These days, it seems like everyone is praising the keto diet. But if you’re considering this diet, you may want to learn about the side effects before deciding if it’s right for you. There are a few keto diet side effects that are well known and that any aspiring keto dieter can be prepared for.
1. The Keto Flu
The keto flu is a real thing. Cutting carbs and entering a state of ketosis (where your body burns fat for energy) can bring on a range of uncomfortable symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. Kristen Mancinelli, author of The Ketogenic Diet, explains that these side effects are the result of your body transitioning to using fat as its primary energy source instead of carbohydrates. Once it adjusts to the new fuel source (usually within a week or two), you’ll start to feel better.
2. Keto Breath
When your body goes into ketosis, it will start producing byproducts called ketones. This includes acetone – yes, the same chemical found in nail polish remover, and according to a 2015 study review, your body will actually naturally make acetone on its own. One of the ways ketone bodies are released from the body is through exhalation, and exhalation usually has a distinct odor that is different from the common bad breath experienced when bacteria builds up in the mouth.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling thirsty while on a keto diet. Eliminating all that extra water can lead to thirst, so be sure to drink plenty of water. There are no hard and fast recommendations for how much water you should drink on a keto diet. But in general, the goal is to drink enough water so that your urine is clear or pale yellow. If the urine is darker, increase your intake.
If you find yourself running to the bathroom more often when you’re on a ketogenic diet, a quick search online will reveal that you’re not alone. (This could be because the gallbladder – the organ that produces bile to help break down fat in the diet – is feeling “overwhelmed”.
Diarrhea can also be due to a lack of fiber in the keto diet, which can happen when someone cuts out carbohydrates (such as whole-grain bread and pasta) and doesn’t supplement with other fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables. It can also be caused by an intolerance to dairy or artificial sweeteners – something you may be eating more of since moving to a high-fat, low-carb lifestyle.
Constipation is a common side effect of low-carb diet plans, including the ketogenic diet. Severely limiting carbohydrate intake means saying goodbye to high-fiber foods such as whole grains, legumes and lots of fruits and vegetables.
Combine this with the fact that your body is excreting more water, and you have a recipe for potential duct clogging. You can keep things moving by getting some fiber from keto-friendly foods like avocados, nuts and a limited number of non-starchy vegetables and berries, says Dr. David Nico, author of the book “Diet Diagnosis”. Increasing your water intake can also help, like it said above.
6. Weight Regain
Because the keto diet is so restrictive, health experts say it’s not a good plan to follow long-term. Even it’s best to do it for 30 to 90 days and then do a more permanent eating plan. But the thing is, most people regain a lot of the weight they’ve lost once they go back on carbs.
That’s a problem with any fad diet, but it seems to be particularly common in ketosis. When people tell that they want to try it because their friends have lost weight. But the health experts say, “Watch, I’ll almost guarantee they’ll get it all back.”
Keto diets appeal to people who have problems with portion control and overeating. In many cases, what they really need is a lifestyle coach or professional counselor to help them with these issues.
7. Kidney And Heart Damage
This is because on top of increased urination, the body can experience electrolyte and fluid deficiencies, which can lead to a loss of electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. This can leave people vulnerable to acute kidney injury.
Dehydration is serious and can lead to dizziness, kidney damage or kidney stones. This could put dieters at risk for heart arrhythmias because electrolytes are necessary for the heart to beat properly. Electrolyte deficiencies are serious and can lead to irregular heartbeats, which can be fatal.
If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you shouldn’t follow a keto diet unless you have your doctor’s permission and close supervision. Ketosis can actually be helpful for people who have problems with high blood sugar, but you have to be very aware of your blood sugar and check your glucose levels multiple times a day.
That’s because, for people with diabetes, ketosis can trigger a dangerous condition known as ketoacidosis. This happens when the body stores too many ketone bodies – acids produced as a byproduct of burning fat – and the blood becomes too acidic, which can damage the liver, kidneys and brain. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Although this complication is fairly rare, ketoacidosis has also been reported in a breastfeeding woman who did not have diabetes and followed a low-carb, high-fat diet, according to a 2015 case report in the journal Medical Case Reports.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis include dry mouth, frequent urination, nausea, bad breath and difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these while following a keto diet, check with your healthcare provider immediately.
A keto diet can have some short-term health benefits. But it also has the potential to cause some serious health problems in the long run. That’s why many experts say you shouldn’t try it on your own. In general, if a person is following a ketogenic diet, they should only do so for a short period of time and under close medical supervision.