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Should You Consider the Keto Diet for Edema?

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Could energy-rich fats and low amounts of carbs prove beneficial for those with edema - it's possible. Learn whether or not the Keto diet is right for you to gain relief from water retention.

When suffering from swollen feet and legs (or even a swollen face and hands, at its worst) can the keto diet make a difference?

Water retention can occur for reasons your doctor can't pinpoint, but if you haven't been to the doctor yet, your edema might be a sign that you should do so without delay. It can be a symptom of liver or kidney problems, or you could have heart disease so have yourself checked out first.

If your doctor ends up shrugging and prescribing a diuretic it's almost, but not quite time to give Keto a try. Before we kick off with a closer look at the Keto Diet and whether it can help you to overcome edema, let's start with some good advice.

Get Advice from a Doctor Who Supports the Keto Diet

You can try talking to your general practitioner about trying the keto diet, but not all doctors support the idea of cutting out carbs even though the Keto Diet was initially used for a medical reason: to treat people with epilepsy.

We think that the keto diet could well help for edema too, but what you do need to know is that it is an extremely restrictive diet, and getting all the nutrition you need from it could be problematic.

It's no use just going out and buying a book full of recipes to follow. Everyone has slightly different nutritional needs, so we strongly recommend that you undertake this diet under the supervision of a trained medical professional.

What is the Keto Diet?

Although it has recently gained popularity as a weight-loss diet, the Keto diet was never intended for that purpose.

Since 500 BC, and perhaps even earlier, physicians had seen that fasting could help to control epilepsy. There's just one problem: you can't indefinitely fast. In the 1920s a Dr.Wilder, with the help of colleagues, developed and tested the Ketogenic Diet as a way of treating drug-resistant epilepsy.

Simply put, the Keto Diet is all about getting most of the energy your body needs from fats while eating a very limited amount of carbs. Meat and veggies are on the menu, but you have to be aware of the carbohydrate content of the veggies you eat, and the meat should have plenty of energy-giving fat.

The idea is to initiate a state called ketosis

In this condition, your body is not getting energy from carbs. Instead, it's getting its energy from ketones – a component of dietary fat that your body oxidizes when it can't get enough energy from carbs. 

It's the idea of turning your body into a fat-burning machine that first popularized the idea that the Keto Diet would promote weight loss. But that's not your goal right now. What you need is to curb water retention.

So, Why Would the Keto Diet Help for Edema?

According to nutritionists, our bodies store up to 6 grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates we consume. Since edema is essentially a matter of abnormally high water storage, and since weight loss in ketosis is largely attributed to water weight loss, Keto could just be for you. Sensitivity to wheat has also been linked to edema, and on the keto diet, you probably wouldn't have much room for wheat in your low carb allowance.

Do monitor yourself closely. For example, the Keto diet allows for and encourages the consumption of full-fat dairy products. That might not be the best choice if you have edema because of food sensitivity. It also allows for and encourages the consumption of salt, and you might be well advised to cut salt right out. A nutritionist will be able to help you tailor the diet as an edema patient.

A Side-Effect of the Keto Diet: Eat Carbs and You Get Edema

If you read about the Keto diet, you'll find one common theme. Cheating could have some unpleasant consequences. There are a lot of reports of people who thought they'd go on a little carb binge after being in a state of Ketosis, and apart from feeling terrible, edema is a commonly reported side effect.

The moral of the story?

If you're going to try Keto, stick to it, and don't risk a carbs binge. The edema effect reported by diet cheaters comes from people who never had problems with edema before, so if carbs are behind your edema, it's going to be much worse for you than it is for them.

Are There any Scientific Studies on the Keto Diet and Edema?

As far as we were able to ascertain, no scientific studies have specifically addressed Keto and edema. Most have looked at epileptic seizure control, diabetes, and weight loss.

One study on rats showed that ketosis limited fluid buildup after traumatic head injury.

However, the one thing that all scientists agree on, whether they support the Keto Diet or not, is that Keto will cause water loss because of its low carb content and unless you want to live on a diet of diuretics all your life, that could be the solution you're looking for.

What Concerns Are There About Keto?

We've mentioned that not all doctors support the Keto Diet as a route towards wellness. The concern they share is that you might not be able to get enough variety in the diet to keep your body well-nourished.

They're particularly worried about vitamins and minerals you'd otherwise get in foods like fruits and vegetables.

You'll be eating these in moderation owing to the extremely limited carbohydrate allowance you need to stick to if you want to maintain ketosis.

However, there's nothing to stop you from using natural supplements that contain the ingredients your Keto Diet might lack. What is important is remembering that your keto diet is limiting your nutrition and that you do need supplementation to stay well if you plan to adopt it in the longer-term.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema