The ketogenic diet plan is a super popular way to lose weight fast, but do you know how it can be ruining your long term health? Advice from a holistic healthcare provider that every beginner keto diet-er needs to read!
The Keto Diet Plan is one of the most popular diets this year. You can’t open your Facebook or Pinterest feed without seeing someone bragging about losing 20 pounds in the first month thanks to Keto. The keto diet plan has a lot of appeal with slogans like “eat fat to lose fat. “Put your body into ketosis and the weight will fall off.” But is this really best for your body? What are the side effects of doing this long term? Was your body designed to go into ketosis? What about all the other food groups?
As a holistic healthcare provider, I want to equip you with the knowledge to make the best long-term decisions for your body and health. I want you to be your best you, both today and long into the future.
We’re going to take a look at what your body does when you go into ketosis. This latest diet craze maybe burning out vital systems in your body. We’re going to look at some possible long-term side effects of the keto diet and how there may be a better way for you to lose weight. We’ll also explore the one time that the keto diet can actually save your life.
The Potential Effects of Keto On Your Body
Why People See Weight Loss with the Keto Diet Plan
Many people see rapid weight loss in the beginning stages of the keto diet. Carbs can cause your body to hang on to some fluid, so some of that initial weight loss is usually related to water weight. Rapid initial loss can also come from very drastic dietary changes from a person’s normal food intake.
The premise of the Keto Diet is to convert your body from burning carbs (converted into glucose) to burning fat (into glucose) for fuel. When the body starts to break down its own fat stores for fuel, it can produce keto bodies, hence the name “Ketogenic Diet” or simply the Keto Diet.
Ketone bodies can be checked in the urine and can produce a “fruity” scent in the breath. These can be ways to check if your body has switched over to fat-burning for weight loss.
Keto is not new. Variations of a very low carb diet have been around for decades, including of course the infamous Atkins Diet. Did you know that it’s been used in patients with seizure disorder for almost 100 years (see more below)?!
How the Keto Diet Plan Affects Your Body
Some Concerns from the Holistic Health Community
While the long term side effects of the keto diet may not be fully known, it is extremely stressful on vital body systems.
Carbs are not the bad guys. Your brain runs on glucose, which is a form of simple sugar. Whole grain, complex carbohydrates are essential to the proper functioning of your thyroid gland and the adrenal glands.
The hypothalamic pituitary axis, HPA, is a major player in your metabolism, which means if you want to lose weight, be nice to your HPA.
The adrenal glands and the thyroid gland suffer when you cut complex carbohydrates completely out of your diet for long periods of time.
The adrenals respond to stress in the body, contribute to energy levels, and play a role in your sleep/wake cycle. When they are stressed for long periods of time, they signal markers in the body that alter thyroid function.
The thyroid sets the internal thermostat and metabolism. If the thyroid is not functioning properly, it’s extremely difficult to lose weight and keep it off long term.
Some Concerns from the Conventional Medical Community
If you have kidney disease, avoid the Keto Diet like the plague!!! Very low carb diets tend to focus on high amounts of protein. The by-products of a diet high in protein are cleared through the kidneys. Patients with severe kidney disease have to be vigilant to monitor and limit their protein intake.
The Keto Diet can potentially affect the kidneys and cause them to release nutrients that ought to be retained. Mineral deficiencies are extremely common in Keto patients.
Type 1 diabetics need to avoid the keto diet!!! Patients with this type of diabetes do not produce their own insulin, and ketone bodies can lead to dangerously altered blood pH levels for them. This can lead to weakness, confusion, coma, and possibly even death.
It’s often hard to stick to the Keto Diet long term since it is so restrictive. Any diet that completely cuts out major food groups (especially veggies and fruits) tends to be challenging for people to stay on long term. It’s hard to tell your body “no” forever.
Conventional medicine also likes to point out that low carb diets tend to be high in saturated fats and sodium. People often fill in a low carb diet with meat products high in saturated fats, which may lead to heart disease. Some common foods on the Keto diet, like nuts, can be processed in a way that they are high in sodium.
How The Keto Diet Plan Can Save Your Life
The Keto Diet Is a Potent Weapon Against Cancer
Ketosis seems to be especially helpful for certain types of cancer. Ketosis produces an environment in your body that is hostile to the growth of rapidly multiplying cells, such as cancer cells. This environment can decrease the ability of those cells to multiply and divide, thus reducing the spread of those cancer cells by essentially starving them.
Additionally, cancer cells seem to thrive on a high-sugar environment. Cutting out sugars, including those that naturally occur in fruits and veggies that are high in starch, can essentially starve those cancer cells and lead to their cellular death.
There are multiple studies reporting significant improvement in cancer activity and reduction in cancer tumor growth when patients go on the keto diet. Thus, keto can actually save your life when you have certain forms of cancer.
One other medical condition that benefits greatly from the Keto Diet:
The Keto Diet For Epilepsy
A very low carb diet, like keto, has fantastic studies and documentation for its ability to reduce seizure activity up to 50% in kids and young adults with seizure disorder that doesn’t respond well to medications. This was discovered almost 100 years ago, and a recent study in 2014 suggested that it’s still a viable treatment modality.
While we don’t know exactly how it helps to calm down seizures, the brain may benefit from the presence of ketone bodies.
This might mean that Keto could benefit people with other medical conditions that originate in the brain, such as Alzheimer’s dementia. I’m torn on this prospect. I hate the idea of creating new problems with the HPA axis, like potentially throwing off the adrenal glands which messes with circadian sleep/wake rhythms which Alzheimer’s patients already struggle with (google “sundowning” if you’re not familiar with this).
Also, I hate to mess with things that could affect the thyroid in the long run. On the other hand, in cases like refractory epilepsy (where you can’t control seizures with meds) or severe Alzheimer’s (can be coupled with aggression or loss of verbal skills), it may be that the benefits of improved medical conditions could outweigh the risks. Just some thoughts…
The Weight Loss Issue (and what to do instead to lose the weight)
Yes, yes, yes… I can practically hear the hard core Keto people out there asking about the benefits of weight loss on health. Being overweight or obese can significantly increase the risk of developing serious medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and potentially death.
Is some adrenal fatigue leading to thyroid dysfunction leading to messed up sex hormones really worse than diabetes, high bp, heart disease, and death?
Of course not, silly! I totally hear you.
BUT… I think that there’s a better way. There’s other stuff out there. It’s not do Keto or you’ll never lose weight.
I think that you can lose weight and keep it off in a way that doesn’t mess up all those other vital systems in your body. For most people, they lose weight quickly, but quick isn’t always better since it can lead to relapse and gaining it all back.
Rapid weight loss can also trigger gall bladder issues- bleh! Having surgery to remove your gall bladder can definitely set you back with weight loss!
Honestly, you could probably follow the Keto Diet for a couple of months, lose some weight, switch to a more well-rounded approach to food, and not mess stuff up too badly.
However, do you want to risk that? There’s no way to predict how much is too much strain on the ole HPA axis and what might be the tipping point into adrenal fatigue, wonky thyroid function, etc.
So, you could… but should you?
(And if you do, maybe you should check out my fast fixes for adrenal fatigue post…)