When restriction is unhealthy

Published 1.11.2017
This piece was inspired by this rant, which is considers the stupidity of following a ketogenic (keto) diet if there's no need to do so and it affects your health negatively. I don’t always agree with this woman, but in this case she says what needs to be said, and as a member of the low carb club maybe more people will listen.

There can be severe side effects to a keto diet, every bit as bad or worse as other restrictive eating regimes. This remains the most mystifying thing to me, why people severely restrict anything when they don’t need to. And as I have discussed how I chose to severely restrict my own intake of lactose and gluten in response to gut issues, I suppose this is as apt a time as any to acknowledge that I have relaxed some of those restrictions now that my bowel has settled down. I still can’t do milk, but I do eat more cheeses. I still don’t eat a lot of gluten and remain gluten free in my own home, but when I’m out now, I don’t stress about it, and will even eat a small amount from a communal bread basket— or the homemade bread my mother in-law puts on my plate at breakfast— if that is the more polite thing to do.
Read the rest.
Occasionally these challenges to my gut have adverse consequences, and I adjust accordingly. But as I had irritable bowel syndrome*, not celiac’s, minimizing gluten (note the verb there, I never made the strenuous effort required to be perfectly gluten free because I did not need to do so) was a choice not a necessity. A choice that has paid off, as five years later I’m able to begin eating less restrictively. I still maintain that going gluten free is not dangerous in the least, and certainly does not mean that nutrient intake needs to suffer. It does mean that I’ve eaten less ultra-processed food in the past four years, and there is no downside really to that.

There is no drug or treatment the doctor (as he himself admitted) could provide that would settle my gut down. Altering my eating habits did so. I regret nothing, and would suggest this plan of action to anyone else suffering as I did. It may not work for you, but it hurts nothing and costs little to give it a try. Note: it cost little for me because I was willing to cook for myself. My situation is not everyone’s.

Getting back to the topic, the author particularly notes that women are usually the ones who suffer when going keto. This does not surprise me at all. I think these long term low carbers/keto fools are messing up their thyroids and endocrine systems eating this absurdly restrictive diet. That’s my opinion, worth every penny you paid to read it. Women need carbs, especially during child bearing years. And eating 80% fat is never a good idea absent some specific condition such as epilepsy— and even in that case, keto is only a short term treatment.

Any kind of diet that leaves you feeling less than your best should be changed. If dropping gluten hadn’t helped, I wouldn’t have stuck to it as I have. The rest of my family didn’t notice any improvement and soon resumed eating gluten. We stay mostly gluten free at home because I do the bulk of the cooking— and because baking gluten free means that we eat more legumes, which is always a good thing. Making fresh bread and fresh pasta with legumes tastes pretty much the same as those made with wheat flour and is the only way my son will eat beans. Black beans also make a tasty brownie, which he will also eat. I see no downside to these substitutions.

So she implores young, lean, athletic people who feel like shit on keto to just stop— numerous times in fact. Knowing how upset this was going to make keto fanatics, she also wisely disabled comments.

All low carb is not keto, but all keto is low carb. She defines low carb as 100g of carbs or less per day, but there is no standard definition— which is part of the problem. My diet on some days would qualify under that definition, but I am never in ketosis.

She’s not a LCHF fan (low carb high fat). But she is a fan of diets lower in carbohydrates. There’s a difference in not limiting fat and adding fat to a diet. The definition of keto:

A diet formulated to have a ratio of approximately 3:1 or 4:1 of fat to combined protein and carbs.

That’s the medically defined diet. “keto diets” as popularly used are similar, but basically are whatever the hack touting them says it is.

MTKD:  Very low carb, very high fat, reduced protein
KD:  Very low carb, moderate fat & protein, or “adequate” protein, adjustable fat
LCD:  Lower carb than standard diet, but not always as low as ketogenic; adequate protein, no particular emphasis on fat loading. (Emphasis on low carb, rather than high fat.)

So what’s the problem? Electrolyte imbalance. Keto diets stress the kidneys and alter their function.

sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Signs & symptoms pointing to a need for more of these include fatigue, headaches, lethargy, leg cramps, edema or swelling/fluid retention (especially in the lower legs), and maybe even nausea and lightheadedness.

Eating green leafy vegetables (and fruit) would solve these issue tout suite. But even so supplements are still needed… meaning… IT’S NOT A HEALTHY DIET— that is, as I define the term "healthy diet." I'm aware that plenty of people (particularly vegans) would take issue with this definition.

Keto diets can be used to manage symptoms of various conditions… but that doesn’t mean healthy people should follow them. None of the blue zones are keto. Higher ketone levels are not necessary and may not be healthier. That’s a direct comment on Jimmy Moore’s current scam. Coconut oil apparently raises ketone levels even if you don’t restrict carbs. I didn’t know that.

Ketones are a byproduct of burning fat, they don’t drive the process. And they (per Carbsane) create more waste products in the reaction that then have to be deal with. Carbs burn cleaner. Carbs are the better fuel, therefore.

Basically, she’s saying if you’re obese, you need to be LCLF— In other words the original Paleo™, which was low carb and low fat. People gain fat while eating a keto diet— she’s done it herself— but only when eating in caloric excess. The fact is that not everyone is satiated by a high fat diet. And if you’re a “volume” eater, LCHF is the WORST diet you could choose. The WORST. Actually, she doesn’t say LCLF, she says just don’t add extra fat. Eat natural foods that have high fat content, but don’t eat sticks of butter or drink olive oil. (or coconut oil).

CALORIES MATTER. AND THE BODY DOES “SEE” AND RECOGNIZE THEM. (That's a J. Stanton reference— who is (was?) one of the more ignorant low carbers out there, however he’s stopped writing in recent years.)

IT’S THE CALORIES, STUPID. If eating LC keeps calorie intake low and health is not affected, go for it. But in the end, it’s the energy balance that matters. That’s the fact.

* My doctor's definition of irritable bowel syndrome amounted to, "You have the runs daily, but we don't know what to do about it." And that's about as TMI as I'm going to get. It's easy to understate how much better life is with the whole thing resolved.

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