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Ketosis and What You Should Know | A Peek to Wellness

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What does our body do when it doesn’t have enough glucose to use for energy?

It has to find another source of fuel.

But how?

Through ketosis. 

Ketosis is a process that our body undergoes when it doesn’t have enough glucose to burn for energy. 

When this happens, it turns fat into ketone bodies. [1]https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

The process of ketosis is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated to understand it. 

In this article, we discuss ketosis.

Let’s get started.

What is Ketosis?

t-bone-steak-on-plate
Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

Carbohydrates broken down into glucose is the primary source of energy for our bodies. [2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/

When carbohydrate intake is low, our body needs a back-up plan to meet its energy needs. 

The first plan is to use the stored carbohydrates which is known as glycogen. 

When that storage is gone, the next step is using the fat in our bodies. 

When body fat becomes the new source of fuel, the liver converts it into products called ketone bodies. [3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5313038/

This conversion process is ketogenesis. [4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/

When the body regularly produces and uses these ketone bodies at a certain level, the body enters a particular metabolic state. 

This state is called ketosis

Ketone bodies provide energy to many organs, including the heart, kidneys, and brain. The end products end up in the urine. 

Your cells use these ketone bodies as new sources of energy. Ketosis occurs typically during fasting, starvation, or pregnancy. 

They are regularly produced by our bodies usually when we are sleeping but this production is in very tiny amount. These ketones are excreted from the body through urine.

Benefits of Ketosis

steak-with-lime-and-fries
Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

There are so many benefits of Ketosis. Here are a few of them:

  • Regulated Appetite. Many people have experienced feeling fuller and less hungry when they are in ketosis. Even studies have shown that ketosis suppresses appetite. This is because of the cut in carb intake. You only eat when you feel hungry. [5]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17228046/
  • Weight loss. Ketosis enhances fat burning and ultimately helps in reducing weight by reducing appetite and increasing metabolism. As in keto diet, carbs is low, which helps eliminate extra water from the body, which aids in rapid weight loss. Ketosis also leads to weight loss through fat breakdown. [6]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12430970/, [7]https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa022637,[8]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12761365/
  • Increased athletic performance. If you are an endurance athlete, ketosis may help improve performance. It provides a long-term fuel supply during sustained exercise. However, athletes involved in short, rigorous, and high-intensity sports may not benefit from ketosis. [9]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6863116/
  • Improves several brain disorders. Ketosis has tremendous effects on brain disorders such as epilepsy. Researches have shown that ketosis may help reduce epileptic seizures. [10]https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2006.00906.x Also, when epilepsy medications aren’t working on patients, ketosis appears to be a solution. It also appears to improve cognitive function. [11]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6286979/
  • Lower blood pressure. Research shows that ketosis lowers the blood pressure and also reduce the risk for developing various related diseases. [12]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17341711/,[13]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20101008/,[14]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16409560/
  • Increased HDL cholesterol. High density lipoprotein also known as “good cholesterol,” decreases the chances of cardiovascular diseases. The best way to increase HDL is a diet high in fats and low in carbs, aka being in a fat-burning state. [15]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12761365/,[16]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19439458/
  • Decreases abdominal fat. Abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, is responsible for many diseases. Excess visceral fat leads to inflammation and insulin resistance. Burning fat is one way which helps people getting rid of this fat. It loses abdominal fat faster and efficiently than many other diets. [17]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15533250/
  • Reduce blood sugar. Ketosis can lower the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. [18]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16403234/,[19]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2633336/

Potential Risks of Ketosis

bowl-of-fresh-vegetables
Photo by Anna Pelzer

While there are many benefits of ketosis, you should also beware of the potential risks:

  • Hard to stick maintain. One problem with ketosis is that many people might have trouble maintaining it. Getting into fat-burning requires major changes in what you eat. One study showed participants had a low rate of sticking to the required diet. [20]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4302176/
  • Keto Flu. Transitioning to a state of fat-burning is an unfamiliar experience for your body. The initial period involves a series of flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. This can last from a few days to a few weeks for some people. [21]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
  • Digestive Issues. A major change in the foods that you eat can cause some problems with your digestive system as it adjusts to this change. Some common side effects include diarrhea and constipation. [22]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-ketosis#section9
  • Short-term gallstones. If you get gallstones, you may experience a reappearance of these gallstones as your gallbladder gets used. However, continuing a diet high in fat, which requires your gallbladder, decreases the chances that more gallstones will appear after the initial time. [23]https://gut.bmj.com/content/54/6/823.abstract
  • Kidney stones. Someone trying to get into a fat-burning state has an increased risk of kidney stones due to the nutritional imbalance caused during the transition period. Short-term pain from any passing kidney stone gets better with high-fluid intake and that it gets better over the long-term. [24]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852806/#__sec3title

Ketosis versus Ketoacidosis

Ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis are completely different from each other. 

