Nutrition is one of the most poorly understood topics when talking in context to COPD and other respiratory diseases. The main reason is most doctors are not trained in nutrition and therefore do not understand the full effect nutrition has on our body. Doctors are well aware of the downfalls of obesity and undernourishment in patients but have little to no knowledge on the effects of the types of foods we eat has on our body.
This is why we have nutritional experts, and this is why doctors need to start referring patients to a qualified nutritionist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a shot at doctors. Doctors can only practice what they are trained in.
More and more studies are appearing about the benefits of a KD (ketogenic diet) for a growing number of disease states. Epilepsy, Metabolic syndrome, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Diabetes, Autism, Obesity, Migraine, Parkinson’s disease and COPD all have one thing in common – NLRP3 inflammsome.
What is the NLRP3 inflammasome I hear you ask? This is a complicated question to answer, so I will try to give you the simple answer. The NLRP3 is a gene which, when activated, can release pro inflammatory cytokines. In COPD and other respiratory diseases, over expression of the IL-1β and IL-18 pro inflammatory cytokines are key mediators of inflammation and fibrosis in multiple tissues including the lung.
This is a very simplistic view of what’s going on with NLRP3 but it gives you a basic understanding. Now where does a ketogenic diet fit into all of this? Ketones are small signalling molecules which are produced when you are using a well formulated ketogenic diet. This state is called ketosis and is best measured in your blood. Not only can ketones replace glycogen as the primary source of fuel for your body, they also act as signalling molecules and have the ability to switch off certain pathways.
In the last couple of years studies have shown that the main circulating blood ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate is able to block the NLRP3 inflammasome. By blocking this particular inflammasome you can potentially have a direct effect on many chronic diseases. While further studies need to be carried out in relation to COPD, there is already enough evidence to support the use of a KD for COPD.
In a recent podcast I conducted with Professor Peter Barnes, a world leader in researching Asthma and COPD, he discussed the importance of finding a molecule which could suppress the NLRP3. We now have this molecule and it is made in the liver of our own bodies when we create the right environment – ketosis.
In my own experience, which I’ve previously written about, I have noticed a number of benefits of using a KD. Reduction in inflammation, less reliance on reliever inhaler, less breathlessness and more energy. My FEV1 measurement has gone from 25-27% to 35-39% which has made a huge difference in my day to day life, not to mention my marathon time.
Is the Ketogenic diet for everyone?
The short answer is no. Medications and certain diseases and conditions will play a role in how the KD affects your body. For a small portion of the population the diet can have adverse outcomes. Truth be known this applies to most diets and the one size fits all definitely does not apply to nutrition.
While the ketogenic diet can be adapted for vegetarians it is harder to do so if you use the vegan diet. The other consideration is some people cannot tolerate the quantities of fat required to reach ketosis. However, when considering fat content remember fat doesn’t just come from animal products. Avocados for example are a plant food which contain plenty of healthy fats.
For the majority of the population the KD can be used safely and successfully if administered correctly. While you may think at first glance the KD seems complicated, it really isn’t. Once your dietitian has formulated your program you will learn to eat the ketogenic way very quickly.
If you find the KD is not for you, don’t despair as there are other nutritional strategies which can improve your quality of life. A diet which keeps carbohydrates low, especially processed carbohydrates will also have benefits respiratory patients.
Dietitians experienced in implementing ketogenic diet.
In the coming months, I will be listing dieticians experienced in implementing the ketogenic diet. For now, the links below are resources for patients wanting to explore this further.
Keto Nutrition – You will find a list of Doctors and Dieticians who are keto savvy on the resources page.
Metro Dietetics – Experienced in implementing the ketogenic diet for chronic disease. Also offer a global service.
The Charlie Foundation – A great resource for ketosis and chronic disease.