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How to Get Started On a Ketogenic Diet?

| May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Ketogenic Diet

If you are a complete newbie to this way of eating, please take the time to inform yourself. The best thing to do in this case is to “clean up your diet”, before you overwhelm yourself with carb counting and introducing new foods at every single meal. I suggest reducing carbohydrates gradually so that your system has a chance to adapt and you get plenty of opportunity to get your head around new foods, cooking methods and shopping lists! However, some people prefer making radical changes and starting the diet straight away, provided they do not have any underlying health issues (e.g. malnutrition, thyroid, cardiovascular problems). I have good experience with the following steps before starting proper carbohydrate restriction (daily carbohydrate intake of 50g or lower). You choose the pace:

1. Eliminate sugar in all forms and shapes. This includes fruit juices, sports drinks, honey, agave and all the other sweeteners. Educate yourself around the subject.

2. Replace the sugar calories with healthy fats like avocadoes, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee and MCT oil.

3. Eliminate gluten in any shape or form. This includes wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, barley and oats.
Remove grains in general as well as grain-derived and vegetable oils (corn, soy and rapeseed/canola). Be careful with unstable polyunsaturated oils (walnut, flax, peanut oil) and always store them in the fridge.

4. Eliminate all synthetic additives, colourings and flavourings- basically any names on an ingredient list that you do not recognise! This includes aspartame, MSG, dyes and artificial flavourings.

5. Eatwild caught seafood and pastured, grass-fed meatwithin the limits recommended by the World Cancer Research Fund (details see page 12). My favourite red meat is lamb- here in Ireland we are very lucky that it is grass fed, readily available and inexpensive. To balance this, also have (oily) fish, free range or organic eggs, some chicken, duck and shellfish.

6. Eliminate legumes such as beans and lentils. Small amounts of sprouted lentils or beans are fine. Use peanut butter as a condiment in sauces if you tolerate it well and are not following a Paleo diet but otherwise replace it with sesame paste, for instance.

7. Remove all processed, homogenized and pasteurized dairy. Full fat, whole butter from goats or grass-fed cows are the exceptions.

8. Switch to organic fruits and vegetables as much as your budget allows. This is more important for some plants than others. Google “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” and you will find a list provided by the Environmental Working Group.

9. Cook your food gently, if at all. Always have a good amount of raw food in your daily diet if well tolerated. Prefer steaming, slow cooking and baked at 180C/350F or lower. Incorporate water into your cooking whenever possible and use low temperatures. Do not use a microwave or deep fry. Burnt, blackened or charred foods need to be thrown out.

10. Limit fruit consumption to 1-2 small servings (i.e. one handful) per day. Go for low fructose containing fruits like berries and lemons over watermelon and apples.

11. Add spices and other flavourings. Start experimenting withherbs and spices such as turmeric, oregano, parsley, coriander thyme or rosemary. Bear in mind that these contain carbohydrates, too.

12. Enjoy your food, preferably in great company!

Once you are ready to embrace a ketogenic diet, begin with some technicalities. I strongly recommend buying weighing scales for weighing your food- I do give rough measurements in e.g. tablespoons/cups but this is nowhere near as exact as a measurement in grams, which the software uses to calculate nutrient values. If you want to monitor your nutrients as closely as possible, do purchase weighing scales and start measuring in grams.

Calculate your daily calorie requirements based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR). I am no fan of counting calories at all but most hospitals and consultants feel that it is important to keep an eye on them, especially if a cancer patient is losing weight too quickly.

In order to achieve a faster “metabolic switch-over”, some people prefer to do a 2- or 3-day fast. However, experts do not recommend doing this if your nutritional status is compromised, you are weak and/or are in advanced stages of the disease. Intermittent fasting, where the window of time during which food is consumed is gradually restricted to about 8 hours, can be another effective tool in reaching and maintaining nutritional ketosis. A realistic schedule would be to have dinner at 6pm for instance and then not eat anything until 10am the following day. Intermittent fasting is generally easier and more efficient for men whereas it can pose problems for some women, especially if thyroid issues are present.

