Why Keto Doesn’t Work for Everyone

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From “keto flu” to kidney stones and even pancreatitis, some people are finding the keto diet is not the “one size fits all” weight loss plan they thought it was.

As the First Lady of Nutrition, I have more than four decades of experience with diets and weight loss, and the associated trends that come and go. One thing I’ve observed is that when we go to drastic extremes with diets, whether it’s extremely low fat or, in the case of keto, extremely low carb, it puts too much stress on the body and serious problems arise.

I get it—it truly is inspiring to see the celebrities and doctors we admire have such dramatic weight-loss results with the keto diet. Even though it’s such a huge departure from the way we’re used to eating, we rationalize that “desperate times call for desperate measures” because we see the health impact that carrying all this extra weight is having—not to mention the painful blow to our self-esteem. But...

When a diet like keto sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The Origins of the Ketogenic Diet and How it Works

Originally developed in the 1920s as a medical treatment for children with a seizure disorder, the ketogenic diet has taken the weight loss world by storm for the past few years. With its goal of 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein and a mere 5 percent carbs, it’s a huge change from the standard American diet of more than 50 percent carbs.

This way of eating switches your body from burning sugar and carbs as fuel to using fats as its primary energy source, and this can be a total game changer in your health—when it’s done properly. But, with huge changes comes huge challenges for those whose genetics and fat metabolism just aren’t geared for it.

Who Shouldn’t Go Keto

First of all, I need you to know: if keto failed you-you didn’t lose weight and you felt awful—it’s NOT your fault! One diet truly does not fit all, and keto may not be the right fit for you. The high amount of fats required for your body to go into ketosis and extreme fat-burning are not right for everyone.

Here’s a List of Everyone Who Should Avoid the Keto Diet:

  • You have a history of pancreatitis or high triglycerides. High triglycerides circulating in the blood for a prolonged period of time can lead to acute pancreatitis. The high fat keto diet is a known cause of acute pancreatitis, because it causes an increase in circulating fats.
  • You have gallbladder disease or no longer have a gallbladder. The gallbladder stores and concentrates the bile, which is made by the liver. Bile is essential for fat metabolism. A high fat keto diet can aggravate existing gallbladder disease. Also, if your gallbladder has been surgically removed, you may have trouble digesting all the fat you eat on the keto diet. Weight gain, bloating, and other digestive discomforts would be the first signs you would notice with this.
  • You have low blood pressure (hypotension). The ketogenic diet makes your body more acidic as it starts producing ketones. Prolonged low blood pressure combined with acidosis can lead to cardiac arrest.
  • You have kidney disease or a history of kidney failure. The way you test to see if you are in ketosis and burning fat as your primary tool, is to see if ketones are present in your urine. If you already have kidney issues, the added stress of the diet on the kidneys may worsen existing disease.
  • You have multiple nutrient deficiencies or have had weight-loss surgery. If you already have poor nutritional status from either prolonged sickness or severe calorie restriction, a full nutrition workup is recommended before starting any diet. You need to nourish your cells and rebuild them, not stress them further.
  • If you’ve had gastric bypass or other weight loss surgery, it is likely a diet was prescribed for you at the time of your surgery. These surgeries often change how you break down your food and limit the amount of each nutrient you are able to metabolize.
  • You have tumors in your abdomen or liver. While keto can be helpful when you have cancer, it must be supervised by a knowledgeable professional so you don’t further compromise your digestive and liver functioning or develop deficiencies.
  • You have low gastric motility. The ketogenic diet is known to cause constipation from the start, you need to be cautious if you already have impaired motility, because bowel obstruction can result.
  • You have known genetic conditions—from birth—that can’t tolerate ketosis. Several genetic disorders that are identified at birth are known contraindications for the keto diet. With the exception of Porphyria, which can develop later in life, you would be aware if you have one of these conditions.

Fix Your Fat Metabolism and Make It Work for You

Underlying most problems with the keto diet is trouble with fat metabolism. Your body wants to burn fat as its primary fuel, but if your bile is congested, you have too little bile, you’re missing your gallbladder, you have fatty liver disease, or you have other digestive issues, then you can’t digest all the fats the keto diet requires you to eat, and you’ll feel worse instead of better.

The first step to fixing your fat metabolism is building better bile. Free-flowing bile is essential for eliminating toxins and digesting fats properly.

The next step is to rev-up your fat-burning metabolism by eating the right fats—essential omega 3 and omega 6 fats from good quality sources. When it comes to weight loss, good quality fat is your friend—essential fats nourish and create healthy cells, reduce inflammation, and help shift your body into burning fats for fuel, all while feeding your brain and balancing your hormones. Choose grassfed meats, free range poultry and eggs, and cold-pressed organic oils like hemp, flax, and walnut to maximize your omega 3 and omega 6 fat intake.

Once your fat metabolism is working optimally, you may still find keto just isn’t right for you. Your ancestors may have had less of a fat-focused diet, and this is still in your genetic make-up. It’s important to listen to your body and do your homework to find the diet that’s right for you.

How to Know When You’re Eating Right for YOU

There isn’t a single diet out there that will work for everyone, unless it has the flexibility for you to customize it to suit your individual needs. But how do you know when you’ve struck gold and found the plan that fits you, your lifestyle, your genetics, and your metabolism to a tee? Here are the signs I recommend looking for:

  • You wake up with energy and in a good mood.
  • You feel more energetic after you eat—not less.
  • You lose weight easily.
  • Cravings are a thing of the past.
  • Your blood tests show you are healthy.
  • Your digestion works the way it should.
  • Exercise doesn’t leave you feeling drained.
  • You handle stress well.
  • You fall asleep easily and wake feeling well-rested.
  • Your body feels good and you have a strong sense of wellbeing.

Sounds too good to be true? Then you haven’t found the right diet for you! You might be thinking, “But I’ve tried so many diets, Ann Louise, and I’m still sitting here feeling fat and fatigued, and I just can’t seem to lose the weight!” Trust me, I’ve turned around thousands of “hopeless causes” and I can help you, too! 

The underlying premise of the keto diet is right—your body wants to burn fat as its primary source of fuel. The problem is, you still need carbs to make hormones—thyroid, sex, and stress hormones, to be precise. Without enough carbs, you can feel tired, sluggish, unable to handle stress, have night sweats, and gain weight far too easily, among other signs of hormone imbalance. Too many carbs and the bloating, blood sugar increases, and fatigue set in.

Carbs, fats, and proteins all have one thing in common—they each have a “sweet spot” that creates optimal health in your body—too much or too little of any one of them is not a good thing.

I created my Radical Metabolism plan for even the slowest of losers, the most sluggish of metabolisms, and even those with autoimmune and other chronic illnesses that make a healthy weight seem so far out of reach. Thousands of people like you have already seen success with my plan, and found their ideal amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats, and they’re loving their new lifestyle! They’ve seen their energy levels soar, the inches and pounds fall off, and their blood tests improve—even thyroid! I invite you to get RADICAL, and find your way back to feeling good again.

Contributor: 

Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., C.N.S.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, is a New York Times award-winning author of 30 books on detox, health, and healing, including the international bestselling Fat Flush Plan and Zapped! Visit her blog at annlouise.com/blog and join her online Fat Flush Community.