9 Amazing Benefits of the Vegan Macrobiotic Diet

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Macrobiotics is defined as follows by the Kushi Institute:

 “Macrobiotics is a system that can be used to create extraordinary health, through using both traditional wisdom and modern knowledge to ascertain the underlying causes of an individual’s current health challenges, and make adjustments to their food and lifestyle choices that support health improvement. Not simply a diet, macrobiotic recognizes the profound effects food, environment, activities, and attitude all have on our body-mind-emotions.”

The Kushi institute is recognized as a standard for those following a macrobiotic diet.  Macrobiotic diets (MCDs) are one of the popular alternative treatments for those with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  This is a whole-foods diet that is predominately vegetarian.  There have been reports suggesting recovery from some cancers with poor prognosis can be attributed to whole-food diets.1

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  1. The macrobiotic diet decreases total body fat and body mass.   2. It also has a positive effect on serum glucose, 3. lipids5
  1. and immunologic parameters.6
  1. Macrobiotic diets are also associated with a decrease in inflammation.7

I have stated many times in previous posts that a decrease in inflammation is thought to reduce cancer risk as well as recurrence.8

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Macrobiotic Thinking

Let’s take a step back and explore the thinking behind macrobiotics.  Macrobiotics is much more than a diet.  It is a way of living.  A different way of thinking.  It is a belief that we are all in harmony with nature and interconnected with one another.  What we do and how we eat not only affects us, but our world and everyone in it.  We start looking at food in a different way, as an energy source.  6.  This makes it easy to create healthy, delicious meals.

The vegan macrobiotic diet uses seasonal fruits and vegetables.  It is more natural way of eating that leads to a greater understanding of how the food we eat makes us feel.  7.  This leads to the consumption of whole foods and eliminates unhealthy processed foods from the diet.

 

The Vegan Macrobiotic Plate

It is not surprising that vegetables will be the star of the show.  Root vegetables such as beets, carrots and parsnips combined with green leafy vegetables will fill the plate.  Broccoli, cauliflower and seasonal squash add to the colorful array.  Don’t forget fruit!  Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries add antioxidants and color to the plate.  Pineapple, bananas and kiwi are other yummy additions. 

Complex carbohydrates are also essential so whole grains will be added.  Bulgur, brown rice and oatmeal are examples.  Fats and oils are also important.  Coconut and olive oil are great choices.  Nuts and seeds add nutrition and crunch. 

More Benefits

  1. Once we learn how much better we can feel eating whole foods, we make healthier choices. One of the most positive life-changing bits of information I obtained happened after completing the Whole30 diet.  Not only did I lose weight, I also learned how much better my body could feel as the result of eliminating processed foods and added sugar from my diet.  This thirty-day period will change the way I think about food forever.  9.  Eating a macrobiotic diet also benefits the environment.  We all need to help protect the earth.  Macrobiotics helps us to focus not only on our health, but the health of our environment as well.  Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet benefits each and every one of us.

I have spent more time thinking about what I put in my body since starting Sunshine Nutraceuticals nine months ago.  This journey has helped me not only think about myself and my family, but also the environment.  We are all responsible for leaving a healthy planet for the generations to come. 

I learned about the vegan macrobiotic diet while researching healthy diet options.  I truly believe we can all benefit by eating as much of a whole foods diet as possible.  Many health conditions we face are the result of unhealthy habits we have developed.  Smoking, drinking alcohol, over-eating and lack of exercise are just a few examples. 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Intermittent Fasting and Artificial Sweeteners, Bulletproof Coffee, Weight Loss, and More…

Is intermittent fasting (IF) good for you?

Does it work?

What are some tips for success?

My readers are aware that I have written about diets and nutrition in the past. Our family completed the Whole30 diet in October of 2019 and my wife and I were successful in sticking to the rules for the entire month. The kids couldn’t stick with it. They needed more carbohydrates and got very tired of stir fry’s and curry. Although we aren’t currently eating such a restrictive diet, much was learned during that month with regards to eating and how your body can feel differently when only whole foods are consumed.

Intermittent fasting (IF) was introduced to me by a pharmacist colleague a couple of years ago. He sent me some information via email and I decided to give it a try.

IF is a pattern of normal food intake combined with extended periods where little to no food is consumed. Restricting food intake to a time window of eight hours or less per day is also known as time-restricted feeding (TRF). As you can probably imagine, there are many ways to achieve this.

Alternate Day Fasting

During this plan, you can eat normally on even days and fast on odd days. During your fasting days you may drink non-calorie beverages such as coffee, tea or water. There are many books explaining this method. Probably the most popular is “The Every Other Day Diet” by Krista Varaday. The premise is you can eat all you want, half the time, and lose weight.

The 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 method involves eating normally for five days of the week and consuming only 500-600 calories on two consecutive days after that. I am unable to do this. Eating a few calories makes me hungry.

Lean Gains Protocol

This is also called the 16/8 method. This plan involves restricting your calorie intake to an eight hour period. In my opinion, this is a great place to start. Just pick an eight hour period during the day where you are allowed to eat, and fast for the rest of the day. You could eat from noon until 8:00 PM, for example.

The 20:4 Plan

This is the plan I follow. It is the most restrictive single day fast. This regimen allows for one meal per day. Many find this best for weight loss, ketone production, and mental sharpness. I do not recommend starting here, but you can work your way towards this goal. I suggest starting with the 16/8 method as mentioned above.

There are many more possibilities to choose from. Just google “intermittent fasting” and you will find many ideas. There are also several apps available for the iPhone to help you. Some of these include:

  • BodyFast Intermittent Fasting
  • Zero-Fasting Tracker
  • Simple: Fasting & Meal Tracker
  •  MyFast Intermittent Fasting

If you own an iPhone and want to try IF, I strongly suggest downloading one of these apps. It makes the process much easier. These apps also contain a ton of useful information on the subject.

I have been an “intermittent faster” my whole life. I very rarely eat breakfast because it tends to make me sluggish and hungry, and I find it causes unwanted GI symptoms, dizziness and increases my sugar cravings.

I have always read that you shouldn’t skip breakfast, but this strategy has never worked for my body. I have started using the intermittent fasting plan during the last couple of years where I only eat during a four hour window on weekdays. I do not do this on weekends because I find it too hard to accomplish.

I decided to write a post about the IFD because I wanted to report the available research to my readers. There are many benefits to this diet and I find it to be an effective method to keep my weight stable.

The Basis For Intermittent Fasting

It is no secret that, as a society, we overeat. Most of us eat at least three meals per day and snacks in between. This often leads to the consumption of too many calories predisposing our bodies to metabolic complications such as excessive visceral fat accumulation and insulin resistance. Lack of exercise makes these conditions even worse. The truth is, we are perfectly capable of surviving by eating less food, less often. There are many ways to practice IF. The benefits of these diets include:

  • Depletion or reduction of glycogen stores.
  • Mobilization of fatty acids.
  • Maintaining blood glucose levels in the low-normal range.
  • Reduced leptin and elevation of adiponectin levels.

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Behavioral effects are also possible and include increased alertness and improved mental acuity.4

Intermittent Fasting and Diabetes

The popularity of IF has revolved around losing or maintaining weight. This is what initially piqued my interest. It makes sense that if you eat for only a small portion of the day, you will likely consume less calories. Less calories means less weight. There are other benefits, however, which I have listed above. What do the studies say about IF and weight loss?

Most of the studies performed on intermittent fasting and weight loss are done during Ramadan. One such study, published in 2019, looked at the effects of intermittent fasting on individuals with metabolic syndrome (MetS).5

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by insulin resistance, hypertension, abdominal obesity, and poor lipid profiles. Most countries have a 20-30% prevalence of MetS among their adult population.6

It is important to point out that there are three general approaches most commonly investigated in studies of fasting.

  • Dietary restriction – One or more macronutrients are restricted with or without a total calorie reduction.
  • Intermittent fasting – Whole-day fasting or time-restricted feeding (TRF).
  • Daily caloric restriction – cutting 20-40% of daily caloric intake.

The 2019 study cited above showed a significant positive association between weight loss and the number of fasting days. The reduction of fat and body weight were achieved during the Ramadan fast while retaining lean mass. The non-fasting group showed no changes in weight. The fasting group experienced a decrease in both daily calorie intake, and physical activity. This led to a weight loss of 1.5 kg. This loss was 76% fat mass, 17% body fluid loss, and only 6% protein loss. The loss of body fat occurring in this study is higher than that reported from calorie restriction alone.7

A meta-analysis was published in February of 2018 reviewing intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obese adults.8

This analysis included 400 subjects ranging in age from 37 years to 49 years. All participants were overweight or obese with a BMI range of (26.0 kg/m2 to 35.6 kg/m2). The studies contained in this analysis used different methods of IF. All but one study used self-reporting through food diaries to monitor compliance to the various protocols.

This meta-analysis found that intermittent fasting is as effective as the current clinical practice utilized for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. Only a few studies met criteria to be included in this analysis, and most participants were women. These studies were of short duration and follow-up was very poor. Compliance was measured almost exclusively by diaries obtained by the subjects. Due to these issues, the researchers concluded that there was insufficient evidence at this time to recommend routine use of IF for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals. I did consult my personal physician and his take was that IF likely not cause harm and may indeed lead to weight loss. He stated that many of his patients utilize IF, especially athletes.

What to Drink During Fasting Periods

A common question people ask is “what can I drink during the fasting period?” My suggestions are listed below. If you ask several people about this, you will get many different answers. Always remember that no two people are the same. Find a plan that works for you and stick to it!

