Beyond Keto

Keto Can Have Serious Side Effects. What to Try Instead

Keto, No Silver Bullet

I wrote this website in 2014, mostly because I was frustrated that simple, practical information about the ketogenic diet wasn’t available online. The truth is, keto isn’t complicated, so I figured I would put together a resource to quickly and clearly explain the moving parts of a ketogenic eating program, as well as how to actually do it. Well, like a lot of people, I did not find long-term success with the ketogenic diet. Sure, I lost weight, and fast, but even that is dubious, in hindsight.

In my opinion, one of the things that explains the fad status of diets like keto (or Atkins, or any other low-carb regimen) is the rapid weight loss, especially in the first several weeks. Most of this seems to be the loss of water weight, which has the fun side-effect of the “carb flu”, but nonetheless, since it is a diet which gives one rapid and early “success” it sticks around and spreads like wildfire.

Side Effects

I’ve read lots of anecdotal stories that are similar to mine. Rapid weight loss, but bad enough side effects to make the weight-loss moot, over the long term. The short version of the story is that I believe that the keto diet can do harm to your gut, over the long term. Probably not for everyone, but definitely not for just me. If you are interested in the longer version of the story, please read on.

What Gut Damage Looks Like

Those are my hands. Gross, right? That’s blistering eczema. I would get these large blisters, that would pop, on my hands up to my wrists. They seemed to follow a line from my first two fingers and thumb down to my wrists. It took a long time to figure out what was causing these. I had been done keto for about six months, achieved the weight loss I wanted and had transitioned to a diet that included a moderate amount of carbs. I found that I would get these blisters whenever I would have eggs. I had never had any kind of egg sensitivity before (I routinely ate 3-4 eggs a day for years and years), but now, for some reason, I would get these blisters from even a small amount (e.g. eggs as a “middle ingredient” in one or two slices of GF bread, for example).

I went off eggs for about a year and found I had developed numerous other food sensitivities too. Legumes? Out. Dairy? Why hello, Mr. Fishbowlface. Corn? A Nightmare. Sugar? The devil. I limited my diet down to what felt to be only about seven foods, and I was miserable. Everything seemed like it caused a reaction, and I was basically forced to live on an “autoimmune protocol” with my eating, which I found was even more limiting than keto was.

Go With Your Gut

It took me a while to put together what was going on, but what got me on the trail was a ubiome test that I did. Even though I was at a (very) healthy weight (the lowest weight I had been since high school) I still had the gut “profile” of an obese person. Not only that, my gut diversity scores were very low. I was frequently fatigued and had the mood problems of a bridge troll with a serious mood disorder. Not to disparage bridge trolls, I am sure they are perfectly nice once you get to know them.

Over the course of the following year, I started to try and work with my gut issues. I upped my fiber, a lot, and tested various prebiotic and probiotic remedies to try and get my scores into a more healthy range.

Here’s the thing about keto. If you are keeping a ratio of 2:1 or higher, eating any meaningful amount of vegetables/fiber is hard. Sure, you can do it, but if the idea of a big plate of broccoli sounds like a bummer for you, no matter how much cheese you put on it (especially if your food sensitivities have made dairy a total non-starter), getting enough fiber is a tough, tough hill to climb. When I did keto I found myself eating the same, “safe” meals over and over again, and there weren’t many vegetables in sight. Not that I would have minded vegetables, per se, but the amount of fat I would have to eat for even the nominal carbs in them still makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit when I think about it.

Fiber, It’s What’s for Dinner (and every other meal)

My modifying my diet to repair the harm I caused my gut on keto I slowly started to pull out of the tailspin I was in. Food sensitivities lessened. I can eat eggs again freely, and although dairy, legumes, and corn still cause me issues, they are minor and manageable (I can totally live with only having these foods once a week or so).

The truth is, we don’t eat even close to enough fiber, and that especially goes for Americans. On average, Americans eat about 10-15 grams of fiber a day. A more healthy amount would be about 40g for men (and about 30g for women). On keto, it is easy to eat far, far less than even 15g. Looking back at my eating logs, I routinely ate less than 10g of fiber a day. No bueno.

