I am a huge fan of the ketogenic diet, with the caveat that it works for you. If you’re following a strict ketogenic diet, yet not seeing the results you are looking for, I’d like to offer some suggestions for why that may be, and some steps you can take to make your experience of keto more successful. As I learned the hard way, there may be some things you need to address before fully embracing the ketogenic lifestyle. It took me a lot of trial and error to piece together why I didn’t get immediate results that I heard others getting. But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did! Instead, consider my adventures on keto the detective work you don’t have to do! I hope my experiences bring you the confidence and trust to navigate a lifestyle that undoubtedly causes some confusing hiccups along the way.
Let’s start with the basics. Every person is unique in their biochemistry, genetics, lifestyle, stressors and life goals. And while I’ve personally seen the value in the ketogenic diet and used it as a tool to become more metabolically flexible, I like to take the best from it and integrate it into a way that works for me personally. That’s why I created lifestyle practices, backed by science and years of leading information from top researchers. I have incorporated them into the principles that are the foundation of my New York Times bestselling book, Glow15.
The ketogenic diet offers the hope of not only weight loss, but also freedom from inflammation and cravings, along with more energy, mental clarity, and improved skin healing and repair. And for many, it delivers just that and more.
For those of you familiar with a ketogenic diet, you know it is a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high-fat diet with 75% calories coming from fat, 20% from protein and 5% carbohydrates.
I’m sure you’ve seen this scenario before: you know the one…where your best friend or even you, keep doing the same thing over and over again from a sincere place of wanting results and wanting something so badly that you’re willing to work harder and harder for it. This scenario is common because it’s easy for people to attach to dogmatic dietary plans while overriding signals that are coming from their body because they see results happening for their friends or family, they read about successes online, or because they long to feel better now.
Five Reasons Why Keto Isn’t Working For You
1 Microbiome Imbalance: With over 70% of your immune system and an estimated 500-1,000 different species of bacteria living in your gut (not to mention other microorganisms like yeast, viruses and archaea), the health of your microbiome has enormous influence over your vitality and well-being.
Many conditions can be connected with a microbiome imbalance, not just the obvious ones like irritable bowel syndrome or constipation, but autoimmune issues like psoriasis or eczema, to mood and depression, weight and metabolism issues. Microbiome research is a rapidly increasing field with more and more studies being done that link the health of the microbiome to our overall health.
The gut is also a common site for hidden inflammation in the body. And while a ketogenic diet can certainly diminish the sources of food allergies (like gluten and grains), it may not be enough to heal the source of the inflammation. Working with a trusted functional medicine practitioner can provide essential support in the form of herbs, supplements and specific testing to get to the bottom of your gut inflammation.
I was personally amazed by how the added benefits of fasting helped me to make great strides in my recovery from eczema. That’s why I practice intermittent fasting, where every other day I follow a restricted window of eating which lets my digestive system take a break of doing the work of digestion and assimilation and allows my body to shift its energy to the work of detoxification and repair. To learn more about how to safely and effectively implement my protocol of IF into your lifestyle, check out Glow15!
Quick Tip: an easy way to help support a healthy digestive system and microbiome is to drink a mug of bone broth every day. The healing amino acids like glycine, proline and glutamine in bone broth reduce inflammation, contribute to collagen production and support the mucosal lining of the intestinal wall.
- Regulating blood supply
- Detoxification of chemicals and pesticides
- Converting macronutrients into energy
- Cholesterol and protein production
- Breaking down sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone
Women are particularly sensitive to weakened liver function because of this relationship to estrogen, with widespread impacts on hormonal and reproductive health.
To support your liver, eat a diet full of polyphenol-rich bitter tasting herbs and vegetables such as: cruciferous vegetables, endive, mustard greens, garlic, chicory, dandelion, burdock root, turnip, green tea, dark chocolate (95%) and turmeric. Sour-tasting foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, grapefruit, lemon and kefir will also support a healthy liver. If you’re looking for a delicious way to incorporate a variety of liver nourishing foods, try my Delicious Digestive Salad.
This is the biggest challenge I have with going out to eat at restaurants and why I’m not embarrassed to bring my small container of extra-virgin olive oil or Simply GOODFATS® MCT oil to toss on my salad. It’s common practice in the restaurant industry to use the lowest quality vegetable oils like canola, soybean, corn, sunflower and cottonseed oils. These cheap oils are highly processed and are used because of their seemingly long shelf life, when in fact they are already rancid and ready to create free radicals and inflammation in your body.
Overconsumption of processed vegetable oils provoke a variety of inflammatory conditions from cardiovascular disease to neurodegenerative conditions. They contain an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids and easily throw the balance off between omega-3’s, making it even more important to get your wild Alaskan salmon, flaxseeds, greens, grass-fed meat and pasture-raised eggs in.
It’s also important to get a variety of fats and oils in your diet. Conventional ketogenic recipes are full of foods like bacon, cheese and cream. And while these foods can be a healthy part of a ketogenic diet (unless you have a dairy intolerance leading to inflammation), I like to emphasize quality, moderation and balance with polyphenol-rich whole fat foods like: avocados, olives, nuts and seeds and healthy fats like organic MCT, coconut oil and grass-fed butter.
When we hear the word stress, most of us think of it as bad. Things like chronic emotional stress due to strained relationships, financial hardships, chronic negative self-talk, digestive issues, infections, hormonal imbalance, hidden food allergies and heavy metal toxicities are all sources of harmful stress and need to be addressed. The body responds to these stresses by producing cortisol, and over time high cortisol leads to insulin resistance and inflammation.
Women, in particular, are sensitive to the impact of bad stress and may need a higher ratio of whole-food carbohydrates and protein than what ketogenic diets provide, at least initially until the stress has reduced. Unrefined, whole carbohydrates like squash, beets and quinoa can provide support to the nervous system, thyroid and adrenal glands while under stress.
If you are dealing with high stress and inflammation, you’ll be more successful on a ketogenic diet if you first address the underlying stressors. In Glow15, I share ways to reduce your stress like practicing meditation and the importance of self-care. If you need more support, consider getting help from a professional counselor or functional or integrative medicine practitioner to help elucidate causes of hidden stress.
Make sure you’re getting enough minerals and electrolytes by eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and consider adding a supplement if necessary. Magnesium, in particular, helps support relaxation and sleep. One of my favorite ways to get magnesium is through an Epsom salt bath an hour before bed.
Getting quality sleep is so important that I’ve included a whole chapter devoted to it in Glow15. Optimizing your circadian rhythm is essential to reclaiming your health and we all have our own unique rhythm to attune to. In Glow15 you’ll learn about ways to improve your sleep, whether you are a night owl or an early bird.