1. Water – This is my number one choice. Water is very good for your body and you need to remain hydrated. You should drink plenty of water daily whether or not you are fasting. You may add lemon slices to the water if you desire.

2. Bulletproof Coffee – This is one of my favorites. There are different ways to make this but I just use black coffee and add MCT oil to it. Others use butter and some add butter and MCT oil. The MCT oil I use is pictured below. I only drink one cup of coffee per day that contains one tablespoonful of MCT oil because the oil contains saturated fat. This special coffee helps curb hunger. You can also try one of our keto supplements if you find you are getting hungry or are low on energy.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar – I occasionally add 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to my water for taste and health reasons. I wrote an entire article on this. Click the link above to read more about the benefits.

4. Tea – Tea is fair game as long as you don’t add sugar. I also advise against artificial sweeteners (see below.)

Intermittent Fasting and Artificial Sweeteners

I do not recommend using any artificial sweeteners during IF. These products are not good for your body and, in many cases, can cause sugar cravings. This means no diet sodas or sweet coffee. At least one study showed that these substances actually lead to glucose intolerance by altering the intestinal micro biota.9

If you must utilize artificial sweeteners, I recommend Stevia. I just prefer the brand you use does not contain glucose or sugar alcohols.

Risks of Intermittent Fasting

  1. Dehydration.  Be sure to hydrate especially during your fasting periods10

2. Increased afternoon urine osmolality.

This can also be avoided by adequate hydration. Remember to drink plenty of water during the day.11

3. Increased cortisol levels.

Fasting causes stress to our bodies. This leads to a release of cortisol which is our primary stress hormone. This may lead to an increase in fat storage although, as stated above, studies show that IF actually decreases fat.12

4. Increased guilt.

Inability to stick to the fasting regimen may cause one to feel guilty. I don’t put much stake in this as any diet may have this effect.

5. Decreased alertness.

Even though IF is known to improve alertness and concentration in the short term, it is possible that if enough calories are not consumed, one may actually become less alert and fatigued. Dizziness may also result. This can be easily rectified by simply eating more calories during your eating window.

I have been using the 20:4 intermittent fasting plan off and on for a couple of years. For me it was a fairly easy transition as I rarely eat breakfast. I just had to train myself to skip lunch. It was difficult at first, but I found the bulletproof coffee and drinking a lot of water helped me get through the day. I also only do this during the work week so I eat whatever I desire on weekends. I do not lose weight on this diet unless I am exercising regularly, but I don’t gain weight, either. It is a perfect solution for me.

My recommendation is to also check with a physician prior to initiating a diet, especially if you have diabetes or take medications. You should have routine check-ups with your physician and you may discuss diets at that time. Although IF is not for everyone, I do believe it can help most people achieve weight loss safely.

Some other pointers are:

  • Be sure to have healthy food available to eat during your feeding period. You do not want to fill up on junk food and empty calories.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water will help you feel less hungry and keep you from getting headaches and becoming lethargic.
  • Have a plan. Try different approaches to IF and pick the one that is right for you. Remember, we are all different.
  • Utilize an iPhone IF app. There are many to choose from. These apps are great for tracking your food intake, weight, and they contain valuable information to help you succeed.

I hope you have gained something positive from this post. My goal is always to help my readers live a happy, healthy life. If you have any topics you would like covered or have any questions for me, please reach out by email. I am always here to help.

Have a great week!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Ornish vs Mediterranean Diet, Which is Better

What is the healthiest diet?

 

How can I achieve sustainable weight loss?

 

Is it possible to prevent, reverse or control type 2 diabetes with diet?

 

Those who have been following my blog know that I believe in the following key strategies to live a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle:

 

  • Eat whole foods
  • Exercise
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
  • Control stress and anxiety
  • Spend as much time as possible with your happiness elements

 

This post will focus on the best diet to achieve weight loss and keep your body as healthy as possible.  Our family tried the Whole30 diet in October.  It was challenging for us all, but some major lessons were learned from the experience.  First, it is amazing how good you feel when crappy foods are eliminated from your diet.  Your thoughts are clear, your energy level improves, and you feel better in general.  Secondly, your skin improves, you look healthier, and sugar cravings disappear.  Although this diet is hard to continue indefinitely based on its restrictions, I do recommend trying it to get an idea of how the food you eat effects your life.

 

Let’s look at two different diets that may help you.

Dean Ornish’s Spectrum Diet

Dr. Dean Ornish has created a program which is similar to what I believe will lead to a healthier you.  His program claims to be able to reverse heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, and lead to weight loss.  Dr. Ornish believes that foods are neither good nor bad, but some are healthier than others.  He believes eating more of the healthy foods such as

 

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Nonfat dairy
  • Fats that contain omega 3 fatty acids
  • Legumes
  • Soy products
  • Egg whites

 

can have anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-heart disease effects.  Like me, Dr. Ornish emphasizes whole foods.  Processed foods should be limited.  He believes eating mostly plants in their natural form will lead to better health.

