What is ketosis, and why would you want to enter it?
First, what it isn't, is ketoacidosis, which is a dangerous condition caused by uncontrolled diabetes. The two are frequently confused.
What ketosis is, is a natural metabolic state wherein your body is burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. It's been the foundation for a number of fad diets, including the popular Atkins diet. These so-called ketogenic diets are not for everyone, but they are undoubtedly effective.
When you cut off or severely curtail your body's normal source of fuel – carbs – your body ceases to produce insulin in any great quantities. In turn, your liver gets flooded with fat, and turns a good portion of that into ketones, which are a type of acid. Absent the carbs, your body starts burning the ketones for energy. You have “entered ketosis.”
As you would expect would happen with any machine that experienced a sudden change in fuel supply, the transition to ketosis can be a little rocky. You may experience what has come to be known as the “keto flu,” with symptoms that include:
- Brain fog
- Increased hunger
- Poor sleep
- Decreased physical performance
You will also likely experience bad breath. Ketosis elevates your blood acetone levels, and your body will endeavor to get rid of some of it via your breath (Acetone smells like nail polish remover, as will your breath.) But it's not permanent; the halitosis should pass in a couple of weeks.
Other side effects may include constipation and leg cramps. Both are due to the relatively swift dehydration and mineral loss your body will experience during its first few days in ketosis. A happier side effect will be all the “water weight” you lose in that first week, as well.
A more serious – and more rare – side effect experienced in the first few weeks of ketosis is heart palpitations. This is caused by dehydration and reduced salt intake, and can be countered by making a point of staying well-hydrated and adding some more salt to your food.
What's the point of all this? The weight-reduction is the most famousselling point (although not everyone is a fan). But there are demonstrable benefits for those suffering from epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, and obesity. Entering ketosis is not a life change that should be undertaken without first having a discussion with your physician.