The benefits of ketogenic diet are realized the most when your body is in Ketosis. Ketosis is when your body starts using the fat in your body as its fuel rather than carbs that you eat. This happens when you are eating low carbs( probably lower than 30 grams) for at least few days. I remember when I started Keto diet, I was so desperate to see if I am indeed in Ketosis. I didn’t have the urine testing strips or other ketones monitors so I had to rely on my own body signals to understand if I have entered ketosis. I think everyone feels one or more of the below ketosis symptoms. Although these symptoms are not as accurate as Ketone measuring monitors, you can still gauge whether your body is in ketosis or not by paying close attention to how your body is reacting to eating low carbs.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic state when the liver in the human body produces ketone bodies from fat to produce energy. This occurs when the body is deprived of carbohydrates as the primary source of energy.
However, it is crucial to know the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis. Ketosis is a sort-of defense mechanism that the body opts for, and ketoacidosis is an extreme condition that can prove fatal. As always be careful on how you approach a keto diet. We Indians have been eating carbs all our lives so eating extremely low carbs is like a jolt to the body, however, the rewards would blow your mind away.
What are the symptoms of ketosis?
The effectiveness of the ketogenic diet is based on whether you are in a state of ketosis or not. As a ketogenic diet is not the normal, physiological condition of the body, it brings about certain identifiable changes. Thus, you can gauge if you are in ketosis or not, with the help of a few signs and symptoms. Most of these effects are more pronounced in the beginning and eventually disappear or decrease in magnitude. These signs and symptoms include the following:
A common side effect, bad breath occurs due to an increased level of ketone bodies in the body, which are eliminated by breath. It is a distinctive fruity smell, mainly due to the presence of acetone, which is one the ketone bodies. When you wake up in the morning try to smell your breath. If it gives a bad fruity smell that you haven’t experienced before, it could be because your body has entered ketosis and is producing ketones. This symptom can be treated easily enough with the help of stringent oral hygiene and mouth freshener/gum.
Increased ketones in blood and urine
As mentioned before, ketosis leads to an increased production of ketones and thus, increased ketone bodies in the blood. Along with the breath, these are also eliminated from the body in the urine. The increased ketone levels can be easily measured with the help of simple, laboratory investigations.
Weight loss is the main reason for people opting for ketogenic diets and is a much vied-for symptom of ketosis. Fat loss begins from the first week itself, and continues as the long as the body remains in the state of ketosis.
Another positive Ketosis symptom for those aiming for weight loss is appetite suppression. Many individuals report decreased appetite when they were following the ketogenic diet (I experienced the same). The reasons for this are still under research, but it is possibly due to the effect of ketones directly in the brain to curb appetite. Whatever the scientific reason be, it is great for people who have eating disorders as it helps them become more disciplined with their eating habits.
This refers to the constellation of symptoms that people experience occasionally on the keto diet. Usually, these flu-like symptoms last for a week but can affect some individuals for a longer duration. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Craving for sugar and other high-carb food items
- Slow thinking (also known as ‘Brain fog’)
One can try and avoid these symptoms by easing your body gradually into ketosis and maintaining a high fat diet and adequate hydration.
Needing to pee more than what you did earlier is one of the symptoms of ketosis. It occurs as the body tries to eliminate the excess water and salts in the body. This happens because carbs have the ability to store water and when you are on keto diet, your body is not able to store that extra water. Adequate hydration is important in this state to reduce side effects due to dehydration.
Changes in bowel habits
People on ketosis can experience a change in bowel habits in the first few days. Where some might experience constipation, people have also reported having diarrhea. However, these symptoms are usually self-resolving and might not need cessation of the keto diet.
Muscle cramps are on the more common symptoms experienced by people on ketosis. They usually occur due to loss of salts and electrolytes from the body and can be managed by adequate hydration and supplementation of minerals.
Fatigue and Reduced performance
Elimination of carbs from the diet leads to fatigue and this brings about a decrease in physical capacity and performance. Cause of this tiredness includes reduction of glycogen in the muscles, dehydration and electrolytes loss.
Sleeplessness is often reported by individuals following the keto diet, especially in the first few weeks. However, like other symptoms, this gradually resolves as the body gets used to the change in diet.
As you can see for yourself, ketosis has a huge impact on the body, and it is best to be cautious before embarking on this journey. Also, if some of these ketosis symptoms are bothersome, it is best to increase the amount of carbs in your diet and proceed with the diet more slowly than you originally intended, rather than quitting it altogether. Although this might take longer to give you results, it might prove to be the best solution.