Your diet and nutrition can affect your risk of developing diabetes. The main problem with the disease is insufficient insulin production in the body. Insulin enables glucose to enter the muscles and be used as energy. Without insulin, the circulating glucose in your blood will not be consumed, leading to further complications.
Especially with a high blood sugar level, insulin would be inadequate to circulate glucose. Thus, the treatment of diabetes includes dietary modifications limiting the intake of sugars. There are many nutrition plans out there, but they are not all cut out to help manage diabetes.
One of the most popular diets is keto. It focuses on decreasing carbs and increasing protein intake. But how does it impact diabetes? What is the keto diet? And is the keto diet good for diabetics?
What is the keto diet1?
Recommended for type 2 diabetic patients, the ketogenic diet focuses on lowering glucose in your body by decreasing carbohydrate intake and replacing it with fats for energy use. This allows glucose to circulate in your blood within a normal range. Additionally, it increases fat and protein consumption so that your muscles at work would have more energy to burn.
There are several variations of the ketogenic fast, the most common being the cyclical keto, targeted keto, and the very low carbohydrate diets.
Cyclical keto diet
As the name implies, the cyclical ketogenic diet involves a high-fat, low carbohydrate intake strictly followed for 5 to 6 days. Within this period, you are only allowed to have 50 grams of carbs. However, on the 6th and 7th days, high carbohydrate nutrition is recommended to replenish the lost glucose in your body.
Targeted keto diet
The targeted keto diet‘s principle is similar to the regular keto fast, wherein a high-fat, low carbohydrate rule is observed. However, carbs are allowed to prevent hypoglycemia or the sudden drop in blood glucose during workout days. Hypoglycemia is a common complication in diabetic patients injecting regular insulin medications.
Very Low Carbohydrate (VLC) diet
The very low carbohydrate diet consists of three stages: active, re-education, and maintenance. It is the most intense version of the ketogenic diet, as it drastically decreases carbohydrate absorption to 30 grams a day. It also replaces the lost carbohydrates with fat, which results in lower blood sugar levels and faster processing of fats.
Impact of Keto Diet3
A ketogenic fast decreases your consumption of carbohydrates, which turn into sugar. This enables your body to keep glucose levels stable and prevent abnormal surges.
With keto, the need for insulin medication is reduced. In fact, patients with diabetes who undergo a low-carb fast immediately reduce their insulin dose by 50%. Similarly, 95% of people with type 2 diabetes lessened or eliminated their glucose-lowering prescriptions within six months.
Keto for diabetics places you in a metabolic state of ketosis, where the energy you get from the food you eat is insufficient to power the activities of your body. So instead of using glucose, your body derives energy from burning fats, resulting in weight reduction.
Benefits of Keto to Diabetics4
Keto diet for diabetics, when done right, significantly and positively impact the body. Continue reading to know more about the benefits of incorporating this diet into your lifestyle.
Blood pressure management
You are at risk for stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure with hypertension. Reducing carbs from your diet will significantly lower your blood pressure, decrease your chances of being hypertensive, and prevent these diseases.
Better insulin sensitivity
Less insulin is needed in your body to move the sugar to the muscles, improving your body’s sensitivity to the hormone.
Improved good cholesterol (HDL)
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol improves with fat. HDL decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease and promotes overall health.
With ketosis, you lose weight when your muscles and organs consume fat instead of carbs for energy use.
Lower blood sugar
Since the diet decreases your intake of carbohydrates and sugar, the circulating glucose in your blood is significantly reduced to the normal range.
Decreased need for insulin medications
Similarly, there is a decreased need for insulin to transfer sugars from the blood into the organs and muscles.
Improved heart health
One of the leading causes of oxidative stress is obesity, a factor eliminated or significantly reduced by the ketogenic diet.
Decreased circulating fat
Your body’s circulating fat declines when it undergoes the state of ketosis. In ketosis, your body consumes fat rather than glucose for energy.
