Is ketosis safe? If you’re just starting your keto journey and haven’t really researched ketosis thoroughly, you may be wondering if ketosis is safe.
When this question comes up, most people draw their conclusions on what they’ve heard from the nearest layperson or what they’ve heard about ketoacidosis, which is much different.
It’s time to set the record straight and shed some light on the confusion about the safety of ketosis.
In this article, you’ll learn all about the myths and misconceptions about following a low-carb keto diet, how to approach ketosis safely, and how it’s different from deadly ketoacidosis.
Misconceptions About Ketosis
There’s a lot of false information out there about ketosis being bad for you. In this section, keto myths will be tackled and explained to properly educate you so you can finally answer the question, “Is ketosis safe?”
Ketosis Health Myths
The most common myths about ketosis being unsafe or unhealthy usually come down to misinformation. Here are some of the top health myths about ketosis and why they’re wrong.
Myth: The Ketogenic Diet Causes Heart Disease
You’ve been told that fat, especially saturated fat, can cause hardening of the arteries and heart disease. However, according to the latest research, the short-term health benefits of following a high-fat diet include a positive impact on cardiovascular health[*].
The same study has shown that in comparison to those who followed a high-carb, low-fat diet, keto followers had improved sleep and better cognitive function.
The ketogenic diet has also shown promising results in the management of obesity, high cholesterol levels, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels, and neurodegenerative medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s[*][*].
Myth: It’s Not Safe for Your Kidneys
You’ll often hear that high-protein diets may increase the risk factors of developing kidney problems, and sometimes ketogenic diets are lumped into that category.
The keto diet is not high-protein; it focuses mainly on healthy fats (such as avocado and olive oil) and a moderate amount of protein that won’t overload your system.
Myth: Your Muscles Will Waste Away
If you follow your macros and keep your fat intake high and protein consumption moderate — which is, again, the basis of a healthy state of ketosis — muscle loss won’t be an issue. Your body will continue burning ketones for fuel without turning to your lean muscle.
Nutritional ketosis actually helps preserve and prevent muscle tissue from breaking down[*].
Using a ketogenic calculator to find out your unique needs — especially when you’re just starting out and fat burning is your goal — can be of great help.
Myth: You Won’t Get Enough Fiber
There is a huge misconception that when following a keto diet all you eat is meat and butter.
A ketogenic diet done properly is not only sustainable for your short- and long-term health, but it will also provide all the micronutrients your body needs (even when certain food groups are eliminated from your diet).
Keto focuses on healthy eating, which involves a lot of whole food, fibrous vegetables, and salads, all of which are full of dietary fiber.
Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis
Ketoacidosis is one of the biggest reasons that causes people to wonder “Is ketosis safe?”
Though the names are so similar, ketosis and ketoacidosis have huge distinctions.
Here are basic definitions of each:
- Ketosis is a natural process in which the body begins burning ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
- Ketoacidosis is a dangerous metabolic state that can occur in type 1 diabetics if they aren’t managing their insulin levels and diet properly. This is also known as diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA[*].
DKA can also occur in diabetics who are sick. Either way, it involves an extremely high level of ketones in the blood that causes it to turn acidic.
In contrast, ketosis is a safe shift in how the body burns energy brought on by changes in someone’s diet plan.
On a standard diet, the default energy source of your body is carbohydrates. But with a very-low-carb, moderate-protein, and high-fat ketogenic diet, your body begins to switch from burning carbs to breaking down fats, releasing ketone bodies which are used as the main fuel source.
Not only is ketosis natural and safe, but it’s also healthy in many ways, which are covered below.
Contrary to the popular myths covered above, there are many benefits when following a ketogenic diet and putting your body into ketosis. Whether you’re new to the ketogenic diet or have been following it for years, it’s always good to have a refresher on the healthiest (and safest) ways to get into ketosis.
Entering Ketosis Safely
It’s important to make sure you’re eating whole foods and keeping the right ratios of carbs, proteins, and fats.
Amounts vary a little depending on the person, but making sure your fat intake is high — and protein is moderate — is key.
The “Keto Flu”
The only downside to ketosis are the side effects some people experience when the body is switching from glucose to ketones for energy. This is often referred to as the “keto flu” because it mimics flu virus symptoms like:
- Feeling tired
- Lacking motivation
- Confusion or brain fog
- Bad breath
It’s not uncommon to experience these when first starting a ketogenic diet or after a cheat meal or carb cycling — your body is burning through that excess glycogen and switching back to burning fat for fuel again.
How to Avoid the Keto Flu
Keto flu symptoms usually diminish after a week or two. Some people never experience the keto flu at all. For those who do, though, there are ways to reduce your risk of symptoms, including:
- Taking exogenous ketones: Increasing the number of ketones in your system helps you reduce the chances or the amount of time the keto flu is experienced. They can reduce transition symptoms faster than just relying on a low-carbohydrate diet.
- Drinking a lot of water: It’s critical to stay hydrated. Drink approximately 32 ounces of water in the morning — especially if you have keto coffee or black coffee, which is dehydrating — and continuing throughout the day. This can help reduce headaches and other uncomfortable symptoms.
- Increasing your salt intake: Your kidneys excrete more sodium on a ketogenic diet, so you can end up with a nutrient deficiency. Try adding Himalayan pink salt to your dishes, drinking bone broth throughout the day, adding sea vegetables to your meals, eating cucumbers and celery, and snacking on salted nuts (in moderation).
- Eating enough calories and fat: Some people make the mistake of just cutting out carbohydrates and not replacing them with anything, leading to a super-low calorie intake which is bad for hormones and metabolic needs. Keep your calories up and your brain nourished with plenty of healthy ketogenic-friendly fats.
- Getting exercise: You might not feel much like exercising while beginning to get into ketosis, but regular exercise can help make your metabolism better able to handle the switch from carbs to ketones for energy — meaning less keto flu suffering.
- Testing your ketone levels: Make sure you’re actually getting into ketosis — and test often to check you’re staying there.
The Bottom Line: Is Ketosis Safe?
Now that the main myths and misunderstandings have been covered, you can see for yourself that ketosis is safe and healthy when following a well-planned ketogenic diet based around whole foods.
Following a balanced keto-friendly meal plan, controlling carbohydrate intake, and keeping a healthy lifestyle will keep you in ketosis, which will help your body work in an optimal way.
If you’re curious about the differences between the keto diet and other diets, check out these articles:
- Keto vs Paleo: Is Ketosis Better Than Paleo?
- Keto Diet vs. the Mediterranean Diet
- Ketogenic Diet vs. Atkins Diet