 

Actions That Increase and Decrease Ketones

Actions That Increase and Decrease Ketones

| May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

In this article, i compiled a list of things that increased and decreased my blood ketone level (beta-hydroxybutyrate). What we’re after is a strong ketone level (between 0.5-3.0mmol/l) paired with low blood glucose (3.0-3.5mmol/l). When these numbers have been obtained, it’s likely a sign that blood sugar is regulated, insulin isn’t pumping through the blood as crazily as in most people, and the walls of our fat cells are wide open, ready for lipolysis to work its magic.

If you’re finding that your journey to nutritional ketosis hasn’t been as “easy” as what you’ve read in my blog, this is a great article to getting some insight on what could be happening. You’re likely missing something; a small something, that’s limiting your body’s ability to switch into ketosis. If this is you, take a read through this list to see if there are glaring issues with your current approach.

I have made; and continue to make, slip ups that affect my ketone levels. The great thing about it all is that the further I’ve gone, the more forgiving my body is. It is quite astounding how adapted my body has become. It WANTS to be in nutritional ketosis and will bounce back quite effortlessly.

 

THINGS THAT INCREASE KETONES

MCT Oil

Medium-chain-triglycerides the rocket fuel for nutritional ketosis. Starting my day with 1-2 tablespoons of this stuff blended with my coffee boosts my ketone level to soaring heights.

Quick Tip: Because MCT oil is used directly as fuel; especially for the brain, it’s best to start off slow with 1 teaspoon and work your way up. Too fast, and you may experience digestive upset.

Balancing Intake

I’ve learned that my body responds best when I consume 1-2 meals per day, plus a rich blended coffee. Understanding what my macronutrient ratios are, I like to balance my macronutrients throughout the day for maximum satiation.

Example: if my goal is to eat 75 grams of protein in a day with 3 meals, I’ll try to consume ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #1, ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #2, and ⅓ of it (25 grams) at meal #3. This doesn’t
have to be an EXACT science, I’ve just found that; especially for carbohydrates and protein, this has helped me feel balanced, satiated and strong, all day through.

Intermittent Fasting (IF)

The word “fast” makes me cringe. I can’t be the only one that relates fasting to starving to death. This is not that. Maintaining a ketone level of between 0.5-3.0mmol/l is far from starvation (starvation is a ketone level of 3.0 6.0mmol/l) so please, don’t think that I am advocating being in starvation mode or living with hunger pangs throughout this experience.

Being in a state of nutritional ketosis naturally regulates hunger.

One of the main reasons we’re hungry all the time when following a high-carbohydrate diet (anything over 100 grams per day) is because of blood sugar highs and lows. With a high-carb approach, we eat to boost our blood sugar. When it lowers after our snack (about 2-3 hours following) we get hungry again. In a state of nutritional ketosis, it is normal to be comfortable going 16-18 hours with no food… daily. Because our blood sugar is no longer dictating when we’re hungry. And, when we do this, our bodies produce MORE ketones. In fact, everyone, whether they practice nutritional ketosis or not, will likely generate ketones as they sleep!

High-fat Meal (more than 80% fat)

When I’ve had a slip up, my number one way to getting back on track is to amp-up the fats. Meals that contain more than 80% fat (generally 5% carbohydrate and 15% protein) are a great way to do this.

Moderate Protein

This is key. This is key. Have I mentioned, this is key? I am amazed at how sensitive the body is to protein. If you’re having a hard time getting your ketone levels up, it may be because you’re eating
too much protein.

Before I started delving into the world of whole foods-based nutritional ketosis, I spent 5 days tracking everything that I ate. You know, to see where I was sitting nutritionally. Of all the numbers, I was most surprised by protein. While I felt like I didn’t consume all that much protein, I was dumbfounded to learn that I was averaging about 150 grams per day. 150 grams!

Protein cannot be stored in the body. What we don’t use is converted
into glycogen, causing an insulin response.

So, if we’re eating too much protein while trying to switch into nutritional ketosis, we still may be
experiencing blood sugar irregularities, making it next to impossible to switch over to ketosis.

Blood Sugar Regulation

What carbohydrates we choose to consume, the quality, the quantity, it all will have a slight affect on our blood sugar, some more than most. When blood sugar is controlled, insulin is not frantically released which opens up the walls of our cells, and sets the stage for lipolysis (the breakdown of fats for energy!)