 

Ornish’s diet does not restrict calories unless weight loss is a goal.  He believes in small frequent meals throughout the day which maintain energy levels and controls hunger.

Carbohydrates

This diet limits the following “bad” carbs

 

  • Sugar
  • Concentrated sweeteners
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Refined carbohydrates

 

Added sugars such as agave, honey, white or brown sugar, maple syrup and refined carbohydrates are limited to 2 servings per day. 

 

Alcohol can be consumed in limited quantities, but is not encouraged and is limited to one serving per day or

 

  • 5 ounces liquor
  • 4 ounces wine
  • 12 ounces beer

Fats

The Ornish diet recommends 4 grams of good fats daily.  These include

 

  • Fish oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Plankton based omega-3 fatty acids

 

Limit calories from fats to 10% or less.  This diet achieves this by not adding fats, oils, avocados, coconut, or olives to the mostly plant-based diet.  The fat will come naturally from grains, vegetables, soy, fruit, legumes, and beans.

 

Cholesterol is limited to 10 mg or less per day.  Non-fat dairy products are optional but should be limited to 2 servings per day.  Alternatives such as soy milk are preferred as they are rich in healthy nutrients and are cholesterol-free.

 

Since nuts contain large amounts of fat, serving sizes are limited.  Three servings of the following types of nuts are recommended.  These specific types contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, and polyphenols which convey cardiovascular benefits.

 

  • 5 tsp pumpkin seeds
  • 6 peanuts
  • 3 pecan halves
  • 1 whole walnut
  • 5 almonds
  • 9 pistachios
  • 2 cashews
  • 5 tsp flax seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp chia seeds or sunflower seeds

 

Low fat packaged foods are not encouraged, but optional.  Remember, whole foods are preferred.

 

 

Protein

Protein, obtained mostly from plants, is encouraged by the Ornish diet.  Examples include.

  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Egg Whites
  • Non-fat yogurt
  • Non-fat cheese

Other Recommendations

Flavoring foods with herbs, spices, vinegar, and citrus fruits is preferred over salt.  If you are a coffee drinker, limit coffee to one cup per day, or two cups decaf or black or green tea.  Supplements may be taken as well.  Dr. Ornish recommends a low-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement with vitamin B-12, fish oil, and calcium supplements if directed by a physician.

All information regarding the Ornish diet was obtained directly from his website at:

https://www.ornish.com/proven-program/nutrition/

 

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet is a way of eating in countries that surround the Mediterranean.  The basic guidelines are as follows.

Foods to eat daily:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Spices
  • Healthy fats
  • Herbs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts

To be consumed twice a week:

  • Fish
  • Seafood

Moderate portions of:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Poultry (occasional)

Foods to consume infrequently:

  • Red meats
  • Sweets

There are many websites devoted to a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.  One of my favorites is http://www.oldwayspt.org

This pyramid is found on that site.  This gives a visual explanation of what I have written above.

Why the Mediterranean Diet?

Studies have shown that this diet achieves better results than other diets in many areas:

  1. A 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared to low fat diets.1

 

  1. Lower blood sugars in type 3 diabetics compared to other diets.2

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  1. More effective for sustainable weight loss.4

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  1. Lower rates of cancer, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and overall dementia.6

  1. More favorable cholesterol, blood sugar and inflammation levels compared to low fat diets.

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It is important to realize that what you actually eat depends on your situation and what you are trying to achieve.  The above Mediterranean diet pyramid shows what to eat in general. 

Since most are likely reading this because they want to lose weight, here are some pointers.  Remember, if you are at your goal weight, just eat according to the pyramid above.

Try to stop eating and drinking sweet foods and beverages

This includes those with artificial sweeteners.  Even fruit juices should be avoided.  These items are high in empty calories and can spike insulin levels.  If you refrain from eating sweets, your cravings for them will decrease.  I noticed when on the Whole30 diet that fruits will also start to taste much sweeter and become more enjoyable to consume.

Avoid grains, even whole grains. 

If you want to lose weight, or are having trouble controlling blood sugar, avoiding all grains is important.  Grains contain high levels of carbohydrates.  Grains fit into three broad categories.

     Highly-refined grains

Any foods made with white, wheat or enriched flour.  Some examples include bagels, focaccia bread, pizza, pancakes, pastries, donuts, cookies, chips, pretzels etc.  White rice, tortillas, most granola bars, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals also fit into this category.  Highly refined grains should ALWAYS be avoided.

     Moderately-processed whole grains

These foods are not as processed as the highly refined carbs but contain rapidly-metabolized starches which spike blood sugar levels much like their highly-refined counterparts. Examples in this category include whole grain versions of pastas, crackers, breads, couscous, brown rice cakes, puffed grain cereals, muesli, and granola.  People at goal weight without diabetes, high triglycerides, or insulin resistance can eat moderately-processed whole grains in limited quantities.

