Keto diet and electrolyte supplements
If you’re on a keto diet, you should be aware that you may need to take electrolyte supplements while you’re on the diet. A keto or ketogenic diet is a very low-carbohydrate, moderate protein, high-fat diet.
Numerous studies have documented the various benefits of the keto diet. It doesn’t just help you to lose weight, it can also help improve type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, acne, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ).
The keto diet has become very popular in recent years. If you’re transitioning from a regular diet to a keto diet, you should understand that this most often results in increased loss of water from your body.
When your body loses water, your blood levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium are likely to drop as a result. The subsequent drop in your blood levels of these important electrolytes will lead to the classical symptoms known as keto flu.
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The keto flu
Keto flu is used to describe a collection of symptoms that you are likely to experience when you first start the keto diet. These symptoms are similar to the flu and are caused by your body adapting to your new diet consisting of very little carbs.
You may not experience any side effects while transitioning to a ketogenic diet. Keto flu symptoms that you may have include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor coordination
- Sugar cravings
If you’re an athlete and you’re following the keto diet, you may also experience more fluid loss through sweating than non-athletes. This loss of water will ultimately result in you losing more electrolytes through sweating.
As keto diet popularity grows, there’s more interest as well, on how to optimize health while maximizing the benefits of the diet.
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Because the keto diet eliminates certain food options of importance from your diet, it causes levels of certain electrolytes in your body to drop. If this happens to you, you may experience some untoward symptoms.
You should take electrolyte supplements to replace mineral deficits caused by your diet. Some of these electrolyte supplements will also help reduce some of the adverse effects of keto flu. The mineral supplements you need include sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Sodium is an essential electrolyte in your body and helps to maintain the balance of water that is in, and around your cells. It is also very important for proper muscle and nerve function in your body.
The mineral also helps to maintain stable blood pressure levels in your system. If you’re on a low carb diet such as the keto diet, you should be okay with 1-3 teaspoons (7-17 grams) of salt per day.
The American Heart Association recommends that your daily sodium intake should not be more than 2.3 grams. Your body actually needs less than 500 mg of sodium per day to function.
Sodium deficiency & symptoms
The keto diet may cause a depletion of sodium in your body. When carbohydrate intake is extremely low in your body, your levels of electrolytes will also fall.
This includes your blood sodium levels. When your sodium level is low, you will feel unwell. You’re likely to experience certain symptoms that are associated with sodium deficiency.
The symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue (low energy)
- Muscle cramps or spasms
Treatment for low blood sodium
Even if you don’t have any symptoms, your doctor can regularly order a blood test to check your blood sodium level if you’re on the keto diet. This will determine if you need electrolyte supplements.
Low sodium levels mean that your body is not taking in enough sodium. You can prevent low blood sodium by keeping your water and electrolyte levels in balance.
If you have low blood sodium, it can be treated by adding more salt to your foods at mealtime. Adding sodium through your diet is your best strategy for replacing this mineral in your system.
You may be able to get enough sodium from the foods you eat if you were on a regular diet. If your sodium level is low, you may simply add more salt to your food.
Add a teaspoon of salt to and a liter of water and drink it over the course of one day. Alternatively, you can also drink some broth made with bouillon cubes to supplement your daily salt intake. This electrolyte supplement is necessary especially during the first two weeks of you being on the keto diet.
Because the keto diet reduces your body’s overall performance abilities during exercise, you should use added salt if you exercise regularly. You may take one-half teaspoon of salt a half hour before you exercise. This will likely boost and improve your performance.
If you have kidney disease, high blood pressure, or heart failure, you need to be more cautious about your sodium consumption. Consult your doctor before increasing your sodium intake.
Potassium is an important mineral in your body. It functions as an electrolyte, and it is the third most abundant mineral in your body.
This important mineral helps you to reduce blood pressure and water retention. It also helps your body’s nervous system to send nerve signals and regulate the contractions of your body and heart muscles.
To get more potassium in your diet, you can take potassium supplements. You can also add these keto-friendly potassium-rich foods to your diet:
- Cooked spinach
- Brussel sprouts
- Cooked broccoli
- Cooked mushrooms
Potassium deficiency & symptoms
If you’re on the keto diet, you may lack potassium. A drop in your blood levels of potassium can affect your body’s ability to generate a nerve impulse.
It is important that you get enough potassium daily for your optimal health. This becomes more important the older you get.
High blood pressure, kidney stones, strokes, and osteoporosis are more common as you get older. Also, being on a keto diet makes you lose sodium during ketosis.
If this happens, your body responds by reabsorbing more sodium and excreting potassium through your urine. Your body does this in an attempt to maintain its biochemical balance.
Symptoms of potassium deficiency are:
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle twitching
- Muscle cramps
To meet your daily requirement of potassium, you should consider taking potassium supplements. This is important if you’re unable to get your daily needs from potassium-containing foods.
You should consider taking the electrolyte supplements on an as-needed basis. Potassium supplements are typically available as 99 mg tablets.
Taking too much of any concentrated form of potassium can be dangerous. Consult your doctor before taking high doses of potassium. If you have kidney disease, high blood pressure, or heart disease, you should speak with your doctor before you start taking potassium supplements.
Recommended potassium supplements
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and it regulates diverse biochemical reactions in your body. This includes your muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and protein synthesis.
The mineral is required for your body to produce energy. It plays an important role in brain function and mood as well. Your body’s daily need for magnesium is about 400 mg.
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to get enough of it from your diet alone. It estimated that about 50% of the US population lacks the daily required dietary need for magnesium.
Low levels of magnesium in your body can cause an increased risk of depression. Magnesium can be found in many foods that you eat today. Sometimes, it’s not possible to get enough of it from just your diet alone.
Good sources of magnesium that you can include in your keto diet are:
- Pine nuts
- Chia seeds
- Dried pumpkin seeds.
Magnesium deficiency & symptoms
Magnesium deficiency is an electrolyte imbalance in which there is a low level of magnesium in your body. Long-term magnesium deficiency can adversely affect your bone density. In addition, it can affect your brain function, digestive system, and nerve and muscle function.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include:
- Weakness, and
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle spasms and cramps
- Numbness and tingling in extremities
- Poor coordination
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Personality changes
Prolonged magnesium deficiency can actually have adverse effects on your long-term health. It may increase your risk of having chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Your doctor may recommend that you take magnesium supplements if you have low blood magnesium. If you’re over 60 years and you’re on a keto diet, it may be necessary for you to take magnesium supplements. Magnesium absorption decreases with age.
Consult your doctor before taking magnesium supplements, especially if you have kidney disease.