lead to an increase in circulating levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This increase in LDL cholesterol may be temporary and is primarily driven by changes in lipid metabolism induced by the diet. Additionally, rapid weight loss associated with the ketogenic diet can transiently elevate LDL cholesterol levels as stored fats are mobilized and released into the bloodstream.
  • Differentiating LDL Particle Size: It’s important to differentiate between LDL particle size and overall cardiovascular risk. While traditional lipid panels measure total LDL cholesterol levels, they do not provide information about LDL particle size or composition. Research suggests that small, dense LDL particles may be more atherogenic and associated with increased cardiovascular risk compared to large, buoyant LDL particles. Therefore, simply focusing on total LDL cholesterol levels may not accurately reflect cardiovascular risk.
  • Strategies for Managing Cholesterol Levels: Despite temporary increases in LDL cholesterol levels, the ketogenic diet can still be part of a heart-healthy lifestyle when implemented correctly. Consider the following strategies for managing cholesterol levels on keto:
    • Focus on Healthy Fats: Emphasize sources of healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish. These fats can help improve lipid profiles and support cardiovascular health.
    • Monitor Lipid Profiles: Regular monitoring of lipid profiles, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, is essential for assessing cardiovascular risk and tracking changes over time. Consult with a healthcare professional to interpret lipid panel results and make informed decisions about dietary and lifestyle modifications.
    • Incorporate Lifestyle Modifications: In addition to dietary changes, lifestyle modifications such as regular physical activity, smoking cessation, stress management, and maintaining a healthy weight can contribute to improved lipid profiles and overall cardiovascular health. Aim for a well-rounded approach to health and wellness.

4.Reduced Physical Performance

  • Explanation of potential decreases in physical performance, endurance, and strength during the adaptation phase of the keto diet.
  • Reasons behind the initial drop in performance, such as glycogen depletion and metabolic adaptation.
  • Strategies to optimize athletic performance on keto, including targeted carbohydrate intake, adequate hydration, and adjusting training intensity.

5.Keto Breath

Keto breath, also known as acetone breath, is a common side effect experienced by some individuals on the ketogenic diet. It is characterized by a distinct fruity or metallic odor in the breath, which can be unpleasant for both the individual experiencing it and those around them. Understanding the causes of keto breath and implementing strategies to manage it can help alleviate this temporary side effect and promote overall well-being.

  • Causes of Keto Breath: Keto breath is primarily caused by the production of acetone, a ketone body, during the metabolic process of ketosis. As the body shifts from using carbohydrates as its primary fuel source to burning fat for energy, ketones, including acetone, are produced as byproducts. Acetone is excreted from the body through urine, sweat, and breath, leading to the characteristic odor associated with keto breath.
  • Tips for Managing Keto Breath: While keto breath is often a temporary side effect that diminishes as the body adapts to ketosis, several strategies can help manage it:
    • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help dilute ketones in the body and reduce the intensity of keto breath. Aim to stay hydrated throughout the day by consuming water and other hydrating beverages.
    • Practice Good Oral Hygiene: Regular brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping can help remove bacteria and food particles from the mouth, reducing the likelihood of odor-causing compounds accumulating and contributing to keto breath.
    • Use Sugar-Free Gum or Mints: Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free mints can help stimulate saliva production, which can help rinse away odor-causing bacteria and neutralize unpleasant odors associated with keto breath.
    • Consume Fresh Herbs and Spices: Some herbs and spices, such as parsley, mint, and cinnamon, contain natural compounds that can help freshen breath and mask odors. Incorporating these herbs and spices into meals or chewing on fresh herbs can help alleviate keto breath.
    • Consider Oil Pulling: Oil pulling involves swishing coconut oil or another edible oil in the mouth for several minutes before spitting it out. Some individuals report that oil pulling helps reduce oral bacteria and improve breath odor.
    • Be Patient: In many cases, keto breath improves over time as the body adapts to ketosis and becomes more efficient at utilizing ketones for fuel. Be patient and consistent with your ketogenic diet, and keto breath may diminish on its own as your body adjusts.

6. Potential Nutrient Deficiencies

  • Identification of potential nutrient deficiencies on the keto diet, such as vitamins B, C, and K, as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium.
  • Reasons for nutrient deficiencies, including restricted food choices and decreased absorption of certain nutrients.
  • Strategies to prevent deficiencies, including consuming a variety of nutrient-dense foods, considering supplementation when necessary, and monitoring nutrient intake.

7. Psychological Effects

The ketogenic diet, while known for its potential health benefits, can also have psychological side effects that impact mood, emotional well-being, and overall mental health. Understanding the reasons behind these effects and implementing strategies to maintain mental well-being are essential for individuals following a ketogenic diet.

  • Psychological Side Effects: Some individuals may experience psychological side effects when transitioning to a ketogenic diet, including mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, and food cravings. These effects can vary in intensity and duration, with some individuals experiencing them only during the initial stages of ketosis, while others may continue to experience them intermittently.
  • Possible Reasons for Psychological Effects: Several factors may contribute to the psychological side effects experienced on the ketogenic diet:
    • Changes in Neurotransmitter Levels: The ketogenic diet can influence neurotransmitter levels in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine, which play crucial roles in regulating mood and emotions. Changes in neurotransmitter levels may contribute to mood swings, irritability, and other psychological symptoms.
    • Hormonal Fluctuations: The ketogenic diet can also affect hormone levels, including insulin, cortisol, and leptin, which may influence mood, stress levels, and food cravings. Hormonal fluctuations can contribute to emotional instability and cravings for high-carbohydrate foods.
  • Strategies for Maintaining Mental Well-Being: Despite potential psychological side effects, several strategies can help individuals maintain mental well-being while following a ketogenic diet:
    • Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga into your daily routine to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance emotional resilience.
    • Seek Social Support: Connect with friends, family members, or support groups who understand and support your dietary choices. Having a strong support network can provide emotional validation, encouragement, and accountability during challenging times.
    • Incorporate Stress-Reduction Techniques: Implement stress-reduction techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, or journaling to manage stress and anxiety effectively. Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can help improve mood and overall well-being.
    • Prioritize Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for mental health and overall well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to promote emotional stability, cognitive function, and stress resilience.
    • Address Nutritional Deficiencies: Ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs by consuming a diverse range of nutrient-dense foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Consider supplementing with vitamins or minerals if necessary, under the guidance of a healthcare professional.


While the keto diet offers numerous potential benefits, it’s essential to be aware of and prepared for possible side effects. By understanding these side effects and implementing strategies to address them, individuals can navigate their keto journey with greater ease and maximize the likelihood of long-term success and well-being.