     Intact whole grains

These are grain products that have not been processed.  Examples include whole unpearled barley, wheat and rye berries, oat groats, brown rice and millet.  These are the healthiest grains available but, again, should only be eaten by those who are at goal weight, don’t suffer from diabetes, insulin resistance, or high triglyceridemia.

Eat nine servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily but eat the vegetables first

Most frozen vegetables are almost as good as the fresh variety.  Be sure to eat more vegetables than fruit and eat vegetables with every meal, even breakfast.  Eat the vegetables whole instead of juicing them.  Steer away from starchy vegetables such as potatoes.  Keep serving sizes of yams, carrots and sweet potatoes small.

All fruit is not created equal.

The best fruits to eat are apples, pears, berries and citrus fruits.  Dried fruits should be avoided as they contain concentrated sugars.  The only exception is dried prunes which have a lower glycemic load.  Higher sugar fruits such as bananas, pineapple, grapes and mangoes should be consumed in moderation.

Eat beans and legumes regularly

These are best prepared from the dry versions.  Be careful when using canned beans.  Many contain added sugars and fat.  Beans and legumes add vegetable protein to the diet and have less of an impact on weight gain and blood sugar than whole grains.

Try to eat good fat, protein and fiber with each meal and snack

This has a couple of benefits.  First, blood sugar will rise more slowly and increase satisfaction.  Secondly, combining these leads to a longer digestion time which curbs hunger. 

Don’t skip meals. 

I know intermittent fasting is currently popular and I like to practice it myself.  Eating a good breakfast and small, frequent meals has been shown to help with weight loss.

Eat unsweetened cultured dairy products. 

Some studies have shown that eating dairy reduces diabetes and obesity risk.  It is also better to choose whole or 2% milk products instead of the low-fat or non-fat variety.  Eating aged cheeses is preferable to drinking milk.  Kefir and yogurt can be a great source of microorganisms (probiotics), calcium and protein.  It is always best to consume plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself.  I like to use blueberries, raspberries and blackberries for this purpose.

Always read food labels. 

Don’t fall for marketing slogans such as “healthy” or “low-fat.”  Avoid packaged foods that contain added sugar, refined grains and bad fats.  Remember, it is always best to eat whole foods whenever possible.  If it doesn’t come with a label, it is probably much healthier for your body.

Plan ahead. 

Often we make poor choices when in a hurry or when we haven’t purchased the correct ingredients for healthy meals.  Stay away from fast food and limit trips to restaurants. 

Exercise!  

My readers are probably tired of hearing this but it is probably the most important key to health, happiness and weight loss.  Be active, take the stairs, park further from your destination and walk.  There are many ways to get exercise, you don’t necessarily have to live at the gym to accomplish this.

Get enough sleep. 

This is another thing that comes up over and over in my posts.  Lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

Let's Compare the Two Diets

Now that we have explored these two diets, we can compare them.  They are actually not that much different.  They both rely on fruits and vegetables as the primary food source and both prefer you eat the “whole” versions of these.  They both restrict refined sugars, processed foods, and unhealthy carbohydrates.

  The Ornish diet allows 2 servings of “bad carbs” daily whereas the Mediterranean diet advocates consuming them as a treat or on special occasions. 

Fat consumption in the Ornish diet is only 10% of the daily caloric intake whereas the Mediteranean diet allows for approximately 29% fat on a daily basis. 

Every physician I have consulted regarding diets has recommended the Mediterranean diet over all others.  The primary reason for this is the large quantity of clinical data available to support it for heart disease, diabetes treatment and prevention as well as the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Dementia.  The prevention of dementia is of upmost importance to me as I work on a hospital unit that cares for these patients.  This disease is devastating for both the patient as well as the family and care-givers.  Anything I can do to prevent this disease is worth the effort.

U.S. News and World Report ranked 35 diets and ranked the Mediteranean diet #1 and the Ornish diet #9. 

https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-diets-overall

This isn’t surprising considering the evidence available.  The main complaint surrounding the Ornish diet was the finding that the fat limitation made the diet hard to adhere to.  Nevertheless, this diet is very good for your heart and is also supported by quality evidence.  I see no problem following this diet if you are able to stick to it.  You will likely lose weight and feel great.  It follows all of my “rules” which are explained at the beginning of this post. 

I plan to stick with the Mediterranean diet for now.  My main reason for this is the evidence supporting its effect on the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.  I have no problem recommending the Ornish diet as well.  I have researched it and find it to be a great alternative for weight loss.  I recommend you take a look at both and make your decision based on what you can maintain.  A diet only works if you are able to stay on it.

As always, if you have any questions or comments positive or negative, please let me know.  I would also love to hear topics you are interested in reading about.  The goal is to keep you informed about anything that supports a happy, healthy, healing lifestyle! 

