“Is the keto diet bad for some people?” is a question I see being asked in some of the online health groups. The Keto Diet is no doubt one of the most popular diets today for weight loss and numerous other health benefits but it’s not right for everyone.
Since the diet has virtually no carbs, your body will not have all the highs and lows that lead to cravings, energy crashes, and hunger pangs. Instead, your blood sugar will remain stable and your body starts losing excess weight fast.
While the keto diet has the potential to benefit a lot of people, the diet may not be suitable for some who have certain conditions.
Keto Diet Safety
Remember that when making such significant changes in your eating habits, there are particular issues that you should be mindful about. The ketogenic diet is an extremely low carbohydrate and high healthy fat based nutrition plan. Just like with any type of diet, it also comes with potential risks.
Before you decide to follow the ketogenic lifestyle, it’s highly recommended that you first speak to your doctor, Naturopath, dietitian, or registered nutritionist to be sure you do not have any condition that the diet would not be suitable for.
According to Dr. Alan Barclay, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Research Associate at The University of Sydney,
‘Cutting out carbs without advice can be dangerous, and can put you at risk of deficiencies in the long-term.”
There are also situations where, if you are taking medication, it should be monitored or changed while on the diet. The keto diet causes the body to let go of excess water during the first few days, which can cause some medications to become more concentrated in the blood, potentially rising to uncomfortable or even toxic levels.
To be sure, speak to to your physician or specialist about the effects of the diet on your medication.
Is The Keto Diet Bad For Some People?
It’s important to remember that there’s not one diet that can work perfectly for everyone. In the case of the ketogenic diet, there are certain conditions that people have where long-term keto diet may not be appropriate. Let’s take a look at the main ones here.
There is a lot of controversy among health professionals over the effect the keto diet has on the thyroid gland and its hormones. Writing on HealthLine Ryan Raman, MS, RD states that based on some research eating too few carbs may lower your thyroid hormone levels.
Dr Alan Christianson states that the ketogenic diet has been shown to slow thyroid function in both children and adults. No doubt about it.
On the other hand Dr Jockers states:
this style of eating encourages a healthy metabolism by burning off excess fat and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Without going into too much detail, a ketogenic diet simply enables the body to function at a much more efficient level and this may allow for a more balance production of thyroid hormones.
It is important he says to have adequate calories and the nutrients needed for proper thyroid function.
Dr Anna Cabeca also states that there is a lot of conflicting information regards the keto diet and hypothyroid conditions but there isn’t a lot of it. She does however say this about her Keto-Green diet
Many of these Keto-Green differences specifically address the potential concerns that someone having thyroid disease might otherwise have with trying a traditional ketogenic diet.
Her Keto-Green program focuses on “clean” and organic foods, 56-70% healthy fats, 20% clean and organic protein and 5-10% slow-burning carbs such as green veggies. Eating enough green vegetables helps to keep you alkaline and provide fiber which is important if you have a thyroid condition.
Kidney stones and kidney diseases
Being in Ketosis can increase the acidity of the urine which if you are prone to kidney stones can lead to the promotion of uric acid and kidney stones. It is possible to combat this by adding some potassium citrate to your diet.
Do not attempt the keto diet if you have any kidney or pancreatic disease as the protein content would be too high.
Although you’ll see recommendations to avoid the keto way of eating during pregnancy others say it could be acceptable.
As stated on Women’s Health Mag website Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies says “At this point, there’s very little known about its effects on the developing fetus”.
On the other hand Dr Anthony Gustin, a Functional Medicine Practitioner, points out that the keto diet is helpful for getting pregnant especially for women with polycystic ovaries.
I wrote an article about the Keto Diet being able to improve fertility here.
And, as for following the diet during pregnancy, Gustin says “It appears ketosis happens naturally quite often in women who are pregnant, especially in the late stage pregnancies”.
“Fetuses require both glucose and ketones to grow, so a balance is key. What’s important is to ensure the mother has normal blood sugar levels and is getting enough calories”.
Dr. Michael Fox, fertility specialist at the Jacksonville Center for Reproductive Medicine who has not only been recommending a low-carb ketogenic diet for 17 years to his infertile patients but also to all his patients who become pregnant, states:
It is completely safe for women to be eating a ketogenic diet in pregnancy. Women in ancient times were certainly ketotic during pregnancy.
Obviously it’s best to be monitored by a health professional if you decide to follow a keto diet before or during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding while on keto
While we’re on the subject of pregnancy you might be wondering if it’s safe to eat keto style while breast feeding. Interestingly, babies are apparently born in a state of ketosis and remain so while breast feeding.
The advice is that if you have already been following a keto diet while pregnant then by all means continue while breast feeding but it’s important to make sure you are eating enough calories and stay well hydrated.
If you are just thinking of starting a keto diet while breast feeding to lose weight then it may not be such a good idea unless you do it carefully and do not try to get into ketosis quickly.
You have to make sure you are eating enough calories. plenty of healthy fat and a good range of vitamins and minerals.
Type 1 Diabetes
While a low carb keto style diet has been shown to be beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes it’s not so clear cut with Type 1 diabetes.
Researchers suggest in one study that reducing carbohydrates as well as the corresponding reduction in insulin that diabetes Type 1 could be improved.
Another suggested that Type 1 diabetes could be managed with Paleolithic Ketogenic diet if caught early. In 2015 Hungarian researchers made headlines when their case study showing that the diet helped to delay children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes from having insulin injections was published.
A Paleo Keto diet, in case you are wondering, is a modified version of the ketogenic diet, with a fat to protein ratio of nearly 2:1.
Eating disorders & under weight
As with any restrictive diets they are not good for people with eating disorders or if you are already underweight.
On the other hand it could help someone with binge eating as it helps to prevent blood sugar fluctuations. The high healthy fat foods such as avocado, nuts, coconut oil and olive oil encouraged on the diet leave people feeling satisfied and makes bingeing less likely.
Aside from the things mentioned above, the ketogenic diet is not recommended for kids and teenagers and those who are suffering from irregular menstrual cycles. High-level athletes may not do well on the diet due to the very low carb intake.
Low carb diets like keto have been proven to be effective for many people for many conditions. Aside from helping them to lose weight, the diet has also helped improve their overall health.
But then again, not everyone can benefit from one dietary approach. Each person is unique, and when it comes to weight loss diets, the “one size fits all” approach is not applicable!