My Health, Part IV - Improvements and Lifestyle

My experience with the ketogenic lifestyle has caused some noticeable improvements in my life. Besides having to buy even smaller clothes than from the ones I had gotten just a year before, I had to get a smaller wedding band, because my fingers were too small for my original ring to stay on. My aches and pains have gone away, I haven’t seen the chiropractor in ages.

I expected that sort of thing, but what I didn’t expect was other improvements to my health. I used to take Zyrtec or Allegra every day in the summer but since early March of 2015, I have not taken any allergy medication whatsoever! My psoriasis has also improved, I have only very rarely used the cream I used to have to use daily (rarely, meaning less than three times per year). I did another sleep study and learned that I no longer was having apnea events while I slept, and no longer needed the CPAP machine.

I saw my doctor on April 14, 2015. My HbA1c was down to 4.6 and my blood pressure was the lowest I remember. He still recommended I stay on the Metformin for my blood sugar and start taking a baby aspirin due to my family history. Then the lipid panel came back. My triglycerides were down to 51(!), my HDL was up, great news, right? Not entirely, the LDL-C number was higher, 125. He said we’ll keep an eye on it, get lots of exercise and make sure to eat low fat until next checkup and we’ll see how it is then. I didn’t bring up my diet because I didn’t think it was worth the argument, so I just agreed, but this number was quite alarming to me. This is why I stopped eating red meat in the first place. I was concerned the doctor would put me on a statin.

So, I did some reading and research. I wanted to know how bad this LDL number was. Well, my research gave me a few ideas, LDL is not thought to be that helpful anymore, it is the particle size that you need to worry about, the data I have doesn’t show that. Furthermore the LDL number they have is calculated, it’s not even measured at all! I read that the triglyceride/HDL ratio was a more telling factor than LDL for heart disease risk, and mine was just over 1, which is very good. Whew! Also, I learned the formula for calculating LDL is not accurate if your triglycerides are under 100, which mine certainly were. Not accurate? Apparently it is tuned for the normal range, since I am below the range, the LDL number will be skewed high. I found another formula that is more accurate for people on a low-carb diet, the Iranian method, which gave me an LDL number of about 100, instead of 125.

I was usually not very hungry for more than one meal in a day. I had read about intermittent fasting and learned it was okay to skip some meals and began doing that. After watching a documentary “Eat, Fast & Live Longer”, Horizon 49x03, I was intrigued by what Krista Varady at UIC said about alternate day feeding (ADF). Starting on May 17, 2015, I began eating every-other-day. That’s not entirely true, I had up to 500 calories on the fasting days, such as a small salad. I followed this for about 6 months. After the ADF experiment, I returned to intermittent fasting. It is very freeing to not just eat breakfast because I was told to but to only do it when truly hungry. Plus it saves time and money to not have to eat lunch most days! I lost a fair amount of weight when doing ADF, but after I stopped, I found it again. I’m not sure why, but my weight seems pretty stable at that pre-ADF point.

One thing that has really helped me with following a ketogenic lifestyle is the absolute. Early on in this journey, when I was originally trying to eat fewer carbohydrates, I wasn’t honest with myself. I’d know a certain snack like peanuts might have few enough carbohydrates, but I’d eat way too many. Sticking to fewer than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day has been very helpful, even easier, for me. It gives me a structure and a limit and I just know, in my mind, I don’t eat carbohydrates: no sugar, no grains, just none. Not a few that I need to keep track of, none, not even a little bit. Those 20 grams give me room for a salad, vegetables, some heavy cream, but nothing else. See? Simple.