Ketosis is one of the most discussed topics in recent years, and it has received a lot of praise as well as criticism from health experts. But what does ketosis mean? Is it healthy to be in ketosis? How does the keto diet plan work and help in weight loss? If yes, should everybody be doing it?
In this article, we are going to answer all these questions while providing some tips that can help you get into healthy ketosis. Let’s dive right in.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis refers to a metabolic condition in which the body uses ketones and fats instead of glucose (its preferred choice) to produce energy.
Put in simple words, ketosis occurs when your body does not have enough carbohydrates to burn to produce energy. In such a scenario, your body burns fat and makes things called ketones, which it can use for fuel. You’ll frequently come across the word ketosis while looking for information on diabetes or weight loss.
The biochemical process of ketosis
Following digestion, the human body stores glucose in the liver and releases it when needed for energy production. But the energy need of the body depletes these sugar stores after reducing carbohydrate intake significantly for 1 to 2 days. The liver can convert amino acids from protein into glucose. However, the quantity of produced glucose is too small to meet the brain’s needs.
Luckily, ketosis can give the body an alternative fuel to burn for energy: ketones.
When you are in ketosis, your body synthesizes ketones at a fast rate. Ketones are also known as ketone bodies. The body produces ketones from the fat that you consume. The three ketone bodies synthesized during ketosis are acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB).
In truth, the liver produces ketones regularly, even when you are on a carbohydrate-rich diet. The process mostly occurs overnight when you are sleeping, but the amounts of produced ketones are small. However, the liver accelerates the production of ketone bodies to provide energy for the body when the insulin and glucose levels reduce on a low-carb diet.
What is the optimal level of ketosis?
You are in ketosis when the healthy level of ketones in your blood gets to a certain threshold. The said level is believed to be at least 0.5 mmol/L of BHB.
However, around 1.5 – 3 mmol/l is called “optimal” ketosis by some. Then again, the concept of optimal ketosis is controversial, and it’s unclear if it offers any substantial benefits over the 0.5-1.5 level. Exceptions could be treating seizures or those interested in maximum mental and physical performance gains.
Both fasting and a ketogenic diet will force your body into ketosis. However, you can sustain only the latter for an extended period of time. As a matter of fact, for some, working with a keto diet seems to be a healthy eating plan that one can follow indefinitely.
Symptoms that show you are in ketosis
There are many signs which indicate that a person is in ketosis. Although, the best way to confirm it is by measuring your ketones. Ketones may be measured most accurately in the blood. However, it is also possible to measure the ketone levels in the urine using a ketone test strip.
Below are some common ketosis symptoms:
- Initial fatigue, later followed by a boost in energy levels
- Weight Loss
- Reduction in appetite and food consumption
- Dry mouth or a metallic taste in the mouth
- Muscle Cramps
- “Keto breath” or “fruity breath.”
- Increase in thirst as well as a higher frequency of urination.
What is keto flu?
The keto flu is not an actual flu or contagious in any way.
During the initial days of ketosis, our brain and other organs take some time to adapt to the new food pattern and new fuel. As the insulin levels drop, your body responds by excreting more sodium in the urine, along with water. Because of this, you will likely find yourself urinating more often in the first week.
Losing a lot of sodium and water is responsible for many of the unpleasant symptoms of keto flu.
Most people feel the group of symptoms during the first one or two weeks of a ketogenic diet, especially days 3-5. Common keto flu symptoms are:
- Difficulty focusing (“foggy brain”)
- Sugar cravings
- Muscle cramps
- difficulty sleeping
However, these symptoms are temporary, you’ll soon get over them and go back to feeling normal again.
What are the benefits of ketosis?
1. Promote weight loss
The ketogenic diet can help you lose weight. It supports weight loss in many ways, for example, by enhancing metabolism and lowering appetite.
Working with traditional keto diets include foods that make a person feel full and can reduce hormones that stimulate hunger. Therefore, following a ketogenic diet may lower appetite and encourage weight loss.
A 2013 meta-analysis of thirteen randomized controlled trials found that people who followed keto diets lost more pounds than individuals who followed low-fat diets.
Another review of 11 studies showed that those on keto diets lost 5lbs more than people who worked with low-fat diets after six months.
There are different types of keto diets that work on healthy weight loss, and you should consider the specific approach for ketosis according to your goal.
If you aren’t in a hurry to lose weight, the traditional keto diet may be the best approach for you.
Some people are looking to a keto diet for fast weight loss, and those people may do better with lower fat and increased protein approach. The diet process makes the speed of weight loss more predictable.
Additionally, it may be more suitable for the person who is looking to work with a keto diet to lose weight but has the goal of not staying on a keto diet for the long term.
2. Help with acne
There are many causes of acne, including stress, not washing off makeup, and using too many skin-care products. It has also been linked to diet and blood sugar (glucose) in some people.
Consuming a diet rich in refined and processed carbohydrates may affect the balance of bacteria in the gut. It can cause the levels of blood sugar to go up or down significantly. Both of these may harm skin health.
According to a study published in 2012, by lowering the intake of carbohydrates, a keto diet can work in favor to relieve acne symptoms in some individuals.
3. May mitigate the risk of certain cancers
Scientists have studied the effects of the keto diet in the prevention or treatment of some types of cancer.
A study reported that the keto diet might be a safe complementary treatment for cancer patients. The reason is that a ketogenic diet would result in more oxidative stress in cancer cells than in healthy cells. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. It can eventually lead to the death of the cancer cells.
