Is the Keto Diet Right for You?

Is the Keto Diet Right for You?

Every​ ​year, the​ ​wellness​ ​world​ ​buzzes​ ​about​ ​the​ ​latest​ ​and​ ​greatest​ ​way​ ​to​ ​fuel​ ​your​ ​body​ ​for optimal​ ​health.​ ​Recently,​ ​the​ ​paleo​ ​diet ​took​ ​center​ ​stage,​ ​receiving​ ​praise​ ​from​ ​health practitioners​ ​and​ ​those​ ​following​ ​the​ ​paleo​ ​guidelines.​ ​As​ ​the​ ​paleo​ ​diet​​ ​gained​ ​popularity, its​ ​more​ ​extreme​ ​version,​ ​the​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet,​ ​has​ ​also garnered ​some​ ​buzz.​ ​In​ ​this​ ​article, we’ll answer​ ​three​ ​main​ ​questions: what​ ​is​ ​the​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet,​ ​how​ ​does​ ​it​ ​impact​ ​health​ ​and​ ​is​ ​it something​ ​that​ ​you​ ​should​ ​try?

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​Ketogenic​ ​Diet?

The​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet​ ​is​ ​an​ ​extremely​ ​low-carb,​ ​high​ ​fat​ ​diet,​ with about​ ​25 grams​ ​of​ ​carbs​ ​or​ ​less​ ​per​ ​day. That’s​ ​the​ ​equivalent​ ​of​ ​a​ ​medium​-sized​ ​banana,​ ​which​ ​provides​ ​about​ ​27​ ​grams​ ​of​ ​carbs.​ ​It​ ​was originally​ ​developed​ ​in​ ​the​ ​1920s​ ​when​ ​researchers​ ​found​ ​that​ ​fasting​ ​had​ ​​anti-seizure​ ​​effects on​ ​the patients​ ​they​ ​were​ ​studying.​ ​What​ ​they​ ​observed​ ​was​ ​the​ ​body’s ​ability​ ​to​ ​metabolize or​ ​use​ ​fat​ ​as​ ​energy.​ ​

When​ ​you​ ​are​ ​eating​ ​a​ ​regular​ ​diet,​ ​the​ ​body​ ​is​ ​relying​ ​on​ ​carbohydrates​ ​or sugar​ ​sources​ ​for​ ​energy.​ ​When​ ​you​ ​fast or stop​ ​eating,​ ​the​ ​body​ ​only​ ​has​ ​a​ ​certain amount​ ​of​ ​stored​ ​carbohydrates, so​ ​it​ ​has​ ​to​ ​find​ ​a​ ​way​ ​to​ ​make​ ​energy​ ​from​ ​other​ ​sources. Without​ ​adequate​ ​carbs,​ ​the​ ​body​ ​will​ ​start​ ​to​ ​use​ ​stored​ ​fat​ ​to​ ​convert​ ​into​ ​energy​ ​called ketones.​ ​Our​ ​bodies​ ​are​ ​very​ ​adaptive​ ​and​ ​can​ ​switch​ ​from​ ​running​ ​on glucose​ ​(carbs)​ ​to​ ​ketone bodies​ ​(fat).​ ​Since​ ​you‘re​ ​changing​ ​the​ ​way​ ​your​ ​body​ metabolizes​ ​energy,​ ​you may experience​ ​flu-like​ ​symptoms​ ​in​ ​the​ ​first​ ​two​ ​weeks​ ​of​ ​the​ ​diet.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​often​ ​referred​ ​to​ ​as the​ ​“keto​ ​flu.”

Impact on​ ​Health

The​ ​keto​ ​flu​ ​sounds​ ​scary,​ ​so​ ​let’s​ ​look​ ​at​ ​how​ ​it ​actually​ ​impacts​ ​overall​ ​health.​ ​​​Switching metabolism​ ​from​ ​using​ ​sugar​ ​to​ ​using​ ​fat​ ​is​ ​a​ ​natural​ ​process, but​ ​there​ ​will​ ​be​ ​a​ ​period​ ​of adjustment​ ​as​ ​hormones​ ​and​ ​electrolytes​ ​rebalance.​ ​Historically,​ ​we’ve​ ​gone​ ​long​ ​periods​ ​of time​ ​without​ ​eating​ ​and​ ​our​ ​bodies​ ​were ​still​ ​able​ ​to​ ​provide​ ​us​ ​fuel​ ​and​ ​energy.​ ​So​ ​while​ ​this​ ​may feel​ ​uncomfortable​ ​initially,​ ​once​ ​the​ ​body​ ​switches​ ​over,​ ​it’s​ ​an​ ​effective​ ​way​ ​to​ ​create​ ​energy. Decreasing carb intake​ ​can also​ ​have​ ​anti-tumor​ ​effects​ ​on​ ​the​ ​body.​ ​Since​ ​many​ ​tumors feed​ ​on​ ​sugar,​ ​cutting​ ​off​ ​their​ ​food​ ​source​ ​can​ ​help​ ​shrink​ ​them. More​ ​​research​​ ​suggests that other​ ​benefits​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet​ aid with​ ​diabetes management,​ ​Alzheimer’s​ ​and​ ​weight​ ​loss.

