Is The Ketogenic Diet Right For You? with Dr. Josh Axe

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

One of the least talked about characteristics of the ketogenic diet is that it’s not for everyone. In fact, some people might feel worse on a keto diet. But for others, the keto diet is an absolute life-changer. In the second episode of a series with author Dr. Josh Axe, Dr. Axe and Dr. Amen discuss not only who can benefit from the keto diet, but how it should be used, and how long people should be on it for.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
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Dr. Daniel Amen: We are back with Dr. Josh Axe, author of Keto Diet and Eat Dirt. I'm dying to get into that. Also, The Collagen Diet. He founded the natural health website,, which is just loaded with useful information. I'm on there all the time. He's also the co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, provides protein powders, holistic supplements, vitamins and essential oils. Josh, we've been talking about the ketogenic diet and you know, my original problem with it is there were so few vegetables and I think of vegetables as medicine, right? That they have phytonutrients and polyphenols and I mean, they're really plant medicine. And when you look at the Atkins diet, which is sort of the famous precursor to the keto diet, there's not a lot of vegetables in there. Walk people through, well why should they try it? You know, who's it right for? Who's it not right for? And how do people do it in a smart way where they don't end up feeling deprived?
Dr. Josh Axe: Yeah. So I think for people to realize, number one, I think for a lot of people, not everybody, but for a lot of people, the keto diet is meant to be done more like a long-term cleanser fast. It's not a lifetime diet for everybody. Now, I think getting mildly into ketosis for some people is great. But let me give you an example of this. You know this research, Dr. Amen, that when it was first sort of rediscovered in the 1920s they were researchers at John Hopkins were using this for children with epileptic seizures, but they started noticing number one, before they found the keto diet, they found that when they had children fast, the seizures went away or got significantly better.
Dr. Josh Axe: They said, we want to create a diet that mimics fasting. Hence, that's when they really sort of discovered the keto diet. They found that high fat, moderate to low protein and very, very low carbohydrate consumption really helped in improving seizures significantly. With that, I want to say for some people, I think it's good to do 30 days to 90 days, but then just after that start eating what would be a normal amount of carbohydrates. What people consider normal carbohydrate consumption today is not normal. We should absolutely be getting more fat in our diet. That's without a doubt, especially those healthy fats. Getting a good amount of certain types of protein, especially those collagen-rich proteins and more fiber. We should be getting more calories from those things and less from the process carbs.
Dr. Josh Axe: So all that being said, the people that I think the keto diet is the best for are anybody who's needs to balance insulin, and that's at least you mentioned this earlier, 50% of people are prediabetic or diabetic so I think for those people, this is very good for. Again, we mentioned seizures, we could also mention weight loss. In fact, I think it's the most effective diet if somebody needs to lose weight very quickly and effectively. It's also been shown to be good for PCOS which if you really look at what PCOS, which stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, it's really an insulin issue. We could say the same thing for Alzheimer's. It's called type 3 diabetes sometimes, or I've heard it referred to is that. That's an insulin issue. So I think that for most people, balancing insulin is so key to getting healthy. And I think that the keto diet does a great job of that.
Dr. Josh Axe: The people that shouldn't be doing it. I don't think women that are looking to get pregnant, are pregnant or breastfeeding it's ideal for. I don't think it's ideal as well for people with liver and gallbladder disease. If you think about it like this, different organ systems really have to deal and process different foods, so where your liver and gallbladder are dealing with fat, your stomach and your kidneys and a little bit of liver is really dealing with protein digestion to where your pancreas more than anything is really dealing with carbohydrate consumption. I think essentially on the keto diet, you are now completely resting your pancreas. And there's a principle I used to teach my patients, Dr. Amen, and it's this, foods don't heal you. The body heals itself. Your body will use foods.
Dr. Josh Axe: This is why the principle of fasting is so powerful. When you completely rest your body and you're not giving it anything, your organ systems now, many of them have a time to regenerate and heal themselves in a way or cleanse themselves. And so I think that's why intermittent fasting and the keto diet are so powerful, especially for conditions like diabetes or any condition that's related to insulin because they sort of allow your body to rest and heal. But when people are doing the keto diet, here's the big thing, they got to do it the right way and that is with loading up on vegetables and those sources of healthy fats.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And when you load up on vegetables, can you stand ketosis?