There are 3 strategies that you can use to help control your blood sugar

Fiber Intake

Let’s say I eat 50 grams of carbohydrates on Monday and 10 grams of that was fiber. Then, on Tuesday, I eat another 50 grams of carbohydrates but 30 grams of that was fiber. Any guesses on which day had steadier blood sugar? TUESDAY! You got it. I find, that the more fiber I eat, the more balanced my blood sugar is and the more satiated I feel.

GI Index

The source of carbohydrates plays a significant role in blood sugar regulation. If I compared my body’s response to eating 20 grams of carbohydrates from root vegetables as opposed to 20 grams of carbohydrates from kale, the kale would keep my blood sugar steadier than the root vegetables.

Day Balancing

If all carbs are consumed in one meal, your blood sugar will spike. Spreading carbs out throughout the day will lessen the impact.

Meditation

The less stress we put on our bodies; especially when it comes to our thoughts, the better it is for our overall health (and our ketone levels!). In fact, this goes beyond nutritional ketosis.

When my weight loss clients reach a plateau, the first place we look at is their stress level. Wanting
to achieve a certain weight and counting everything to make sure “rules” aren’t broken can hold them back from achieving their goals. The hormones released in a stressful state can even trigger a spike in blood sugar, without glucose even being consumed. This is a less-than-ideal situation for those looking to lose weight (because it spikes cravings) and anyone looking to boost their ketone levels.

I saw transitioning to this new ketogenic eating style as a great opportunity to strengthen my meditation practice.

10 minutes when I wake up, 5 minutes halfway through the day goes a long way in reducing stress, focusing my energy and increasing my ketone levels. If you feel like you’re doing everything right but aren’t stoked by your results, get real with where you’re at energetically.

Working Out (Long Term)

Glucose is stored in our body as glycogen. When glycogen is stored, the body uses it as energy instead of generating ketone bodies. We want to run on the ketones! The only way to get glycogen out is to exert ourselves. I love brisk walking for this, it’s stellar.

Dehydration

your ketone levels aren’t as high as they actually are. Note: I’m not advocating dehydration here! Drink up and test your ketones with a blood or breath meter instead.

 

THINGS THAT DECREASE KETONES

Your Macros Aren’t Right

The difference between rockin’ a strong ketone number and getting frustrated because this approach
just isn’t working for you could be as small as the piece of fruit you’re having in the morning or the glass of wine you had last night. Getting your macros right is key!

A couple of thoughts

• If your carbohydrate intake is over 50 grams per day, you may be eating too many carbohydrates. Try reducing your intake to 30 or 40 grams per day to see how it goes.

• Alcohol kicks the body out of ketosis very quickly. Remember when I said that carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel (the fuel it will go and look for first before anything else)? Alcohol is second on the list, before fats. So, if there’s alcohol in the system, your body will use it for energy before it uses fats.

Supplements

There’s sugar in your supplements. Surprise! For real, a lot of medications and supplements use sugar and can kick you out of ketosis faster than you can say, “Why the hell is there sugar in my supplements?”

Hormone Levels

Lets say you ate the same thing, everyday, for 30 days and tested your blood glucose and blood ketone levels at the same time. You’d start to see that your levels fluctuate naturally. This is likely due to hormones and is so, totally normal. In my case, I want my hormones to fluctuate – us women want varying hormone levels throughout the month. Maintaining a healthy cycle is how I got into all of this in the first place!

There’s nothing much you can do here except be thankful that your body is creating beautiful, balanced hormones from all of the glorious fat you’re enjoying.

Artificial Sweeteners

Deceiving marketing has made us think that artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc) won’t affect our blood sugar. And, there is quite a substantial amount of keto-adapted folks that rely heavily on low carbohydrate goodies laced with the stuff. Not only are artificial sweeteners dangerous for your health, but too, your body can’t tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and actual sugar. It reacts in the same way. And in most cases, even more so because artificial sweeteners are 100 times sweeter than sugar.

Stevia will likely raise your blood sugar, but not nearly as much as artificial sweeteners or sugar.

Stevia is a fabulous sugar replacement when you’re first getting started, especially if you’re looking
to switch into ketosis while also going grain-free, dairy-free and sugar-free all at the same time. Baby steps.

