The Ketogenic Diet’s Fatal Flaw – The Con of Going Keto

March 13, 2018
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

There’s a hidden danger to using fats for fuel for your body.

Have you gone “keto” yet? The ketogenic diet, a.k.a. “going keto,” is all the rage right now, with celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian endorsing it, calling it a “reset” or detox for the body. While it’s true that it resets the way your body uses nutrients, by burning fats instead of sugars, one question remains – why do people get so tired and “crash” after they’ve been on the diet for an extended period of time?  It seems there is definitely at least one Keto con.

What is the keto diet’s fatal flaw? To understand this, first you need a good understanding of what the keto diet really does.

The Keto Diet Breakdown

In a nutshell, the keto diet is broken down into 75% fats, 20% proteins, and 5% carbohydrates. By eating macronutrients in these percentages, instead of burning carbs and sugars, you burn your body’s own fat stores. This is called ketosis, which your body recognizes as a type of fasting. Your fat cells are where you store toxins you are unable to process and your body dilutes those toxins with water to keep them from poisoning you.

Your liver is the source of the ketones being produced, and your kidneys pass them through to the urine, where you measure them as a sign of progress on the diet. The first weight you lose on a ketogenic diet is water weight, which causes the toxins in your fat cells to concentrate, often giving you symptoms that have been coined the “keto flu.” These symptoms range from digestive upset and skin rashes to headaches and body aches, similar to the symptoms you get from toxicities.

It isn’t long before your body is flushing out those fat cells and hopefully the toxins are flushing with them, rather than being redeposited into deeper tissues. At first, you feel good and the weight loss is a morale-booster. But after a while the fatigue sets in, often accompanied by anxiety, insomnia, and more. What’s causing these troubling symptoms?

Solving the Keto Puzzle

A friend came to me recently, remarking how much older a well-known doctor was looking after several months on the keto diet. “He has dark circles around his eyes but they’re white in the inside corners, his cheeks look sunken and he looks like he’s aged several years! What is it about going keto that does this, Dr. Ann Louise?”

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) gave us the answers to this question thousands of years ago with their practice of face mapping. Those are signs of mineral imbalances, including copper, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, and more, just in that one loaded question.

Once mineral imbalances and deficiencies set in, it isn’t long before adrenal fatigue follows behind, and that’s when you start feeling tired from your carb restriction. A quick fix in the form of carb loading is often recommended, but it’s not the real answer. It isn’t the sugars and carbs your body is missing; it’s the mineral-rich, enzyme-loaded vegetables and fruits your body really wants, not to mention the essential fats present in seeds and nuts.

Mind Your Minerals

If you do a search for the ketogenic diet’s impact on adrenals, you will get hundreds of thousands of hits. But if you go to Medscape or PubMed and do the same search, you will come up with nothing. The reason for this is mainstream medicine does not recognize adrenal fatigue as a diagnosis. What it does recognize are mineral deficiencies, like sodium, for example, which causes fatigue, anxiety, and insomnia, among other symptoms. The solution for the sodium loss is good quality salt, like unrefined Celtic or Himalayan, but this doesn’t address the need for magnesium, calcium, and so many other minerals.

You see, while you’re losing that water weight and flushing those fat cells, the minerals you’ve accumulated are going along for the ride. At first, this can feel like a good thing if sodium retention has been causing you swelling. But, eventually the mineral loss is more than what your body needs and your sagging skin and TCM facial signs are showing you the mineral imbalances resulting from severe carbohydrate restriction.

Supplementing with minerals like salt and magnesium alone is not the answer – you need real food loaded with the proper balance of essential minerals. Continuing with the sodium example, once your body is excreting a lot of sodium, your body will send signals to conserve it. This causes potassium wasting, so now your potassium levels are dropping. Your muscles (especially the heart) and nerves need enough potassium to function properly. Too much or too little potassium can have life-threatening consequences.

As critical minerals are becoming imbalanced, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are affected, and this leads to what we call adrenal fatigue. If you feel tired all the time and are experiencing anxiety and/or insomnia, I strongly suggest getting an HTMA (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis) done through UNI KEY Health as soon as possible to measure your mineral levels. Using a small hair sample, the lab generates a detailed report of which minerals are too high or too low and gives recommendations to get them back in balance.