A recent study indicates that since the keto diet lowers blood sugar, it could reduce the risk of insulin complications too. Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates blood sugar, which has been associated with some cancers.
Some research suggests that the keto diet can be helpful in cancer treatment. However, it is noteworthy that only limited studies are available in this area. Scientists need to conduct more research to fully know the possible benefits of the keto diet in the treatment and prevention of cancer.
4. May promote heart health
Research has shown that consuming healthy fats, like avocados rather than less healthy ones, like pork rinds, can enhance cardiovascular health by lowering the cholesterol level.
A review of studies of humans and animals on a ketogenic diet revealed some astonishing facts. The participants experienced a significant reduction in the level of triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein (LDL = bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol, and an increase in their levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL = good cholesterol). Having higher levels of HDL compared to “bad” LDL lowers your risk of heart disease
Elevated levels of cholesterol, especially bad cholesterol, can raise the risk of heart diseases. Therefore, the keto diet may reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular problems along with weight loss due to its reducing effect on cholesterol levels.
5. Protect brain function
According to studies, the ketone bodies produced during the ketogenic diet offer neuroprotective benefits. It means that they can strengthen and protect the cells of the brain and the entire nervous system.
A keto diet may, therefore, help manage medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. However, more studies are necessary to fully understand the effects of a keto diet on the brain.
6. May reduce seizures
The proportion of carbs, fat, and protein in a ketogenic diet changes the way the body generates energy.
An Epilepsy Foundation says that healthy ketosis may lower the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients, particularly those who are unresponsive to other treatment methods. More studies are needed on how great this works. But, for now, it seems to have more effect on babies with focal seizures.
7. Improves symptoms of PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS for short) is a hormonal imbalance condition. It can result in high levels of male hormones (androgens), abnormal ovulation, and polycystic ovaries, which leads to infertility. A diet rich in carbohydrates can induce or affect women with PCOS. It may cause rapid weight gain, hair loss, and skin complications.
There have been few studies on ketogenic diets and polycystic ovary syndrome. However, a pilot study of five women found that a keto diet significantly improves PCOS markers. These include hormone balance, weight loss, fasting insulin levels, and levels of FSH and LH.
Another review also found that a ketogenic diet had positive effects on people with hormonal disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and PCOS. But this does not mean that the eating plan is a recommended go-to treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome.
Like the cases in which people are seeking to use a keto diet for weight loss, there are subsets of the keto diet, like the Ideal Protein ketogenic diet. It is more appropriate to address these conditions.
How ketosis helps in PCOS
PCOS is another excellent example where working with a keto diet may be useful to correct the metabolic and hormonal imbalance. It will allow the woman to lose weight, rebalancing her biochemistry and, ultimately, return to a “normal” dietary lifestyle.
PCOS is considered an offshoot of metabolic syndrome. By far, the most successful keto diet we use in our practice at BioIntelligent Wellness is Ideal Protein, which corrects the underlying imbalance that causes PCOS. In fact, some of the most amazing Ideal Protein success stories come from women who gained weight due to PCOS. Just eating a high-fat diet and reducing carbohydrates will not deplete the insulin stores in the fat cells. In order to utilize fat stores, the diet must be hypocaloric. Also, and dietary fat consumption has to be lowered.
Additionally, after depleting the insulin and fat stores through weight loss, the pancreas must be “retrained.” It ensures that reintroducing carbohydrates into the diet does not recreate the vicious cycle of excess insulin secretion. We find that Ideal Protein is the best approach for women with PCOS who want to lose weight and correct the underlying imbalance that creates hormonal imbalances.
How to get into healthy ketosis
There are a lot of ways to get into nutritional ketosis.
- Lower your daily total carbohydrate intake: While you may not have to be this strict, you should consume less than 20 grams of carbohydrate per day. It almost guarantees to force your body into ketosis.
- Give intermittent fasting a try: Not eating for 16 to 18 hours can help you slip into ketosis very quickly. You can easily do this by intentionally missing dinner or breakfast.
- Don’t avoid fat: Consuming a lot of fat is an essential and delicious part of keto dieting! You should make sure your meals include a source of healthy fat.
- Cook using coconut oil: Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids that may increase ketone production and have other benefits.
- Exercise, if you can: When moving into ketosis, you may be initially struggling with fatigue and unable to do any strenuous physical activity. However, taking a short walk can help you achieve ketosis more quickly and easily.
Is being in ketosis safe for everyone?
For most people, being in ketosis is 100% safe and healthy. Ketosis can offer several health benefits, such as weight loss, optimal insulin and glucose levels, to mention but a few.
However, some individuals should only go with the keto way under strict medical supervision, whereas, others are better off staying away from the diet completely.
People with the following conditions need medical monitoring and to be under direct medical supervision when in ketosis:
- Hypertension on medication
- Kidney, heart, or liver disease
- History of gastric bypass surgery
- Type 1 diabetes
- Type 2 diabetes on medication:
People with these conditions should avoid ketosis:
- Nursing women
- Individuals with metabolic disorders usually detected in childhood. For example, enzyme deficiencies that affect the ability of the body to produce and utilize ketone bodies or to digest fats properly.
Wondering if a keto diet is right for you?
Depending on your symptoms and goals, a keto diet may be the fastest way for you to reach success. However, it’s important to select the right keto diet for your goals and lifestyle, including how quickly you would like to achieve your desired results.
If you have any questions regarding ketosis and whether it will be a healthy way for you to achieve your goals, give us a call at 858-228-3644 or go online to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced nutritionists.