Why You Should Take Digestive Enzymes

Why You Should Take Digestive Enzymes

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of our guts were so healthy and perfect that we never needed to worry about what we ate?

Ah, dreams.

That’s not the world we live in folks, and I find that many people come to a paleo diet out of concern for their health and because of some issues, often of the gastrointestinal nature.

Probiotics are awesome and work wonders for many people (this is the one I recommend) but they can’t do it all.  

If you’ve had chronic issues with diarrhea or constipation, you may not be absorbing or digesting all the nutrients from your food.

I know many people who have tried elimination diets and can’t figure out what it is they are intolerant to.  I also know many people who just can’t do that, but don’t want to battle terrible gas, bloating, and other distresses all the time.

For these people, i think a good digestive enzyme supplement is helpful.  Healing the gut takes time and is a multi-pronged approach.  

If you’ve had a “weak stomach” for as long as you can remember, chances are you’ve flushed out quite a few of those important enzymes that help you digest food.  Lactase is a big one that gets flushed and it’s what helps us digest dairy.

Diarrhea can build on itself.  It can start from a food trigger like dairy and get worse and worse if the body can’t make enough enzymes to accommodate these foods.

Low stomach acid also makes it hard on the body, especially when it comes to digesting protein and fat.  A good enzyme supplement can help here, but it is important to get real help from a qualified practitioner if you do have low stomach acid, and also to encorporate HCL (like this) into your diet as well.

The proper digestion and absorption of nutrients is no casual issue.  Nutritionists often say  that you aren’t what you eat, you are what you absorb.  That’s an important distinction.

A number of gastrointestinal concerns – damaged gut lining, poor microbiome health, chronic diarrhea for myriad reasons, can all contribute to the flushing of vitally important enzymes that help us break down these foods for absorption.  Without them, food can increasingly irritate the gut lining causing more flushing.

There’s no point in eating a healthy diet if food is not being absorbed.

That’s why, for people with these kinds of gut issues, I recommend a digestive enzyme supplement.  This is the one I like.  It contains enzymes to help break down protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and lactose so it’s a big all-around help with every meal!  Find it here. 

Take it with every meal and I bet you’ll notice a decrease in gas, bloating, and other issues that sometimes occur even when eating a healthy diet!

Let me know how you like them!

 

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Are you a Restrained Eater?

Are you a Restrained Eater?

Did you know that there are actually three different major types of eating issues?

There are eating disorders, disordered eating, and then something similar to disordered eating called ‘problematic eating behavior’.

One of the interesting types of problematic eating behavior seems to describe MANY of the people that I talk with in the nutrition world and many of my readers- they are called restrained eaters.

Restrained eaters are eaters who struggle with chronic restrictiveness- either eliminating foods or chronically dieting. 

If you are a yo-yo dieter or find yourself continually in the cycle of losing or gaining weight, you may be a restrained eater.

When restrained eaters are confronted with weight gain, they feel negative emotions which can then cause them to overeat.  They also feel guilt when they eat a food they’ve deemed “bad”.  Restrained eaters also have an obsession with body shape and weight and may use self-judgement as a tool to spur their weight loss goals.

Sound a little familiar?

In the paleo community, we eliminate certain foods for health reasons.  In other forms of dieting we restrict processed foods or calories to help lose weight.

Research shows that these things DO help people lose weight.  But research also shows that restrained eating can actually promote eating disorders.

Approaching weight loss from a perspective of restraint and negativity- the “i’m getting so fat I’ve got to lose weight” mentality, is a moving target.  Nothing will ever be good enough.  And when/if it is, it won’t last, because the way we get there is unsustainable.

Now, I know some people who do make restrained eating a lifelong change and feel great.

But there’s a difference.

These people restrict certain foods not because they are afraid of them (i.e. GRAINS and CARBS), but because they are making other choices that are healthier for them.

They are thinking about what foods they can eat to be as healthy, happy, and energetic as possible. They are approaching restraint from a POSITIVE perspective.

With these people, it’s not about eating as few carbs as humanly possible, it’s about eating how many feel right.

Of course there’s always the disclaimer that our modern world of processed, hyperpalatable foods makes knowing how many carbs are right difficult. And some people struggle with conditions like insulin resistance that make unhealthy carb cravings REAL.

