I’m very excited to bring you a guest post from the wonderful Dionne. I’ve known Dionne for 16 years, we lived together for a few too. I’ve always been in awe by how clever this woman is and I’m sure you will enjoy her writing as much as I did. So without further ado, enjoy Dionne’s take on the Keto Diet, a diet which has changed her life.
**Contains Amazon links but they are not affliate links**
Fatigue. Bleugh. If you’d asked me what ‘fatigue’ meant a few years ago, I would have said something along the long the lines of ‘tiredness?’ But I’ve since realised it is a very different creature. Like walking through soup, slime for brains, might rage cry because I’ve dropped my bag and that means I’ll have to bend down to pick it up. Then it disappeared in three days flat when I cut carbs from my diet. Bullshit you might say, but read on!
Fatigue is, at its heart, a lack of energy, and we get our energy from the food we eat. Our diets are largely dominated by carbohydrate – grains like rice and wheat, potatoes, root vegetables, fruit, sugar etc., and these are broken down into glucose which our bodies use to generate ‘ATP’, which is like energy money for our cells. My cash machine was clearly out of order.
It turns out there is another way to fuel your body, using fats. This pathway is largely switched off when your body has a regular supply of carbohydrate (ie. a standard western diet). Back in hunter-gatherer days, life was feast and famine – eat what you can while the going is good, then survive on your body fat reserves when food is harder to find. Nowadays we rarely give our bodies the chance to get truly hungry, often eating out of habit and want rather than need.
So how do you switch on this fat burning pathway? A ketogenic diet. Ketosis is the process of metabolising fat to make ketones, which your body can use as fuel. This involves restricting your carbohydrate intake to usually somewhere between 20-50g a day, whilst getting adequate (not too much) protein, and getting the majority of your daily energy requirements from fat. I used a mobile app (https://ketodietapp.com/) to track my intake, and to begin with this involved weighing EVERYTHING! It was a major pain in the backside but it was worth it. After 2-3 months you get a good feel for portion sizes and carb counts, and the scales and tracking become less essential.
The first few days can be a bit hideous for some people – referred to as the ‘keto flu’. This is your body getting used to the change in fuel source, and can leave people headachey, tired and sore, with weird breath and an upset stomach. I was lucky and had no more than a vague headache for a couple of days, and a feeling of being totally buzzing, like my brain was switching back on after being in zombie mode for months. Stay well hydrated, make sure you are getting enough electrolytes (drink a stock cube!), and things should settle in a few days. You can check if you are in ketosis using urine test strips (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bayer-Ketostix-Reagent-Strips-Ketone/dp/B008ETHFN4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519939408&sr=8-1&keywords=ketostix+strips) which change colour if a particular ketone, acetoacetate, is detected. When you become an efficient fat-burning beast a few weeks down the line, this ketone is no longer wasted in urine, and strips may start to read negative. At this point I started using a blood ketone monitor (https://www.amazon.co.uk/CALL-GK-DUAL-Glucose-Monitering/dp/B0196U6MVA/ref=sr_1_2?s=industrial&ie=UTF8&qid=1519939546&sr=8-2&keywords=on+call+ketone+monitor), which measures a different ketone, Beta-hydroxybutyrate or BHB.
I’m not a fan of fad diets, but this isn’t a fad diet. It’s been used since the early 1900s to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, particularly in children. It’s fantastic for weight loss, switching on efficient fat-burning means you can tap into any reserves that you might have! It results in nice stable blood sugar; no more ups and downs, which reduces sugar cravings. As well as improving energy levels, there is increasing evidence that it can help improve type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and potentially be of benefit in neurological conditions such as Alzheimers.
Not only did the fatigue disappear a few days into this diet, but I felt an amazing sense of calm that I hadn’t felt in months, the constant low-level anxiety had gone. It has massively reduced the neuropathy I have in my right arm and leg (I have cheated and eaten doughnuts on occasion… numbness/tingling/pain return in about 30 minutes when the sugar hits my bloodstream!) I can multi-task again at work, enjoy running a few miles and still have the energy to pretend to be a utahraptor with my 3-year old when I get home…
Cheers to fat!
A couple of recommended books:
A good general overview
More in-depth science
A typical days food:
Full fat greek yoghurt with berries, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, topped with cinnamon
Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes and black pepper
Homemade cream of mushroom soup, ditch the croutons and use cubes of mature cheddar and seeds instead
Tuna/mackerel with avocado, drizzled with olive oil and chilli flakes or a herby mayonnaise
Prawn and vegetable curry (crushed almonds or cauliflower are great substitutes for rice!)
Vegetable stirfry with tofu (you don’t miss the noodles if you pile in some beansprouts)
Keto friendly lasagne – substitute the pasta sheets with thinly sliced aubergine or courgette. All the taste and no bloat J
Handful of nuts, or some cheese, or veggies and houmous
Evening treat is a dollop of nut butter with a square of 85% dark chocolate.
I’m a doctor but the wrong kind, I research plants not people! If you have any health conditions/take any medication it’s advisable to consult your GP before trying a ketogenic diet.
Also note that ‘ketosis’ is not the same as ‘ketoacidosis’… ketoacidosis can be a complication of diabetes, in which ketone levels are extremely high combined with extremely high blood sugar. A ketogenic diet in a non-diabetic individual results in safe levels of ketones and stable blood sugar.
So there you have it lovelies, I hope you enjoyed reading it. I’m looking forward to working with Dionne to see if Keto is something I can follow, though I’m not sure I have the same discipline that she does, to see if it can help me with my psoriatic arthritis. If you would like to have a guest spot on Adventure Awaits, get in touch.