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Keto Rash : What Is It? How To Stop It?

If you are reading about ketogenic diet these days or planning to start with it, then this article is something of your interest. 

With the change in the diet pattern, your body may show some side effects and thus it is wise to be aware of them to take a timely action.

In this article, we will be focussing on ‘keto rash’, which is a red itchy skin accompanied by inflammation on certain parts of the body.

How does Keto Rash Take Place?

Ketogenic diet is fat rich diet with less carbs which leads to ketosis. Also shortly named as keto diet, the diet involves having particular type of food which is able to provide a balance of nearly 75% fat, 20% protein and 5 % carbs. 

The human body, in a normal scenario runs on glucose. However when your body does not have enough insulin (from carbs) to turn glucose into energy, your body needs another source and it uses fats to produce energy.

With the breakdown of fats, your body also produces some chemicals which are known as ketones. The chemicals made in your liver are sent to the bloodstream from where these are consumed as fuel by your muscles and tissues. The process of producing of ketones is called ketosis.

Owing to the drastic change in the diet, the body can experience some unwanted side effects. This can include issues like electrolyte imbalance, nausea, sleep disturbance or even a keto rash.

Let’s read further to know more about how this is caused, what can possibly be done to prevent it and how to treat keto rash.

Signs of Keto Rash

Keto rash is medically known as prurigo pigmentosa. Usually affecting the upper body, keto rash has a unique appearance with network-like patterns across the skin. 

Below are the usual symptoms of occurrence of keto rash.

  • Red spots named papules which take on a web-like appearance
  • An itchy, red rash that transpires mainly on the upper back, chest, neck and abdomen
  • A dark brown pattern left on the skin once the spots disappear

Causes of Keto Rash

Though exact causes of keto rash are not yet known, however they have been observed to be associated with ketosis. 

When the body switches its primary source of energy to ketones, it can develop signs of keto rash. 

Ketosis is the result of ketogenic diet or can also be caused when fasting or in diabetic people.

Other than ketosis, potential causes of keto rash can be:

  • Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy and menstruation
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Skin friction
  • Exposure to excessive sunlight or heat
  • Over sweating

As reported in studies, majorly keto rash has been the result of ketosis but that does not rule out the possibility of other causes.

What Can You Do to Prevent Keto Rash?

While it is not necessary that you will develop keto rash when you start with ketogenic diet, you can definitely follow these simple precautions to prevent it.

  • Don’t totally stop carbohydrate intake – Ketogenic diet does not mean – no carb, it says low carb. So don’t drop it suddenly. Reduce it slowly over time.
  • Ensure that you do take a supplement in the initial phase- Take a multivitamin or multi mineral once a day initially. This will help you cope up with the nutrient deficiency caused due to keto diet.
  • Check with your doctor – Do check with your doctor regarding the ingredients of the supplement and also if you want more information about side effects of keto diet including keto rash for yourself. A dietician may help you sail through the transition period safely. 

How to Treat Keto Rash?

You can take care of the following things at home for the treatment of keto rash. If, however these remedies don’t seem to help, ask for the medical advice from your doctor. 

  • Restart with carb diet – In case you feel that the dietary change has led to the keto rash, you may start with carbs diet once gain. As shown by studies, reintroducing carbs has resulted in significant reducing of keto rash.
  • Ensure you are having enough vitamins and minerals – Skin issues can take place in absence of vitamin rich diet.  Try eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, C and B12.
  • Caring for your skin – You need to treat your skin gently especially if you have inflammatory skin conditions. Try taking bath with lukewarm water and use mild soaps.
  • Wear loose clothes – Wear comfortable loose clothes to avoid friction between clothes and skin which can make the keto rash aggravate and tender.
  • In people with diabetes, administering insulin can help in reducing keto rashes. 

In general one should follow the below mentioned skin treatment advice to make the rash less painful.

  • Avoiding touching the rash where possible
  • Keeping the fingernails short
  • Moisturizing the area several times a day
  • Avoiding contact with irritants, such as wool or strong detergents
  • Avoiding hot or humid climates
  • Washing the skin gently and avoiding excessive rubbing

Keto rashes occur rarely.  So don’t be apprehensive about it. Be positive if you need to start with a diet change. Nevertheless there are antibiotics and topical medications available for keto rash which you can take after consulting with your doctor.