The vague but urgent “I want to feel—and look—better” might be a thought you find yourself frequently thinking.
And while your usual self-care routine—including nutrition, exercise and massage therapy—can serve an important role in achieving this goal, examining your overall health may take you from “better” to, well, your best.
Adequate exercise, weight management, abundant rest, regular massage sessions and smart coping strategies are all part of the equation—and, for many people, simple enough to do without a great deal of guidance.
But finding the right diet for your goals and lifestyle? This is where it can get tricky. From Paleo and DASH to Volumetrics and MIND, the sheer number of diets presently trending can make one’s head spin.Enter the ketogenic diet—except with a twist.
Developed in the 1920s as a form of epilepsy treatment by a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins, the ketogenic diet inverts the triangle of the Standard American Diet.
Meaning, rather than relying primarily on the fuel produced by carbohydrates found in fruit, sugar and grains, it forces the body to turn to stored fat as its chief source of energy.
How does it do this? By replacing those carbs with high amounts of fat and low-to-moderate protein.
In turn, a keto dieter may experience everything from enhanced brain function, protection against age-related neurodegenerative diseases, improved blood sugar regulation, better cholesterol levels and, once comfortably adjusted to the state of ketosis the diet prompts, greater overall vibrancy.
And what’s most attractive about the diet? Its ability to prompt weight loss without intense exercise or counting calories.
Besides the allure of slimming down, however, some may consider that the potential benefits of the keto diet feel a bit indefinable—or too far in the future.
Others still may be wary of a diet that conventionally depends on fats and proteins from animal sources.
But a modified keto diet can not only help you reap the benefits of the traditional keto plan, it can also help you achieve something instantly recognizable: clearer, more radiant skin, enriched hormone balance and better mental clarity.
What is a Modified Keto Diet?
While the traditional ketogenic diet is the most popular approach, altered keto diets are emerging across the world and in the media, from the alkaline-keto diet to the Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet.
The modified keto diet I encourage many of my patients to try may not have an acronym, but it does have an eye on maximum nutrition.
In an effort to reduce the potential consequences of eating too many animal products, it looks to plant-based fats and proteins.
Avocadoes, wild-caught fish, macadamia nuts, MCT oil, olive and coconut oil, leafy greens and such low-carb above-ground vegetables as spinach and kale dominate the menu.
Meanwhile, my version of the modified keto diet allows for 50 grams of net carbs—roughly 15 to 35 more than the traditional version—but still encourages very small amounts of those found in nature: blueberries, raspberries, thin slices of apple and garbanzo beans, for example.
Moreover, I stress the importance of ensuring that the diet is properly managed. To ease into the process of the body depending on ketones for fuel, I urge patients to focus not only on what they’re eating but also on suitable hydration, adequate rest, regular exercise and eating enough.
These measures can prevent or diminish symptoms of the “keto flu”—a natural reaction to the dietary change that may result in achiness, drowsiness, nausea, brain fog and constipation.
I also advise my patients to supplement their diets with keto salts. Otherwise known as exogenous salts, these supplements—a combination of BHB (a metabolite produced in the body) and a binding compound such as potassium or sodium—provide an instant supply of ketones, increase blood ketones in the body, and, ultimately, may accelerate weight loss.
Further, after offering patients insights to low-carb food choices, I recommend augmenting their diet with nutritional supplements—namely, MCT oil (excellent in coffee), butyric acid (which encourages healthy intestines), and antioxidants such as Vitamins E and C.
I also recommend polyphenols, digestive enzymes and bile salts, fiber, magnesium and a good probiotic.
Research on Health Benefits
One of the most promising aspects of this plan is the potential impact it can have on hormonal equilibrium.
By drastically reducing carbohydrates, the keto diet—traditional and revised—curbs insulin levels. And this is vital: When the body has to produce surges of insulin to convert glucose into energy, it can lead to increases of testosterone—excesses of which can complicate fertility and disrupt ovulation.
Research continues to indicate that the restriction of carbs at the heart of the keto diet may be particularly valuable for women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, who often present higher insulin levels, poor ovulation and infertility.
What’s more, eating the prescribed fats in avocados, coconut oil and salmon on the modified keto diet—as opposed to the traditional diet’s reliance on saturated animal fats—may further work toward balancing hormones, in that some animal fats and proteins may be laced with xenoestrogens, a compound frequently found in pesticide-sprayed, non-organic foods, and the animals that consume them, that mimic estrogen and can result in a cornucopia of health hazards.
Further, in 2017, the World Journal of Gastroenterology published a study demonstrating that a ketogenic can correct imbalances in gut microbiota.
Translation: Improved intestinal health and, with that, a better-protected gut lining, which can prevent toxins and undesirable bacteria from getting into the bloodstream.
This might shield one from the hormone, skin and brain complications that can stem from stomach issues, while also promoting a healthier menstrual cycle, more lustrous skin and stronger mental performance.
The therapeutic uses of the ketogenic diet were explored in a review published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013.
The authors of that review concluded: “Ketogenic diets are commonly considered to be a useful tool for weight control and many studies suggest that they could be more efficient than low-fat diets, although there is not concordance in the literature about their absolute effectiveness and even some doubts raised about safety.
“But there is a ‘hidden face’ of the ketogenic diet: its broader therapeutic action,” they continued.
“There are new and exciting scenarios about the use of ketogenic diets, as discussed in this review, in cancer, [Type-2 diabetes], PCOS, cardiovascular and neurological diseases,” the authors noted. “Further studies are warranted to investigate more in detail the potential therapeutic mechanisms, its effectiveness and safety …”
With a meal plan that includes vegetables, proteins and fats widely known to support weight loss, wellness and longevity, feeling and looking “better” has never tasted so right—or so delicious.
Editor’s note: This article is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
About the Author
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist and passionate spokesperson for educating and empowering women to transform their lives with better health through natural medicines and practices that work with, rather than against, the body’s own healing processes. She is the naturopathic medical advisor to Daily Wellness Company, and the coauthor of three books: the bestselling Natural Choices for Women’s Health, the critically acclaimed Great Sex, Naturally, and her latest, Growing Younger Every Day.