Type-2 diabetes, along with other chronic diseases, is now understood to be due, in part, to over-activity of the otherwise normal processes in the body called inflammation.
All pharmaceuticals that have been developed to reduce inflammation have side effects, and it seems that the more potent the drug, the more dangerous the side effects. Studies have demonstrated that nutritional ketosis is surprisingly effective at reducing chronic inflammation.
Inflammation is a complex fabric of signals and cellular responses from our immune system that enables our bodies to recognize and respond to infection and injury. Having too weak of an inflammatory response leaves us prone to infection or impaired healing. But having too great of a response, or one that remains over-active for too long, puts us at risk for a form of chronic injury that underlies type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, many common cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.
This balance between too little and too much inflammation is delicate, and it is regulated by a number of circumstances including our genetic inheritance, toxins in the environment, and by many components of our diet.
In the past decade, nutritional ketosis has emerged as a potent modulator of inflammation. And, unlike drugs that typically target just one aspect of the body’s immune response, keto-immuno-modulation (KIM) seems to work evenly to balance the anti-inflammatory effect in a safe, sustainable and surprisingly potent way.
Nutritional ketosis has been shown to reduce these signals to a degree comparable to the most powerful drugs currently available. Importantly, it appears to do so without the serious side effects that characterize most pharmaceuticals.
The processes within the body that control growth, repair, defense against infection, and recovery from injury are some of the most basic to our survival. Every organ in the body, from the skin to the intestine, has its own characteristic defense that goes into action when a threat is perceived. When any organ is damaged it releases signals into the circulation to alert the rest of the body. So, whether it is an acute local infection causing major inflammation and fever, or something more subtle, like a dietary allergen irritating the intestine, these systemic immune and inflammatory signals can be measured in the blood. Some of these measurable signals are cell types called white blood cells, some are proteins that are made in different organs like muscle, liver, or adipose tissue.
There are circumstances, however, when this delicate balance gets too much stimulation and a class of disorders called auto-immune disease can occur. In this instance, the body’s activated defenses attack some of its own organs, causing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and type 1 diabetes. These immune disorders in turn can increase levels of the circulating inflammatory signals, and over time these can affect additional organs. For example, people with long lasting rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of heart disease, as are people with type 2 diabetes.
Drugs that Reduce Inflammation
The risks associated with chronic use of a variety of anti-inflammatory drugs are well known and often outweigh the desired benefits. One example is chronic aspirin use, which has been used to reduce heart attacks in people already diagnosed with coronary artery disease. When used in this instance, (as ‘secondary prevention’), it is associated with reduced long-term mortality. However, when aspirin is used routinely in people without known heart disease (primary prevention), overall mortality—primarily due to fatal hemorrhage—is significantly increased
Dietary Anti-inflammatory Treatments
There are a number of foods or purified nutrients that claim to have anti-inflammatory properties, however, most of those claims are based upon limited, or non-existent human study data. Some of the popular anti-inflammatory nutrients that, when administered as supplements, have not yet stood up to scrutiny are fish oil and green tea. Studies suggest that potent anti-inflammatory effects can be achieved, with apparent safety, by combining moderate doses of nutrients wherein each component acts on a different aspect of the inflammation web.
Aside from supplementation, weight loss itself has been shown to reduce inflammation, and it appears that the greater the weight loss the larger the anti-inflammatory effect. This could be attributable to a reduction in the amount of very inflammatory visceral (belly) fat, and/or a result of some patients being in nutritional ketosis.
Nutritional ketosis has anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects that are as potent as the most powerful drugs, but with a more balanced effect across the complex spectrum of bioactive compounds and physiological functions. This explains in part the unique initial, as well as lasting effects, of a well-formulated ketogenic diet in reversing type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
In addition to improved insulin sensitivity associated with less membrane damage from reactive oxygen species (ROS) known as free radicals, the anti-inflammatory properties of nutritional ketosis could be beneficial in other diseases or conditions beyond type 2 diabetes.