Negatives of Ketogenic Diet That You Need To Know

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The ketogenic diet plan is a super popular way to lose weight fast, but do you know how the potential negatives of ketogenic diet can be affecting your long term health?

Here’s advice from a holistic healthcare provider that every beginner keto dieter 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.”

If you’re looking for a research-based way to stay accountable to your diet, check this out!

But is this really best for your body?

Are there negatives of ketogenic diet with doing this long term?

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Was your body designed to go into ketosis?

What about all the other food groups?

I’m a holistic healthcare provider, and 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 naturally, 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 negatives of ketogenic 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)?!

Possible Negatives of Ketogenic Diet

Some Concerns from the Holistic Health Community

While the long term side effects of the keto diet may not be fully known, negatives of ketogenic diet include that it is extremely stressful on vital body systems. 

Carbs Aren’t Categorically Bad

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.

Carbs for the Adrenals

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.

Carbs for the Thyroid

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.

After a while on a low carb diet, the thyroid increases reverse T3, a thyroid hormone that tells your body to STOP losing weight!!! In bears, reverse T3 tells their bodies to hibernate! Yikes!! No one wants a hibernating metabolism!

Carbs for Balanced Hormones

The adrenal glands are also the primary producer of DHEA, which is the precursor to reproductive hormones. If you stick with keto for long, it’s hard to keep balanced reproductive hormones.

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The Conventional Medical Community Is Concerned About the Negatives of Ketogenic Diet

Kidney Disease

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.

Mineral Deficiencies

Negatives of ketogenic diet include that it 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

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.

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Restrictive Diet

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.

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Often High in Saturated Fats and Sodium

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. I won’t just discuss the negatives of ketogenic diet.

Being overweight or obese can significantly increase the risk of developing serious medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and potentially death.

Are the negatives of ketogenic diet leading to some adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction resulting in messed up reproductive 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.

Simple sugars and simple carbohydrates are not good for you. They promote inflammation and can cause a ton of disease states.

I think that you can eat better.

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 problems (usually gallstones but sometimes gallbladder sludge)- bleh! Having surgery to remove your gall bladder can definitely set you back with weight loss!

As a healthcare provider, I feel like there is a really balanced approach to nutrition. You can read all about it and my story here or if you’re anxious to get started, skip right to the source here!

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…)

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Resources That I Love

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How the Keto Diet Plan is Ruining Your Health

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  1. Keto saved my life! I was on so many meds for stomach, including narcotics! If I choose to introduce carbs and sugars into my diet, the pain from hell comes back. The right way to do keto os high quality meats, veggies, and dairy. Buy grass fed, true organic from local resources. Drink raw milk instead of the processed crap. If I had to go on a high fiber diet again, I would kill myself. I enjoy working out, going out with family and friends. I enjoy not being in agony everyday, and feeling good! I also like the weight loss! Not to mention, the absence of depression I was suffering from.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Steffanie, and I’m so glad that you’re feeling better! Pain (especially abdominal pain) is miserable! Have you ever been tested for celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or candida overgrowth? All of those (along with leaky gut syndrome) could have contributed to your former pain and depression (80% of our neurotransmitters get their start in the gut, so with an inflamed, leaky gut, it’s tough to feel better). I’m also really glad to hear that you include high quality dairy in your diet. From my research, the keto diet seems to discourage milk usage (lactose is a milk sugar and a carbohydrate) in favor of almond milk to make it easier to stick to your daily macros limit. Including milk in your diet can help to protect your adrenals and thyroid. This post doesn’t talk a lot about which specific foods I do recommend (check out the links to the THM diet above), but I totally agree that the Standard American Diet (SAD) would be rough on your stomach– all the refined sugars would add to the pain in your gut by increasing inflammation. Some forms of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, etc) also tend to have worse symptoms with high fiber diets. Meals with protein (the protein blunts the glycemic response) and complex carbohydrates (that break down more slowly like ancient grains, berries, sweet potatoes) tend to be very nourishing in the long run for the adrenal glands, thyroid health, and ultimately hormone health. I’ve worked with a lot of patients to restore balance to their HPA system, and it can take some work. Again, glad that you’re feeling better and glad that you are including milk in your diet!

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