Are There Hidden Dangers of Ketosis For Diabetics?

how ketosis affects diabetics

Ketosis is a metabolic process occuring in your body to keep everything working regularly. When there are not enough carbohydrates from your diet for cells to burn for energy, fat is burned instead. The result of this process is ketones.

The process isn’t limited to medical conditions, it can be induced by certain diet plans high in protein and low in carbs, like the Paleo diet and the Atkins diet. Depending on the individual’s medical state, ketosis can be a beneficial process for those needing help with weight management or other select illnesses.

Ketosis Defined

Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by increased levels of ketone bodies. This is a typical pathological in some conditions like diabetes, or can be the result of certain diets low in carbohydrates.

Ketones bodies can cause glucose to build up in the bloodstream, unable to enter the cells. High ketone levels can lead to increased blood sugar and further complications associated with diabetes such as diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

Statistics and Facts

Ketones are detectable through two different methods: a urine test or a blood test. Both types of testing kits are for purchase to perform at home.

If testing through a urinalysis, you need to collect a sample or place a testing strip into a fresh stream of urine. The waiting time is provided n the instructions, as well as a color code used to compare the result too. The darker the color on the test strip, the more ketones are present.

Blood test strips to test ketones are also available. They require a small drop of blood to measure the levels of ketones. The result will be provided on the display screen.

Testing for ketones should be done if any of the scenarios applies to you:

  • If pregnant, test for ketones before eating your first meal of the day, before blood sugar is elevated.
  • If glucose levels are over 240 mg/dl for two tests in a row.
  • If glucose levels are over 240 mg/dl and you were planning on exercising.

If blood sugar levels are elevated, and ketones are present in your sample, strenuous physical activity like exercise, can exasperate the symptoms and raise glucose levels even higher.

A ketone level of under 0.6 mmol/L is low, and anything over a reading of 1.5 mmol/L is considered to be high, and you should alert your physician.

Common Symptoms

While the process of ketosis itself isn’t harmful to the body, the resulting ketones can be problematic, especially if having been diagnosed with diabetes. If you do not have diabetes and can maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle, chances are you would not experience any of the symptoms.

However, if you have diabetes, and have both elevated glucose and ketone levels, there is the danger of developing a much more severe condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Some of the symptoms which may tell you if you are in ketosis are:

  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • No appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Insomnia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent urination

If diabetic ketoacidosis develops, the symptoms may increase or become more severe. This condition can be life-threatening, and you should seek medical help immediately.

The presence of ketones or ketoacidosis can be a warning sign of diabetes. If you have already been diagnosed with it, it could be a sign you need to adjust the amount of insulin or other diabetic medications you’re taking.

Common Treatments

Treatment protocols are in place for when ketosis develops into diabetic ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is caused by a build-up of ketones in the system and can become a life-threatening condition. If you are diabetic and have experienced the symptoms listed above or have a prominent level of ketones in your body, one of these treatment options may work to lower levels to normal range.

  • Insulin therapy – injections of a soluble insulin intravenously until glucose and ketone body levels return to normal.
  • Fluid replacement – intravenous replacement of fluids to rehydrate the body.
  • Electrolyte replenishment – by increasing levels of certain minerals like potassium or sodium, help to combat their loss through the frequent urination caused by ketoacidosis.

Common Medications

Unless ketosis develops into ketoacidosis, there are no drugs needed to stop the process.

If you have diabetes, ketoacidosis can be corrected through one of the treatment options mentioned above. The process of ketosis is being studied about how it helps you lose weight. Research shows ketosis can reduce body fat to a better result than if you restrict calories.

Positive Effects of Ketosis for Non-Diabetic Patients

The process of ketosis isn’t dangerous for people who don’t have diabetes. Ketosis is used as part of some weight loss strategies, like the Atkins or Paleo diet. These diets stress a lot of protein to fuel your body. A diet low in carbohydrates will lower the amount of glucose in the blood, which in turn produces less insulin and cause you to burn fat.

Some research studies support a ketogenic diet for people trying to lower risk of heart disease, as well as for people with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Some researchers have claimed a diet of this nature may help people control their epilepsy.

Further research is currently being done on the effect a ketogenic diet has on acne, cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Negative Effects of Ketosis for Diabetic Patients

Having your body in a state of ketosis can be beneficial for a variety of conditions. Research has been done on the effects it has on both diabetics and non-diabetics.

While it is possible for ketone levels to increase to a dangerous level, especially in those living with diabetes, some studies show because of the effect it has on weight loss, it may be a beneficial state for those who have developed type 2 diabetes and have a high body mass index.

By keeping to a low-carb diet, people with diabetes who are also considered to be obese will be better able to control their glucose levels. However, it is recommended to test ketone levels regularly to be sure the body isn’t transitioning to diabetic ketoacidosis.

Long-term effects of ketoacidosis can be life-threatening or lead to loss of consciousness.

In summary, Ketosis occurs when the body burns fatty acid for fuel instead of carbohydrates. The process of ketosis can have several health benefits, including weight management, aids in epilepsy control, and has potentially positive effects on people with diabetes and cancer.

If your body is currently in a state of ketosis, and have diabetes, it is recommended to regularly test the ketone levels in your blood or urine to prevent ketoacidosis from setting in.

Ketoacidosis is more common in people with type 1 diabetes and occurs when there are too many ketones in the blood. The cells are prevented from getting enough insulin, putting the individual at risk for a rapid increase in blood sugar levels which could result in life-threatening complications.