Understanding Keytones

ketonesUnderstanding Keytones: Individuals subscribing to an ultra-low carbohydrate diet may be well versed in knowing what their keytone / ketone levels are. The presence of keytones for the dieter may signify their body is accelerating the process of burning excess fat. In a normal, healthy individual the presence of keytones may not be a significant problem, but for a Type 1 diabetic the issue can be deadly.

What are Keytones?
Keytones are an acid created when the body burns its own fat. Keytones are common in Type 1 diabetics because the body cannot get enough glucose from the blood. The insulin cannot deliver energy to the body’s cells, so the body has a survival mechanism that begins burning fat. In most Type 1 diabetics there may not be a lot of fat to burn. Diabetics may want to know what their keytone level are as a means of managing their blood glucose levels more efficiently.

If your body has an elevated level of keytones you run the risk of ketoacidosis. This overdose of keytones in a diabetic can lead to a coma or even death.

How to Determine Keytone Levels
You can easily test for keytones using a basic urine test strip available in most pharmacies. If the test strip color changes then there are keytones in your urine. Some doctors will argue that a blood test is the best way to measure keytones but in order to do a blood test, the patient must constantly go to the doctors office to have blood drawn. You may feel more comfortable visiting with your doctor, but a urine test strip may be a good indicator that an issue may be present.

Why is Burning Excess Fat a Problem?
In most cases there is no problem in burning the body’s stored fat, but in individuals who are starving, have an eating disorder or have been diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic the implications are more complex than simply the burning of fat.

It is possible that your body can begin to consume tissue other than fat. This can include muscle. This may weaken an individual, but since the heart is a muscle long-term damage can result from a low or underweight  individual also having elevated keytone levels.

When Should a Diabetic Test for Keytones?
Any time your blood sugar is over 250mg for two tests in a row you should also test for keytones. You should also test anytime you are sick and whenever you are planning to exercise. If pregnant you should test for keytones each morning before breakfast and whenever your glucose level is over 250mg. If your keytone level is too high and left untreated it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

What is Ketoacidosis?
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threaten complication. It is the toxic buildup of keytones in the blood changing the chemical balance of the blood and leading to hospitalization in most cases. It can be brought on by illnesses such as the flu or a cold. It can also result from an insufficient supply of insulin. This is one of the leading causes of death in Type 1 diabetics and some of the symptoms are extreme fatigue, fruity smelling breath, constant thirst and a persistent need to urinate.

Other signs include

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Irritation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Extreme weakness
  • Air hunger or hyperventilation

When keytones are discovered in the blood or the urine of a healthy person attempting to lose weight it can be a cause of celebration. For a type 1 diabetic it is a cause for concern.

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