Alleviate Joint Pain with an Anti-Inflammatory Ketogenic Diet
Can you use the keto diet to alleviate joint pain? Joint pain and arthritis are linked to chronic and acute inflammation—this is when our bodies perceive a constant attack and release cytokines (proteins that regulate immunity and inflammation) to fight off the perceived threat. In the case of joint pain, this literally could be a reaction to lectins (found in grains, legumes and nightshades), excess sugar which encourages oxidation within blood vessels and around tissue.
In essence, chronic inflammation is your body having an allergic response to certain foods and excess sugar. An alkaline/anti-inflammatory ketogenic diet removes many of these potential stressors, namely sugar, lectins and grains—since they are generally too high in carbohydrates to incorporate into the diet.
Heat processed vegetable oils and degraded fats can also cause inflammation, so it is crucial to stay well away from sunflower, rapeseed and palm oil unless they specifically state that they are cold pressed. Degraded fats cause oxidation and inflammation in your arteries, as well as releasing free radicals into your body which wreak havoc with your enzymes and cells—they really are the silent killer that no one is really talking about. Lean about the science behind degraded fats here.
If you are using a fat for cooking, make sure that it is solid at room temperature, such as butter, coconut oil or ghee. These fats have a high smoking point—the smoking point is the point at which the fat molecules begin to degrade.
Reduce Sugar Intake to Decrease Inflammation
You can alleviate joint inflammation by removing sugar, especially processed sugar and fructose, from your diet. You can avoid vegetables oils and remove lectins from your diet. Losing weight will also mitigate the physical stressors on your joints and it’s great that you’ve already lost so much weight so quickly.
There are also anti-inflammatory foods and supplements that you can incorporate into your diet, these include cold pressed oil, including olive oil, hemp oil and cbd oil. Fatty, wild caught fish, avocados, walnuts are excellent sources of omega 3s which balance out the omega 3 to omega 6 ratios. Cooked leafy green vegetables and anti-oxidant rich plants and low sugar fruits; highly pigmented fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, raspberries and small amounts of beetroot can also decrease inflammation.
The problem with the current Western diet is that it is replete with highly inflammatory foods, from processed sugars to degraded fats it’s almost impossible to make healthy choices without studying each and every nutritional label.
My advice is to go for real foods that do not have a nutritional label or include few ingredients—i.e. unwrapped vegetables, unprocessed meat and fish. If the food package states: ‘Heart Healthy’ or ‘Low Fat’, just leave it on the shelf because this usually indicates that it is full of sugar or artificial ingredients. These high fat, low carb foods can fit into a keto diet to alleviate joint pain.
For a ketogenic anti-inflammatory diet, cut out all sugars, starches, grains, and legumes. Stick with healthy, unprocessed fats, pastured meats, eggs and wild fish; and leafy greens.
As mentioned, regarding the pain you may need to supplement with electrolytes and minerals—either from consuming bone broth or adding collagen and electrolytes into your diet. I will send you some collagen and electrolytes to add into your daily routine.
My key points regarding weight loss on any diet would be to get enough sleep and avoid stress as much as possible as excess cortisol can lead to weight gain faster than excess calories.
A Little on Ketone Metabolism
The ketogenic diet supports weight loss, particularly fat loss, as it requires your metabolism to switch from sugar burning to fat burning.
On a high fat,low carb diet the body is trained to use fat (ketones) as the main source of fuel, instead of carbohydrates (glucose). Thus, consumed (nutritional) fat is converted into ketones by the liver, and stored body fat cells are oxidised and converted into ketones, which are transported around the blood stream as energy for the body.
This is why when you test blood ketone levels, the higher the ketones, the lower the blood sugar levels –demonstrating which source of energy you are utilising.
Interestingly, breast milk is extremely high in MCTs (medium chain triglycerides that easily convert into ketones), meaning that new born babies are in ketosis—our more natural fuel source.
From an ancestral perspective—in the Northern Hemisphere and particularly in the winter months—due to the lack of vegetables and fruits, we relied predominantly on animal meat and fats for energy. Because of the limited access to sugar or carbohydrates, our ancestors would have been in ketosis most of the time.
Ideally, we should have ‘metabolic flexibility’ which allows us to efficiently switch between using ketones or glucose, depending on the food sources available. However, the modern diet is so abundant in processed sugars and carbohydrates, that our metabolisms have become glucose dependent, making it difficult to transition from sugar burning to fat burning….leading to the common ‘Keto Flu’ which can take months to get through.
Essentially, being in ketosis allows you to more efficiently convert your body fat stores into energy, resulting in faster fat loss. Of course, this is also reliant on a calorie deficit and balanced hormones.
