The Keto Diet: Benefits, Side Effects & Solutions
The Ketogenic diet is one of the most popular diets being followed right now. The significant reduction in carbohydrates allows for the utilization of fat and protein as energy sources. With this comes a multitude of benefits. Weight loss is the main benefit but others include: Balanced energy levels throughout the day, lower cholesterol, reduction in inflammatory conditions, and mental clarity - just to name a few.
Studies have shown the epileptic seizures are all but normalized by putting yourself in "Ketosis." Ketosis being the clinical state where you body is producing ketones as a by-product of fat metabolism. Those who follow the Ketogenic diet often will test their urine for ketones to ensure that they are in the fat-burning mode. Other studies have shown benefits for a range of disorders. Those have been covered in detail elsewhere, so I won’t cover them here.
With so many benefits, what is there not to like about the Ketogenic diet? First, there are side-effects: Risk of hypoglycemia, constipation, muscle cramps, sleeplessness, heart palpitations and a few others. These effects are due to the lack of benefits that carbs do provide - namely energy stabilization and bowel regularity.
My observation is that these types of diet promote an all-or-nothing approach. Certainly, in cases of epilepsy, I can appreciate that absolute compliance to this diet provides a means to prevent seizures. But for the average person, Ketogenic dieting can be an extreme solution depending on the purpose for adopting such a diet because it requires great effort and risks further paranoia that consuming carbs leads to disease.
One of my own gripes is that carbs get a bad-knock for providing too much sugar for our systems. Yet, they are essential in an active body - Active being the key word. We are nowhere near active enough. If you increase your daily activity, carbs will no longer be the enemy because they provide energy and are readily burned. Perhaps a more modest solution for those considering the Ketogenic diet is an increase in physical activity to offset carb consumption.
I am putting forth the concept of a "therapeutic diet' in which a Ketogenic-like diet is followed for period of time, and then altered to meet a more conventional and sustainable healthy eating lifestyle. In cases of dieting for weight loss, a period of ketosis can be followed perhaps for a few weeks, which then gives way to a more carbohydrate-friendly diet. Certainly, appropriate consumption of low glycemic carbs will need to be followed.
However, there are several things you can do to minimize side-effects during the Ketogenic phase: Eating every 3 hours helps minimize hypoglycemia. Adequate hydration will prevent headaches. Prebiotics like digestion resistant starch will help prevent constipation by providing a source of dietary fibre.
Ultimately, the Ketogenic diet is here to stay. Use it wisely.