You've no doubt heard of both ketosis and ketoacidosis, but what are they? What are the differences between them? Why do both words sound so much alike?
One of them is a good condition because it means that your body is responding properly to the keto diet, while the other means that you may have diabetes or another issue with your blood sugar. Since both conditions involve the pancreas, it's important to discuss their differences. You can find everything that you've been wondering about right here.
What Is Ketosis?
Ketosis is a condition that everyone following a keto diet hopes for and wants to stay in once they get there. To check to see if you're in ketosis, you have to urinate on a ketosis strip that changes a certain color if the ketones in your urine have reached a particular level. You'll also see those ketones present in your blood if you choose a blood test over a urine one.
The presence of ketones is a good thing. It means that your adherence to the keto diet is working and that your body is burning off stored fat. You'll also notice several other benefits as well, such as more energy, clearer thinking processes, and the most obvious of all, weight loss. To put it simply, being in ketosis is a good thing.
What Is Ketoacidosis?
On the other hand, ketoacidosis is not a condition you want to be in. It's a sign that your pancreas isn't processing sugars correctly and that your health and life may be in danger.
When your body is in ketoacidosis, it has an extremely high level of ketones, which are present in your blood and urine, much like when you're in ketosis. The difference is that this extremely high level isn't good at all and is considered a medical emergency.
Also known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis, or DKA for short, this presence of a very high level of ketones is a sign that your blood has turned acidic, and your blood sugar levels are far too high. When this occurs, your pancreas has stopped making insulin, leaving your body unable to metabolize (or process, in simpler terms) glucose.
As a result, your body is in crisis, and you need to get to an emergency room as soon as possible.
What Ketosis and Ketoacidosis Have in Common
One thing that's obvious here is the fact that ketones are involved in both ketosis and ketoacidosis. So, what are ketones? Why are they so important?
More than just your stomach and intestines are involved when you digest food. Your other organs, including your liver and pancreas, among others, play a role as well. For example, your pancreas creates insulin, which is turned into glucose and helps you digest and process sugars. Your liver, on the other hand, produces ketones. Ketones are water-soluble molecules.
When your pancreas stops making enough insulin to take the sugars you eat and make them into energy, your liver kicks into gear and begins making ketones. This is a good thing for those following a keto diet, as you're purposely not eating enough carbohydrates (which are full of glucose) for your pancreas to do its full job. As a result, those ketones kick in, put you into ketosis, and provide you with energy while burning off your fat stores.
When you have diabetes or have problems processing glucose and making insulin, you end up with far too many ketones in your blood, leading to major problems.
Are All Diabetics at Risk for Ketoacidosis?
Although people with type 2 diabetes can end up with ketoacidosis, for the most part, it occurs in those with type 1 diabetes. People who may have diabetes, but remain undiagnosed, often find that going into DKA or diabetic ketoacidosis is the first sign that their pancreas is not correctly making insulin and processing glucose.
However, those who don't carefully watch their blood sugar or end up not giving their bodies enough insulin can quickly find themselves in a state of ketoacidosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Ketosis?
Remember that ketosis is a sign that your keto diet is working. You want to be in ketosis, as your body will begin burning off those fat stores when you reach and stay in that state. Some of the symptoms of ketosis are:
- More energy
- Clearer thought processes
- Weight loss
However, some symptoms indicate that your ketosis is accompanied by other issues, such as malnutrition. This is why you need to carefully plan out your keto diet and ensure that you're getting all of your macros and micros each day. Signs that your ketosis state is unbalanced include:
- Getting sick more often
- Feeling tired or fatigued
- Experiencing mood changes
- Having problems concentrating
- Feeling cold or weak
These are all signs that you may be anemic or that your keto diet isn't properly balanced. If you're experiencing any of them, it's time to see a doctor and a nutritionist to get a handle on the issues. You may have to stop your keto diet for a while to let your body regulate itself before going back on it.
What Are the Symptoms of Ketoacidosis?
Unlike ketosis, ketoacidosis can be life-threatening. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms and have no history of diabetes or uncontrolled blood sugar, then you want to go to the emergency room immediately. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you still want to go to the emergency room because ketoacidosis can quickly become life-threatening. Here are the symptoms to watch for:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Feeling extremely thirsty
- Urinating more frequently than usual
- Feeling tired
- Having extreme brain fog and confusion
- Experiencing stomach pain
- Feeling dehydrated
- Having breath that smells slightly fruity
If you have one or more of these symptoms, see a doctor for treatment right away. Ketoacidosis, when left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Following a Healthy Keto Diet
Although ketoacidosis is a condition that you don't want to find yourself in, ketosis is good if you're following the keto diet. It means that you've properly followed the diet to the point that it's working, and you might just be dealing with the keto flu.
Once that period is over, you can look forward to losing weight, burning belly fat, having a clearer mind, and generally having more energy. However, you might be wondering if it's at all possible to follow the keto diet healthily – and the answer is that you absolutely can.
Removing Carbohydrates From Your Diet
The keto diet is a low-carb diet. You don't have to do away with carbs altogether, but you should start eating fewer than usual.
Carbohydrates and sugar have a lot in common, and the pancreas is designed to create insulin to process the glucose in both. Once you stop eating as many carbs as you have in the past and limit your consumption of them by quite a bit, then you'll go into ketosis. At this point, your liver will start creating ketones (not too many of them, of course), and you'll see all of the benefits of the diet.
Keeping An Eye on Your Macros and Micros
The trick to staying healthy while following the keto diet is by keeping an eye on the macros (macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbs) and micros (vitamins and minerals) you eat. You not only want to eat a lower amount of carbs, but you need to supplement what you're missing with the protein and fats that your body needs to function.
On top of that, you want to ensure that you're getting all the micros your body needs. You can do this by taking supplements along with your meals or by carefully planning out everything that you eat to ensure that you're as healthy as possible. Either way, you want to send your body into a state of ketosis, not ketoacidosis. Going too far can lead to the latter instead of the former.
Knowing Your Body Is the Key
If you're on the keto diet or are worried that you may have some of the symptoms of diabetes and want to keep an eye out for ketoacidosis, pay attention to your body. The differences between the two conditions, ketosis and ketoacidosis, are obvious.