The ketogenic diet is notorious for its difficulty, but also for its effectiveness.
The carb-light and fat-heavy diet are designed to help you lose weight in a way that’s scientifically proven and relies heavily on the processes in your liver. As such, those who are particularly keen on losing weight or managing their nutrition—such people with diabetes—may find themselves particularly drawn to this diet.
While there are certainly easier diets to take on if you’re interested in using a ketogenic diet to combat your diabetes, read on—because we’ll be breaking down what a ketogenic diet looks like, how it could help your diabetes and ways to implement the new nutritional plan into your life.
- The Science Behind Ketosis
The ketogenic diet is named as such due to its ability to send your body into a state of ketosis. For those not familiar, here’s a simplistic explanation:
For most people, carbohydrates remain a primary source of energy and are used by the body to help you get through the day. Likewise, we know that consuming too many carbs can result in weight gain and other nasty side effects. Even some popular sauces and condiments will make you gain weight.
By radically increasing our fat intake and cutting out carbs almost entirely, we can force our body (and specifically, our liver) to start breaking down fat into acids and ketones to use as energy. This process is called ketosis.
Now if increasing your fat intake sounds like a counterintuitive way of losing weight, it’s perfectly understandable. Nutrition as we know it does a rather poor job of differentiating the fatty acids our body needs to thrive, and of course—saturated fats that can result in a more substantial body.
The commonly-cited basis for the ketogenic diet comes from Dr. Elliot Joslin, who recommended the diet for those who have diabetes. The breakdown is essential as follows: 5% of daily food intake energy from carbohydrates, 20% from proteins and meats, and 75% from fats.
By essentially turning your carb-powered body into a fat-powered one, we can hope to lose weight by utilizing the excess fat on the body—making the diet a popular choice for those looking to lose weight in the kitchen versus the gym.
As a plus, the ketogenic diet cuts down severely on sugars—which can spike blood sugar levels in diabetes.
- Ketosis and Diabetes
Ketosis comes with the reduction of fat loss, but the low-sugar, low-carb, all-fat diet means that your pancreas has a much easier time dealing with the day-to-day fluctuations of your blood sugar.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the ketogenic diet has been shown to decrease the need for medication and work to the benefit of those who have diabetes or similar conditions. For anyone stuck with expensive medications or looking for ways to eat right and feel full while keeping up with blood sugar, the ketogenic diet can be a wonderful thing.
However, switching to a ketogenic diet is not easy—diabetic or not—and we highly recommend those with diabetes talk to their doctors before making the switch.
Since we’re increasing the number of ketones in the blood by forcing our bodies to enter ketosis, we also open ourselves up to the risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, develops in 160,000 Americans each year—or, in about 17 diabetics for every thousand. This dangerous condition occurs when ketones are released throughout the body without control and interference from insulin—and can result in coma or death if not treated immediately.
Some diabetics may already be familiar with DKA—as the resultant symptoms can be the catalyst many uses to seek medical attention and eventually find out about their diabetes in the first place. Choosing to enter ketosis willingly may sound like a scary proposition for those who have already experienced KDA, but most ketogenic diets—when executed correctly—won’t result in DKA.
- Transitioning Into Ketosis
The sensitivity of the body when switching to ketosis is why we recommended talking to a doctor before undergoing the condition—and taking things easy once that transition made.
For the first few weeks after embarking on a ketogenic diet, consider resting more often or cutting back on exercise (temporarily) while you begin to feel your body change. The most common symptoms of ketosis include short-term fatigue, bad breath, a decreased appetite, and a short reduction in productivity.
If any of these symptoms last longer than a week or two, don’t hesitate to switch back to a regular diet or report any issues to your doctor. Remember that ketosis, once fully transitioned, should not affect mental capacity or productivity in any real or measurable way.
After transitioning, you should begin to see the positive effects of the diet. Blood pressure and triglyceride levels may drop—as well as the development of an increased level of mental performance and overall energy. You’ll need to monitor when you’ve begun ketosis and keep eating foods high in (healthy) fats to make sure you’re tracking with standard stats and metrics.
The ketogenic diet will not remove your need to monitor your blood sugar levels completely—so remember to continue taking prescriptions and medications as needed. During those first few weeks, you may want to consider a prescription delivery service like Medly Pharmacy to keep you off of your feet while you make the transition.
The ketogenic diet isn’t for everyone. Aside from the taste differences and cost of switching to new foods, not everyone has the capability of switching over.
For people with diabetes, however, the benefits of a diet that manages your blood sugar in a scientific and often-tasty way can be a significant improvement over a standard diet. There are many resources available, online and off, for those on a ketogenic diet—and we recommend rigorous research to make sure you’re reading right and keeping healthy.
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