I know what you’re thinking, this guy is mad! Perhaps a little but what if we can improve our quality of life through sensible experimentation? Would you do it?
What is Bio-hacking?
Wikipedia’s definition of bio-hacking is do-it-yourself biology, a social movement in which individuals and organisations pursue biology and life science with tools equivalent to those of professional labs. I think that’s a reasonably accurate description to what I’m doing. Before I started down this rabbit hole I had to make sure what wanted to do is safe.
I embarked on 3 months of research, adsorbing as much information as possible from leading experts around the globe. After gathering this information and receiving further advice about certain tests I needed, I started on this new adventure.
So what am I talking about?
It all started when a certain healthcare professional, with many years’ experience in respiratory medicine, suggested I listen to a Tim Ferriss podcast. Some of you may ask, who is Tim Ferriss? Tim is a New York Times bestselling author who has a very popular podcast. His guests on the podcast are people with extraordinary talents in their chosen field. Tim deconstructs his guests to expose the secrets of their success.
The podcast I was directed to was an interview with a research scientist at the cutting edge of his field. Dr. Dominic D’Agostino P.H.D. is one of a group of scientists around the world researching metabolic therapies and the effect a ketogenic diet has on certain chronic diseases. His laboratory develops and tests metabolic therapies for CNS oxygen toxicity (seizures), epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, brain cancer and metastatic cancer.
This podcast delves deeply into the world of ketones and their effects on our body. After listening to 3 hours of information, which I only partially understood, I decided I needed to explore the world of the ketogenic diet and so my adventure began.
What is a ketogenic diet?
There are a few variations of the ketogenic diet, however they all derive the majority of their macro-nutrients from fat. The strict ketogenic diet, used to help manage metabolic diseases, is comprised with approximately 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates. Fats are to be sourced from plant, animal saturated and monounsaturated fats. Carbohydrates should come from leafy green vegetables and berries.
The simple explanation for the formulation of this diet is to change our body from using carbohydrates as our primary fuel source to ketones for fuel. Ketones are a naturally occurring fuel that is made by the liver from fatty acids. However, ketones can only be made if carbohydrates and protein are significantly reduced.
This diet is not new, it’s been used to treat epilepsy since the 1920’s and it is probably how many civilizations ate thousands of years ago. In recent years, there has been a focus on developing Ketone supplements. These supplements help elevate ketone levels as well as making the sometimes-bumpy transition over to ketosis a little easier. This is a very basic overview of the ketogenic diet for more information about ketosis I would recommend going to Keto Nutrition which has links to a wide range of resources. The Charlie Foundation also has a wealth of useful information including the story of Charlie, who the foundation was named after.
Ketosis and COPD
So why am I experimenting with ketosis? There are two main reasons I believe this diet can help me and other COPD patients. Firstly, the ketogenic diet has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties: COPD and Asthma can be triggered by inflammation of the airways. Secondly, there is some evidence that suggest using ketones as your primary fuel source allows your muscles to use oxygen more effectively.
To be clear, there are no studies directly linking COPD and a ketogenic diet. There are studies suggesting a ketogenic diet can have a suppressing effect on the NRLP3 inflammasome. We now know there is a link between the NRLP3 inflammasome and COPD. What if we can block the NRLP3 inflammasome through a diet. Would doing this influence a COPD patient’s symptoms?
In the last 12 months I’ve realised just how much what we eat can impact on how we feel, whether or not we have a chronic disease. In January 2016, I adopted a low carbohydrate diet which I believe was paramount in my Gold Coast marathon PB. Going from a low carbohydrate diet to a ketogenic diet has not been too difficult for me. While I’m excited by what I may discover on this period of self-experimentation, I will keep in close contact with my doctors and listen to their advice.
I have conducted base line blood tests and pulmonary function tests which I will use to compare with follow up tests to be carried out two weeks before I leave to complete in the London marathon.
At the time of writing this article I have been in nutritional ketosis for 3 months and have already seen noticeable differences in energy levels and feeling less breathless. Could this be a placebo effect or is there more to it? My first round of blood tests since starting the diet have suggested there is something going on. For those of you who are thinking by eating a high fat diet your cholesterol will be significantly elevated, there is no indication of this so far. In-fact the only change in my cholesterol is a rise in my HDL (good cholesterol).
The information here is my personal experience and applies to me and my disease.If the ketogenic diet is of interest to you than I would suggest contacting your doctor to discuss whether this diet is right for you. While most people can adapt to this way of eating there are some people who should not travel this road, you should be guided by your doctor’s advice.
I will continue to update everyone on my progress through this website and the COPD Athlete FB page. I hope after 6 months of this diet I will have data showing the pros and cons of ketosis.
If what the science tells us is true, there may well be some benefits to maintaining a mild state of ketosis. This could be through diet or the rapidly developing world of ketone supplements.