Due to the waxing and waning of health guidelines given to us by financially-interested institutions, sugar has been demonized as a cause of inflammation and many diseases. The paleo community, in particular, has denounced high carbohydrate and sugar intake in favor of low carb, low sugar, high fat and protein. Ketosis, where the body burns ketones (fat) instead of glucose (carbs) is popular in low carb/no carb communities and is induced by limiting carbs to 20% or less of daily calories. Ketosis can treat epilepsy but I think the therapeutic effects end there and the claims of (safe) weight loss and prevention of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s are dubious. You lose weight but it’s far from safe or healthy. On the contrary, ketosis can ruin your health and make you nuts.
Dr. Bruce Fiffe, in his book “Stop Alzheimer’s Now”, explains that the apparent benefits of a ketogenic diet come from the medium chain triglycerides consumed on it like coconut oil and by the MCTs created by the liver.
Ketosis is a mild form of the ketoacidosis seen in diabetes. Ketoacidosis is the leading cause of death in diabetics under age 24. Side effects of ketosis include hunger, constipation, confusion, bad breath, and heart arrhythmia. Ketosis reduces levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 which may cause bone fractures and stunt growth in children.
Ketosis depletes magnesium, potassium, and impairs thyroid function and the conversion of thyroxine (T4) into the active triiodothyronine (T3). Every cell in your body depends upon proper thyroid function to regulate metabolism. Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the low carb Atkins diet warns that his diet may cause or worsen hypothyroidism. Semi-competent doctors espouse the need for a multivitamin, calcium, and vitamin D supplementation during ketosis.
The car-salesman practitioners like Mark Hyman, Josh Axe, Joe Mercola, and David Perlmutter promote the miracle claims of ketosis.
Ray Peat, Ph.D explains that ketosis requires the body to raise cortisol which is very stressful and cites an arctic explorer who noticed that the Eskimos he met were very prematurely aged. “Ketones are very protective as a fuel, but the problem is that they are produced as a result of metabolic stress.”
A lot of ketogenic dieters get flu-like symptoms (keto-flu), fatigue, and have blood sugar crashes while exercising but usually find ways to justify why it’s not the diet’s fault. The keto-flu lasts 5-14 days so practitioners call it an adjustment period and a detox from sugar but I think it’s the body crying out for sugar, realizing it’s not getting any, and finally giving up which is when the “flu” ends, relieved by high cortisol.
Some keto-people feel good the first few days then crash while others immediately crash, then regain “some” of their energy. The “some” is from high cortisol so the energy is false, stressful, and damaging. A redditor mentioned he feels good the first week of keto and then crashes but a high carb diet makes him feel worse. I think high carbs may have been lowering his stress hormones enough to give his body some real rest while ketosis spiked his cortisol, which produces unstable and unsustainable energy so of course he crashed. He was told to eat more sodium which is good.
Here is nice a collection of people suffering in ketosis with a few select quotes.
Feeling Ill on Keto Diet?, I feel like absolute garbage on this diet., Ketosis Diet For 3 Months And I Feel Awful, I just started eating keto and I feel TERRIBLE!!, So sick- day 3 of induction, New to Atkins and feeling sick, Energy crash after a week on keto
“I’ve been on Keto Diet (CKD) for 4 days now and feel dreadful. Since starting I’ve felt bloated, tired, bad nausea, headache and just generally pretty awful.”
“I generally feel like 100% crap the first few days after keto-diet initiation, then improve to only 50% crappy after that. Some people say they feel awesome on keto, but I sure never have.”
“[…] the weight loss aspect of [keto] has worked. […] However, I’ve felt like complete crap this entire time. I have a total lack of energy, I can barely stay up past 9 anymore. I get tired very easily. I haven’t experienced a single one of the tons of perks people on keto talk about, aside from the weight loss. It’s gotten really bad lately. I have been constantly sick for what feels like a month now. Had a flu, then an awful fever. When I had that fever I threw up 7-8 lbs of just liquids that I never put back on. I think that really threw me off. That was about 10 or so days ago and lasted a while. Now I’m sick again. I feel like I’m on the verge of death. I never used to get sick like this or feel like this.”
“I really want to stick with this in hopes that it passes and then the weight will start coming off but I feel HORRIBLE.”
[Exercise performance (FTP) worse on keto] “how long till these don’t feel like I made a mistake moving to this type of diet…all my numbers have crashed…quite depressing actually…
This morning I woke up and was extremely nauseous and light-headed. Tried to eat an omelette and couldn’t stomach it… then drank an Atkins shake. 5 minutes later I threw all of it up. Went to work, tried to drink water and tea, and nearly passed out. Fortunately, I work in a health clinic so I was seen immediately, told I was hypoglycemic, and given half a wheat bagel to eat. I felt better immediately after eating and have been able to stick to the diet throughout the rest of the day, without nausea. A response: “That bagel just set you back a day or two. It’s terrible, but you need to stick through it and the next day you will wake up feeling like a trillion dollars…”
“I embarked on a three month ketosis stint that destroyed my health for the sake of a few pounds. As I toyed with Dr. Atkins’ 20g ‘Induction’ phase and chose to fully commit to the regime, I saw my life dissolve into the existence of a lifeless zombie, frantically attempting to reverse the damage with extensive internet research and seemingly endless forum asking.”
