Just to be clear before we get into this, this is not a post about the Keto Flu. If you found this article looking for information about what to do about the Keto Flu, go here.
Getting the flu sucks but if you are new to the ketogenic diet and catch a cold or start to develop flu-like symptoms, you might feel a little unsure about the best way to handle the situation. It seems like every cough medicine or throat lozenge is mostly just sugar you can’t have and you aren’t sure what the best plan of action is to get over your sickness.
First the good news
The great news about being on the ketogenic is you will probably get a cold or the flu a lot less often. Keeping your blood sugar levels low makes you much less prone to infections as most infections thrive in a high sugar environment. I can tell you from personal experience I would get a cold about once a year and sleep for a day to get over it but in the last 5 years of being LCHF and Keto, I have felt under the weather once and only for a few hours. I didn’t even need to take a nap to get over it, it just kind of faded away over the course of the day.
How to Get Over a Cold or Flu
One of the major biological changes that happen as you transition to a ketogenic diet is you hold on to far less fluid, this means you are more likely to be dehydrated. As important as it is to well hydrated normally, it is even more important to be hydrated when you are sick. Your body will use that extra water to flush out the infection and get you back to normal. You can also use sugar free sports drinks like Powerade Zero or Gatorade Zero.
Eat More Salt
Because you retain less water, you will also retain less salt. Make sure that when you are sick, you take in more salt. The easiest way to do this is to make some chicken bone broth and salt it heavily. I like to use Redmond’s Real Salt because it is not just sodium but also contains other electrolytes like Magnesium and Zinc. Once you get to feeling a little better, you can chop up a little chicken and maybe steam a few veggies and add it to the broth to make a quick soup.
Just sit down. Take a nap. Sleep all day if you feel like it. Don’t be afraid to take a little time off and get over the sickness in order to fully heal.
I used to believe strongly in Vitamin C and Echinacea for colds but every time those supplements are studied, there is very little evidence they do anything to make you healthier faster. There seems to be a little evidence that zinc helps but it is hard to find a zinc supplement with no sugar. Although if I’m being honest, I still take Vitamin C and Echinacea.
That’s about it. Rest, stay hydrated and make sure you take plenty of electrolytes. You should be able to see improvement faster on keto than on a standard American diet. If you have to take cough syrup, look for something sugar free like Diabetic Tussin and sugar free cough drops are pretty widely available nowadays.