Face the Fats

Staples of the keto diet include foods like butter, cheese, cream, eggs, and meat – a lot of saturated fats. While saturated fats are not the villains they were portrayed as for so many years, they still need to be consumed in balance with other fats. Your body can make most of the types of fats it needs, but this isn’t the case with essential fats. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats have gotten the most attention for their numerous, positive health effects, but there are other essential fats as well, including Omega 7 and Omega 9.

All of these essential fats have one thing in common – they are present in ideal ratios in nuts, seeds, and their oils. These foods are lacking in the typical keto diet, or are out of balance with the abundance of saturated fats. If your saturated fats are coming from grass-fed animals, then your Omega 3 fat consumption is better than most. But, you’ll still need to get your lesser-known essential fats like Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA), Omega 7 and Omega 9 from plant-based sources.

A Better Way to a Radical Metabolism

Since going keto has soared in popularity, I can’t tell you how many people have come to my Fat Flush Nation on Facebook looking for help after “crashing” from it. Often, it takes months of rebuilding for them to come back around to feeling like themselves again, while maintaining a healthy weight loss on the Fat Flush Plan. Consider this your invitation to join the discussion in our amazingly supportive group over on the Nation. Together, we can help you find the balance you need in your diet to restore your radical metabolism and achieve healthy weight loss.

If you are looking for a more intimate setting, with personal interaction with me, consider joining my private Inner Circle. This is where my team and I give you individualized attention and help you navigate your journey to optimal health.

What is a Radical Metabolism, you ask? The answer to this is coming soon. Follow me on Facebook and stay tuned!

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Arlene Poet

    Thank you Ann! I have always had reservations about eating so dramatically different in a one sided manner….God gave us fruits and vegies to enjoy~Thank you for clarifying to me my concerns! Thanks for all you do!

  2. Teresa

    Thank you for explaining this, Ann Louise! It really makes sense to me. I recently overheard two young women in our local health food store discussing going on the Keto Diet “because everybody’s doing it”. I intuitively felt this was NOT the best direction for these already pretty-fit-looking women to go in, but I wasn’t sure how to explain Why. Now I know.

  3. DavetteB

    I am approaching my one year ketogenic anniversary and personally I didn’t get keto flu or any other downsides. I was never big on fruits and vegetables (I only like a few but fortunately they are mostly low carb) and the only thing that has been a little challenging is the mental cravings. But I have the clarity to know that it is mental and not physical. Several doctors are monitoring me and I’m in the process of being weaned off some of my medications. The main problem I see is people looking at it like a diet, not doing the research, and giving up when it gets hard. You can find a substitute for anything ‘carby’ you might miss (chips, cookies, cakes, etc) and I’ve found the cravings have gotten less over time. I do supplement vitamins, minerals, and herbs, keep well hydrated, and practice intermittent fasting. I would suggest people research for themselves and try it without any ‘cheating’ for a full 30 days before passing judgment. Reducing blood glucose levels and insulin response is generally beneficial for people with weight issues.

    • Rashelle Wimbish

      @DavetteB- great post. I hope most people who read the comments considered your points as unbiased and someone who made informative choices. The old saying…”take what you need and leave the rest behind” is the best course of action. I too am doing healthy Keto. I am a Fat Flusher from way back. I learned so much from Dr. Anne Louise. Her Fat Flush books put me in the knowledgeable position to venture into this advance world of studying the science behind insulin, Ketosis, autophagy, and much more. There are many scientist and other talking heads published and on YouTube. Please readers, listen to a variety of blogs and YouTube channels. Most are not promoting deficient eating. Most proclaimed Keto and IF experts talk about all the cons mentioned in this post. I will always use some basic Fat Flush protocols however there are other options that may bring more variety to your eating. Yes, food is fuel and it’s a pleasure. TIP: Try intermittent fasting and a tsp of apple cider vinegar with lemon/lime in water, or tea, or a safe sugar free drink before every meal. This will curve your appetite and it tastes amazing. You can always add stevia or monf fruit if that’s your preference. Happy Flushing and lowering your blood sugar.