Ultimate goal = limit ALL forms of sweet if you feel like you can’t get a handle on your numbers.

Stress

The reason many of us have found ourselves here is because our bodies aren’t working as we
(know) they should. Cravings, abnormal weight gain, high blood sugar, allergies something is out
of whack. We want to gain flawless health now so that more serious issues don’t pop up later.

Paired with the go-go-go of everyday life and the unsettledness that comes when trying a new eating style, stress can become an issue that stands between you and balance.

As mentioned previously, setting a couple of times throughout the day to “breathe” and take it easy, to reflect and wash away the stress, will do wonders in nutritional ketosis.

Studies have outlined that nutritional ketosis increases the level of cortisol in our bodies (the stress hormone) to similar levels experienced when training for a marathon. Here’s why that may not be as accurate as we’re lead to believe. The people in the studies likely had metabolic syndrome  a condition characterized by one of the following factors: large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and/or high fasting blood sugar. One of the key symptoms of metabolic syndrome is high cortisol levels. When placed on a low carb diet, within 6 weeks, cortisol levels decreased in these test subjects. But they likely had higher-than-normal cortisol levels to begin with. In short? We have to look at the big picture before drafting up any crazy conclusions!

Working Out (Short Term)

Especially when becoming keto-adapted, blood glucose levels increase during exercise as we “drain” our glycogen stores. This is why testing for ketone and blood glucose levels directly following an exercise may not be a good idea. My approach is to wait at least 2 hours after exercise before testing to get an accurate picture of what’s going on.

Eating Too Often

The idea that we need to eat every 3 hours to “regulate” our metabolism is crazy pants. Our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), aka “metabolism” is not affected with when we feed ourselves.

BMR is the energy your body requires to fuel basic functions pumping heart, breathing, brain function, that sort of thing. We all need a “base” of energy to fuel these actions. Whether we consume these calories in one large chunk, or space it out over a 16-hour eating period, the amount we need does not change and will not be affected by what approach we take.

The only reason we’ve been told to eat every 3 hours is to avoid blood sugar crashes. In nutritional ketosis, this is no longer a concern. Our blood sugar is regulated. We do not need to eat to boost it.

It took me a little while to get used to this. For the first couple of weeks, I was still eating every 3 hours because I thought it’s what I needed to do, not because I was legitimately hungry. After a little while, I realized that this practice of eating when I wasn’t hungry, was holding me back from maintaining a strong ketone number.

Quick Tip: 9 times out of 10, when you wake up hungry, you’re thirsty. A great indication that you didn’t drink enough water the day before!

 

How To Make Peace With Ketogenic Diet ?

How To Make Peace With Ketogenic Diet ?

| July 12, 2017

Many of you are fired up and ready to start the moment you learn about the ketogenic diet. This is especially grand if you’re newly diagnosed. Now is the time to jump in and make the most impact. Hit
it with all you’ve got! The step-by-step guidelines in this book and other resources noted here will get you started down the right road.

Know that you have options. Yes, options! Although you may feel pressure to act immediately, do your best to make thoughtful moves towards health, not knee-jerk reactions to disease. Use the diet to give
you the space that you need but do understand that you need more than “diet” in your toolkit!

Watch out for the “yeah…buts”. These are obstacles to action:

“Yeah, I know I shouldn’t have eaten it, but it was my birthday and my daughter baked me a cake.” You could blow out the candles, cut the cake, and move forward with “What I REALLY want is a cup of tea”.
“Yeah, I can stop buying chips for myself but my husband would be lost without them.” Ask your husband to keep his chips at work or at least out of your sight.

You get the picture, right? This diet is a choice, not an imperative. You’re the one calling the shots!

Be sure that you are doing this for yourself and not simply to please a loved one. Recently, I read a series of blog posts written by a woman who adopted a ketogenic diet at the urging of her husband. As I scanned her posts, I realized that she never did get on board. It was painful to read repeated references to “cheats” and “transgressions”. Who wants to live like that? Change the story you tell yourself!

To Caregivers: Most initial requests for info come to me from spouses, relatives or friends of the person with cancer. I always ask: “Is your loved one on board with this?” If the answer is “not yet”,
I suggest education over coercion. Whatever your loved one decides, be prepared to offer your love and support. Remember, this diet is a choice.