Are Headaches Normal On The Ketogenic Diet?

The keto diet, arguably the most popular diet for its dramatic weight loss results, promotes eating drastically fewer carbs and increasing foods higher in fat.

Although this method is extremely effective in both the short and long term, some people may experience side effects that can be intolerable at times. 

One of the big side effects of not following the proper guidance of the keto diet is headaches. 

If you’re new to the ketogenic diet, you might be wondering if there’s a way to have the headaches you’re experiencing go away.

Read below to understand more about why these headaches are occurring and what you can do starting today to minimize or make them stop completely. 

Why Do People Have Headaches On Keto?

A few things may be occurring that lead to having keto headaches, especially if you’re new to starting the diet. 

Blood Sugar

When not following a ketogenic diet, the main source of fuel is coming from your carbohydrate intake.

Carbs break down into sugar in the body in the form of glucose, which your body and brain use for energy.

When you replace your normal energy source with a new one like in the keto diet, the metabolic shift that happens can result in the headaches you’re experiencing. 

Your body is shifting into a state of ketosis, where you’re burning fat for energy, and this is now the body and brain’s primary fuel source.

As your body makes the shift to running off of ketone bodies and rids itself of excess glucose stores, your blood sugar may drop.

Due to this drop in blood sugar, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, and of course, headaches.

Being Dehydrated

One of the most common mistakes beginners make when starting on the ketogenic diet is forgetting to drink high levels of water.

As your body starts to enter into a state of ketosis, you will urinate pretty frequently as the excess water from stored carbs leaves your body. 

The stored glycogen in your liver and muscles are also bound to water, usually at a 1:3 gram ratio. (1)

Also, during this period, less insulin is being produced by your body. This is a hormone that aids in absorbing glucose from the blood. 

Removing carbohydrates from your diet will cause your body to produce insulin. (2)

There are other signs you may be dehydrated and should watch out for. 

If you have a dry mouth, bouts of dizziness, and vision impairment, you should hydrate immediately. (3)

Other Causes Of Headaches

There are also a few other reasons why you may be experiencing headaches on a ketogenic diet that you should be aware of.

Here are a few:

  • Medication overuse
  • Diuretics or water pills
  • Medication known for dehydration symptoms
  • Lack of high-quality sleep
  • High levels of stress
  • Meal skipping

If you plan on fasting while on the keto diet, be sure to know how it can affect your body. 

It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor about any dietary changes to be sure nothing conflicts with one another.

We now know that the two biggest factors of keto headaches are drops in blood sugar levels and dehydration.

Know the signs and adjust as necessary. 

Preventing Headaches On The Keto Diet

Combating keto headaches isn’t hard. You just need to know the steps to take to fix the issues you’re experiencing.

Headaches on keto will subside when your body is used to being in ketosis and burning fat as its main fuel source.

Here are a few ways where you can prevent getting headaches on the ketogenic diet. 

Add Salt

We mentioned above that being dehydrated can be a reason why you’re experiencing headaches. 

Since your insulin levels are not where they once were due to the restriction in carbs, you won’t have as much sodium in your body that you’re used to having.

Lack of salt and losing your stored water can be the combo that’s causing headaches for you. 

All you need to do is simply add a little salt to your water so that you’re replenishing the sodium levels your body needs. 

A few ways to get in more salt is through bouillon or bone broth. These are high in sodium and should be consumed as part of your diet.

Adding salt to every meal will help as well, so be sure to take advantage of this. As you know, it makes food taste great.

Consume More Fat

If you’re following the keto diet but not properly tracking your food intake, you may not be consuming as much fat as you should be.

Since this will now be your main energy source, it’s important to have around 70% of your daily calories come from fatty food.

Just because you’re consuming more fat than you’re used to doesn’t mean it’s enough, and your macro breakdown may be out of whack.

Fat tends to be more filling than the other two macronutrients, carbohydrates, and protein, so sometimes it’s easy to think you’re consuming enough when you’re not.

Using apps to track your food can be a huge help. 

Adding oils to your food will not only make your food taste better, but it’ll also add in more healthy fats to your diet. 

Coconut oil, olive oil, and grass-fed butter are some of the best fats you can consume.

Supplementation

While you shouldn’t use supplements as a replacement for any kinds of diet deficiencies, the use of certain supplements will greatly aid you on the keto diet.

Here are some vitamins and minerals that will be very beneficial to reduce getting keto headaches:

  • Fish Oil. High in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement.

    Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to lower triglyceride levels which are fat in your blood. (4)
  • L-carnitine. This is a very popular amino acid inside our bodies that protects our mitochondria and energy metabolism. 

    We produce L-Carnitine in our bodies, but adding this as a supplement is highly encouraged in the ketogenic diet due to its effects on blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. (5

    Here are a few variations you’ll see on the market: 
    • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
    • L-Carnitine Tartrate
    • L-Carnitine Fumarate
    • Propionyl-L-Carnitine
    • Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GPLC). 
  • Co-Enzyme Q10. CoQ10 is known for its antioxidant properties as well as being the central molecule for the creation of energy.

    Even though we make this in our bodies as well, this enzyme diminishes as we get older. Without this in our bodies, we cannot function, resulting in fatigue.
  • Exogenous Ketones. By taking an exogenous ketone supplement, you’ll be elevating your ketone levels as you start to adapt to starting the keto diet.

    This supplement has been shown to elevate Beta-Hydroxybutyrate levels while causing a decrease in blood glucose.

    Exogenous ketones are also high in electrolytes your body needs for high performance like calcium and magnesium.

    By adding in this supplement, it will drastically reduce the effects of headaches due to keto.

Exercising

Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand.

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of exercise, and you should start adding it into your weekly routines if you’re not already.

Exercise goes beyond just weight loss. It regulates your metabolism, stores energy more efficiently in your body, and stimulates fat burning both during and after exercise.

Combining exercise, fasting, and the ketogenic diet will drastically accelerate how long it takes for your body to go into ketosis and start burning fat.

As an added benefit, it helps with headaches as well. (6)

Summary

Don’t let keto headaches derail your progress or continuation of the ketogenic diet. 

Taking the right steps will help you give your body the nutrients it needs to avoid these headaches in the first place. 

However, if you still get them, just know that this is normal and can be part of the process.

It doesn’t last very long, and you’ll be enjoying the benefits of keto before you know it.

Remember to drink plenty of water, exercise, keep a close eye on your electrolytes and follow the advice laid out above to combat your keto headaches.

If you’re unsure about anything, always check with your doctor. They will be able to point you in the right direction. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *