Recently, I shared my own experience with the ketogenic diet, which triggered a significant healing reaction for me. I was grateful to trouble-shoot the following areas of challenge. Awareness and supplemental support for the following trouble spots will improve your success on a ketogenic diet.
Ketogenic Diet Success Checklist
The following factors determine the success of achieving our natural state of ketosis. Without addressing these physiological functions, the diet can be a stress rather than a healing.
In order to thrive on ketosis, these factors must be in place:
- Fat digestion. Before we burn fat, we have to digest it. We need adequate bile and lipase to convert fat into fuel.
- Leaky gut. Starting keto with a leaky gut can make the condition worse. Poorly digested fats further stress the health of the gut.
- Adrenal support. The period of conversion between sugar-burning and fat-burning places a huge demand adrenal function
- Detoxification help. Converting to a fat-burning state mobilizes stored toxins in the body. Detoxification pathways must be open, so toxins leave the body.
- Electrolyte balance. Different people need different mineral support. Increased sodium intake is generally recommended on a ketogenic diet, but it helps only 50% of the time.
- Vagal tone. The vagal nerve carries messages from the brain for digestion, detoxification, and healing. Strong vagal tone is foundational to a ketogenic diet.
Fat Digestion on Ketosis
With the profound increase in fats necessary to shift into ketosis, the question is whether we can digest the fats. Improperly digested fats actually become a stress rather than a healing to the body.
Fat is the macronutrient demanding the most energy to digest, and it takes longer than proteins and carbs to digest. Gallbladder issues, pancreatic lipase deficiency, and gut inflammation from allergies or infection will compromise fat digestion.
Symptoms of poor fat digestion: greasy or floating stool, pain under right rib cage, nausea.
Supplemental support: If stool is light colored, it indicates the gallbladders bile is too viscous. Bile is needed for the emulsification of fats in the small intestine. With this indication, use Beta TCP.
For those who begin the ketogenic diet and become constipated, consider the short-term (up to three weeks) addition of Beta-Plus (bile salts).
Digestive enzymes that include lipase can also be supportive. The amino acid taurine is essential for bile production, and is supportive for everyone to take in the first phase of the ketogenic diet.
2. Adrenal Support for the Ketogenic Diet
When converting from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner, for the first 6 to 12 weeks, the adrenals face an increased workload. Their role is to maintain blood sugar levels during the dramatic reduction in carbs.
With the demand on the adrenals to produce the necessary cortisol, there is the possibility of overworking the adrenals in the first phase of the ketogenic diet. If the adrenals don’t keep up with cortisol production, we experience the fatigue familiar to many during the ketogenic conversion.
Those who already struggle with adrenal insufficiency can compromise the health of their adrenals even more.
Symptoms of compromised adrenal function: Extreme fatigue, salt cravings.
Supplemental support: Vitamin B1, vitamin B5, salt, licorice tinctures, food-based vitamin C, and adrenal glandular. ADB5 Plus from Biotics Research is a multi-nutrient supplement for the adrenals.
3. Detoxification Help for Ketosis
With the inevitable weight loss from the Ketogenic diet, the toxins stored in our fat are released into the blood and distributed to our liver, kidneys and digestive system. Without sufficient liver and gut support, the mobilized toxins are redistributed throughout the body, creating a toxic effect.
Without detoxification support, the toxins mobilized during the ketogenic diet can produce symptoms known as the “Keto Flu.”
Symptoms of detoxification: Skin breakouts, irritability, headaches.
Supplemental support: chlorella (lead-free with broken cell walls) and bentonite clay are toxin binders, which remove toxins via the intestinal tract. Glutathione is critical — forms of sublingual glutathione or transdermal glutathione can be found from alternative health practitioners. Folate, vitamin B12, choline, taurine, and inositol all help the liver optimize detoxification functions.
4. Leaky Gut and the Ketogenic Diet
Nine out of ten people have some degree of gut inflammation. Poor digestion, allergies, and infections all inflame the epithelial tissue of our gut.
This tissue damage critically diminishes digestion and immune function, and leaky gut results. Food, undigested fats, and pathogens leak into the blood stream, which puts the immune system into overdrive. In that process we develop new food intolerances from whatever we are eating frequently.
When the gut is compromised, a high intake of fat can stress digestion even further and perpetuate leaky gut. Undigested fats are caustic to the gut lining. Support for gut healing must be in place.
Symptoms of leaky gut: Heartburn, undigested food in stool, food allergies or sensitivities, eczema, autoimmune disease.
Supplemental support: Restore, Biokult or PrescriptAssist probiotic, Reparivite from Apex Energetics (available from alternative health practitioners)
5. Electrolyte Balance and Ketosis
Ketosis has an immediate and dramatic effect on water weight and mineral levels. Insulin encourages the body to retain water and sodium. When insulin levels drop in ketogenic state, electrolytes are lost.
