Today is day 22 of a keto protocol I embarked on with the intention of a) reducing inflammation in my body, b) rebalancing my out-of-whack digestive system, and c) hopefully to encourage some positive change in the pain I am getting with my monthly period.
I am a healthy human; I take exuberantly good care of my mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing - there is no reason that I should be having the issues that I am having around food, and yet, I am. I've tried a lot of modalities around eating in my lifetime; everything from vegetarianism, low-fat, paleo, elimination diets, master cleanses, juice cleanses, mostly raw diets, all cooked diets, candidiasis protocol, and the list goes on. Part of me is curious, as a holistic nutrition coach, to see how different ideologies reacts within my body, and the other part of me is seeking for the 'thing' that works well for me.
Here is what I know for sure:
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a poisonous and heavily addictive diet that is making us fat, sick, and brain dead. The SAD is a pathway paved directly into the arms of dis-ease. It is a diet that is filled with 'food-like-substances', and void of whole-foods. The diet we eat in the developed world is high in refined sugars, way too many carbohydrates (both good qualities ones + poor qualities ones), poor quality inflammatory fats, food additives, pesticides, food colourings and artificial sweeteners. Most of the shit we eat, we can not even pronounce, let alone do we know what it is, where it comes from, or what impact it has on our bodies. We are so used to eating "food" that is not recognizable by mother earth (aka: it's not food), that we do not even know it's unnatural and it's literally killing us.
A small disclaimer before I tell you my experience:
I work as Holistic Nutrition Coach, I see many, many humans who come from many, many walks of life. We have different goals, genes, preferences. We live in different climates, have different values, and are at different stages of life. What works for one will not work for all. While I do believe that the SAD is a bullshit, die-ease promoting diet for all of us, I do not believe that the path to wellness is a single path. So what I share in this blog is simply my own experience, based on my own body. We must cultivate curiously and rely on a combo of self-knowledge, intuition, and professional help (doctors, naturopaths, psychologists, nutrition coaches etc.) to find the path that works the best for self.
The keto protocol has been an eye-opener for me:
I grew up in a health-conscious family, and from my earliest memories, I adored wellness; I have always been interested in food, the mind, and the potential we hold to our own health. And with all of that being said, I was still a full-blown sugar addict all.of.my.life. This had not really become clear to me until these past 22 days when I have given myself a true break from all sugar (including honey, maple, fruits, and even too many veggies).
My reflections, memories + experiences around sugar:
As a child I loved candy; I could not get enough bags of 5 cent candies, I remember being an ice-cream-aholic, and a Slurpee addict. Yes, I ate my veggies. Yes, I was more healthy than the 'average person'. Yes, I had good parents who had the education, passion, and access to good quality foods. Yes, I have good genes that make most people wonder why I care about these matters. And YES, I still craved, needed, had to have... sugar.
As an adult, I studied Nutrition in post-secondary schooling, and so I began to have a much more clear idea about the science behind why sugar is so bad for us. Naturally, at that time I gave up refined sugar, mostly (I went from weekly bouts of candy binges, too weekend only candy binges).
I must not fail to mention that there was a small habit being formed as a young adult that turned into a full-blown addiction: alcoholism. For anyone reading this that does not know, alcohol is the most refined sugar we can put into our bodies; I was drinking every.single.weekend (if not more).
In my late 20's I went back to school to study Holistic Nutrition, and it was there that I discovered why I had suffered from a horrible stomach ache and extraordinary mood swings all of my life: food allergens. In 2013 I discovered that gluten, dairy, and egg were culprits. The candy had to go, the ice cream and Slurpees were eliminated. And for the 1st time, I was truly "refined sugar-free", (note: not at all alcohol free), by this point I was a super clean eater, I was consuming lots of good quality fats, I was busy working on rebalancing my gut, and eating lots (and lots, and LOTS) of veggies. I had more knowledge and experience in wellness than ever before. I was drinking fresh juice, crafting delightful elixirs, learning all about fungi and ferments. I had rekindled my relationship with cooking, I was in love with my human body, and I was beginning to truly understand what wellness meant.
And yet, I still had symptoms.
I was having blood sugar crashed all day every day. I would leave my house with my bag packed full of snacks - always - because I would have a drop in blood sugar and become 'hangry', irritable, anxious and shakey. But.... 'Small Frequent Meals', that's what we have been taught; I mean that's even what I have been taught as a Nutrition Coach to teach.
On some level, it seemed 'normal' to have to feed myself numerous times throughout the day.
Then came the day that I found myself in a 12 step meeting (December 27, 2016) and I gave up booze; I was blown away to see what happened to the sugar cravings for me. I ceased having mere cravings (which were never so 'mere', and always so intense), I started to need it. I had to have treats and kombucha daily, I was eating copious amounts of fruits. I had become a slave to sugar, and I was oblivious to it (or in denial). At the time, however, it was better than booze and drugs, and so I left it unaddressed (and I'm glad I did - one thing at a time is really important when we make big life changes!).
Meanwhile, symptoms are worsening for me:
My periods are out-of-control-painful.
I am not lessening the number of food sensitivities, but rather, they are increasing.
My digestion is always a mess, my tummy hurts, I am bloated.
