For any diet, especially the keto diet, you want to know the risks involved before you begin. The ketogenic diet has helped millions develop better eating habits, lose excess weight, learn hunger cues, and so many other great things, but it’s not for everyone.
This article will explore the risks of the ketogenic diet. By knowing what the risks are, you can better understand if this lifestyle is right for you.
There are short term risks, risks that occur mostly in women, and risks for people with specific medical conditions.
We will briefly discuss all of them, so let’s get into it.
Short Term Risks
In this section, we will list off the common short-term risks and what you can do to remedy them. For many of these risks, it is a matter of having willpower, a good support network, and proper foods to keep you feeling confident and healthy while doing keto.
Risks and Remedies: Short Term
Digestion Issues: Use digestive enzymes, consume adequate minerals and vitamins, keep hydrated, consume more probiotics and fibers, and if you suspect you have a food sensitivity or allergy, consult with a doctor to confirm this.
Deficiencies of Micronutrients: Eat a wide range of keto foods such as high-fat dairy, seafood, low carb veg, organ meat, and eggs. Be sure to supplement with minerals and vitamins if necessary.
Depletion of Electrolytes: eat more salt, avocado, leafy greens, as these will increase your potassium, magnesium, and sodium numbers; be sure to supplement with potassium gluconate and magnesium glycinate if needed
Bad Breath: Allow your body time to adapt to this lifestyle; purchase and make use of mouthwash, sugar-free gums, and toothpastes designed to fight bad breath
Greater cravings and hunger: Keep keto snacks in purse or backpack/pocket to satisfy hunger, make sure your diet contains correct protein and fat counts each day
Falling back into old habits: Be kind to yourself, understand why you want to change your habits, and think of your why when you get the urge to eat a non-keto food; make your home and environment “keto-friendly.”
Short Term Annoyances
As you can see, the risks listed above are mostly stumbling blocks that new keto dieters come upon as they shift into this lifestyle.
Rest assured that with careful planning, a good support network, and willpower, you can overcome these obstacles. Our site has plenty of resources to keep you on track, plus a great program to help you make the lifestyle change.
However, it is not as easy if you have a specific medical condition. Our next section will discuss the risks associated with this.
Risks of Keto
For Diabetics, Very Low Blood Sugar Levels: Keto dieting is all about the restriction of carbs. Anyone who is on medication to lower their blood sugar with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should speak to their doctor before they opt to go with this lifestyle.
As the body shifts into this low carb lifestyle, medication doses and treatment strategies will have to be altered, and dieters must closely monitor their blood sugar levels.
If you fail to work closely with your doctor as you make this lifestyle change, you are at a greater risk for hypoglycemia or extremely low blood sugar levels.
The bottom line? If you are diabetic, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss safe ways of getting into the keto lifestyle.
Ketoacidosis for Type 1 and 2 Diabetics
Ketoacidosis should be taken seriously as it can be fatal. But it is mostly preventable. This happens when ketones and blood sugar levels are too high at the same time. The end result is that symptoms such as vomiting, dehydration, hypotension, abdominal pain, tachycardia, and drowsiness can happen.
This usually happens when somebody with diabetes of either type is not minding their blood sugar levels. The best way to prevent such a condition is to closely monitor blood sugar levels and utilize diabetes medication when needed.
Hypotension If You Are on Meds That Lower Your Blood Pressure
Keto can help you improve blood pressure, suggests research. When researchers compared orlistat and a low carb diet in terms of effectiveness for lowering blood pressure, the low carb diet was more effective.
This is good if you aim to lower your blood pressure, but it is likely that keto can provoke extremely low blood pressure in people already on medication.
You should also be wary of your water intake and electrolytes if you have a hard time controlling blood pressure levels. The keto diet can cause potassium, sodium, and magnesium deficiencies, which all matter when it comes to regulating blood pressure.
High Cholesterol That Worsens on Keto
One benefit of the keto lifestyle is that it can help optimize cholesterol levels. However, this is not the case for everyone.
