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- With all the contradictory information about fat consumption, it’s easy to be confused and unsure of which types of fat are good or bad.
- The human body uses both glucose and ketones for fuel.
- Ketogenesis produces organic compounds, called ketones, from the breakdown of fat.
- The body runs more efficiently when burning ketones for fuel instead of glucose. This is an adaptive metabolic state called ketosis.
- The brain and body obtain more energy from ketones than from glucose.
- Ketones are produced when the body is fasting or in the presence of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet.
- In cardiovascular disease, plaque formation is caused by inflammation.
- Reducing inflammation may be critical in decreasing heart disease risk.
- Eating sugar and carbohydrates triggers a release of inflammatory insulin.
- General estimates of food ratios for a ketogenic diet: 60-80% fats,10-30% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrate.
- There are many proven benefits of a ketogenic diet including decreasing inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar and blood lipid levels, fighting type 2 diabetes, controlling appetite and cravings, weight loss, reduced risk of chronic disease, improved cognition and energy levels, and anti-aging effects.
- A ketogenic diet and lifestyle is favorable for Lyme disease and chronic illness sufferers, particularly from the standpoint of decreasing inflammation.
- Lyme disease patients who have issues from long-term antibiotic use can benefit from a ketogenic diet.
- There is more than one way to achieve a state of ketosis.
- The ketogenic diet and lifestyle hack is not for everyone, and several individual factors should be considered before beginning it.
- The liver/gallbladder system in the body must be open and draining properly to handle an increased fat load.
- Planning, support, and guidance are helpful and recommended before undertaking the transition to ketosis.
The Ketogenic Lifestyle & Diet for Lyme Disease & Chronic Illness
When it comes to consuming healthy fats, we have been confused, conditioned, and brainwashed
For instance, is coconut oil good for you? Some, typically practitioners who lean toward or embrace functional medicine, say “Absolutely! It’s a clean, healthy fat that doesn’t break down into unhealthy trans fat when heated. Eat lots of it!”
Others, typically practitioners who lean toward or embrace traditional medicine, say “No way, José. Eat that saturated fat, and you’ll be a heart attack or stroke just waiting to happen. Steer clear!”
Understandably, this is all very confusing. So who’s really got the real skinny on fat?
Well, to get to the root of this dilemma, it’s crucial to understand that the human brain and body thrive in a condition called ketosis, where the body operates on primarily fat as its fuel source. (Please note that ketosis is not for everyone. It’s very important to listen to your body and consult your healthcare provider when embarking on any new dietary change or protocol).
What Is Ketosis?
The human body uses two sources of fuel to produce energy: glucose and ketones. In ketosis, the body burns ketones for fuel instead of glucose.
A typical diet sources energy from glucose. However, there is an evolutionary adaptive mechanism that produces energy from stored fat. Fat stores generate a lot of energy, more than an equivalent amount of carbohydrates.
The brain and body can burn glucose, but what powers them more efficiently regarding the energy-producing component, the mitochondria, is fat.
In a state of ketogenesis, fats are broken down into organic compounds called ketone bodies. The body uses these ketone bodies (or ketones) for brain energy and to fuel the body.
We’ve been told that consuming saturated fat and cholesterol clog the arteries. This assumption is derived from that fact that the plaque in arteries walls is partly made up of cholesterol. But there’s more to it than that.1
The latest research tells us that plaque formation is triggered by inflammation. When an arterial wall is damaged by inflammation, it is thought that the body uses cholesterol as a bandage on the inflammation-damaged arterial wall, resulting in plaque buildup. Chronic inflammation leads to more and more plaque build-up as the body tries to mitigate the inflammatory damage.
So, reducing inflammation is essential. Inflammation reduction may just be the most critical factor to consider when assessing and reducing heart disease risk.
Sugar consumption is extremely inflammatory. It leads to elevated insulin levels. High insulin levels trigger inflammation and promote fat accumulation. As elevated blood sugar and insulin cause excessive free radical damage and inflammation throughout the body, the risk of metabolic conditions like insulin resistance and diabetes skyrockets.2
The Skinny on Fats
The body will function and thrive on clean, healthy fat, even so-called “unhealthy” cholesterol and saturated fat, without risk of cardiovascular disease as long as the environment of low carbohydrate intake, and ensuring lowered inflammation, is maintained.