Should​ ​You​ Try​ It?

The​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet​ ​is​ ​a​ ​challenging​ ​diet​ ​to​ ​adhere​ ​to​ ​not​ ​only​ ​because​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​physically​ ​sick​ ​for the​ ​first​ ​couple​ ​of weeks,​ ​but​ ​you​ ​are​ ​also​ ​significantly​ ​changing​ ​the​ ​way​ ​you​ ​eat.​ ​If​ ​you’re concerned​ ​about​ side effects​ ​and​ ​how​ ​this​ ​diet​ ​would​ ​impact​ ​your​ ​overall​ ​health,​ ​talk​ ​to your​ ​healthcare​ ​provider​ ​before​ ​making​ ​any​ ​dietary​ ​changes. I suggest​ ​trying​ ​a​ ​more​ ​paleo​-​based​ ​diet​ ​to​ ​start.​ ​This​ ​will​ ​help​ ​decrease​ ​your​ ​overall carbohydrate​ ​intake​ ​without​ ​the​ ​“flu-like”​ ​symptoms.​ ​The​ ​Whole30​ ​approach​ ​is a great​ ​way to​ ​ease​ ​into​ ​a​ ​paleo​ ​diet.​ ​It​ ​focuses​ ​on​ ​whole,​ ​real,​ ​clean​ ​foods​ ​and​ ​has​ ​made​ ​many​ ​people​ ​feel better​ ​overall.

In​ ​some​ ​cases​, ​I​ ​will​ ​suggest​ ​the​ ​ketogenic​ ​diet​ ​to​ ​people​ ​who​ ​are​ ​active​ ​and are​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​lose that​ ​last​ ​bit​ ​of​ ​fat.​ ​It​ ​can​ ​help​ ​you​ ​move​ ​through​ ​a​ ​weight-loss​ ​plateau;​ ​however,​ ​it​ ​should​ ​not​ ​be a​ ​long-term​ ​diet​ ​for​ ​most​ ​people.​ ​Whenever​ ​you​ ​limit​ ​a​ ​large​ ​macronutrient​ ​category,​ ​it’s​ ​best​ ​to do​ ​this​ ​under​ ​the​ ​guidance​ ​of​ ​a​ ​professional​ ​to​ ​assure​ ​you​ ​aren’t​ ​putting​ ​yourself​ ​at​ ​risk​ ​for​ ​any nutrient​ ​deficiencies.

Final​ ​Thoughts

As​ ​with​ ​anything​ ​nutritionally​ ​related,​ ​the​ ​results​ ​can​ ​vary​ ​from​ ​person​ ​to​ ​person.​ ​There​ ​are some​ ​who​ ​thrive​ ​on​ ​a​ ​very​ ​low-carb​ ​diet​ ​while​ ​others​ ​just​ ​can’t​ ​get​ ​to​ ​a​ ​place​ ​where​ ​they​ ​feel healthy.​ ​Genetics,​ ​environment,​ ​stress​ ​levels,​ ​nutrient​ ​levels​ ​and​ ​sleep​ ​all​ ​play​​ ​huge​ ​roles​ ​in how​​ ​dietary​ ​changes​ ​can​ ​impact​ ​your​ ​body.​ ​No​ ​matter​ ​how​ ​much​ ​we​ ​learn,​ ​research​ ​and​ ​use technology,​ ​the​ ​only​ ​person​ ​who​ ​knows​ ​what​ ​feels​ ​best​ ​for​ ​your​ ​body​ ​is​ ​YOU.​ ​Listen​ ​to​ ​your body,​ ​see​ ​how​ ​it​ ​reacts​ ​when​ ​you​ ​try​ ​new​ ​things,​ ​and be​ ​honest​ ​with​ ​what​ ​makes​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​better.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

Comment by LindaP22927
February 15, 2018
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