Wow! It has been months since I last posted a blog post. Life threw me a couple of curveballs to say the least the several months. However, during my “off” months, I have been reading some fantastic nutrition-related books. This month I will share a game-changer book for me — Good Fat Is Good For Women: Menopause by Dr Elizabeth Bright.
Fat is often demonized by most conventional plant-centric health care professionals. And contrary to them are the meat-centric keto crowd, who support the consumption of not just fat, but saturated fat. Oh no! I can hear the “that’ll kill you,” or “you’ll die of a heart attack,” or “fat is BAD for you!” And heaven forbid that you have genetic family history of Alzheimer’s or carry ApoE4 gene where saturated fat is to be limited.
Interestingly, fat, especially saturated fat, is needed for every single hormone in your body to be built, and every single cell in your body needs it to make a healthy phospholipid bilayer to protect itself. So, how can something that is needed to make your body run efficiently and well for health become demonized by the masses? Good question.
When I first looked into the ketogenic lifestyle, I was concerned about the “high fat” part of the macros suggested. Then along came PSMF (Protein Sparing Modified Fast) and the thinking that you have plenty of fat on your body to make ketones, so you don’t need to ingest more than 40 grams of fat to maintain hormone health. But hold on, PSMF was only suggested to be followed for a couple of days a week, not every day. Furthermore, many keto gurus suggested that eat enough fat to satiate. Hum… confused yet?
It is at this point in a fat/keto conversation that many interested clients ask “How much fat should I be eating?” and “What kind of fat?” Both are valid questions and whose answers can further muddy the macronutrient needs discussion. Many gals are coming from decades of self-limiting dieting — think long-term and yo-yo dieters — and they have made it to their fifties and sixties and want off the crazy dieting-mentality merry-go-round. That’s how I ended up first looking into the ketogenic protocol in the first place — remember that ketogenic way of eating is all about your body’s ability to make ketones for an alternative energy source which is based on healthy fats.
After listening/watching several interviews with Dr. Bright on Nutrition with Judy, Steak & Butter Gal, I was intrigued. Then after working my way through the initial history of menopause, perimenopause and women’s health being highjacked by Western doctors, I landed on the chapters “The Case for Diet” and “Fat for Balance.” Now I was really interested.
I was fully aware that PMS (premenstrual symptoms) and menopausal hot flashes could be affected by the choice of and amount of carbs being consumed. Bright further highlights that “Perimenopause is actually caused by years of a high carbohydrate diet, which forced the body to create unnatural levels of hormones. All this leads to insulin resistance, thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, and many other illnesses, such as polycystic ovary syndrome [POCS], tumors in the breast, uterine, and ovarian tissue, and even cancer.” (Bright, 87) Yikes!
Brain fog — this is a symptom way too many clients list as something they wish to see improve — “is a symptom of hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, and diabetes.” (Bright, 100) I usually find that when we work on what is going in the mouth, adding good sleep hygiene and various other wellness practices, we can turn this around. And on a ketogenic protocol with adequate fat, neurotransmitters can stick to receptor sites, and work “to deliver those neurotransmitters to specific protein receptors.” (Bright, 105) As Dr Bright says, “You need fat to be happy and tranquil, and low-fat diets cause depression in women.” (Bright, 105)
Bright goes on to demonstrate that fat is very much needed by your body to function (117):
- “it makes cells grow and creates new ones;
- it organizes them into tissues and organs;
- it activates adrenalin;
- turns on the immune system and turns off autoimmune reactions;
- it synthesizes serotonin;
- eliminates toxins;
- and it makes adrenal cortex hormones, thyroid hormones, testosterone, estrogen, and vitamin D.”
Simply put, eating good healthy fat is a good “way to reset the whole system of communication between the hypothalamus, the pituitary, the thyroid, the adrenals, the pancreas, the ovaries, and the uterus.” To gain the menopausal benefits, it means burning [fat], metabolizing it, and allowing the body to use it the way we evolved to.” (Bright, 117) So how does Bright suggest adding enough fat to help you become content and calm?
First off, not all fats are created equal with the advent of the processed food industry. To learn more about which seed oils and processed fats to avoid check out my post on Dr Catherine Shanahan’s book, The Fat Burn Fix. If you remember to avoid the 3Cs and 3Ss, you’ll be golden — canola, cottonseed, corn, soy safflower and sunflower.
Next, consume healthy fats (yes, saturated fats) to create fatty acids to use as fuel — ketones in the blood for an alternative energy source to glucose from carbohydrates. “It also gives us the right amount of energy to allow the liver to make cholesterol, which becomes the membrane of every cell in our body, the structure of our central nervous system, and all of the steroid hormones, including vitamin D… Fat is not just your fuel — it’s your medicine” according to Bright (121). Furthermore, fat “protects your neurons from degeneration, which is the cause of such diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” (Bright, 122) I hooked into this because of our family’s genetic propensity to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
It is suggested that you need a “higher-fat lower-carbohydrate diet” — aka, a healthy ketogenic protocol/diet. Bright also recommends eating this way for at least one month for your body to adapt to burning the cleaner fuel of ketones. I too recommend that individuals follow a well-formulated ketogenic diet for several months. Yes, you will see benefits within a couple of weeks or less, but a longer commitment yields so many more health and cognitive benefits.
It is true you may see a change within a few short days, but it does take time for your body to learn how to use ketones for fuel instead of glucose. This is the biochemistry part of the equation. So be patient, “healing is not linear…Healing works from the top down and the inside out.” (Bright, 138) Dr Annette Bosworh (Dr Boz) reminds her readers 8in keto-Continuum: Consistently Keto for Life that once you “Start keto. Stay keto … It may take you a year to remain consistently keto for an uninterrupted six months straight” to gain the cardiovascular benefits. (324) And by keto, Dr Boz means the blood chemistry of producing and using ketones for fuel.
The basics according to Bright — fat and protein from animal sources. (130) She does explain this in more detail in the book if you are looking for more fleshed out explanation. Or you could contact me for direction as I am trained as a keto-adapted keto and carnivore coach (Maria and Craig Emmerich’s approach).
Subsequently, you will be eating a higher ratio of fat to protein. I decide to experiment with a 1:1 ration and 1.5:1 ratio. I found that both of those ratio for fat to protein worked very well for my body. Symptoms of inflammation disappeared. I experimented for several months and discovered that my body did best on with of those ratios, but did poorly on 2:1 ratio.
I would recommend Dr Elizabeth Bright’s book for those who are interested in the medical/pharmaceutical history of menopause and are willing to slog through those chapters to glean the nutritional and dietary approach explained in the last chapter. Was it worth the time to read? Yes, but I love history and nutritional science. You may find that watching Dr Bright’s interviews will give you some new insights of how you might want to include more healthy fats in your keto protocol. Below are a few interviews I would recommend:
- My Zero Carb Life (Kelly Hogan)
- Steak and Butter Gal
- Nutrition with Judy — Interview 1 and Interview 2
- Dr Robert Kiltz
Are you intrigued? Do you need more nutritional support or suggestions on how to successfully follow a keto or carnivore diet to improve your health? Then email Brenda to schedule your FREE Discovery Chat to figure out if this is your next step in improving your vitality and longevity.