Determining specific mineral needs is essential. The ketogenic community has determined that sodium deficiency is common. This is especially true with adrenal insufficiency, commonly called “adrenal fatigue.” Why?
The adrenals also produce a hormone called aldosterone, whose function is to tell the kidneys to retain sodium. When the adrenals become tired, they not only become deficient in cortisol output but also aldosterone output. Now, the kidneys start excreting too much sodium.
This can lead to dehydration. Without sufficient sodium, the body cannot maintain its hydration levels.
However, sodium is depleted in 50% of my ketogenic cases. Beware of the generic keto prescription of always adding salt. Many of my clients have needed potassium, magnesium or calcium instead of sodium.
Clients who have a hyper-adrenal pattern have excess levels of aldosterone, and retain too much sodium. Those clients don’t do well with adding salt.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance: muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, salt cravings.
Supplemental support: Sea salt or electrolytes. For those of you with hyper-adrenal patterns (which you can determine here), include Cortisol Brakes from Meo Energetics.
6. Vagal Tone and Ketosis
The vagal nerve is the wiring that connects the brain to the digestive system. Without vagal tone, digestion doesn’t happen.
The vagal nerve activates the branch of the autonomic nervous system called parasympathetic. Digestion, detoxification, and immune functions are only turned on when the body is in a parasympathetic state.
There are consequences to low vagal tone: the body’s essential processes shut down. Low vagal tone leads to the challenges seen on a ketogenic diet including nausea, constipation, insomnia, exhaustion, and adrenal imbalances.
Symptoms of low vagal tone: constipation, insomnia, undigested food in stool, floating stool, discomfort in digestive tract.
Supplemental support: Vagal Tone by Meo Energetics
I have many of theses issues I already tried the keto diet and felt awful I had such bad anxiety and loose stools where I was constapated befor hand . What does a girl do ?
Might I suggest changing the opening salvo. “With the profound increase in fats necessary to shift into ketosis”.
It simply isn’t true. Almost everyone, (healthy individuals), will enter ketosis after a few days of zero caloric intake. Zero fat needed. No “PROFOUND INCREASE” necessary. One can enter into periods where ketones are almost exclusively the only source of fuel by periodically fasting.
Of course to maintain a healthy body weight one needs x fuel per day. If being in a state of ketosis is desirous for extended periods of time one will need to consume most of the needed fuel as fat.
Personally, I use this fluctuating method with a cycle of about one week. A few days of low carb, but not ketosis, a few days of transition by lowering the already very low carbs, followed by a few days in ketosis. Then sometimes out of ketosis for weeks and sometimes in ketosis for several days. My fat intake never changes. It is the percentage of carbs that I vary. My caloric intake is manipulated by extending my intermittent fasting period, from 15-16 hours to 18-24 hours. As I am low in carbs I do this to trigger ketosis at will.
I will say this. Nutrition is critical. You should be in good health and excellent nutrition prior to attempting the above. It took me one year to get there and still it is a constant mental effort to make sure that I am consuming what my body is needing and only consuming nutritionally dense foods.
Belinda S Jones
I had my gall bladder removed several years ago. Does the inability to produce bile make ketogenic diet impossible?
Nancy in Alberta
Hi, Belinda. I’m not an expert, but I don’t have a gall bladder either, and what I’ve learned is that the discomfort of a fatty meal can be helped by a digestive enzyme complex that contains ox bile. Also, the ketogenic diet isn’t completely dependent on fat consumption. Simply lowering carbs will move your body toward ketogenesis, but you’ll want to have some form of fuel, which is where the ox bile comes into play.
First, I would like to thank you for this article. Actually it’s a useful article. I would like to add that the list of foods allowed and the food to be avoided and the food that should be avoided completely contributes significantly to the success of this type of diet, which helps the component of the Kitosis to perform its work effectively.
Can I have some links or leads to where you did your research for keto? Definitely not questioning you, at all 🙂 This is probably one of the better articles out there on the ketogenic diet and it’s potential pitfalls.
Have you heard anything about Restore causing anxiety? I’ve been doing keto for about 3 weeks and have felt pretty good, other than some loose stools and tummy upset. So I thought I’d try restore. I took it for the first time about an hour before bed — half an hour later anxiety hit me like a ton a bricks, almost to the point of a panic attack. And anxiety hasn’t been a problem for me at all for a really long time. I tried taking it again this morning before breakfast and almost the same thing happened, but the anxiety hit me around noon and is very persistent. I tried eating as soon as I started feeling it in case it was some weird blood sugar thing, but it didn’t help. Any thoughts?