Dr. Josh Axe: You can. You know, it's just doing the right types of vegetables. If your vegetable consumption is coming from those high-fiber vegetables that are very low in carbohydrates like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, spinach, chard, Brussels sprouts, you know those types of vegetables, those cruciferous and green leafy vegetables primarily along with asparagus, cabbage would be in there as well. You can really eat about as many of those as you can and still stay in ketosis. Now beets and carrots and squash and pumpkin. You need to be more careful with those because those do contain more carbs in terms of when we're comparing them to other vegetables.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. I know they make sugar out of beets so you have to be careful with them. Although beets increase blood flow to the brain, which-
Dr. Josh Axe: Which is great.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that increase blood flow of all of the organs. You know, one of the things I've seen is for my ADD group. The ketogenic diet is great. It really helps them focus. For my OCD group, it makes them mean because when you have a lower carbohydrate load, serotonin doesn't get into the brain, so you almost need an insulin response to actually push serotonin into the brain, which is why people get addicted to donuts and brownies and pastries and so on. Not that they're good. I mean exercise pushes serotonin into the brain as well. But you know, like I said, my granddaughter has been on, I mean like a hardcore ketogenic diet and then now she's on a modified version and it has just helped her so much. The carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates. And people don't know that when you eat bread, it actually turns to sugar in your mouth because of the enzyme amylase that it has a higher glycemic index than table sugar, which is a little on the-
Dr. Josh Axe: It's crazy crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... weird side. Tell us some stories from your book and your public television show, The Keto Diet. Do you have one that stands out?
Dr. Josh Axe: Yeah, sure. I'll give you an example. I had a patient and she was struggling with [inaudible 00:08:47] and hypothyroidism. Her name was Mimi. And the other thing was she had really terribly low energy. She was getting vitamin B12 shots and she just was sort of tired all the time. Even when she got a good night's sleep, she was still tired. So we put her on the keto diet and I put her on what I'll call a keto diet that's not like we still had her, she could do a cup of berries a day and she ate beets and carrots still. So those were sort of like where she got carbohydrates, she did vegetables. And then her fat was lots of coconut and then also lots of olive oil and lots of avocados. And so she started following this diet again, was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was just really tired all the time.
Dr. Josh Axe: And so we started... And I think I mentioned infertility. I'm trying to remember that, but she also was having infertility, which was huge. Why did she originally why she came in. She started following this diet after just a few months. And the biggest thing she was surprised within 30 days, she lost 18 pounds. So she lost the weight. Three months later she was able to get pregnant. And around that time as well, with working with her physician, she was actually able to get off for all of her medications she was on. And so for her, I mean really in 90 days and then she had a baby girl just nine months later after that. So after she was able to get pregnant. So for me, that's just an example of somebody who was able to experience a breakthrough.
Dr. Josh Axe: And I think there was a lot of people out there, Dr. Amen, who especially fatigue issues that's related to insulin. You know insulin, I've seen with a lot of patients, causes infertility, I've seen it cause low energy, I've seen it cause brain and neurological issues. And so all that being said, I think that is so key is that balancing out insulin is just so important. If insulin is imbalanced, that's actually really going to also affect inflammation in your body and how you just generally how you feel on a regular basis. But again, and I think too, I try and make it easy for people. I'll give you an example. Like I think you know, a lot of times I've seen people have a problem when they focus on all the things they can't have.
Dr. Josh Axe: So if somebody gets on the keto diet and they start saying, I can't have potatoes anymore or I can't have my cereal or the bagel I usually have or whatever it is. Versus if they say, "You know what? Oh wow, Dr. Axe or Dr. Amen, they're recommending a high-fat collagen smoothie that tastes like a strawberry milkshake for breakfast." You know, when they're able to focus on all the delicious things because on the keto diet and in my book Keto Diet, like I have recipes for keto pancakes, keto brownies, keto fudge, all of these delicious recipes. And so anyways, all that being said, I think eating healthy does not have to be this horrible thing. It can be this magical, amazing experience.
Dr. Josh Axe: I think if people have the right attitude about it, not to say, you're going out to eat it can't be a little difficult. But actually I've even found if I want to follow keto going out to eat, I just get meat and I get double vegetables, I get a big salad and I do extra virgin olive oil there and it works out. So anyways, all that being said, I think that if people have the right recipes, that's going to help a lot as well.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So I love the quote from Drew Carey, who lost a massive amount of weight. He said, "Eating crappy food isn't a reward, it's a punishment." And then I really understood he got it, that there are so many foods that people love that loved them back. And whenever you go to make a choice at a restaurant or at a holiday party, it's just ask yourself that question. Do I love this food and does it love me back? Because quite frankly, people are in abusive relationships with food all the time, and I don't know if you've ever been in a bad relationship, but I've been in a bad relationship for a long time and I'm not doing that anymore and I'm damn sure not doing it with food. So stay with us. When we come back with Dr. Josh Axe, I'm going to have him teach us all about collagen. Stay with us.
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