At the core of the classic keto diet is severely restricting intake of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates). These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in our blood once we eat them, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain. However, when glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb intake, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood (using urine strips, for example).
One study from 2005 followed 22 people with Type 1 Diabetes for 12 months. The difference here however is they consumed 70-90 grams of carbohydrates per day versus the restrictive less than 20 grams per day on the Ketogenic Diet. Remember my motto? Moderation is the key! The results were positive; less hypoglycemia, insulin requirements were reduced and their A1c dropped from 7.5% to 6.4%.
“Suddenly and drastically reducing carbohydrates sets your body up for a double whammy of sorts,” says Yawitz. “The brain’s favorite fuel is glucose, which is most easily created from carbohydrates. In very-low-carb diets, the brain has to adjust to using ketones from digested fats for energy. To add to this discomfort, your kidneys release more electrolytes as insulin levels fall.” Additionally, your total body water decreases as carbohydrates become depleted on a keto diet, notes Clark. The result? What’s known as the keto flu, which could cause constipation, nausea, headache, fatigue, irritability, cramps, and other symptoms. Don’t fret, though: Many of these symptoms are short term and should last only a few days to weeks. Make sure to drink plenty of water to help your body cope with these symptoms. And call your doctor if symptoms — especially nausea — are prolonged, advises Yawitz.
It’s important we distinguish between the process of ketoacidosis seen in type 1 diabetes and this ketosis that so many people on the keto diet are striving for. If someone with diabetes lacks enough insulin and/or does not eat enough carbohydrates, they risk entering a state known as ketoacidosis. For those with uncontrolled diabetes, this can increase the levels of ketones in the blood, increasing the acidity of the blood, and potentially leading to a coma or even death. In ketosis for a healthy individual, the level of ketones in the blood never reaches these crazy high levels so it’s generally safe for the average healthy individual.
Imagine your body is a home with a fireplace in the middle and the heat required to keep it at a comfortable\livable temp is keeping the fireplace burning at a manageable and constant pace. To do this you have two fuel-types at your disposal: Kerosene and Charcoal. (in this analogy Kerosene is carbohydrates and coal is fat). American diets are high in carbs, which is like throwing a bucket full of kerosene on that fire. Will it keep the house warm? Sure, but it burns down fast so you have to keep throwing bucket after bucket on it to keep it going, consuming tons of kerosene, and you get these huge spikes in heat. It is much harder to control the strength of the flame, and thus much harder to keep the house at a constant, comfortable temp.
The ketogenic state in particular can increase the hormones that make you feel full and decrease the hormones that make you feel hungry. Sounds great, right? Well, once you’re off the keto diet, the appetite-suppressing hormones will increase significantly from your baseline. Meaning that you’ll likely feel even hungrier than you did before you started!
As Mark Sisson puts it, doing a keto reset restores our “factory settings,” which is our flexibility to alternate between different types of fuels and stored fats for energy, depending on what’s available. This flexibility has allowed humans to thrive for millions of years because hunter-gatherers didn’t always have access to constant abundance and variety of foods that we have today.
After 32 weeks, those in the keto diet group lowered their HbA1c more than those in the plate group with more than 50% achieving a reduction to less than 6.5%, basically reversing their diabetes. None in the plate group did this well. As for weight loss, those in the keto low-carb group lost on average of 28 pounds, while those in the plate group lost an average of 6.6 pounds.1
Controlling your blood sugar levels helps you control your cravings, Dr. Burrows says. “When we are not on a sugar roller coaster from processed carbohydrates, most people make better food choices because they are not looking for their next hit of food,” she says. You may also find you’re able to go longer periods without eating, he says. Intermittent fasting is a common practice among dieters who’ve been eating keto for a while. Learn how one woman totally kicked her sugar habit by trying the keto diet.
If you’re wondering why iron is at risk on a meat-based diet, hear me out. Many grain foods provide a considerable amount of iron, because wholegrains naturally contain iron in their inner layer called the ‘germ’. Another reason is that some grain products can have iron added to them during manufacturing. So, once you cut grains out, your iron status could suffer, which can lead to unpleasant symptoms like tiredness and lethargy. It can even compromise your immune system.