Prevention of blood flow obstructions caused by fats
With keto for diabetics, there is a decreased risk for atherosclerosis. This refers to the fats that form at your arteries’ inner walls, causing them to narrow and obstruct blood flow to organs.
Better blood flow to tissues, organs, and rest of the body
The decrease in glucose reduces the viscosity of your blood, which helps with blood flow through the veins and arteries. Decreased blood viscosity also implies better and improved blood pressure.
Better diagnosis for patients with diabetes
Lower blood sugar levels help maintain your overall health, improve your diagnosis, and prevent the progression of the disease.
Drawbacks of the keto diet5
The keto diet for diabetics is not perfect. Since your body is used to utilizing carbohydrates and sugar for energy, replacing carbs with fats can cause several side effects.
As you deplete carbs from your diet, your body may adjust to ketosis and the sudden electrolyte imbalances, causing “Keto flu.” Keto flu symptoms include headache, foggy brain, fatigue, irritability, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and constipation.
Low energy and poor mental function
Sugar is one of the fuels of the brain. Since it is restricted in the diet, the brain functions at a minimum, which can cause mental difficulties such as lack of focus and mental clarity.
Because you are cutting yourself off from carbohydrates and limiting yourself from food rich in fiber, you will experience an increased level of hunger.
Increased risk for hypoglycemia/low blood sugar levels
These low levels of blood sugar, if left untreated, could cause a condition called hypoglycemia. This frequently happens with insulin-dependent patients and could even be fatal if not treated immediately.
Due to the lack of sugar that your brain needs to function correctly, the keto diet could make you feel dizzy.
Kidney stone formation
Since the ketogenic process makes your urine more acidic, the risk of kidney stone formation would increase significantly.
Fibers play a significant part in food movement through the digestive tract. Most fiber-containing foods are eliminated in the ketogenic menu since they contain carbohydrates. Thus, another common side effect of keto is constipation or the lack of gastrointestinal motility from reduced fiber consumption.
Nutrient deficiencies are common in the ketogenic diet since foods high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium are associated with high carbohydrate content.
With the increased acidity and elevated ketone levels brought by the keto regimen, acetone exits with your breath. This causes a foul smell, also known as Keto breath, different from ordinary halitosis.
Tips on Staying on Track6
Given all these side effects, it can get challenging to discipline oneself and stick with the keto diet. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Keep things simple
In planning a diet, keep things simple. Follow a routine and schedule you can follow and not disrupt your fast.
Plan your meals
Plan your meals ahead of time and prepare them on a 3-day basis to save time and motivate you to stick to your fasting plan.
Remember to be patient. Like in all diets, weight loss does not happen overnight. Sticking to a regimen requires discipline and good habits.
Be creative with your meals
With keto for diabetics, you still have plenty of food options, including veggies, eggs, low-carb sweeteners, and hard cheese. Being creative with your meals allows you to have something to look forward to.
Focus on your goal
Focus on why you are doing the diet. For better diabetes management, your goals could be for better weight management and blood glucose levels. Whatever reason, remind yourself constantly why you are doing the diet.
Monitor weight daily to stay motivated to continue the diet
Motivation can come when you monitor your weight regularly and see your progress. When you see the positive results, you’ll realize you’re on the right track to better health.
Be strict and devoted to your diet
There is no other solution than honest to goodness self-discipline. Create a menu plan, track your fasting schedule, and stick to your good habits and regimen.
Identify the type of ketogenic diet that is appropriate for you
Half of the battle is knowing. So, in accomplishing the regimen, you first have to know yourself, know what food is good for you, and know your limits. Identify what type of nutrition works for you, and don’t forget to consult professionals.
Shake the Carbs Off
Keto for diabetics proves to be of great value regarding its impact on the disease progression of diabetes. However, you should bear in mind its side effects. In any diet, it is paramount that you first consult your physicians and take assessment tests as to whether or not the diet you are planning would be appropriate for you.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.