Keto diet: Possible dangers and unpopular opinion

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keto diet, woman eating

As someone who recently navigated the trials and challenges of menopause, quick weight loss ideas greatly interest me. (Sorry, ladies, but all the horror stories you hear about sudden onset of visceral fat during menopause are true.) It has been difficult for me to resist the temptations of converting my eating lifestyle to keto. The struggle is real. I have numerous friends who have slimmed back down to their pre-baby weights using keto diets. Ultimately, my research convinced me that the possible dangers of a keto diet aren’t worth wearing a size 6 again.

You can see by the title of this post that I logically assumed the premise would be unpopular. After all, women typically love processes, plans, supplements or procedures that help them lose weight. I get that. I personally feel healthier when I’m not carrying excess weight around on my body. The question is whether being slim (and getting slim, faster) is worth the risk of long-term negative health complications. It isn’t to me, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions and choices. All I’m suggesting is that you conduct thorough research from legitimate sources to consider the possible dangers of a keto diet before jumping in.

The bare bones of it all

In simple terms, keto works by tricking your brain into thinking you are starving. This activates the process of burning fat cells for energy. To “achieve” this state, you have to deplete your stored glycogen. Using a keto diet, this is accomplished by eating a high fat and protein diet while not eating carbohydrates. BUT — here’s the thing. God designed the human body to use glucose (carbs) for fuel.

The human body’s backup plan, so-to-speak, has two reserve processes that will kick into gear to help you survive if you’re starving. First, your brain will tell your body to start burning fat as fuel when there isn’t enough stored glycogen. If your body doesn’t have enough fat, then your brain will tell it to start breaking down and burning actual muscle for fuel. This can lead to a life-threatening condition.

Two types of ketosis

Most people using a keto diet to lose weight are likely not in actual “starvation ketosis” mode. However, the way the diet works is that it uses “dietary ketosis” (i.e. eliminating carbs and eating high fat and protein foods) to trick the brain. The brain “thinks” it is in “starvation ketosis” mode. This is why people lose weight and the pounds come off quickly.

If you fast for an extended period of time, your body might enter actual “starvation ketosis” mode. I don’t think any experienced doctor would ever recommend this. Most people, then, are using “dietary ketosis,” meaning, they are not fasting, they are eating but have changed the way they eat so that they take in more fats and proteins than carbs/glucose.

Keto diet can cause serious health problems

More and more people are suffering from kidney stones nowadays. In fact, I can think of five people I know in my personal life (all but one of whom are under age 40) who have been hospitalized with kidney stones in the past two years. Ample studies suggest that extremely low-carb diets can lead to kidney stones. Also, dangerously low blood pressure can become problematic for those maintaining a long-term keto diet.

If you’ve used keto or know someone who has, you might be familiar with the term “keto flu.” This side effect of a keto diet presents symptoms similar to influenza. You might have stomach upset, body aches, dizziness, headache and more. Staunch supporters of the keto diet shrug these symptoms off as a “normal” side effect. I’m sorry, but there is nothing “normal” about headache, body aches, dizziness or nausea.

Short-term keto diet might be best

Most of us have been there. We get invited to a wedding, class reunion or are finally going to take a vacation with our spouses, and our first inclination is to lose weight. It is definitely not atypical to want to drop a few pounds. All I’m saying is that you should be cautious and well-informed about using a keto diet to accomplish your goals.

Most dietary clinicians and health experts agree that short-term use of a keto diet is a lot safer than maintaining it indefinitely as a dietary lifestyle. Also, extenuating issues, such as diabetes, thyroid problems, cardiac impairment and more, increase the risk of negative health repercussions using a keto diet. If you plan to go this route, you really should have an in-depth discussion with your physician if you already have health problems.

Other options

I’ve written on similar topics in the past. I am convinced that there are better ways to lose weight and keep it off than tricking my brain into thinking I am starving. (Read about what can happen to your body’s organs in starvation, then remember that your brain functions on perception. It doesn’t “know” that you are not actually starving. Your brain “thinks” you are.) I’m opting for trying to make healthier choices when I eat. I’m buying and preparing more whole foods and steering clear of highly processed stuff. (Disclaimer: I’m Italian, so, yes, there is still the occasional salami or pepperoni in my diet. ::winks:: )

This year will hopefully also include more hikes and running for me. I am by no means a great distance runner like my colleague, Wes; however, I can put in a strong two miles on a regular basis (while my kids run circles around me, lol ) and be the best I can be. I’m a green tea drinker, apple cider vinegar user, and incorporate raw honey, avocado and other healthy foods into my regular diet. At age 55, I can’t say that I weigh exactly what I’d like or am in as good of shape as I used to be. I can say, however, that I rarely need to visit a doctor and I am strong and capable, which helps when I have six active teens and young adults still at home to keep up with! What are your thoughts on a keto diet?


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