Stories of Ketogenic Diet Dangers, Health Damage & Excessive Exercise
More and more people are suffering diet health damage from Ketogenic Diets, Low Carb, Vegan, and just Low Calorie Diets as well as excessive exercise, especially cardio. I just wanted to create a page to share stories of people who have been affected, to serve as a warning to others. Most who may be heading down this path are completely unaware there may be an issue. Read on….
Paleo, low carb, ill health and the road back
I’ll never forget how excited I was when I learned about the Paleo lifestyle and the benefits of eating and living in accordance with our evolutionary history. I devoured information for a few years, while implementing many of the principles. Mark Sisson’s podcast was often playing in my ears, and I remember eating more meat on a daily basis than I ever had. This was saying something because I had always enjoyed meat through my life anyway. Eating more fat was exciting and felt counter cultural, and therefore empowering. Things got weird though, as most attempts at dieting usually do.
The food I was eating ended up becoming more bizarre, and left me with an inability to properly process sugars/carbs. I easily developed symptoms of candida overgrowth whenever I let myself eat more varied carbs than I normally would. Weight wasn’t staying off like I hoped, too. My hair was starting to recede but I had no idea why. I was often cold and also dealt with frequent urination and strange body odour. (It turns out that often happens to people when eating so much meat every day and also so few carbs).
I was also finding myself obsessed with food. Thinking about food. Cooking food. Savoring food. This heightened focus on food was part of the effect on my body when eating a “Paleo” diet. This is normal for most people who engage in restrictive diets (hence the proliferation of “food porn.” Check out the Minnesota Starvation Experiment for more on what happens when caloric consumption is restricted to typical “dieting” levels.)
In June of 2015 someone I often spoke about diet and exercise with suggested I try the ketogenic diet. She was on it and was losing her “brown fat” – the stubborn fat that usually doesn’t melt away without concerted effort, she explained. I looked into the ketogenic diet and it seriously intrigued me! Eat loads of fat and moderate protein, become a “fat burner”, and shed pounds, gain clarity, rosy cheeks, stamina, less hunger, greater mood stability, etc. etc.? “Yes! Sign me up,” I thought.
Messed with my body and mind
In July of 2015 I started working with Maria Emmerich, as she had just come out with a cookbook that had a lot of seemingly delicious recipes to get me started. The plan I chose to follow, through her, was one that included weight loss through becoming fat adapted (ketosis) while limiting portions/calories, and also exercising daily. Not a good combo, in hindsight. Not beneficial at all.
I could write a book about all of the ways I was negatively impacted by this particular diet, and all variations of the ketogenic diet I tried thereafter. It messed with not only my body, but my mind.
I have numerous stories of monumental fatigue…the kind that is alarmingly concerning. I developed even more of an inability to handle sugars/carbs if I did ever veer from my ketogenic ways. Much more hair loss, more food obsession and irritability with others around my preferences/routines with eating (didn’t eat the same food as my family, for instance.) Even greater frequency of urination, cold intolerance and inability to get warm. I wore fingerless gloves and a sweater and brought a space heater to work with me. Frequent stomach aches were the norm. (I was also taking a powder supplement called Keto/OS during the end of my time practicing ketosis). Looking back on this, I seemed to have developed orthorexic behavior around food/exercise. All while thinking I was being “healthy.”
At the end of January 2016, when I finally sought change through working with an Eating Psychology Coach, everything shifted. I allowed myself to eat foods that had terrified me, particularly sugar. The adjustment was intense. Shifting from being in ketosis to then adapting to burning glucose for energy/fuel again can be a tumultuous undertaking for the body.
I remember the day when my client randomly said, “Sarah, where’s your heater? And your gloves and sweater? Your arms are bare and you’re not cold?” I explained in a few sentences what I had been doing to warm myself up again. Eat for Heat by Matt Stone was a huge help to me at that time. She pointed out that my face looked much less pale too. In fact, she said it was rosy! I marvelled at my bare arms in the air conditioned room, fully comfortable at that temperature, not cold at all. Astounding, compared to before.
My digestion improved dramatically and I was able to eat ALL kinds of food. Stomach pains went away. Receding hair line started growing back in. Frequency of urination diminished. Most importantly, my obsession with thoughts of food began to tame. I had room in my mind to focus on other things – not primarily what I was going to eat or cook next.
