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Trying a Keto Diet

Posted by nootrope , 17 April 2015 · 2,478 views

I am trying on a ketogenic diet for the first time. I'm about a week into it.

My bipolar disorder came back for a bit--it had been about 7 years in remission--and I was hospitalized for a week and a half. There may have been outside factors that pushed me over--and then I think I became a lot worse once I became hospitalized and separated from my CPAP machine. I have severe sleep apnea and the doctors in the hospital were behind the times in realizing the strong effect of apnea, and its resultant sleep deprivation--on mental health.

I was able to turn the situation to some benefit, in that I now have a prescription for lithium carbonate, which has some life-extending and neuroprotection properties. With health insurance it's cheaper than the less-studied lithium orotate or lithium aspartate I would get over the counter. I've already cut down to a very low dose so it's not going to slow me down.

So I was feeling a need for some kind of change in my life. Thus the keto experiment. I'd also read on some forum some people describe a keto diet as the strongest nootropic they'd ever tried. That intrigued me. I knew such diets (in which carbohydrates are reduced to a minimum, forcing the body to get its energy by converting fats to ketones) were of benefit in cases of epilepsy, and there is some overlap between epilepsy and bipolar disorder. In fact, one time I had my brainwaves measured and they told me they were similar to those of a person with temporal lobe epilepsy between seizures. So maybe this diet may be of benefit to both my mood and smarts.

I'm finding it's pretty easy to eat lots of healthy vegetables on this diet, as long as they are the green leafy kind of vegetable. My go-to meal now is this: melt two tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of coconut oil, and put in some curry powder (or freshly chopped turmeric and ginger, with cumin and coriander powders), together with a mix of garlic, shallots, and green onions. Then add in some mushrooms, and then some frozen leafy vegetables: spinach, turnip greens, kale, and/or collard greens, some herbs (sage, chives, or oregano), and some broccoli. Toss in a can of sardines or anchovies (I don't think the risk of bisphenol-A is that great, and these high-omega-3 fish are low in mercury). Salt liberally (lithium treatment requires one not take a low-salt diet!) Then when it's ready, mix in a tablespoon of sour cream, a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil, and half an avocado.

I got some "ketone strips" for checking the urine for ketone content and so far I'm mostly in the "moderate ketone level" category.

This week I've been surprised about how long I can now go between meals without snacking, and how full I feel. I might be experiencing a little less energy for exercise though. Some have said there is a period of adjustment to a ketogenic diet.

* * *

It's strange how diets go in cycles. I haven't come around to the belief that a high-fat diet is always good, or what our distant ancestors would have eaten. I'm just experimenting. Maybe it's easier to experiment in this way when others are eating high fat diets too, so I'm not completely going against the grain (or, wait a minute, I am! literally!)

When I was in graduate school, low-fat was all the craze. The China Study had concluded that a diet high in vegetables and rice and low in meat was best. Now that study has come in for a lot of criticism. This is when grains were at the base of the food pyramid. I had a colleague in grad school, a real fitness buff, whose father was a nutritionist, who told me very seriously that fat should be stripped down to the lowest levels possible in the diet, 5 percent of calories, or so.

I read about Gary Taubes, who rants about carbohydrates and grains being the cause of obesity, and I think he has gone too far in the other direction. Instead of dispelling new dogmas, I think he's more in search of the old time religion of his youth, when higher fat diets were common. We focus on issues that are too narrow: insulin! Gut bacteria! Antioxidants! Caveman food we evolved for! But their real life interaction is too complicated for such sloganeering.

I am trying on a high-fat diet but it's not with an illusion that it's superior for either weight loss or health in general. In the high carbohydrate 90s I was slender--though of course I was younger--one neighbor called me to my housemate "the thin man." I was vegetarian then, and now I'm eating bacon and grass-fed beef to boost my saturated fats. I will eventually come to a conclusion on what works for me. It's just that for now I've decided to take that risk of change and experimentation.

I have more to say about life extension in general and my life, but I should get some exercise and sleep!

June 2019

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