Ketones are alternative foods produced when there is not enough sugar (aka glucose) to supply the body’s energy needs. Ketones are created when fatty acids break down, and they form overnight or during fasting sessions.
During fasting or sleep, your body’s insulin levels are low, but your blood sugar hormones (glucagon) and adrenaline levels are normal. This combination causes fat to be released from fat cells. Fat then travels to the liver, where it is processed into ketone units. These ketone units are fed back into your blood circulation and used to fuel cell functions.
Everyone naturally has some amount of ketones, but they are more common in people with chronic conditions like diabetes. Ketone testing is often performed if your blood sugar is higher than 300mg/dL. If you have high blood sugar levels and type 1 or 2 diabetes, it is essential to check your ketone levels as soon as you can.
Keep on reading to learn more about ketones and why they may be present in your urine.
What Is Ketone Buildup?
When ketones build up, they upset the chemical balance of your blood and can essentially poison the body. If ketones are in your urine, it means that your body is producing too many ketones and is trying to flush them out of your body through your urine. Eventually, the ketones will build up in the blood and make it more acidic.
If you have diabetes, it’s important to watch for a build-up in ketones because it means that your body is not getting the proper energy it needs.
Causes of High Ketone Levels
There are many reasons a person’s ketone levels might be higher than average:
Diabetes: If you’re having a hard time managing your diabetes, you might see more ketones in your urine. High levels of ketones can begin to poison your body and lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition that can lead to a diabetic coma.
Pregnancy: This can signify that you and your baby are not getting enough energy through your diet. This can lead to adverse outcomes with your pregnancy and with your child’s health, so it’s important to discuss high ketone levels with your OB/GYN as soon as you can.
Eating Disorders: People with eating disorders are more likely to experience starvation ketoacidosis when the body has not received enough sugar for energy in an extended period.
Strenuous Exercise: If your insulin levels become too low and your ketone levels rise as you work out, you might begin to experience dizziness, nausea, or even weakness. Ketones increase in anyone who exercises, but those with Type 1 Diabetes should be especially cautious.
Low-Carbohydrate and Ketogenic Diets: Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. When a person takes carbohydrates out of their diet, their body naturally makes up for it in ketones. With low-carbohydrate diets, it is important to ensure your body is getting all the necessary nutrients to fuel it.
Alcohol Dependence: If you are someone struggling with alcohol use, you will likely find that your ketone levels will be higher as your body makes up for the lost energy and lack of nutrients.
Chronic Vomiting or Diarrhea: The more dehydrated that your body gets, the higher your ketone levels will be – especially if you do not rehydrate quickly. This can be common for people with chronic issues of vomiting or diarrhea.
What Happens If My Body Produces Excess Ketones?
Often, ketones just existing isn’t a cause for concern. However, having an excess amount of ketones can be extremely dangerous for individuals with diabetes. Ketones in urine can lead to a condition called ketonuria.
Symptoms of ketonuria include:
- Frequent peeing
- Increased thirst
- Muscle aches
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal discomfort
Doctors will routinely check ketone levels in patients with diabetes because they are more likely to experience these symptoms when ketone levels are high. Having higher levels of ketones in your body when you have diabetes means that you aren’t getting enough insulin, and your body is trying to make up for it.
It could be a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about how to monitor your blood sugar levels and ketone levels, along with how to prevent a condition called ketoacidosis.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis may include:
- Dry mouth or constant thirst
- Flushed skin
- Fruity smell or fruity-smelling breath
- Feelings of nausea and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Confusion and irritation
Why You Should Monitor Your Ketone Levels
It’s always good to have an understanding of what’s going on in your body. If you’re someone who is more likely to experience unwanted symptoms from higher levels of ketones, you should consider testing for high ketone levels at home.
People with diabetes need to understand their ketone levels to avoid the risk of putting themselves into diabetic ketoacidosis. The high level of ketones in a person’s urine can cause the blood to become acidic, leading to illness.
Being able to monitor your ketone levels from the comfort of your own home can help you take control over your health and discover any possible changes before you begin showing symptoms of ketonuria or ketoacidosis.
Vessel Health’s Wellness Card helps you evaluate what’s going on in your body, so you know how to best look after your health. It tests for hydration and vitamin levels as well as ketones to let you know if your body is beginning to process ketones instead of sugars.
When To Contact a Doctor
If you have taken a urine test kit and notice symptoms like fatigue or high ketone levels, you might want to contact your doctor because you may be at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.
So, what does an abnormal result look like? Abnormal results typically break down by:
- Small: 20 mg/dl
- Moderate: 30 - 40 mg/dl
- Large: > 80 mg/dl
The higher your ketone levels, the more urgently you should contact your healthcare provider.
How To Reduce High Ketone Levels
High ketone levels are typically treated in a hospital by healthcare professionals. If you have high ketone levels, you might want to talk to a medical professional rather than attempting to treat the condition on your own.
Some of the most common ways to treat high ketone levels are:
Hydration: People will be put on IV fluids to help combat excessive thirst and dehydration from frequent urination.
Electrolyte Replenishing: Electrolytes are essential for normal healthy functioning, and when you are dealing with high ketone levels, it’s important to maintain your electrolyte levels.
Insulin: You might be administered insulin when in the hospital. This will help your body revert to running off of glucose rather than ketones.
Checking Ketone Levels with Vessel
To protect yourself from the effects of high levels of ketones, you want to make sure that your glucose levels are normal. Vessel Health provides the ability to test your nutrient levels easily and affordably at home to help you screen for signs that it’s time to schedule a visit with your doctor.
If you’ve ever wondered about how you can take control of knowing what’s happening in your body without needing to leave your house, Vessel Health is the way to go!
Check out Vessel’s Wellness Card to learn about how a trip to the bathroom can help you improve your health.
Mikaela Frame See all the author’s articles