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Testing Your Ketones

Diabetes, Weight loss | February 24, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

diabetes, weight loss

Testing Your Ketones

For long-term health, it is essential that both type 1 and type 2 diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. While this is often done through self-monitoring of blood glucose levels, urine ketone testing can also be used to avoid the dangers of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

What are ketones?

The body usually uses glucose as a source of energy by breaking down carbohydrates from the foods we eat. However, when your body doesn’t have enough glucose, or insulin to use the glucose, your body then starts to break down fat for energy. Ketones are the by-products of this breakdown of fats in the liver. They can accumulate to dangerous levels in the body and also appear in urine. People with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk for making ketones, it rarely occurs in people with type 2.

Ketones make your blood acidic and put you at risk of DKA. It is also related to hyperglycaemia. Having high levels of ketones requires medical assistance and as such diabetics are encouraged to check their urine for ketones regularly.

Symptoms of high ketones

If you are a diabetic, you need to be aware of the symptoms of having too many ketones in your body. Early symptoms that occur include:

  • A dry mouth
  • Strong thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • High blood sugar readings

If left untreated, the symptoms can progress leading to:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Flushed skin
  • Sweet acetone smelling breath (similar to nail polish remover)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

How to test for ketones

Urine tests are an easy way to assess the level of ketones in the body. They are available without a prescription. The testing strip contains a special chemical that will turn a specific colour if it detects ketones in the urine. Many of them can indicate that there are no ketones present up to very high levels. If using in children who aren’t potty-trained you can press the stick against a wet nappy to get a reading.

Doctors recommend that people with diabetes test their ketones twice daily. Keep the test strips with you at home and when travelling. If you have high levels, you should seek emergency medical treatment. 

How to prevent high ketone levels

Carefully managing diabetes is crucial in keeping ketone levels to a minimum and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Healthy diet

Diabetics are encouraged to eat a low glycaemic index diet to result in more desirable and controlled fluctuations in blood glucose. Diabetics have blood glucose levels that are much higher than normal, so low GI foods can help control this. Other benefits of a low GI diet include assisting in weight loss because these foods help to control appetite and delay hunger.
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Eating protein and fibre are also very important components to a low GI diet and should be included with every meal to lower the overall GI content. Examples of foods high in fibre include oats, brown rice, barley, legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils) and vegetables. Vegetables with a high starch content should only be consumed occasionally and this includes potatoes, sweet potato, corn and carrots. Sources of protein to include with every meal include lean meat, fish, eggs, natural yoghurt, cheese, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Refined carbohydrates such as cakes, biscuits, white flour and sugar in any form (including artificial sources) and soft drinks (even diet varieties) should be eliminated from the diet. Alcohol is also very high in sugar with little nutritional value and its intake should be reduced or avoided. Avoid trans fat, deep fried foods and oxidised fats from rancid oils that have been re-used or heated to a high temperature and damaged.

Drink at least 2 litres of water each day is also an important component of any healthy diet, especially for diabetics. A small increase in the level of ketones can be reduced simply by drinking more water.

Weight loss

How to prevent high ketone levelsWeight loss is essential for type 2 diabetics if overweight. Approximately 90% of people who develop type 2 diabetes are obese. Weight reduction helps to improve insulin sensitivity and function. Following a low GI diet, along with small regular meals and daily exercise can help in gradual weight loss. At least 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercises with stretching, weight training and strengthening works best.
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Check blood sugar levels and ketones

Your doctor will recommend how frequently you should be checking your blood sugar levels. Usually 3 to 4 times per day is recommended. You should check your levels more often if your blood sugar levels are getting higher or your having symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels.

Checking your ketones twice daily can also help in detecting the presence of ketones in the urine to avoid ketoacidosis.

Work with your health professional

Working closely with your doctor to help manage diabetes is vital to ensure healthy diet and your medication (if being used) are working effectively. You should also talk to your doctor if your ketone readings come back frequently high. An action plan should be formulated and implemented if your ketone levels start to increase.

Ketone testing is also beneficial when on a ketogenic diet. 
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Testing for ketones with a urine test kit is an invaluable tool mainly for type 1 diabetics, however high ketones can also affect type 2 diabetics with very high blood sugars. These easy to use strips can be used daily to assess levels of ketones in the body—if these levels are high emergency medical treatment may be necessary. Eating a good quality, low GI diet coupled with weight loss in the overweight person can be effective way to reduce ketones, stabilise blood sugars and assist in weight reduction.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Delaney MF, et al. Diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2000 Dec;29(4):683-705

Misra S, Oliver NS. Utility of ketone measurement in the prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabet Med. 2015 Jan;32(1):14-23

Rahelic D, et al. Glycaemic index in diabetics. Coll Antropol. 2011 Dec;35(4):1363-8

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