Nutritional Ketosis for Internal and Metabolic Healing
Fad diets come and go. The more stable lifestyle diets tend to stick around for much longer and actually be studied for efficacy. Versions of a low-carb high-fat, or ketogenic lifestyle, have surfaced before; however, the recent surge of this macro-focused, high-fat diet is now meeting up with science in a way that puts data behind conviction and nearly proves the case that food is medicine.
In a recent talk at KetoCon, holistic dietician Ali Miller shared ten amazing physical benefits of nutritional ketosis—most of them converging around internal balance—including:
- Body composition change
- Satiety level and increased leptin
- Improved mood
- Reduced insulin need and insulin resistance
- Resolved or lowered inflammation
- Increased nerve growth factors, benefitting mood disorders
- Cognitive improvement
- Reduced anxiety
- Enhanced GABA expression
- Hormone management
The popular speaker went deep into the physical side of ketosis on the packed KetoCon audience in Austin. She used lots of acronyms and—barely taking a breathe when moving from one system to the next—painted the picture of healing via nutritional ketosis. She's quite impressive—we recommend a field trip to her website which offers a ton of resources on food-as-medicine.
Read on to see exactly what a healthy nutritional ketosis state can do for your mind and body, scientifically.
#1: Positive changes in body composition.
Your keto diet should be catered to your specific needs. Based on your metabolic handicap, insulin resistance, and body fat, the amount of fat, carbs, and protein you’ll need will vary. Talk with a holistic doctor, dietician, or nutritionist to calibrate your macros for your goals. When properly calibrated for ketosis, your keto diet increases levels of human growth hormones, supporting your muscle mass and metabolic state. A properly tailored keto diet will reduce body fat to a sustainable baseline level and help you maintain muscle mass. Because ketosis reduces appetite, weight loss occurs frequently in ketosis.
“When you’re in a state of nutritional ketosis your HGH goes up [and] that’s going to support your metabolic state by supporting your muscle mass. You can drive [your] metabolism to make ketones, that’s why don’t want to chase fat within the diet. In a state of ketosis, we need a very individualized macro distribution based on our metabolic handicap when we start the process, based on our amount of insulin resistance, and based on our amount of body fat… all of those should be tailored.” - Ali Miller
#2: Feel satiated sooner and longer.
Universally all keto diets will require you to eat 70% to 80% of your calories from fat. Fats are the slowest-digesting macro, which means you’ll stay full and satiated for longer after eating. Keto diets do not require limiting calories, but studies have shown that eating a keto diet reduces appetite and helps promote weight loss. This is in part because, unlike other diets, eating keto increases your brain’s sensitivity to leptin. Leptin sends signals to your brain that your body has plenty of stored fat and can burn more calories and eat less food. Essentially, a keto diet enables your brain to send signals that say, “Eat less!”
#3: Lift and stabilize mood.
Keto can help stabilize a variety of mood disorders (more on that later). But even for the average human who isn’t suffering from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, keto diets can help prevent mood swings. A 2017 study demonstrated that ketosis can help improve brain functioning in a variety of ways, from reducing inflammation and oxidative stress to improving synapse signaling. Essentially, ketosis helps your brain work better, which can help your mental health. That, paired with reduced cravings and drops in blood sugar, means keto diets are a natural mood stabilizer.
#4: Maintain an even blood sugar level.
Multiple studies have shown that ketogenic diets improve blood sugar control. Maintaining ketosis can even help Type 2 diabetics manage their glycemic levels. Eating very low levels of carbohydrates helps eliminate large spikes in blood sugar and improves glycemic control. For some who struggle with blood sugar levels, including Type 2 diabetics, this can result in a large amount of weight loss.
“Reduction of insulin can bring down hypoglycemic blood sugar drops.” - Ali Miller
#5: Proper nutrition is anti-inflammatory.
“The mechanism of actually making ketones is going to reduce the oxidative stress.” - Ali Miller
You’ll find two very different types of keto eating plans: there’s the low-quality bacon and eggs and butter keto diet—and then there’s keto eating centered around whole foods and clean, high-quality ingredients. Either way, keto diets naturally remove many highly inflammatory foods, including GMO ingredients such as soy and corn that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and neurotoxins from the herbicide glyphosate. And clean foods keto mean your diet is jam-packed with anti-inflammatory foods, including berries, green leafy vegetables, salmon, nuts, and healthy fats. In addition, the ketones produced during ketosis decrease oxidative stress, increase antioxidants and scavenge free radicals.