The doc suspects potentially MTFHR (look it up, too much for this blog post), or potentially an auto-immune response.... either way, it's not radiant wellness, and that is my goal.
And so, this was where the keto came in.
22 days into this protocol, with a net Carb allowance of around 19-25 carbs/day, means that I have had zero sugar. No raw treats. No kombucha. No dates, or fruits, or high sugar veggies. I have spent my time focusing on enormous amounts of fat, moderate amounts of protein, and good quality veggies with low net-carbohydrate count (net carbs mean total carbs minus fibre).
This break from sugar has given me the ability to see the hold it had over me - all of my life.
I am experiencing positive effects from keto:
- My blood sugar is stable -- not one time in 22 days have I crashed, felt physical symptoms of anxiety (from a lack of food), experienced hanger, or got the "I need a snack shakes".
- I am not having enormous food cravings; yes, the start of this protocol I had some odd stuff come up - like the need for a fillet-o-fish (I have not had one of those since I was a wee kid), but mostly the cravings are disappearing. And when a craving does show up, it does not yank me into a place of choiceless-have-to-scratch-the-itch-demand, instead, it's sorta like thoughts attached to a helium balloon that comes into my vision and then floats away. It's weird. It's quite freeing.
- I do not have crashes that make me 'need.to.get.food.now.or.someone.will.die'; instead, I eat a well balanced, high fat, healthy meal and I am full for hours at a time. Once hunger does appear, it's a slight alert system to my body and it gives me ample time to respond, there is no panic.
- The anxiety is lessening substantially - this was one of the 1st things I noticed.
- I am intermittent fasting, something I could not have done on my 6 meals/day higher carb lifestyle.
- I am loving eating this way. I love consuming this much fat (I am currently on about 167g fat/day which is about 1500 cals just in fat) and I am getting in from all sorts of great places: Avocado, MCT oil, coconut cream, coconut butter, high-fat meats, duck fat, cacao butter, and ghee.
- I have to track all food's and be careful to eat enough, as fat loss and weight loss is not at all my goal.
That's the super sparkly side of keto, for me.
The 'dark side' of keto:
For whatever reason, I have had a shit storm of a fight to get into the rhythm of this; I suspect the reasons why has to do with the ideas that this protocol is doing what it should be, and I am detoxing - which is a good thing because according to my doc and, my blood work, I am super high in histamine and my detox pathways are not working well. The 1st week on this new way of eating I had the "keto-flu", and it hit me hard. I had what felt like a migraine headache for days upon days. I was aching, enormously tired, and I could barely see straight.
I was thirsty af, and still am. I am combatting this with so-many-electrolytes (homemade blends, lemon + sea salt, vega electrolytes, bone broth, etc)
I struggled to get into ketosis, even though I was tracking my macros and eating exactly as I should. I combatted this by lowering the amount of protein I am consuming and upping the amount of fat. It worked, and I have been in ketosis for a few weeks now.
About 4 days ago I discovered a rash all across my breasts and on my back -- low and behold, there is a thing called the "keto-rash", and although they say it's rare, I am one of the luckies who get to experience it. Basically, its s symmetrical rash all over my back, chest, and armpits, and its red, and itchy, and not-that-attractive. Some speculate that it is caused by ketones, or candidiasis die-off, or histamine, Some say it's simply a side-effect for some of us who go into ketosis. I'm not too sure, but I am waiting it out, taking black cumin oil internally as well as rubbing it on the rash.
While there has been some definite side effects, the benefits, for me, are far outweighing the pain-in-the-ass pieces of this protocol.
Of all of this, the thing I am loving the most is the blissful reconnection I am feeling to food + nutrition. I am diving deep into this - reading all I can, researching, listening to podcasts, checking in with my body, having deep nutrition talks with my holistic nutrition coach friends + clients alike. This is the work I love more than anything - the work of wellness, the work of combining knowledge of the body, to the innate wisdom of intuition, to the magical world of Mother Earth into a customized personal ritual of self-care.
THANK YOU for being here, for sharing your journey with me + allowing me to share mine with you.
Below are a few resources that I have really loved for you to check out.
Bullet Proof Coffee:
has been a staple in my morning routine. I drink one of these when I wake up, and then I do not normally eat my 1st meal until about 10am. The bullet proof I have been making has been with coconut butter (although you could use grass fed butter or ghee) + XCT oil (although MCT oil or coconut oil will do fine!). I made my coffee using a chaga tea base (although regular water for regular coffee it 100% a-ok!)
1-2 cups coffee
1 tablespoon XCT oil
1 tablespoon coconut butter
Add all ingredients into the blender
Add all ingredients to a blender & blend until smooth + creamy.
- The Castaway Kitchen - the most amazing Vanilla Tahini Keto Fudge - (plus this woman is pretty rad!)
- The Keto Diet Podcast by Leanne Vogel of Healthful Pursuit has some sweet, easy to understand interviews
- Joe Rogan interviews Dr. Dom D'Agostino - it's episode #994 (download it or listen on youtube here).
- David Asprey ( I love this man! How work is wonderful. I love his books, his podcast and all of his products! Big fan) click here to hear him interview Dr. Dom D'Agostino on youtube, or you can download episode #85.
- KETO NUTRITION is Dr. Dom D'Agostino's website, this man is seriously a genius.