understanding keytones and diabetes

Understanding Ketones

Editor’s Note: This article references Ketones in relation to diabetes but is commonly misspelled as Keytones.

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

What are Ketones?

Ketones are an acid created when the body burns its own fat. Ketones 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 ketone level are as a means of managing their blood glucose levels more efficiently.

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

How to Determine Ketone Levels

You can easily test for ketones using a basic urine test strip available in most pharmacies. If the test strip color changes then there are ketones in your urine. Some doctors will argue that a blood test is the best way to measure ketones but in order to do a blood test, the patient must constantly go to the doctor’s 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 ketone levels.

When Should a Diabetic Test for Ketones?

Any time your blood sugar is over 250mg for two tests in a row you should also test for ketones. You should also test anytime you are sick and whenever you are planning to exercise. If pregnant you should test for ketones each morning before breakfast and whenever your glucose level is over 250mg. If your ketone 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 ketones 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.

Other signs of ketoacidosis include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Constant thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity smelling breath
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Agitation
  • Irritation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Extreme weakness
  • Air hunger or hyperventilation

When ketones 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 and getting your blood sugars under control will go a long way in preventing this from happening.