Should Ketone Buildup Worry You?
If you are reading this post, you’re probably asking yourself “What are ketones?” At times, your body lacks sufficient carbohydrates to supply you with energy due to a low carb diet, intensive physical activity, or starvation. Additionally, you could have a condition like diabetes that inhibits your body from using its blood sugar properly.
In such circumstances, glucose builds up in your blood, but the body can’t use it to produce energy, so it resorts to breaking down fat instead. The fat metabolism that occurs in your liver leads to ketone formation and its subsequent build up. Ketone bodies comprise acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. These are created in the liver cells when energy is obtained by breaking down fatty acids.
Why Are Ketones a Risk?
Ketones make blood acidic, which leads to a condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). The presence of ketones in the blood is a sign that you require urgent medical attention, and you need to be more watchful if you already have diabetes.
Their presence in your body, therefore, indicates the following health states:
- You have insufficient insulin, indicative of type 1 diabetes
- You have poor usage of glucose due to starvation
- Your body can’t use insulin properly, indicative of type 2 diabetes
As the body uses fats instead of carbohydrates to fuel, the liver breaks the fats, releasing ketones. Your body continues to release energy from fats to an extent the process becomes a cycle, and eventually leads to the potentially fatal acidic blood condition.
Common Causes of DKA
- Starvation resulting from Bulimia Nervosa, Anorexia Nervosa, or not eating for 12-18 hours
- Poorly managed diabetes
- Ether anesthesia
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Metabolic disorders
Symptoms to Observe
Look out for the following signs:
- Excessive thirst
- A dry feeling in your mouth
- Frequent urination
- Blood sugar level exceeding 240 mg/dl
- Stomach pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Fruity breath
- Breathing difficulties
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
Complications of DKA
If your high ketone levels remain uncontrolled, you may suffer severe effects including:
- Diabetic coma
- Falling unconscious
- Swelling in the brain
Taking a Ketone Test
You should consider taking a ketone test:
- If you are sick or injured – infections raise glucose levels
- If your blood sugar exceeds 240 mg/dl from two consecutive tests
- If you are pregnant and diabetic or with gestational diabetes
- If you want to exercise, and your blood sugar exceeds 250 mg/dl
- If your blood sugar level is over 300 mg/dl, or if you are fasting and your blood sugar exceeds 240 mg/dl.
Ketone tests require either blood or urine samples. You can perform the urine or the blood test from the comfort of your home. You don’t need a prescription to purchase a urine testing kit from drugstores or online stores.
The testing kits contain urine-testing strips that have a chemical that makes them change their color to show ketone presence. Some companies make more complex strips which identify the levels of ketones in the body, from no or low ketones to high ketone content.
If you’re doing the blood test at home, prick your finger with a sterilized needle and place a drop of your blood on the indicated testing area. If you are diabetic, you should take the test twice daily.
Results from ketone testing kits show different levels of concentration – from none to moderate to high. The classifications follow these guidelines:
- Negative: levels less than 0.6 mmol/L ( millimoles per liter)
- Low or moderate: from 0.6 to 1.5 mmol/L
- High levels: between 1.6 mmol/L and 3.0 mmol/L
- Very high: over 3.0 mmol/L
If you notice very high levels of ketones, you should seek immediate medical attention. However, it is worth noting that tests can give false positive results or false negatives. For instance, vitamin C, some medications, and dehydration can trigger positive test results when there are no ketones.
- Using insulin by receiving IV insulin that helps the body to metabolize excess glucose and return blood acid levels to normal
- Electrolyte replacement such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. Their deficit causes muscular and cardiovascular malfunctioning
- Treating illnesses such as vomiting that contribute to the condition
- Intravenous fluid replacement due to fluids lost through excessive urination, a characteristic of DKA
Planning a Ketone Diet
Sometimes you may switch to a ketone diet as a weight loss plan or as a way to treat a condition like epilepsy. A ketogenic diet for weight loss consists of high protein foods with minimal or no carbohydrates. The theory behind this diet is that since your body will lack carbohydrates, it will first use proteins for energy but after some time, it will start using fat reserves to fuel itself.
But while the diet provides very fast results, some question its safety. The risks of ketogenic diets abound because the subsequent breakdown of fats releases ketones and activates their related effects such as weakness, nausea, fatigue, and lethargy.
Still, there are 100’s that have used this type diet effectively and safely. It is important to NOT let yourself have high levels of ketones, especially for any length of time. If you are going to use this as a dietary regimen it is important to study the physiology, psychology, pros and cons and determine if you have the correct body type to use this effectively.
The best way lose and keep weight off is to change your Lifestyle. Eliminate all sugar and all flour, drink ½ ounce of water for each pound of weight you carry and do not eat in between meals. Make this a way of Life. There are programs that utilize ketogenics as a foundation for weight loss which can be safe and successful.
A ketogenic diet for managing epilepsy comprises special high fat and low-carbohydrate foods which control seizures. The diet is highly recommended for children with seizures that fail to respond to medication, and for those suffering from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The diet requires strict adherence, and as a caregiver, you need the help of a dietician to implement it. The ratio of fat to carbohydrates and protein changes as a child advances in age. Fat producing foods include mayonnaise, heavy whipping cream, butter, and oils such as olive and canola.
Some side effects of a ketogenic diet include dehydration, weak bone structure, constipation, kidney stones, high cholesterol levels, and reduced weight gain (after prolonged use). Medication for seizures should be taken alongside the diet. In many studies, it was noted that the diets help in reduction but not elimination of seizures.
Immediate Steps to Take After Observing Positive Test Results
Positive results may not mean anything threatening unless you already have diabetes or the ketone levels are high or very high. You should continue monitoring your blood sugar levels every four hours and see a doctor immediately. You should also drink plenty of water and avoid exercising if your blood sugar content exceeds 240 mg/dl.
Author: Esateys Stuchiner
Esateys (pronounced Ee sáh teez) is an International Life Transformational Speaker, Author, Master Facilitator, Life Coach and Expert in the Human condition. She is a Nationally and Board Certified Nurse Practitioner. For over 30 years, she has practiced, taught and lectured extensively in the allopathic and alternative medicine field.
Esateys is known for her groundbreaking work in the areas of personal empowerment and health restoration using mindset and inner connection as the catalyst for all change.
Esateys describes herself as the ‘Architect of the New You’ and has dedicated her life and professional career to helping her clients create “New Beginnings” by facilitating self empowerment, economic freedom and restored health.
For more information, go to esateys.com.