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Dr. Lewis JasseyMedical Director - Pediatric Medicine
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The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, as it’s informally known, is a popular diet that requires a high intake of fats and a very low intake of carbohydrates in order to put the body in a state of ketosis.
Due to the fact that those on the keto diet have to be very conscious of what they consume, many keto dieters who use weed may wonder whether consuming cannabis can impact the effects of the diet. Research on the effects cannabis has on ketosis is lacking; however, a small handful of studies show cannabis may impact ketosis positively and negatively depending on a few individual factors.
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What Is Keto?
The keto diet is premised on the idea that consuming high-fat foods and significantly limiting high-carbohydrate foods can help promote fat loss. By swapping carbs for a high-fat diet, the human body burns fat for energy, a metabolic state known as ketosis. Ketosis enables the body to survive in times of famine by drawing from its fat stores and can lead to weight loss.
To achieve ketosis, the keto diet requires consuming 70%-80% of your daily calories from fat (compared to the recommended amount of 25%-35%), 10%-20% from protein sources, and a maximum of 5%-10% from carbohydrates. Within 72 hours, ketosis can start to kick in. Examples of ketogenic-friendly foods include fatty fish, eggs, dairy products, butter, coconut oil, unsweetened chocolate, meat, nuts, seeds, and low-carb vegetables.
There are a lot of contested ideas surrounding the short and long-term benefits and drawbacks of a ketogenic diet. Some evidence suggests that people who go on keto can enjoy health benefits such as lowered blood sugar levels, increased weight loss, and high energy. However, numerous dietary experts have expressed concern about the long-term effects of adhering to the keto diet.
Long-term, the diet may cause kidney stones, bad breath, and constipation; lead to nutrient deficiencies because of decreased fruit and vegetable intake; lower blood pressure; elevate the risk of heart disease, and cause glucose intolerance. In the short term, those who follow a keto diet can experience a phenomenon known as the “keto flu” as their body adjusts.
Does Cannabis Use Affect Ketosis?
As is often the case in cannabis research, there is limited data detailing the effects of the cannabis plant, or specific cannabinoids, on ketosis. However, a small handful of studies show that there may be a link between the two.
Ketosis May Positively Impact the ECS
Some evidence shows that the keto diet may alter the expression of endocannabinoid receptors in the gut. Preclinical research found that CB1 and CB2 receptors were upregulated in rats fed a keto diet.
In simpler terms, a keto diet appeared to increase the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the intestines. It helped to protect the IBS-ravaged gut by regulating intestinal permeability, diminishing inflammation, and repairing stress-induced damage.
The authors concluded the study by reflecting that a period of ketosis triggered by the diet could benefit individuals with IBS by positively impacting cannabinoid receptors. While far from conclusive findings, the study demonstrates a possible connection between the keto diet, the endocannabinoid system, and gut health.
Cannabis May Mask Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Research based on five case studies of people with diabetes also hints at a possible link between cannabis and ketosis. The study outlined the cases of five cannabis users with diabetes who had abnormal presentations of ketosis.
The authors identified cannabis as a potential contributor to ketonemia (a condition that arises when there are high levels of ketone bodies in the blood), potentially due to its effects on the body’s acid/base balance. The study also determined that cannabis use appeared to mask or conceal diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) by increasing the body’s pH, as the cannabis users had a higher pH than expected for the symptoms they were showing.
This is problematic because DKA can be life-threatening if left untreated. As such, those with diabetes who are on a keto diet may want to talk to their healthcare providers before using cannabis.
These two studies suggest a connection between the keto diet, cannabis, and the ECS. Our understanding of the complex interplay between these factors may become more evident in the coming years as further research evolves. In the meantime, however, hordes of cannabis/ keto enthusiasts insist that there are clear benefits to mixing the diet with weed use, touting accelerated metabolism and enhanced fat-burning capacity as some of the advantages.
Keto Tips for Cannabis Users
Those already using weed and considering trying a ketogenic diet (or vice versa) can benefit from being well-prepared. The keto diet adheres to strict proportions of certain food groups, so there’s no leeway for free falling into bad habits like devouring entire pizzas when the munchies strike.
Choose Edibles Wisely
Many cannabis edibles contain high quantities of sugar, glucose, fruit juice, or other sweeteners. Suppose you regularly consume cannabis-infused candy, gummies, beverages, or treats like cookies.
In that case, you’ll need to carefully read the product packaging to ensure the product doesn’t contain more than 5%-10% carbohydrates (less than 50 g per day). Otherwise, you could burn through your daily carb quota with a single brownie.
Plan for the Munchies
When the munchies strike, sensible decision-making can go straight out the window. Common go-to foods can include pizza, potato chips, burgers, fries, and other carb-laden snacks that are no-nos for keto dieters. Make sure you’re prepared for the munchies with snacks on hand that taste great and are high-fat/low-carb.
Some popular options among people who follow the keto diet include avocados and guacamole, low-carb nuts and seeds, eggs, full-fat cheeses, and keto fat-bombs. One of the significant advantages of the keto diet is that high-fat foods are also very satiating, so you’ll feel full faster and less inclined to snack indefinitely.
Make Your Own Keto-Friendly Cannabis Snacks
A popular hack among keto devotees is creating cannabis-infused dishes using keto-friendly cannabutter or infused coconut oil. Once you’ve whipped up a batch, you can craft delicious keto-friendly cakes, cookies, soups, salad dressings, crackers, and more. Since CBD and THC are fat-soluble compounds, consuming them within fat-dense foods can significantly improve their bioavailability, allowing you to enjoy their benefits even more.
Avoid THC and Opt for CBD
If you want to avoid the onset of the munchies altogether, opt for CBD products instead of those containing THC. CBD is a natural appetite suppressant and can help to reduce body weight.
Popular keto CBD products include tinctures, oils, low-carb edibles, and sugar-free beverages. You can also use CBD oil to make keto-friendly CBD snacks.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Does weed have carbohydrates?
Cannabis, in its raw, natural form, contains low levels of carbohydrates. However, research tells us that when weed is smoked, it does not impact the body’s carbohydrate metabolism.
Does smoking affect fat loss?
Smoking cigarettes can lead to fat loss as nicotine suppresses appetite. Smoking weed may also contribute to weight loss by speeding up the body’s metabolic state. However, it’s important to know that THC in cannabis can also elevate appetite and lead to snack cravings.
What can kick you out of ketosis?
The primary way your body leaves ketosis is through carbohydrate consumption. When this happens, the body stops burning fat and starts burning glucose for energy again. Re-entering ketosis by consuming a high-fat diet can take several days to one week.