When any patient seeks out the advice of a Naturopathic Doctor, you can safely assume that at some point, we will discuss diet.

We truly are what we eat, but food has a larger impact on our health than we sometimes realize. So how do we navigate the many different dietary fads and recommendations out there? And how do we know which habitual way of eating is “best” for us?

My primary role in the practice of Naturopathic Medicine is educator, and in that spirit, I will address and assess one extremely popular example of these diet fads that I’m sure you are seeing EVERYWHERE: The Ketogenic Diet.

(I always begin with a caveat: Always see your Naturopath before making any big dietary changes—it’s always a good idea to have the support of a professional.)

What is the ketogenic diet?

The Ketogenic (aka “keto”) Diet is a high fat, sufficient protein and low carb focused diet. It is best studied and researched for people with epilepsy and other idiopathic seizure-related conditions. When we restrict carbohydrates in the diet, our body is eventually forced into using fat as energy. When fat is burned as energy, the liver breaks it into fatty acids and ketone bodies. Ketones can pass into the brain, replacing the typical energy source of the brain (glucose i.e. sugar) and have been shown to reduce the occurrence of seizures, specifically in children.

That said, the Keto Diet has become popular among the general population for a number of different reasons. Carbohydrates have been vilified for some time, but the notion of “low-carb diets” really took off in the early 70s when Dr. Robert Atkins came up with the Atkins diet. Many who pursued it witnessed the benefits: weight loss, namely. But MORE importantly and impactful, patients were seeing the stabilization of their blood glucose levels—specifically those suffering from type II diabetes (some of whom experienced a full reversal of their diagnoses).

All good things, right? BUT there are also some reasons why this diet should only be used under the supervision of a physician and only for short periods of time.

How does the Keto Diet acidify the body?

If you are not in the habit of eating lots of alkaline fruits and veggies, your diet can quickly become overloaded with high fat proteins.

When you’re focused on keto-friendly foods, it’s easy to focus on dairy and meat because they’re easy and lots of our (read: MY) favourite foods happen to be derived from those two food groups. The problem with these convenience foods, despite their supporting the conversion of fat into fuel, is that over time they create an acidic environment in the body. Plus, neglecting fresh fruits and vegetables pushes the body into a further state of acidic pH. When the pH of our bodies shifts even slightly, it will draw from our resources to swiftly correct the pH imbalance.

When we get into this state of metabolic acidosis, we lose very important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, most often lost from our bones, which is often why we see bone density loss and an overly acidic diet going hand-in-hand. This acidosis can also lead to inflammation and chronic illness. There are also fatigue and emotional and mood factors that come into play when adhering to the keto diet that can be attributed to its acid-forming tendencies.

The bottom line: You need to provide the body with plenty of alkalizing foods to counter the acidic tendencies of the Keto diet.