Does Keto Cause Your Feet To Swell?


A ketogenic diet aims to improve health and promote weight loss through a high-fat, low-carb diet, putting the body into a state of ketosis, burning fat instead of carbohydrates. However, there are side effects to watch for, including foot swelling.

Keto makes your feet swell due to the electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, which may cause your body to begin retaining water. This is especially likely to happen if your ketogenic diet involves low potassium intake. However, it does not occur in every case.

This article will discuss the ketogenic diet, including both benefits and risks, and some reasons why a ketogenic diet may lead to swelling in the feet and ankles.

What Is Keto?

A ketogenic diet, or keto, is a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fats, meant to improve overall health and encourage weight loss. The name comes from the term ketosis, the process of burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. 

About Ketosis

When the body has insufficient blood sugar, it burns fat to fuel body cells. This typically happens during pregnancy and infancy, as well as fasts and starvation. To induce ketosis, you need to remove simple sugars like candy and white bread from your diet, as well as complex carbohydrates, fruit, and legumes. 

This happens in response to a drop in insulin and causes fatty acids to be released from body fat and transported to the liver, where they are converted into ketones. These molecules can be used as an energy source when the body is in a state of ketosis. 

Ordinarily, your brain requires glucose to function, and certain brain cells can only use glucose as fuel. However, when your body is in a ketosis state, a large portion of your brain can use ketones for energy. This is what allows you to survive during periods of starvation.

Types Of Ketogenic Diets

The principle of any ketogenic diet is to induce ketosis through dietary changes, but the exact process for achieving this varies from diet to diet. 

  • Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD) – Very low-carb, some protein, and high levels of fat. 
  • Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD) – Cycle between five high-fat days and two high-carb days.
  • Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD) – Eat mostly high-fat foods, but increase carb intake around workouts.
  • High-protein Ketogenic Diet – Similar to the standard ketogenic diet, but with more protein and less fat. 

Most references to keto refer to the standard ketogenic diet, and targeted and cyclical methods are typically only used by athletes.

Does Keto Cause Fluid Retention?

Because the ketogenic diet restricts the intake of fruits and vegetables, you may experience low potassium levels and other nutrient deficiencies, leading to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. This causes your body to begin retaining fluids, causing swelling not just in your feet but also around your fingers, legs, and eyes.

How To Prevent Swelling

Staying hydrated, especially with fluids high in electrolytes, can help prevent this water retention and swelling. If you’re missing out on potassium-rich but keto-unfriendly foods, try substituting avocados, mushrooms, leafy greens, and bacon into your diet. You may also consider adding a multivitamin to your routine.

Keto-Friendly Foods

No matter which version of the ketogenic diet you try, the key is to focus on taking in high-fat foods and reducing carbohydrates while consuming a moderate amount of protein. Some foods make this overall ratio easier to achieve, while others should be avoided entirely according to the ketogenic diet guidelines.

Grocery List

  • Seafood
  • Low-carb vegetables (dark greens, squash)
  • Low-sugar fruits (berries, citrus)
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dairy
  • Oils (especially nut oils)
  • Keto-friendly condiments (oil-based, unsweetened)
  • Olives
  • Nut butter without added sugar
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Chocolate

Although processed foods are generally best avoided, some health foods on the market are specifically made to accommodate the keto diet. A few good examples of healthy packaged snacks that are good for the keto diet include OLOVES Flavored OlivesNOW Foods Macadamia Nuts, and Artisana Organics Almond Butter.

Effects Of A Keto Diet

A ketogenic diet has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels, encourage weight loss, and lower disease risk. Ketosis can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin and significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and serve as one effective treatment for type 2 diabetes patients.

However, the keto diet asks for a blanket restriction of carbohydrates, including healthy carbohydrates like fruits, beans, root vegetables, and whole grains. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, in addition to glucose, and avoiding them can cause deficiencies that put your health at risk.

It’s important to understand the risks of following keto diet recommendations in the absence of other dietary guidelines and mitigate those risks.

Short-Term Risks Of Keto

  • Keto flu –  A combination of flu-like symptoms like aching, cramping, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, weakness, and a rash. 
  • Fatigue – This is due to low glucose levels in the brain.
  • Metallic-tasting breath – This is caused by the exhalation of ketones.

Long-Term Risks Of Keto

  • The disruption of your gastrointestinal system causes constipation, high triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, diarrhea, fatigue, iron deficiency, vomiting, and kidney stones. 
  • The immune system is weakened due to an imbalance of gut bacteria in your GI tract. 
  • It can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including a deficiency in cancer-fighting antioxidants.
  • It can cause chronic diseases due to a decreased intake of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. 
  • It can cause chronic inflammation due to high levels of fat, which can lead to heart disease.
  • The burden of maintaining a restrictive diet can lead to weight cycling, the process of cycling between gaining and losing weight.
  • It can cause an electrolyte imbalance due to a diet too high in sodium and too low in potassium.
  • Click here to learn more about the most common side effects and what you can do about them.

Mitigating The Risks Of A Keto Diet

  • Drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes to replace lost water from increased urination.
  • Make your carbs healthy carbs: produce high in vitamins and minerals.
  • Avoid processed foods.
  • Eat less saturated fat.
  • Eat plenty of fiber.
  • Consider taking a multivitamin with calcium, vitamin D, and selenium. Ideally, you would naturally consume these nutrients as a part of your diet.

Guidelines From The Department Of Health

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a research-based set of dietary guidelines based on the need for long term healthy eating patterns. These guidelines encourage limiting added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium, and promote nutrient-dense foods.

Nutrient-dense foods to incorporate according to these guidelines that are also keto-friendly include:

  • Keto-approved fruit (Here are 16 great options)
  • A variety of vegetables including leafy greens along with dark green, red, and orange vegetables such as bell peppers
  • Dairy products – The guidelines recommend fat-free or low-fat options, but you’ll want the full-fat versions on keto
  • A variety of lean proteins, including seafood, beef, poultry, and eggs
  • Oils, including oils from plants

In addition to these dietary guidelines, the Department of Health emphasizes that physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits. Americans are recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, including two days of muscle-strengthening exercises. 

Tips For A Sustainable Diet Change

  • Try incremental changes, instead of making one big shift. 
  • Find ways to modify your favorite dishes instead of doing away with all your old recipes and habits.
  • Work together with your workplace, schools, and community to make changes together.

Conclusion

The ketogenic diet requires the restriction of starchy or sugary vegetables, regardless of the vitamin or mineral content. This can cause deficiencies in essential nutrients, like potassium, which can cause problems like electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and swelling. However, it is possible to mitigate these risks and avoid these and other side effects.

Related Questions

Will the keto diet make me constipated? Keto may cause constipation because, for many people, carbohydrates in the form of fruits and grains were the only fiber sources they had in their diet. Not having a good source of fiber in your diet can cause you to become backed up.

Is the keto diet safe for someone with high cholesterol? Yes, the keto diet is safe for someone with high cholesterol. Since a ketogenic diet includes a lot of fats, including saturated fats from meat and eggs, some people will see an increase in cholesterol, but these changes are actually positive.

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References

Derek Masters

Derek Masters is an Amazon best-selling author. After much research, he began keto at 381 pounds in the middle of 2019. Losing 60 pounds and counting, he wants to share what he's learned with others who wish to learn about the ketogenic lifestyle

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