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The keto diet plan is actually based around one key fact: The body can derive a large amount of acetoacetate, acetone, β-hydroxybutyrate and other ketone bodies from a fat-rich diet. These ketones can then be used to harness energy. Usually, the largest component of our food is made of carbohydrates. These carbs, in turn, break down into glucose which is the main energy source for most of the cells in our body. But it so happens that increased levels of glucose in the bloodstream also elevate the blood insulin levels which can cause diabetes and weight gain. Therefore, the ketogenic diet is influential and gaining popularity over the years. Such a diet helps the body gain energy from lipids (commonly called fats) rather than carbohydrates. It can help reduce weight fast and has also been found to alleviate diabetes.

What is ketosis?

Consuming a diet replete with fats initiates a process within the healthy human body that, in biochemical terms, is called ketosis. Ketosis is a normal metabolic condition of the body in which the fats make up the greatest energy reserve. These fats are broken down into ketones and ketone bodies. Ketone bodies include acetone, acetoacetate (AcAc) and 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate (3HB). These acidic chemicals are efficient generators of energy and power for the cells. This method of obtaining energy is unconventional as it varies from the customary utilization of carbohydrates for energy.

A person can easily induce ketosis by consuming a high-fat, low-carb diet (the standard being between twenty and fifty grams of carbohydrates per day). When we eat meals that have minimum carbohydrates, the levels of sugar (and hence insulin) in the bloodstream go down and the body starts burning fat and releasing fatty acids in the blood. Most of these fatty acids find their way to the liver where they are oxidized and turned into ketones. Ketosis also occurs by itself during fasting, starvation, pregnancy, and infancy.

Other than rapid weight loss (as the fats are burned), there are uncountable advantages associated with initiating and maintaining ketosis within the body. This has led to the drift towards eating a ketogenic diet within the general population. Some of these merits are:

●             Contrary to popular belief, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy to the cells in the brain.

●             A ketogenic diet helps reduce seizures in epileptic patients, mainly young children who don’t respond to conventional treatment. The diet has clear benefits for epileptic kids that fail to get better with drug therapy.

●             A ketogenic diet is also linked to enhanced cardiovascular function. Reducing the intake of carbs sets ketosis into motion which reduces the risk of heart disease. chiefly HDL Cholesterol and atherosclerosis.

●             The consumption of a fat-rich diet ameliorates the condition of most diabetics especially those suffering from Type II diabetes. It enhances insulin sensitivity and improves glycemic control. Research has even shown that taking the keto route when it comes to your dietary choices reduces your risk of getting diabetes even if you don’t have it yet.

●             Scientists have explored the effects of a ketogenic diet on patients of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and the results are promising.

●             Adopting a ketogenic diet is also considered a therapeutic approach in the treatment of cancer. The logic that doctors imply is that if one feeds on a lesser amount of sugar, the cancer cells may starve and ultimately wilt.

What are the symptoms of ketosis?

The ketogenic diet is a sought-after and popular plan for health enthusiasts. The main goal of a keto diet plan is to achieve ketosis. But how can you be sure that you have succeeded in inducing ketosis after you start eating low- carb meals? Here’s how. Listed below are the indicators that your body is in a state of ketosis:

1.            Rapid weight loss

The visible sign of ketosis is a rapid and significant fall in body weight. When you are on low carbs and overall caloric intake is minimal, the body starts burning fat for energy. But you lose weight initially because the body releases the water held within the fat cells. As a result, the greatest decrease in body mass occurs within the first few weeks of a keto diet. As you continue down this path, the loss in your weight becomes steady and consistent.

2.            Thirst and dry mouth

Another indicator that your keto plan is working is an increase in thirst.

You may feel thirstier than normal as the water is released from your fat cells. People have also complained of a dry mouth while on the keto diet. Dehydration can result from raised levels of ketones in the body.

Electrolyte imbalance can also arise at the same time which can lead to complications.

Furthermore, dehydration can also cause an increased incidence of kidney stones. This was illustrated in research conducted on athletes. While on a keto diet, make sure to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other drinks. It is also very important to consult a doctor if symptoms of dehydration (persistent dark-colored urine and extreme thirst) continue for a long time.

3.            Muscle cramps and spasms

Muscle cramps result because of electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. You feel a sudden painful contraction and a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath your skin. This is most common in the thighs and can last for hours to days.

