Alkalinity and Candida: Considerations When Doing the Ketogenic Diet or the Intermittent Ketosis Diet

One of the main tenets of the Naturopathic approach to healing is making the body more alkaline.  A body that is more alkaline tends to resist viral attack and tends to heal more efficiently.  In order for the Ketogenic Diet (or the Paleo Diet, or the Intermittent Ketosis Diet) to assist the body in healing, it should be “alkaline- reacting”.

Dr. Vincent Pedre, M.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, for example, says alkaline eating reduces the risk of cancer.  He states that most tumors that are solid thrive on glucose.  Since an alkaline diet is relatively low in glucose, it deprives solid tumors of their fuel.

Published research in Nutrition & Metabolism suggests that tumors love an acidic environment – and,   findings in Cancer Research, indicate that a low-acid environment in the body potentially halts the spread of cancer cells. A study from Thailand indicates that the body can become acidic in just one week.   If this preliminary research is true, then we should all be eating more alkaline – regardless of what dietary regimen we adhere to.

What about the Ketogenic Diet then?  On the one hand, it severely limits sugar and carbohydrates – which would lower the acidic load and making the body more alkaline.  What I have found, however, is that most individuals, myself included, who are attempting to eat “keto” tend to concentrate on the protein and fat components of the ketogenic regime with less than optimal intake of fruits and vegetables.  Since fruits and vegetables are required to keep the body alkaline, it is estimated that you would have to eat 10 fruits and vegetables per day.  I haven’t read this book yet, but Ross Bridgeford has a new book out called “The Alkaline Reset Cleanse”-which may be a good resource for those of you who are interested.

The other problem that most of us over 40 have is a sluggish digestive system – which tends to be more acidic – from a lifetime of acidic foods.  This leads to a maladapted gut microbiome and an increased growth in organisms that thrive in an acid environment.

Meat is also an acidic-reacting food as are sugar and carbohydrates.

Researchers at Purdue University cut their subject’s total caloric intake by 30% then put them on either a high plant protein or low plant protein/animal-based diet.  Those subjects who ate more plant protein i.e., beans (which were prepared to eliminate the lectins), lentils and peas lost 325% more weight than those eating animal-based protein.  Plant-based protein is high in fiber – which promotes a healthy gut bacteria diversity and number.

Which brings us to our second point.  Candida albicans – a gut fungal commensal parasitic organism – thrives in an acid environment.  It disrupts our normal microbiome.  Even when a woman follows the ketogenic diet, for example, and does “everything right” weight loss can plateau.  This is often due to the Candida organism which may have extended beyond the gut affecting the liver and the thyroid – which stalls metabolism.

Candida organisms produce more than 75 known toxins. To protect the vital organisms, the body produces new fat cells to store the excess toxins. Tumeric and Curcumin are essential, in my mind, for anyone on low carbohydrate diet, including the ketogenic diet because it is possible that the “ketogenic flu” is just a manifestation of Candida die-off and the release of the candida toxins from the fat stores.   250 mcg of molybdenum per day as a supplement can reduce this effect.

Curcumin kills Candida, shuts off its repair cycle and reduces the candida’s ability to adhere to the body cells.  In addition, curcumin can repair candida-damaged liver tissue, and can cause fat cells to self-destruct and halt the development of new fat stores.  All it takes is to add 1 tsp of turmeric to foods per day (or 1,000 mg of Curcumin in supplemental form).  FYI, Curcumin is up to 10 times more effective when taken in tandem with Vitamin C or Vitamin-containing foods.

In Summary,

When on the Ketogenic Diet:

  1. Alkalize the diet by concentrating on increasing the alkaline-reacting foods –especially the alkaline superstars: kale, cucumber, broccoli, celery, avocado, watercress;
  2. Explore Plant-Based Protein sources and make them a priority i.e., eat more of them in the ketogenic eating plan;
  3. Add turmeric to the diet or take curcumin as a supplement to kill any candida overgrowth and prevent a weight loss plateau – especially if you are female. Remember to take vitamin C or a vitamin-containing food at the same time (bell peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower or Brussel sprouts)
  4. Take 250mcg of molybdenum per day to reduce the ketogenic “flu”.

Until next time,

Dr. G

Intermittent Fasting: Is it good for women?

Intermittent Fasting has many supposed benefits – a major one being weight loss.  Thanks to one of my patients, it was brought to my attention that Intermittent Fasting has potentially-different effects on men versus women e.g., having effects on the menstrual cycle.

As most of you know, IF doesn’t tell you what to eat as much as when to eat.  The idea is that short-term fasting is healthy – and for the most part, this appears to be the case.  As with anything else in life, however, IF is not good for everyone at all times, and women, in particular, at certain times in life e.g., pregnancy or when stressed.

