What Is A Keto Diet?

What is a Keto Diet?

You have probably heard by now about a diet called The Keto Diet or the Ketogenic diet. You’ve probably heard about celebrities that are on it, best sellers that are written about it, your friends who are trying it or read about it in magazines. But just what is a Keto Diet? Is it good for you? Can it be dangerous?

Eating a Ketogenic diet has grown in popularity over the last decade due to its ability to help people lose weight quickly. Physiologically the diet promotes ketosis due to the very low intake of carbohydrates which is the foundation of the diet. In the short term, Keto diets have been shown to promote weight loss and reduce some cardiovascular risk factors.

Nutrition infographics: food pyramid diagram for the ketogenic diet.
Nutrition infographics: food pyramid diagram for the ketogenic diet.

Critics say that there can be renal (kidney) damage to those who stay on a Keto diet for too long, although studies do not reflect this. However, if you have kidney disease always talk to your doctor before trying any new diet plan.

Conventional wisdom and medicine have it drummed in our heads that a high-fat diet is a health risk factor for cancer and heart disease.  This has led to a challenge by alternative health experts that the type and quality of fat ingested plays more a part in our health than the total amount of fat we consume. Today there is an emphasis on omega 3 fats and fatty acids as being health protective.

Ketosis

When the body is in a state of ketosis it’s like being in a fasting state. The body is using fat for energy. Being in a fasting state has many positive health implications. It’s widely known in the medical community that fasting reduces seizures of all types. In fact, Johns Hopkins Medical Center has used the Ketogenic diet with great success to treat seizures. St. Louis Children’s Hospital found that 50% of their patients became free of seizures and up to 30% had considerable improvement.

The brain’s primary source of fuel comes from glucose. The body can only store a small amount of glucose in the liver. Our body evolved in order to overcome the problem of not having a steady supply of food readily available. One way is the ability of the body to convert protein to glucose. This is not very efficient because this would involve muscle wasting and long-term survival of the species wouldn’t have been possible. Another form is the breakdown of fat into a fuel that can be used by the body. Body fat can be accumulated and then used as fuel in a limited food environment. This type of fuel is called ketones and is a very superior type of fuel for the brain and body.

What Is A Ketogenic Diet?
Dr. Jockers

The body breaks down fat in the liver and converts it to ketone bodies. The brain uses these ketones as a fuel source without the need to consume carbohydrates regularly. This was/is a superior survival mechanism to ensure the survival of the human body in times of scarcity.

Since scarcity was a common occurrence before modern times as recent as 200 years ago, our bodies are still evolutionarily adapted to using ketones for energy. Modern times have ensured we don’t go very long without carbohydrates so storing fat is very easy for the body. Using fat for energy is not something we need for survival anymore but our body doesn’t know that there are supermarkets at every corner. This is one reason why we are struggling with an obesity epidemic today.

Advantages Of A Ketogenic Diet

  • Lower HbA1c markers for type 2 Diabetics – In a study, those on a ketogenic diet lowered their Hba1C levels.
  • Less frequent migraines – A recent study showed that after being on a ketogenic diet for one month there was a significant reduction in frequency and duration of migraine headaches in the participants.
  • Greater testosterone levels – recent studies show a rise in testosterone when on a ketogenic diet.
  • Weight loss.
  • Anti-aging.
  • Cancer prevention and treatment.

Ketoacidosis VS Ketosis

There is some confusion about these two very different conditions.  Ketoacidosis is very serious and possibly life-threatening. Ketosis is something we enter into every night. The two terms are similar and many doctors are only familiar with Ketoacidosis and could be why the fear of ketosis being dangerous is widespread.