But for most eating all whole, unprocessed food, there’s no reason to be afraid!

Research shows that these positive eaters have higher self-esteem and better long term weight management success.

My friends will tell you that they have an emotional freedom they never had before as well.

It just worries me in this day and age of “keto”, which is basically paleo circa 2011, being masqueraded as the all-powerful life changing, freedom giving lifestyle, that so many of these people are just restrained eaters on another diet.

25 grams of carbs is not right for many women.  It’s just not.  And obsessively tracking and counting them is just the kind of behavior that leads to chronic dieting.

How do we break that cycle?

It’s both easy and hard.

It requires turning to a type of eating called intuitive or mindful that focuses on listening to the body, to what it needs and what it wants, listening to the emotions that so often control us and taking everything in without judgement.

From there, we make food choices.  We don’t count macros.  We just listen and lovingly try to make each meal and food choice about HEALTH and NOT about weight.

That sounds too easy for most restrained eaters.  They want to track, count, weigh, obsess and ruminate.  I’ve been there too.

But the truth is, it sounds too easy because it actually is really, really hard.

A restrained eater is often not as self-aware or in touch with themselves as they think they are.  They don’t know how to navigate health without a map of good and bad foods to guide them.  The vast world of food choices is scary and they are afraid, above all, of gaining weight or staying in one place.

But it does represent a way out.  Still restrained?  Sure.  No one’s recommending you binge on twinkies.  That’s not the point.  A mindful body will rarely ask for twinkies.

But if it does ask for chocolate sometimes or an apple?  Or even *gasp*, a potato?  A mindful eater will eat, without self-judgement.  They will also probably choose more fruits and vegetables and crave less fast food.

Want to give it a try?  I made a program to help you do just this.  It’s called Weight Loss Unlocked and you can find it here.

Either way, I want you to know that I’ve fought this battle and I know how it feels.

I know the pain of those self-judgments and I can tell you I’d rather be the weight I am now, whatever it is, and be this happy and free, than be constantly angry and mean to myself for not being a weight that isn’t right for me.

True diet freedom is never having to be on a diet, even one cleverly disguised as a lifestyle, again.

Do you struggle with restrained eating?  How do you overcome these issues?

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Tips for Getting Iron Without Red Meat

Tips for Getting Iron Without Red Meat

I have not a thing against red meat.  But many women I talk with do.

There are lots of reasons someone might avoid red meat- family history of colorectal cancer, ethical issues with red meat or meat in general, or just plain not liking it.

But a common recommendation for women, especially those with a history of anemia, is to eat lots of red meat (especially in the form of liver) for all the good iron.

Non-pregnant, pre-menopausal women actually have a daily requirement of twice the amount of iron as men!  Because we lose iron through menstruation, it is very important for us to makes sure we’re getting enough, lest we develop iron-deficiency anemia.

While red meat is a good source of iron, there are actually lots of other sources, some even higher in iron.

Dietary sources of iron include two different kinds of iron- heme and nonheme.  Heme iron is most often found in food and is much more bioavailable than non-heme iron which is contained mostly in plants.

That’s why vegetarians and vegans have so much trouble getting enough iron!  Even though they may be eating foods that contain a good amount, it isn’t well absorbed.  Phytic acid from grains and legumes and polyphenols from tea and chocolate can also reduce absorption of this important mineral.

But getting enough iron doesn’t have to be a red meat fest if you don’t want it to.  Below are several non-red meat foods that contain higher amounts of iron which you can try to incorporate more of.  You probably already eat some of these now!

Good Sources of Iron That Aren’t Red Meat

  • Organ Meats
  • Oysters
  • Clams
  • Dark Meat Turkey
  • Chicken Breast
  • Beans (be careful if you are sensitive to these)
  • Dark Leafy Greens

Iron Supplements

If you need to supplement your iron (and many women do) first make sure it is ok for you with your doctor.  Iron overload is toxic to the body.

Second, try a good quality iron supplement (I like this one).  Typical iron pills you might get are constipating and cause nausea, as well as being poorly absorbed.  This brand is a great choice to avoid those things.

Many women also like to take desiccated liver because they want the benefits of liver without actually having to taste it!  This is the brand of desiccated liver I like.  

