March 2020 has already reserved a dubious position for itself in history. As each one of us comes to terms with the coronavirus reality we’re all suddenly faced with, each cough, sneeze, ache, and pain is being placed under a microscope. Self-isolation has quickly become the name of the game in terms of containment, so in many ways, it really doesn’t matter if you’re feeling sick at this particular moment. It’s still imperative that you stay home and avoid contact with others.
That being said, a new study is making a pretty strong case that now is not the time to try out a keto diet while you binge Netflix and dust off Monopoly to pass the time. Researchers in Australia have found compelling evidence across social media that a ketogenic diet can cause several flu-like symptoms during the first few weeks. Common symptoms of the “keto-flu” include fatigue, nausea, lack of energy, body aches, dizziness, faintness, and heart palpitations. Quite a few of those symptoms are also associated with Covid-19.
Right now everyone is on edge, it’s impossible not to be considering the situation we’re all in. Adding extra stress to your body, and possibly wrongly convincing yourself you’ve come down with Coronavirus because of a recent keto regiment isn’t a good idea right now. There will be plenty of time to work on our summer appearances once this ordeal is under control and in the rearview mirror.
Keto-flu symptoms usually appear quickly after starting the diet, peaking within seven days and then disappearing over the coming weeks.
The keto diet, or a high-fat & low-carb approach to eating, has quickly become among the hottest fitness trends in recent years thanks to its relatively quick results when it comes to burning fat. Moreover, keto diet proponents believe it can also strengthen one’s memory and even help fight diabetes or cancer.
The keto-flu itself isn’t exactly breaking news, many dieters have reported a variety of adverse bodily reactions when first trying out a ketogenic diet. So, in an effort to attain authentic first hand accounts of the keto-flu, this study’s authors took a novel approach. They searched through 43 “online forums” (social media posts & platforms) that mentioned the keto-flu and put together 101 written accounts of relevant symptoms, their severity, and their duration.
“The experiences of symptoms by many people strengthens the evidence for side-effects following the initiation of a ketogenic diet,” says Dr. Emmanuelle Bostock of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research of the University of Tasmania, in a press release. “These consumers have the most immediate experience of effects and side-effects and many choose to report and share these in online forums.”
“We focused on social media because of its widespread use for discussion of health topics, which makes it practical to harness the experience of people who have tried the treatment in question,” Dr. Bostock continues. “In the present study, we responsibly and respectfully used public domain online forum posts and analyzed their content to produce new insights into side-effects of the ketogenic diet.”
Just like prior research had found, social media users complained of multiple symptoms; headaches, difficulty concentrating, stomach problems, and even classic flu-symptoms (sneezing, stuffy nose). Most of the time users reported more than just one of these symptoms.
If you find yourself wondering if you’re dealing with a keto-flu or legitimate coronavirus symptoms, the keto-flu is not known to cause an increase in body temperature. So, that appears to be a sure-fire way to make a distinction.
To be clear, in a vacuum the keto-flu really isn’t anything to stress out about. It’s just how many people’s bodies react to switching over to a keto diet. All things considered, the symptoms are relatively mild and disappear, in most cases, within two weeks.
Beyond the keto diet, and even Covid-19, this set of research is especially interesting because it illustrates just how helpful social media can be in regards to conducting research. In all likelihood, we’ll see more and more studies using social media to aid in data collection efforts and first-hand accounts.
Normally the keto-flu is just a bump in the road on one’s fitness or weight-loss journey, but these days life is anything but normal. Many of us already have hypochondriac tendencies, often exacerbated by frequent visits to WebMD, and the coronavirus is amplifying the anxiety. With all of this in mind, the added strain that a new keto-diet can put on the body, coupled with the possibility of worrying flu-like symptoms appearing, make it a venture not worth taking right now.
The full study can be found here, published in Frontiers in Nutrition.