According to The Ketogenic Diet Resource ketosis is an ”insulin-regulated response which results in a mild release of fatty acids and ketone body production in response to either a fast from food or a reduction in carbohydrate intake. Ketoacidosis is driven by a lack of insulin in the body. Without insulin, blood sugar rises to high levels and stored fat streams out of fat cells. This excess amount of fat metabolism results in the production of abnormal quantities of ketones. The combination of high blood sugar and high ketone levels can upset the normal acid/base balance in the blood and become dangerous…”

It would take a dangerously low level of insulin to get into a state of ketoacidosis.
Ketosis occurs when your blood ketones are in a range of 0.5 to 3.0 mmol. Being on a low carb diet does not mean you are in ketosis.

3 Types of Ketogenic diets

  1. Nutritional Ketosis –  A diet high in fat, modest in protein and low in carbohydrate can induce the body to produce ketones.
  2. Supplemental ketosis – There are supplements you can take that can help your body to produce ketones. MCT oil or medium chain triglycerides can help with this.
  3. Combination of both – Following a low carb/high fat ketogenic diet while taking targeted supplements can help with the transition to ketones in the body.

keto diet bookmct oil

For more information on the ketogenic diet and to watch a video:

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 Long-Term Safety

Long-term safety studies for ketogenic diets are out there. The results are mixed but I haven’t seen any dangerous effects of a ketogenic diet. Some conditions, like childhood seizures, can be controlled with a ketogenic diet and long-term studies following these kids have been positive.

If you are obese or have any other physical problem where a ketogenic diet can help, it’s certainly worth it to speak to your doctor about it.

For general weight loss, there are plenty of great books out there to help guide you through a ketogenic diet or a higher fat, lower carb diet.  Here are some of my favorites.

The Keto Reset Diet Book

The Ketogenic Bible

In conclusion, ketosis is a state our body gets in to produce ketones from fat which the brain uses for energy in times of famine or scarcity of carbohydrates. In modern times, using fat for fuel is not needed since the Standard American Diet contains more than enough carbohydrates for brain fuel.  Ketoacidosis is a dangerous state and not to be confused with ketosis. There are medical benefits for a ketogenic diet, especially for seizures and obesity.

 

If you have tried a ketogenic diet or are interested in it, please comment below!

Natural Migraine Headache Remedies

Natural Migraine Headache Remedies

Ten to fifteen percent of the population suffers from migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are a painful headache sometimes preceded by an aura. Auras are sensory warnings that pain is about to appear. They can include flashes of light, blind spots or tingling in the extremities. Migraine symptoms can also include nausea, vomiting and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. For some sufferers, migraine pain can last for days. Many common drugs used to treat migraines can have long-term side effects in the gastrointestinal tract. Overuse of these drugs can lead to rebound headaches.  Finding the root cause of your migraines is essential and finding natural migraine headache remedies to use in the meantime is very important.

If you have very severe pain that feels like the worst headache of your life or a headache that accompanies numbness, slurring of speech or vision problems, call 911 to rule out other more serious conditions.

