Keto with Diabetes: What You Need to Know

The Keto diet is known for its ability to help regulate your blood sugar levels.  It stands to reason that if you have a disease such as diabetes that requires careful blood sugar monitoring that you’d consider trying Keto.  The following article will explain how the Keto diet might affect your diabetes and what precautions you should take before beginning Keto.

The Keto diet and your blood sugar

Typical diets contain roughly 50% carbohydrates.  When you eat carbs, your body turns them into an energy source known as glucose.  Glucose causes a spike in energy shortly after eating because your body can quickly convert your carbs into glucose.  A few hours after eating you may notice a drop in energy as your blood sugar levels crash.  This is because glucose is extremely fast to burn through.

The keto diet helps eliminate these sugar highs and crashes by managing your blood sugar levels.  It does this by switching your primary energy source from glucose to ketones.  Ketones are made in your liver using the fat cells that your body has stored away.

The typical diet has a hard time creating ketones and burning through your stored fat.  Keto can help you do this by severely limiting the amount of carbohydrates that your body has access to in order to create glucose.  Your body is fine-tuned for survival and once it realizes it doesn’t have enough glucose to power your body it will switch to its backup source.

This process is known as ketosis.  While in ketosis your blood sugar remains relatively stable.  This means that your energy levels remain stable as well.  It’s not that your body doesn’t produce glucose while in ketosis.  Glucose is still created and it’s necessary for several of your body’s systems to function properly.  It’s just not the primary source of energy.  Ketones are slower to create and slower to burn through which helps stabilize your blood sugar and energy levels.

Diabetes and your blood sugar

Diabetes is a condition where your body either doesn’t make enough insulin, or it has a hard time managing the insulin that it can create.  Insulin is created in your pancreas and it’s used to transport the sugars in your blood.  When you eat a meal that’s high in carbohydrates it’s turned into glucose by your liver, and those sugars are transported around the body to various cells by your insulin.

A person with type 1 diabetes either can’t produce enough insulin, or they can’t produce any at all.  This happens when your body interprets the beta-cells that create insulin as being hostile to the body and it attacks them.  A person with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin in order to survive.

A person with type 2 diabetes has insulin; however, they either don’t make enough of it in their pancreas, or their body can’t use the insulin properly.  This is known as insulin resistance.  When this begins happening to someone the beta cells in their pancreas will ramp up production in order to produce more insulin.  However, it’s rarely enough and this form of diabetes tends to be progressive and get worse over time.  At the beginning stages it might be enough to keep your weight down, exercise and eat healthy.  As time goes on many people with type 2 diabetes find themselves having to either take pills that their doctor prescribes or insulin.

Keto with diabetes

The Keto diet shows conflicting evidence when it comes to whether it’s a good diet for those with diabetes.  There has been some research that shows Keto is a good option for anyone at risk of diabetes, those with type 2 diabetes and those looking to lose weight. As of today, not enough studies have been done to conclusively say that a diabetic should follow a Keto meal plan.

Part of the problem is that every person has different nutritional needs and their bodies respond to glucose in different ways.  This is why it’s suggested that you monitor your ketones in some way while on Keto because your net carb limit might be radically different from anyone else.

This individuality aspect also plays into the disease itself.  Every diabetic is slightly different and needs an individualized treatment plan.  And since the disease is constantly changing, what might work one day won’t necessarily work another day.  The key to managing diabetes is constant monitoring and adaptability with your treatment plan.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes

What is shown fairly conclusively is that the Keto diet might help prevent diabetes.  One of the risk factors for developing diabetes is excessive weight gain.  When your body stores an excessive amount of fat it becomes more resistant to insulin.  Eventually you reach a tipping point where your body becomes so resistant to insulin that you develop type 2 diabetes.  Keto can help you to lose weight by burning your body’s stored fat as ketones.

Keto can also help manage another risk factor.  Those with high blood pressure are at a greater risk of developing diabetes and Keto has been shown to help lower your blood pressure by increasing your HDL levels while lowering your LDL levels.

The Keto diet can also help you get up and moving through exercise.  Inactivity can cause insulin resistance and moving helps burn up any excess glucose in your blood stream.  If you’re on Keto you’ve probably noticed that you have more energy.  When you have more energy, you tend to move more as a result, even if it’s not your intention to exercise.

There are other risk factors for diabetes that can’t be managed by any diet, including Keto.  If you have a family history of diabetes (either a parent, brother or sister) then your risk of developing type 2 diabetes goes up.  Your race and ethnicity may also play a small role as those who are Black, Hispanic, Asian American and American Indian all seem to be at a higher risk for developing diabetes. 

For women, if you were pregnant and you developed gestational diabetes then you’re at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Any woman who suffers from Polycystic ovary syndrome is also at a greater risk. 

Weight loss for diabetes management

As mentioned above, it might be worth talking to your doctor about trying the Keto diet, or a modified version of it if you’re overweight and diabetic.  Those with type 2 diabetes might find Keto a useful tool in order to slim down and manage their symptoms.  Studies have shown that people with type 2 diabetes have successfully managed to lose weight on Keto and this has helped them reduce the amount of medication they need to treat their illness.

Keto and Ketoacidosis

If you have diabetes, you probably know about ketoacidosis.  Despite the name, ketosis and ketoacidosis are two completely different things.  Ketoacidosis is a potentially fatal situation where too many ketones build up in the blood stream.  This is most commonly experienced by type 1 diabetics who either aren’t getting enough insulin or they’re not managing their insulin levels properly.  When too many ketones build up in the blood stream it causes the blood to become too acidic which can lead to fatigue, nausea, confusion, stomach pain and sometimes loss of consciousness.

Ketosis on the other hand is a natural process that your body experiences when it converts fat into ketones for energy.  In ketosis you have ketones in your blood, but not to the extent that you’re changing the acidity level of your blood or putting yourself in harms way.  Ketosis is a relatively slow process whereas ketoacidosis involves the breakdown of fats and protein at speeds that are way too fast for your body to handle.

Talk to your doctor

Regardless of which diet you’re thinking of switching to, you should always consult with a doctor.  This is especially true if you suffer from a disease such as diabetes.  Type 1 diabetics should only eat the foods that are recommended by a doctor while type 2 diabetics have a little more leeway but should still follow doctor’s recommendations.

Because the Keto diet changes the amount of glucose in your body, it’s important to be monitored by your physician when you make any changes that could effect the amount of insulin your body produces or how that insulin is used.  Although your doctor might recommend a diet that mimics or is identical to Keto in order to limit the number of carbs that spike your blood sugar levels, in the end, you need to let them make that decision.

Conclusion

The Keto diet might be helpful for the management and treatment of type 2 diabetes; however, more research and scientific studies need to be done to understand its long-term effects.  Keto is a good tool for helping to prevent the disease by managing your weight and giving you the energy to fight inactivity.  Always speak with a doctor before making any major changes in your diet, especially if you have diabetes.

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