In this article, you’ll learn:
The first thing you should know is that both the ketogenic diet and diabetes affect how your body processes food for energy. The ketogenic diet forces the body to use fat for energy (rather than carbs), while diabetes is when the body has trouble processing carbs (or glucose in the blood).
So, going on a keto diet should be a great option for someone with diabetes since it flatlines glucose intake and seriously reduces the amount of insulin needed. And that’s a good thing for folks with diabetes. But of course, you need to consider the potential risks and side effects before diving into keto. As always, consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet to see if they might have implications for any medication you are taking or existing illness you have.
Ketosis 101The ketogenic diet (keto- for short) is a high fat, low carb diet. The idea is to heavily reduce your carb intake and replace it with healthy fat foods. This will put your body into ketosis. Without carbs in the diet and lower levels of insulin, your body begins to release fatty acids into the bloodstream. Many of these fatty acids go to the liver where they are turned into ketones and put back into the bloodstream. Ketones are used by the brain and red blood cells to make energy instead of carbohydrates[*].
A Primer on DiabetesDiabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, allowing glucose to build up in the blood. According to the CDC, most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose to use as energy. Our pancreas is an important organ that produces and releases the hormone insulin. This kicks off one of the key ways that glucose gets into our cells (once insulin is released, it triggers glucose pumps to start pumping glucose out of the bloodstream into cells, especially muscle tissue)[*]. There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin hormone.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when organs and tissues stop responding to insulin, which forces the pancreas to work much harder (at producing and releasing insulin).
Keto Cures DiabetesNo, not really. But there are some serious wins for diabetics who start a ketogenic diet (but make sure to consult your doctor before doing so).
A keto diet drastically lowers your carb intake and forces your body to use fatty acids for energy. With far less glucose entering the bloodstream, high doses of insulin are no longer needed, and the symptoms of diabetes are downplayed.
With stabilized glucose levels, one study found that the need for insulin decreased by 75% for folks eating a ketogenic diet.[*] The keto diet also resulted in weight loss (read: excess fat), which is extremely helpful for those with Type 2 Diabetes.
Another study found that after a 16 week trial on the keto diet 7 of 28 participants with Type 2 diabetes were able to discontinue all medication.[*] Another 10 participants saw a decrease in the dose of medication required to manage their disease. You could infer from these results that the keto diet might also be good for someone with prediabetes or metabolic syndrome.
Proceed with CautionMuch like with any specialized diet, there can be side effects. Transitioning to a low carb, high fat diet can be a shock to the system if you eat a lot of processed, high sugar foods. When you start keto, you’re teaching your organs to use a new energy source (ketones). This can take time. And in the meantime, you might have some side effects. But they should be shortlived and are normal.
To mitigate the side effects, some research suggests slowly reducing carb intake a few weeks before beginning the proper keto diet. This has helped some people acclimatize more slowly and reduce symptoms of the keto flu[*]
Nonetheless, some of the side effects that may occur include[*]:
- Keto Flu- Some dieters experience the ‘keto flu’ which can cause low energy, nausea, increased hunger, and inhibited mental function. It should only last a few days and can be much less intense if carbs are decreased over time.
- Increased Urination- With a low carb intake your body needs less insulin. When this happens more sodium is released into the urine. This is another reason you would see rapid weight loss in the first few weeks.
- Constipation- Change in the diet tends to affect the bowels- drastically minimizing carbs and increasing fat is a big change to your gut bacteria so expect a few weeks to adjust.
- Insulin Resistance- Drastically decreasing carb intake results in decreased glucose levels in the blood allowing the pancreas to take a break from creating insulin. Great, right!? It’s important to keep in mind that the second you decide to eat carbs again your glucose levels could spike because of fatty-acid-insulin-resistance[*].
- Bad Breath- Acetone is the ketone responsible for the less than desirable smell. Once in full ketosis, acetone leaves the body through urine and breath. While this may be annoying it’s a good sign for your diet.
- Cramps- Due to the increased urination and loss of sodium, cramping may occur.
- Increased Risk of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)- Having too many ketones in the blood can cause diabetic ketoacidosis[*]. This can happen when blood glucose is too high. Mostly affecting those with Type 1 diabetes, people with Type 2 diabetes with high levels of ketones can also be at risk. Ways to help manage this is to consult your doctor and regularly check glucose levels throughout the day. Note: if you don’t have diabetes then this really isn’t a concern for you.
Fix Your Keto Side EffectsIf you experience keto flu symptoms here are two quick fixes (but try all seven remedies to the keto flu if these don’t work):
- Drink more water- With the loss of water and sodium, your body will experience dizziness, nausea, headache, and cramps. Keeping the body hydrated and even adding some salt to the water will help ease the symptoms.
- Eat more fat- Remember, removing carbs is essentially starving your body of energy. Replacing it with more fat helps to supplement the missing carbs (i.e. energy).
Take-Home MessageFor those with diabetes, a change in lifestyle is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. While there are some specific side effects that diabetics need to be aware of, a keto diet is worth consideration. That’s because the ketogenic diet offers the ability to simultaneously stabilized glucose levels and manage body weight. For some diabetics, eating a keto diet meant they no longer needed to take any medication[*][*]. Though, this might not be typical, so consult your doctor.
If you’re still reading this it means you’re serious...
So why not try a sample of KetoLogic’s meal replacement or Keto Crisps to see how your body reacts? If you’re diabetic and already measuring your blood glucose levels, you’ll know pretty quickly how well your body processes them. Again, we’re not doctors, so ask yours if this is right for you.