Electrolytes are responsible for the conduction of nerve impulses and flawless functioning of the skeletal muscles. If the ketogenic diet that you follow doesn’t contain enough electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium mainly), then your body can’t perform muscular activity efficiently. You should take precautions and make sure you are getting the requisite amount of electrolytes from your ketogenic routine.

4.            Bad breath

The most unpleasant sign of ketosis is bad breath, the fancy scientific term for which is halitosis. A lot of people who have achieved full ketosis report bad breath as the ultimate sign. It results because one of the ketones involved in ketosis has a fruity smell. The said ketone is acetone. It leaves the body via the urine and the oral respiratory route (mouth). You may have a bad breath mostly after you wake up.

Having a foul smell emanating from your mouth can have a negative effect on your social interactions. You can easily solve this issue by chewing sugar-free gum or brushing your teeth multiple times during the day.

5.            Elevated levels of ketones in the bloodstream

In addition to ketones in your breath and urine, you would also have elevated levels of ketones in your blood. This corresponds with thehigh ratio of fats in your diet that degrades to give ketones. The blood sugar levels go down.

6.            Fatigue and weakness

People who follow a keto plan report feeling extremely tired in the starting days. This is called the “keto flu” or the “low carb flu.” This is because your body is still getting used to the switch between carbs and fats. Also, carbs tend to spike your energy level. Fats don’t provide the same burst of energy. But within weeks of your ketosis diet, you would feel energized and revitalized instead of exhausted. If you don’t experience rejuvenation within a month, then it means you are making a critical mistake in your diet plan.

7.            Loss of appetite

Keto aficionados often report having a feeling of satiety despite eating low-calorie foods. This is credited to the body’s use of fat stores to derive energy. Also, the level of Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) falls in the body. The person feels that he is full due to fluctuations in his hunger hormones. Some scientists also think that ketones themselves suppress the hunger-inducing mechanisms of the brain. The bottom line is if you feel your appetite is suppressed despite having small portions of food, it is a clear sign that your body is in ketosis.

8.            Increased brain function

Long-term followers of a keto diet report increased mental focus and cerebral function. This is because ketones are a powerful energy source for the brain cells and are even considered to be therapeutic for neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s. Lower levels of blood glucose also reset your brain and reduce brain fog.

Who should not follow a keto diet?

The ketogenic diet is not appropriate for the following people:

●             Diabetic patients

If you have diabetes, be it type I or type II, you must consult your physician before starting a keto routine. This diet may or may not be helpful for you which is exactly why you require medical supervision to experiment with this. It is not at all prudent to go keto if you are diabetic. However, if you have no other choice, it is wiser to follow a moderate keto diet rather than a strict one. Also, make sure that you keep a daily check on your blood sugar levels. In addition to blood glucose, you must also keep an eye on the level of ketones in the bloodstream. An elevated number of ketones in the blood can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and come in rare cases. The acceptable range of blood ketones is less than 0.6mmol/L. The ADA (American Diabetes Association) recommends monitoring your ketone levels if your blood sugar surpasses 240mg/dL.

●             Patients of rare conditions such as muscular dystrophy

Several diseases may be aggravated if you change the internal energy- deriving mechanisms of the body all of a sudden. One such illness is Muscular Dystrophy and having gallstones. If you are on lifetime medication for asthma or arthritis, then going keto may further complicate and distress your internal systems.

●             Pregnant ladies especially those with gestational diabetes and nursing women

If you are an expecting woman then you must not try to sway your metabolism toward ketosis. This is because, during pregnancy, the bioenergetic mechanism of the body can naturally go into a state of ketosis. Therefore, it is better to avoid hurdles by not considering a keto diet. It is also considered inappropriate for nursing women or those suffering from gestational diabetes. It is not safe for a breastfeeding woman to switch to a keto diet as it may affect the nutrition of the baby. It is advisable to drink enough water in order to avoid dehydration for better milk production.

●             People who suffer from an eating disorder

If you already have an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder or pica, then you may attract further problems by going keto. Eating disorders are irregular eating habits that stem from hereditary causes or concerns about bodyweight. These are serious mental issues that must not be taken lightly.

Therefore, consult your nutritionist before switching diets.

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