“If you’re eating a clean, real foods keto, then you’re removing those soy, corn, the products that are high in omega-6 and tend to be GMO, which have the curse of neurotoxins in the glyphosate.” Nutritional ketosis is all about “removing inflammatory compounds from the responsive blood sugar distress, and that A1C being a marker that tends to correlate with CRPR, the main inflammatory marker in the body.” - Ali Miller
#6: Alleviate mood disorders.
A 2018 review noted that ketosis “substantially changes the energetic matrix of the body, including the brain.” Ketosis makes your brain work better—it’s a proven anti-convulsant—and has demonstrated promise as an intervention for depression and other mood disorders. Studies on mice have shown improvements in brain functioning and reductions in behavioral despair. One biomarker for mood disorders, known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), increases on keto diets. BDNF reduces food intake, facilitates learning and memory, and helps our brains resist injury and disease. BDNF helps your brain repair itself and make new connections, naturally helping heal mood disorders.
#7: Improve cognitive performance.
A study of Taekwondo athletes demonstrated that the ketogenic diet can help offset the oxidative stress of losing weight. Essentially, the keto diet improves the body’s ability to produce and utilize antioxidants, which help counteract the effects of free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress predicts cognitive decline. By limiting oxidative stress, our brains are able to function fully, without memory and cognition problems or brain fog.
#8: Mellow out your stress response.
“Reducing epinephrine, that main adrenaline fight or flight chemical, this is one of the mechanisms in which ketosis is really good.” - Ali Miller
What about stress and anxiety? A serious stress response releases glucose into the bloodstream to provide energy for the fight-or-flight response. Although ketogenic diets initially increase your stress response, sustained ketosis rewires your stress hormones to free up fat for your brain to use. And the keto diet helps prevent the negative effects of stress on our bodies, reducing fat storage, particularly in our midsections! This brain-stress mitigation is one reason ketosis is so effective for preventing seizures.
#9: Enhanced GABA expression so you can stay cool under pressure.
Ketosis enhances GABA expression. GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, mellows out the hustle of the stress response. Insufficient GABA is at play in health issues including Parkinson’s Disease, tremors, seizure disorder, and mouth dryness. Enhanced GABA expression from ketosis helps us alleviate our body’s natural stress response.
“GABA is that feel-good, inhibitory compound that mellows out the hustle of the stress response. GABA is what becomes insufficient or we have issues with docking GABA when we’re dealing with issues like Parkinson’s Disease, tremors, dryness in the mouth from like a performance review—those anxiety-driven activities.” - Ali Miller
#10: Modulate your hormones and feel balanced.
Ketosis directly impacts the pituitary gland, in turn, directly affecting HGH, FSH, LH and gonadotropin hormones. Ketosis improves productive of FSH and LH, hormones which drive fertility in women, and the natural reduction of insulin reduces androgens in women, which helps with symptoms of PCOS. The use of fat as fuel in the keto diet metabolizes estrogen stores. All this to say that ketosis positively impacts hormone production, helping modulate hormones that might be out of whack.
“I think we’re just starting to discuss this a bit more. We know that when you use fat as fuel your adipose sites—or your bodys’ fat cells—are actually [partly made of] estrogen themselves, so you’re actually metabolizing estrogen stores in your body.” - Ali Miller
Is a ketogenic diet right for you?
The keto diet is not for everyone. Ketogenic diets have proved particularly effective for those whose bodies are undergoing large amounts of stress, including cancer patients, those with epilepsy, and those struggling to combat obesity. But as we study this lifestyle more, we are learning how a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is changing - often fixing or optimizing - these processes in our bodies that have gotten hijacked from years of high-carbohydrates and low-fats. Talk with your doctor about the functional things you need to fix in your body, and see if a ketogenic lifestyle may be a good fit.
Keto has no standard rules, but the general definition of keto means limiting your carbs to less than 10% of your diet—usually less than 30 grams, depending on your calorie needs—and keeping protein to 10-20% and fat at 70-80%. On keto diets, fat makes up the vast majority of the calories you eat, with a moderate amount of protein thrown in.
Doing keto correctly puts your body in a state of ketosis. Usually, our bodies use carbohydrates as our main fuel source, converting them to easy-access glucose. But on a very-low-carb diet, our bodies burn fat and create ketones to use for energy. Although keto diets can have some initial negative effects, they usually stabilize after a week or so. Many people use keto diets to burn fat and lose weight, but there are many other benefits.
Look through our popular keto recipes that are quick, simple and sweetened with monk fruit.