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Ketosis
Updated on January 31, 2024
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Ketosis or nutritional ketosis is a metabolic state your body enters after restricting your carbohydrate intake. It occurs when your body turns to fat reserves for energy, producing ketones as fuels.

Most people learn about ketosis or experience it when following a low-carbohydrate diet. Low-carb dieting is effective for weight loss and can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes.

Ketosis 2

How Do You Achieve Ketosis?

You achieve ketosis by limiting the number of carbohydrates consumed. For most people, ketosis occurs after approximately three to four days of consuming fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Two of the most popular low-carb diets – the Atkins diet and the keto diet – restrict carb intake to no more than 20 grams a day temporarily or permanently. To make up for the deficit, dieters must consume high amounts of other macronutrients, including fat and protein.

There are pills or supplements in powder or oil form that claim to raise your ketone levels. The jury is still out on whether they are effective or even safe. It’s important to speak to your doctor before using this or any other dietary supplement.

Summary

Ketosis can be achieved by limiting carbohydrate intake. For most people, it occurs after consuming fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day for three to four days. Supplements in the form of pills or powders that claim to raise ketone levels are available.

What Are The Benefits of Ketosis?

Ketosis provides many health advantages. Here are some of the most significant benefits of achieving ketosis.

Aids in weight loss

A low-carb diet helps curb your appetite, which can lead to weight loss. Studies show that cutting your carbs and adding more protein or fat allows you to eat fewer calories.1

Additionally, cutting down on carbs can help you lose water weight quickly within the first two weeks of dieting. This is because carbs are linked to glycogen, a form of glucose stored in your muscles that helps your body retain water.2

When you cut down on carbs, your body trims down its glycogen stores, causing you to lose some water weight along with fat. However, it's important to note that the initial weight loss from reduced glycogen stores may include water weight in addition to fat loss.

Helps manage blood sugar levels for Type 2 diabetes

Low-carb dieting is also recommended for some people with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance.

Carbs can increase your blood glucose more than other food, raising the body’s insulin level as well. Cutting down your carb intake can help manage your blood sugar level.

However, the extent to which low-carb diets are effective for people with diabetes may still vary depending on factors like medication use and overall health.

Helps manage epilepsy

Initially, the keto diet was recommended for seizure-prone children. Modern physicians introduced ketosis in the 1920s as a part of treatment for epilepsy.3

Ketosis mimics the metabolism of fasting, which helps lessen the occurrence of seizures. Some adults with epilepsy also eat a modified Atkins diet to achieve a ketosis state.3

There are also studies underway concerning the effect of ketosis on health conditions including

  • Some types of cancer
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Nervous system disorders, including ALS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s

Summary

Achieving a ketosis metabolic state has health benefits. It helps in faster weight loss, mostly by helping rid of excess water weight. It can also help manage blood sugar levels and epilepsy seizures.

What Are The Side Effects of Ketosis?

Low-carb diets are generally safe for most people. But it's important to discuss dietary changes with your doctor before making significant adjustments.

Reducing carb intake can improve the diets of many Americans and lead to weight loss. However, during the early stages of ketosis, the body may experience some unpleasant side effects as it adjusts to this condition.

The most common negative side effects of ketosis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Brain fog
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle soreness
  • Nausea
  • Stomachache
  • Sugar cravings

Increasing water consumption during the early stages of ketosis can ease or prevent many of these symptoms. It's also important to note that a common risk among people who follow very low-carb diets is kidney stones.

Kidney stones are especially risky for young children in ketosis. To reduce the risk of kidney stones, doctors recommend taking potassium citrate supplements.

Summary

During the early stages of ketosis, you may experience symptoms including dizziness, fatigue, headache, and so on. They should go away as your body adjusts to ketosis. Increasing your water intake should help relieve these side effects.

What Is Ketoacidosis and How Is It Different From Ketosis?

Ketoacidosis is another metabolic state related to, but distinct from, ketosis. Ketosis occurs when the body turns to fat stores for energy when it doesn’t get enough glucose from food.

It typically happens by reducing carbohydrate or caloric intake. It can also occur during pregnancy or after exercising. Healthy people who eat a proper diet can usually burn fat without their bodies producing excessive ketones.

However, people with uncontrolled diabetes might be in danger if their body switches to ketosis because the diabetic body cannot process and eliminate ketones properly.

This can lead to a ketoacidosis state where the buildup of ketones, dehydration, and a chemical imbalance, eventually causes the blood to become acidic. Ketoacidosis can cause coma and/or death.

Ketoacidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when a diabetic person does not make enough insulin or if they are dehydrated or sick.

Although it is less common, non-diabetic people can also develop ketoacidosis, particularly among alcoholics, people with overactive thyroids, and those who are experiencing starvation.

Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Confusion
  • Dry, flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urine output
  • Fatigue
  • Fruit-smelling breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Thirst
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting

Vomiting is especially risky for diabetics. It speeds up the process of diabetic ketoacidosis. Within just a few hours someone can experience a coma.

If you or a loved one is diabetic and experiencing vomiting for more than two hours, seek medical attention.

Summary

Ketoacidosis is another metabolic state related to ketosis. It is considered a medical problem. Ketoacidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when a diabetic person does not make enough insulin. It might also occur if they are dehydrated or they are sick, or injured.

How To Check Your Ketones Level?

One of the best ways to monitor ketones for dieting or to ensure you aren’t experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis is to perform ketone testing. Testing allows you to determine the level of ketones in your blood or urine. 

Ketone Urine Test

Ketone urine testing is done with test strips that are inserted into your urine stream. The test strips change color indicating the level of ketones in your urine. 

Blood Glucose Meter

Some blood sugar meters can also measure blood ketones. Typically, you'll need to prick your finger using a device. Next, you'll collect a drop of blood onto a ketone test strip inserted into the meter. The meter shows your blood ketone levels.

Your doctor can help you if you aren’t sure about testing or don’t know how to interpret your test results. 

Summary

Ketone testing allows you to check the levels of ketones in your blood or urine. It ensures that your body stays within the healthy range of ketone levels and that your body isn't experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis.

Should I Attempt to Achieve Ketosis?

Before attempting to achieve ketosis, it's essential to discuss your health and weight loss goals with your doctor to determine if this approach is right for you.

They can help assess any potential risks and provide guidance on how to achieve and maintain ketosis safely.

Additionally, it's important to follow a well-balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs, even while limiting carbohydrate intake.

Updated on January 31, 2024
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3 sources cited
Updated on January 31, 2024
  1. Cutting Carbs, Not Calories, May Be Key To Long-Term Weight Loss.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  2. Weight Loss - Common Myths.” Better Health Channel. 
  3. History Of The Ketogenic Diet.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown
Content Contributor
Kelly has experience working with clients in a variety of industries, including legal, medical, marketing, and travel. Her goal is to share important information that people can use to make decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. From choosing the best treatment programs to improving dental and vision health to finding the best method for helping anyone who is struggling with health issues, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.
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