Possible Root Causes of Migraines

  • Food Allergies/Sensitivities – can be a trigger for migraines. Certain foods have been linked to migraines like foods that contain ‘amines’ such as tyramine in cheese, octopamine in citrus fruits and histamine in beer, wine or other fermented food. Gluten, caffeine, cured meats, and aspartame are other headache trigger foods.
  • TMJ – Bite alignment problems are a source of migraines. The constant contraction of muscles in the face and head restrict blood flow and increase the pressure in the head.
  • Toxins – Toxins interfere with the digestion process including nutrient absorption leading to nutrient Toxinsdeficiencies. Toxins are chemicals, pollutants, internal toxins due to normal body functioning, GMO foods, cigarettes, and other environmental toxins including hormone mimickers. Toxins interfere with cellular metabolism and cellular transport which can lead to oxidative damage and cause imbalances in hormones due to hormone-mimicking. Unbalanced hormones are implicated in migraines.
  • Antibiotics, NSAIDS, stress, steroids, chemicals in food –  Antibiotics disturb the balance of good to bad bacteria in the gut which can lead to intestinal infections or inflammation and cause disturbances to the gut barrier of the stomach. Medications, toxins, and stress can also result in GI distress (IBS, IBD).  GI issues are implicated in migraines.
  • Magnesium deficiency – Magnesium deficiency is a big problem in America. Magnesium is an essential nutrient for the human body. Studies show that over 70 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium.  We are not consuming enough magnesium-rich foods and eating too many foods that deplete magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is a contributor to migraines.
  • Dehydration – Most Americans are walking around in a dehydrated state. Dehydration can occur in cold weather as well as the summer. Many people do not think of drinking adequate water during the colder months.  Dehydration occurs when we lose more water than we take in. When we are dehydrated, we are losing electrolytes which contribute to headaches.
  • Poor sleep  Headache clinics show that there is a relationship between chronic sleep problems and headaches. As headaches get more severe, chronic sleep problems get more severe. Sleep induced migraines typically occur between four a.m. and nine a.m.. This type of sleep induced migraine is also known as ‘an awakening headache’.
  • Stress – Of course stress is at the root of most health problems and migraines are no exception. Stress is the body’s reaction to an event or situation. Stress can come from happy events, adverse events or extreme exercise.  Stress can make migraines worse or last longer. Migraines can occur after the end of a stressful event due to the release of tension sometimes referred to as ‘weekend migraines’.
  • Low serotonin levels – Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in blood vessel regulation. Low levels are associated with migraine frequency and duration.foods-vitamin-b

 

Natural Remedies

  1. Vitamin b2 – (Riboflavin) Vitamin b2 has been found to be an impressive migraine remedy. According to research, patients who received 400 mg of riboflavin per day found their frequency and duration of migraines improved. B2 improves mitochondrial dysfunction that results in impaired cellular oxygen in the body which can result in migraines.
  2. Magnesium supplementation – As noted above, magnesium deficiency is common in Americans and migraines can result from sub-optimum levels of this essential mineral. In fact, IV magnesium therapy is administered in hospitals for acute migraines. Supplement with the glycinate and malate forms that are easier on the stomach and well-absorbed. 300 – 400 mg taken twice a day is a standard amount. If you have kidney disease, talk to your doctor before supplementing with magnesium.
  3. CoQ10 – Another possible cause of a migraine is mitochondrial dysfunction which impairs oxygen metabolism and energy.  Supplementing with CoQ10 helps repair mitochondria that is responsible for turning food into energy in the body according to research.
  4. Essential oils – Essential oils of lavender and peppermint when used at the first sign of a migraine can help with heading one off. Apply to pulse points and inhale while lying in a dark room for the best effect.
  5. Exercise – A Swedish study has found that aerobic exercise was found to be as good as a preventive for migraine headaches as the prescription drug Topomax. Riding on a stationary bike for 40 minutes three times a week can do the trick. exercise
  6. 5-HTP – 5-HTP increases the body’s production of serotonin. According to Harvard Medical School, 5-HTP can incorrect any imbalance in serotonin levels thus reducing the severity and frequency of migraine headaches. Dosages of 5-HTP are something you always discuss with your qualified health professional.
  7. Feverfew and White Willow Bark – Feverfew and white willow bark are herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both herbs work on reducing inflammation in the blood vessels in the brain and can reduce symptoms up to sixty percent.  They can also help with nausea associated with migraines. A minimum of 250 mg per day may be helpful.
  8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and help reduce the pain of migraines. They can also reduce the frequency and duration of migraines. Taking a high-quality omega supplement with a combined EPA and DHA of 1000 mg is a recommended amount.

In conclusion

Finding the right natural remedy might take a little trial and error, but worth it in the long run. Medications can be helpful in the short term, but ongoing reliance can cause rebound headaches and other health issues. Finding the root cause of your migraines is important to reduce or eliminate the need for medication in the long term. Food sensitivities, gut health issues, and nutrient deficiencies are just a few of the root causes of migraines. Figure out what your triggers are and you will experience more quality of life. In the meantime, finding a natural remedy that works for you is important to strengthen the body while working on the root cause.

If you have a natural migraine remedy that works for you, please comment below!

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Linda is a Functional Medicine Health Coach