Long-term low carbers become glucose intolerant which will further discourage them from returning to sugar. Ketosis dissolves the thymus gland, impairing immune function.
When carbs are restricted, the body will break down tissues for protein and fat to make glucose. Protein and fat are necessarily non-preferred sources of energy.
When you cut out sugar, well, what do you eat instead? Protein, which is good, saturated fat, also good, and, oh, polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are omega 3, 6, and 9. PUFAs are high in fatty fish and all cooking oils except coconut and olive oil. Fish oil is an omega 3 PUFA. All these health gurus are saying fish oil is a healthy fat so aren’t PUFAs good fat? No, it’s another pop-lie.
PUFAs, including fish oil, negatively affect the pancreas and the mitochondria, suppress the immune system (which can relieve inflammatory symptoms), activate stress hormones (why do you think the keto-people lose it?), and derange metabolism, causing metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The recent addition of fish oil in powdered baby formula to “help growing brains” makes babies violently ill to the point of hospitalization. This motivated 13,000 parents to petition for a ban on fish oils in formulas. Thankfully, manufacturers admit that “some infants” just take time to “get used” to the new formula. I guess the parents should keep poisoning their kids and take it on faith from the salesmen that it’s a harmless and temporary “adjustment period”. Hmm, eerily reminds me of a certain diet.
Here are some quotes from Ray Peat about blood sugar and the necessity of dietary sugar (collected from Functional Performance Systems):
If the blood sugar is chronically low due to illogical food choices or imbalanced or infrequent meals, the alarm state is active too frequently and problems develop over time. The heightened sympathetic nervous system activity during low blood sugar is like that which happens in hypothyroidism & during prolonged darkness, exercise, and malnutrition. […] Blood sugar balance using protective and digestible food choices is a fundamental of good nutrition practices. While some will argue that we don’t need to eat carbohydrate because our body can make carbohydrate from itself, that side of the fence is looking at physiology through a pin hole and misses the big picture. Ample carbohydrate particularly from ripe fruits, orange juice, milk, honey, and sucrose keeps the alarm state and vicious inflammatory cycles at bay.
The special value of fructose is that it can be oxidized even by diabetics, lacking insulin, and that it increases the metabolic rate, causing calories to be burned at a higher rate.
Without enough dietary carbohydrate, the body becomes dependent on stress hormones for glucose. For optimal health, sustain blood sugar with food, not stress hormones. […] The often ignored portion of the low blood sugar puzzle is the effects of poor circulation on the intestines as blood flow shifts to the muscles and brain during fight or flight and away from the digestive tract. The de-energized intestines not only allow intestinal toxins into the blood stream more easily as barrier function is compromised, but the digestion of foods becomes less efficient also leading to malnutrition. By simply balancing the blood sugar with appropriate food choices and avoiding excessive stimulation, much can be done to flip from degeneration & inflammation into regeneration.
And fruit happens to be the best single type of food for not triggering the stress reactions, because it combines very small amounts of protein, with large amounts of sugar and minerals. Potassium happens to handle sugar in place of insulin, and the fructose component of fruit doesn’t require insulin. So, eating a lot of fruit, even at one meal a day, produces much smaller amounts of insulin, obesity, and cortisol, than eating, for example, just one big meal of meat and potatoes. Meat powerfully stimulates insulin and cortisol. And starches are more stimulating to insulin than sugars.”
“I don’t have an eating plan, other than to be perceptive and to learn about your physiology, so that you can adjust things to your needs. Any craving is a good starting point, because we have several biological mechanisms for correcting specific nutritional deficiencies. When something is interfering with your ability to use sugar, you crave it because if you don’t eat it you will waste protein to make it.”
As for myself, I ate and experimented with various diets in an attempt to cure my health problems, mostly low carb, for around 5 years from ages 15 to 19. No, it didn’t help me and yes, it probably made me a lot worse. The obsession with leaky gut, candida, and the supposed toxicity of sugar kept me sick, alienated, and dissatisfied. In fact, until I abandoned my orthorexic habits and started eating enough calories and enough sugar, I was a high-strung, brain-fogged neurotic with the energy of a 70 year old. I guess you can liken it to a mixture of George Costanza and Kramer but not as funny. But a common factor is George Costanza and I were running on stress hormones all the time, every day. The best I felt on a diet was raw fruitarianism because for that one month of constant fructose intake, my liver finally had some glycogen and stress hormones reduced, but I quickly found the GAPS diet and resumed the unnatural sugar restriction.
As a reaction to past blunders, I am permanently weary of diets and propose instead a lifestyle of abundance and inclusion, as much as is possible. Have your cake and eat it too, with some ice cream, and maybe potato chips, and Mexican Cola, and get enough protein.
This has just begun but my anxiety is down, positivity is easier, my hair and skin have rapidly improved, and I don’t feel like I’m freezing or dying anymore. Let’s see what else changes, there’s a lot of healing to do.