Well howdy! Welcome back to part 2 of the Keto Diet Masterclass! During Part 1 we discussed what the ketogenic diet is, and briefly touched on why the keto diet is worthy of further consideration.
Whether you’re already convinced that the ketogenic diet is the right fit for you, or if you’re still on the fence, it’s important to have a clear understanding of both the benefits and side-effects of the ketogenic diet. And that, is exactly what we’re going to cover today.
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Let’s kick things off with some good news…
The ketogenic diet boasts a laundry list of health benefits. In consideration of your time, I’ve selected 10 of the top benefits associated with the ketogenic diet.
Let me walk you through each benefit one-by-one.
Benefit #1: Enhances Concentration
Healthy fats are said to improve brain function, focus and clarity. Curious to know how? Remember our discussion about ketones during Part 1 of the Ketogenic Diet Masterclass? Well, let me refresh your memory. During ketosis the brain is essentially starved of glucose. In order to fuel the brain (as well as the rest of the body) the liver generates ketones from fat stores. It’s these ketones that serve as brain and body fuel. In order to understand how the ketogenic diet benefits the brain we need to examine how ketones specifically effect brain function. The following are 3 ways in which ketone bodies benefit the brain.
First, ketones are a neuroprotective antioxidant. Ketones have been found in various animal models to act as an antioxidant, preventing harmful reactive oxygen species from damaging brain cells.
Second, ketones are a more efficient energy source than sugar. Ketone bodies, beta-hydroxybutyrate in particular, are simply more efficient at generating fuel than glucose. Burning ketones may be an essential part of maintaining the health of aging brain cells because brain cells tend to lose their ability to efficiently fuel from glucose over time.
And finally, ketones increase mitochondrial efficiency and production. The ketogenic diet causes a coordinated upregulation of mitochondrial and metabolic genes. Essentially, ketones enhance the capacity of brain cells, protecting them from strokes and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Benefit #2: Improves Mood
Low-carb diets have been linked to mood stabilization and diminished depression. In order to understand brain energy in relation to mood we’ll need to take a quick look at the neurotransmitters involved, I’m talking specifically about glutamate and GABA.
What is GABA? GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system. Turns out, GABA is made from glutamate.
So what is glutamate? Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter.
GABA and glutamate are both necessary neurotransmitters, but we seem to get into trouble when we have too much glutamate. Too much excitement in the brain means neurotoxicity, the extreme manifestation of which is seizures. But neurotoxicity can manifest in various forms such as depression, bipolar disorder, migraines, ALS and dementia.
Now glutamate has several fates. It can become GABA, which we discussed is inhibitory, or aspartate which is excitatory, and in excess, neurotoxic. Ketogenic diets seem to favor glutamate becoming GABA rather than aspartate. The reasons are unclear, but it’s suggested that it’s due in part to how the ketones are metabolized.
Benefit #3: Prevents Migraines
Most suffering from migraines recognize certain foods may either trigger an attack or make an episode worse. Avoiding individual food triggers can be vital in managing the condition. The ketogenic diet has been found to have a beneficial effect for some migraine patients. While research is ongoing it is suggested that the ketone bodies have an anti-inflammatory effect, thereby reducing or eliminating migraines altogether.
Benefit #4: Relieves Chronic Pain
Research is mounting to suggest that a ketogenic diet can effectively reduce or even eliminate chronic pain. Dr. David Seaman states, “Eating a pro-inflammatory diet over a long period of time increases one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and pain syndromes. Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet can help reverse some of these conditions and reduce pain and inflammation.”
Dr. Seaman is certainly not alone in his suggestions. More and more doctors are in agreement that eating an anti-inflammatory diet helps reduce or even eliminate chronic pain. And surprise surprise, it just so happens that the Ketogenic Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet.
Benefit #5: Stabilizes Blood Sugar and Increases Energy
Do you often feel ‘hangry’? If so, what you’re experiencing physiologically is a drop in blood sugar. We don’t even need to get all scientific on this one. Just think about how you feel after piling in a gang-o-carbs. My guess is you experience a rush of short-lived energy followed by a heavy duty crash. This is often referred to as a food coma, or the mid-day slump. Afternoon fatigue is typically related to post-lunch hypoglycemia, meaning low-blood sugar. Because carbohydrates are quick burning fuel your body quickly utilizes the glucose and then becomes fatigued when the stores run out. By switching your body from using carbs as its primary fuel to burning fats instead, you virtually eliminate dramatic drops in energy levels.
