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Ketosis, Is It Healthy?

We have been hearing about Ketosis or Keto diet recently. It becomes increasingly popular especially on weight-loss programs. Is it healthy or not? Do the benefits outweigh its side effects? And if indeed it does, what should we do to achieve it?

Ketosis – it is a process that happens when the body does not have enough carbohydrates to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel.

How does it work?

In normal circumstances, the body’s cells use glucose as their primary form of energy. People can typically obtain glucose from dietary carbs, including sugars and starchy foods. The body breaks these down into simple sugars. Afterward, it either uses glucose as fuel or stores it in the liver and muscles as glycogen.

If there is not enough glucose available to provide enough energy, the body will adopt an alternative strategy to meet those needs. Specifically, it begins to break down fat stores and use glucose from triglycerides.

Ketones are a byproduct of this process. These are acids that build up in the blood and leave the body in the urine. In small amounts, they indicate that the body is breaking down fat. However, high levels of ketones can poison the body, leading to a condition called ketoacidosis.

Ketosis refers to the metabolic state in which the body converts fat stores into energy, releasing ketones in the process.

Ketosis Health Benefits

Ketosis can have some benefits beyond weight loss. Doctors may put children who have epilepsy on a keto diet because it can help prevent seizures. Adults who have epilepsy sometimes eat modified Atkins diets.

Some research suggests that ketogenic diets might help lower your risk of heart disease. Other studies show that specific diets very low in carbs help people who have diseases such as:

  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 diabetes

Researchers are also studying the effects of these diets on conditions including:

  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Nervous system diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Lou Gehrig's disease

7 Keto Risks to Keep in Mind

1. May lead to the keto flu

Carb intake on the keto diet is typically limited to fewer than 50 grams per day, which can come as a shock to your body. As your body depletes its carb stores and switches to using ketones and fat for fuel at the start of this eating pattern, you may experience flu-like symptoms. These include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and constipation — due in part to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that happen as your body adjusts to ketosis. While most people who experience the keto flu feel better within a few weeks, it’s important to monitor these symptoms throughout the diet, stay hydrated, and eat foods rich in sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes.

2. May stress your kidneys

High fat animal foods, such as eggs, meat, and cheese, are staples of the keto diet because they don’t contain carbs. If you eat a lot of these foods, you may have a higher risk of kidney stones. That’s because a high intake of animal foods can cause your blood and urine to become more acidic, leading to increased excretion of calcium in your urine. Some studies also suggest that the keto diet reduces the amount of citrate that’s released in your urine. Given that citrate can bind to calcium and prevent the formation of kidney stones, reduced levels of it may also raise your risk of developing them.

Additionally, people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) should avoid keto, as weakened kidneys may be unable to remove the acid buildup in your blood that results from these animal foods. This can lead to a state of acidosis, which can worsen the progression of CKD. What’s more, lower protein diets are often recommended for individuals with CKD, while the keto diet is moderate to high in protein.

3. May cause digestive issues and changes in gut bacteria

Since the keto diet restricts carbs, it can be difficult to meet your daily fiber needs. Some of the richest sources of fiber, such as high carb fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and beans, are eliminated on the diet because they provide too many carbs. As a result, the keto diet can lead to digestive discomfort and constipation.

4. May lead to nutrient deficiencies

Since the keto diet restricts several foods, especially nutrient-dense fruits, whole grains, and legumes, it may fail to provide recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals. In particular, some studies suggest that the keto diet doesn’t provide enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus. Notably, guidelines for clinicians who manage people on a very low-calorie keto diet for weight loss recommend supplementing with potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, psyllium fiber, and vitamins B, C, and E.

Keep in mind that the nutritional adequacy of this diet depends on the specific foods that you eat. A diet rich in healthy low carb foods, such as avocados, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables, provides more nutrients than processed meats and keto treats.