Here are some common conditions that might lead cholesterol levels to increase when following a ketogenic diet:
Cholesterol levels and thyroid hormones are linked closely. When thyroid levels get low, LDL receptors become less active, which leads us to high levels of cholesterol and a greater risk of heart disease. If your medical history includes hypothyroid issues, you might be dealing with levels of cholesterol that are unhealthy. The keto diet can worsen this condition.
However, if you have an autoimmune thyroid issue or you are currently being medicated for your hypothyroid condition, you could be able to follow the keto lifestyle with zero trouble. As a matter of fact, many keto dieters that have autoimmune thyroid issues have discovered that the keto lifestyle really boosts their quality of life more than other diets.
It is a medical issue when one or more genes for the LDL receptor fails to work properly, which makes it harder for them to clear away cholesterol from the blood. If someone with this condition starts a high-fat diet, they become even more prone to heart disease thanks to the increased cholesterol content and saturated fat of such a diet.
To combat such a condition, it is best for people to consume a diet that is low to moderate in fat, contains lots of whole foods, monounsaturated fats, fiber, limited saturated fats, and omega-3’s. This, plus a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, stress relief methods such as meditation, and lots of sleep, should keep cholesterol levels at a safe number.
As always, talk to your doctor if you know you have either of these conditions. He or she can give you sound advice on how to safely get into keto or provide you with an alternative lifestyle choice.
Carb Restriction-Related Hormone Issues That Get Worse
The keto flu is common and goes away over time. However, dieters may experience it after they start the keto diet and have been following it for over a week. If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, it could very well be that keto is not for you, thanks to hormones.
Those with hypothyroidism or adrenal trouble more prone to struggles with the keto diet. It is because of carb consumption, insulin, and levels of glycogen aid in adrenal health and the regulation of thyroid hormone production.
If you struggle already with adrenal or thyroid issues before beginning a low carb lifestyle, it is likely that restriction of carbs can worsen things.
To keep thyroid and adrenals in good shape as part of a low carb lifestyle, be sure you are eating enough calories, minerals, and vitamins. It helps give the body the nutrients necessary to restock glycogen, keep thyroid function in check, and lower levels of stress.
If you still feel tired and sluggish after getting adequate proteins and fats, it is likely you might need to increase carb intake by consuming greater amounts of sweet potatoes, black beans, or other whole, starchy foods until you are eating 100-200g of carbs each day.
Women and Keto: Risks
Many women of all ages follow the keto diet and have no trouble with it. But we would be remiss to say that carb restriction can lead to irregularities in the menstrual cycle. It may even cause amenorrhea in some instances.
If this is the case for you, increase carb intake to 15 to 30% of your total calories. For most females, this means about 75 to 150g a day, but you may need to go up or down based on your personal needs.
So, Is It Safe?!
Yes, Keto is safe when followed correctly. It can help reduce the severity of the following ailments:
- Heart disease
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Type 2 and Type 1 diabetes
- Obesity and Overweight
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Fatty Liver Disease
The combined forces of lowering carb intake and ketone production can help many people with many conditions.
Here are the main benefits that keto dieters experience while following the lifestyle, even if they do not have one of the previously mentioned conditions:
- Lower inflammation
- Better fat loss
- Better mood, mental clarity
- Cognitive function is enhanced.
- Stable energy levels
- Better health and well being
Is the Keto Diet for Me?
There is no question that the keto diet is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. You cut carbs, and you restrict them so that ketone production is sustained, which is something other diets just don’t do.
Many changes in our body take place as a result:
- Lowered levels of blood sugar
- Ketone production
- Shifts in hormones
- Increased excretion of minerals and water
- Big changes in blood lipid levels
Each of these changes has benefits and risks associated with it. Be sure to consult with your doctor first if you have any reservations and follow their advice for the best results.
And most of all, listen to your body. Keto is not for everyone, and that’s OK. Be kind to yourself, and if keto is not making you feel the greatest, it’s fine to try a different approach.
Good luck and keep it keto (if that’s your thing!)