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Keto headache

What is the keto headache and how can it be treated?

For many people starting the keto diet, headaches are a common problem. This article provides insights into the causes of keto headaches and offers tips on how to prevent and manage them effectively.

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Keto headache: Causes, treatment & prevention
Last updated on April 26, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on February 2, 2024.

The ketogenic diet, known for swapping most carbs with fats, is well-recognized for its weight loss benefits. However, transitioning to this diet can lead to uncomfortable side effects, with headaches being a frequent complaint.

Keto headache: Causes, treatment & prevention

For those contemplating keto, understanding how to minimize these headaches is often a concern.

This article delves into the reasons behind keto-related headaches and provides guidance on how to prevent and manage them.

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In this article

What causes the keto headache?

Headaches during the initial phase of the keto diet are common, often resulting from several factors.

The role of low blood sugar levels

Carbs, particularly glucose, are your body and brain’s primary energy sources. The keto diet significantly cuts down your carb intake and increases fat, leading to ketosis, where fat becomes your main energy source.

As you embark on this diet, your body shifts from using glucose to ketone bodies for energy, potentially causing a drop in blood sugar levels. This substantial change can strain your brain, possibly leading to mental fatigue or ‘brain fog’, and headaches.

The impact of dehydration

Dehydration is a prevalent issue in the early stages of the keto diet. The increased urination during the transition to ketosis contributes to this.

Your body consumes its stored carbs (glycogen) during this period, and since glycogen is water-bound, its depletion leads to water loss.

Moreover, lower carb consumption on the keto diet reduces insulin production, influencing essential electrolytes like potassium and sodium, vital for hydration. Reduced insulin levels can cause your kidneys to excrete more sodium, further promoting dehydration.

These dehydration-related processes are significant contributors to headaches.

Other signs of dehydration to watch for include dry mouth, dizziness, and blurry vision.

Additional contributing factors

Beyond low blood sugar and dehydration, other elements may heighten the likelihood of experiencing headaches on the keto diet.

These can include frequent use of certain medications, diuretics, or drugs that induce dehydration, as well as personal factors like age, sleep quality, stress levels, and irregular meal patterns.

Summary: Keto headaches are primarily driven by low blood sugar levels and dehydration during the diet’s initial phase. Other medical and lifestyle factors can also elevate the risk of experiencing headaches.

Strategies for treating and preventing keto headaches

Headaches are just one of the potential side effects of the keto diet, with others including muscle cramps, constipation, fatigue, and dizziness — symptoms collectively termed the ‘keto flu’.

Keto flu: Symptoms and how to get rid of it
Suggested read: Keto flu: Symptoms and how to get rid of it

Dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes can exacerbate these symptoms, highlighting the importance of preventive measures.

Recommendations for addressing or averting keto headaches

Maintaining hydration and consuming nutritious, balanced meals can significantly reduce dehydration risk and, consequently, alleviate or even prevent headaches. Here are some specific strategies:

If headaches persist after the first few days or weeks of the keto diet, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying health issues.

Summary: Preventing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances is crucial in managing headaches associated with the keto diet. Practical steps include adequate hydration, consuming water-rich and electrolyte-dense foods, moderating alcohol, and being cautious with exercise intensity.

Summary

While the ketogenic diet is effective for shedding pounds, transitioning into it often brings about various side effects, with headaches being a frequent issue.

Suggested read: Low carb vs. keto: Differences, benefits, and drawbacks

These headaches are mainly due to dehydration or a drop in blood sugar levels.

However, you can ward off keto-related headaches by ensuring adequate water intake and carefully monitoring your electrolyte balance, among other strategies.

Should your headaches continue for more than a few days or weeks, it’s wise to consult a healthcare professional.

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