The Keto and Carnivore Solution for Autoimmune Diseases

As a functional nutritional therapist specialising in autoimmune diseases, my journey has been one of continuous learning and growth. While I’ve always stressed the importance of nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods and acknowledged the benefits of high-quality animal products, my research has led me to re-evaluate the potential of ketogenic and carnivore diets for individuals dealing with autoimmune conditions.

Understanding Autoimmune Diseases: The Body’s Natural Healing Efforts

Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome and more, are often described as the body’s immune system “mistakenly attacking its own tissues.” However, through my exploration of functional nutrition principles, I’ve come to view these conditions differently.

Instead of seeing autoimmune diseases as the body turning against itself, I aim to reframe this as the body’s attempt to heal and restore balance in response to underlying imbalances, inflammation, or perceived threats. The immune response becomes dysregulated, leading to an excessive and persistent inflammatory state, which manifests as inflammation and tissue damage. This can be due to various factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental triggers, or gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut’s ecosystem).

From this perspective, the body isn’t attacking itself but rather responding to perceived threats or imbalances in an attempt to restore balance and health. However, this response becomes exaggerated and persistent, leading to the inflammation and tissue damage associated with autoimmune diseases. So instead of a self-attack, autoimmune diseases can be seen as the body’s attempt to address underlying issues, albeit in an exaggerated and persistent manner. By viewing chronic health issues from this perspective, we can truly look at the root cause of the disease instead of constantly treating symptoms. Exploring autoimmune conditions in this way and inflammatory conditions allows us to delve further into various aspects of health and understand why the body responds the way it does to certain stimuli.

The Importance of Fatty Protection In conditions like MS – One of the key targets is the myelin sheath, a protective layer surrounding nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord. This crucial sheath is primarily composed of fats (lipids like cholesterol and phospholipids) and proteins [1]. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals become disrupted, leading to various neurological symptoms associated with MS.

The Ketogenic and Carnivore Diets: Supporting the Body’s Healing Potential

Through my research, personal experiences, and work with clients, two dietary approaches that have shown promise as potential therapeutic interventions for autoimmune diseases are the ketogenic and carnivore diets. These diets are naturally high in healthy fats and proteins from animal sources, providing the essential building blocks for the repair and maintenance of tissues affected by autoimmune conditions.

  • Reducing Inflammation: A common thread among autoimmune diseases is the presence of chronic inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage and worsen symptoms. Both the ketogenic and carnivore diets have been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. By eliminating inflammatory foods like grains, sugars, and processed items, and focusing on nutrient-dense animal proteins and healthy fats, these diets can help calm the excessive inflammatory response associated with autoimmune conditions.
  • Balancing the Gut Microbiome: Our gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiome. An imbalance in this delicate ecosystem has been linked to various autoimmune diseases, as it can contribute to inflammation and dysregulation of the immune system. The ketogenic and carnivore diets can potentially shift the gut microbiome composition, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing the abundance of pro-inflammatory strains. This modulation of the gut microbiome can indirectly support tissue health and immune regulation.
  • Providing Building Blocks for Repair: As discussed earlier, the myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibres is primarily composed of fats (lipids like cholesterol and phospholipids) and proteins. In conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), where the myelin sheath is damaged, the ketogenic and carnivore diets can provide an abundance of these essential nutrients, which can act as building blocks for the repair and maintenance of the affected tissues.
  • Neuroprotective Benefits: In the case of the ketogenic diet specifically, the body’s production of ketone bodies during a state of ketosis may offer neuroprotective benefits. These ketone bodies have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which could potentially reduce neuroinflammation and promote remyelination (the repair of the myelin sheath) in conditions like MS.
  • It’s important to note that while these potential benefits are promising, more research is still needed to fully understand the efficacy and long-term implications of these dietary approaches for autoimmune disease management. However, by providing the body with the necessary nutrients, reducing inflammation, balancing the gut microbiome, and potentially exerting neuroprotective effects, the ketogenic and carnivore diets offer a holistic and promising avenue for supporting the body’s innate healing mechanisms in the face of autoimmune conditions.

The Ketogenic Diet and Cellular Repair

The ketogenic diet has also been shown to promote autophagy, which I like to think of as a little Pac-Man that comes along and eats all the damaged cells and tissue that has been caused by free radical damage. Also, due to the high-fat consumption when following the keto diet, we get the essential cholesterol that the body needs for cognitive function and bodily repair within the mitochondria [6].

