Walt is a 67-year-old patient of mine who suffers from alcoholism. He has struggled to stay sober for the last thirty years. The most powerful improvement Walt has ever felt came when he chose to join my keto support group. Walt’s experiences with sobriety AND keto-adaptation compel me to share his testimony with all of my addiction patients. It makes illustrating the benefits of ketosis easier sometimes to use a real example.
Here is his story:
- Age: 67 Height: 72 in Weight: 270 BMI: 36.07
- Blood Pressure: 4 medications to keep it in the 130s/80-90s
- A1C (Average Blood Sugar): 5.8 Average Glucose= 120
- HsCRP: 4.2 (normal is less than 1.0)
- Reason for seeking the benefits of ketosis: Stop Drinking.
Walt is a 67-year-old medical doctor respected by his colleagues for his extensive service and skills. Walt is wicked smart and has reached the top of his profession. Six feet tall and weighing 270 pounds, his size alone commands attention. Add to this his IQ and authoritative personality and it’s easy to see why many consider him a force of nature.
For 30 years, Walt’s kryptonite was booze. Multiple treatment programs didn’t cure him. His intelligence was hijacked by his drinking habit. He’d once celebrated three years without a drop and called it sobriety.
Unfortunately, a closer look at this ‘dry’ period reveals another addiction. When the alcohol stopped, the sugar started. The sugar helped him stay away from booze, but a total relapse of alcohol addiction consumed him the past three years.
The empire that he had built—the clinic with his name on it—kicked him out. Forty years ago, he founded that clinic and built the army serving the community under his leadership and name. Now, the partners voted and he was gone.
Here he was, in my clinic, 67 years old, kicked out of his career, a wife ready to walk out the door, and his health in the toilet.
Sobering up was something he knew how to do well. He had done it hundreds of times. This time, he chose not to spend another $40,000 on an inpatient alcohol treatment. He had done that many times before without success.
His swollen, booze-soaked brain short-circuited with cravings. These haunted his dreams. The drinking nightmares lingered for weeks while he would white-knuckle the decision not to drink. Then one day, the part of his brain that craved desperately for alcohol would spread the message to cover every wire in his mind.
This time I invited him into our weekly keto support group. He scoffed at the idea that changing his diet would have any impact on his alcoholism. Instead of arguing, I asked him to look in the mirror.
“Walt, look at you. You’re 100 pounds overweight, on four blood pressure meds, you’re a diabetic in denial with rosy cheeks announcing your addiction to everyone. Don’t argue with me, just do what I tell you to do. If you don’t feel better in four weeks with my instruction, you can have your old life back.”
He surrendered. In those four weeks, he gave me 100% of his trust. By the end of his first week of peeing ketones, Walt got off two of his four blood pressure medicines. By the end of week two, his sleeping pattern had settled into the kind of deep, restorative rest that repairs brains.
Each week, his weight and blood pressure decreased further solidifying his belief in the benefits of ketosis. More importantly, he continued to improve mentally at a rate that I have never seen in my medical career.
In four weeks, this amazing, intelligent, driven man who wanted to commit suicide nearly every day of the prior month, had transformed. He walked into the group with a smile. Not the kind of ‘public’ smile that hid his sadness. He authentically felt good.
Each week, his sugar and alcohol cravings lessened. His first week of sobriety was coupled with a 10-pound weight loss. Over the course of the next three weeks, he lost another 20 pounds. Most importantly, he wasn’t craving alcohol.
After six weeks of peeing ketones, Walt shared this, “Doc, I know you’ve told me countless times that my brain will heal if I just stop drinking. It was something I heard, but never really believed. This past month has been the best my mind has worked in over a decade.”
Fourteen months into Walt’s sobriety, he told the group he felt authentically dry. He reported something had changed in a way he did not think possible. Walt lost over 40 pounds and reversed the age of his brain by nearly 40 years.
In this past year, he has slipped into a sugar-craze several times. He shares with the keto-group that it is a relapse that feels just like a hangover. Much like alcohol, when he falls off the keto-wagon he feels a fast reversal to his constant hunger for carbs.
However, each time he slips up, the switch back to keto gets easier and easier. He finds the support group one of the keys to sustained success. He also finds great strength in showing people if you fall off the keto wagon, to put it past you and get back on board.
Those are the same words we said to him about alcohol. Walt’s future looks bright. He plans to pee ketones and claim the benefits of ketosis until he dies.
I have walked hundreds of patients through the addiction recovery process—not just alcohol but also heroin, cocaine, nicotine, and, now, carbohydrates.
Chemically, carbohydrate addiction involves the same repeating mess we see with other addictions. You get a burst of dopamine when you eat or drink a bunch of carbohydrates. This chemical surge rewards your behavior.
The resulting dopamine burst feels good. It feels so good, you start craving it. You then ingest more and more sugar chasing that dopamine high. Before long your brain is addicted. You depend upon that ‘hit’ of sugar to just feel normal. Without sugar, you experience a dopamine ‘withdrawal’ state-you feel crabby, irritable and even depressed.
Carbohydrate or sugar addiction is as real as cocaine addiction. My patients coming off of heroin, marijuana, or alcohol experience sadness after they quit. Even if they really want to stop, they can’t help but miss the object of their addiction. Their brains are damaged.
This image below of a 37-year-old chronic alcoholic shows just how much of their brains have “gone offline” due to the repeated swelling found with addiction. Compare that to a healthy brain.
Brain damage also happens when your blood sugars are too high for too long. Compare the previous pictures to a 42-year-old diabetic male. He had only had diabetes for 5 years, but reports being addicted to carbohydrates since a teenager.
Conclusion on Benefits of Ketosis on The Brain
The up and down brain chemistry of addiction happens if you eat carbs to feel better or if you smoke to relax.
You used carbohydrates to increase your dopamine, creating that feel-good release. You must learn a new way to achieve this feeling. Your well-being depends upon a continued production of dopamine.
Food cravings melt away when you switch to a ketone-based fuel. However, this doesn’t address grumpiness left over from the lack of dopamine. This remaining moodiness sabotages many people switching to a keto lifestyle. Prepare for this.
For the same reasons I recommend a peer-based support group to my alcoholics, I recommend that my patients join a support group of ketone producers. Get over the switch and claim a fuller, happier life of freedom. It’s a tough transition, but it is doable. A transition worth the benefits of ketosis.
For more stories like this and other keto information, check out the audiobook ANYWAY YOU CAN.
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