Benefit #6: Combats Cancer
Dr. Jockers breaks down this process simply by stating, “Cancer cells need glucose to thrive. Carbs turn into glucose, which then feed all cells, including cancer cells. Instead of the cells using glucose for energy they absorb ketones. By cutting the carbohydrates out of your diet the cancer cells starve.”
Benefit #7: Reduces Acne
Although controlled research on carb restriction for acne is limited, many people have reported that their skin has become much clearer as a result of following a low-carb or ketogenic diet. What we do know is that healthy fats encourage cellular repair, often eliminating skin conditions such as: acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
Benefit #8: Relieves Acid Reflux
Refined sugars and starches prompt acid reflux. The ketogenic diet encourages the elimination of refined sugars and starches, thereby eliminating major culprits of acid reflux.
Benefit #9: Promotes Weight Loss
Low-carb diets such as Paleo, Whole30, and that now-disputed diet called Atkins have been popularized in recent years due to their overwhelming effectiveness in slimming the waistline.
By now I’m sure you’re fully aware that cutting carbs leads to weight loss. I know, you get it!
Benefit #10: Lowers Risk of Alzheimer’s
Ketones stimulate the healing and growth of brain cells. Studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can provide symptomatic relief to a broad range of brain disorders including: autism, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. In fact, Scientific American suggests, “Keto may be therapeutically used in many neurological disorders including headache, neurodegenerative diseases, sleep disorders, bipolar disorder and brain cancer. And here’s the kicker. With no apparent side effects.”
Wait, whaaat?! No apparent side effects?
Welllllll, that may be a bit of a stretch. As promised, here’s the bad news. The ketogenic diet does have its share of potential side effects. But not to worry. The majority of side effects involved are due to a short-lived adjustment period.
Understand, anytime you ingest food you’re unaccustomed to consuming your body undergoes a period of adaptation. This adaptation period is when you’re likely to experience side effects known as the “keto-flu.”
What is the “keto-flu”?
The “keto-flu” is a natural response that occurs when the body is shifting from a sugar burning machine to a fat burning machine. It’s essentially a reactionary period of withdrawal. In fact, some claim that keto flu symptoms feel similar to withdrawing from an addictive substance. And well that makes sense to me considering sugar is an addictive substance. So let’s take a quick look at what sorts of symptoms can be expected of the “keto-flu.”
The following is a list of common keto-flu symptoms:
Now that we know what to expect, let’s discuss what’s occurring on a physiological level during this period of withdrawal.
Once we understand what’s causing the keto symptoms in the first place we stand a better chance of preparing ourselves and combatting symptoms when they arise.
Dr. Jockers claims, “Although there are a variety of symptoms that can arise during keto adaptation, they mostly manifest from the same three underlying causes. While these three causes are seemingly different, they are actually all related. When becoming keto-adapted initially, your body has been running on sugar for years. When you suddenly switch to fats, your body has to essentially build the cellular machinery necessary to generate and utilize ketone bodies as a fuel source.”
So here they are, Dr. Jockers 3 common causes of keto side effects:
Let’s break down each cause one-by-one.
Cause #1: Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is the first underlying cause of side effects during keto-adaptation. This is because the body is still learning how to burn fat for energy. Keto flu is a classic manifestation of hypoglycemia.
So what can you do to combat hypoglycemia?
The following three tips have come directly from Dr. Jockers. What’s more, they’re real life tested and approved (by my clients and I). 🙂
Tip number one: Eat every 3-4 hours. When beginning the ketogenic diet eating every 3-4 hours will help to balance your blood sugar and keep you satiated.
Tip number two: Consume mineral rich food. During the keto adaptation phase it’s common for the body to go through a period of mineral deficiency. Adding mineral rich foods such as: celery, cucumbers, seaweed and spiurlina will help aid the body during its period of adjustment and thereby reduce the severity of side effects.
And tip number three: Hydrate with mineral rich beverages. If you’re not so hot at eating the minerals try drinking them instead. Drinking organic bone broth or high-quality electrolyte supplements should do the trick as well.
