Friday, September 23, 2016

My latest health experiment - Nutritional ketosis + AIP

Back in May,  I started a new direction on my healing protocol that eventually brought my Ulcerative Colitis into REMISSION.

In this blog post, I will share with you how by incorporating nutritional ketosis into my Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, I found equilibrium in health; however, there is no one size fit all protocol for everyone. I hope by sharing my experiment, I can encourage my readers to continue their search towards finding the best way to support their healing journey. 

Here are the three points that explain my latest progression.
  1. What inspired me to chose this route
  2. What my AIP Nutritional Keto looks like 
  3. What improvements has the changes made

1. Why would I think the ketogenic diet, originally designed to treat epileptic children, could help with my health? I didn't.  

Initially, I chose to investigate the ketogenic diet in hopes of balancing my blood sugar and finding hormonal support for peri-menopausal symptoms I started experiencing in the past few years. 
Having a history of diabetes in the family,  I am always watchful for signs of insulin resistance as I get older. Despite following the AIP protocol, I was still indulging in too many fruits and starchy vegetables to fill my belly. I wanted to learn more about blood sugar imbalance as I believe it plays an important role in supporting my gut health.  So as my UC symptoms subside, I took that as a sign to move forward in my continual search for better health.  With the predominant gut symptoms under control, I was still experiencing periodical energy crashes. I wasn't sure if that was because, as I felt stronger, I was eager to push myself more which resulted in fatigue. I had heard that the ketogenic diet can help regular blood sugar, stabilize energy and increase mental clarity.  So with my inquisitive mind, I decided to learn more about this concept of fueling the body.

Through the AIP/ Paleo community, I learned about The Wahls Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls, where nutritional ketosis plays an important role in healing the body. She designed her protocol, with three stages to lead to a gradual transition from the Standard American Diet ( SAD) . The highest level, Wahls Paleo Plus, is not far off from AIP, so I was able to easily to slide over without going through the first two levels. 

What is Nutritional Ketosis? 

To quote Dr. Terry Wahls, " ... ketosis means you are burning fat, rather than sugar, as your primary fuel source ... when your body is in a state of nutritional ketosis, the liver begins producing ketone bodies" ( as a by-product of turning fat into energy the body can easily use). The Wahls Protocol p.191, 196

I am most fascinated with a process called autophagy where a Ketogenic Diet mimics fasting state to support the body in detox and repair itself.

2. What does my AIP Keto way of eating look like?

Based on Wahls Paleo Plus, the first revamp of my eating plan was increasing leafy green vegetables to 4-6 c a day. It was a bit nerve wrecking to increase so much insoluble fiber into my UC gut but the transition went smoothly with little discomfort. I also paid more attention to the variety, especially in colours, of vegetables on my plate. I increased my healthy fat intake by adding 4-5 tsp of coconut oil a day on top of the fats in my cooking and salad dressings. This increase in fat helped my body became fat adapted.  I decreased my protein intake to 6-10 oz. to prevent gluconeogenesis, Yes one can eat too much protein which turns into fat storage. Finally, I focused on staying hydrated as it is common for the body to excrete extra water in a ketosis state. Besides drinking enough fluids, I kept my electrolytes in check by consuming enough salts in my diet and sometimes even add a sprinkle of pink Himalayan pink salt into my drinking water. 

Three weeks into Nutritional Ketosis and I was feeling pretty good. Intermittent fasting 16 hours most of the days seem to happen naturally since I was satiated in between my meals. My brain was much clearer, my energy was stable and I was losing some hormonal weight gain that sneaked up on me in the past few months. Unfortunately, the increase in energy also resulted in  keto insomnia.  I had a hard time falling back to sleep after it was interrupted by waking up several times a night,  although falling asleep initially was not an issue.  Then slowly, my weight loss stalled and the bloating returned. Needless to say, I assumed that the healing honeymoon was over. Instead of feeling defeated and wanted to give up,  I browsed through forums and learned that other women also experienced obstacles when their carb intake became too low.  I began practicing Carb up ( increasing carbs in forms of berries or starchy vegetables) in the evening when needed, 2 to 3 times a week, and found that my body was not stressing out about the lack of carbs anymore. I learned that the body tends to panic when there are signs of energy deprivations. Since my body ran on glucose all my life, it viewed this new way of functioning as a threat. The small increase of carbs in the evening calmed my body and my sleep issue was therefore resolved. 