Cholesterol plays a vital role in supporting the body’s healing processes, cognitive function, and mitochondrial health. It is an essential component of various tissues and plays important roles in hormone production and brain function [1]. Cholesterol is a key structural component of cell membranes, including those of mitochondria, helping to maintain their flexibility and permeability, which is crucial for proper cellular function and repair. When cells are damaged or need to regenerate, adequate cholesterol levels are necessary for the formation of new cell membranes.

As discussed earlier, the myelin sheath that insulates nerve fibres is mainly composed of cholesterol and other lipids. Sufficient cholesterol is critical for the repair and maintenance of this protective sheath, which is particularly important in conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) where the myelin sheath is damaged.

Also, cholesterol is a precursor for the production of various hormones, including steroid hormones like oestrogen, testosterone, and cortisol. These hormones play essential roles in regulating various bodily functions, such as metabolism, immune response, and healing processes. Cholesterol also has antioxidant properties, helping to protect cells, including mitochondria, from oxidative stress and free radical damage.

Cholesterol is a key component of mitochondrial membranes, where it helps maintain their structural integrity and fluidity, which is essential for efficient energy production and cellular respiration. Cholesterol is also crucial for cognitive function, as it is essential for the formation and maintenance of synapses in the brain, as well as the production of neurotransmitters that are important for brain signalling.

Ensuring an adequate intake of cholesterol from natural sources, such as animal products, could be beneficial for individuals with autoimmune conditions due to its multifaceted roles in various bodily processes, including tissue repair, hormone production, mitochondrial health, and cognitive function.

 Vitamin D is also an essential nutrient for immune regulation and the prevention of autoimmune conditions [5]. Obtaining vitamin D from natural sources like cod liver oil and sunlight may be preferable, as cod liver oil provides a more natural form of vitamin D and also contains beneficial cholesterol [5].

The Power of Lifestyle and Environment

While genetics may predispose individuals to certain conditions, including autoimmune diseases, the field of epigenetics reminds us that we have the power to influence the expression of our genes through our lifestyle choices and environmental factors.

The “loaded gun” analogy is a powerful metaphor that illustrates this concept. Our genes may load the gun, but we have the choice of whether to pull the trigger or not. Even if the trigger has been pulled, and an autoimmune condition has developed, we can still potentially “unload” or alleviate its effects through conscious and proactive changes in our diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors.

By addressing underlying imbalances, such as gut health, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, and environmental triggers, we can create an environment that supports the body’s innate healing mechanisms and potentially reverse or manage autoimmune conditions.

This perspective aligns perfectly with the principles of functional nutrition, which aim to address the root causes of imbalances and support the body’s natural healing processes through personalised, holistic interventions.

I’m excited to announce the launch of my Zen Body Blueprint Membership in July, an online group programme designed to support men and women in making positive dietary changes to aid gut healing, manage autoimmune conditions, and improve overall health. This membership will provide comprehensive education on the ketogenic and carnivore dietary strategies, as well as gut health protocols, empowering individuals to take control of their well-being. There will be months in-between each nutrition protocol where we will work on positive mindsets, stress management, and why we may self-sabotage. As our mindset when dealing with health is just as important, if not more than the necessary dietary changes needed.

For those seeking a more personalised approach, I also offer one-on-one coaching services. Through thorough research and a deep understanding of individual needs and health issues, I provide tailored guidance and support to help clients unlock their body’s healing potential and achieve their health goals.

Whether through the Zen Body Blueprint Membership or one-on-one coaching, my mission is to equip individuals with the knowledge, tools, and empowering mindset they need to navigate their unique journeys toward optimal health and well-being.

If you are not quite ready to make serious changes, I also have my mini-membership opening soon. This will be a low cost,  monthly content-only membership with up-to-date health tips each month, recipes, meal plans, and other monthly content drops to aid you in your healing journey.

Keep an eye out both here on the website and on the Gut-Zen Facebook page for more news of when launches are happening.

You can also sign up for the Gut-Zen mailing list below to keep updated on all that is happening.

References:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7226731/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7293577/

[3] https://www.doctorkiltz.com/carnivore-diet-autoimmune/

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2475299122106086

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8620243/

[6] https://drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Ketogenic_diet_-_a_connection_between_mitochondria_and_diet

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