How to Get Started with the Keto Diet for Diabetics

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects over 30 million Americans.[1] People with diabetes struggle to manage their blood sugar, dealing with symptoms such as extreme hunger and thirst, fatigue, slow healing, and more. Using supplemental insulin is the most common treatment for this condition but making changes to your diet can be beneficial as well. In fact, the keto diet for diabetes is a great option to consider.

Unlike a traditional diet, the ketogenic diet doesn’t require you to count calories,and you don’t have to cut out high-fat foods like red meat and dairy.

But what are the benefits of the keto diet for diabetics and is it safe?

What is the Keto Diet and Is It Safe for Diabetics?

In simple terms, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet. The goal is to reduce your carbohydrate intake to the point that your body must find an alternative source for fuel other than glucose. By increasing your fat intake at the same time, you can effectively switch your body from burning glucose to burning fat – including your stored fat. When your body begins burning fat for fuel, it is in a state called ketosis.

keto for diabetes

The ketogenic diet is all about adhering to a particular macronutrient ratio for protein, fats, and carbohydrates. To get your body into ketosis, you should aim for 70% to 75% of your daily calories to come from fat. Protein intake should be about 15% to 20% and carbohydrates no more than 5% or about 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. As long as you maintain this ratio, you’ll enjoy benefits including weight loss, stabilized blood sugar levels, and reduced need for supplemental insulin.[2]

If you are concerned about the safety of the keto diet for diabetics, you’re not alone. After all, the word ketosis is very similar to ketoacidosis – a life-threatening condition characterized by dangerously high ketone levels. Technically speaking, ketosis is a mild form of ketoacidosis because there are ketones in the blood. For diabetic ketoacidosis, however, blood ketone levels are dangerously high and are an indication that something is wrong in the body. For ketosis, the presence of ketones simply indicates that your body has entered a state of ketosis and is now burning fat instead of glucose for fuel.[3]

Checking the glucose level for diabetes

As long as you continue monitoring your blood sugar and follow your doctor’s treatment plan, the keto diet for diabetics is perfectly safe. Keep reading to receive some simple tips to get started with the keto diet for beginners.

10 Simple Tips for Starting the Keto Diet for Diabetics

The ketogenic diet is not complicated, but it does take some getting used to. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the keto diet food list and start experimenting with low-carb alternatives in your favorite recipes. Here are 10 tips to get you started with the keto diet for diabetics:

  • Talk to your doctor to make sure the ketogenic diet is safe for you. It might not be safe for you if have liver or kidney disease or if you have other medical conditions.
  • Clean out your refrigerator and pantry to remove foods that are not keto-friendly, so you aren’t tempted by them. Foods to keep include meats, seafood, cooking oils, dairy products, nuts and seeds, and pantry staples.
  • Start slowly transitioning into a low-carb, high-fat diet by replacing one daily meal with a keto-friendly meal. By making the transition slowly, you can avoid the negative effects of sudden dietary changes and avoid sudden drops in blood sugar as well.
  • Calculate your preferred macronutrient ratio (you can find these calculators online) based on your desired calorie intake. You don’t need to be exact about counting calories as long as you stick to your macros.
  • Once you fully transition into the keto diet, stick to your macros as closely as possible for the first 5 to 7 days until your body enters ketosis – you can test for ketosis using your blood meter if you purchase special test strips to check your blood ketone levels.
  • Consider following a keto diet meal plan to make your life easier. A keto meal plan will help you plan a whole week’s worth of meals, so you only need to go to the grocery store once.
  • Experiment with ketogenic diet recipes for diabetics,so you don’t get bored eating the same meals. Including variety in your diet will reduce the temptation to go off the diet.
  • Monitor your blood sugar as you normally would and administer supplemental insulin as needed (under your doctor’s guidance). You may find that after a few weeks or months on the diet your blood sugar levels are more stable.
  • Drink plenty of water, especially at the beginning. As your body switches over into ketosis, you’ll lose a lot of water weight, so you need to stay hydrated. Drinking water will also help ease some of the negative side effects of the transition.
  • Get involved in support groups or online forums with other diabetics. Having a support system will improve your adherence to the diet, and you’ll have a resource to bounce ideas and questions off of as you get used to the diet.

If you’re considering trying the keto diet for diabetics, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of resources available online. You can find everything from tips to get started on the keto diet for beginners to keto diet recipes for diabetics. Before you make the switch, take the time to do your own research to ensure that you understand the keto diet fully so you can follow it safely and effectively.

References:
[1] “Statistics About Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association. <http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/>
[2] Tzeel, Ben. “The Ketogenic Diet and Diabetes: The Definitive Guide.” Diabetes Strong. <https://diabetesstrong.com/ketogenic-diet-and-diabetes/
[3] Mowll, Dr. Brian. “Is the Ketogenic Diet Safe for People with Diabetes?” Dr. Mowll The Diabetes Coach. <https://drmowll.com/is-the-ketogenic-diet-safe-for-people-with-diabetes/>

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Dr. Anthony Crifase, D.C.

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