We’ve all read about it, the diet some of our favorite celebs are currently obsessing over, the Keto diet. But Keto has been around a while, not just for weight loss, but for helping people prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. This is very encouraging, especially since 30 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CVC).
If you have a condition defined by high blood sugar, one potential solution is self-evident: avoid foods that raise blood sugar the most. For most people, this means refined sugar and sugar in general, but for many, it also includes starchy foods that might be generally wholesome and nutritious, but which are simply too high in carbohydrates for people with type 2 diabetes.
First, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is the Keto diet?
It’s a low-carb, high-fat eating plan that focuses on meals featuring non-starchy vegetables, moderate amounts of protein from meats and poultry, and plenty of healthy fats from foods such as olive and coconut oil, fish, and nuts. The general rule of thumb is 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates. Normally, your body fuels itself from sugar, or glucose, that it gets from carbs. After a few days of the Keto diet, your body runs out of glucose, so it begins to burn body fat instead. This is called “ketosis”. It creates fatty acid substances called ketones, which your body uses for energy.
Is Keto Safe if You Have Diabetes?
Well, that depends on the type of diabetes you have. In general, people with type 2 who are overweight seem to get good results safely. A ketogenic diet will help the body become more “metabolically flexible” and able to efficiently generate energy from the ketones produced. This insulin-resistant state is associated not only with diabetes but also with weight gain and other complications that accompany it. Research indicates that, while not necessarily the primary goal of a ketogenic diet, many individuals lose weight when they reduce and restrict carbohydrate intake and adopt a keto approach.
You’ll need to carefully monitor your health and watch for signs of ketoacidosis. And it’s always a good idea to work closely with your doctor, since you may need to change your medications.
Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis
If you have diabetes, it’s important to understand the difference between nutritional ketosis and ketoacidosis. Both involve ketones. But ketoacidosis is a dangerous condition that happens when your body thinks that it’s starving and starts breaking down fats and proteins too quickly. It is a potential complication of type1 diabetes. If a person does not have enough insulin, the body cannot move glucose from the blood into cells, where it is necessary for energy. As a result, dangerous levels of both glucose and ketones can accumulate in the blood. Doctors refer to this condition as diabetic ketoacidosis.
People with diabetes whose blood ketone levels are high have a more significant risk of diabetic ketoacidosis.
Should You Try It?
As with any major change to your diet, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor before trying Keto. For some people with diabetes, especially those who need to lose weight, this way of eating can help improve symptoms and decrease one’s need for medication. But for others, the Keto diet could complicate diabetes and make it even worse. If you decide Keto isn’t right for you, it’s imperative that you are careful when transitioning off of it; adding carbs back into your diet all at once can cause blood sugar spikes and weight gain. Your best bet is to start slowly with carbs that are high in protein and fiber.
If you decide to try the Keto diet, be aware that it may be hard to stick to. The low amount of carbs in the diet is a hard adjustment for most people. It also can make you feel fatigued for a few weeks until your body adapts to the new diet. To make the diet easier to stick to, it’s a good idea to create a realistic meal plan that you can follow, including Keto-friendly meals and snacks to keep on hand.
If you have diabetes and have given Keto a try, let us know how has it worked out for you?