Over the time that I have been working with these issues I have figured out an eating plan that not only allows for sustained, low-suffering weight-loss, but actually improves the health of my gut (which has plenty of other, positive side-effects and no negative side-effects). I am happy to share what I have found in the hopes that it will be of help to other people who find themselves in the same situation I was in (or, even better, for anyone who wants to skip the negatives of keto altogether).

Another Diet Plan, SIGH…

I know, I know, this is getting all infomercial-y, but hear me out. There are simple rules, guidelines really, that anyone can follow, that can create easier weight loss, without all of the stringent restrictions, measuring, or even much hunger. I call this plan SIGH, and it isn’t really a diet at all, it is a method, a set of principals anyone can apply to achieve easier, more sustainable weight loss over your entire life.

I’ve put together a brief guide on this method, which you can receive for free by signing up to my mailing list below. I promise not to spam you. Truth is, I think spam is evil and, frankly, I am just too lazy to email you every day, or even every month. I promise to only send information that would be useful for people who want a better weight-loss alternative than keto, one that works with your body, especially your gut, and leads to a much higher quality of life.

A Quick Summary

For those who just want the basics, here they are. SIGH:

S: Sleep
I: Inflammation
G: Gut
H: Hormones

Sleep

You need more sleep. I know, a pretty informative hot take, right? The reality is, no weight loss will be successful if your stress is high. And, one of the best ways to tell if your stress is too high is to look at your sleep quality. Plus, your body does amazing stuff while you sleep, and the more sleep you get, especially before midnight, the better things are for your body. Sleep, pretty awesome stuff, do it more.

Inflammation

Food sensitivities are a thing, and different people process inflammatory foods differently. Regardless, the important thing to key in on is how your body responds to inflammatory foods/substances. Pay attention after you eat a big meal of wheat, corn, legumes, dairy, or sugar. Really be honest. Think about doing something like a “whole 30” and see for yourself what 30 days on a low/no inflammatory eating plan is like. Take it from me, if you have never done a whole 30 before, and you eat many of the banned foods often, be prepared for a rough ride, especially in days 1-10. But, it’s still worth it, mostly because it can show you what your “issue” foods are, which is extremely useful information.

Gut

We’ve covered this one a bit, but the main thing you probably need to do is eat more fiber. Not only that, you probably need to have more prebiotic foods in your diet (e.g. resistant starches). Getting your stress down helps your gut too, as do a few other tweaks. In a nutshell, your gut is your main interface with the food you are eating and having this interface as healthy as possible not only helps minimize food sensitivities but also reduces your inflammation even further. Take good care of your gut “bugs” and they will take very good care of you.

Hormones

I am a big believer in the hormone model of weight loss. As anyone who has done keto will tell you, being able to eat 3000+ calories a day and still lose weight will shatter the calorie model of weight loss pretty fast. Why keto works so we,, in my opinion, is due to it doing a fabulous job of is managing the hormone insulin. This is a biggie (I explain more in the free guide). The other key hormone to manage is cortisol, which you can do by managing/minimizing your stress. Have you found that you have been the most successful on diets that you felt the most calm/content doing? You have properly managed cortisol to thank for that.

Want More?

Subscribe to my mailing list below and you will receive my free 30-page guide to the SIGH Method. I’ll explain the various pieces of it even more and give you some specifics you can use to implement SIGH in your life. Doing so, I think you will find yourself not only successful with weight-loss, but also not suffering in the process. Since I’ve been doing this style of eating, I’ve never had an easier time with weight loss and appetite management.

So, if you want more, simply subscribe below. I wish you success and health in achieving and maintaining your ideal weight. Best to you.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE SIGH METHOD GUIDE

Subscribe to my newsletter to download your free 30-page SIGH Method Guide. In it, you’ll learn more about what the SIGH Method is (and why it works) as well as how to implement it. Not another “diet plan” but a series of simple, sustainable principles you can integrate anytime to help you achieve and maintain your health goals.

The ketogenic diet (keto) explained simply and thoroughly. How to's, upsides, downsides, and more, all in easy to understand language.

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DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE SIGH METHOD GUIDE

Subscribe to my newsletter to download your free 30-page SIGH Method Guide. In it, you’ll learn more about what the SIGH Method is (and why it works) as well as how to implement it. Not another “diet plan” but a series of simple, sustainable principles you can integrate anytime to help you achieve and maintain your health goals.