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Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet and Beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) Salts

The ketogenic diet is one of the most popular weight-loss strategies today because those who stay on the diet are able to lose weight and keep it off.   It works by limiting carbohydrates.  The traditional ketogenic diet consists of approximately 75% of calories as fat, 20% as protein, and only 5% carbohydrates.  This results in a daily carbohydrate intake of around 50 grams.  With the amount of carbs being limited, the body becomes more efficient at breaking down fat into ketones for energy.

The body uses two main sources of fuel; glucose and ketones.  Glucose is obtained when the body breaks down carbohydrates including sugars.  The energy obtained from glucose makes one feel energetic initially but often leads to “crashing” soon after, causing hunger and weakness.  If more carbohydrates are ingested than can be used by the body, the excess is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.  When glycogen stores are full, the excess glucose is stored as fat.

If there isn’t enough glycogen or glucose available to provide energy, ketones are utilized.  This energy source is steadier and doesn’t lead to cravings or the crash that often occurs with glucose.   The traditional ketogenic diet is not without adverse effects.  Two of these side effects are discussed below.

 

The Keto Flu

The keto flu can happen during the first couple weeks of starting the diet.  This is your body’s response to changing from glucose to ketones for energy.  The keto flu symptoms are:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Chills
  • Muscle cramps or aches
  • Irritability
  • Sore throat
  • Poor sleep
  • Trouble concentrating

 

These symptoms typically start twenty-four to forty-eight hours after beginning the diet.  The more your diet was previously high in refined sugars and carbohydrates, the more severe these symptoms will likely be.

Keto Breath

Another common side effect of the keto diet is keto breath.  This “bad breath” symptom will be experience by most people who put their body into ketosis.   It can occur during the first week and is the result of acetone being released from the body.  This side effect is often accompanied by a metallic taste in the mouth and should go away when the body becomes accustomed to being in ketosis. Until this happens, there are some steps that can be taken to help with this pesky problem.

  • Carry Breath Mints: You may not be able to get rid of the acetone on your breath, but you can mask it with breath mints. Sugar-free mints are preferred.
  • Drink More Water: Drinking more water causes more ketones to be released from the body in the urine resulting in less elimination by breathing. Drinking water has other health benefits as well that I have discussed in previous posts.
  • Brush Teeth Frequently: This is another simple strategy to help keep your breath fresh.

The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD)

The cyclical ketogenic diet is a variation of the ketogenic diet where you follow the 50 gm/day carb diet for 5-6 days per week followed by a higher carb diet for 1-2 days.  This variation is a popular tactic for those trying to build muscle and improve exercise performance as the higher carb days or “refeeding days” replete glucose reserves.  This is important as glycogen is what the body uses for energy during workouts.  These “carbohydrate days” will give your body the glucose it needs during workouts while reaping the benefits of ketosis.

This type of diet has many benefits.  If you don’t ever get to eat carbohydrates, you may feel deprived of some of your favorite tasting food.  The CKD allows you to enjoy these foods one or two days per week.  The body needs carbohydrates to function properly and carb loading keeps the body functioning smoothly. 

The microbiome of the gut will be healthier if you eat more carbs.  This leads to a better functioning gut-brain axis which provides several benefits.   

The keto flu and keto breath are usually less severe with CKD. 

It is important to be selective in the carbohydrates you consume during the CKG.  Try to eat fruit, lentils, sweet potatoes, rice and oatmeal, limiting fat intake during your carbohydrate days.  This is important as the body is only able to utilize one energy source at a time.  Since glucose is the preferred energy source, excess fat consumed during these days will be stored as body fat.  The goal should be to burn all of the glycogen consumed during the refeeding days so ketones are used as energy the rest of the week.

 

One Benefit of CKD - A Higher Level of Anabolic Hormones

Testosterone

 

Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for muscle growth.  A high fat diet increases the concentration of testosterone in the blood.  It has been shown that diets with less than 20% fats can inhibit testosterone production.  This is especially true when compared to diets containing 40% fat. 1

A study by Wang et al. showed a low-fat diet decreased testosterone levels by 12%. 2

A low fat diet decreases the level of testosterone in the bloodstream which, in turn, may lead to a decrease in muscle-building capability.

