What is Ketosis and is it safe?

What is Ketosis?

Dietary Ketosis is a normal metabolic process by which your body utilises it's fat storage as the main source of energy when there is an insufficient amount of glucose available. Fat stores are broken down by the liver and converted into glucose to use as fuel for the body. Ketosis occurs when you get a build-up of a substance known as ketones or ketone bodies in your blood as a result of this breakdown.

Following a strict low carbohydrates diet (i.e. eating less than 50grams of carbohydrates per day) will help your body to reach ketosis.


Is being in Ketosis a good thing? 

The process of Ketosis involves shifting its primary source of energy from carbohydrates to stored fat. This is a natural adjustment in the body due to a reduced carbohydrates intake. Insulin aids this process by keeping ketone production under control in order for a mild, beneficial ketosis to be achieved. Extensive research into Ketosis has shown that is it generally considered safe for most people and has been proven to have major health benefits. Ketosis is a great way to utilise your metabolism for fat loss, to improve concentration levels and physical performance and it has also been shown to improve cholesterol levels.

Evidence shows that Ketosis has been successful in healthy people in search of improved fitness but also children with epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer patients requiring nutritional support.


How do you know when you're in Ketosis? 

Urine sticks are the most convenient and inexpensive way to detect ketosis. Doing a urine test requires little time and is non-invasive for those people who like needles. Urine sticks should be held in your urine stream for a few seconds and results should appear within 10-15 seconds after this. If you are in ketosis, you will notice a colour change on the strip. As you can see in the image below, light pink results demonstrate low ketone production and dark purple reveals high ketone production. Hydration and the amount of time in Ketosis may affect the reading.

The most consistently accurate way to detect ketosis is by having a blood ketone test using a ketone meter.

The ketone chart below shows you if you have entered ketosis.
Ketone Chart showing Ketosis Levels


What happens when your body goes into a state of ketosis? (The symptoms of ketosis) 

During the initial transition, your body will undergo many biological adaptions. As your body has been utilising glucose prior to a ketogenic diet, switching to fats suddenly requires your body to adapt so that ketone bodies can be used as a fuel source.

Signs and symptoms you might experience when entering ketosis for the first time include:

  • Low blood sugar levels. This is because the body simply doesn’t know how to burn fat for energy yet. During the adaptation stage, brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, intense hunger and irritability are symptoms associated with low blood sugar levels.

  • Flu-like symptoms, leg cramps, constipation, and weaker physical performance may also be experienced. This is also known as "Keto Flu"

 The above side effects will eventually go away, but you can treat them by drinking lots of water with salt and taking vitamin and minerals supplements.


Is ketosis dangerous for the kidneys?

Being in ketosis by following a low carbohydrate diet is NOT dangerous. The human body was designed to use ketones very efficiently as fuel in the absence of glucose. Ketosis is not to be confused with ketoacidosis; is a dangerous condition for diabetics, and the main element is acid not ketones.

Studies have shown that ketosis has not been associated with kidney damage for those who have normal functioning kidneys. It has also been suggested that ketosis can actually be therapeutic for the kidneys in instances where serious kidney damage has occurred.


Is ketosis necessary for weight loss?

Being in ketosis confirms that you’re burning fat and that the body’s fat-storing hormone insulin is low. However, ketosis is not synonymous with weight loss but can be a very useful tool for weight if done properly. 


How long does it take to get your body into ketosis? 

The body can only store a two-day supply of glucose in the form of glycogen, so after two days of consuming no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates, most people will enter ketosis.

Author Bio:

Charlotte - Health NurseCharlotte Lloyd is a clinical health educator with a BSc & MSc in nursing and health studies. She is extremely passionate about anything health related and contributes to the British Journal of Nursing.