I felt to explore the topic of Ketosis through a slightly comical but still highly resourceful story that my husband wrote. Oliver's story below provides a great backdrop to understand the process of Ketosis and the impact our food choices can have on our body.
My partner and I don’t eat-out a lot, finding that for the most part, it’s not as satisfying as a BBQ at home, however after deciding to enjoy the perks of a meal out we visited a local café. To mention now, that we don’t eat gluten, dairy or sugar (at all) is probably relevant and to be clear we don’t eat any grains or anything high in starch either. Anyway, ordering a paleo meal, knowing it sufficed all our necessary dietary requirements we enjoyed feeling the wonder of some time out-and-about together. On ordering at the counter I was lured by possibly one of the prettiest fluffy looking muffins my eyes had ever laid eyes on.
So, the muffin: GF (Gluten Free), DF (Dairy Free), PSF (processed sugar free = maple syrup instead). At the time is just looked lovely to me and after consuming an unexpected serving of sweet potato chips with our main meal, we topped ourselves off with half of this delectable muffin each.
“My legs don’t work…” she said. “I hab to slep” I mumbled...40 minutes after we’d finished eating, we had both crashed on our bed and at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon during the working week (when we were both supposed to be in the office attending to our admin), we passed-out in a very uncomfortable state, bloated, exhausted and in pain.
So, we could explore multiple avenues right now: why Oliver purchased the muffin in the first place, where he is at in his evolutionary path and how food can support or hinder this, even the energetics behind who cooked the muffin and of course there’s the ‘everything is moderation’ discussion. However, I want to know what happened within the body that caused Oliver to sleep for 3 hours during the middle of the day as well as cause me to claim my legs didn’t work properly anymore – before I too slept like a bear for several hours during the middle of the day! (for the record, something we rarely do longer than 15-20 minutes – ever).
Enter Ketosis: a diet that man is best suited for and has been for millions of years according to the very latest in research and some of the most well-known doctors and specialists in the world including Dr Eric Burg and Dr David Perlmutter.
Check out Dr Eric Burg talk about the transition of a Ketosis Diet
To set the scene I quote Dr David Jockers, Doctor of natural medicine and author of Super Charge Your Brain.
“For our ancestors, eating three meals a day just wasn’t a thing, instead they would hunt and forage for the foods they could find. When there wasn’t food, they wouldn’t eat…to sustain life during times of scarcity, the body is thought to have developed the ability to utlize fat as an alternative fuel source”. However, Dr Jockers goes on to say, “In a traditional nutrition course, you would learn that sugar is the body’s primary fuel source while fat is a secondary fuel source…What we are finding out now is that fat can actually be a healthier and more sustainable source of energy”.
So what is exactly is Ketosis?
The process of Ketosis can be described as when the body does not have sufficient levels of available glucose, which is derived from a diet that is made up of carbohydrates (sugars). As glycogen levels are depleted, blood sugar and insulin are lowered and the body looks for an alternative source of fuel: in this case, stored fats. This process can happen when a person is fasting, after prolonged exercise, during starvation, or when eating a low-carb, ketogenic diet. The process of breaking down fats for energy is known as beta-oxidation; this process allows fats to be converted into Ketones making them accessible for the body to burn. Ketones' are also known as “Ketone Bodies” of which there are 3 different types (Acetate, Acetoacetate and Beta Hydroxybutyrate BHB).
Today, we have an abundance of food that are high in carbohydrates and sugar – these foods cause a reduced ability to burn fat. Further research reports that these foods damage our metabolic level and we actually lose the ability to produce ketones. Today’s lifestyle choices and diets have formed a dependence on sugar which creates inflammation, massive blood sugar spikes, hormone imbalance and other chronic diseases.
If we think of the body as a car then we can liken eating a high sugar/carb diet to one type of fuel and a high fat diet to a different kind of fuel. Going back to the café story, unbeknown to us our diet fuelled our body by Ketones, choosing to eat sweet potato and that seductive muffin could be described as putting petrol in a vehicle that was smoothly running on diesel – leading to the malfunction of the vehicle or body. (It's here I take a moment to marvel at the bodies ability to shift gear and move through the change in fuel source without a total break down. Although we felt some consequences in the change over my awe and appreciation of the human body only deepens - but more on that later!)
Benefits of Ketosis include:
Lowering blood pressure
Reducing blood sugar and insulin levels
Reducing cravings & diminishing hunger
Increasing weight loss
Decreasing brain disorders such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease
I never set out to live by a Ketosis diet, I stumbled across the diet through my research, as I wanted to understand the significant physiological reaction by body had undergone that day at the café. It was only through reading about it all that I then realised that I was running on Ketones. My way of eating was and still is a process of simply listening to what my body needs and taking notice when my body has negative reactions – lethargy, bloatedness and headaches to name a few.
Any reaction as severe as the one I had that day is information that perhaps this food is not truly supportive; however most us don't realise this as we haven't afforded ourselves the opportunity to feel what it's like to stop the sugary and high carb foods that are slowly but surely killing us and to then feel the contrast in our bodies by choosing a different fuel source.