It is important not to get the two mixed up. 

Ketosis

Nutritional ketosis is when the body gets energy by burning fat instead of glucose.

Ketosis occurs through a low-carb and high-fat diet. 

As long as the diet involves healthy foods and practices, ketosis is not harmful. 

Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis is a medical emergency that occurs in Type 1 diabetic patients when their body insulin levels become very low. Their blood sugar is high, and they have too many ketones in the blood. 

Ketoacidosis disturbs the blood’s acid-base balance by increasing blood sugar and ketones to baleful levels. 

It makes people feel extremely ill and suffer from any of the following: [25]https://www.healthline.com/health/ketosis-vs-ketoacidosis#symptoms

  • extreme dehydration
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain 
  • fatigue
  • fruity-smelling breath
  • confusion

 Symptoms of ketoacidosis might be signs of diabetes and should be treated right away. 

If you are having any of those signs, please consult with your doctor as soon as possible. 

Is ketosis safe for everyone?

Ketosis provides health benefits for almost everyone, but restrictions exist for people suffering from serious medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease, pregnancy, and breastfeeding women.

Always talk with your doctor before entering a fat-burning state. 

How do You know that You are at Ketosis?

Ketosis doesn’t happen right away. 

Generally, it takes a week or more of reduced carbohydrate intake to enter a fat-burning state. 

This means under 50 grams of carbohydrates a day. [26]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis#timing 

There are several signs that your body is in ketosis:

  • Keto Breath. If your breath smells bad like acetone or any other metallic substance, you might be burning fat. Keto breath is often caused by acetone build-up. Acetone is an ingredient in nail paint. Acetone, along with beta-hydroxybutyrate and acetoacetate are the ketone bodies that your body produces. [27]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12081817/,[28]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-into-ketosis#signs
  • Weight loss. Losing weight is one of the main signs that your body is at ketosis. A person might experience rapid weight loss soon after getting on keto diet. This happens because our body experiences a rapid loss of water and glycogen.[29]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1615908/ With time, the weight loss comes from fat as it is used as fuel.
  • Less appetite. It appears that ketosis reduces the level of ghrelin and cholecystokinin, hormones responsible for appetite. As such, burning fat for fuel seems to decrease the feeling of wanting to eat. [30]https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/obr.12230
  • Short-term Fatigue. Your body will experience tiredness when first switching into ketosis. When you consume fewer carbs, your body is forced to move to an unfamiliar metabolic state. The body will start losing more water along with glycogen. Ultimately, you will suffer from dehydration and electrolyte depletion that leads to fatigue. When your body adjusts to burning fat, this fatigue should disappear. [31]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-ketosis#section7
  • Digestive problems. Keto diet is about fewer carbs and high fat. For many people, this involves a major change in the foods that you eat. Your stomach needs time to get used to this change, and issues such as constipation and diarrhea are common side effects. [32]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-ketosis#section9
  • Insomnia. An issue with sleep is another possible side effect of the transition period involved with ketosis. Once your body adapts, insomnia should disappear. [33]https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-signs-and-symptoms-of-ketosis#section10
  • Muscle Cramps. Ketosis causes your body to release a lot of water initially. Along with the water goes many electrolytes, important for nerve endings. An electrolyte imbalance related to transitioning into fat-burning may lead to muscle cramps. [34]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5858534/

How to Keep your Body at Ketosis?

washed-dandelion-greens-in-collander

Keeping your body at a fat-burning state isn’t a piece of cake. 

You have to minimize your carbohydrate intake. 

You will also need protein while following a keto diet. But the protein intake should also be limited. 

It is crucial because when more protein is consumed than the required amount, the body will convert it into carbohydrates.

You kick yourself out of this state. 

Another way to keep your body at in this state is through intermittent fasting, limiting the time you eat. 

The Keto Diet

The main goal of the keto diet is to enter ketosis by limiting carbohydrate intake. 

Weight loss occurs with the initial loss of water during the transition period and the breakdown of stored fat into energy. 

Keto diets are rich in fat and less in proteins and crabs.

We talk more about the keto diet here.

Main Takeaways

man sitting down with checklist

Ketosis benefits the body and brain in incalculable ways. 

The ketones produced during ketosis are what our brain needs to function correctly. 

Also, it provides an excellent opportunity to lose weight by making you less hungry. 

It improves cognitive ability and reduces the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. 

Many of these benefits, when weighed against the concerns make, ketosis an exciting condition for many. 

However, always consult your doctor before opting for ketosis.

If you are interested in getting into ketosis, check out our Ultimate Guide to the Keto Diet.

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