Consider also doing a lot of cooking in a cast iron skillet (like this one).  It will help incorporate some iron into your diet, plus it heats evenly and makes food taste better, especially as it is used over time!

Being in the paleo world, it is tough to find any advice that doesn’t center on eating as much as possible red meat.  I think we all got so burnt out on not eating it, we’re just psyched to eat steak again!

But red meat isn’t for everyone.  I have met MANY women who struggle to eat it because they just don’t like it.  I have met many others who can’t afford good quality and don’t want to risk it.

Whatever your reasons for avoiding it, I wanted to provide a little comfort that it is possible to get iron, particularly heme iron, in your diet even if you don’t eat much red meat.

How do you get enough iron?

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

There is No Such Thing as Keto – Or Any Diet – “Freedom”

There is No Such Thing as Keto – Or Any Diet – “Freedom”

In recent months, there has been a resurgence of diets I had long thought were old, buried news.

I am speaking specifically of ketosis and of fasting. In ketosis, the goal is to eat so few carbohydrates that the body produces ketones as an alternative fuel source. In fasting, you simply stop eating.

Both of these dietary practices are aimed at reducing insulin and blood sugar levels as much as possible. This is supposed to predispose the body to “fat burning mode.”

These methods appear to actually be helpful to some people. There can be substantial health benefits to both ketosis and fasting for certain groups of the population. People who have very high body fat percentages and are insulin resistant may benefit—at least in terms of their body fat percentages–from fasting. Ketosis may also benefit people who have dysregulated insulin levels, but it also has the unique benefit of being able to help people with certain kinds of cancers and neurological conditions. I do not deny the potential potency of either of these diets, given the right clinical needs and application.

(You can read more about the physiology of ketosis in this post here.)

But I would here like to address the concept of freedom.

I have recently heard people call bboth fasting and ketosis “freedom.” You can read a post about it and fasting, here, or a whole book on ketosis and freedom, called Keto Freedom, here.

I do not mean to detract from the worthiness of each of these people and what potential they have to offer many people. But I do wish to shed some light on this whole “freedom” thing.

Two ways to define freedom

There are, so far as I can best tell from my philosophical training, two primary ways to define freedom. One is as freedom from something; the other is as freedom to do something.

Freedom from something is what we find most common in discourse about restrictive diets.

In talk about ketosis, fasting, and other kinds of dietary (including paleo) freedom, advocates walk around talking about how great their freedom is. People are sometimes confused. The word “freedom” is very appealing. Yet what kind of freedom are the gurus talking about? When pressed, they typically that their diets enable them to achieve freedom from some symptom. (Sometimes they say the diets provide freedom from negative body image or disordered eating, which while not impossible is also kind of ludicrous.)

Ketosis is “freedom from blood sugar swings.” Intermittent fasting is “freedom from obesity.” Paleo is “freedom from gut distress” or etc.

These are all important points. It is great to finally be liberated from health concerns that have dogged you your entire life. I know this quite well, as I have suffered from many chronic symptoms such as generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, acne, PCOS, and migraines throughout the course of my life.

But this concept of freedom is actually not the most popular one. It’s not the one that makes immediate sense to people.

The most popular idea of freedom is the one in which we have degrees of freedom with which to act. For example, most people intuitively understand that people in the USA have more freedom than people in North Korea. People who are not incarcerated have more freedom than those who are. People who have so much money they don’t have to work are more free than those chained to minimum wage 9-5 jobs. This is because they have more options and abilities due to their circumstances. They are more free. 

If we analyze diets in terms of this kind of freedom, we come up with a spectrum. On one end – the most free end – people eat whatever they want, whenever they want. On the other far end are highly restrictive diets, ones that require a lot of control and very few options.

I would argue that  there is almost nothing less free than ceasing to eat for several days or periods at a time, as is what people do when they fast.

Perhaps worse, and more importantly, there is almost nothing less free than ketosis. There is almost nothing less free than having to pee on a stick to determine if your diet is “pure” enough.

Any time you go on a diet, and deliberately restrict the kinds of food you can eat, you limit your freedom.

If you give yourself a rule that you cannot break, you limit your freedom.