There is also an initial flushing of glycogen stores of about 2 kilos of weight loss experienced by most people transitioning to a ketogenic diet within the first two to three days and is simply the water weight held in muscle glycogen stores; it is not fat. Carbo hydrate is the clue here—carbs retain water.
Along with this glycogen flushing, increased urination is experienced, as well as dehydration, thirst and a depletion of electrolytes and minerals—that are flushed out with the water. It is absolutely critical to replenish electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium, especially at the beginning of low carb diet.
Without the electrolytes you will feel low energy, thirsty and dizzy—often mistaken for sugar withdrawal symptoms! So keep hydrated and add mineral salt to your water and food.
Sugar addiction is very real and it is no accident that the foods that people crave the most are high in processed sugar.
The best thing is to go cold turkey and eliminate all sugars. After a few days you will begin to taste the natural sweetness in foods that you had previously thought were savoury. Well, that is what I experienced. I began to appreciate the subtle sweetness of almonds.
If cravings persist or temptation arises—which it certainly will—it’s good to have low sugar options which will satiate your sweet tooth without triggering sugar dependency and kicking you out of ketosis.
Sugar alcohols have a negligible effect on blood sugar levels and taste similar to sugar. These include Stevia, Erythritol and Monk Fruit.
You can get creative and add these to coconut flour based keto cakes, add to melted dark chocolate and cream, add to strawberries and smoothies.
It is best to avoid artificial sweeteners—often found in fizzy ‘diet’ drinks—as these wreak havoc on the gut microbiome and can still trigger addictive behaviour and cause stress and brain fog!
Here are the Most Common Mistakes on Keto:
Transitioning to a ketogenic lifestyle can come with its own complications. You can make your keto journey so much smoother by being aware of the following:
Too much fat:
Trying to lose weight on the keto diet? Careful not to eat too much fat! Much of the fat that you use for fuel should really be coming from your body fat stores, not nutritional fat.
Too much protein:
Excess protein is converted in glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. This will kick you out of ketosis.
Watch out for hidden carbs:
When on the keto diet, don’t think that you can just eat loads of nuts. Some nuts are quite high in carbs, such as cashews and pistachios. Low carb nuts include macadamias and almonds.
Get your greens in:
A common mistake made by people first trying the ketogenic diet is that they don’t eat enough fibre. And we know that fibre is vital for normal bowel movement and fibre is absolutely essential for gut health!
Fibre feeds the gut bacteria. If you don’t consume enough fibre, your gut bacteria thinks that you’re starving and will make your body more efficient on caloric expenditure. In turn, this will lower your metabolism and may cause weight gain.
Replenish your Electrolytes:
As you transition to ketosis you are going to feel thirsty. Cramps, headaches, dizziness and dehydration are commonly experienced when your electrolytes are flushed out at the beginning of a ketogenic diet.
This means that you absolutely must replenish your electrolytes: sodium, magnesium and potassium. You can add extra mineral salt to your water, eat leafy greens (rich in potassium) and eat dark chocolate (rich in magnesium) and/or supplement with an electrolyte.
Foods and Supplements I recommend and how to use them:
- Collagen with Vitamin C—I’m sending you a chocolate orange one with vitamin C. It’s sweetened with stevia which is a keto and gut friendly sweetener and is delicious blended with ice and unsweetened almond or coconut milk—just like chocolate milkshake! Vitamin C increases collagen synthesis.
- Quinton Isotonic Electrolytes and Minerals—take an ampoule each morning to replenish your electrolytes, the minerals will also ease the joint pain.
- Hemp Oil to add to salads, smoothies or vegetables—not to be cooked or heated. An anti-inflammatory fat.
- MCT Oil to add to salads, fat coffee (blend with a half tablespoon of grass-fed butter or ghee. Instant ‘fat energy’ that converts into ketones easily, usually elevating blood ketone levels by .2mmol.
- Erythritol—a sugar alcohol that does not impact blood sugar levels, it’s a keto and gut friendly sweetener.
- 100% dark chocolate – melt it down with cream, add erythritol and anything you’d like to add, such as ground nuts, cayenne pepper or mint oil, etc. Pour into chocolate moulds, refrigerate and once set, pop them out and enjoy your homemade keto chocolates! In addition, you can blend this with avocado and make your own keto chocolate cheesecake on a base of crushed nuts.
Anti Inflammatory Pantry Items to add to your keto diet to alleviate joint pain:
- Turmeric–Add this to your food, smoothies or coffee/tea for the anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Ghee and/or Grass-fed butter for cooking and fat coffee
- Mineral Salt: Volcanic, Himalayan or Celtic Se Salt
- Organic Bone Broth-Either homemade or bought
- CBD Oil for an additional anti-inflammatory and relaxing effect–to activate your Endocannabinoid system.
You can use the keto diet to alleviate joint pain — leave your questions and comments below.