Losing weight is a big challenge that most people in the United States face each day as the prevalence of obesity there is approximately 39.8% in 2015-2016. Adult men and women in the US are mostly at risk for obesity related illnesses such as stroke, type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and other cardiovascular diseases. Not only in the US, the world as a whole has obesity as its meanest factor for morbidity and mortality. Due to this, people are scrambling for solutions in shedding off excess kilograms. Lots of diets surfaced and in the current years, the ketogenic diet became very popular.
The keto diet isn’t something new to be exact. It has been around since the 1920’s as a treatment for people who have epilepsy. So clinically, it has profound benefits and at present, people are raving about it because it helps with weight loss really fast. The only thing that people find it challenging is that this diet is strict. You have to follow it to the last detail for it to work effectively. If not done properly, the diet may be detrimental to anyone’s health.
How exactly is the keto diet harmful to one’s life? If losing weight is the top priority, you must seek medical attention first because there are side effects in this particular diet that your body cannot handle. Not all bodies are the same so having a specialized keto diet plan from your health specialist is highly encouraged. Here are some of the unwanted side effects or hazards that occur naturally while on this diet:
- Muscle loss + decreased metabolism
Losing weight does not only refer to fats. It also means there is water loss and reduction of muscle mass. When you are on the ketogenic diet while on resistance training, more muscle mass will be lost. This is due to the fact that protein (by itself) is not enough for muscle building, as compared to taking in food rich in protein plus carbohydrates after each training. When the muscle burns a lot of calories as compared to fats your metabolism will slow down.
This then gives a negative effect on the body especially when the body ages. As a person has lesser muscle mass, he or she is prone to falls and other injuries. In older men and women, falls are on top of the mortality list. So check your age range if keto is the way to go. Dieticians or nutritional specialists know more on how to deal with people who are on the older age range. This way, accidents will be avoided and your life will extend a bit more with this diet.
- Keto flu
For those who are very new to any kind of diet, keto diet is one of the most life-changing because it is so strict. So when the state of ketosis comes in, there are those who feel very sick, like they caught the flu. Symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems start to come in. This particular flu usually lasts for several days depending on the body of the one taking the diet.
Feeling tired and lethargic happens when the entire body has less or even no sugar anymore to burn for energy. The transition before the body reaches ketosis is already very draining and can weaken the body for a couple of days, though this can be minimized by hydrating and resting. Drinking lots of water, as well as green tea and other organic products also helps relieve the flu.
- Kidney stones
If keto helps those who have epilepsy, a portion of those develop kidney stones. This is a potential side effect of the diet which is very detrimental to the health of any individual. So if you already have a family history of kidney disease, follow other diets instead as prescribed by your specialist. In most research studies, children who were on a ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy developed kidney stones. And that is not something to be happy about. Kidneys are important in excreting waste from the body so if any of the tubules are blocked, the toxins will remain and weaken the entire system.
Taking lots of food rich in animal protein increases uric acid and calcium levels. This is a deadly combination that results to kidney stones and risk for developing gout. Side effects like these are not good if you already have an underlying disease. It will only make your condition worse so see a medical professional before deciding on losing weight and try out the ketogenic diet.
- Risky for diabetic people
Since carbohydrates helps in regulating blood sugar levels, diabetic patients are usually at risk for having hypoglycemia. This is dangerous if left untreated as this may end up in diabetic coma. That’s why medical experts are very hesitant in recommending the keto diet to these type of patients. Type 2 diabetic patients also suffer the same fate if they wish to partake in this diet. There is a high risk in a drop in blood sugar especially those who are insulin dependent. Eating whole grains are very important to control weight and high blood sugar level. But when on keto, these type of food are not included in the list.
When taking specific medications, always get a go-signal first from your specialist before even trying out this diet. Always prioritize eating plant-based sources of protein and fats as they are as highly nutritious as animal sources. These plant based food help make any disease brewing at bay.
- Yo-yo dieting
A lot of people say that the ketogenic diet is very strict as compared to other diets. And because of this, there are those who find it hard to follow to the last detail. An example would be if you are too excited to start the keto diet. Then you follow everything indicated in the diet so that you lose those unwanted kilograms. Ideally this should be the case, but it is hard to follow and some people eventually go back to their regular eating habits. Once this happens, a lot of weight is added and result to some other bad effects.
This diet is not recommended for those who have cravings or social activities as this destroys the prescribed eating plan. If you are very decided to try it out, it takes more than will power to make this diet a success.
- Foul smelling breath
At first, when you are on this diet, you may notice a fruity breath. Acetone is an end product of ketosis and is responsible for that fruity smell. The duration of this odd breath varies for each person. For almost all people who follow this diet, this breath is present for a few weeks or so.
- Nutrient deficiencies
The keto diet is very specific to its parameters. Meaning, there are only certain food groups that apply to the kind of diet it really is. This means that every meal focuses on very low to zero carbohydrates in which your intake on fiber is also low. Your body will have less fiber and would have some side effects that will follow. Low consumption of fiber-rich food such as starchy vegetables and fruits will make it hard for the body as there will be electrolyte imbalance plus fluctuations in blood pressure. Though a remedy to this is to add spinach, avocado and chia seeds to make up for fiber and potassium.
