Today I’m sharing a post from a friend of mine Georgie from Greens of the Stone Age. In this post, Georgie talks about her experience with eating a high fat diet to control her rare auto-immune condition that causes inflammation throughout the whole body.
Georgie is a 30 something year old mother of 3, with a passion for health, fitness and food that comes across through her blog – I could spend hours browsing through her recipes, it’s full of the most amazing paleo and keto delights from Berry and Kale Salad to Cherry Bounty Bars! If you’ve not seen Georgie’s ‘Day on a Plate’ yet, head over to this post here to see what Georgie eats in an average day to manage her auto-immune condition.
Why I eat a high fat diet to control my auto-immune disease
I suffer from a super rare autoimmune disease named Henoch-Schˆnlein purpura (or HSP for short). It’s a condition that causes my capilliaries (small blood vessels) to become swollen and irritated. This inflammation occurs within the skin, intestines, and kidneys and a lot of people experience a meningitis style rash. The inflammation causes a low level internal bleeding and can also cause permanent daange to the kidneys if not managed properly. It sounds pretty gnarly, and I guess it kinda is, but a flare up for me usually consists of abdominal pain and swollen limbs accompanied with an arthritic type of pain.
I’ve been managing my disease mainly through a Paleo diet for nearly almost 7 years now (on and off) and although it keeps things well controlled, allowing me to lead a very active, one might say normal, lifestyle I started to realise that when I consumed a lot of carbs after working out, my symptoms flared up more often and more severely. So, a high fat diet naturally seemed like the next level to explore. Initially I made the transition into just eating more fat but it wasn’t until I started having to cut weight for my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions that I actually went full blown keto.
I’m not your average high fat ‘dieter’ by any means – my diet largely consists of vegetables, and as an ex-vegetarian I like to keep my animal produce low. I still eat fish, but meat is certainly not on the menu for me. At first the thought of eating dairy was a little bit frightening but by the end of all of it I started to find myself in dairy heaven. Don’t worry though, I still make sure that I obtained most of my fats from nuts, seeds, oily fish, coconut oil, and avocados.
Adjusting to a high fat diet
When I started tracking my macros (carbs/fat/protein) it felt like my worst nightmare had come to life, but I was determined to ensure that I was eating my carbs in all of the right places – they largely came from vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds. And of course 90% dark chocolate – because who can live without chocolate? As a result of my no meat diet I also realised that my protein levels were too low and so I included a low carb protein shakes into my daily diet or made some amazing protein cookie dough bars to increase my protein intake.
Going keto wasn’t too bad in the start, weighing everything out was slightly annoying, but my diet was already pretty clean already so my keto ‘flu’ wasn’t terribly long lasting. I remember the first week I spent feeling like I was about to drop dead on the floor, my skin broke out, I could barely breathe let alone exercise, but I just kept pushing through and made sure I drank sole every morning and finger dabbed salt like some sort of drug addict throughout workouts – much to the amusement of my mates. Whenever I felt tired I just remembered to eat a fatty snack (usually nut butter) and cracked on with it. In my first week I had lost a whopping 2.1kg – and yes that would have all been water weight. By the second week I literally became a whole new person, my energy levels were unbelievable and the fog lifted from my brain – it was like I was on a whole different level of consciousness. My senses had heightened ten fold, my reactions quickened and mood rapidly elevated. I’ve suffered from depression all of my life but whenever I go high fat this does seem to subside quite a lot.
When a high fat diet can cause problems
By the end of my first month I had lost 4.5kg and my body looked the best it had done in years which was a great confidence boost. I started to experience a lot of personal records when it came to my exercise and even won my 1st gold medal at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comp which was super amazing. My skin started to look really clear and my hair was growing at a rate of knots too. When it came to that time of the month my periods became much more regular, I never once experienced a cramp or even a warning sign that it was about to arrive, but in the end I started to experience some incredibly heavy bleeding. After some online research I learnt that I wasn’t alone. So now I like to cycle it and do 3 month of keto (under 25g of net carbs) then go back to a standard, healthy low carb/high fat diet (under 100g of net carbs).
If I could give advice to anyone starting out in keto it would be to stay patient because it does get easier and remember to always prioritise real food and nutrients over treats! I don’t think that keto is a particularly one size fits all dietary approach – it may not even work for some people – but for me it was a way to regain some control over my health and it gave me the ability to compete and succeed at a sport that I love without cutting weight in an unhealthy way.
How to get started on a high fat diet
Whether you’re looking to reduce inflammation, balance your hormones, heal your digestion or clear your skin then a high fat, low carb diet is a really great place to start. Now don’t panic, you don’t have to go full on keto to reap the benefits, just reducing your carb intake and increasing your fat intake will start generating great results in as little as one month. Most of my clients that come to see me are consuming around 250g of carbs a day (a portion of whole grains every meal) and very little fat, even though they think they’re eating a ‘healthy’ diet. 250g of carbs is way, way, way to much for anyone with acne or hormonal imbalances to handle. At most you should have one small portion of gentle carbs (sweet potato, squash or carrots) a day, however I would argue that 2-3 times a week is plenty for a woman. A high carb, low fat diet is often to blame for their constant breakouts, PMS and digestive issues. When we’re fuelled by carbs, we experience blood sugar ups and downs throughout the day. We desperately need to snack every few hours and if we don’t then we become cranky and irritable as our blood sugar levels soar and drop throughout the day. Once we switch things around and start aiming to get our carb intake under 100g a day and our fat intake over 130g a day, our blood sugar levels start to remain constant throughout the day, reducing the need for snacking and craving junk food. On top of this, all the extra nutrients we get from fat (fat is SO much more nutrient dense than carbs and contains tonnes of vitamins that you don’t get in carbs) means that our digestion improves, hormones start functioning properly and ultimately, both these factors play a key role in helping our skin to clear and heal.
If you’d like more information on how eating a high fat diet can benefit your health, check out this post here.
Peace, Love & Clear Skin