My ketogenic diet with a difference

Beautiful Kale

Beautiful Kale

Let's talk food, diets, eating programs/plan.  I really don't like the word diet and try not to use it too often.  One definition of diet is "the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats."  I'm actually okay with that definition.  There's no negative association there.  Here's another, "a special course of food to which a person restricts themselves, either to lose weight or for medical reasons."  I'm not as fussed on this one and it's the restriction part that makes me baulk in this definition.  Plus it's often associated with weight loss.  I prefer to say "eating program/plan", which I know could also be considered to be the same as a diet but it has less negative connotations, well, in my mind anyway.  I may use the word diet throughout though because it's just easier and I'm hoping you know it's not about weight loss when applying this term to myself.

So, on the Kultured Wellness gut healing program, I'm following quite a strict ketogenic diet for an approximate amount of time (about six months, with an adapted version from there).  It isn't your typical keto diet but takes into account other aspects such as healing the gut, removing pathogens such as candida and parasites plus also reducing inflammation.  What I'm focusing on is the vast array of beautiful foods I can eat to help in this healing and sealing of the GIT (gastrointestinal tract).  I think that is always what needs to be the focus when you're changing how you eat.  Simply focus on what you CAN eat.  Full stop.  Have a list of the most beneficial foods and prepare wonderfully tasty meals that nourish your body from those ingredients.  Forget about other food for the time being.  I know there are many of us out there who also like to feed our emotions.  This is often the hardest part when adjusting to a new eating program that you've likely initially come to for physical health reasons.  The mind has cravings too and can be hard to resist.  We have habits and rituals in place around food and it's important to replace these with other healthful habits to help get us through potentially tough periods.  Think exercise, meditation, journalling, chatting with a close friend, creative outlets, taking out the sweet stuff and adding in some fat, as fat is satiating. Work out what works for you and try it on for a bit.  If that doesn't continue to work, introduce another healthful habit and just keep trying.  Our urges tend to be fleeting.  If you can sit with the urge and resist it, your ability to resist in future will only get stronger.  It's like working a muscle.

A ketogenic diet's main focus is low carb and high fat.  Don't confuse this with the Aitkin's Diet from the 1990s though which seemed to have a focus on low carb, high protein and moderate fat.  If done properly, the ketogenic diet has a focus on low carbs, high (good) fats and moderate protein (as is recommended in a standard diet anyway).  Just to be clear, this isn't a diet with a focus on high protein.  Yes, protein is essential, it's broken down in our body to amino acids which are then formed into other beneficial proteins within our body for structural and functional purposes.  Too much protein will be converted to glucose via the process of gluconeogenesis and if the glucose isn't needed as energy for the cells then will be stored in our adipose (fat) tissue.  Too many carbs will do the same.  Hence, the focus on fat.  Our bodies are miraculous and dynamic, being able to derive energy from fat if there's no glucose on board.  Our brain needs fat in order to function.  When we eat fats, our bodies break that fat down into ketones, just like sugars are broken down into glucose.  Both ketones and glucose can be used as an energy source by the body and the brain.  In times prior to agriculture, when food was harder to come by, people didn't have the excessive amount of carbs that are available these days and therefore in leaner times the body was able to run from excess fat stores which were increased during times of excess.  These days it's all about excess really.  In our western society, there is so much excess that our bodies are going into shock and chronic disease is at an all time high in both adults and kids alike.  We have an emotional connection to the food and our bodies are addicted to food that has been tested excessively in science food labs to find that sweet spot of sugar and (unhealthy) fat.  It's a difficult habit to break when big food businesses are trying their darnedest to keep you hooked on their "gear".

The ketogenic eating program I'm following does more than increase good fats and reduce carbs.  One of the main focus is vegetables.  Lots of leafy green, sulphurous vegetables.  This is where I'm getting my carbs and fibre from.  They're extremely alkalising and supportive of the liver and our detox pathways.  I'm probably eating 7-9 cups of vegetables a day.  I'm also fermenting fruit such as bananas and berries to eat with my coconut yoghurt or I'm adding fresh fruit to ferment with my kefir.  I'm fermenting fruit to reduce sugars but still consuming it to benefit from all the amazing antioxidants and phytochemicals. You may be wondering why I'm reducing sugars, and carbs too.  Well, for one, I have parasites , a strep overgrowth and also potentially a candida overgrowth.  These pathogens and opportunistic bacteria and yeast love sugar, so instead of giving them what they love, I'm depriving them of that during the course of the program.  This makes my gut less hospitable to them and they vacate with the help of enemas, other detox tools, supplements and herbal cleanses.  Will I continue eating in this way after I finish the program?  I am going to listen to my body which is what we should all be doing.  Having a reset like this is a wonderful way to cut out all the crap and just eat real food.  As we add new food back in we will have become more in tune with our bodies and the messages they're sending us.  At this time it will be really important to listen and perhaps wait a bit longer to reintroduce certain foods.  But I am getting way ahead of myself.  I've been following this way of eating for 2 months and I have to say, it's actually getting easier rather than harder.  I have 4 more months of the program left with reintroduction of foods obviously occurring towards the end.  I'm looking forward to this process as a learning experience and experiment as it's not really something I've done before and given the right amount of attention to.  What wonderful learnings will present themselves to me I wonder?!  I'm already learning so much and enjoying the whole experience, even when feeling bad because that is part of it and I will be able to put myself in my future clients' shoes.

