How to Use the Ketogenic Diet To Beat Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a serious problem facing each of us today.
Though acute, short-term inflammation is actually part of your body’s healing process (like when your skin gets swollen and pink after a paper cut), chronic inflammation is bad news for your health and longevity.
It can cause weight gain, digestive issues, fatigue or brain fog, mental health issues, pain, skin problems, allergies, and many inflammatory diseases like:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- And more
Many people try to treat these issues by getting on one medication after the other. Some feel hopeless. But there are some real lifestyle changes that can make a difference, including the food that we eat.
You’ve probably heard of people talking about the “anti-inflammatory diet” before. This often includes recommendations to eat more foods like produce, grains, nuts, and fish, and fewer foods like sugar, fast food, or processed meat.
But one very particular diet is starting to make some noise as the “real” anti-inflammatory diet, and it’s not just a bunch of general suggestions – it’s a strict high fat/low carb diet. I’m talking about the Ketogenic Diet.
So let’s learn about this type of eating – what it is and how it may be able to lower chronic inflammation.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
The simplest way to define the ketogenic diet (also called the keto diet, for short) is this: high-fat and low-carb. But the more complex, and more accurate way, to define the ketogenic diet is this:
The “ketogenic” has everything to do with “ketosis.” The goal of the ketogenic diet as opposed to other low-carb diets like the Atkins diet is to ensure you stay in ketosis, so your body doesn’t move on to protein and muscle for fuel.
Your body is often fueled by carbs and sugar (AKA: glucose). When there’s not enough of that glucose, your body still needs to burn something for energy and it will burn your stored fat instead. When this happens, you are left with an acid called ketones. At this point, you will be in a state of ketosis.
Scientists, medical professionals, and researchers have discovered that staying in that state of ketosis on the ketogenic diet is a way to produce some much-desired health benefits… which brings us back to inflammation…
How The Ketogenic Diet Affects Inflammation
There are quite a few reasons why this type of high fat/low carb eating can lower inflammation – but one has to do with sugar.
Sugar is undoubtedly an inflammation booster, so when you consume a lot of it and your body uses it for its main source of fuel, you are increasing insulin and raising those markers that lead to inflammation.
Being in the state of ketosis also:
- Helps increase adenosine in the body which helps reduce inflammation
- Releases a ketone that blocks inflammation
Here’s a short video talking about how ketones improve inflammation:
But what does science have to say about keto’s effect on inflammation? Turns out, quite a bit! Here is just a small sample of study findings that looked at inflammation and keto:
- One study found that eating a ketogenic diet for somewhere between 12 weeks and 6 months can lower liver inflammation in those with nonalcoholic fatty liber diseases.
- A ketogenic diet has been shown to lower central inflammation in those with multiple sclerosis
- One group of researchers induced inflammation in a group of rats. Then they fed them a ketogenic diet, which was successful in reducing multiple measures of inflammation. They concluded, “evidence indicates that ketogenic diets can reduce inflammation, and thus may be helpful for inflammation-associated pain.”
- In 2017 a study came out from the University of California San Francisco. The researchers discovered exactly how a ketogenic diet can reduce brain inflammation.
If the results of these studies interest you, read on to learn more about this type of diet.
RELATED: 12 Natural Remedies for Inflammation
Ketogenic-Approved Foods: What To Eat
Anyone wanting to lower inflammation may find the ketogenic diet is right for them, and I’m going to help you get there. Here is a general breakdown of the types of foods you will eat in the keto diet. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. It’s just a starting point.
Fats and Oils
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Avocado Oil
Proteins (Organic and grass-fed meats)
- Organ meats
- Seafood (wild caught)
- Leafy greens (like spinach or romaine)
- Cruciferous veggies (like cauliflower)
- Green beans
- Summer squashes
Nuts and Seeds
- Almonds (and almond flour)
- Nut butter
- Flaxseeds (flaxseed meal)
- Chia seeds (chia seed meal)
- Berries (occasionally)
- Coconut or almond milk
- Coffee (approved for keto, but not always great for inflammation!)
Spices, herbs, and condiments are mostly free-for-alls (though ketchup should be the reduced sugar kind).
Ketogenic No-No’s: What Not To Eat
What you don’t eat when following the ketogenic diet is just as important as what you do eat. Here are the main food groups that are not included when you eat keto:
- Sugar: Any added sugar is a no-go
- Starch: This includes starchy vegetables like white potatoes
- Grains: Even the whole grain variety is excluded
- Trans fats: Nobody on any diet should consume trans fats, and keto doesn’t allow them either
- Fruit: Especially tropical fruits (like bananas, pineapple, or mango) and grapes, fruit juice, and dried fruit are not included
The Macronutrient Breakdown: How To Eat
So we may understand the keto diet as an idea and we may know the good foods and bad foods to follow, but how does it all actually look on a plate?
The truth is different people and different programs recommend a slightly different macronutrient breakdown than others. But here’s a rundown of what you may be able to expect:
- Fat: Between 60 – 90%
- Protein: Between 20 – 35%
- Carb: Around 5%
60% of fat can feel like a lot – and 90% can feel next to impossible. So how do you actually do it? Here are two examples of a day doing the ketogenic diet:
Keto Sample Day #1
- Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
- Lunch: Tuna salad wrapped in large lettuce leaves and sautéed cauliflower
- Dinner: Pulled pork and asparagus roasted in avocado oil and seasonings
- Snack: Half an avocado with a sprinkle of salt and pepper
Keto Sample Day #2
- Breakfast: Cheese and sausage omelet with spinach or kale
- Lunch: Chicken salad on half an avocado
- Dinner: Baked Salmon with a butter lemon sauce and a side spinach salad dressed in olive oil and salt
- Snack: String cheese and a small handful of blueberries
Supplementing Your Keto Diet For Inflammation
If the goal is to lower inflammation naturally, diet is not your only option. On top of making better food choices, you can also include well-researched, natural anti-inflammatory options. Here are just a few I use daily:
- Fatty Acids: Omega-3s in particular are essential for reducing inflammation in the body
- Turmeric Curcumin: This compound of the yellow spice has been shown to reduce inflammation
- Boswellia (AKA: Indian Frankincense): This has traditionally been helping people lower inflammation for many, many years
- Vitamin D: Most people are deficient in vitamin D, yet is essential for the body’s proper use of inflammation
You can combine these in Eu Natural’s Primal Joint Support & Anti-Inflammatory.
Will Keto Lower Your Inflammation?
If you want to try the ketogenic diet to reduce your chronic inflammation, that may be a perfect choice for you. But you have to realize you must do it right. Simply eating a ton of meat and butter is not the right answer – especially if you ever feel you’ll be tempted to have a little ice cream binge after day #3.
That type of eating could very well increase your inflammation!
So make sure you are committed to following a precise keto macronutrient breakdown. Ensure that your plate has plenty of those low-carb veggies, and have your doctor check you before and during your diet shift.
For those willing to give it a shot, the keto diet may offer them some real relief against the harmful side effects of chronic inflammation – just don’t forget your natural anti-inflammatory supplements too!
Read Next: 8 Herbal Teas to Help Beat Inflammation