The New Year brings up new resolutions centered on leading a healthier life. Some of the most popular diet trends will make their rounds this month, from Whole 30, to Keto, intermittent fasting, and more. When you start a new diet, like the Keto diet or intermittent fasting, it’s important to understand how drastic changes to your diet will affect your overall health. While most people are concerned about weight loss results, at South Charlotte Dentistry, we want to ensure you understand the impact of dieting on your oral health.
What is the Keto diet?
At its simplest, the Ketogenic diet, or the Keto diet, is a low carb , high fat diet. It is similar to the Atkins diet and low carb diets. The basis of the Keto diet is that by drastically reducing carb intake and replacing it with fat, that your body is put into a metabolic state called ketosis. People typically reduce their daily caloric intake to about 1,500 calories to reach ketosis. Once your body is in ketosis, it starts burning fat for energy, rather than carbs, and results in quick weight loss.
What’s happening in your body during Ketosis?When you start the Keto diet, it usually takes about two to seven days for your body to enter ketosis. Once in the metabolic state of ketosis, fat turns into ketones (or, organic compounds that your body can use to replace carbs) in the liver.
How do you know if you’re in ketosis?
Besides dropping weight, there are five big symptoms that your body has entered ketosis and is starting to breaking down fat and proteins for energy.
1. Bad Breath, or Halitosis
One of the most common signs of ketosis is bad breath, or halitosis. Over 50% of the U.S.’s general population experience halitosis. When in ketosis, your body starts creating byproducts that have to be eliminated. Your body will eliminate those byproducts through urination or your breath.
Some say that you can identify the smell of ketosis, because it smells like nail polish remover. The nail polish smell occurs because a byproduct of fat and protein breaking down is acetone. If you’ve ever used nail polish remover, you know that acetone is the main ingredient. Acetone is strong, distinctly astringent smell, which can sometimes smell sweet or fruity – so if you’re attempting this diet and you smell nail polish remover on your breath, you’ll know you are officially in ketosis. There are even devices on the market like breath analyzers or Keto testing strips that can confirm when your body is in ketosis.
This bad breath does not originate in the mouth, but from molecules released in the lungs.
2. Feeling run-down, low energy, and headaches
When you first enter into ketosis, your body is reacting to the lower amount of carbs it has to burn for energy, so as a result, you feel exhausted and unwell.
3. Followed by a surge of energy!
Once your body becomes used to ketosis, you’ll start to feel slightly more energetic. You probably aren’t experiencing more energy than you would with normal carb intake, but rather an improvement from feeling extremely lethargic initially.
4. Decrease in appetite
Nutrition experts are unsure why appetite decreases with Keto diet, but there are two theories. The first theory is that the bacteria in your gut changes due to your new diet, and that’s why you don’t feel hungry. The second theory is that it could be the ketones affecting the hypothalamus in the brain since the ketones release different hormones, making you feel less hungry once you enter ketosis.
5. Uncomfortable digestive side effects
When you start Keto diet, you’re consuming more fat than you’re used to. As a result, the bacteria in your gut aren’t prepared to break down that amount of fat, and many people experience diarrhea. Most people report that both effects subside after a while, and that you can avoid stomach upset by easing into the Keto diet.
Why do people choose the Keto diet?
Keto diet was actually developed by doctors to help people who suffer from seizure disorders – not to lose weight! While Keto produces ketones in the brain, another benefit of the diet is a chemical called beta hydroxybutyrate, which helps minimize seizures.
However, people who tried the Keto diet noticed quick weight loss, and felt that by loading on fats that their cravings were curbed. Fast results and not feeling hungry while dieting make Keto very appealing.
Drawbacks of the Keto diet
Beyond some of the unpleasant effects of entering ketosis, people report the following as drawbacks to the diet as a whole:
Not reaching desired weight loss goals
Low carb diets are effective for quick weight loss, and the Keto diet can provide just that – a fast solution, that doesn’t necessarily have lasting results, and may not give you the weight loss desired. A lot of the weight loss in the first week of a low carb diet is simply water weight. Losing weight doesn’t equate to losing fat. Weight loss also isn’t a linear process. Sometimes you might gain muscle, lose fat, and end up staying at the same weight. Understand that you can measure healthy changes in your body beyond a scale.
Not eating nutritional foods
Eating low carb does not mean that you’re eating healthy. On Keto, you could technically consume processed lots of low carb foods, solely eat proteins, or consume way too much sugar. If you eat low carb and want to also be healthy, you need to replace those carbs with whole, nutritious foods, choosing healthy fats, like avocados and walnuts, nutrient rich vegetables, and lean proteins, like chicken breasts, fish, eggs, etc.
Eating the wrong fats
Some people make the mistake of eating lots of saturated fats, instead of healthy unsaturated fats. Consuming saturated fats will not result in weight loss, and risks raising cholesterol levels.
Eating too many calories
Calories are calories, whether they come from a healthy fat or not. The only way to lose weight on Keto is to keep total calorie intake low, and burn more calories than you’re taking in (i.e. exercising).
Not good for long-term health
Keto diet does not provide your body with the nutrition needed to support strong bones, a healthy brain, heart, or colon, or a balanced gut microbiome. It could also lead to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Not recommended for everyone
The Keto diet is not appropriate for:
· People with pre-existing kidney disease
· People with liver disease
· Pregnant women
· People with digestive disorders
Loving the Keto diet, but not the bad breath?
While the bad breath side effects of the Keto diet usually goes away in a few weeks as your body adjusts to the lack of carb-intake, you can combat the bad breath by:
· Practice great oral hygiene: brushing your teeth at least 2x a day, flossing, and scraping your tongue clean.
· Drinking more water.
· Adding natural breath fresheners like cinnamon, clove, fennel, or mint to your water or tea.
· Chewing on sugar-free gum or mints.
· Using mouthwash and breath sprays.
If the halitosis doesn’t subside after a few weeks of Keto, then your body may just not be adjusting. In that case, you could reintroduce complex carbohydrates like leafy green vegetables and whole grains, and cut back on the protein.
Watch out for dry mouth when on the Keto diet!
When you aren’t consuming a balanced diet, your internal pH becomes more acidic. When your saliva is acidic, or you already experience issues with dry mouth, your teeth and gums can suffer. You need saliva production to break down bacteria in the mouth and protect your gums. Ensure that you drink plenty of water, and you may also want to
avoid any products with alcohol during the diet, as it can have a drying effect on the mouth – a dry mouth that will only make your ketosis breath worse.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is setting a pattern where you only eat within a few hours span, and fast (i.e. not eat) in the other periods. It can look different for everybody, but two popular forms of intermittent fasting are the 16:8 diet (fasting for 16 hours, usually from dinner to a late breakfast, and eating all meals within 8 hours), and the 5:2 diet (eating less than 500 calories for two non-consecutive days a week, while eating normally the remainder of the week).
Keto + Intermittent Fasting: A potentially dangerous combination
While combining Keto with intermittent fasting is popular for quick weight loss results, it’s not meant to be long term and it’s definitely not right for everyone. It’s also common for people to experience weight gain almost immediately after they stop intermittent fasting. In general, intermittent fasting is not a sustainable, long-term diet plan.
Nutritionists don’t recommend combining restrictive diets like Keto with long periods of fasting. Your body will start to turn on muscle for energy when the intake from food is too low. Your body cannot tell the difference between taking muscle from your legs or arms, than from your heart, lungs, or bladder; it’s all muscle loss. If you lose one pound a week from Keto diet, and then combine Keto with intermittent fasting and see four pounds a week down, you’re really only losing lean muscle – not fat. Lean muscle plays a vital role in the functioning of your body, especially as you age, and can be very difficult to get back.
How Keto can benefit your oral health
The American Dental Association cites processed sugar as one of the worst foods for your oral health. High glucose from sugar levels can prevent periodontal ligament cells from proliferating. An absence of refined sugars has also shown some improvement in gum pocket depths. Low carb, low sugar diets like the Keto diet can also help reduce cavities, gum disease, and inflammation. Carbohydrates put bacteria into the mouth that produces acid and plaque. When you consume fewer carbs, there’s less acid erosion on the teeth softening and weakening enamel, and less chance for cavity-causing bacteria to enter.
Consuming excessive carbs also causes chronic inflammation in the body – including your gums! So when you have a diet low in carbohydrates, and high in omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll have lower rates of inflammation. Low carb, low sugar diets have shown they can lower gingivitis and inflammation by more than 50% without any change to your daily oral hygiene habits.
However, no diet will improve your oral health without continued daily brushings and flossing, and regular dental cleanings – continue to prioritize your oral health, even while dieting!
Ensure your diet is healthy for you and your teeth!
But, as we talked about in the section previously, what you eat affects your entire body, including your teeth. Diets that restrict carbs can mean your body isn’t getting the critical fiber, vitamins, and minerals it needs. Ensure that you have a well-rounded diet that supports a healthy heart, functioning organs, and strong bones – teeth included! Please consult a certified doctor, nutritionist, and your dentist when attempting any changes to your diet. Your dental hygienists and dentist can help you identify how nutritional imbalances are related to chronic inflammation in oral tissues, and how diet trends can affect your oral and overall health.
Taking steps to improve your health is always a good thing. Be mindful and consult experts on what’s best for your body, health, and lifestyle, and know that you can always talk to your dental team at South Charlotte Dentistry about your diet and teeth!