Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Diets: Atkins, Lutz, Low-Carb, Paleo, Ketogenic…

Attention conservation notice: I will focus in this post on the ketogenic diet, and whether it helped me (spoiler: it did not help me). I will try to focus on the other diets in some future posts, when I find the energy.

During some time early in summer 2010 I started to feel like I was going to die. Maybe not the next day. Maybe not the next month. But maybe in some of the next years, not too far away, I felt I would become an ex-parrot not too far in the future. And if my illness wouldn't put me down, I would have done so myself.

Health problems of mine, that weren't good since my youth, took a turn for the worse. My energy level took a steady dive. Caffeine was the only thing that kept me going through day after day, and only barely. I needed two hours to get out of bed.

Then new symptoms started to appear.

First there was a "pressurized feeling" in the back, whenever I got stressed. This pressure was on both sides, localized, not broad, where I would suspect the kidneys are. After a month or two, this "kidney pressure" during stress" turned into "kidney pain" during stress. Very focal pain. Not too strong, but very nasty pain. Might have been the adrenals.

Now I know that I have primary adrenal insufficiency, the real kind, confirmed through two salvia tests and an ACTH stimulation test – not too "strong", mind you, my luck I can't even get a full blown primary adrenal insufficiency. So the "kidney pain" back then might have been adrenal pain. And adrenal insufficiency explains some of my symptoms, but not all.

Anyway, back to summer 2010. The adrenal pain wasn't the only new thing. Strange feelings on the skin. Very unpleasant skin sensations, that made it difficult to touch e.g. a trackpad.

I initially took a "psychosomatic" view of my ailments. I am not motivated to get out of bed in the morning. I am stressing myself too much. The pain is psychosomatic response to pain. All that bullshit.

I really tried hard to battle my problems from an idealistic position. Aided by the people I were with at that time, who had an explicit idealistic position when it came to health.

As if pain wasn't a real warning sign for bodily problems, as if it could be "willed away".

Anyhow, while I managed to manage some details, most of my symptoms got worse. Steadily. Downwards. Something else had to be done.

Little did I know about humans and illnesses back then. But I knew a little bit about type 1 Diabetes, have heard of type 2 Diabetes, of obesity, of "metabolic syndrome". So I looked into nutrition. Stumbled across Wolfgang Lutz and his book "Life Without Bread" ("Leben Ohne Brot"), and stumbled across Robert Atkins and his diet. Both are about reducing carbs, and as the regulation of carbs/insulin is broken in Diabetes, reducing carbs might be a good idea, I thought. (Today I know that an optimal diet is probably closer to an Paleo diet, and that carbs are not bad in general, but rather some foods containing carbs – like grains and dairy – are probably to blame for health problems)

As I felt I was going to die some time sooner that later anyway, I ignored all the well-meaning warnings about these diets ("You need grains! Blah blah!") and gave it a shot.

And what can I say, my health improve. Improved fast. Improved markedly. Symptoms waned and faded away. I got energy in the morning, to get out of bed soon after waking up. I started to feel like a human being for the first time in my life, not a sack of flesh dragging myself through life.

One of the predictions Atkins made was that his diet would be ketogenic, and that is what this ketogenic property that helped the body heal. And sure enough, when I meassured the so called ketones with ketosticks, sure enough the diet was ketogenic.

But the ketogenic property of the diet faded away, as Atkins predicted – the ketosticks confirmed it. And with the ketones faded the energy.

The good thing that with a Paleo diet a considerable share of the health problems stayed away for good – but my energy levels were in the gutter again.

So for some time I had the idea that I need to get back into a ketogenic state to get my energy back. It took me some time until I tried an shot at an proper ketogenic diet. Ketogenic diets are a bit demanding, as you need to reduce carbs and increase fat consumption, increase fat consumption massively.

So I tried a ketogenic diet, to get back to an ketogenic state. And lo and behold, with some considerable effort I was able to get my ketones up. Measurable up.

Unfortunately, the positive health effects, that I had the first time my ketones were up, that positive  health effects did not return with the ketones.

So I have to report a negative result with regards an effect of an ketogenic diet to my illness (whatever that illness is).

As a note, I have heard that the ketogenic diet might be useful for other illness (like epilepsy and migraines). Good information on ketogenic diet can be found at the Perfect Health Diet blog – don't expect too much though: Your milage may vary; A Paleo diet helped me to some considerable degree, but a ketogenic diet did not improve above that.

What I can recommend is to experiment with an Paleo diet, and to be careful not to attribute health problems to one certain product too fast ("my X is caused by Y!").

As an example: To test the influence of e.g. dairy on your health, you need to get rid of all dairy for at least a month (even milk-chocolate!), then reintroduce dairy (make a "challenge"), see the effects (if any), then go dairy free again for at least two weeks, to repeat the challenge once more. Only if after two or three challenges you see consistent results, then you can say that the problems are caused by dairy. You could (and should!) repeat this with other foods, like grains (bread, cereal), or with potatoes.

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