So, the skinny on fat? A diet where saturated fats are replaced by refined carbohydrates triples the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.3 A diet heavy in cholesterol, saturated fat, and poisonous processed and trans fats that is also high in sugar and processed carbs is a recipe for disaster. A ticking time bomb.
When a body is fueled by a ketogenic diet, with 60-80% fats, 10-30% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrate, it is much more likely to be finely tuned and well-functioning due to low inflammation and oxidative stress.
10 Proven Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
The main activity of the ketogenic diet has been related to improved mitochondrial function and decreased oxidative stress. 4
A ketogenic diet has many proven benefits, including but not limited to these:
1. Decreases Inflammation
Inflammasomes are multiprotein complexes responsible for the activation of an inflammatory response. β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) is an organic compound, or “ketone body,” produced by the body in response to a ketogenic diet. BHB blocks NLRP3 inflammasomes and prevents them from causing inflammation.5
Technically, BHB is NOT a true ketone body, it’s a carboxylic acid. Biochemically, It’s a matter of carbon and oxygen molecules, and single bonds vs. double bonds, but we don’t need to get that detailed here. For all intents and purposes, BHB should be classified as one of the three ketone bodies produced by a ketogenic diet.
2. Balances Blood Sugar Levels
When a body runs on a typical American diet, one with an overabundance of carbohydrates, it will continually experience peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate intake increases blood sugar levels. Insulin is released in response to a spike in blood sugar. Insulin counters the increase in blood sugar and knocks it down to baseline or even below baseline (hypoglycemia). More carbs are consumed, and the cycle repeats.
A ketogenic diet doesn’t use glucose for energy. Therefore, it cannot cause a roller coaster of spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar stabilizes at lower, healthier levels.6
3. Helps Fight Type 2 Diabetes
Studies show that lifestyle modification using a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet is effective for improving and reversing type 2 diabetes. Not surprising, given its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and stabilizing effects on blood sugar levels.7
By depriving the body of carbohydrates, reducing intake to less than 50g per day, insulin secretion is significantly reduced, and the body enters a catabolic state. Insulin sensitivity subsides, and cells in the body use insulin more efficiently. Overall, glucose control improves and type 2 diabetes improves and reverses.8
4. Controls Appetite & Diminishes Cravings
A hormone, called ghrelin, causes hunger pangs and increases appetite. Weight loss triggers an increase in ghrelin release. The body recognizes it is losing weight, so increases cravings and appetite as a countermeasure.9 Consequently, hunger and cravings increase.
Weight loss on a ketogenic diet does not induce ghrelin release. Therefore, appetite is controlled, and cravings are diminished.
5. Promotes Weight Loss
A recent publication from May of 2018 concludes that a very-low-carbohydrate and high-fat ketogenic diet have proven to be very effective for rapid weight loss. It also affirms that the ketogenic diet is significantly superior at promoting weight loss in otherwise healthy obese patients and that the weight loss is rapid, intense, and sustained.10
6. Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease
Studies have provided evidence of the therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets in many pathological conditions, including diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acne, neurological diseases, cancer, and the amelioration of respiratory and cardiovascular disease risk factors.11
Substantial evidence shows that a ketogenic diet reduces seizures in children. The diet’s neuroprotective effects could be beneficial for other brain disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, autism, and even brain cancer.12
People who remove inflammatory grains and sugars and consume anti-inflammatory foods like seeds, vegetables, raw cultured dairy, and organic meat will benefit with strengthened immune system function and enhanced ability to fend off infectious and chronic diseases.
Lyme disease sufferers find the neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune boosting, and gut balancing effects of a ketogenic diet particularly helpful for fighting the disease and diminishing troublesome symptoms.
7. Improves Mental Clarity & Focus
It is well-researched and well-documented that a ketogenic diet exerts strong neuroprotective effects and enhances cognitive function.13
The brain contains a heavy load of fat and requires healthy fat for optimal functioning. Ketones are healthy, clean fats that nourish the brain.
Additionally, they prevent the brain from shrinking, unlike sugar and carbohydrates, which cause the brain to shrink and age more quickly.
Since the ketogenic diet was originally designed to help lower the occurrence of seizures in epileptic children it only makes sense that it is helpful for other brain issues. Although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood, it is well-known to decrease brain inflammation, which remedies brain fog, memory issues, and cognitive dysfunction.
