Ketosis is a metabolic condition in which the body begins breaking down fats, thus releasing carbon fragments known as ketones from the liver. The liver produces ketones as a byproduct of breaking down fatty acids. When your body is in a state of ketosis, your appetite is typically reduced. For this reason, some diets -- such as a low-carbohydrate diet -- aim to trigger a state of ketosis in your body. If too many ketones are released, however, this can have harmful consequences.
Having diabetes, not eating or eating a low carbohydrate diet can induce ketosis. This is because ketosis occurs when your body does not have or is not able to use glycogen, which is the body's stored form of carbohydrate. Because your body does not have glycogen, it switches to its next option: burning fat. This fat releases ketones in the body, inducing a state of ketosis.
Because ketones are sweet by nature, one sign of ketosis is fruity-smelling breath. Nausea, fatigue and water and muscle loss are other symptoms. Another sign is an initial boost in appetite, followed by a loss of appetite. This is because when ketosis is induced, this signals the body that it is in a state of starvation. The liver and stomach send signals to the brain that it is starving, and keeps you from feeling satiated. However, over time the body becomes accustomed to its fat burning mode and adapts. Your hunger is then reduced after about a two- to four-week time period.
If you are trying to lose weight, inducing a state of ketosis and reducing your appetite can be beneficial. This is because ketosis does not completely reduce your appetite, but instead helps to reduce your cravings for food that can sometimes lead you to overeat. The heart, brain and other muscle tissues "prefer" to burn ketones because this allows the body to conserve blood sugar.
Ketoacidosis is a state in which your body has too many ketones in your blood. While a certain level of ketones is not harmful -- and can help to dampen your appetite -- high ketone levels affect the delicate blood pH balance, making your blood become acidic. If you have been using a diet that induces ketosis to control appetite, skipped meals or lack of food can lead to ketoacidosis. This can cause a number of harmful effects, including high blood sugar levels and dehydration. Ultimately, ketoacidosis can lead to a coma or death if left untreated. Ketoacidosis signs include frequent urination, unexplained fatigue, nausea, a fruity odor on the breath or confusion.