The ketogenic diet has steadily climbed in popularity, stealing time on social media waves and popping up everywhere from Oprah to the red carpet.
It’s no wonder. Distinguished by high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbs, the diet du jour has been linked to a plethora of advantages—from improved cognitive health to enhanced cholesterol levels.
But its biggest claim to fame may be the potential “oh yeses” it offers in terms of weight loss. By significantly reducing the amount of carbohydrates one consumes—all those starchy snacks, sugars, and grains that produce a readily-accessible supply of glucose—the keto diet urges the body to tap into its fat stores for fuel, thus whittling the waistline while boosting energy and brain function.
Despite the diet’s prospective advantages, however, your patients may be reluctant to get on board. Why? While the regime encourages the consumption of plant-based fats, (such as avocados) the media blitz surrounding the craze may make it seem like a bacon, butter, and cheese buffet—a free-for-all that many realize could contribute to health issues.
What’s more, following a plan that doesn’t promote organic animal products inadvertently may result in dieters consuming environmental toxins and hormone-disrupting chemicals that could undermine their efforts and cause deleterious consequences.
This is where a modified keto diet can be key—not only for those who want to dodge the potentially negative effects of eating a surplus of animal products, but also for those who are interested in exploiting the keto diet’s impact on hormone health.
With all this in mind, here’s why you might want to consider endorsing an amended keto diet for your patients, what benefits they might see if they heed your suggestion, and how they—and perhaps you—can navigate the diet successfully.
Why go keto 2.0?
While the ketogenic diet surfaced more than nine decades ago, increased interest in its efficacy has led to increased research—a boon for those of us who want to stay on the cutting edge of helping our patients achieve their best.
More recently, a team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, determined ketosis—the state one goes into when glucose isn’t available—can decrease brain inflammation and suppress activity of inflammatory genes. Thomas Seyfried, PhD—one of the biggest proponents of the keto diet—has shown lowering glucose and raising ketones can slow the proliferation of cancer cells and cancer cell survival. Indeed, from improved cardiac health to overall longevity, the keto diet possesses myriad possible pluses.
This especially may be true with a modified keto diet, which, by advocating for virgin olive and coconut oil as its principal fat, relying on green vegetables as its primary source of carbohydrates, and prioritizing fish and select nuts as its main form of protein, may have a higher—and cleaner—nutritional content than its traditional counterpart.
Further, the modified keto diet allows for up to 50 net grams of carbs per day, which at 20-35 grams more than conventional keto diets, may seem more doable and sustainable to dieters. Given its enriched overall nutrition, the modified ketogenic diet might also lead to more radiant skin and stronger workouts.
The modified ketogenic diet and hormone health
That said, one potential advantage of following a ketogenic diet often is overlooked: the positive impact it can have on hormone health. It is inarguably one of the most important measures your patients can take to achieve well-being because hormone health is characterized by balance and is found in nurturing hormones to remedy deficiencies and excesses.
The low-carb facet of the ketogenic diet—indeed, its crowning trait—can tame insulin levels, which, for women, may result in healthier ovulation. This may be particularly valuable for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), who often present with higher insulin levels, poor ovulation, and infertility.
What’s more, following a modified keto diet may alter one’s microbiome, so that bacterial flora in the intestines shifts in a healthy direction—away from yeast overgrowth and unfriendly bacteria that thrive on carbs and in support of a healthier microbiome.
Some undesirable bacteria actually can increase the recycling of estrogen back into the body, thus heightening one’s vulnerability to estrogen dominance, a condition characterized by an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone that can result in weight gain, fatigue, irregular menstruation, and mood swings.
The ketogenic diet’s potential to nurture a balanced menstrual cycle also may contribute to a more robust libido, while double board-certified OB/GYN and regenerative and anti-aging medicine expert Anna Cabeca reports that her keto-committed clients have experienced reduced menopause symptoms, better sleep, and a lower number on the scale.
How to make the modified keto diet work for your patients
Prescribing a new diet to your patients can be a tough sell, even for the most persuasive among us—and even if you’re equipped with a list of the diet’s potential benefits. To that end, it’s vital to help your patients make the transition as smooth as possible.
The early stages of the diet, when the body shifts into ketosis, may be accompanied by what’s recognized as the keto flu—a group of symptoms that includes fatigue, hunger, irritability, and constipation. But encouraging your patients to stay hydrated, get adequate rest, eat often, and supplement with magnesium and keto salts can turn this emotional and physical transition into a non (or barely felt) issue. Further, MCT oil—which often is enjoyed in green tea or coffee—can bolster energy and support regeneration.
Supplying your patients with a sample meal plan can further smooth the passage. On the modified keto diet, for example, a typical day would entail coffee with MCT oil and eggs scrambled with spinach and olive oil for breakfast; a large salad, full of leafy greens and topped with wild-caught fish, for lunch; and broccoli “steaks”—florets roasted in olive oil—and grilled salmon for dinner, with macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds as snacks.
To which your clients might say, sign me up.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and passionate spokesperson for educating and empowering women to transform their lives with better health through natural medicines and practices that work with, rather than against, the body’s own healing processes. She is the naturopathic medical advisor to Daily Wellness Company, and the co-author of three books: the bestselling Natural Choices for Women’s Health, the critically-acclaimed Great Sex, Naturally, and her latest, Growing Younger Every Day. A leading advocate for natural medicine, Steelsmith is the medical director of Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu, where she has a busy private practice, and is an associate clinical professor at Bastyr University.