8. Increases Energy
Mitochondria are organelles within individual cells that act like a digestive system and a power plant. They take nutrients and calories from food, digest and process them, and create energy-rich molecules, specifically the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), for cell and body functioning.
Mitochondria are perfectly designed to use fat for fuel. When the body burns ketones from fat, its oxidative load is reduced. As the oxidative load is reduced, energy production increases.
A ketogenic diet improves mitochondrial biogenesis, which allows for the growth and proliferation of mitochondria, increasing size and numbers.14
Mitochondrial biogenesis leads to increased mitochondrial density, which allows for better quality and efficiency of mitochondrial energy (ATP) production.15 Cells can quickly and efficiently produce the energy they need for brain and body functioning.
9. Offers Anti-Aging Effects
Although many theories have been proposed over the years about what causes aging, the latest understanding points toward mitochondrial health as the foundational issue.16
Mitochondria have a profound impact on gene expression. Mitochondria affect epigenetic changes in both physiological and pathological conditions that lead to aging. Promoting mitochondrial health and biogenesis using a ketogenic diet may constitute the most promising anti-aging strategy to date.
10. Raises HDL “Good” Cholesterol, Lowers Triglycerides
Research confirms that blood lipid profiles improve with low carbohydrate intake.17
Levels of HDL, the beneficial or “good” cholesterol that lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke, rise in the low carb environment. The ratio of “good” HDL to “bad” LDL levels increases. And HDL actually works to take up extra “bad” LDL cholesterol and move it to the liver where it can be broken down and processed without causing inflammatory damage.
Eating carbohydrates, particularly refined sugars, causes a spike in triglycerides. Ideally, triglyceride levels should be kept low to avoid cardiovascular risk. High triglyceride levels can also lead to a severe inflammation of the pancreas, called pancreatitis, as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.18
Triglyceride levels can significantly decrease on a ketogenic diet.19
How Does Ketosis Help in Lyme Disease and Other Chronic Illnesses?
Pretty much everybody who has chronic Lyme disease has inflammation. An interesting thing about ketosis is that it mimics fasting. The biochemistry of fasting is the same as that of ketosis. And one of the main benefits of fasting is a significant reduction in inflammation.
So, the inflammation at the core of many of the symptoms of Lyme disease and chronic illness, including brain and cognitive disorders, nervous system disorders, joint pain, and many others. Ketosis significantly reduces that inflammation. And often, you’ll see rapid and extensive improvement in the patient’s symptoms, especially related to the brain.
Lyme’s Borrelia spirochetes pass into the brain through the blood-brain barrier and create rampant inflammation. The brain is a lot less inflamed when it is fueled by ketones. In a ketogenic state, things like the brain fog, memory decline, headaches, and other neurological symptoms rapidly improve and even disappear.
Antibiotics and Ketosis
Ketosis provides a significant benefit for Lyme disease or chronic illness patients who’ve been treated with antibiotics. Extended antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease leads to more drug-resistant bacteria. There will also be permanent changes in the genetic structure of the bacteria, not just in the gut, but throughout the whole body.
Also, long-term antibiotic use can lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).20 Typically, the large intestine has a lot more bacteria than the small intestine. But in SIBO, those numbers are reversed. There are a lot more bacteria in the upper GI tract, resulting in symptoms like gas, cramping, bloating, and other irritable bowel-type symptoms.
The ketogenic diet is inherently anti-SIBO as it is low in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols). FODMAPs are foods that ferment very easily in the small intestine. They create the irritable bowel-type symptoms in SIBO.
The ketogenic diet is very low in those types of foods, so the upper GI bacterial overgrowth doesn’t have much to feed on or ferment.
Entering a Ketotic State
As mentioned earlier, the human body has adapted an efficient way of converting into a ketogenic state. There are a couple of ways to enter a ketotic state. One way is to keep daily carbohydrate intake lower than 30 grams a day. Typically, after about 72 hours the body will drop into ketosis. Then the other way, which is a little bit quicker, is through fasting. Ketosis usually kicks in after fasting 24 to 48 hours.
The brain and body function optimally in a mild state of ketosis. Using the ketogenic diet in cycles is another popular method of using the ketogenic diet. Since the diet can be quite limiting, this is a more sustainable possibility for some people.
