“Back in 1998 when I first got involved with the research so about 20 years ago everyone predicted that eating a high-fat diet would be bad, it would cause heart disease, it would cause all sorts of problems and I have to say that those predictions really haven’t come true as Keto Diet proved it wrong. at least the large predictions after doing eight years of clinical research and then now about 10 years of a clinical practice we just haven’t seen all of those dire predictions that were being said back then”- Dr. Eric Westman.Associate Professor of Medicine at Duke University
What exactly the Keto Diet do to your body
There’s a new low carb fat diet in town,the ketogenic diet or keto for short. Celebrities like HalleBerry, Kourtney Kardashian, and Vanessa Hudgens all swear by it. And if achieving weightloss is your goal, then ketogenic diet works. It’s proven to help you shed pounds fast. But there’s more to this diet than meets the eye. Keto diet basically replaces carbs with fat.
Typical Keto Diet Menu
A typical keto diet looks like this. 70% fat, 25% protein,and 5% carbohydrates. It’s a drastic change from the diet that the USDA recommends for most Americans, which is less than 30%fat, 20 to 35% protein, and at least 50% carbs. And it’s a significant change for your body’s metabolism too. Usually, when you eat carbs like a starchy potato, enzymes in your mouth,stomach and small intestines break them down into a form of sugar energy called glucose, which your brain and body use for fuel.
Keto Diet Side Effects
So when you first skip out on carbs, the first couple days you might experience some strong sugar cravings. That’s because your body is switching gears, from converting carbohydrates to the only energy it has left: fat. Once you start burning fat regularly, you’ll observe that stubborn fat starts to melt away. Depending on your body weight, you might shred up to 3.5pounds within that first week. As you burn more fat, levels of insulin, the fat-storing hormone,will drop significantly. This triggers your kidneys to release large amounts of sodium into the blood which can actually lead to a common side effect known as the keto flu.
Many keto dieters report symptoms like nausea, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and low energy levels. But most of these symptoms will only occur within the first couple weeks of starting the diet. After the first month, the weighing scales start looking better but some of that lost weight isn’t actually due to fat loss, it’s just water. Because some of the carbs you metabolized include glycogen which retains water and therefore helps keep you hydrated. As a result, you’re likely to pee more often which will lower your sodium levels even more leading to dehydration,constipation or diarrhea, and bad breath.
Once you’re a couple months in, you might hit the notorious keto plateau. It’s a common term in the keto community. It refers to when people find it progressively harder to continue to lose more weight. One study, for example,found that overweight people lost an average of 15pounds in the first month. Another 11 pounds during the span of next two months, but after that, there was no change in body weight despite sticking to the keto diet. At this point, it was observed that many people will just quit keto. That’s why researchers often find it’s so hard to study the long term effects of the diet. But, as it turns out, there’s one group that typically sticks to keto for a really long time. It’s unclear why, but keto is proven to reduce the symptoms of epilepsy and studies show that epileptic children who stay on a very restricted keto diet for several years can suffer from kidney stones, high cholesterol, and bone fractures. But a typical keto diet won’t be not so strict.
How to handle Low Carb Keto Diet Side Effects
Five most common side effects people get when they start on a Low Carb Keto Diet.
Many people don’t even ever start fasting because they’re worried about being hungry, they think that if they skip a meal, they’re just gonna get more and more hungry until that next meal comes which sounds unpleasant really but it’s not true. It’s important that we understand what drives our hunger. Pretty much everything in our body is controlled by nerves, hormones or some combination of the two.
Hunger is no different and the process of digestion starts before you even put anything in your mouth and this is why your stomach rumbles when you see or smell food or even when you hear the sound of food being prepared. The signals travel from your eyes, your ears or your nose down to your stomach where you produce stomach acid and the hormones that prepare your body for digestion. This is called the cephalic phase of digestion. But the cephalic phase response isn’t only triggered by seeing, smelling or hearing food being prepared, there is an element of it which is a learned response. If you’ve always eaten breakfast at 7:30 every morning, your body is going to start producing that cephalic phase response just before 7:30 whether the meal comes or not. The body learns to expect the meals it is used to having at the time, and if you suddenly decide to miss that meal, the response doesn’t just completely go away, you’re still going to feel hungry when that time comes.
