With each passing year, it seems the likelihood that we will experience cancer in our lives grows. And while pharmaceutical interventions are going from strength to strength, their side effects cannot be ignored. More and more people are looking towards Nature for the answers. It’s no secret that our diet and lifestyle has a huge impact on our health and healing capabilities. And now, a new diet claims to prevent, manage and even reverse the disease. Let’s take a look at the ketogenic diet and explore its properties—is it as good as it seems?
What is a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat (90%), moderate to low protein (8%), and very low carbohydrate (2%) diet. In terms of calorie intake, it is similar to other diets—the main difference is the focus on fat consumption rather than carbohydrates, which forces the body to burn fat instead of glucose for energy.
So, what does a typical day on a ketogenic diet look like? Simply put, you’re allowed plenty of healthy fats, low-carb vegetables, and organic protein.
- Coconut oil
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
Low Carb Veg:
- Collard greens
- Free range poultry
- Grass-fed beef
- Raw organic dairy (full fat)
- Fermented dairy (like kefir)
- Fish and seafood
Your Body on the Ketogenic Diet
When you’re on a ketogenic diet, your body goes into ketosis. Because it doesn’t receive any carbohydrates or sugar, your body does not have enough glucose to use as energy, so it uses molecules called ketones, which are generated during fat metabolism, for fuel.
Ketogenic Diet and Cancer
From as early as 1987, scientists have demonstrated the positive effects of the ketogenic diet on cancer. A recent study shows that this diet reduces tumor growth and improves the survival rates from malignant glioma (brain or spinal tumor), colon cancer, gastric cancer, and prostate cancer. Fasting, which also induces a state of ketosis, enhances cells’ responsiveness to chemotherapy and bypasses some of the usual side effects from traditional cancer treatment. A quality of life study in patients with advanced cancer found that a ketogenic diet improves emotional functioning and reduces insomnia, without any significant adverse side effects.
You might be wondering how this can be possible. After all, we’re often told that a high-fat diet is bad for the body. To see why a ketogenic diet can starve cancer, we need to know more about cancerous cells. Did you know that cancer cells need glucose to survive? Unlike normal cells, which can thrive using cellular respiration, cancer cells feed off glucose and the amino acid glutamine. In fact, in the last 60 years studies have demonstrated the importance of glucose in tumor survival and metastasis. By severely restricting the amount of carbohydrate you eat, you effectively starve the cancer cells of glucose, their preferred food.
Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy
But the ketogenic diet’s benefits do not stop there. In the early 20th century, fasting and high fat diets were used to help cases of extreme epilepsy. More recently, a study from the University College London has demonstrated that the ketogenic diet has a clear positive effect in controlling childhood seizures. Of the 54 patients in the diet group, 61% experienced significant reductions in seizures compared to 8% of patients in the control group. What’s more, after consuming the diet for 6 months, there was no evidence of adverse effects on childhood cognition or social adaptation.
The ketogenic diet has also been applied in the treatment of glucose transporter defects, obesity, and multiple metabolic disorders. A growing body of evidence suggests the diet may be beneficial in treating other neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. And if that wasn’t enough, some studies show improvement in patients with autism, depression and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Because of the low carbohydrate content, this diet is a good option for diabetics, as it reduces overall blood glucose levels and improves blood sugar control. It can also help you lose weight, especially if your usual diet consists mostly of processed foods and sugar. Eating a lot of healthy fats helps you feel more satisfied, so overeating is not usually a concern on the ketogenic diet—you don’t need to count calories, and you won’t be tempted to snack between meals.
Keto Side Effects
With all these amazing benefits, it’s little wonder the ketogenic diet has become the new “it” diet. But it does have a few side effects you may want to watch out for:
- Lethargy, nausea, and vomiting due to intolerance to high fat foods, especially in children.
- Hypoglycemia due to low carbohydrate intake.
- Gastrointestinal discomfort due to low fiber and/or high fat intake.
- Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
- Increased risk of renal damage or kidney stones due to too much protein.
- Decreased growth (decreased levels of insulin-like growth factor–1) and progressive bone mineral content loss.
- Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
- Increased risk of ketoacidosis (lack of insulin in the body) in diabetic patients.
It should be noted that the majority of these side effects can be prevented or corrected by taking vitamin supplements, ensuring you eat plenty of low-carb vegetables, and using oral potassium citrate to decrease the risk of kidney stones.
While chemotherapy and other pharmaceutical treatments have gone from strength to strength in recent years, they still bear a heavy burden of devastating side effects, and aren’t always effective. The ketogenic diet is a natural, gentle alternative that can help treat brain disorders, reduce blood sugar levels and even starve cancer cells. Why not give it a try?
Speak to a medical practitioner before making any drastic changes to your usual diet.