What is a ketogenic diet?
The body runs on two different fuel sources; carbohydrates and fat. A ketogenic diet or “keto” diet is a diet in which carbohydrate intake is low enough that the body needs to supplement from other fuel sources to meet its energy requirements.
The body switches from using carbohydrates as the main fuel source to using fat for fuel.
When the body is low on sugar, the fat is converted in the liver into energy molecules called ketones. Being fueled mostly by fat is known as ketosis because ketones are a byproduct of fat burning.
In essence, you become a fat burning machine. There are many versions of ketogenic diets, but all restrict foods that are rich in carbohydrates. The diet typically includes plenty of meats, eggs, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables.
The Ketogenic Diet | Is it safe?
The ketogenic diet, while not appropriate for everyone all of the time, and not for certain medical conditions, is considered to be relatively safe and has been used for centuries to treat specific medical conditions, but it still needs to be used wisely as it is not appropriate for all people, and not at all times. In 1920 it was introduced as an effective treatment for epilepsy in children in whom medication was ineffective.
The ketogenic diet has also been tested and used in closely monitored settings for cancer, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease.1
Safety concerns of ketogenic diet depend on the level of carbohydrates restricted, the duration of the diet, and the characteristics of individuals.
Some side effects of various ketogenic diets can include; constipation and associated abdominal pain, and nausea which can be experienced in the first couple weeks. Some individuals may experience what is called the keto flu which includes; lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, drainage, difficulty exercising, and poor sleep.1 This occurs as the body adapts to using ketones for energy.
Many of these side effects can be lightened or eliminated completely by performing a keto diet under supervision of an experienced nutrition professional.
Some key safety tips include consuming protein from whole foods vs supplements, ensuring adequate fluid and electrolyte intake, and balancing healthy fats and unhealthy fats.
How long can I stay on a ketogenic diet?
Some people have success staying on keto for an extended period of time, however, “going keto” for an extended period of time can lead to specific nutrient deficiencies and low thyroid function. Since this is considered a restrictive diet, many people find that they can’t stay on keto for long.The key to keeping weight off post-keto is to adopt some of the healthy behaviors you developed on the diet.
How do I know if it’s right for me?
If you are an individual looking to lose weight and don’t have pre-existing issues with your adrenal glands, liver or kidneys, this may be a great diet for you. The best way to know is to go throug testing and consult a professional so they can see if it’s a good time for your body to “go keto”. If it isn’t you will not get the results you want and could end up feeling awful.
If your body is in a good space to do a ketogenic diet, a keto diet can help you take back control of your health. If you have type II diabetes or prediabetes, the ketogenic diet can help lower blood sugar and insulin levels. If you constantly have cravings, the ketogenic diet can lead to an automatic reduction in appetite.
Consult with a qualified professional for evaluation, guidance and to see if a ketogenic diet is right for you.