But don’t worry, that hunger is only gonna last about 20 to 30 minutes. Why? Because the levels of hormones that surged up earlier eventually go away and you don’t feel hungry anymore. Now you may get waves of hunger coming and going over the next few hours before you eat again but the hunger doesn’t just keep getting worse until that next meal and the good news is that those learned responses can be unlearned but you are gonna have to ride through a few of those waves of hunger until your body unlearns this response.
Here are a few tips to help you with the hunger when you’re just starting out. Firstly, take it slowly. You don’t have to jump straight in with a long fast. Start by doing something simple like just missing breakfast. If missing breakfast sounds like too much then just start to think about shifting that breakfast ever so slightly later in the day. Why not have it during your morning break at work? Another idea would be to just have your evening meal a little bit earlier than you normally would and that extends your fast at the other end of the day.
Secondly, don’t be around food, go easy on yourself. You don’t wanna be triggering that cephalic phase response by surrounding yourself with amazing smelling food and don’t underestimate the power of this, the brain is very, very powerful.
And thirdly, avoid boredom. Boredom is your enemy, it can lead you to obsess about and focus only on food. Do something that distracts you that you don’t associate normally with eating, maybe go out for a walk, do some exercise. Hunger comes in waves and those waves last about 20 to 30 minutes,
brain fog, lightheadedness, feeling hangry. I’ve grouped these together as really they have the same root cause. It’s one of two things usually, number one is low blood glucose levels or hypoglycemia and number two is not really being adapted to burning fat for fuel.
Let’s look at low blood glucose levels first. It might seem logical that you should have low blood glucose levels when you’re fasting but hypoglycemia shouldn’t really happen. Your body still needs glucose to function properly and when you fast or cut out carbohydrates, your blood glucose levels don’t just drop to zero, there always needs to be some glucose going around in the body. When we’re not consuming glucose or things that can turn into glucose, our liver can make glucose from other things such as fat and protein. Your body should turn to alternative energy stores to provide that glucose as well as increase fat burning and increased ketone production.
So why can we get hypoglycemia when we’re fasting? If your pancreas is used to spitting out a load of insulin every morning to cover the amount of glucose from that bowl of cereal that you have every morning, then the day you decide to not have that bowl of cereal in the morning, your pancreas is still gonna spit out some or be it less insulin into your body and that could cause you to become hypoglycemic. It shouldn’t happen because your body should kick in and produce glucose from other sources but it does happen. Hopefully, this will underline the importance of people who are taking medication that actually lowers blood glucose, things like insulin, why they should do fasting under medical supervision because it can result in a pretty severe hypoglycemia and that can be life threatening. The same is true for blood pressure. Fasting can lower your blood pressure and often does and that can cause lightheadedness. So people who are taking blood pressure medications may need a dose adjustment before they start fasting.
The other reason you may experience this side effect is because you’re not yet fat adapted. At this early stage in your fasting career, you may be unable to mobilize your own fat stores to compensate for that lack of food. The fatigue, brain fog and lightheadedness might just be that your body isn’t used to mobilizing energy from its fat stores yet, you’re not yet metabolically flexible enough to switch between burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat and ketones for energy but don’t worry, that comes with time.
So what do you do if you’re getting these side effects? Well, firstly, you could just break your fast early, just remember there are no prizes here. If you’re really struggling with this symptom, then just break your fast early. Remember, you can just pick things up a day or two later, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And secondly, maybe avoid intense exercise. Very often, people who are very motivated about changing up their lifestyle,they not only start intermittent fasting, they start pretty intensive exercise at the same time. It might not be the best thing to do early on in your fasting career, particularly if you’re just starting out doing this kind of exercise. Take things slowly and change one habit at a time.
3. Change in bowel habit.
Now changes in your bowel habit happen when you change up your diet any which way. I’m sure many of you will have experienced this when you’ve traveled abroad or even to just a different part of the same country. And now these changes can go either way, constipation or diarrhea. When you start fasting, you’re likely changing several things that’s gonna have an impact on your gut bacteria and everybody’s gut bacteria responds in its own different way to those changes.