Cause #2: HPA Axis Dysfunction
The second Common Cause of Keto Side Effects is HPA Axis Dysfunction. HPA stands for Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenals. The HPA Axis is comprised of these three glands. And it is these glands that are primarily responsible for regulating stress response within the body.
When we experience hypoglycemia the brain is prompted into an emergency response to starvation because as we mentioned the body is still learning how to burn fat for fuel. During this emergency response the adrenals release cortisol in an effort to provide the body with immediate energy. Because of this response hypoglycemia reoccurs and the cycle continues. This is where the HPA Axis dysfunction can cause heightened hypoglycemic-related issues such as intense sugar cravings heart palpitations and sleep disruptions.
After a few weeks the body will adjust and the HPA Axis will likely correct itself. However, there are a few things you can do to help nurture your adrenals and minimize the side effects.
The following are two tips (again offered up by Dr. Jockers) to help combat HPA Axis Dysfunction:
First, consider taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium offers powerful support for the HPA Axis. I would highly recommend Magnesium L-threonate due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Second, introduce your body to some adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogenic herbs not only benefit the HPA axis but they also aid in immune function, weight management and stress relief, and who couldn’t use a little stress relief?
Here are a few adaptogenic herbs to consider:
Most of these herbs can be found in liquid or pill form at your local natural foods store. I prefer to buy liquid droppers so that I can easily add them to my morning wheatgrass or water bottle, but pill form will work just as well.
Cause #3: Electrolyte Imbalance
The third common cause of keto side effects is electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes and minerals serve to regulate adequate hydration throughout the body. During keto-adaptation, an excess of minerals are excreted through the urine due to HPA axis dysregulation. This can cause issues such as: frequent urination, constipation, diarrhea and muscle cramps.
Again, I have a few tips to help ease you through this period of electrolyte imbalance.
First, you’re going to want to stay super hydrated while your body is becoming keto-adapted. Keep in mind that switching from a sugar-burning machine to a fat-burning machine is basically like putting your body through a detox. Your body will be purging toxins. And the number one way to purge toxins effectively is to flush them out with tons of water. I like to go for the gallon challenge. Every day I challenge myself to take down one gallon of water. I carry a Hydroflask everywhere I go. I know that by consuming 3 Hydroflasks a day I’ll make my gallon quota.
Second, switch table salt for Himalayan sea salt. Pink Himalayan sea salt contains 84 essential minerals required by the human body. Consuming Himalayan sea salt will effectively add sodium and other important minerals back into your body.
Third, consider aiding your body with an electrolyte supplement. I’m a BIG fan of the brand Superieur. Why? Because their products contain Himalayan sea salt, 0g of sugar and they tastes delicious. Pour one scoop of this into your water bottle daily and you’re good to go!
Now that we’ve made our way through the most commonly experienced keto side effects and symptoms, let’s briefly address a commonly asked question.
Is the ketogenic diet dangerous?
Now, I’m not gonna lie. There are plenty of ways of going about keto all wrong and that’s exactly why I’ve put this little series together. Because more times than not when talking to potential clients about keto, there’s a whole lotta wrong stuff going on. And I want to be sure you’re doing keto right. So don’t worry, you’ll be receiving the exact blueprint necessary to put yourself on a successful ketogenic diet during part 3 of The Keto Diet Masterclass. For now, I simply want you to understand that there are particular conditions and age groups that the ketogenic diet may not be appropriate for. The following is a list of conditions or age groups of which the ketogenic diet may not be right for.
The ketogenic diet may not be appropriate for:
- Individuals with high blood pressure
- Pregnant or breast feeding women
- Women experiencing irregular menstrual cycles
- Individuals suffering from adrenal fatigue
- Individuals with poor thyroid function
- High level athletes
- Children or teenagers
As we know, no one diet fits all. As with any other diet out there, the ketogenic diet will not work for everyone. And it’s always wise to consult your doctor before taking on any sort of extreme dietary change.
With that in mind, if you feel confident moving forward and you’re ready to cash in on the hulk-like benefits coming your way. Get ready for Part 3 of the Keto Diet Masterclass where we’ll be discussing how to effectively implement the Ketogenic Diet. Yay!!! See you soon. Aloha. xo
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