Going Back to a Ketogenic Diet: When Carbs Really Are the Enemy
When I was younger and in the initial phases of my health research journey, I did not pay much attention to the claims that carbohydrates were the enemy, and that a ketogenic diet is best. I believed that in order to be healthy, you needed to consume carbs.
I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) a few years ago, and I already knew that a low-GI Diet was recommended for women with the condition, and switched to one immediately. It was not enough to control my insulin levels, and high insulin make the condition worse. And so, I decided to cut out sugar almost completely (vegetables still contain some sugar).
When this was not enough, I switched to a low-carb diet. Following a low-carb diet, for me, has never been difficult. I find it quite easy and enjoyable. After being on a low-carb, ketogenic diet for about a year, I started eating more carbohydrates for a few weeks because I was hormonal, had a lot of cravings, and had read about the benefits of carbohydrates cycling.
The moment I added carbohydrates back to my diet, I started experiencing blood sugar problems again. For me, this was quite a shock. I had been so used to my ketogenic diet that I completely forgot what it felt like to have low blood sugar.
My blood sugar levels started dropping the way they used to before I went low-carb. My blood sugar crashes would become so bad at times that it would feel like my body was going into hypoglycaemic shock. I went back on a ketogenic diet for a few months and started feeling much better.
Once again, my blood sugar imbalances became a distant memory.
I tried to do the fasting mimicking diet recently, where you eat 800 calories a day for five days, but your diet consists of 45% carbs, 45% fat, and 10% protein. Even on an 800-calorie diet, the amount of carbohydrates I was consuming was still more than I was used to.
On day three of my fasting-mimicking diet, I went into hypoglycaemic shock twice. I pushed through and stuck to my diet, but when it happened again on day four, I decided to stop the fasting mimicking diet in order to go back to a ketogenic diet for at least a week, and then I would resume my fasting mimicking diet, but do it in a ketogenic way.
I really wanted to follow the protocol as suggested, but my body really did not react well to it. When I did the first round of the fasting mimicking diet (I am trying to do it once a month for a year), it went wonderfully, as I ignored some of the rules, and ate more of a ketogenic diet.
I am not saying that carbohydrates are the enemy of all people, but they definitely do not agree with my body. My main source of carbohydrates is vegetables, and I plan to continue as such in the future.
What these experiences have helped me to understand is that unlike most people, I will have to follow a low-carb diet for the rest of my life if I do not want to experience these types of problems.
I desperately want to only eat two meals a day, but when I do consume carbohydrates, the increase in hunger due to blood sugar fluctuations make this feel like it is impossible.
Carbs are my personal enemy, but I do not mind living without it mostly. I might indulge in a sweet potato every now and then, which is a big treat for me, but keto is the way forward for me.
Apart from just making me feel bad and weak due to blood sugar dips, excess carbohydrate consumption has quite a few negative side effects, such as:
Increasing insulin levels, which can contribute to fat gain and diabetes.
Promoting inflammation when from processed carbohydrates or carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index.
Speeding up ageing through a process called glycation where excess glucose triggers the breakdown of collagen.
Changing your gut bacteria to crave high-sugar and high-carbohydrate foods and feeding the bad bacteria in your gut.
Promoting fat gain due to excess glucose in the bloodstream that is stored for future use.
Even my husband realised how much adding carbohydrates to your diet can influence your hunger levels and cravings after he recently started eating carbohydrates again after being on a ketogenic diet for a long time. Where he would eat two meals a day on a ketogenic diet, he now has to eat around four times a day.
Even if you do not see carbohydrates as your own personal enemy, it is a good thing to just understand the effects that they can have on your body. That way, you can at least make informed decisions about what you are eating instead of blindly just eating what you think is good.
If you are reading this and you feel bad for me because I cannot eat carbohydrates, but you can and they are wonderful, do not worry, there are enough healthy low-carb dessert recipes out there that I am still dying to try.
Instead of making me feel like I am missing out on my past favourite candies and cakes, following a ketogenic diet has been exciting for me, as it has allowed me to experiment a lot more with making desserts and to eat dessert more often.
You do not have to feel guilty about eating dessert if it does not contain any sugar or carbohydrates, unless you eat the entire batch. A keto diet is definitely something that I recommend that every person should try at least once.
Even if you do not want to do it permanently, even just doing it for a month every year can already significantly improve your health and teach you more about what your body responds to best in terms of diet, exercise, and other biohacks.
Perhaps a low-carb diet is not for you, but The Hart of Health is all about finding the lifestyle that makes you feel like your best self.