I first heard about the ketogenic diet in September 2014, when I started my studies at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism. Those initial words resonated with me tremendously: a diet that had the potential to enhance clarity of the mind, efficient use of an alternative fuel in the body, anti-inflammatory and therapeutic effects. Later in the program, I learned about insulin resistance and how the ketogenic diet presents an opportunity to support recovery from some chronic and degenerative diseases.
Brief History of the Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is not a new concept. At the beginning of the 20th century, various health practitioners played with the idea of feeding their patients with certain foods but at the same time provided them with the benefits of fasting to treat serious diseases. These diets were generally very high in fat, included some protein, and had almost zero carbohydrates. Later, in the 90s, the ketogenic diet became popular among medical practitioners treating epilepsy in children, where they had some success with previously uncontrollable seizures. Currently, there is evidence in the literature presenting a variety of conditions that may be helped by establishing a state of ketosis : MS, Parkinson’s disease, chronic migraine, autism, epilepsy, endometriosis, psychiatric diseases and many more.
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
So, what is so special about this diet that might offer relief in such varied situations? With very limited carbohydrates, the body no longer uses them as a source of energy; there are just not enough carbs to fuel energy production in the mitochondria of the cells. Instead, the mitochondria switch to burning ketone bodies which are produced by metabolizing fats in the liver. Ketones then travel directly to the brain where they cross the blood-brain barrier. The brain will operate on ketones and the body will be in the metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis is a natural periodic state for the human body. In the distant past, when carbohydrates were not always available as a major nutrient in our diets, fat was a more common energy source. Hunter/gatherers ate a variety of animal fats and their bodies naturally would switch to nutritional ketosis (especially in the winter time). This will only happen when starches and simple sugars are no longer available for the body to be utilized as a source of energy. So, what is wrong with sugar, you may ask. When starches break down to simple sugars, our body prefers to use them as its primary source of energy. Additionally, starch- and sugar-rich diets promote inflammation, which has been linked to many degenerative and chronic diseases.
Safety and the Ketogenic Diet
A classic ketogenic diet limits carbohydrates amount to about 2% of total daily calories value. It is approximately equal to 10 grams per day. The majority of calories (90%) come from fat and the rest, about 8%, are from protein. It is challenging to sustain this diet for a long time. However, there are modified forms of the conventional ketogenic diet (a medical therapy best known for use with epilepsy) which have 6-8% of calories from carbohydrates (20-30 g or less), 70-80% from fats, and 15-20% from proteins. If you have any sort of chronic disease for which you receive medical care, please do not even consider starting a ketogenic diet without first consulting your physician. Diabetics should never attempt this without the supervision of their doctor.
Is the Keto Diet for You?
The keto diet is more than just a way to manage your weight; it is more of a general benefit for anyone who wants to try it. Ketosis can enhance cognitive and brain function, supplement treatment for PCOS and Type II Diabetes, and improve athletic performance. It trains the body to work on ketones and to not depend on sugar. With an increased consumption of healthy fats, you actually eat less. You can easily have two meals per day and feel clearer, stronger, and happier!
For more information, please check out our Keto Club blog, where you can get more information about logistics of the diet, see the testimonials from the active participants, learn about what you can eat and what to avoid, learn how to track your ketosis, etc.
The Coconut Ketogenic Diet, by Bruce Fife
The Wahls Protocol, by Terry Wahls
Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet, by Jimmy Moore