Now at 4 months into AIP Nutritional Ketosis, my body seem to like this routine.  I eat only when I am hungry, not when I am bored or think I should. Instead of worrying about whether I have food with me, I can go a lot longer period of time,  running on ketones, without being hangry. Being in NK has taught me to listen to my body ever so closely the right time to eat. This state has provided me more flexibility in my schedule by removing extra food preparation time off my plate. I can easily IF as long as I had enough good fats to keep me satiated until the next feeding opportunity. Currently, I start my morning with warm water with lemon juice, if I feel I need some extra energy, I might enjoy a spoonful of coconut oil and coconut manna to power up my body. Otherwise, I continue with my morning routine with a little yoga or exercise with free weights before getting the kids ready for school. After school drop off, I enjoy my 40 mins to 1:30 hr walk. When I return home, I make myself a blended fat drink with noncaffeinated tea, cocoa butter, MCT oil and collagen. I continue to Intermittent fast until 12p to 3p and break my fast with a big salad, cooked vegetable and protein. Dinner is a typical AIP meal around 6pm. 

3. What improvements have I noticed?

The greatest improvements I noticed since adding nutritional ketosis to the equation is stabilizing blood sugar. Although this effect seems to be unrelated to autoimmunity,  I believe managing blood sugar levels is key in supporting continual healing of the gut. Other positive side effects from the diet change are stability in the mood, better mental clarity, higher body temperature, and easier stress management.  With cravings at bay, I eat intuitively and no longer turn to food to fill boredom. Craving for carbs, especially fruits, seems to be a thing of the past, which means I enjoy social outings more where friends and family consume their non-AIP food. Of course, it is important that I bring my own compliant food to adhere to my eating for nourishment practice. As an added bonus, this way of eating has become more economical for the family's food budget because I am preparing meals with less protein than before. 

In conclusion, I am pleased with the health improvements since added Nutritional Ketosis to my AIP protocol. As the season change, it would be interesting to see how my body adapts. I hope this post will encourage my readers to listen to the body, let it guide them towards optimal health. Remember to be patient by allowing enough time for a new protocol to settle in.  Once the body finds its healing "groove", enjoy the progress when the momentum picks up but don't be discourage when it is time to re-evaluate the plan.  

Wholeheartedly support the body's natural ability to heal.
Continue to pursue optimal health by being intrigued by the process. 

Additional Resources about Nutritional Ketosis

History of Ketogenic Diet

Fellow AIP bloggers' experience with Ketosis


  1. Hi Astrid,

    I was transitioning from strict AIP with no reintros to Wahls Paleo Plus in parallel to you.

    We share a lot of experiences. I had the same sleep issues when I started to cut back further on berries and carrots in my attempt to increase ketone levels, but this issues discountinued as well when I added them back in especially in the evening. Only 1/2c blueberries or blackberries makes a huge difference in my sleep quality. I attribute this to high nightly cortisol levels. A common problem in autoimmune disease?!

    I can totally attest to everything you are writing. The only one that isn't happy about my change in diet is my farmer as she doesn't see me as often as before. ;-)

    A lesson I learned is, that more is not always better. More ketones doesn't mean a better outcome for me. A low to medium level of ketones is all I need.

    Currently I am trying to switch up fats. I got bored of VCO and got more into homemade fats like lard and tallow and also cocoa butter. They are similiar ketogenic as VCO for me and more importantly they taste amazing and make me feel great. Variety seems to be key in this point for me.


    1. Hi Erik, thanks for your encouraging words. It is great to find someone who shares health hacking experiences. We are not alone. :-) In regards to fats, I try to have a variety in the house to keep life interesting. Beside animal fat like lard and tallow, I have been a big fan of cocoa butter for fueling my days. Let me know if you try it. I am really sensitive to caffeine so the cocoa butter also serves as a chocolate substitute. Yum! Stay healthy. Warmly Astrid

    2. I am getting a big fan of cocoa butter as well. It's a great base for fat bombs, because of the great chocolate texture and that it doesn't need refrigeration. I am really sensitive to caffeine too, but I can tolerate some cocoa powder in the morning. Last time I tried a 1/4 cup of Jun tea (similiar to kombucha but made with green tea instead of black tea) I reacted badly with brain fog, which is not common for me. It's nice to know that we are not alone on our healing journey. Best, Erik

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