Ketogenic diet: why it causes headaches and what you can do

Ketogenic diet: why it causes headaches and what you can do

The ketogenic diet started out as a way to control seizures. However, in recent years it has caught the attention of those who want to lose weight. But since this one involves a reduction in carbohydrates, there will be side effects to start with. And a side effect that many people experience is headaches.

What Happens To Your Body When You Follow A Ketogenic Diet

On a ketogenic diet, you limit your carbohydrate intake to 5% to 10% of your daily calories. You will consume about 70% to 80% of your daily calories as fat and about 10% to 20% as protein.

The main goal of the keto diet is to send your body into ketosis. Ketosis occurs when your body switches to burning fat because there aren’t enough carbs to burn for energy. When your body breaks down fat, it produces ketones.

When your body switches to burning fat, you may experience unpleasant side effects. The term “ketoflu” is commonly used to describe side effects that occur when starting the diet.

Keto Flu Signs and Symptoms

When you switch to a low carb diet, it takes time for your body to adjust. For some, keto flu symptoms may start appearing just days after cutting carbs. Symptoms usually peak during the first week and gradually disappear by the fourth week of the diet.

The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on the individual. The most common symptoms of ketoflu include:

  • Headache
  • brain fog
  • Stomach pain/discomfort
  • Travel sickness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Sore throat
  • Aches
  • feeling of weakness
  • Changes in heart rate

Causes of headaches

There are many possible causes of headaches during the first few weeks of starting the ketogenic diet.


On a high-carb diet, your brain is fueled by glucose, a type of carbohydrate. When you start a ketogenic diet, your body begins to burn stored fat for energy instead of glucose. So, when ketosis occurs, it can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. This is called hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar can cause a dull, throbbing headache in the temples.


When our body begins to shift into a state of ketosis, we begin to urinate more frequently, which can lead to dehydration. During the transition, your body uses stored glycogen for fuel. Your body’s glycogen binds to water, releasing excess water as glycogen stores are depleted.

This is why many people notice significant weight loss within the first few days of starting a very low carb diet. So, if you don’t drink enough fluids while following the ketogenic diet, it can lead to dehydration and headaches.

An electrolyte imbalance

When you restrict carbohydrates, your body naturally produces less insulin. A drop in insulin causes your kidneys to excrete more sodium. Dehydration can also lead to imbalances in sodium, magnesium, and potassium.

In addition to headaches, low levels of sodium in the body can lead to nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and cognitive impairment.

Treatment and prevention of headaches

Fortunately, there are ways to manage and even prevent headaches when starting the ketogenic diet. Staying hydrated and eating a nutrient-dense diet are key to minimizing the risk of dehydration and headaches.

To drink a lot of water

When you first start the ketogenic diet, your body loses water weight, so it’s important to stay hydrated.

Get more sodium, potassium and magnesium

When levels of key electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and magnesium are low, it is important to replenish them. Water is needed for

stay hydrated, but you will need to replenish your electrolytes through the foods you eat or an electrolyte supplement.

Potassium-rich foods include:

  • Attorney
  • Mushrooms
  • pumpkin seeds

Good dietary sources of magnesium are:

  • Cashew nut
  • Peanut Butter
  • Dark chocolate
  • leafy vegetables

You can add more salt to your foods to increase your daily sodium intake or add a pinch of salt to your water.

Avoid intense workouts

In a balanced diet, your body uses the glucose and glycogen stored in the muscles for a quick burst of energy. As glycogen stores are depleted, you may not have enough to fuel your workout.

Research shows that ketogenic diets can inhibit performance by up to 20% during the initial phases of the diet. However, once your body has adapted to the ketogenic state, performance can actually improve.

Until your body adjusts, you may want to avoid vigorous workouts, as they can put more stress on your body and cause headaches.

Plan Meals Low in Carbs and Nutrients

To maintain optimal health on a ketogenic diet, consider planning your meals in advance. This can help fuel your body to minimize unpleasant side effects when starting the keto diet.

Yes, the keto diet can lead to weight loss. But it’s hard to stick with and can limit your intake of many nutritious foods. That being said, many people don’t care about these things and can follow a ketogenic diet for the rest of their lives.

It is important to note that research shows that the keto diet is no better than any other diet for weight loss. The initial loss may be greater, but in the long term it is not.

Finally, what I can say is that if you choose to follow a keto diet, make sure you are prepared to stick with it for the long term. Also, understand that you don’t have to follow this particular diet to lose weight. A balanced diet can help you lose the weight you want in a healthier way.

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