One of the most common questions I get asked is my opinion on various diets, so I've decided to do a little diet review series to help those interested readers get more information on diets they may be considering, especially in the New Year.
First up is the Keto diet review...
Keto Diet Angle:
The Keto diet is extremely popular for quick weight loss. It also has a place medically, as it has been shown to be therapeutic in cases of drug-resistant epilepsy. The dietary approach is similar to the Atkins diet and other extremely low carbohydrate diets that keep total daily carbohydrate intake around roughly 20-50 grams.
In practice, this translates to a diet heavy in fats and animal protein, with smaller amounts of non-starchy vegetables.
The name Keto comes from the word ketosis, or the metabolic state the diet puts your body in when carbohydrates are no longer available to burn for energy and the body shifts to burning fat for fuel.
Keto Diet Reality:
The Keto diet gets filed under an extreme diet, as it virtually eliminates a whole macronutrient group of food, in this case carbohydrates. The reality of eating a fat and protein based diet is that it can be difficult to stomach for more than a short period of time, not to mention the limited diet can really interfere with your social life.
The very low carbohydrate way of eating is typically reserved for those living in extreme temperatures like the Arctic where lush, carbohydrate-rich vegetation is not possible. Dramatic changes in diet such as this can leave your body really confused. It can’t tell the extreme diet of carbohydrate restriction from actual starvation or harsh environmental conditions. The body’s interpretation of these drastic dietary changes lands somewhere between intense stress and the possibility of death, which often first manifests with the absence of normal digestive function and an obvious lack of energy.
Not exactly the ideal scenario for someone seeking health. Think abundance > restriction 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
Perhaps the most troubling to me about the Keto diet is that it forces you to ignore your cravings for simple carbohydrates as even fruit is off-limits. From my experience chatting with hundreds of women from all over the world, the minute you stop listening to what your body needs is when your body starts to shift out of balance. As the body moves out of homeostasis, the body sends signals that the forced regimen is not working. Imagine these like the warning lights on the dash of your car. But instead of low tire pressure or low gasoline, they show up as things like: constant cravings, poor sleep, anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, digestive bloating or discomfort, infertility, and sometimes even depression.
My biggest issues with the keto diet is its impact on metabolic health, energy levels and digestion. But I'm going to focus on the digestive impact because it's so important. Keto diets (and low carb diets) tend to slow transit time (read: you get constipated, backed up, whatever you like to call not going to the bathroom when you feel like you should). Constipation caused by slowed transit time can lead to bacteria overgrowth in the gut (which I see all the time), and then one ends up constipated, bloated, and miserable. It's not a good place to be.
To boot, I see a huge correlation between keto type diets and SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth 🤢💩). Probably because it starves your gut bacteria of adequate fiber in most cases!
If this happens to you, consider yourself warned, and see it as a sign it's not working for you.
Keto Diet Positives:
Don't get me wrong, there are some great aspects to the keto diet:
- often mindfulness around protein quality and sourcing/sustainability
- encouragement of bone broth, gelatin and collagen
- emphasis on healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, avocado and animal fats
- eliminates most processed foods and common food sensitivities
- weight loss (short-term at best, but often at the risk of impacting the health of your metabolism)
- helps to lower blood sugar levels
Keto Diet Negatives:
Here's a few negatives of the Keto diet to keep in mind, many of which I see in my post-keto clients:
- causes you to tune out your body, while tuning into diet rules that may not work for you
- very low in carbohydrates which can cause a drop in energy levels, constipation, and hormonal issues
- is very restrictive and not a sustainable way to eat long-term
- can change your digestive system over time and induce bloating, constipation and digestive sensitivity to carbohydrates (when you try to reintroduce them)
- may negatively impact thyroid function
- can induce sleep issues and increase cortisol levels
Better Options And Things to Consider Before Going On The Keto Diet:
My philosophy as a nutritional therapist is never to tell anyone what to do. Instead, I prefer to help provide information and an opinion based on my work with clients and what I see every day in my practice. That way, you can feel empowered to make the best decision for you.
Here's a few suggestions of things to explore before going on the Keto diet:
- Make sure you're addressing underlying reasons for weight gain before taking a diet approach that tricks and manipulates your body into temporarily losing weight at the expense of your long-term health. The opposite of dieting approach and the Personal Nutrition Assessment are easy ways to get started with helping your body lose weight from the inside out!
- Instead of cutting out a macronutrient group, learn about what foods work for and against your body. If this sounds too difficult for you, gut testing be helpful.
- Consider testing to discover your nutrient excesses and deficiencies to see if they may be influencing your weight. Hair Analysis and fatty acid testing are my favorite tool for this.
I hope you enjoyed this review of the Keto diet, the first of many in the diet review series.