We’re always trying to stay on top of the latest trends in functional medicine. We’ve heard a lot about the ketogenic diet and were curious about the benefits (if any) for individuals with autism. We asked functional medicine doctor Will Cole, D.C. to give us all the details.
In conversation with Dr. Will Cole
GR: What is ketosis and what does it mean to follow a ketogenic diet?
WC: A ketogenic diet is one made up of high-fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. The whole goal behind a ketogenic diet is to reach a state of ketosis, where your primary energy source is fat in the form of ketones, instead of glucose.
The standard belief is that we absolutely need glucose for energy when that is simply not the case. As babies we relied on fat in the form of breast milk for optimal development. And with our brains made up of 60% fat with 25% of our bodies entire cholesterol found in the brain, it makes sense to feed our body exactly what it is made of instead of depriving it.
GR: What foods should be eliminated and why? What potential reactions could we be having as a result of eating these foods?
WC: You should avoid all grains, most fruit, sugar and legumes. Not only can all of these be inflammatory they can interfere with your body reaching ketosis by raising your blood sugar. In addition, fruits should be eaten in moderation because of the high fructose levels. The best fruits are lemons, limes, and berries since they are low-fructose.
GR: What foods are allowed?
WC: Other than that most foods are fair game! It really depends on what fits best with your individual dietary restrictions, if you have food sensitivities for example, and your daily macros.
Your exact ratio of fat, protein, and carbs will be different based on your age, weight, and individual goals but once you calculate those and take into consideration any food sensitivities you can create a plan that is best for you within those parameters.
Generally though I always advocate for clean, whole food sources such as grass-fed beef, wild-caught seafood, avocados, coconuts, coconut oil, olive oil, olives, ghee and fresh organic produce and stay away from pre-packaged “keto-friendly” foods.
GR: We know individuals with autism benefit greatly from the removal of gluten and dairy. How can taking this extra step further support their health goals?
WC: By removing inflammatory foods you’ll begin to heal any chronic ongoing inflammation. Going one step further and eating a ketogenic diet can take healing to the next-level.
There are so many awesome studies out there showing just how beneficial a ketogenic diet is to your overall health.
Not only can it help you lose weight and stabilize blood sugar, but a well formulated, nutrient-dense ketogenic diet also increases the beneficial bacteria in your microbiome to help balance the gut, and continues to reduce inflammation through regulating the pathways and mechanisms responsible for inflammation.
GR: How do we know if a ketogenic diet is the next step in the right direction? (Any lab tests we should consider?)
WC: Standard inflammation, blood sugar, and brain health labs are a good place to start. You can assess your levels to better determine your baseline.
And if you’ve already had labs done previously and have been working toward eating differently, reassessing your labs can better show if taking the next step toward a ketogenic diet can help move your levels to your goal quicker.
GR: Is there a key timeframe following a ketogenic diet that we would see optimal results with?
WC: Every person is different so with any diet change it can vary from person to person. However, in general the first 2-4 weeks can be an adjustment period as your body transitions into a ketogenic state.
It’s important when you start out to consistently measure your ketones to assess your progress. But once you reach a ketogenic state this isn’t a quick fix diet that can be stopped and still maintain the results.
It’s meant to be an entire lifestyle change to continually reap the results.
GR: Any tips for how to do this budget-friendly?
WC: Meal planning and batch cooking is always my first answer when people are on a budget. You’ll be able to plan around sales as much as possible and making a larger portion of something for a few meals can be more cost effective than buying multiple ingredients for multiple different meals.
Granted you do want to get in a variety of foods in order to also get a variety of nutrients but if you are changing it up through multiple meals, snacks, and even weekly you’ll still get a great range of nutrients.
About Dr. Will Cole:
Leading functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Will Cole brings years of experience in clinically investigating underlying factors to create customized health programs for chronic conditions such as thyroid issues, autoimmune, hormonal dysfunctions, digestive disorders, brain issues, and adrenal fatigue.
He is skilled in pinpointing the biochemical, physical, and hormonal causes of many conditions through the latest advancements in diagnostic testing in order to guide people to thriving healthy lives. Dr. Will Cole consults locally in Pittsburgh as well as virtually via webcam and phone consultations for people across the country and around the world at www.drwillcole.com.