Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening metabolic condition wherein the human body produces too many ketones and too little insulin. Ketones are the acids that remain when the body burns its fats on a regular basis. On the other hand, insulin is a type of hormone responsible for regulating the glucose in the blood.
For the body to be healthy, both should be at a normalized level. However, several factors such as lifestyle, environment, and genetics disrupt the body system. It could result in abnormal levels of the two, and thus ketoacidosis occurs.
Ketone Bodies Functionality
To fully understand ketoacidosis, you must first learn what ketones, also known as ketone bodies, do. What are its functions in the human body? What happens when it gets too low or too high? Is it a deadly or curable condition?
Essentially, ketone bodies are the accumulated acids in the bloodstream. Sometimes, the body uses it as an alternative fuel when there is a short supply of glucose or sugar. Furthermore, glucose and sugar are needed by specific organs such as the brain, kidneys, and red blood cells.
The function of ketone bodies is its “alternative” status that somehow becomes an “emergency” backup when the body is running out of sugar. Normally, blood ketones should be less than 0.6 mmol/L. If a person has ketoacidosis, the levels are observed between 1.5 and 3.0 mmol/L.
When ketone bodies are too high, it means that your liver has produced so much of it, and you might need a shot of insulin because it is running out. It is also a huge signal that you might have a ketoacidosis. Low ketone levels are rather advisable as it is perfectly normal. Low ketones are not harmful to the body as well. Concerning curability, ketones can be regulated so long as the right amount of insulin is provided in accordance with the body’s requirement.
Another huge factor in the ketoacidosis health case is the low insulin levels. But what is insulin? Working hand in hand with the liver, fat cells, and muscle, insulin is the chief chemical that controls and regulates glucose and sugar levels. It tells these organs to absorb the glucose so the body can use it for energy. Its other function involves lipids synthesis and enzymatic activity regulation.
Yes, it does act as a manager and operator of the body. Without it, the human health will crumble and fail. When insulin is down, the organs will not work correctly, and the human body will be quickly exhausted due to lack of energy. However, ketones are there to save the day whenever insulin is absent to function. But this is not advisable unless you want to burn body fats and extra weight, and signing up to a ketone diet to do so should help.
Ketoacidosis in Diabetic People
Diabetic people, specifically those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, are at high risk for ketoacidosis or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). As common knowledge, the most significant problem of people who have diabetes is their inability to produce sufficient insulin. Because of this chronic illness, the body would start burning fat in response to the lack of glucose, a vital chemical that the body needs to process energy. Usually, it may be because the insulin-producing beta cells located in the human pancreas are destroyed or damaged making it impossible to produce one.
When a person has diabetic ketoacidosis, his/her body is burning fats for energy. A sufficient shot of insulin may do the trick of preventing further complications such as ketone build-up which can make the blood acidic.
Signs and Symptoms of Ketoacidosis
Although it takes a professional advice to pinpoint if somebody really does have ketoacidosis, it can easily be observed through the following primary signs and symptoms listed below. Someone should start suspecting that he/she may have a ketoacidosis if he/she answered mostly yes to these questions:
- Do you often experience excessive thirst even after you have just gulped 1 liter of water?
- Do you frequently go to the comfort room to pee? No, it is not urinary tract infection, it could be your ketones trying to warn you.
- Do you feel nauseous and would like to vomit right after?
- Do you often experience abdominal pain?
- Do you always feel weak or exhausted? Does it feel like you are running out of energy?
- Do you experience shortness of breath even when you are not doing any physically demanding activities?
- Do you smell a fruity-scented breath whenever you are saying something? (If you haven’t, try to smell your breath now.)
Once most of the answers to the above checklist are labeled yes, it would be a wise move to hurry up and avail a medical examination straight from a trusted doctor. This medical process can result in a diagnosis of either hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level) or the surge of ketone levels in urine. More often, the process of this examination would include a urine test and blood extraction, and you will immediately get the result. Once the test is done, the results will reveal whether you do have a ketoacidosis or not.
Why do people suffer from ketoacidosis? Since sugar is the main source of energy, the body needs insulin to be able to penetrate the cells. Sugar makes up the muscles and tissues in the human body.
Hence, if the body is not producing enough insulin, the body cannot use glucose for energy. It then releases hormones. These hormones breakdown fat into fuel and produces ketones. Excess ketones amass in the bloodstreams while the others are converted into urine.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA can be caused by:
- Insulin therapy problem
- Physical or emotional trauma
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Heart attack
- Corticosteroid and diuretic medications
Diabetic Ketoacidosis vs Nutritional Ketosis
Although there are a lot of myths surrounding the relationship of DKA and Ketosis, experts explain that they have a huge difference. Ketoacidosis is common in diabetic patients. However, there are rare cases that even non-diabetic patients can acquire it.
Looking at the two terminologies, ketoacidosis is an alarming state wherein diabetic people have the tendency to starve themselves. The lack of insulin causes the starvation. As it was explained earlier, the body converts the glucose into ketones if insulin is not around.
