You may have heard about the ketogenic diet and the success that many people have had using it to safely lose weight. But what is it and does it have other benefits other than weight loss? Let’s explore….
The ketogenic diet has actually been around since the 1920s. It was originally used in treating epileptic seizures, very effectively in fact. It is known for improving mitochondrial function and cognitive function.
How it works
The aim of the ketogenic diet is to get the cells of the body to start burning fat for fuel in the form of ketones instead of glucose. The diet is based on keeping carbohydrate intake at 10% or under of your diet, which amounts to 30 grams max of carbs a day. And, contrary to popular belief, protein is not a huge part of the diet, at only 20% of your daily food intake.
Things to note
It is fat, and when I say fat I mean “good” fat, that makes up the majority of the diet, at around 70% of your daily intake of food. Healthy fats include coconut oil, cold pressed organic oils (in dark glass bottles as the light can turn them rancid), nuts, seeds, coconut, olives, avocado, organic butter and ghee, to name just a few options.
There are a number of things to watch out for, however. Firstly, if someone’s liver is struggling to process the amount of toxins they are ingesting on a daily basis or if there is stored toxicity in the body, as is the case with many health conditions, then a good detoxification programme to open up the bowels and liver and see that waste out is essential and would include things such as castor oil packing, psyllium husks, lecithin, soaked seeds or even enemas to ensure that the liver is able to break down the fat that is being consumed.
Another important factor is that the person needs to ensure they are getting adequate hydration on a daily basis and also that they are taking in electrolytes (which can be helped by taking a pinch of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt before each glass of water). Coconut water and energy drinks are not a great way to take in electrolytes as the sugar in them will almost certainly take you out of ketosis.
Another thing to be aware of is that long-term ketosis can affect your hormones so it is wise, especially for women in the run up to menstruation, to employ “carb cycling”, which involves increasing the amount of carbs around a period and then taking them back down again for the rest of your cycle.
Intermittent fasting is also an important part of the ketogenic diet, which can mean fasting for 12 hours at first. However, if someone is struggling with adrenal fatigue or low energy then this should be done more incrementally. Preferably this would be done with some guidance and a programme tailored towards supporting mitochondrial function at the same time. Mitochondrial function is essential for those with conditions such as M.E. (aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Fibromyalgia. Exogenous ketones can help someone get into ketosis more easily and avoid what is known as the “keto flu” when used in conjunction with the other advice above, the keto flu being flu-like symptoms that can occur as part of the adaptation process of switching from using glucose to burning fat for energy. A diet as low in carbohydrates as the ketogenic diet is not advised for pregnant or breastfeeding women, nor children. This is because they need a higher intake of carbohydrates.
Other Health Benefits
Nutritional ketosis is very different to keto acidosis, which is a dangerous condition, and so should not be confused. Nutritional ketosis is highly anti-inflammatory and there is research out there to show that it improves cognitive ability which gives it the potential to help neurological conditions such as Parkinsons or Alzheimers, helps balance blood sugar in both type I (with guidance) and type II diabetes and can even protect against cancers. So it is so much more than just a weight loss diet.