If you give yourself a set of acceptable foods and feel guilty if you eat outside of it, you limit your freedom.

If you struggle at all with your body image, your self love, your sense of self worth, or your love and forgiveness for yourself as a result of the diet you’re on, you limit your freedom.

Yes, I believe there are psychologically healthy ways to limit the food groups you eat. Yes, I think focusing on whole, natural foods is probably best for health. Yes, I do think certain health conditions such as leukemia and neurodegenerative disease (both possibly helped by ketosis) can call for severe measures. Yes, I do think weight loss is an acceptable goal given that it is done well on both physical and psychological levels (as I attempt to do here).

But I do not think we should ever make the mistake of calling a diet freedom – unless of course we are very clear from the outset that it is freedom from, not freedom for. To call a diet “freedom” is to do psychological health and real honest-to-god freedom a serious disservice.

If you seek any of these things:

Self love

Body acceptance

Overcoming an obsession with food

Overcoming cravings

Eating intuitively

Eating guilt-free

Then I would never recommend a set of diet rules – and again, especially one where you can’t eat for days or one where you have to pee on a stick —  to help you.

I would recommend instead doing the hard, psychological work of sitting down with a friend, a therapist, or a pen and paper and digging deep into your heart. I would recommend discovering and deconstructing the demons that haunt you. I would recommend learning to embrace body fat as a natural part of what it means to be a human being – of what it means to be an animal – of what it means to be you, in your skin, nourishing your body the best way you know how.

Ketosis and fasting may be many things. They may even liberate you from serious health conditions. But if we want to have an honest discussion about what these kinds of diets can do for us, we need to stop calling them “freedom.” They are pretty much anything but.

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Do You Have Anemia?  Two Types to Be Aware Of

Do You Have Anemia? Two Types to Be Aware Of

Many, many women suffer from anemia, the most common kind being iron-deficiency anemia.

But did you know there are actually several different types of anemia?

If you are very pale, with pale conjunctivae, have heavy periods, or lack energy, you may have anemia.

The only real way to find out if you do and what kind, is to see your doctor and have a blood test run.  A good doctor will be able to discern these results to decide if your anemia is due to iron-deficiency, chronic inflammation or illness, macrocytic anemia or another cause.  

I suggest a doctor who works in functional medicine if you don’t have one you like and trust already.

For my readers, I’m primarily concerned with two types of anemia- iron deficiency and macryocytic.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia

This is the most common kind of anemia and can result from a diet too low in iron, heavy periods or even regular menstruation coupled with low iron intake, vegetarian or vegan diets, or low stomach acid among other things.

Iron is found in two forms- heme and non-heme with heme being the most available, easily used form by the body.  Heme iron is found primarily in meat while non-heme is found primarily in plants.

Vegetarians and vegans may be low in iron because they primarily consume non-heme iron.  Several factors enhance and inhibit absorption of non heme iron.  Inhibitors include polyphenols and flavanoids from things like tea and coffee, oxalic acid found in spinach, chard, berries, and chocolate, phytic acid from grains and legumes, and phosvitin from egg yolks.

Low stomach acid can cause iron deficiency anemia because stomach acid is where protein is primarily broken down for digestion.  

Those with low stomach acid typically take a hydrochloric acid supplement (like this one) that helps supplement the acid in the stomach to properly break down proteins and fats.  The best kinds are those which contain pepsin, an enzyme that helps digest protein.  I like this one.

For those with low iron intake, who don’t eat much meat, or who need supplemental iron, I recommend this brand.  It is easily absorbed and non-constipating.  Make sure with your doctor or qualified nutritionist that you need iron before you begin taking it as too much iron can be toxic.

Megaloblastic Macrocytic Anemia

Sometimes women suspect they have iron-deficiency anemia when they really have a different kind of anemia called macrocytic anemia.  Macrocytic anemia occurs due to deficiencies of Vitamin B12, Folate, or more rarely B6 which cause the release into circulation of red blood cells that are fewer than normal as well as large and immature.  This type of anemia can occur in vegans and vegetarians, those eating poor diets, as well as women with PCOS or the MTHFR gene mutation.

In vegans and vegetarians, vitamin B12 deficiencies are common due to a lack of the vitamin in the diet.  If this becomes chronic, B12 deficiences can cause macrocytic anemia.