Ketones will then break down into fat and amino acids that affect the organ functions. This can cause organ failures especially to those with uncontrolled diabetes. Although ketoacidosis has a diverse setup to normal individuals or people with well-controlled diabetes, it is still a dangerous process to the human body.
On the other hand, ketones serve as a fuel source in nutritional ketosis. Insulin maintains the blood sugar level while keeping the production of ketone in the safe line. Reducing carbohydrate-intake can help people achieve this. If the body has low glucose from food, it will burn fats as a fuel as long as the blood sugar is normal and the body produces enough insulin.
Ketoacidosis and Prevention
There are numerous ways on what to do to prevent ketoacidosis. From the ketogenic diet, whether people suffer ketoacidosis or not, they must be aware of how to stay healthy. “Prevention is better than cure,” as the saying goes. Here’s what people can do to prevent the complications of DKA:
- Proper Management of Diabetes. Having a balanced diet with physical exercises can help in the proper management of diabetes. Making it an important part of people’s daily routine will help fight off DKA. Oral diabetes medications must also be taken as directed.
- Monitoring of Glucose Level. It would be advisable to record or monitor the blood sugar level every once in a while. Patients can check their blood sugar at least three to four times within the day. If the person is ill or stressed out, it would be recommended to have it checked more often. Careful monitoring will help maintain the blood sugar within the safe range.
- Insulin Dosage Adjustment. DKA patients must always consult their doctors and seek their advice. Adjusting the insulin dosage may be based on the blood glucose level, food or diet, physical activity, illnesses, and other factors. If the blood glucose elevates, it would be better to follow the diabetes treatment plan. This will help reduce the level to the target range.
- Monitoring of the Ketone Level. There are over-the-counter test kits to test the ketone levels in the urine. If the ketone level is moderate or high, seek emergency care immediately. It means the insulin level is low if the ketone level is also low. Thus, increasing the insulin level will help.
- Taking Quick Action. If the signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis emerge – high blood sugar and urine ketone levels – be vigilant and seek emergency care.
Other Lifestyle Adjustments
Ketone levels can be considerably improved, and the risk of ketoacidosis can be reduced if you submit to a dedicated lifestyle modification like the following:
- Drink plenty of water to flush ketones out of your body regularly. Double or triple your daily intake and always keep bottled water within your reach.
- Test your blood sugar every 3 to 4 hours to check if it is a sign of
- Do not miss any of your insulin shot. Commit yourself to it and have it scheduled so that you can follow it thoroughly. Remember, missing a shot will put your life in the high-risk zone.
- Do not exercise if you have high blood sugar and high ketones because you will dramatically lose weight if you do it. It is unhealthy to lose weight if you already have a normal one. However, if you are willing to do a ketone diet for personal reasons (in case you are overweight), then you can do so.
- If you are pregnant, test your ketone levels every morning before you eat your breakfast.
- Talk to your doctor. Do not wait for the worst to come or for the emergency response before doing any actions.
Ketogenic Diet, Yay or Nay?
If you are on a ketogenic diet, you need to limit your carb intake to 20–50 grams each day and devour high-fat food selection instead. It is becoming very popular nowadays particularly to athletes and bodybuilders who want a boost in their system and mind. Those who seriously want to lose weight are also attracted to this type of diet. Just remember that this type of diet reduces your insulin-dependency and increases ketone bodies, thus in the first few days, some side effects may occur. Partly similar to low-carb and Atkins diet, it drastically reduces carbohydrate intake by replacing it with healthy fats.
To begin with the ketone diet, one must remember the following list written below:
Food to Stay Away From
- Sugary foods such as fruit juice, soda, cakes, smoothies, ice cream, muffins, chocolates, candy, factory-made cupcakes, etc.
- Starches or grains: Wheat products like pasta, rice, cereal, bread, etc.
- Almost all fruit with the exemption of little portions of delicious berries just like blueberries and strawberries
- Beans and fresh legumes: kidney beans, peas, lentils, legumes, and chickpeas
- Tubers or vegetables with roots: carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, and others.
- Low-fat products which often undergo high food processing. These are mostly high in carbohydrates.
- Some other condiments which often contain unhealthy fat and sugar.
- Unhealthy fats such as mayonnaise, vegetable oils that are highly processed, etc. As much as possible, limit your intake of these.
- Alcohol: Since it has high carbohydrate content, a lot of alcoholic beverages can disrupt your ketosis routine.
- Sugar-free food selections: Although called “sugar-free,” these products have high sugar alcohol content; in most cases, it can disrupt ketone levels. These foods are also highly processed and unhealthy.
Ketoacidosis is a serious condition that must be taken seriously, especially for diabetic patients. The bottom line is: balance is always the key if one wants to succeed in attaining a healthy lifestyle. The insulin and ketone levels must not go higher than required so that the body can function well and the organs won’t be disrupted in functioning.
While studies have found alternative diets to decrease the imbalance, but still nutritional balance must always be the top priority. If you want to lose weight, but you have ketoacidosis, then you are not advised to go on a ketone diet. Just try some other diet that is suited for you. But if you think you can take the keto diet, then go for it. Just always remember to consult your physician and be prepared to handle the side effects at the beginning of keto dieting.