Back to the here and now, I am eating a wonderful array of food.  Mostly cooked, often slow cooked, fermented fruits and vegetables (never raw), fresh vegetables (cooked), olives, fish, meat, eggs, pate, broth, coconut yoghurt, kefir, flavoured kefir and yoghurt, cultured guacamole, cauliflower fritters, fermented green banana pancakes with yoghurt and fermented berries, lots of butter, ghee, olive oil, mayo and coconut oil, plenty of ginger, garlic, turmeric and other spices, gelatin/jellies, bulletproof decaf coffees, herbal teas and water.  Lots of water.  So much food, so many wonderful combinations.  As the weather gets warmer I'm going to add in some fermented juices and bulletproof ice cream plus some other cooler options to see how my body handles them. 

I'm very much a "it's cold, eat warm food" type of person so that's what I've been doing over the last few months. From an Ayurvedic perspective, we must keep our agni ignited, which is our digestive fire.  Raw foods can put this digestive fire out, particularly in people who have a weakened constitution and low vitality.  These people need all the help they can get and eating food that's already been partially digested via the cooking process will be much easier for them.  For me!  I find every summer my gut health worsens and I suffer with bloating, cramping and heartburn.  I've realised that eating raw food hasn't been agreeing with me and that for the time being I just need warm, cooked food or fermented food which has also been partially digested in the fermenting process.  I love salads and raw fruit so I'm looking forward to reintroducing them both down the track.

One thing that I've come to realise over the last couple of years is that I most likely have low hydrochloric acid in my stomach.  This means that my food isn't being broken down as much as it should be in the stomach before moving onto the small intestine.  What can happen here is the undigested food in the stomach starts fermenting and can cause reflux and heartburn (a little apple cider vinegar in warm water and/or digestive enzymes prior to eating can assist in breaking down the food).  These symptoms often mean too little hydrochloric acid in the stomach, rather than too much (which is often the way conventional practitioners view heartburn and reflux).  Also, if the food particles are too big in the small intestine and there is a leaky gut present (the tight junctions in the membrane of the gut wall are no longer tight), larger food molecules can escape from where they're meant to be (contained within the gut) to outside the gut and into the blood, where they can wreak havoc on our immune system (hello autoimmune disease and food intolerances!) Anyway, this is what can happen biologically in the body with a combo of low hydrochloric acid and leaky gut.  First, food intolerances, brain fog, heartburn and reflux, next, autoimmune disease, depression, anxiety and chronic disease.  If the message still isn't getting out there then I'll say it again, it all starts in the gut.  Heal the gut, give your guts the love they deserve and you'll reap the rewards.

My husband is also eating this way with me.  He's not as super strict as I am but he's doing wonderfully.  And even though my aim isn't to lose weight, that's one of his goals and the weight is peeling off of him.  He's not weighed himself but he's gone down many belt holes and his pants are falling off of him.  This is without any exercise whatsoever.  He also combines the ketogenic diet with a bit of intermittent fasting.  Again, he's not super strict with it but on a couple of days a week he'll simply eat less calories.  It might be because he's forgotten to take lunch that day or because he's simply not hungry.  I think in this way he is listening to the signs his body is giving him and not eating just because it's a preconceived meal time.  I'm super proud of him.

Something I say to myself and also to my girls is that I am choosing to eat this way.  I don't say, I can't have chocolate or I can't have cake, I say I'm choosing not to.  Because I am.  It's a choice I've made and I am so determined to stick with it because I have no doubt that the benefits are numerous.  I know a ketogenic diet won't be for everyone and I have to admit that initially I lost a few kilos which isn't ideal for me as I'm already underweight.  My weight is now stable but could still fluctuate as I continue on the herbal cleanses (more on these in another post).  I was also concerned initially that it would mess with my hormones as I'd heard that that can happen.  Anyway, my menstrual cycle has been super regular with no issues.  Hopefully it continues that way.

I'm loving the fact that what I'm essentially doing is cutting out all the crap and just eating an abundance of real food.  Beautiful, tasty, satiating, fresh, nourishing, satisfying food! Just as nature intended it :)  What's your favourite real food?  At the moment, if I was to just pick one, it would be brussel sprouts - strange I know!  And my fav meal is slow cooked lamb shoulder with cauliflower and leek puree and a big pile of green veg that's been steamed/fried in lots of yummy fats, garlic and broth plus some sauerkraut and a cup of kefir.  So good!  I'd give you a recipe but really you won't need one.  Add the lamb to a slow cooker, add rosemary and thyme, salt & pepper and a splash of water, cook on low all day.  With the cauli puree I use my Thermomix but essentially you steam the cauli and leeks, add some broth, butter, S&P and blitz to a smooth consistency.  Greens, just cook them how you like them!  I like mine fried up in lots of fat, then before they brown I'll pop some liquid in plus a teaspoon of Marrow & Meadow bone broth concentrate, season and pop the lid on.  Cook until they're at the texture you enjoy.  My mouth is salivating thinking about it... What's your fav meal?  Do you have any keto style dishes you'd like to share?

Cassie Hower