Our marvelous human body has the capability to harness energy from nearly anything we eat. However, it does have preferences, favoring glucose over other energy sources. But an individual can consciously initiate a shift from glucose utilization to fat utilization, and that is what the ketogenic diet takes advantage of. The body can adapt and refocus fat metabolism to provide energy needed by the body, particularly the brain. It just seems like when the operating system of a mobile device is changed from the default (the one made by the manufacturer). And to think that we are living in a world of ‘Alternative Energy Supply’, the brain is simply forced to go …. Alternative too.
After a normal carbohydrate meal, the body breaks the carbs down into glucose, which is then used for energy by the body cells and excess glucose is stored away in the muscles and liver as glycogen and as fat. Conversely, fat is a concentrated source of energy, and after a fatty meal, dietary fat is broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. Thus, when carbohydrate intake is limited, glucose becomes unavailable as the body’s fuel, energy utilization by the body must then be obtained from breaking down of fatty acids derived from a high-fat meal. When fatty acids are broken down in excess, ketone bodies (namely; Acetoacetate, β-Hydroxy butyrate and Acetone) are produced. This process takes place in the liver. Consequently, when we are on a very low-carb and very high-fat diet, the liver ‘switches from an organ of carbohydrate utilization and fatty acid synthesis to one of fatty acid oxidation and ketone body production’. In the absence of sufficient glucose, the brain uses ketones (derived from breakdown of fatty acids) for fuel, because, unlike most other tissues, the brain cannot utilize fatty acids for energy. Elevated ketone bodies in the blood is termed ‘ketosis’.
Acetone is one of the ketone bodies produced in the body, but it is produced in small quantities and therefore not used by the body. On the other hand, acetoacetate and β-Hydroxy butyrate are used up by the system for energy production). Ketone bodies are acidic in nature, thus they continuously release H+ ions into the blood; On the other hand, the alkali reserve of the body (HCO3–) serves to neutralize the acid, maintaining an acid-base balance. But when large amounts of ketone bodies accumulate, the body’s concentration of HCO3– is overwhelmed resulting to very low pH levels (ketoacidosis).
Ketogenic Diet, Should I or Should I Not?
A ketogenic diet is basically a high-fat, moderate-protein and low-carbohydrate diet. This dietary pattern changes the fuel that energizes the body; it modifies the way energy is utilized by the body. The keto – diet plunges the body system into a state of ‘ketosis’, where-in the body burn fats for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
Ketosis is the unique feature of ketogenic diet. Being on ketogenic diet helps people lose weight fast. Once you adhere to the principles of strict low or no – carb (5-10 grams per day), high healthy fat and moderate protein, your body will gradually enter ‘ketosis mode’ and fat melting process will kickstart.
The ketogenic diet is not new, it has been in existence for nearly a century, it was designed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder. It was first developed as a therapy for epilepsy particularly in children. It was shown to reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures in children placed on strict keto-diet.
KETO – FLU
Ketosis is generally considered to be safe for most people. However, it may lead to some few side effects, especially in the beginning. The switch to ketosis is not immediate, it takes 3 – 7 days for the body to recondition and start burning fat for fuel instead of glucose from carbs. During this window period, most people experience a series of symptoms that has been tagged ‘keto-flu’. These may include:
- Poor sleep
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle cramp
- Feeling of fogginess (Mental fog)
- Inability to exert oneself
- Heart palpitation
- Bad breath from Acetone (smell like that of a nail polish remover, but more subtle and kind of fruity) – this is seen quite later than one week into full ketosis and may disappear after some weeks.
- Kidney stones (long term)
- Elevated Total Cholesterol and Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. (long term)
- Bone fractures in children (long term)
These effects are not must-haves, and also they occur in varying degrees in different persons.
What to do, when on Ketogenic Diet
- Stay Hydrated – Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. This is because ketosis promotes flushing out of water and electrolyte.
- Replace lost electrolytes by taking foods or supplements rich in sodium, potassium and magnesium.
- Eat more fiber from non-starchy veggies and load on the coconut oil, for relieve from constipation.
- Exercise only in moderation, especially at the early ketosis stage.
- Eat some more salt because Sodium is lost when intake of carbohydrate is reduced.
- Magnesium and potassium supplementation can help you to deal with muscle cramps – Keto diet is not a complete diet, so there will be a few nutritional deficiencies after a considerable time. Supplements of some minerals can be useful.
Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
- Ketones help suppress appetite
- Ketogenic diet crashes glucose levels and improves insulin resistance.
- The State of Ketosis (large amounts of ketone bodies in the blood) reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures significantly.
- Some research works claim that ketogenic diet starves developing pre-cancerous cells of sugar, as cancer cells have been shown to feed on sugar.
- It provides a more stable source of energy to do work because it stabilizes blood sugar levels.
- It helps one to get a firmer grip on cravings for unhealthy foods. This is because whilst intake of simple carbohydrates spike up blood sugar rapidly and drops at the same pace almost immediately increases hunger pangs and cravings for more sweet; high – fat diets are filling and delays the onset of hunger.
- The fact is that once you limit carbohydrate, processed sugar, empty calorie snacks, candies, fizzy drinks and start eating natural…cauliflower, avocados, olives, almonds, organ meats, eggs, etc., you will start shedding unnecessary pounds of fat, looking less puffy, leaner and more attractive. This explains the so called ‘face lift’ as described by keto’ers.
- Your taste buds are given a ‘new-birth’, your sweet tooth is cured….sugar now tastes bitter, while cucumber tastes sweet
- Studies show that when ketones produce energy is produced, they generate fewer free radicals. Studies show that most of the degenerative diseases (Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Atherosclerosis, Inflammatory joint disease) are caused by free radical reactions
- Some ‘Trying to Conceive’ women are relating personal experiences of becoming pregnant while on ketogenic diet. These claims will require scientific investigations though. But all we know for now, is that obesity contributes to hormonal imbalances and consequently, infertility in women.
Those Who Are Not Advised To Be On Keto – Diet
- Those currently taking prescription medications, e.g. anti – hypertensives and diabetes medications or those that takes insulin.
- Those on Lithium, an antidepressant used for bipolar disorder.
- Patients with Gallbladder disease
- After a gastric bypass surgery
- Those with lipid/fat metabolism disorders
- Those with pancreatic insufficiency, because fats are more difficult to digest
- Those with history of Kidney failure
- Those with impaired gut function or abdominal tumors
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding because their protein requirements are higher
- Those that suffer from decreased gastrointestinal motility
Ketogenic Compliant Diet
- Low carb fruits: Avocados, Coconut
- Decaf Coffee
- Zero – carb Cocoa Powder
- Low carb vegetables: Pumpkin leaf, Spinach, Okro, Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, Cucumber, Cabbage, Lettuce, Asparagus, Radishes, Celery.
- Meat: Red Meat, Organ Meat (Liver, Kidney), Sausage, Bologna, Bacon, Snail, Chicken and Turkey.
- Butter (not margarine)
- Poly – unsaturated Omega -3 fatty acids: Fatty fish (Salmon, tuna and mackerel)
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, Flaxseed, Sunflower seeds, Pine nuts, Hazel nuts Walnuts, Macadamia etc.
- Saturated fats: Coconut oil, Lard, Tallow, Butter (not Margarine), palm oil, Goose fat
- Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, Macadamia and Avocado oil
- Spices: You can use salt, pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.
- Fermented foods
- Zero-carb sweeteners (e.g. Stevia and Erythritol)
Foods to Avoid (Keto Non – Compliant)
- Starchy vegetables
- Tiger Nuts
- Trans Fats (Margarine)
- Dairy (milk and milk products)
- Processed foods
- Corn or wheat flour derived snacks (Bread, Cake, Biscuits, Crackers, Pizza)
- Sweet Tropical Fruits (Pineapple, Mango, Pawpaw, Tangerine, Grapes, Oranges, Banana, Water Melon)
- Sugary foods and Drinks (Candies, Cookies, Ice cream, Soft drinks, sweet fruit based smoothies or juices, alcoholic drinks)
- Grains and Cereals (Rice, Rye, Oats, Millet, Corn, Barley, Wheat, Pasta, Noodles, Semovita and Semolina)
- Legumes (Beans, Breadfruit, Peas)
- Tubers and Root vegetables (Irish potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Yam, Ripe and Unripe Plantain, Carrots).
- Low-fat or diet products (Diet-soda drinks, Low-fat Yoghurt, Low-fat milk shakes)
- Sugar containing sauces or spices e.g. ketchup
- Vegetable oils (Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Cotton Seed Oil, Canola Oil, corn oil, soya bean oil)
- Alcohol (Wine, Brandy, Champagne, Rum, Gin, Whiskey)