Ketosis occurs when the body produces ketones as it uses its own fat for energy. Certain diets, notably diets that call for very low levels of carbohydrate intake can trigger this process. Not all health professionals agree that ketones produced by a controlled diet are harmful, but many feel that there are some potentially dangerous ketosis side effects. These may include gout, kidney stones, and the possibility of organ failure.
When people talk about ketosis, they often don’t distinguish the cause or ketone level they are referring to. There is a degree of confusion between ketoacidosis, which is an uncontrolled situation typically triggered by Type 1 diabetes, and dietary ketosis; many refer to both situations simply as ketosis. The level of ketones in the blood from dietary ketosis, typically caused by a low carbohydrate diet, is relatively moderate when compared to the level of ketones resulting from diabetes. Ketoacidosis can result in ketone levels up to ten times higher than dietary ketosis. The difference in the amount of ketones can make a great deal of difference when considering ketosis side effects, since higher levels are more likely to result in problems.
Ketones in the blood are considered by many to be toxic, especially at high levels; however, not all ketosis side effects are permanent or dangerous. Temporary side effects include feelings of weakness, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Constipation or diarrhea can also result from a diet low in carbohydrates. All of these effects typically fade as the body adjusts to the reduced levels of carbohydrates and the resulting increase in ketones.
Dangerous ketosis side effects may include an increased risk of heart disease or cancer, but, according to the Mayo Clinic, these have not been proven. There are also possible problems related to the formation of kidney stones or other kidney and liver problems related to the excess of toxins in the blood, as the body works to filter out the additional ketones. Gout, another condition that is related to kidney function and high levels of uric acid, is considered by some to be among the more common ketosis side effects, but there appears to be limited evidence linking the two.
According to many researchers, while there is concern over extreme low carbohydrate diets and dietary ketosis, serious problems linked to the presence of ketosis are not necessarily caused by the ketosis. Instead, the ketosis may itself be the result of more serious problems, such as diabetes. Additional long-term studies are needed to clarify any potentially dangerous ketosis side effects.