What Are Ketones Used For & How They Assist With Inflammation


What are ketones used for?
Have you ever met a toothless dentist? Have you met a veterinarian who’s never owned a pet? How about a preacher who always seems worried?

It’s the same problem when you meet an unhealthy doctor and her family. They’re overweight, stressed, on high blood pressure meds, wearing a CPAP machine… they’re just unhealthy. I can draw a sharp line sorting the colleagues who figured this out and those who haven’t. The same process goes for patients. I can draw a line down my list of patients who have adapted to a high-fat life versus those still loading up on carbs.

When I began this adventure into the keto lifestyle, I thought almost exclusively about my mother and her battle with cancer. It was not long into my education that I lost track of all the additional benefits this high-fat low carb lifestyle would have for patients.

I’m a physician that studies chronic disease. The unfounded claims from other diets left me somewhat skeptical that food alone could make this much change from the inside out.

My list of benefits from a life of ketones continues to grow. Central to all these benefits is ketosis’ impact on INFLAMMATION. Inflammation: Think of a collection of flames when you hear this word linked to your health. If the heart is inflamed, the tissue making up your heart is swollen or bathing in extra liquids.

What Happens If Your Have Swollen Joints?
If you have swollen joints, they also sponge up extra water in the wrong places. Sadly, when one section of your body suffers from inflammation, the trouble spread to neighboring tissues. Much like fire, the flames from inflammation spread.

Each new part of the system that adds to the fire makes the whole system more accessible to be inflamed. Consequently, it is harder to shut down the forest fire of inflammation once it starts burning.

In recent months, biomarkers of inflammation have been shown to shut off using the ketone found in our blood: Beta-hydroxybutyrate. Also called BHB. You form this ketone when you drain your supply of extra sugars and carbs and starts using fat for fuel. Within as little as a week of being in nutritional ketosis, my patients have reported remarkable improvements in their symptoms related to inflammation.

Even in the folks reluctant to make the switch to a ketogenic diet, the improvements from supplements of BHB were striking.

Here are a few of the symptoms that people felt after switching their fuel from glucose (or carb) to ketones:

When burning fat for fuel, your body bathes in ketones. Your joints soak up this slick, lubricating substance reducing inflammation and friction. Ketones sneak into the tiniest spaces in your body. Our joints go through quite a bit of wear and tear. While they do

have the ability to self-repair, they can only do so if they are not inflamed.

I’ve had arthritis patients on ibuprofen for the better part of a decade who ditched it once they switched to a keto lifestyle. I didn’t ask them to stop the ibuprofen. Instead, they became relatively pain-free about 6 weeks after they made the keto switch.

In one specific case, the woman didn’t recognize how much better her arthritic hands felt until she had a carbohydrate binge while at her granddaughter’s birthday. “The next day I woke up with a pounding headache — almost like a hangover feeling.

Then I went to brush my teeth and I could not squeeze my fingers around the toothbrush. My hand had swollen up that much with the binge of carbs I had eaten the day before.”

Tinnitus is the fancy term for ringing in the ears. Tinnitus is almost always linked to a chronic inflammation within the ear. I have spent hundreds of hours helping patients with this condition. Patients suffer from a constant buzzing in their ears-without escape.

The buzzing is caused by the presence of extra water molecules inside the delicate inner parts of their ear. The water does not belong there, yet it is trapped in a cycle of inflammation.

I recommended the ketosis diet to a patient of mine who was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was about eighty pounds overweight and also suffered from chronic tinnitus. She asked for support from her granddaughter who was also trying to lose weight.

To my surprise, it was not the twenty-five pounds of weight that she lost that excited her the most. Instead, she remarked repeatedly how the ringing in her ears disappeared nearly two months after going keto.

Because this medical problem is such a lonely and trying ordeal-much like a personal prison, I reached out to two other patients and suggested a ketone-producing diet.

Both of these chronic sufferers agreed to transition into ketosis for a minimum of three months. At their 90-day follow up, one had complete resolution of her tinnitus and the other said he had several days in a row without the noise-something he had not experienced in over five years.

Although this is not a formal study looking into a connection between ketosis and tinnitus, the difference this advice made in the lives of these patients is priceless. I contend tinnitus is one of many chronic nagging symptoms of long-term inflammation.

The Longer The Better
When you use fat for your body’s energy source and stop consuming carbs, swelling disappears because there is no longer an abundance of glucose molecules holding onto extra water. At first, the easiest swelling goes away, like that in your blood vessels and your muscles. The longer you stay in ketosis, the better your body drains chronic inflammation resolving tinnitus.

Gingivitis occurs when the gums lining each of your teeth swell. Halitosis means bad breath. I talk about these together because they are closely linked. Patients with chronic sensitive teeth or gum disease tell me that producing ketones helped improve their oral health.

At first, keto patients report bad breath. Part of this is due to the acetone-a byproduct of ketosis -they are breathing out. The change in your breath also reflects the dramatic shift in your mouth’s bacteria. Prior to ketones, the bacteria inside the mouth and in the saliva use glucose and other sugars as their main energy source.

After the switch, these bugs die off because they no longer have the fuel they need to live. The death of sugar-hungry bacteria reduces swelling in your gums and the smell in your breath.

The cells in a keto-adapted mouth compared to someone with swollen gums are much like the improved skin cells I mentioned earlier. The keto-adapted cells are plumper, more flexible, and fit together tighter. This is protective against the roots of your teeth.

Plan on a burst of flavor from your food when you go keto. Maybe this comes from the improved dopamine produced by a well-nourished brain. Or maybe from the well-needed reset after years of constantly flooding your taste buds with sweeteners.

Strangely, patients report this even as they eat less and less food! The natural tendency to eat less when fueling the body with fat happens in every patient. Once their hunger fades, it only takes a minor coaxing to help them recognize the difference between eating because the clock says so versus eating due to actual hunger.

Once they let go of the eat-according-to-the-clock tradition, many of my ketosis patients eat only one meal a day. Despite their lower eating frequency, patient after patient shared their intensely rewarding eating experiences.

Other inflammation-based problems improved with a switch to ketosis include the following:

  • IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome]
  • PCOS [Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome]

Want to learn more about the benefits of a ketogenic diet? Check out the audiobook ANYWAY YOU CAN!


  1. Tiukinhoy, Susan, and Carolyn L. Rochester. “Low-Fat Dietary Pattern And Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease-The Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial.” Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, vol. 26, no. 3, 2006, pp. 191–192., doi:10.1097/00008483-200605000-00015.
  2. Forsythe, Cassandra E., et al. “Limited Effect of Dietary Saturated Fat on Plasma Saturated Fat in the Context of a Low Carbohydrate Diet.” Lipids, vol. 45, no. 10, July 2010, pp. 947–962., doi:10.1007/s11745-010-3467-3
  3. Goldberg, Emily L., et al. “β-Hydroxybutyrate Deactivates Neutrophil NLRP3 Inflammasome to Relieve Gout Flares.” Cell Reports, vol. 18, no. 9, 2017, pp. 2077–2087., doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2017.02.004

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