How can you go about minimizing these symptoms? Well, usually it just comes down to fluid and fiber and this is for both constipation and diarrhea. It helps with both to keep hydrated, it helps to keep lots of fiber in your diet as well. And if you’re still struggling, then your pharmacist can probably advise you on some medications to take in order to help whilst you ease into this transition. You may need to watch your coffee intake when you’re intermittent fasting. If you’re suffering with diarrhea, it might be that you’re consuming too much coffee. People often drink a lot of coffee when they’re fasting because they think it’s an appetite suppressant. There isn’t actually any hard scientific evidence that it is the case but nevertheless, a lot of people do so. If you are suffering with diarrhea, just be mindful of your coffee intake.
4. Heartburn or GORD or GERD or Acid Reflux
Whatever you may call it, there’s loads of different names for it. Remember that cephalic phase response that I talked about earlier? Well, it’s that again, it’s producing stomach acid despite there not really being anything in your stomach. For some people, that can be enough to trigger a heartburn and coffee again, a lot of people find drinking coffee, particularly black coffee on an empty stomach can induce heartburn so again, you may need to be careful with your caffeine intake. And of course, you can always see your pharmacist who may be able to advise about some over the counter remedies for heartburn.
5. Feeling cold.
Now this appears to be one of those side effects that you either get or you don’t get. And what people are often worried about is that it’s their metabolism shutting down and that they’re going to some sort of starvation mode and what we know is that this absolutely isn’t true.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite, your metabolism often speeds up when you’re fasting. Now there seems to be loads of theories out there about why this happens, the only thing I can find in terms of fairly hard scientific evidence is a study done a couple of years ago involving mice and this study links hypothermia in mice to a chemical in the brain called Orexin. It is a chemical that is linked with fat metabolism but all you need to know for now is that there is quite a lot of difference between people, in the amount of orexin in their brains and that might be why some people get cold when fasting and other people don’t.
Now, of course, this study was only done in mice and it may not translate over into humans but if it is the cause of it, then drinking coffee can stimulate orexin production so you might be able to try that.
The other solution of course, is you could just wrap up warm and talk of wrapping up, that is just about it for the main symptoms that people get when they start intermittent fasting.
How to start Low Carb Keto Diet
Start slowly. People going about their lifestyle changes like a bull in a china shop, they start exercising, they start dieting, they start fasting, they stop drinking alcohol, just stop, stopping and starting stuff all at the same time. Habits are built over time, pick one thing at a time and build on that, that is how we achieve long term lasting changes.
Secondly, get nourished. If you’re coming from a diet that has been nutritionally poor, then you may well be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, particularly if you’ve been following a kinda standard high energy, low nutrient kind of standard diet. If you start fasting before you are well nourished, you’re gonna make it a lot, lot harder on yourself. Eat real food. focus on nutrient dense, unprocessed food, things like fish, particularly salmon and sardines, eggs, the yolk is very, very nutrient dense and the white of the egg is also full of protein, And of course green leafy vegetables. There is a reason why kale is associated with healthy eating, it’s full of nutrients.
And if you want to take things a step further and really ease your transition into intermittent fasting, then eat a low carb, real food diet. Why low carb? Because switching between a high carb diet and fasting is really, really difficult. A low carb diet will basically put you in the same physiological state as fasting anyway, you’re gonna have low insulin levels, normal blood glucose levels, raised glucagon levels and if you’re low carb anyway, when you start fasting, then you’re going to already be used to burning fat as a primary source of fuel for your body, you’re not gonna get those insulin spikes like you did so you’re not gonna go hypoglycemic, your body is gonna be used to mobilizing its fat stores in order to provide you with energy and so you won’t feel that hungry. When you’re well nourished and burning fat and ketones as your primary source of fuel, you’ll often find that you wake up in the mornings just not feeling hungry and so that transition into intermittent fasting is completely seamless because you don’t wanna eat anyway.