My relationship to exercise has also been a long and winding road. It included obsessive tendencies and overdoing it/overtaxing myself, but is now much more balanced. I don’t engage like I used to in daily endurance focused exercise that made me pour sweat like I stepped out of a pool. But focus more on building muscle through strategic weight training. I’m continually tuning in to my body, bearing in mind the need to recover and rest appropriately.
It wasn’t until 2017 that I began implementing lifestyle and eating changes inspired by Ray Peat, and that journey has brought with it ups and downs too. What I know for sure is that we are all fascinatingly unique. There is no particular way of eating that works well for everyone. Our bodies need ample nourishment from a wide array of food sources. Carbohydrates are not the enemy, but rather, supportive of our entire physiology and psychology. – Sarah B. (Sarah was on Instagram @sarah15fitness but has since changed her IG name and focus.)
Low sugar, carb & calories leading to many ailments including Lyme Disease
I spent many years in my 20’s and 30’s following restrictive diets, specifically low carbohydrate. Starving my body of sugars and carbs activated my stress hormones, throwing my body into metabolic chaos. I was addicted to this way of eating because of the huge weight loss benefits that initially came with it.
Frequently angry and irritable all the time when I was eating this way, it completely sucked all the life and joy out of me. It got to the point that I just became a shell of a person that I once used to be. I was absolutely stressed out of my brain, completely running on stress and adrenaline. Strangely enough I believed that I was very healthy??
My body finally crashed
Fast forward another few years and by the time I had reached 45 years old, my body finally crashed. Hypothyroidism , insulin resistance, estrogen dominance, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, severe exercise intolerance, weakness and numbness in arms and legs, spinal problems , brain fog , memory problems, slowed thinking.
I believe all of the above were due mostly to my restrictive way of eating, as well as over exercising!
Through adding back more calories in my diet , mostly sugars and carbs in the form of fruits, I am slowly gaining my health back. A lot of my symptoms have improved and I am finally feeling happy again. My body needs sugar and carbs to function at its best and I am looking forward to continuing to eat this way and regaining my full health back. – Rebecca M.
Ketogenic Diet/Low Carb – damaged metabolism, hair falling out and more
I was on keto then low carb for 10 years, and thought it was fabulous. I lost all the weight I wanted to, I found it easy to do, I was never hungry, made all these fabulous fat bombs desserts.
But then one day I realised my body was falling apart – body temperature was really low 35.3C (95.5F), pulse low – 60 bpm and I would always have cold hands and feet, even though I lived in a hot climate – so super low metabolism. My hair started falling out and blood tests showed I had high cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar (heading towards pre-diabetes), low white blood cells (low immunity), weight started to come back on and I had about 10 other symptoms pointing to hypothyroidism.
I now eat in a way that supports my health and metabolism, I’m feeling so much better, all health markers are improving and weight is right where I want it to be as well. – Kristy A. www.slimbirdy.com
Ketogenic Diet/Low Carb “Bulletproof” & years of hard core intensive exercise
Coming from keto/low carb “bulletproof” and years of hard core dieting and exercise, I lost 22lbs but I lost my energy, my period, strength, power, joy, personality, sleep, glow, hair amazing skin, muscle, time with friends, youth (I’m 23 feeling 73) and re-developed eating disorder behaviour. My liver enzymes are elevated and the bad cholesterol is high and I’ve re-developed hypoglycemia. Super sensitive to heat and cold. Blood flow sucks. Teeth are in worse shape. Skin issues on my feet. Skin issues period. Irregular hunger cues.