5. May cause dangerously low blood sugar

Low carb diets like keto have been shown to help manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In particular, some studies suggest that keto may help decrease levels of hemoglobin A1c, a measure of average blood sugar levels. However, individuals with type 1 diabetes may be at a high risk of more episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which is marked by confusion, shakiness, fatigue, and sweating. Hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death if not treated.

6. May damage bone health

The keto diet is also associated with impaired bone health. Several studies in animals link the keto diet to decreased bone strength, likely due to losses in bone mineral density, which may occur as your body adapts to ketosis.

7. May increase your risk of chronic diseases and early death

The ketogenic diet’s effect on your risk of chronic illness, such as heart disease or cancer, is hotly debated and not entirely understood. Some evidence suggests that high fat, low carb diets that focus on animal foods may lead to poor health outcomes, while diets that emphasize vegetable sources of fats and proteins provide benefits.

Test Your Ketones

You can find out how much ketosis is going on in your body by testing for ketones in your blood or urine. The easier way is to buy dipsticks for urine since they are readily available and are easily performed. You can buy these dipsticks or ketone test strips to check your pee at home.

The process of using keto strips/dipsticks looks like this:

  1. Wash your hands, then take a urine sample in a small container.
  2. Immerse the absorptive end of the strip into the sample for a few seconds, then remove.
  3. Wait for the amount of time outlined on the package for the strip to change color.
  4. Compare the strip with the color chart on the packaging.
  5. Dispose of the urine and the urine testing dipsticks as well in an appropriate manner before washing your hands.

How to read dipsticks?

Dipsticks for urine testing comes with a color chart that has information on how to interpret the color variations. The color corresponds to the concentration of ketones in your urine, which can range from no ketones to high concentrations. The darker the color, the higher your ketone levels.

How does Keto diet differ to that of the low-carb diet?

When following a keto diet, the goal is to reach nutritional ketosis. In this state, the body produces ketones from fat in the liver and uses these fats as its main fuel source instead of carbs. When following a low carb diet however, it is common to increase the intake of protein, healthy fats, and vegetables to replace the carbs and promote fullness.

Keto PROs and CONs

Low Carbs PROs and CONs

PROs

  • has therapeutic benefits, such as managing epilepsy
  • may improve insulin sensitivity
  • may reduce appetite
  • can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels

PROs

  • may promote weight loss
  • eliminates many processed high carb foods
  • can be sustained long term
  • less extreme adaptation phase than keto
  • less restrictive and easier to follow than keto

CONs

  • constipation is common due to low fiber intake
  • long-term data is limited
  • risk of the keto flu, which may include headaches, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, and lack of motivation
  • limits fruit intake
  • may be difficult to stick to for long periods

CONs

  • you may feel weak or experience constipation
  • limits food options
  • limits fruit intake
  • may impact micronutrient intake

 

Self-Care:

Most of us undergo diets to be physically healthy but we cannot also discount that some go through diets because of insecurities since they judge themselves according to their figure. Sometimes, we strictly adhere to these diet rules that we forget to have fun and enjoy our meals. This is where self-awareness comes in. What is Self-Awareness? As most of you may know, the simplest way to define self-awareness is being truthful to oneself. Being self-aware encourages self-care which is a good thing since it does not only focus on your physical self but on the mental, emotional, social and spiritual health as well. Think of several self-care ideas for yourself and incorporate them into your daily routine. You can create a self-care checklist or a self-care plan as well and let’s see how far they will take you.

Conclusion:

Ketosis occurs when our body starts to obtain energy from stored fat instead of glucose. It also has other health benefits aside from weight loss. However, it also has several risks/disadvantages and some (like ketoacidosis) can be life threatening.

In choosing whether to undergo a keto or a low-carb diet, the pros and cons of undergoing such should be considered. For most people, a low-carb diet is a preferable choice since keto diet tends to be more restrictive and may therefore result to poor adherence in the long run. To be safe, it would always be best to consult with your health care provider before starting any diet to prevent complications and reduce risks.

Lastly, the ultimate goal in every diet is a better YOU. Go for an overall self-care, not just physically. Remember that mental and emotional health count as well.

References

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