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Tread carefully with a keto diet

Last updated on February 1, 2019

Keto has become a diet buzzword and if you too are planning to dive into it to accomplish your fitness goals, you should take a look at its possible risks and benefits

Ketogenic diet is a high fat, adequate protein, low carb diet that forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. It dates back to the 1920s when doctors began using it to control seizures in patients with epilepsy. Its use declined eventually with the introduction of anticonvulsant medications. However, 20-30% children, who cannot tolerate the anti-convulsant, still have to depend on the ketogenic diet.

Dr Russell Morse Wilder built on this research and coined the term ketogenic diet to describe a diet that produced a high level of ketone bodies in the blood (ketonemia) through an excess of fat and lack of carbohydrates.

Ketosis for women — especially those in their 30s and 40s — can be tricky because any change in nutrients has a profound effect on female hormones. Studies have shown that ketosis can cause a drop in thyroid hormones, which in turn results in lower SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin), causing the ovaries to produce more estrogen than necessary. This might lead to heavy and prolonged periods.

Women who are in their peak fertility years may also sometimes experience low estrogen levels due to eliminating processed foods, which contains good amounts of soybean oil. Low estrogen levels will lead to a reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness and disturbance in sleep and mood.

Also, when there is not enough glucose in the system, the body releases stress hormones called cortisol. PMS symptoms such as craving for sweets and headache might increase because the carbohydrates are restricted.
However, women with metabolic disorders, like obesity and PCOS, benefit from following the keto diet as it helps them shed extra body fat and improve metabolism, which in turn helps in balancing the female hormones.

This needs to be done under expert guidance.

An expert view
Since keto restricts many higher carb, plant-based foods like beans, legumes, whole grains, some fruits, vegetables and milk, nutrition concerns of a keto diet would include low fibre intake, and reduced intake of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D.

Taking supplements, like a multivitamin, may be beneficial if one is looking to go on keto for more than a few months. Unless suffering from a medical condition like epilepsy or neurological disorder keto should diet should not be followed for long term. It can be used as a plateau breaker for weight loss.
PROS

Extreme weight loss and inch loss. Extremely useful in breaking plateaued weight.
• Better control over ailments like diabetes, insulin resistance and PCOD.
• Aids hormonal balance (FSH/LH) in women.
• Potentially reduces seizures, improves concentration and alertness.
CONS
The most common side effect of keto is called the Keto-Flu (one may face flu-like symptoms while the body adapts to the diet, like nausea, vomiting, headache and poor concentration)
The body is in zone of acidosis, hence there is a high risk of:
• Irritable gut
• Acid reflux
• Kidney stones
• Deficiency of bone mineral density in women

Suman Agrawal is founder of Self Care India, author and mentor for Mrs India Inc