A 32-year-old Swedish mom was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening condition after going on a strict low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet to lose her baby weight. When they brought her in, she suffered from severe nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, trembling and spasms in her limbs.
When the doctors questioned her, she told them she only ate about 20 grams of carbohydrates a day — the equivalent of a medium-sized potato or one banana — while breastfeeding her 10-month-old baby. The recommended daily value, for adults, is around 200-240 grams when on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Low-carb diets can trigger ketoacidosis
Carbs provide the body with much-needed energy. When carbs are removed from the diet, the body burns fat for energy. When our body starts to burn fat instead of carbs, ketones are created as a waste product. This is a process called ketosis.
Our body can perfectly handle small amounts of ketones, since ketone bodies that are not used are eliminated through the kidneys and urine.
While burning fat for energy may sound like a good thing, especially when you are trying to shed some pounds, ketones can build up in the blood, making it too acidic. If this worsens, it could lead to a condition called ketoacidosis. If left untreated, this may cause coma or even death.
Luckily, this new mom was diagnosed in time. Doctors gave her sugar infusions and small doses of human insulin to reverse the ketoacidosis. After three days, she felt well enough to be released from the hospital.
First non-diabetes related case of ketoacidosis
Ketoacidosis is a rare condition usually only seen in people with type 1 diabetes or in situations of extreme starvation. According to Dr. Magnus Ekelund, head of endocrinology at Helsingborg Hospital in Sweden, this case is the first non-diabetes related case described in medical literature. He used this case as an example to warn people http://www.jmedicalcasereports.com/content/9/1/224, especially breastfeeding women, about the dangers of low-carb diets.
“New diets are popular and with our modern communication, through Internet and blogs, the information spreads fast and is easily accessible. Authors on the Internet might be people supporting the diet or advertisers with commercial interests. It is a great challenge for medical services to be updated and to give proper information to our community,” he wrote in his report.
Dangers of popular low-carb diets
People don’t realize how dangerous it can be to exclude certain food groups and essential nutrients, like carbohydrates, from their diet. While this woman believed she was doing the right thing and saw positive results — she lost almost nine pounds in only 10 days — she became extremely ill.
“People should be aware of the potential danger of these kinds of diet, especially when breastfeeding or when the body is under any other kind of stress, such as when they are ill,” added Dr. Ekelund.
So, if you are on a low-carb diet and start to experience symptoms like nausea and heart palpitation, or if your breath has an acetone smell, make sure to contact your doctor before it becomes too late.
Dr. Ekelund also advises new moms to delay active weight loss http://www.womenshealth.news/ until they are done with breastfeeding their little ones. After all, milk production does take up a lot of energy.