In those with poor diet, sources of folate are rare.  Those who I worry most about are those consuming very high protein, low carbohydrate diets with very few vegetables.  Processed foods actually often contain folic acid, helping to avoid deficiency, but in an unprocessed diet that is very low in vegetables, deficiencies could occur.

Women with PCOS are more at risk of having the MTHFR gene mutation.  This mutation causes poor methylation of B vitamins like B12 and Folic Acid.  Chronically low levels of these vitamins can eventually cause macrocytic anemia.

For those with the MTHFR gene mutation, it is usually recommended to supplement with the already methylated forms of Vitamin B12 as methylcobalamin (find it here) and Folate as L-methylfolate (find it here).

Consulting a functional medicine doctor can help you get to the root cause of these issues and figure out the next steps.  A qualified nutritionist can also help you navigate the interchange of diet and anemia.

Eating a diet with ample iron is important for women as well.  Look out for a post next week on that very topic!

Have you struggled with anemia?

 

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Ketosis is back: The resurgence of a miracle cure?

Ketosis is back: The resurgence of a miracle cure?

In 2012, when I began writing this blog, the paleosphere was what I am now thinking of as  “old school paleo.”

Paleo bloggers then focused on leanness, fitness, biohacking, and generally being a hard guy (taking baths in ice water was a thing). We were told to never eat legumes or other carbohydrates. We were told that it was better to starve than to have a meal that wasn’t paleo. We were admonished to never snack. We were told that fasting was a lifesaver, and ketosis, a miracle.

But in the years since 2012, in small part due to my own advocacy and in large part due to the wisening up of the whole sphere, paleo leaders opened their eyes to the larger picture. They realized that women’s bodies might need some more calorie nourishment than men’s. They realized that carbohydrates can sometimes be helpful – and eventually appeared to embrace them entirely. They realized that fitness is different for everybody, and maybe some people should do less of it. They recognized that body fat percentage doesn’t dictate the quality of someone’s health. Major parts of the paleosphere relaxed into an atmosphere of love and encouragement and relaxation.

All of this means that I was very surprised rounding the corner  into 2017 when all of the sudden everybody was talking about fasting  and ketosis again. I will write about fasting in another post. Today, I will focus on the return to ketosis. I will talk about what’s bringing it back, and then re-examine what this can mean for your body and your mental health.

What is ketosis?

I am going to steer clear of giving you a long, technical definition of ketosis. I do however think it’s worth learning the biochemistry if you plan to experiment. In that case, I highly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s posts or Dr Chris Masterjohn’s.

In short, ketosis is a state the body enters when there is an excess of molecules called acetyl groups over oxaloacetate. This happens when there is a shortage of glucose supplied to the metabolic processes that create energy–ie, when you eat a very low carbohydrate diet. Yet interestingly enough the body will also produce ketones when medium-chain fatty acids enter the metabolic processes. Most people do not know this, but it’s very important, and I will return to it later.

So then, when there is this excess of acetyl groups relative to oxaloacetate, the body produces something called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies come from fatty acids that the body has liberated from fat tissue, which can be used as an alternative fuel to carbohydrates. This is important because the body (and specifically the brain and heart) literally need carbohydrates or ketone bodies in order to function. When carbs are gone, basically, ketone bodies step in to do their work.

People typically achieve ketosis by fasting or by eating diets very low in carbohydrate (high fat, moderate protein). This calls for at least fewer than 50, and maybe more like 20, grams of carbohydrate a day. This depends on your age, body type, activity level and the like.

You can verify how deeply your body has gone into ketosis by peeing on a stick, which reveals the level of ketone bodies being circulated in and used by your body.

Why do people do ketosis?

The supposed health gains of ketosis are different depending on who you ask. Some will call is a miracle that cures all ailments, some will be more circumspect.

In general, there are two many categories of benefits that people talk about: metabolic health and weight loss, and performance gains. There is some truth to each of these categories.

For metabolic health and weight loss, ketosis can be helpful for people who struggle with insulin resistance. Now, to be clear, ketosis does not cure the underlying problems that cause insulin resistance such as poor gut health and inflammation. 