    • Cherith

      Thanks Davettb, I agree. My husband and I had amazing results the first time we did keto, but when the holidays came…well we fell off. But getting back on it and doing our research has been so encouraging! We really enjoy eating this way while listening to our bodies and making slight changes as needed.

  4. Kathleen

    Thanks so much for explaining the deficiencies of the keto diet. I do not know anyone on this diet but it is very good to know if someone should ask me about it. I would recommend the Fat Flush Plan as the healthier, balanced lifetime plan.

  5. BJ

    I just sent my same comments to one other Practitioner who’s speaking the dangers of Keto.

    I am so relieved to read articles by Integrative Medicine Professionals that are mentioning
    the risks and downfalls to Keto Diets. Besides you, I’ve only found a few others, plus the
    Plant-Based group that are being cautious with it. The rest are following the Keto Trend encouraging outrageous amounts of fats in all our diets. The focus began with “eating like
    our ancestors did” . That made sense IF we really knew. What was the fat availability? Did
    they pick fat “grapes” off a vine?
    I began getting nearly a page of emails every day from different sites about food related
    issues as I kept looking for a common thread of agreement. I found very few, and Keto never
    made sense. I’m now narrowing my subscription toa handful of about 5-7 people in the health field. You are one of them because of your healthy and balanced approach.

    Thank you for your Courage and Honesty.

  6. Milena

    Actually, it is not correct to say that keto diet have deficiencies. It is not proven and it is not researched.

    What would be more correct to say is those deficiencies may appear while people are on keto, because it is not done right – for example, the vegetables have pesticides and nitrates, the meat is being processed and animals were not grass-fed, maybe they take additional “keto” qualified products that are garbage, etc.

    The right done keto diet is a well-balanced plan of what your body needs, including microelements and vitamins.

    The problem is that most of the fresh food is not naturally grown and most of the meat comes from GMO-fed animals, healing for longevity with antibiotics. The water we usually can find to drink is also not really good. Also if people start to take additional vitamins and supplements while on keto to fill up a gap of a possible deficiency, if they get the industrial ones from the pharmacy, they actually cause more harm to our body than gain.

    I would say don’t look only at a single person example, because he doesn’t look good, but check the details as the ones above. Talk to the person if he/she suffers from a disease (here very widely said), maybe parasites in the body, not being aware of heavy metals in the body, etc.

    It is absolutely true that a funny health appearance should raise a question mark, but the answer is not general. The details are also as important as the main thing.

  7. Mike

    Wait wait wait wait….. So your assuming that people on keto are just eating cheese, meats, fats, butter and heavy cream. Please research keto more. While that is true we also drink plenty of fluids containing electrolytes. We do eat a ton of vegetables containg many nutients. why do you assume we dont? We do eat nuts and seeds seeing they are low carb and not eating a whole bag. Also I get to enjoy a table spoon of Flaxseed oil with a whopping 8g of omega 3, 2g of omega 6 and a nice layer of 14g of fat. And during the day I enjoy a stable source of energy, no crashes from sugar and carbs, my mood levels and brain are stable. I don’t crave surgar, I don’t crave carbs. I crave nutrient dense vegetable filled with vitamins and minerals and fatty foods which satisfy me.
    From your friendly neighborhood ketogenesis.

    • Cherith

      I absolutely agree! With any diet plan you will find people who go to the extreme or do not do their research properly. My husband and I eat plenty of salads and nuts, mixed with grass fed meat and butter in the proper proportion’s. The sugar cravings the mood swings and highs and lows that are caused by a high Carbohydrate, high sugar, hi processed food diet are gone. My husband’s arthritis pain practically disappears on this diet with no meds!

  8. Robyn Kardos

    HOw do you successfully do this plan or even Keto if you have IBS/SIBO or leaky gut?

    • Team ALG

      Robyn, You can treat any of these conditions while on the Fat Flush Plan. The foods on this plan can be adapted to your requirements as you heal your gut.


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