My At-Home Program shares more crucial information about how to establish and maintain a diet and lifestyle that fight Lyme disease and chronic illness. If you need a coach to guide you through the steps and protocols, tailored to your specific needs and situation, apply for my 1:1 Coaching Program.
Keys to Ketosis
While the ketogenic diet may seem complicated and overwhelming at first, perseverance and commitment can lead to a big payoff. The transition into ketosis may not be smooth, so do your due diligence and know what to expect.
Running out of sugar while transitioning to ketones for fuel may lead to the “keto flu,” a set of symptoms that includes fatigue, digestive upset, headaches, and more.
You’ll likely want to employ one of several methods of testing for a ketotic state in the body. This important information helps you understand your own body’s adaptive mechanisms and whether or not your efforts are working optimally.
As with any diet and lifestyle hack, this isn’t a panacea for everyone. Current health status and genetic makeup are among the many factors to take into consideration when determining if the ketogenic diet is appropriate for you.
The state of your liver, gallbladder, and liver/bile ducts should be a particular focus. A keto lifestyle puts a heavy burden on this system, so it needs to be healthy and draining properly to process all the fat.
Ketosis is a metabolic adaptation for most people. Adaptations need preparation and strategic support for optimal chances of success.
- Jockers, David. “High Cholesterol on a Ketogenic Diet.” DrJockers.com, Dec 2017. Web
- “Diabetes and Inflammation.” WebMD.com, WebMD Health Network, n.d. Web
- Nicolantonio, JJ. “The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease.” Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, Vol. 58, No. 5, Mar 2016. Web
- Pinto, Alessandro et al. “Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Ketogenic Diet: New Perspectives for Neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s Disease.” Antioxidants, Vol. 7, No. 5, April 2018. Web
- Youm, YH et al. “Ketone Body β-Hydroxybutyrate Blocks the NRLP3 Inflammasome-Mediated Inflammatory Disease.” Nature Medicine, Vol. 21, No. 3, 16 Feb 2015. Web
- Crawford, K. “A Doctor On Why Ketosis Helps You Reduce Cravings & Hunger.” mindbodygreen.com, MindBodyGreen LLC, n.d. Web
- Westman, E et al. “The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” BioMed Central, Vol5, 15 July 2008. Web
- Masood, W and Uppaluri, K. “Ketogenic Diet.” StatPearls [Internet], StatPearls Publishing, Jan 2018. Web
- Sumithran, P et al. “Ketosis and Appetite-Mediating Nutrients and Hormones after Weight Loss.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 67, No. 7, July 2013. Web
- Masood, W and Uppaluri, K. “Ketogenic Diet.” StatPearls [Internet], StatPearls Publishing, Jan 2018. Web
- Paoli, A et al. “Beyond Weight Loss: A Review of the Therapeutic Uses of Very-Low-Carbohydrate (Ketogenic) Diets.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 67, No. 8, Aug 2013. Web
- Campos, M. “Ketogenic Diet: Is the Ultimate Low-Carb Diet Good for You?” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 17 July 2017. Web
- Hallböök, Tove. “The Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Behavior and Cognition.” Epilepsy Research, Vol.100, No. 3, July 2012. Web
- Jornayvaz, François R. “Regulation of Mitochondrial Biogenesis.”
- Nylen, Kirk et al. “The Effects of a Ketogenic Diet on ATP Concentrations and the Number of Hippocampal Mitochondria in Aldh5a1−/− Mice.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Vol. 1790, No. 3, Mar 2009. Web
- D’Aquila, P. “Mitochondria in Health, Aging and Diseases: The Epigenetic Perspective.” Biogerontology, Vol. 16, No. 5, Oct 2015. Web
- Tay, J et al. “Effects of an Energy-Restricted Low-Carbohydrate, High Unsaturated Fat/Low Saturated Fat Diet versus a High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Type 2 Diabetes: A 2-Year Randomized Clinical Trial.” Diabetes, Obesity, & Metabolism, Vol. 20, No. 4, April 2018. Web
- Curfman, Gregory. “A Promising New Treatment for High Triglycerides.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, 29 July 2015. Web
- Dashti, Hussein M et al. “Long-Term Effects of a Ketogenic Diet in Obese Patients.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, Vol. 9, No. 3, Fall 2004. Web
- Dukowicz, A et al. “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Vol. 3, No. 2, Feb 2007. Web