There are a number of health conditions a keto diet has been chronicled in helping cure. In fact, Keto diets have been used for nearly a century to help with health conditions such as epilepsy, obesity, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, acne, neurological disease, cancer, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. Why? Because keto diets, with the proper supervision, can help manage a variety of health conditions. Here Dr. Anna Cabeca discusses 10 health conditions that a keto diet can help cure, as well as some of the criticism surrounding the keto diet.
During her initial consult, my 47-year-old patient Margaret had several concerns about her health conditions. Although she had tried various commercial diets over the past decade, nothing had helped her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) improve, and her doctor remained baffled about how to treat it. In addition to PCOS, Margaret suffered from acne, a history of depression, familial type 2 diabetes and needed to lose about 40 extra pounds. Margaret isn’t the only patient I’ve seen that has struggled with health conditions that are difficult to treat and cure. Luckily, I was able to help Margaret reverse her PCOS, clear up her acne, balance her moods and start the long weight loss process. How? Through a keto diet!
10 Health Conditions That A Keto Diet Can Help Solve
Margaret isn’t the only patient that I’ve seen get tremendous health benefits from the keto diet. In fact, I’ve been able to use the keto diet to help people suffering from a variety of different health conditions. Here are 10 health conditions that the keto diet can help cure:
- Weight loss
When patients complain they’ve “tried every diet and nothing happens,” I feel certain that a keto diet is the answer. The ketosis diet helps the body burn its own body fat for energy, leading to rapid weight loss. Additionally, the keto diet can help suppress your appetite, in part by stabilizing hormones that encourage appetite.
- Improved insulin levels
A keto diet steadies insulin levels and improves your lipid profile, two areas that are hard to control as we age. One study among 31 middle-aged people found that a keto diet combined with nutritional supplements lowered the levels of glucose insulin and triglycerides in the blood, three substances that often increase as we age.
Insulin resistance is the challenging part of this hard-to-treat endocrine disorder in women. Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia affect about 65–70 percent of women with PCOS. Other PCOS symptoms mimic metabolic syndrome and include obesity, glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia and chronic inflammation. Through its help in improving insulin levels, the keto diet can help women like my patient Margaret treat and even reverse their PCOS.
Studies show that a high-sugar, processed Western diet can cause acne by stimulating insulin and other responses. A keto diet, however, is low-carb, which means it is low sugar and with a low-glycemic-load, helping to lower blood sugar levels and improve skin quality.
- Neurological issues
Oxidative stress, which is created when the body has too many free radicals, can actually cause neurological damage. The ketones produced by the keto diet help to reduce oxidative stress and protect neurons. This can help improve the outcomes of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease as well as spinal cord injuries.
Cancer cells increase the body’s use of glucose. That means that a low-glucose ketogenic diet could potentially fight cancer cells, making them more sensitive to conventional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. Researchers argue that keto diets are a “safe, inexpensive, easily implementable and effective approach” to potentially stressing cancer cells. Weakened cancer cells are exactly what you want if you’re fighting cancer!
Since a keto diet optimizes blood sugar and insulin levels, it can help treat type 2 diabetes. One study among people with type 2 diabetes on the keto diet showed dramatic improvements, making it possible for them to even stop or lessen their diabetes medications. (Reminder! Do not reduce or discontinue any medication without speaking to your doctor.)
A diet high in carbohydrates can spike and crash your blood sugar, which will lead to lethargic feelings and unstable moods. Good news, though.. a keto diet may be able to stabilize your mood without using prescription drugs! Since you are minimizing your sugar intake, you will have less sugar cravings and less mood swings from the rise and fall of your blood sugar levels. A study of rats using the Porsolt test (an animal model of depression) showed that a keto diet improved the mood of rats compared to those who were not on it.
Mitochondria, the power generators in our cells, prefer ketones for fuel, so why not give them the fuel they prefer?! Research has shown that ketones can significantly decrease the mitochondria production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are harmful for cells. Through the keto diet you can improve the quality of your mitochondria and get more energy. Sounds good to me!
One of estrogen’s jobs is to get glucose to your brain for fuel, but it becomes a problem during menopause. In menopause, estrogen levels decline and it becomes harder to get glucose to your brain. A keto diet eliminates this problem since you end up using ketones as fuel. In turn, this reduces some miserable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, and let’s be real… who doesn’t want to eliminate those?
Is the Keto Diet Safe?
It’s important to know that despite the keto diet’s potential for significant healthy changes in the body, some experts have criticized this diet and argued that it is not safe for the general population. Other experts point to some of the keto diet’s limitations, including its strict regimen, limited diet, and potential side effects. And some doubters say weight loss and other benefits are temporary.
Let’s review some of the criticism here, and I will give you my response and opinion.
FIrst of all, I think the fear and misinformation about the keto diet comes from a misunderstanding of ketosis itself. Medical experts confuse nutritional ketosis with diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes where ketones are produced rapidly, overwhelming the body’s acid-base buffering system. However, when done under proper supervision, a keto diet will not lead to such life-threatening complications.
Keto and bone mass density: Some critics claim that keto diets hinder bone mass density. However, I like to point out that that illnesses like obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and inflammation (the very things keto diets improve) actually increase your risk for fracture and poor bone health. So by improving your overall health, the keto diet may actually help improve your bone health too.
Keto diets and your thyroid: There is a rumor out that the keto diet is bad for your thyroid. However, I have not been able to find research that indicates that the keto diet causes or makes thyroid issues worse. Although traditionally T₃ is lower in people on a keto diet, that doesn’t mean they have hypothyroidism, and it may actually provide benefits like preventing muscle loss.
Where do I stand?
Despite the criticism, I’ve seen real and long-term results from the keto diet – especially in using the keto diets to help fight chronic health conditions. The keto diet can be confusing and overwhelming at first, but I’ve found that once my patients get into the swing of things and see results, keto becomes much easier. They understand what foods to eat and avoid and their cravings and hunger disappear. When my patients start losing weight or notice some painful or uncomfortable symptoms go away, they feel great, have more energy and want to keep up with the keto diet!
My primary concern in traditional keto diets is acidosis, which occurs when the body retains too much acid. From my experience, eating too many acid-forming foods on a keto diet, as well as the potential for dehydration and nausea can be the cause. For this reason, I strongly encourage my patients who are adopting a keto diet to incorporate a variety of plant-based alkaline foods, which will balance out the acid. This balance of acid can improve bone health, reduce muscle wasting, increase in growth hormone, increase magnesium levels and reduce the likelihood of chronic disease. You can learn more about my Keto-Green®diet here.
Ultimately, I believe the benefits of the keto diet, with some minor modifications, outweigh the potential side effects in most cases. Most of the problems people have with keto diets are practical and can be fixed easily. One study using keto diets for epilepsy found that dehydration was the biggest problem. Patients also complained about nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. However, most of these complications were temporary, and doctors could help solve the problem while keeping the patient on the diet. Additionally, although some nutrient deficiencies (selenium, vitamin D as well as acidosis) can be of concern on the keto diet,  they can be remedied by eating plenty of fiber-rich plant-based foods or by taking a quality multivitamin. Keeping hydrated and well nourished, as well as regular check-ins with your doctor, are extra important, especially as you begin the transition to the keto diet.
So, at the end of the day, we can agree that there’s not just one perfect solution to health. However, a keto diet, with some tweaking and careful monitoring MAY be the answer to several common health conditions. The potential is there for this diet to change your life for the better if you’re willing to take a slow and careful approach to changing your eating habits and lifestyle. The keto diet is certainly worth considering, especially if you are like Margaret, and have been struggling with health conditions that are difficult to treat.
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