The problem with the literature is two-fold:  1)  there is no standardization as to what IF regime they are studying.  For example, most of the literature that I reviewed uses “alternate-day” fasting as the benchmark.  Other IF regimes, like the Crescendo Method (fasting 12-16 hours for 2-3 days per week e.g., Monday, Wednesday and Friday) or the 5:2 Diet ( fasting for two days per week, restricting your calories to 25% of your usual intake) have not been extensively studied, and 2)  most of the studies have been done on mice/rats.

Many women have reported that certain types of intermittent fasting has caused sleeplessness, anxiety and irregular periods.  There is also a physiological state called “metabolic distress” – which involves the activation of the “hypocretin neurons” in the hypothalamus (this happens when the body perceives that it is in a “starved” state).  It is well-known that caloric restriction beyond a certain level i.e., starvation is terrible for a woman’s reproductive system and can create hypothalamic amenorrhea or the shutdown of periods, for example.

Fat stores are very important to maintain regular menstrual cycles.  This is why women have more fat under the skin than men.  It is also why women get cellulite and men, for the most part, don’t.

If we use the alternate day IF regime in female rats, the result is clear.  “For female rats, the degree of change in brain chemistry and in behaviour was directly proportional to degree of calorie intake, demonstrating the unique sensitivity of female rats to the starvation response”.  Interestingly, both female and male rats gained small amounts of weight on the alternate-day IF diet, and male rats became more fertile (while female rats became infertile).  For female rats, even a 20% caloric restriction increased the proportion of animals “displaying irregular cycling patterns” At 40% CR the major of the female rats ceased to cycle at all.  If we extrapolate to human females, CR increases the likelihood of irregular periods or the cessation of periods.

Human studies have shown that:

  1. Alternate-day fasting can create harmful metabolic effects in women;
  2. Alternate-day fasting did NOT improve insulin sensitivity in women (as it did in men);
  3. Alternate-day fasting had an unfavourable effect on glucose tolerance in non-obese as compared to obese women;
  4. Overweight and obese women appear to have some significant improvements with IF regimes, but normal weight women may not.

For those of you who have seen my previous blog on IF, I believe that we have to “follow the light”.  Our circadian rhythms are tied in to the light dark cycle on a twenty-four hour clock.  When it comes to eating we, as humans, are only meant to eat between sunrise and sundown – and to rest and restore between sundown and sunrise.  Our dependence on artificial light devices like tablets and cell phones has disrupted our internal regulation.     Intermittent Fasting should follow these cycles.

Intermittent Fasting to me is not Caloric restriction but Carbohydrate Restriction.  The IF schedule for me is to restrict carbohydrate consumption to 8 hours in the day in order to flip into fat burning mode.  Carbohydrate Restriction is NOT Calorie Restriction – unless all your calories are coming from carbohydrates.  Consuming carbohydrates is far too easy.  This is a problem, because most of us are not used to getting our calories from good proteins, non-starchy vegetables and fats.

I have found some glitches, however.  I have subconsciously accepted the notion that to lose weight you have to calorie restrict – so I found myself eating less than normal during the day which affected my energy levels dramatically (and not in a good way).  The point of IF is to enter ketosis for several hours to force the body to use fat stores for fuel not to reduce calories or “starve” yourself.

In addition, certain individuals have trouble digesting and metabolizing fats.  Not only do they have to learn to eat better sources of good fats, they may have to take digestive enzymes to help digest the fats then optimize the fatty acid metabolism by using certain supplements.  CoQ10 is one of these supplements (which is low in 50% of individuals who are overweight).

I have also found that stress kills the effect of IF.  Stress increases cortisol levels which releases glucose from the liver into the blood.  More glucose in the blood releases insulin.  More insulin takes excess carbohydrates and stores them as fat.  To allow the IF regime to work, stress levels must be controlled – and this is especially true for women.

Intermittent Fasting for women in summary

  1. Women are different than men in their reactions to IF;
  2. Obese women may benefit from IF more than non-obese women;
  3. Women should probably not use the alternate-day IF regimen, or any IF regimen that involves fasting for 24 hours;
  4. If you are female, Do NOT caloric restrict in general more than 10% of total calories. Female bodies are extremely sensitive to caloric restriction;  Make sure that you have an adequate caloric intake during the non-fasting times;
  5. If possible, substitute good fats for carbohydrates to a large extent – if you are attempting to lose weight;
  6. If you cheat, cheat ketogenically – to maintain the carbohydrate restriction of 8 hours i.e., eat proteins and good fats;
  7. If you are pregnant or planning to be, are breast-feeding or have any medical condition involving disruptions in glucose (like hypoglycemia) or in fat metabolism, or have an eating disorder, sleep problems or are chronically stressed, please discuss your situation with your health care provider before starting a fasting regimen of any type.

Dr. G