But ketosis can provide a way to circumvent the issue. If insulin levels are chronically high and you eat a moderate carbohydrate diet, you may find that you never lose weight, because the body always has a surplus of sugar to burn instead of dipping into its fat stores, which it really only does once the body’s glucose and glycogen stores have been burned through. If however you keep your body’s carbohydrate intake to an absolute minimum, it will more consistently be able to reach into fat stores to burn fat (and make ketones to burn), given that there is a caloric deficit. This is something everybody, and especially ketosis aficionados, should keep in mind; calorie deficits need to be present in order to lose weight.

This being said, there is debate about whether or not there is a “metabolic advantage” to being in a state of ketosis. It is possible that, given how much energy it takes to create ketone bodies, the body actually burns slightly more calories in ketosis than otherwise. Unfortunately this matter is not altogether settled. Though it is worth noting that even if this is the case, the difference is relatively small. For the most thorough discussion I’ve seen of this issue in a blog, see Dr Attia’s write up here.

Ketosis may provide metabolic benefits. They include: 

-Regulation of blood sugar levels for people who are sensitive to blood sugar swings (as the body produces its own blood sugar in a state of ketosis so there are fewer fluctuations)

-A reduction in circulating insulin levels for those who were previously insulin resistant; an increase in insulin sensitivity

-Potential weight loss due to increased insulin sensitivity and ability to burn fat

-Potential weight loss due to decreased caloric intake from eliminating an entire food group

The other main category of improvements people discuss have to do with performance. Many people say they think more clearly or have more mental or physical energy while on ketosis. This does not seem an altogether unreasonable claim since the brain burns ketones efficiently, and ketosis can help keep blood sugar levels stable.

Importantly, however, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the adrenal glands can get involved in ketosis – as they play a role in regulating blood sugar, among many other things. When the adrenal glands are active, typically cortisol, adrenaline, or norepinephrine (or any myriad of other stimulatory chemicals) are released into the bloodstream. Norepinephrine, notably, is released in a state of fasting at 2x the rate of regular body metabolism. This can create great feelings of energy. And it can help preserve muscle mass. But it is important to note that it can also lead to disruptions to circadian rhythm, or a feeling of being over-wired.

Specific Health Conditions

Finally, there are also specific health conditions for which ketosis appears to be therapeutic. Certain neurological- and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s may be helped by ketosis, as may seizures and chronic migraines. Ketosis can also starve tumors which thrive on glucose as a fuel source, and therefore be helpful for cancer, specifically that of the brain or blood.

Importantly – we should be clear about which types of benefits we are chasing

So you may decide that ketosis seems like a good idea, something worth trying. But it is important to note something that often goes neglected in conversations about ketosis: there is more than one way to achieve the presence of ketone bodies in the blood. In fact, there are two main ways, and they correlate to the two different types of benefits discussed above: the metabolic, and the performative.

The traditional way of achieving ketosis is to eat a low carbohydrate diet. This has two types of benefits: 1) it can increase insulin sensitivity and can therefore help remediate insulin insensitivity and diabetes. It can also help stabilize blood sugar, and, importantly, if one is eating fewer caloriess since one’s diet is almost 100% fat, then one will be in a  calorie deficit and may lose weight. 2) Ketosis can increase mental performance given that ketone bodies are produced as a result of carbohydrate restriction.

But there is another way to achieve ketosis. You can get ketone bodies into your bloodstream simply by consuming MCT oil. Chris Masterjohn addresses this masterfully in this podcast (linked to transcript). I stated earlier in this post that ketosis is widely misunderstood as a result of low carb dieting. While low carb dieting does lead to the acetyl group excess over oxaloacetate in the fuel burning process that leads to ketosis, so do medium chain fatty acids. So if you cook with or add MCT oil to your diet (coconut oil contains MCT’s but is far from 100% MCT, so if you’re looking for a ketosis effect it may be wise to purchase an MCT oil such as this one), you can achieve the performance-enhancing effects of having ketone bodies in your bloodstream without subjecting your body to the rigors of a low carbohydrate diet.

Exogenous ketones

You can also get ketone bodies into your bloodstream by consuming exogenous ketones. This is a fancy way of saying “eating ketones.”