 

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone (GH) also known as somatotropin or human growth hormone (HGH), stimulates growth and the reproduction and regeneration of cells.  Low levels of this hormone may increase risk of disease and increase body fat. 3

Carbohydrates and sugar increase insulin levels.  More insulin leads to less HGH so reducing carbohydrates in the diet may help to increase human growth hormone. 4

5

 

Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)

The deficiency of Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is associated with metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome leads to insulin resistance, increased glucose levels, impaired lipid profile, cardiovascular disease and obesity.  All of these effects are undesirable.  The ketogenic diet increases IGF-1 which may lessen the chances of contracting metabolic syndrome and the negative effects described above. 6

A Great Supplement For Keto Dieters

If there isn’t enough glycogen or glucose available to provide energy, ketones are utilized.  This happens even when we consume a regular diet during the night as we sleep.  As mentioned above, this energy source is steadier and doesn’t lead to cravings or the crash that often occurs with glucose.  There are three ketone bodies.  These are acetoacetate, BHB, and acetone.   Beta-hydroxybutyrate is a great energy source when eating a ketogenic diet.  When glucose is limited, mental concentration can be negatively affected. 7

BHB salt supplements can be used when energy levels are low while on the ketogenic diet. 

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

The ketogenic diet has become very popular.  This diet works by forcing the body to break down fat for energy.  For those who work out, the cyclical ketogenic diet is likely a better option.  This diet allows for one to two days per week of carbohydrate loading to build up glycogen stores for quick energy supply during physical exertion.  It is important to eat “clean” carbohydrates rather than junk food.  Remember when carb loading to avoid too many fat calories because the body can only utilize one energy source at a time.  Finally, consider utilizing BHB salts for energy during the beginning of your keto diet and anytime you feel sluggish.  This supplement can get you over the hump without resorting to eating too many carbohydrates.  If you have any questions regarding the ketogenic or cyclical ketogenic diet, please feel free to contact me.  If I don’t know the answer to your question, I will research it and get back to you as soon as possible.  Thank you for reading my post.

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

My Whole30 Summary

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

What is the Whole30?
Should I try it?
Is it hard?
Will I lose weight?


I discovered the Whole30 while researching the best body detox plans for a recent blog post I was writing. I don’t like to make recommendations to my audience that I am not willing to try myself. That being said, I started the thirty-day program on October 15th, 2019. I was well aware that Halloween would be a bummer (no candy), but I wanted to do this. I set up a Google Doc on my phone and kept notes of what I ate and how I felt during the program. My starting weight was 188 pounds.

What is the Whole30

The Whole30 was created in 2009 by Melissa Hartwig. This is not a diet or a test of willpower, it’s a program designed to change the way you think about food. The basic premise is simple; some foods are not good for your body. Of course, many of these are the foods we crave the most. Eliminating all the “unhealthy” foods removes toxins from your body. Saying goodbye to the “sugar monster” is difficult at first, but as you will see, changes the way you feel. No fast food, no added sugar or sugar substitutes, and no cheese! This program changed the way I plan to eat going forward.


I have to admit I was skeptical.


What you will read in this post is what I went through during the thirty days. Some days were difficult. There was bickering at the dinner table. The kids missed “their food”. Don’t send me messages about child abuse, I did not make them stick to the program, but I didn’t make fancy Mexican and Italian dishes, either. Ashley looked at me one night and said, “I just want my food back”. These kids are not fans of fast food or restaurants, except sushi. They love daddy’s cooking.

Whole30 Rules

The rules seem very simple at first. The problem is there are almost no processed foods that don’t contain an ingredient you can’t have. You are much better off only eating fresh organic food. Fruits and vegetables will become your best friend. Here are the rules:

  • No added sugar or sugar substitutes of any kind. This includes honey and agave nectar.
  • No alcohol! This was the most natural rule for me.
  • No grains. No wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, millet, quinoa, etc. This covers a lot of foods. I suggest referring to the Whole30 book for a complete list.
  • No Legumes. No beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, or peanuts. That means no peanut butter. You can easily substitute almond butter or cashew butter — no soy of any kind or tofu, edamame, or tempeh. Soy sneaks into products almost as often as added sugar. Learn to read the labels.
  • No dairy. Another crushing blow to me. No cheese, milk, cream cheese, or sour cream. You can eat clarified butter, but I skipped it. I used olive oil and coconut oil for all of my cooking, a change I plan to continue.
  • No carrageenan, MSG, or added sulfites. Careful with dried fruits and sausage, be sure there are no sulfites added.
  • No junk foods or baked goods made with improved ingredients. This means you can’t make pancakes out of coconut flour. I will give you some suggestions for sweet snacks later in the post.
  • Do not weigh or measure yourself in any way during the program. Just before and after. This is to keep you from concentrating on your weight and missing other benefits.

Preparing for the Whole30

I am going to stress this step. Be sure you have an adequate supply of “Whole30 compliant” food in your house before you start. Do not try to wing it! I suggest stocking up on fresh fruits and vegetables, almonds, cashews, eggs, and other sources of protein. If you are vegan, you are in good shape, remember, no grains. There are a few bars you can use that I will get to later.

If you don’t prepare, you probably will fail.

One of the things we ate several times is various forms of curry. This is ideal because not only can you change up the vegetables, the turmeric in the curry is very good for your body. I suggest stocking up on curry powder.

