WHERE TO START
Before you decide to jump into the Ketogenic Lifestyle, please remember that it is a POWERFUL MEDICINE. I’m NOT kidding. If you take prescription medications for blood pressure or blood sugar control, or you have a serious medical condition like diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, autoimmune disease or cancer, please do NOT “go Keto” without the assistance of a Keto literate medical professional. Your need for your blood sugar medication (especially insulin) and blood pressure medication will decrease within DAYS. Lab work can be essential to safety and success in these populations. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, involve your healthcare professionals in this life-changing event.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
After talking with your healthcare professionals, do your own research. The scientific literature on the safety and efficacy of the Ketogenic Lifestyle is strong. There’s lots of badly organized research and a VERY strong financial/political agenda driving some of the messaging. As with most things, follow the money, and you’ll understand what’s really going on. Resources like www.dietdoctor.com make it much easier to navigate.
We healthcare professionals are nice people, but many of us are just as overwhelmed by the conflicting nutritional arguments as you are. The bottom line is that it’s your healthcare team’s job to help keep you safe during important health events. Changing your diet definitely falls into that category. It is a path best walked TOGETHER.
How do we get the body to switch from sugars and starches to fat as its primary fuel source? By changing what you eat, you are literally building more energy processing plants called mitochondria, and you will start synthesizing more of the enzymes and metabolic substances needed to do the work. This process is called fat adaptation. It often takes 4-12 weeks for the body to fully adapt to using fat/ketones as its primary fuel source. The more stressed you are, the longer it will take your body to become fully fat adapted.
When “going Keto,” quality matters. You really are what you eat. The simpler you keep it, the easier it becomes. Focus on eating real food in forms as close to its original state as possible. Purchase the cleanest, healthiest food you can afford. You can either invest in your health on the front end or on the back end. But also remember that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Your body’s natural state is well-being, not disease. Let’s create the ideal environment to get you back there so you can get on with having a wonderful life!
WHAT’S ON THE MENU
So let’s talk about healing your body with a Ketogenic Lifestyle. FINALLY, you may exclaim! A typical Ketonian often restricts dietary carbohydrates down to 20-50 grams a day. These carbs should come from nonstarchy vegetables—approximately 2 cups of salad greens (any leafy green works) a day and 1 cup of cooked, non-starchy vegetables. What’s a non-starchy vegetable? Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus, zucchini, peppers, green beans and cucumbers are good ones.
Persons who are highly inflamed and sick may need to employ further restrictions since they often react to the plant’s natural defenses—please try not to fall into fears of deprivation. We are using food as medicine & with time your body’s tolerance of many foods will likely improve. Protein is kept to 0.8/1 gram/kg of ideal body weight per day— approximately 2 eggs or a palm sized serving of meat at 2-3 meals per day.
The best meats are the fattier cuts, as this helps blunt insulin spiking and decreases unnecessary conversion of protein into sugar. Focus on things like grass-fed 80/20 ground beef, ribeye steak, ribs, bacon, pork chops, dark meat poultry with skin, and fatty fish like wild-caught salmon.
Vegetarians can certainly benefit from the Ketogenic Lifestyle, but need to be sure to find adequate protein sources. Not all proteins are created equal. Vegetarians and persons with food sensitivities will likely need medical supervision to achieve optimal results.
On the Keto diet, fats are used to obtain satiety, and they are delicious! Quality, healthy fats include olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocados/avocado oil, and well-sourced fatty meats and animal products like bacon fat, tallow, lard and duck fat. I know it seems counter-intuitive because it is exactly the opposite of what we’ve been told for decades. Remember, the current model ISN’T working. As Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Listen to your body, and work with your health care team. The results speak for themselves. Your body will tell you when you’re hungry.
HOW YOUR BODY REACTS
Please don’t feel like you have to eat extra fat to “hit your macros.” If you have extra fat stored on your body, your body can use this energy source very happily once your insulin levels come down. That can take up to a week. Hunger is the key to knowing if you’re getting enough fat or not.
At the same time, the sugar toxicity is correcting itself. Insulin levels fall, and blood sugars and blood pressures improve. Keep in mind that your need for salt and electrolytes will go up when you have a Ketogenic Lifestyle. This is because insulin plays a significant role in sodium reabsorption and fluid retention in the body. For every gram of stored sugar (glycogen) that is burned, most people lose 4 grams of water weight.
AVOIDING “KETO FLU”
Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium often follow the water. The electrolytes have to be replaced or people experience “Keto Flu.” Keto Flu is simply dehydration and low electrolytes and completely preventable. Drinking salty beverages like bone broth— naturally rich is electrolytes—bouillon or pickle juice helps restore balance. Pink Himalayan salt also is rich in electrolytes and can be added to food, water, or taken directly. For more specific guidance around electrolytes, contact your health professional.
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF KETONES
Exciting research has shown ketones are NOT just fuel. They act like signaling molecules in the body. They appear to interrupt inflammatory cascades and inhibit the pain response. Ketones seem to help resolve virtually any excitatory state by working on the same (GABA) receptors where medications like Xanax and Neurontin work, thereby helping to calm and stabilize the nervous system. Less likelihood for seizures, less pain, less anxiety, less brain fog. People also often experience better mental clarity, focus and memory; better exercise performance with faster recovery; faster healing and less inflammation.
Sound too good to be true? This is simply a testament to how modern-day life with its chronic stress and unnatural foods has made so many of us so sick! Fat and cholesterol are not the demons that they were previously made out to be. Scientists believe that a high healthy fat, low carb, moderate protein diet is beneficial because the brain and nervous system are made of cells that are insulated with structures made from good fat. All of your cell membranes are made out of fat and cholesterol. All of your hormones are made out of fat and cholesterol.
When insulin resistance and its resultant inflammation are corrected, fat and cholesterol in the body and in the diet are used to repair cellular damage with the help of a well functioning immune system. Hormones come into balance. THIS is why people get better…. often DRAMATICALLY better.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
The body is more capable of healing than many of us have been led to believe. When the root cause for an illness is addressed, healing resumes. Your body’s natural, default setting is wellness, not illness. If illness is being expressed by the body, it’s a communication from the body that something is out of balance. When people stabilize the physiology of the body using nutritional ketosis, they can once again hear their body’s signals. I’m hungry. I’m not hungry. I’m tired, I need to rest. I feel like moving my body. This job is making me sick. It’s time to let go of this pattern, habit, relationship…you fill in the blank. No one knows your body better than you do.
It’s only natural to start healing the rest of your life once the body comes back into balance. It’s all connected, and it all matters. Don’t let this fact overwhelm you. Your body talks to you all the time and if you are practicing awareness, you will hear it. Focusing on diet and the language of the body are the ideal place to start. The rest unfolds naturally.
Jenny Opdycke, PA-C has been practicing medicine for more than 16 years. Her specialties include holistic wellness, anxiety/depression, trauma recovery and intuitive, low carb eating strategies that promote self-awareness and healing. She loves spending time with her twin girls, friends, and fur babies. More info at www.integratedhealthmatters.com.