- Bowel conditions (constipation and diarrhea)
If the diet itself does not have fiber-rich food, people will tend to be constipated most of the time. Those on this diet will definitely lack a regular (smooth sailing) bowel movement and microbiome in the body. Though in the first part of the keto diet, people will have a hard time digesting large amounts of fat and result to diarrhea. Diarrhea also results from consuming too much shakes and low carbohydrate bars that have sugar alcohols. As these ferment in the gastrointestinal system, discomfort in the gut occurs.
To cope up with these bowel problems, try to add broccoli and asparagus, as well as almonds, coconut and flaxseed in your keto diet plan. These food are naturally high in fiber and low in carbohydrate content.
- Dehydration + loss of electrolytes
In the keto diet, the body needs time to adjust to the food you eat constantly. If you have not been eating healthily, it may be a shock to the body and have some uncomfortable side effects. Since the fuel of our brain is sugar (glucose), it will have to adjust since your diet will be low in carbohydrates. Sugar, is created from carbohydrates so there will be less glucose produced.
The brain then will really have to adjust in using ketones from the fats in your food to convert into energy. An effect on the kidneys is also bound to happen in which more electrolytes will be released when insulin is low. As carbohydrate level in your body is low, total water in the body also drops.
Diarrhea also happens in this diet, so this plus the “keto flu” will make it very uncomfortable for the first timer. To cope, make sure to drink a lot of water and keep your body hydrated.
- Menstrual period becomes erratic
Women are also affected when they follow the keto diet. Basically, hormones are very much affected with this diet such as the drop in: follicle stimulating hormone, estrogen, progesterone and gonadotropin releasing hormone. There are some women who even have their periods on a complete stop. And this is a negative effect on the body as this also makes the bone density low.
Aside from that, irregular menstruation also brings about depression, sexual dysfunction and more. So always seek for medical help when you plan on following the keto diet.
- Lead to cardiovascular disease
If you are not careful, you might be taking in a lot of trans fat that could lead to serious heart problems. Hydrogenated oils heighten your low density lipoproteins (LDL) and lower high density lipoproteins (HDL). Bad cholesterol levels as seen by the LDL increase your chances of having stroke and heart disease.
That is why health professionals suggest plant based fats found in seeds, nuts, avocado and olive oil. These unsaturated fats are healthy for your heart. Bacon may be so yummy but think of all the triglycerides and cholesterol that’s going to build up and become a precursor for cardiovascular diseases. Choose your “fats” wisely so that this diet will not do more harm on your body!
- Decline in athletic performance
Athletes who are on the keto diet usually want to lose weight to perform better in competitions. Naturally, if lighter, the body could move faster as compared to obese individuals. But to compare athletes on high carbohydrate from low carbohydrate diets, those on the keto diet usually did not perform at their peak. This is because of the acidic state of the body when it has reached ketosis.
Weight is not a good basis as to how an athlete performs in a competition. Carbohydrate rich food is still important to give your brain and body fuel to excel in any sport. When in doubt, ask a sports science expert before getting involved in keto or any other kind of diet.
By definition, ketoacidosis occurs when the body has store a lot of ketones due to increased fat burning. The end result is the blood becoming very acidic and can really damage the major organs such as kidneys, liver and most especially, the brain. If this continues without medical intervention, you are going to add up to the list of mortality reports.
How to know if you might have ketoacidosis? Symptoms such as nausea, bad (fruity smelling) breath, dry mouth, difficulty of breathing and even frequent urination. When on the keto diet and these symptoms are present, seek medical help right away.
- Weight fluctuation
Since most individuals turn to keto for weight loss problems, it is best to only go with it for 1-3 months before switching to a new diet plan. This is because if you go back to your regular eating habits with carbohydrates, all the weight that you lost will go back fast. This diet is not for those who have a hard time following a nutritional eating plan. If you are indeed one of those who have no discipline in eating, a lifestyle counselor can give you really good pointers on what to do.
In general, any diet has one goal- to become a healthy version of yourself. It is just that no diet is perfect for each person and being wary about the nutritional content of the food eaten is important. The quality of the food you eat should be good so that your life will not be at stake. For a healthy, keto diet, be sure to choose these instead of processed ones:
- Unsweetened coconut
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Fatty fish such as sardines and salmon
- Non-starchy vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus
- Coconut oil, olive oil
Aside from that, health professionals also give a list of what not to eat among those really decided on the keto diet. This diet is very strict so better follow to the last detail so that it will be effective and will do no harm on the body. Here are the top food to be avoided while on the keto diet:
- Crackers, cookies, doughnuts, white / whole wheat bread
- Fruit juice, sweetened iced tea, soda beverages
- Pasta (e.g. spaghetti), noodles
- Candy, chocolate, maple syrup, coconut sugar
- Rice, oats, cereals, wheat and all other carbohydrate rich grains
- Banana, orange, grapes, lemon, lime, banana, pineapple and other citrus fruits
- Lentils, chick peas, beans (kidney and black)
- Corn, peas, pumpkin, butternut squash, potatoes (potatoes and sweet potatoes) and all other vegetables which are starchy enough
- Sauces (e.g. barbecue) , dips, dressings (full of sugar)
- Berries (to be taken in small amounts only)
- Beer and other high-sugar content alcoholic drinks or beverages
Taking note of this list is very important for the diet to be effective and always remember that medical attention is needed if you already have an underlying disease. Self-medication will never work out and may make your symptoms worse.
The keto diet is good when the body is tuned and no illness is present. Never compromise your health just for the sake of appearance with regards to weight loss. As with any diet in the world, regular exercise is also a must. This makes any diet, even the ketogenic diet work effectively. Health is wealth, so value what you eat and do in life!