Ketosis refers to when the body utilizes fat more than carbohydrates to fuel itself. Ketosis is a normal occurrence during fasting. It also occurs in individuals who are on a ketogenic diet comprised of low carbohydrates, moderate proteins, and plenty of fats.
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A ketogenic diet has several benefits including weight loss, improved energy levels in the body, enhanced mental health, and mood stabilization. Ketosis has potential health benefits. It also has possible side effects. Ketosis in type 1 diabetics is extremely dangerous so this article is not for them.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is caused by following the ketogenic diet which involves consuming foods that are rich in natural fats, moderate in proteins, and low in carbohydrates. It is also known as the ketosis diet due to the ketosis effect. Ketosis occurs when the glucose obtained from carbohydrates such as grains is reduced forcing the body to utilize fats as the primary source of energy. The body prefers using saturated fats as the second source of energy when carbohydrates are not available.
The body’s cells normally use glucose as the source of energy. When glucose is not accessible, the body cells burn fat and produce ketones instead. Ketosis results following a rise in the blood levels of ketones to a certain threshold. Ketosis leads to a quick and consistent weight loss until an individual attains a healthy and stable body weight.
How Ketosis Works
The following is a summary of how ketosis works:
· The intake of glucose sourced from foods rich in carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables, carbohydrates, and fruits is reduced.
· The body is forced to find a different source of energy. Saturated fats obtained from foods such as avocados, salmon, and coconut oil are used to provide fuel.
· Due to the absence of glucose, the body breaks down fats resulting in the production of ketones.
· The rise in the levels of ketones to a certain point results in a state of ketosis. An individual starts experiencing symptoms that are associated with ketosis.
· Ketosis leads to a quick and steady weight loss. An individual loses body weight consistently until they obtain a stable and healthy body weight.
Ketosis occurs when the liver metabolizes fats into fatty acids and glycerol. The process of fat breakdown by the liver is known as beta-oxidation. The three primary types of ketone bodies produced by the liver include acetone, hydroxybutyrate, and acetoacetate.
The body breaks down these fatty acids into ketone bodies which are rich in energy. The ketone bodies that are produced from the breakdown of fatty acids circulate through the bloodstream. The process by which the fatty acids are broken down is known as ketogenesis. Acetoacetate is responsible for supplying energy to the body.
A ketogenic diet is aimed at burning fats to produce energy. The diet is achieved by eating foods that are low in carbohydrates, moderate in proteins, and high in natural fats. Foods such as processed snacks, bread, and cereals are avoided. Foods that are rich in diet fats such as grass-fed beef, butter, fish, and non-starchy vegetables are eaten in large quantities.
The rate at which ketosis occurs depends on several factors. Ketosis may depend on how strictly an individual avoids carbohydrates foods, the medical history, energy needs, genetics, and the body composition.
Benefits Of Ketosis
1. Weight Loss
Ketogenic diets are a very efficient way to lose weight. Several studies on weight loss have revealed that an individual is likely to experience both short-term and long-term weight loss effects when they begin to follow the ketogenic diet. Some people will experience a fast weight loss during the first week of the ketogenic diet. The weight loss will go on in a steady and consistent manner until an individual attains a stable body weight.
2. Appetite Suppression and Reduced Cravings
Individuals following a ketogenic diet mostly report decreased hunger. The reasons for hunger reduction are not well understood. Some scientists have suggested that it may be due to increased protein levels and vegetable intake which alters the body’s hunger hormones. The ketone bodies may also reduce appetite by affecting the brain.
3. Enhanced Focus and Energy Levels
At first, followers of the ketogenic diet will report tiredness, brain fog, and feeling sick. The symptoms are also known as “keto flu” or “low carb flu.” Individuals who follow the ketogenic diet over an extended period often experience increased focus and body energy levels. The brain fog occurs because a large of the brain begins to breakdown ketones instead of glucose. It may take a few weeks for the brain to start working properly. Several medical studies have revealed that ketone bodies are a potent energy source to the brain. They have been used to treat several conditions such as memory loss and concussion. Long-term ketogenic dieters will often report improved mental health and increased clarity. Lowering carbohydrate intake may also help stabilize the blood sugar concentration.
