Ketosis is defined as a natural metabolic process that involves the production of energy from the breakdown of fat into ketone bodies. This happens mostly during
- Starvation is when there is limited access to carbohydrates or glucose in the body, so the liver utilizes fat to provide most of the fuel for the body.
- Dieting, especially when eating an exceptionally low-carb diet, levels of the hormone insulin go down and fatty acids are released from body fat stores in large amounts. Many of these fatty acids are transported to the liver, where they are oxidized and turned into ketones (or ketone bodies). These molecules are utilized to provide energy for the body.
A ketogenic diet can help lose weight fairly quickly because it reduces the body’s stores of glycogen and water. However, in the long term, it can suppress the appetite, leading to a lower calorie intake. The body being in ketosis has several health benefits besides weight loss. Ketosis is safe in most healthy people, but it can have some side effects, especially in the beginning.
The easiest way to confirm ketosis in the body is by getting a test done using a ketone meter. This device is available in pharmacies. A urine sample can be used for the test.
Signs that suggest you are in ketosis
The following signs indicate the body is in ketosis:
Health benefits of ketosis
Following a ketogenic diet has several health benefits.
- Weight loss: The ketogenic diet may help promote weight loss in several ways, including boosting metabolism and reducing appetite. Ketogenic diets consist of foods that satiate a person and may reduce hunger-stimulating hormones. For these reasons, following a keto diet may reduce appetite and promote weight loss.
- Improvement in acne: Acne has several different causes. In some individuals, a diet high in sugar may spur an acne attack. Also, eating a diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates may alter the balance of gut bacteria and cause blood sugar to rise and fall significantly, both of which can adversely affect skin health. A ketogenic diet is believed to reduce acne symptoms in some people.
- Destroys cancer cells: Ketogenic diet is a safe and suitable complementary treatment to use alongside chemotherapy and radiation therapy in people with certain cancers. This is because it would cause more oxidative stress in cancer cells than in normal cells, causing them to die.
- Heart health: Eating healthful fats (such as avocados) instead of less healthful fats (such as pork rinds) helps improve heart health by reducing cholesterol. However, some cardiologists have expressed concern over the long-term safety of the ketogenic diet.
- Protect brain function: Ketones that are generated during the keto diet provide neuroprotective benefits, which means they can strengthen and protect the brain and nerve cells. A keto diet may help a person prevent or manage conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Effect on epilepsy: Ketosis can reduce seizures in people suffering from epilepsy, especially those who did not respond to other treatment methods. Many children with epilepsy have experienced significant reductions in seizures while following a ketogenic diet and some have seen complete remission.
Negative effects of ketosis
Ketosis is safe in most people, but it can have some negative effects, especially in the beginning. They are typically temporary and not serious. The negative effects include
- Keto flu: At the beginning of ketosis, people may experience a range of negative symptoms. They are often called the “low carb flu” or “keto flu” because they resemble symptoms of the flu.
- Bad breath: One of the more common side effects of ketosis is bad breath, often described as fruity and slightly sweet. It’s caused by acetone, a ketone that’s a by-product of fat metabolism.
- Leg cramps: Leg cramps in ketosis usually stem from dehydration and loss of minerals. This is because ketosis causes a reduction in water weight. Glycogen, the storage form of glucose in the muscles and liver, binds water. This gets flushed out during reduced carb intake. It’s one of the main reasons why people lose weight rapidly in the first week of a very low-carb diet.
- Digestive problems: Dietary changes can sometimes lead to digestive issues. This is also true for ketogenic diets and constipation is a common side effect in the beginning. This is most commonly caused by not eating enough fiber and not drinking enough fluids.
- Kidney problems: People with poor kidney function must avoid a ketogenic diet. The keto diet may increase the risk of kidney stones. Similarly, it stresses the liver to work more and produce ketones.
Individuals with poor kidney function, liver disorders, gallbladder stones and pancreatic problems should stay away from the keto diet unless approved by their healthcare provider.
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StatPearls: "Ketogenic Diet." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
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