In fact, exogenous ketones are I think a big part of why ketosis has made a come back in recent months. There has been an explosion in the market for selling ketone bodies, especially with MLM schemes. I can’t tell you how many facebook posts I see from paleo friends talking about how great their exogenous ketone supplements are. I am sure they really are. But it is also a part of an industry wide boom, so I’d step very carefully about choosing a brand and making sure you know what you’re buying into.

Importantly, if you take exogenous ketones, a) know that you are taking exogenous calories as ketones are calories, and b) know that you will be getting the performance enhancing effects of ketosis but not the insulin sensitizing effects of a very low carbohydrate diet. I do not caution you because I think this is a bad thing. In fact, this is a great option for many people, as I do not think the low-carb aspects of ketosis are important to strive for unless it is an experiment you choose to conduct for the sake of managing diabetes or etc.

How to achieve ketosis performance gains without sacrificing metabolic health

I talked at length before about how low carb ketosis poses potential metabolic gains. This is especially true for people who suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance and/or also have high body fat percentages.

But I would be remiss if I did not also point out – especially as Paleo for Women – the many different groups of people who may be hurt by ketosis.

Women of reproductive age who are attempting to conceive or are pregnant should probably not undergo low-carb ketosis, as carbohydrates play an important role in A) pregnancy, and B) assuring the hypothalamus that the body has been properly fed. In fact, insulin is actually an important satiation hormone. For women who want to conceive, it may be best to err on the side of caution and make sure you get bountiful carbs.

Women with sensitive reproductive systems may want to step carefully. If you have a history of low hormone levels, hypothalamic amenorrhea, dieting, or irregular menstrual cycles, the hormone changes invovled in low carb ketosis as well as the uptick in stress hormone levels may hinder your reproductive hormone production.

People (mostly women) with sensitive thyroid systems may also be in jeopardy from low carb ketosis. Ketosis is well known to downregulate thyroid production. T3 (the form of thyroid hormone that is actually active in cells) decreases, and reverse T3, a molecule that blocks the activity of T3, increases. Ketosis advocates may bend over backwards trying to make this phenomenon seem hunky dory, but I would advise anyone with thyroid issues to step carefully around ketosis. If you have clinical hypothyroidism I would consider consulting a doctor first.

People with adrenal issues or a lot of stress. Adrenal glands may become more active with low carb ketosis, which can exacerbate  feelings of being wired, stress, and all the attending symptoms that come along with it.

People (especially women) with sleep issues. Low carb ketosis may up-regulate the production of stress hormones, which can have a negative impact on sleep.

In general, low carb ketosis is another stress on the body. For people who can handle that stress – it may go off without a hitch. But  if your body is predisposed to adrenal, thyroid, or hormone issues, you may wish to at least step carefully.

What about my psychological health?

I will be publishing a post on the concept of “ketosis freedom” next week. In the meantime, it stands to note that this is obviously a highly restrictive diet. If you have a history of punishing yourself for falling off the wagon, feeling guilty about food, engaging in cycles of over- and under- eating, or confining yourself to strict dietary rules, I would not recommend ketosis. In order for someone to truly achieve wellness, then psychological health must be prioritized, perhaps above whatever ketosis-based goals you may have (and of course this varies by the individual. If you have brain cancer then please feel free to try ketosis regardless of how much you love your body).

All of which is to say that…

Ketosis is very complicated. It has a common practice of very low carb dieting that has been shown to benefit some people, but it certainly does not benefit everybody. It is different for every person – so if you decide to try it, please simply be aware of potential pitfalls that may result and adjust your diet accordingly.

You can also achieve ketosis a less well-known way, which is by consuming a tablespoon or two a day of MCT oil. If you are seeking simple psychological and physiological performance gains, and are not trying to starve your body of carbohydrates, then this may be a much more safe route with which to experiment. (It would also be compatible with recommendations I make in my program for weight loss – in which you can choose to be low carb or low fat Weight  Loss Unlocked.)

In the end, however, ketosis may be good for some conditions, but is not good for everybody. Every time a new fad roles around, it is best to step around it with caution, as hype (at least in my experience of observing the health world) typically vastly overemphasizes actual results. The only way to truly know if a diet works for you is to try it – but also to do so armed with as much healthy skepticism and and self-awareness as possible.

 

 

 

 

--------

So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.