Proponents of the ketogenic diet believe that it can help people lose weight and possibly reverse degenerative diseases. The ketogenic diet does offer some benefits, but people with multiple sclerosis (MS) need to consider certain factors before trying the diet.
Basis and benefits of the ketogenic diet
The purpose of the ketogenic diet is to encourage the body to switch from burning carbohydrates to burning fats.
The body usually turns the carbohydrates from food into the sugar glucose, which it then uses for energy or stores for later. Glucose is the body’s preferred fuel.
However, if a person starves their body of glucose by removing carbohydrates from their diet, the body will switch to using fats as its source of fuel instead.
People refer to this adaptation as ketosis, which gives the diet its name.
Advantages of ketosis
In a ketogenic state, the body reduces its blood sugar levels and causes the liver to create chemical byproducts called ketones. As a result of either the reduction in carbohydrates or the increase in ketones, the ketogenic diet may help with:
- weight loss
- protection of the cells
- reduced inflammation
- lower physical stress levels
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society list some factors that may affect how beneficial a low-carb diet is for people with MS. They include the following:
- Fatigue: Ketones may curb some people’s appetite and help them lose weight, but extra ketones in the bloodstream can also cause fatigue.
- Fiber and nutrients: Ketogenic diets cut out processed carbohydrates, but they also exclude carbohydrates that are nutritious.
- Constipation: The reduction in fiber may increase the likelihood of constipation.
- Bone health: People with MS may have a higher risk of osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become brittle and more porous than healthy bones.
The ketogenic diet restricts both simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include:
- any sugar
- fruit juices, sodas, sweetened teas
- all types of candy
- milk, which contains the sugar lactose
Complex carbohydrates include:
- baked goods
- cereal grains
- starchy vegetables, such as potatoes and corn
What is a basic meal plan for a day?
A person could eat the following on the ketogenic diet:
- two fried eggs
- bacon strips
- black coffee
- half an avocado, seasoned
- sliced squash
- meatballs in spaghetti sauce
- roasted salmon
- steamed cauliflower with butter
- baby spinach
Other drinks throughout the day may include water, sparkling water with lemon, or herbal tea.
The above is just one example of a full day of eating. There are many ways to make the ketogenic diet feel less restrictive and more enjoyable depending on individual taste.
More research is necessary on the effects of these diets over time, particularly on people who have MS.
Although most doctors recommend that these individuals adhere to basic dietary guidelines, that does not prevent people from trying different diets. Some people with MS may be comfortable eating a ketogenic diet, but this does not mean that it is suitable for everyone.
The ketogenic diet can also be a shock for the body. It is best to make dietary changes under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They can help identify any nutrients that a person may be lacking, which could be harmful to health.
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