Thursday, July 14, 2016

What is ketosis?

In a previous blog, SUGAR AND YOU (click on link to read blog), I maligned sugar and spoke about ketosis. I provided few details about ketosis in that blog, so here is a little more to chew on, including why a ketogenic diet might be just what you need to improve your waistline as well as your mental attitude.

Those following a ketogenic diet are doing so for a variety of reasons. For most people, it is to lose a few pounds, especially belly fat. For others it is a medical necessity. Children with epilepsy who are non-responsive to drugs to prevent seizures can be helped by a ketogenic diet - in fact it is successful in lowering the number of seizures in more than a third of such cases. In addition, some of them are cured - yes, I said cured - of ever having another seizure by staying in ketosis for two years or so. Of course, these children are under medical supervision.

When I had my farm, we had a raw milk association. In Indiana, you may not sell raw milk for human consumption, but if a person owns a share of a cow, then they can legally consume their own raw milk. One of our shareholders, when she learned of my ketogenic diet, told me that both of her sons had been plagued with epileptic seizures. They were both hospitalized to get into ketosis, and from that time forward, neither had another seizure. After two years, they were able to eat anything they wanted. It was as if their brains had been retrained during the two years of ketosis. Like I said, some are cured.

She showed me little cards she still carried in her wallet to warn well-meaning mothers that her boys couldn't have so much as a bite of cake or a spoonful of ice cream at the birthday party. She always brought their own "legal" treats, so they could participate without fear of a seizure.

Think of that, a diet to cure epilepsy! Some children are subjected to brain surgery. Wouldn't you want to try a diet first? So what is a ketogenic diet? Here goes, my explanation of keto diets.

We burn carbohydrates for quick energy. Our body pretty much doesn't have to do anything with the sugar - it goes right to our brain and sets to work. (If you are interested in the details, there is a good book called Life Without Bread. Chapter 3 explains how the body utilizes carbohydrates, and it is quite different from how it works with protein and fat. You will enjoy it if you are a wonk like me who likes to look at the mechanics of things.)

I hear many people say, "You have to have carbohydrates for energy!" And yet I have a friend, George, who is on a keto diet, has been for years, and he runs marathons. He went through an adjustment period, but now he has no lack of energy when running on bacon and eggs. No pasta for him!

So how is it that George can run marathons without carb loading prior to running? Our body is a wondrous thing! If we don't eat carbs, our body manufactures a replacement, something called ketones, derived from the bacon and eggs (fat and protein). Our body is more than happy to use these ketones for energy. Yes, you can cross the finish line on ketones.

Those of us on a ketogenic diet usually check our urine daily. If we are utilizing ketones for energy, there will be evidence of it because we throw excess ketones into our urine. The Ketostix (the brand I use) will turn color, and it will tell me that I ate right yesterday. And depending on the color, it will tell me just how right I ate.

I am on a ketogenic diet for mood control, and I usually know before I get out of bed what color the stick will be. If I'm in ketosis, I am not so restless, definitely NOT depressed, and feel focused. The stick rarely tells me something I hadn't already figured out. While some will argue that they are not very useful, I kept careful records of my keto readings for six months, which included a diary of my thoughts and feelings each day. I stand by the Ketostix.

Now on to ketoacidosis. When I tell people I have been in ketosis for over six years, I often hear, from people with some knowledge of ketones and/or diabetes, that I can ruin my kidneys by going too far and going into ketoacidosis. They are right, of course, but it is hard enough for me to stay at a reading of 5, 15 or 40, so I cannot imagine eating a diet that would get me all the way to ketoacidosis. What would I have to eat? Maybe a pound of Crisco? With a pound of hamburger? Not going to happen!

Stay tuned to this blog for more about low carb eating and how it impacts our health.

Bon appetit.

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