4. Improved Blood Sugar Control and Cardiovascular Health
The ketogenic diet has been shown to improve health conditions that are associated with poor blood sugar control, poor gut health and overeating. Through the stabilization of the blood sugar level, ketosis helps reduce several health concerns such as indigestion, diabetes, hypertension, and heart-related diseases.
Side Effects Of Ketosis
Individuals often report bad breath after attaining full ketosis. Most people on ketogenic diet report that they experience a fruity smell. The fruity smell is caused by the elevated levels of ketone bodies in the blood.
The primary cause of the bad breath is acetone which exits the body through urine and breath. Many individuals who follow the ketogenic diet prefer using sugar-free gum to help fight the bad breath. Others brush their teeth several times a day to reduce the intensity of the bad breath. The bad breath usually goes away after some time.
Lack of sleep is one of the significant issues that affects the ketogenic diet followers. Insomnia is commonly experienced when an individual first changes their diet. Most ketogenic dieters report waking up at night or insomnia when they first change their diet. However, the lack of sleep improves in a matter of weeks.
Increased fatigue is one of the most well-known side effects of the ketogenic diet. Weakness and fatigue have caused many people to quit the ketogenic diet before attaining full ketosis. Increased intake of electrolyte supplements may help reduce the weakness and fatigue. Electrolytes are lost during the ketogenic diet because of the constant reduction in the level of body water.
Increased Levels of Ketone Bodies In The Blood
One of the most common symptoms of ketosis is the reduction in blood glucose levels and an increase in the levels of ketones. As you progress further into the ketogenic diet, the body begins to burn fats and ketones as the primary sources of fuel. Ketosis is usually measured by measuring the levels of ketone bodies in the blood. The blood ketone levels in measured using a specialized meter. The instrument measures the levels of ketone bodies by calculating the amount of the hydroxybutyrate present in the blood.
According to some experts, nutritional ketosis occurs when the blood levels of ketone bodies range from 0.5-3.0 mmol/L. Determining the levels of ketone bodies in blood is the most accurate method of measuring ketosis. Most research studies on ketosis prefer using this method.
Increased Levels of Ketone Bodies In Urine And Breath
Ketosis results in high levels of ketone bodies in your urine and breath. Acetone is the primary ketone body that is found in urine and breath. The high levels of acetone in urine and breath provide another way of measuring ketosis. Acetone breath analyzers are used to determine the levels of acetone present. Special indicator strips are also used to identify levels of acetone in urine. However, these methods are less accurate and not very reliable.
A ketogenic diet involves a change in the type foods eaten by an individual. Followers of the diet are likely to experience digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation. However, most of the digestive issues will subside after the transition period. It is important to note the particular foods that may be causing the digestive problems. It is also advisable to eat plenty of healthy non-starchy vegetables. They are rich in fiber which may help improve the digestive problems.
A reduced intake of carbohydrates results in a general feeling of weakness and fatigue. Most ketogenic dieters will experience a drop in exercise performance. Reduced performance occurs as a consequence of a reduction in the muscle's glycogen stores. Glycogen that is stored in the muscles provides the primary and efficient source of fuel for all forms of exercise. However, after several weeks of following the ketogenic diet, individuals report improvement in their performance.
Final Thoughts On Ketosis
Ketosis results from following the ketogenic diet which is comprised of foods rich in natural fats, moderate in proteins and low in carbohydrates. When an individual enters into ketosis, they are likely to experience several signs and symptoms such as bad breath, weight loss, appetite suppression, and insomnia among others. However, the unwanted adverse effects usually subside in a matter of weeks. The side effects can be managed by drinking plenty of water and increasing the intake of electrolyte supplements.