A Doctor On Why Ketosis Helps You Reduce Cravings & Hunger

Photo: Nadine Greeff

If you're embarking on a weight-loss journey, chances are you'll run into the nutritional ketosis diet. But have you ever wondered if (and why) ketosis can help you lose weight? First, let me assure you that it can. In fact, even mainstream doctors are suggesting ketogenic diets for an entire host of patients, including those with metabolic syndrome. The beauty of the standard ketogenic diet—which consists of about 70 to 80 percent healthy fats, 10 to 20 percent protein, and 5 percent carbohydrates—is that you will not feel hungry or deprived.

Ketosis can also offer health benefits that stretch far beyond weight loss. This way of eating can be beneficial for people with mitochondrial dysfunction and cancer or for athletes looking to increase their athletic performance. Here's why the ketogenic diet is a good choice for weight loss and overall health:

1. Ketosis will suppress hunger pangs.

Ketosis is a great appetite suppressant; if you are eating a standard (high-carb) American diet, you have blood sugar swings that can cause bouts of intense hunger—sometimes within as little as two hours of eating a meal! When you enter ketosis and start burning fat for fuel, your blood sugar will stabilize at a lower, healthier level. The healthy fat will be metabolized into ketones by your liver, and that will suppress your hunger via several metabolic pathways.

When it comes to most hunger pangs, we're talking about ghrelin, not leptin. Ghrelin is the main hunger hormone and increases appetite. When you eat, ghrelin levels drop, if you are overweight they won't drop as much as they should. When you start to lose weight on a non-ketotic diet, your body senses that it's being starved and ghrelin levels increase. This is one reason regular diets often fail. The good news if you're on a ketotic diet is ghrelin levels do not increase as you lose weight.

2. You'll feel satiated and reduce inflammation.

Traditional diet-induced weight loss leads to increased hunger and reduced feelings of fullness or satiety. As you just read, it leads to increased ghrelin levels. It also leads to a reduced concentration of satiety peptides. These peptide hormones include glucagon-like peptide-1, cholecystokinin, and peptide YY. Ketogenic diets appear to suppress much of these responses by day three of your ketotic state. If you're thinking "What can I eat that's healthy and will reduce hunger pangs?" healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, and ghee will slow down the absorption of everything you eat so that you can go longer without feeling hungry. Alternatively, when we want "instant" feelings of satiety, it's protein that wins (beating fats and carbs). Just be careful not to eat too much protein, as the amount you're allowed on a ketotic diet is less than you might expect.

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3. Your metabolism will get a friendly boost.

You'll be delighted to know that you don't have to count calories on the ketogenic diet. Simply eat until you're full and try not to snack. Ketosis is a natural metabolic booster, so don't be afraid of the "fat calories." You'll convert healthy fat to brain- and heart-healthy ketones and use them for fuel, while the excess is excreted in your urine. Metabolism is generally calculated in clinical studies with measurements of what is called a respiratory exchange ratio. On average, men burn an extra 450 kcals per day while women burn an extra 150 kcals/day in ketosis. This might not seem like much, but it adds up. Remember, don't get obsessed with the amount of fat you're eating. The fat turns into ketones, which are a nice, high-octane fuel for your body.

4. Cravings become a thing of the past.

When you burn fat for fuel, your blood sugar becomes more stabilized, and in turn, the lack of blood sugar highs and lows will rein in cravings for sugar and carbs. In my practice I see that few people develop carb cravings or sugar cravings on a nutritional ketosis diet. If my patients or clients have cravings, I just have them take l-tyrosine and SAMe supplements as well as 5-OH tryptophan supplements—if they are not on antidepressants.

I hope I've demonstrated why ketosis can help you lose weight, and just a couple of words of caution before we go. If you have type 1 diabetes, or any other chronic medical condition, this is something that should be done only under medical supervision. In addition, it's important to know that the ketogenic diet can be hard on conditions like leaky gut. I have my patients and clients "break ketosis" every two weeks to protect their gut. In general, this is a very healthy diet, and any symptoms of brain fog and sleep disturbance (if they occur at all) should clear up after the first two weeks.

As with all weight-reduction programs, if you're looking to drop significant weight, it's best to obtain medical clearance. And of course, listen to your body always. If you ever feel that something is wrong, do have a doctor check it out. Good luck!

Here's how the ketogenic diet can transform your sex life and help you lose unwanted fat.

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