It seems everybody is talking about the keto diet. You may have tried it yourself, or you may know someone who has tried it. It may have worked great or not. Any outcome is possible, as with all diets it is critical to remember we all have different body chemistries and what works for one could be difficult for someone else.

In this article we will look at the history of the keto diet, the positives, the negatives, and why it may or may not work for you. For more information on the keto diet, I recommend the website

Like most trendy diets, the keto diet is not new. The concept has been around for many years (it was designed in 1923 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of epilepsy) and was initially found to be helpful in reducing seizures in children. Studies have shown it to reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Others have used it as an anti-cancer diet. The current trend is focused on weight loss.

The keto diet is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet. By limiting carbohydrates, the body will enter the metabolic state of ketosis, meaning it is breaking fat into ketones to meet its energy requirements. It uses these ketones (instead of the glucose from carbohydrates or protein) as its source of energy. Protein is also restricted as it can be converted into glucose which would take you out of ketosis. A typical ratio of nutrient consumption based on 2000 calories a day might look like 165 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbs, and 75 grams of protein. This is approximately 75% of calories from fats, 20% from proteins, and 5% from carbohydrates. Naturally, this will vary by person, but the key point is the high fat.

Those successful on the keto diet will lose weight and will report feeling fuller with fewer cravings, while boosting their mood, mental focus and overall energy. Like most diets, the keto diet presents the challenge of staying on the diet, in this case meaning to stay in ketosis. In order to do so you must maintain the ratio of nutrients that keep you in ketosis.

Those not successful will struggle on the diet and report low energy, stomach upset, and flu-like symptoms. Why does this happen? Two main reasons: an increase in toxicity and a challenged or missing gallbladder.

An increase in toxicity can occur when fat cells release stored toxins. We store toxins in our fat cells. As our body accesses the fat for energy these toxins are released into the blood stream. If there is not additional support for the detoxification organs (liver and kidneys) this toxicity produces the symptoms of the “keto flu” – nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, stomach ache, headache, irritability, weakness, muscle cramps and soreness, dizziness, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and sugar cravings.

The second point may be even more critical – a challenged or missing gallbladder. Despite what is often presented in the mainstream, the gallbladder is a very important organ. The gallbladder plays a critical role in the digestion of fats. The gallbladder stores and releases bile that is used to emulsify fats so they can be digested. Bile also alkalizes the small intestine, removes fat soluble toxins, and supports pancreatic digestive enzymes. So, it is obvious that if your gallbladder has been removed or it is under stress, you will not digest fats which will also product symptoms mentioned above as the “keto flu.” For more information on the gallbladder I suggest you read my article, The Liver, Gallbladder, and Pancreas – Behind the Scenes Helpers of Digestion found at Liver and Gallbladder

However, all is not lost! There are supplements that may help prevent the “keto flu.” There are a variety of detoxification support and bile products that may provide enough support for your body.

The keto diet is not for people with chronic health conditions.  It can stress the heart and kidneys and some people may become dehydrated.

Being on the keto diet long term may be challenging, especially limiting carbohydrates. If you are not careful you can find yourself out of ketosis which means the weight loss will stop. Remember the keto diet is high in fat, not protein. If you eat too much protein your body will convert the excess into glucose which will also take you out of ketosis.

The most important point to remember from all of this is that we are all different. There is no single diet that is right for everyone. There are certain fundamentals that are true. We all need clean sources of food – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I believe it is also universal that everyone will benefit from eating more organic vegetables and consuming less sugar and avoiding artificial sweeteners and trans-fats.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Coeur d’Alene, ID. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (208) 771-6570or go to