In July of last year I gave myself a concussion. It didn’t seem bad in the moment it happened but within hours I was starting to experience confusion and upset. Within days I was having trouble thinking cogently. Within weeks I was having bouts of rage to go along with my inability to think. I had a headache for three months.
It eventually began to clear but I could tell my mind was no longer the same. Everything came more slowly. I struggled to construct thoughts and ideas that had previously flowed without effort.
I began to research the problem.
The past five years have seen an explosion in the science done on Traumatic Brain Injury. The work of the doctors and scientists who led the charge to make public the damage being done to football players in the NFL began to dovetail with work done by a few early researchers in the medical and academic communities. That has lead to an exponential uptick in solid science on the topic and, more importantly, treatment protocols.
After sifting through the most accessible layers of material I began to notice that several things kept showing up, of which the two most relevant to me were that ketosis and fasting are foundational to the repair of the brain.
More important than ketosis and fasting, however, is the need to get rid of inflammation in the body and brain. Chronic clinical and sub-clinical inflammation has to be eliminated before anything else can be done to effectively fix brain function. The most common cause of inflammation in the body? Consuming foods to which the body reacts negatively. Ketosis and fasting tend to eliminate inflammatory foods all by themselves but more was required, which I will discuss below.
All of the above dovetailed perfectly with my desire to return to the dietary ease and the fit, healthy, lean body I had lived with for the 11 years I was not addicted to sugar. In 2014 I spent six months using Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet to successfully take my body to an extreme level of leanness. Unfortunately, the diet required me to binge on high calorie, high carbohydrate foods one day per week. I became re-addicted to sweets and starches and was unable to stop myself from eating them despite applying every bit of willpower I had remaining after having such a great physique win via the diet and loving my strong, lean body. The subsequent fat gain and deterioration of my health was remarkable to witness but not pleasant to experience. It had become time to permanently solve those problems while also integrating into my diet the protocols that came with my newfound understanding of traumatic brain injury repair.
Trying a ketogenic diet seemed like a natural next step. I had never done it before despite years of disciplined dietary experimentation. I had already experienced extraordinary gains from my first round of intermittent fasting in 2005. Combining the two seemed like a great fit as many of the most famous ketogenic experts were promoting exactly that: keto done with IF.
But there was more.
It is possible to eat a ketogenic diet that still tends toward inflammation. The foods we choose to eat are important so I took a look at my deepest goal – a long term and permanent change in my health and vitality – and decided to eliminate three foods that are acceptable in a keto protocol in proper quantities but I believe I have had trouble with in the past: dairy, alcohol, and sugar. All three of them are well known trigger foods, causing bacterial and fungal imbalances in the digestive tract.
That leads to the final reason I’m doing this diet: to see if I can fix what I suspect is a lifelong case of gut problems caused by decades of eating badly, particularly when I was a child. That, plus several trips into wilderness areas out of the country in my teens, may have left me with organisms in my digestive tract I have never been able to completely eradicate.
I have come to believe that years of eating gluten, a food I have not consumed since 2006, did damage to my body that has not yet healed despite all the years of dedicated effort to fix it. I believe dairy, alcohol, and sugar are the current culprits, keeping the early damage from healing. The constant stream of decades of gluten in my childhood (and later) upset the bacterial and fungal balance in my gut and damaged the delicate lining of the intestines. Dairy, alcohol and sugar have very likely continued to act as irritants and kept the early problems in place, even though their impact was dramatically reduced once I finally quit gluten and reduced the volume of the others a decade ago. The re-addiction to sugar in 2014 began to break those systems down again. Now I must repair them. Hopefully for good this time.
Perhaps now the choices I’m making and the experiences I’ve been describing fit together into a more clear whole. I’m working to:
1. Lose fat while keeping my body strong and fit
2. Build the foundation I need to repair my brain from prior damage.
3. Build the foundation for a lifetime of extended health span and increased functioning at every level.
4. Repair my digestive tract by restoring the proper balance of gut flora and healing the gut lining.
Those four things, together, drive all of my effort and inform the choices I make.