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What is the Keto Diet? - An Interview with Dr. Emil and Amanda Tocci

by Amanda Tocci

Dr. Emil and Amanda Tocci were interviewed again by power woman, attorney and wellness enthusiast Bring Your Own Kombucha! Read the interview below featuring Dr. Emil and Amanda discussing the nutrition science and benefits of ketosis! Learn how incorporateing a high fat, low carb (modified keto) diet along with intermittent fasting as part of our health routine has numerous health benefits!

Let’s start with the basics. What is the “KETO” diet?

Amanda: It’s a way of eating that focuses on consuming a macronutrient ratio that is low in carbs and high in fat in order to shift your body into utilizing fat and ketones as it’s primary source of energy.  So its consuming a lot of healthy fats and minimizing foods that are high in sugar and starch to eliminate glucose.

So what are the benefits of following a Ketogenic diet?

Amanda: There are many health benefits such as reduced inflammation, hormone regulation, blood sugar regulation, fat loss,   improved memory and cognition. When eating a primarily fat based diet, it helps shut off hunger hormones and cravings which helps with weight management. You begin to burn fat as fuel.

Dr.Emil: Ketosis also increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA and antioxidant levels. Ketosis protects our brains from oxidative stress.  The most fascinating benefit is how keto relates to cancer.  Our body’s cells can survive on fat or sugar for an energy source but cancer cells can only survive on sugar for fuel.  Cancer cells lack certain enzymes preventing cancer from using ketones as an energy source.  There are many studies suggesting that the ketogenic diet can be an effective in fighting cancer along with other diseases and disorders.

Sounds like a diet worth trying. But what are the cons of the KETO diet?

Amanda: Initially, people starting out may not feel that good, get a headache or have lower energy and a bit of brain fog. It’s an adjustment to have your body go from burning glucose for energy to burning fat. Since many toxins are stored in your fat cells, they get released and your energy goes to your liver to process and get rid of the toxins. You may also notice your breath may not smell pleasant. While you can take supplements that can help bind toxins such as activated charcoal, this period is short and temporary before your body adjusts and starts feeling the benefits of being in ketosis.

Dr.Emil: Also, drastically increasing the fat consumption in your diet can impact your gastrointestinal state and not everyone can tolerate that.  A small percentage of the population may have elevated blood triglycerides where the body isn’t burning fat as it should but most people see a decrease in triglyceride levels because of the suppression of the insulin hormone.  So essentially blood fats go down from eating more fats.

Here’s what I really want to know – can you do the KETO diet in conjunction with Intermittent Fasting?

Amanda: Yes, an advanced diet strategy is to incorporate intermittent fasting as a way to cycle in and out of ketosis to get the health benefits of both.  Similar to IF, the keto diet has been used for decades! Our ancestors would go through periods of fasting when hunting for food and during that time their bodies would go into a natural ketogenic state. Eating a keto diet mimics the metabolic state of fasting which provides amazing health benefits as well as weight loss.

Dr.Emil: Many people adopt a diet protocol of fasting and ketosis for healing benefits. Fasting, or extreme carbohydrate restriction (to about 20 grams a day), puts people into ketosis where the body starts to burn it’s own fat for fuel. This happens when the liver breaks down fatty acids to make ketones. When your body is metabolizing ketones instead of glucose, you get more clean energy while also burning fat.

So who should not be trying out the ketogenic diet? Pregnant women? Diabetics? 

Dr.Emil: The diet isn’t for everyone. Specifically if someone is pregnant or has a health condition, it’s always best to see a trained practitioner when trying any new changes to your diet.  Also, it’s important for women to monitor how they feel when adopting a new eating strategy due to their increased hormone sensitivity compared to men.

Amanda: It’s important to recognize that a keto diet is a metabolic therapy and a person’s response to the diet can vary based on their personal health profile and current lifestyle.  So if interested, I recommend that someone begins with a modified version of the diet and monitors how they are feeling.

So what can you eat on the Keto diet? 

Amanda: When doing keto, good quality fats are key. Coconut oil, MCT oil, grassfed butter, Ghee, olive oil (unheated), avocado, all are wonderful sources. Great protein sources with healthy fats are eggs (yolks are the best), grassfed beef/lamb, wild salmon and nuts. For the carb portion, eating veggies is first choice. In fact, adding a fat source like grassfed butter to broccoli for example makes the polyphenols in the broccoli more bioavailable. Polyphenols need to be combined with Fat in order for your body to absorb them.

Can you do the Keto diet long term?

Dr.Emil: Eating a high fat low carb diet is essential in maintaining good health. While there are many health benefits to being in ketosis, you don’t want to do it all of the time with no interruptions in that eating cycle. It can have an impact on increased cortisol levels and can damage your thyroid. Some glucose is necessary for cells to optimally function. I recommend carb cycling for diet variation.  With anything, it’s always imperative to be mindful to not do things in excess.

If I wanted to learn more about the Keto diet, what books should I read?

Amanda: “Keto Diet and Metabolic Therapies” and “Keto Clarity” are good books that explains the science behind the eating strategy.

Dr.Emil: Keto for Cancer is a great book as well. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino is an incredible resource. He is known for his extensive research in the Keto space and is an expert who has been in many publications. Dr. Richard Veech’s work is great, he is the Senior Researcher and Laboratory Chief at The National Institute of Health and is an expert on ketosis as well.

Any other thoughts about the Keto diet you would like to share?

Amanda: With the increased popularity of the keto diet and keto foods, it’s easy to follow the trend without understanding the science behind it and how it works within the human body.  It’s important to know the ratios of carbohydrates, fats and proteins that can be consumed on a keto diet.  For example, if someone is consuming too much protein instead of fat, it can be the limiting factor that inhibits someone in achieving nutritional ketosis.

Dr.Emil: It’s difficult to know when you are in actual nutritional ketosis unless you measure it via blood or urine testing. We find that blood is the most accurate way and check to see if we are in ketosis by ensuring our blood ketones are between 0.5-5.

There are a variety of factors involved in the keto-adaptation process and properly following the diet successfully. Before jumping in I recommend doing more research, consulting with a doctor with a strong background in Physiology and nutrition science and then deciding if this is right for you.

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