The Keto Perspective: Why Choose Misery over Reducing Carbs?

I can understand when people don’t trust trending diets, and also why nobody would give up sugary treats when there is no reason to. But I cannot fathom why, when other options are not working, anyone would choose diabetes, misery, or death over reducing carbs. That pasta, those donuts, bread, rice and beans are not worth more than your life. So, if that’s where you are in your life, it’s a relatively simple change, and is more likely to help where other diets have let you down.

How is Keto More likely to Help?

The primary reason that a ketogenic diet works so well for people who have struggled with dieting in the past, is that it maintains a feeling of satiety in a caloric deficient state. Translation: you don’t get hungry when taking in fewer calories. This is a critical quality for a diet to have to assist individuals with intense food cravings, or eating addictions. It is not uncommon to forget to eat while living a keto lifestyle. [1]

People have also been known to lose weight on keto even when eating at their usual maintenance calorie level (outside of water loss). This likely has a lot to do with shifting the body into a fat oxidation state as its primary fuel generation, and I would expect this to be short lived phenomenon after the body has acclimated to this state as its new norm. Furthermore, a ketogenic diet might reduce fatigue resulting from physical activity, meaning you feel re-energized faster after a workout, although the diet will make high intensity workouts more difficult. [2,3]

The Health Benefits?

If you have any health conditions or autoimmune disorders, then you should always consult a licensed medical practitioner before drastically changing your diet (and yes, ‘going keto’ counts as a drastic dietary change. Also, I’m a microbiologist, not a licensed medical practitioner- just to be clear).

First and foremost of the health benefits, is the use of a ketogenic diet to help moderate and reduce seizures. This is where the medical applications of the keto diet began, and is still its primary prescription. [4] However, the diet’s application is branching out, and more doctors are recognizing the benefits it provides as a solid weight management option for patients battling obesity and the health complications that come with it.

Ketosis has been demonstrated to be a more effective for some than the glycemic diet for controlling type II diabetes, and in some cases could even reverse this diseases all together (I hesitate to use the word cure, a susceptibility to diabetes is hardwired in, and returning to the same habits that allowed it to occur in the first place would always do so again). Reduction in medications may be required if one is diabetic and starting a ketogenic diet, so be sure to speak to a doctor BEFORE beginning the diet. [5]

For the same reasons that a ketogenic lifestyle can benefit people with type II diabetes, it has some potential to assist people living with other glycemic conditions, or with common complications of obesity.

Health Detriments?

The biggest risk to your health on a prolonged keto diet comes from not balancing your micronutrients. Electrolytes, vitamins and other micronutrients are very important for your body. If you can’t maintain these through food sources, then supplements will be needed. Daily multivitamins, or magnesium and potassium pills are common supplements for people starting on keto.

The next deficiency that often occurs with ketogenics is fiber. In trying to avoid carbohydrates, many people make the mistake of eliminating fiber from their diet. You MUST have fiber, (take it from a microbiologist) there is a symbiotic relationship in your gut, and if you don’t feed your pet gut bacteria, then they’ll be replaced by their unpleasant relatives and you’ll have digestive problems for years to come. These problems will increase over time leading to more serious conditions such as IBS, generalized eczema, food intolerance or allergy, and heart or liver complications. [6,7] Just to to reiterate, you MUST eat fiber, it is not an optional part of your diet.

The final point I’ll end on is liver conditions, this is where the ketogenic diet becomes a double edged sword. For one, pre-existing liver conditions, such as fatty liver disease, can make a ketogenic diet less effective, or maybe even impossible for some people. The liver is an integral part of the production of fuel for vital organs, and it plays a very important role in ketosis. [8]

And then there is the potential that the diet could worsen symptoms and signs of fatty liver disease, although there is, as of yet, no evidence that it leads to the creation of liver conditions. [9]

This is unfortunate, given that the best treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is losing excess weight. I know some people have successfully used the keto diet to eliminate their liver conditions, and I also know people who have been unable to utilize the ketogenic diet because of their fatty liver disease. Truly a double edge sword, and the word is still out on whether it is a safe practice to use this diet with any pre-existing liver conditions, especially non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

To Conclude

If you’re facing serious and life threatening ailments, such as diabetes or obesity, and your doctor okays a ketogenic diet, then don’t hesitate to try this option. As I stated above, carbs may be an amazingly delicious part of your everyday life, but they aren’t worth more than your life. If this diet could possibly help you to overcome these hurdles in your life, then simply let it. Learn from the experience, and help yourself to grow older in a healthier and happier state.

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