The ketogenic diet has been a hot topic in the news lately. But what does ketosis really mean?
Nutritional ketosis is a dietary approach where the focus is on high fat, very low carbohydrate, and moderate protein. With a very low carbohydrate intake, your body will burn fat for fuel, the byproduct of which is ketones. Ketones then become the preferential fuel source for the body instead of a constant incoming stream of glucose. Therefore, once the body uses fat as its primary source of fuel you are then in a state of ketosis.
What are the benefits of ketosis?
Ketosis is a very useful tool for weight loss, as you can go from burning carbohydrates to burning stored body fat for energy. Many people also enjoy the beneficial side effects of increased energy, decreased appetite, improved mental clarity, and a more stable blood sugar. It is also a dietary method that is used to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders. More research is being done in regards to the benefits of ketosis in other medical conditions.
Is it safe?
Nutritional ketosis is often confused with diabetic ketoacidosis. These are two different conditions. In nutritional ketosis, you have elevated ketones, and low blood glucose. In ketoacidosis, your ketone levels are much higher and blood sugar is extremely elevated as well. This mainly occurs in Type I diabetics who don’t have the insulin to lower the ketones and blood sugar. This is a very dangerous condition whereas nutritional ketosis is not.
Research on the long-term effects of ketosis is currently underway. Often with the weight loss we see with ketosis, we see an improvement in diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, high triglycerides, low HDL, fatty liver, and other obesity-related comorbidities. LDL does need to be monitored as it can increase in some patients. If this is the case, we may recommend further cardiovascular risk assessment.
How do I get into ketosis?
Transitioning into ketosis is a process and there is no one perfect way to approach it. You can slowly minimize your carbohydrates over time until reaching ketosis, or just jump right in. We sometimes recommend using meal replacements to initially get into ketosis. You may develop flu-like like symptoms termed “keto flu”. These symptoms can consist of nausea, muscle soreness, poor focus, dizziness. This can last from a couple of days to a week. If it persists longer than this, this should be discussed with your practitioner. We have specific supplement recommendations to help minimize your symptoms.
We recommend ketosis be medically monitored, especially for those individuals with medical conditions such as diabetes. You can lose water weight very quickly which can cause electrolyte imbalances and fluid shifts. This can create the temporary symptoms of ‘keto flu’ or more serious side effects such as dizziness or blood pressure concerns. These electrolytes, including potassium and magnesium, should be replaced. Medications often need to be adjusted and side effects monitored. Labs should be checked before and during ketosis as well.
Can I ever have a piece of bread again if I get into ketosis?
We do not feel that ketosis needs to be strictly followed indefinitely. It is a good idea to follow it closely for the first month or two though. After that, you should be more “metabolically flexible” so that you can tolerate some carbohydrate in your diet and then be able to get back into a state of ketosis easily. Some people may even do well with carbohydrate cycling where you have higher carbohydrate days or meals throughout the week or month. This needs to be individualized.
How do I know if ketosis is right for me?
If you are interested in ketosis and if it may be right for you, please schedule an appointment with us to see if you are an ideal candidate. It is not the right approach for everyone. It can be a great tool for some people, but again, should be medically monitored and individualized.
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