Be ready to spend more time cooking and preparing meals. There are no drive-throughs in this plan. Give yourself an hour for dinner preparation each night. I will share ideas for meals later. My plan was to eat simple things during the day and make a healthy dinner at night.

Restaurants and the Whole30

My suggestion is to plan to stay away from restaurants for thirty days. We went out once, and it was extremely frustrating. There was almost nothing on the menu that fit the plan. It was a horrible experience and, if I do this again, I will prepare every meal myself. I am not a huge fan of restaurants anyway, so this isn’t a significant loss for me.

Whole30 Compliant Snack Bars

There are a few snack bars that are Whole30 compliant and I have listed a few here.  The most inexpensive ones I was able to find are pictured above.  Please note that all Larabars are not Whole30 compliant.  The ones listed above are fine but please read ingredients on anything processed prior to eating.

Some of the EPIC bars such as the one pictured are also Whole30 compliant.  Just a warning, this chicken one is spicy!  Be sure to check all labels because some I found had added sugar.

RX bars are also mostly compliant.  I would not suggest eating any of these bars often.  Just keep them on hand for emergency use.  It is much better to always eat whole foods.

A Few Whole30 Recipes I Used

I have added a few recipes to this post that my family ate during the Whole30 experience.  The first is a snack bar that is super easy to make and very good.  So good, in fact, I am still making these even after finishing the Whole30.  The second is a frittata where you could substitute virtually any vegetable that works with eggs.  The last is a curry recipe. As I said above, we ate a lot of curry during the Whole30 and you could use any vegetables or curry types for this. 

My Experience with the Whole30

My starting weight was 188 pounds on 10/15/19. The first day was excellent. In the morning, I had black coffee only. For lunch, I had cherry tomatoes, blackberries, and raspberries. This was my pattern, although some days, I added almonds or cashews and turkey or tuna to lunch. I skipped breakfast almost every day, which is typical for me. The first night I made chicken primavera from the Whole30 book for dinner.

Day two, I was tired and hungry. I made a spinach frittata for dinner. I am not a fan of eggs, but it was pretty good.

Day three was a good day. I had a false sense that the hard part was over, but I was very wrong. Spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, steamed broccoli, and chicken Italian from 365 was dinner.

Day four, I was sluggish in the AM, but the day got better.

On day five, Luke Combs came to Portland, and Cathy and I went to see him. It was a great concert, and I didn’t think much about food. I made pork meatballs and sweet potatoes with bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes in a red curry sauce.

Day six was the WORST day of all, especially in the evening. I ate a lot of food but I felt like my energy was depleted. I wasn’t sure if I could make it. Looking back, I’m glad I pushed through. I worked the evening shift and didn’t get home until after midnight.

Day seven, I slept until 10 am.  I had two poached eggs and stuffed peppers before leaving for work. The worst was over!

Day eight, even with five hours of sleep, I felt amazing all day. I had read about it, but guess what happened next?

Tiger blood

The Whole30 book says this should happen from day 16 to 27 but it occurred for me on day 9. I can’t explain this feeling, but it is terrific. I felt better than I have in years. I attribute it to being detoxed off of all the crap I had been eating. I won’t bore you with all the details of the rest of the days, but they all went pretty well. I did get a little tired of the same food towards the end. In the last couple of days, I wanted to change up the diet a little.

We had curry in one form or another nine different nights. I had it leftover at least twice. I would say one of the main things I learned is that curry is excellent and healthy.

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

I woke up at 2 am on day 31 and weighed myself. I was down to 175.8 pounds, so in 30 days, I lost 12.2 pounds.

I am not sure if I would do this again, but it wasn’t terrible, especially after day six. I did feel great during the last couple of weeks.

My wife also lost weight but struggled at times to find compliant food to eat when I wasn’t around.  Her skin improved, and she experienced no migraine headaches during the thirty days.  

Cathy brought home a pizza for the kids on day 15. This was probably the hardest thing to ignore because it smelled delicious plus I was hungry. I had a few days that I had to pass on Krispy Kreme donuts and candy, as well. I thought I would miss Diet Coke more than I did, but I guess I missed Mexican and Italian food much more.

Here is what I plan to change as a result of this experience; I will continue to drink my coffee black and cut back on soda, I want to continue the habit of drinking a lot of water daily, and fresh fruit and vegetables will always be available. I plan to snack on them often. I will keep monitoring my weight and try to stay where I am currently.

If you are interested in what I ate the other days, feel free to send me a message. I kept track of my meals, so I’d be glad to share that with you. If you have any questions regarding my experience, feel free to ask.

I am creating a diet of my own that I will share will you in the next few months.  One of the new products I have enjoyed is available below.  Give it a try.  Who doesn’t like pizza?  This crust eliminates unnecessary carbs!

I am creating a diet of my own that I will share will you in the next few months.  One of the new products I have enjoyed is available below.  Give it a try.  Who doesn’t like pizza?  This crust eliminates unnecessary carbs!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.