Symptoms Of Ketosis And Diabetic Ketoacidosis Warning Signs

symptoms of ketosis

Ketosis or nutritional ketosis is a perfectly healthy metabolic process in which the body burns stored fats for energy when it doesn’t have adequate glucose. Mild ketosis may help you lose weight and even be therapeutic. Unfortunately, there’s another less desirable condition that’s easily confused with ketosis – and that’s diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a high blood sugar-related emergency that accounts for over 100,000 hospital admissions every single year in the United States alone.1 DKA strikes those with diabetes and, if left unchecked, could even put you in a coma. Understanding ketosis and DKA and knowing how they’re different could save your life if you’re diabetic.

Mild Ketosis Has Therapeutic Benefits

People on diets like the ketogenic diet or Atkins diet cut down carb intake and switch to a diet that’s high in protein and fat instead. This sets your body up for ketosis, which is intended to help with weight loss. Some studies have even found that ketosis can help lower levels of blood glucose, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, besides bringing down body weight and body mass index.2 Mild ketosis has also been explored for its therapeutic applications in diseases associated with free radical damage, hypoxia (oxygen deficiency in tissues), and insulin resistance.3


But There Are Still Some Side Effects Of Ketosis

When you are on a low-carb diet or haven’t eaten for a long time, the body undergoes ketosis and you may experience some side effects.4 These are usually temporary and occur initially when your body is adjusting to burning fat and ketones instead of carbs. Some compare these ketosis symptoms to those you’d experience when you are coming down with flu, giving rise to the term “ketosis flu” or just “keto flu.” Look out for:

  • Bad or fruity breath
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness

Do remember, some of these symptoms may also mark the early stages of DKA in those who are vulnerable. More on that next!


Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) Is Not Ketosis

When you’re in ketosis, your body burns fat instead of glucose to produce energy. This produces acids called ketones in your body. But the levels of ketones aren’t alarming here. DKA is a potentially dangerous condition among diabetics that can be life-threatening. It occurs when the ketone levels in the body are high and when you have very high blood glucose levels accompanied by a severe shortage of insulin in the body. Triggers include not managing your diabetes properly (missing insulin doses), an illness (like flu or a urinary tract infection), surgery, taking steroidal medication, or binge drinking.5 When ketones begin to build up in your blood and start to enter your urine as well, it’ll bring on a host of symptoms characteristic of DKA.6

DKA Is More Likely In Type 1 Diabetics And Adults

Those with type 1 diabetes are known to be especially prone to DKA. Having ketoacidosis occur in your system is a sign of having insufficient insulin due to which the glucose in your body can’t be tapped for energy.7 That said, if you have type 2 diabetes, you aren’t excluded from risk, especially if you’re going through some form of acute illness. Adults tend to be more susceptible to DKA than children.8


Symptoms Of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

If your ketones are too high, you will start to notice some or all of these symptoms9:

  • Dehydration manifested as feeling unusually thirsty
  • Need to urinate more frequently than normal
  • Stomach pain
  • Breath that smells like nail varnish or fruity sweets
  • Nausea or an urge to throw up
  • Rapid breathing
  • Deep breathing
  • Sleepiness
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar

You Need To Treat Diabetic Ketoacidosis Immediately

If you don’t address the issue in time, the fallout can be severe. Your body could go into a coma and the condition could even prove fatal. The mortality rate for DKA is between 2 and 5 percent.10 That’s reason enough to be concerned. Spot the symptoms early and you can get the medical attention needed and avert a possible health disaster.