Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when the body has used up its available glycogen stores, and starts burning fat to provide energy to the brain. Dietary ketosis typically happens on low-carbohydrate diets, or when you've eaten an insufficient amount over two to three days. Ketosis was originally used in the treatment of epilepsy, but it can contribute to weight loss in overweight or obese people.
Reasons To Induce Ketosis
Ketosis has been used to treat seizures since the 1920s. It is a particularly useful method of treatment for children, or those with poorly controlled seizures. Research reviewed in the journal "Current Treatment Options in Neurology" found that inducing ketosis could also be beneficial from a variety of other conditions. Ketosis appears to slow the growth of malignant tumors and cancers, and may correct metabolic defects, such as diabetes or obesity. It also appears to have a protective effect on degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Going Low Carb
You must severely restrict carbohydrates to induce ketosis. For context, the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 130 grams of carbohydrate per day, whereas ketogenic diets call for a daily intake of 20 grams or less. This generally means removing all grain products (including bread, pasta, rice and seeds), fruit, and most dairy from the diet, and relying on nonstarchy vegetables, lean meats, eggs, hard cheese, and oils for daily caloric intake.
How Induction Happens
Before going into ketosis, your body usually has a small amount of energy available in the bloodstream as glucose, and glycogen in the liver. When you don't eat, or eat only fats and protein, your glucose and glycogen are not replenished sufficiently to provide energy to the brain. This induces ketosis, and fat cells are split open and converted into fatty acids, then transported to the liver, where they are converted to ketones. Ketones are bodies of energy that can be used by the brain in place of glucose.
You Know You're In Ketosis When...
When you induce ketosis in the body, there are usually a couple of symptoms. Breath and urine may become pungent, smelling of acetone or overripe fruit. Constipation is common, as is a feeling of lightheadedness as your blood sugar drops. If you have nausea, vomiting, hyperactivity or dehydration, you may be in advanced ketosis, or ketoacidosis, in which the levels of acetone in your blood surpass healthy levels. This is common in uncontrolled diabetes, and warrants medical attention. Staying in ketosis over weeks or months can be beneficial for weight loss, but can also cause serious conditions such as kidney stones, hypercholesterolemia and pancreatitis.
- Psychology Today: Your Brain on Ketones
- Current Treatment Options in Neurology: The Ketogenic Diet: Uses in Epilepsy and Other Neurologic Diseases
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Nutrition and Metabolism: A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet to Treat Type 2 Diabetes
- Ciba Foundation Symposium: The Regulation Of Ketogenesis