Already 1 month full on Ray Peat style and my body is not going crazy through the night as much. I received my period after almost a year, my fun loving personality is coming back, I am calm and can enjoy my meals. I also feel no need to over train. I’m able to stay up past 6 pm most days, and enjoy time with friends better, and work the next day with energy most of the time. Digestion is more normal. I can get up and move around or clean the kitchen right after a meal without feeling like my stomach is going to explode from all the non starchy veggies. Oh I feel like I can even go play like a kid after eating. Good signs. Time to make memories and live life to the fullest…free from my ED and dieting! – Amanda Lajcaj
Many diets & low calories led to Hashimoto’s
I did a week long intestinal cleanse (virtual starvation) that turned into two years of veganism, followed by tubal ligation that screwed my hormones and developed into Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I then spent several years living abroad where the food quality wasn’t great (lots of polyunsaturates) so I didn’t eat regularly or the right quantity. Getting lots of sun helped keep the damage at bay for a while, but when I returned to the UK the effects hit me at full force. I’m heading in the right direction now with Dr Ray Peat’s work, but it’s a long, slow process of undoing all the damage. – Sophie www.absolutelypure.com
Paleo, Intermittent Fasting and Ketogenic Diet Cycling
Health and fitness has always been a focus and passion of mine. So, when I came across the paleo diet with claims of being most in line with our ancestral human nature, I dove right in. From there I learned about the “danger” of carbs, which produce “toxic” insulin. And before long I was intermittent fasting and on a cyclical ketogenic diet.
At the time, I could rattle off all the supposed reasons why these were the best dietary practices – they improved mitochondria respiration, improved insulin sensitivity, increased autophagy, reversed chronic conditions, and on and on. I truly thought that I understood why these dietary practices were ideal for our health.
Then came the symptoms
But, while I was extremely lean on these diets, I began to experience symptoms. I wasn’t making improvements in the gym and didn’t have the energy for workouts, I had to study more for my classes because I wasn’t processing information as well, my libido was almost nonexistent, I had high cholesterol, and I had an unquenching craving for carbohydrates.
It was around this time that I came across the work of Dr. Ray Peat, which completely changed my perspective on health. It also led to the realization that I didn’t truly understand the physiological effects of low-carb/ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting. Instead I was simply attracted to the claims that were being made about those dietary practices.
As I dug deeper and developed a stronger understanding of physiology, the picture became clear. I was able to change my dietary and lifestyle practices to fall in line with what our physiology dictates is healthy. As that happened, the many symptoms I experienced on the low-carb/ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting were resolved. I felt far better than I ever had before. – Jay www.jayfeldmanwellness.com
Ketogenic Diet/Low Carb & circuit training
I’ve never been particularly over weight but I have had a few health problems growing up. My periods had never been regular; I could go two or three months without one. A diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome finally explained my frequent stomach pains. I was told I had poly-cystic ovary syndrome.
After reading an article, I found the low carb diet. After a rocky start on it, I started to feel better and had loads of energy. I thought it was the best thing ever. Even started to preach to everyone how great it was and how they should all follow it.
Fast forward two and a half years and I still thought things were pretty great. My stomach pains cleared up and to top it off, I discovered circuit training. I loved it! It was empowering and I felt strong. Never mind that every time I left the place I had a weird throbbing headache.
I remember attempting some kind of test to be able to do a certain class. My competitive spirit is, how shall we put it, erm, fierce!! I remember having nothing left to give but pushed myself to the end and literally fell down on the finish line. I felt sick and was shaking like a leaf but the others were laughing so I laughed too, it was funny right? When I got home my boyfriend said I looked ill. I couldn’t sleep all night. It was puzzling, I had no idea what was wrong. I had terrible anxiety.
Then I read another article about how being a fat burner is not such a good idea. When I really thought about it, I actually hadn’t felt brilliant for some time. My sleep had gradually been getting worse; I had been feeling tired, and I had totally lost interest in my PhD – which I previously loved doing. Suffering terrible anxiety attacks, I was always cold, I had insomnia and my hair was falling out. I just thought if low carb really was that bad for you, then that could explain all my health issues.
Undoing the damage
So the next steps trying to undo all this damage got worse, before it got better. I ballooned from size 8 to size 18 trying to re-carb myself and get my metabolism back up. Also no exercise was recommended, as this was contributing to the metabolism decline.
It took 2 years to start to feel better. While in my recovery my weight isn’t budging fast, my skin is getting less dry. My hair is the shiniest it’s ever been. I have periods regular as clockwork, and my sleep is better than ever. It’s a work in progress but at least now it’s on the right track. – Karen http://www.honestlykaren.co.uk/
(Help warn others about the Ketogenic diet or any extreme diet. Contact Kristy on E: firstname.lastname@example.org to add your story.)
For a more balanced approach, read more about One Ten Toned the exercise program and the Zen Beach Diet. Both are based on the principles of Dr Ray Peat. Read more here.