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First time in remission with ketogenic diet

Discussion in 'Alternative Therapies' started by leokitten, Jul 25, 2018.

  1. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I'm cautiously excited and have been wanting to write this post to all of you, but I first wanted to make sure it really wasn't a fluke.

    I've been in remission or near remission for over a week now. I've never had any symptom improvement for more than a couple of hours for 5.5 years, and before 1.5 weeks ago my entire time having ME was slowly getting tragically worse.

    For those of you who don't know my story, I got sudden onset ME in January 2013. In hindsight there were some earlier signs, so accurately I would call myself gradual + sudden ("straw broke camel back") onset. It was a very severe shock and I didn't know what was going on for 6 months. Went to doctor after doctor helplessly and the only hints they found were large and hard lymph nodes in neck and groin, huge EBV/CMV/HHV-6 titers, and evidence of 800 heart PVCs/day (which I was feeling constantly in my chest the moment I got sick).

    As with most of us, all the specialists those first 6 months had no idea what was going on and how to help. So in August 2013 I started trying to figure out online what might be going on since my life was falling apart and that's when I found PR and literally cried because my symptoms and experience where exactly what was going on with so many of you.

    I went to see Dr. Susan Levine in NYC, she did a full evaluation and battery of tests and after those came in confirming everything we started on Valcyte + Famvir + LDN, supplements, sleep aids.

    I've had very classic ME. It was the worst in the beginning and through the first year, and like you know in the beginning you have more reserve to try to fight the disease process. Then very slowly during the second year my body kind of stabilized and I thought (mistakenly) that the antivirals etc were doing it. But during the second year, which I didn't realize it until later, the stabilization was just moving from the acute phase to the chronic phase. Since being in the chronic phase for the last 3.5 years or so I've been very slowly getting worse.

    As many of you know from my posts over the years, I've tried literally most everything. NOTHING ever worked. Thanks to all of you for posting all the different and interesting things to try, trust me it was worth it to try and have some hope of improving. Probably in my third year I really stopped posting much and stopped trying new things. I just said to myself nothing is working so all I can do is dig in, stick with the few medications which I think might help and just try to manage every day and keeping tabs on latest research.

    I've had mild severity ME until more recently, though always going to moderate severity in a crash. I've worked at my job through it all but it's been absolute hell and a herculean struggle with lots of missed days and vacation time spent to try and recover. Fortunately, working didn't cause a sudden severe worsening I heard a lot of people get, for me it's just been a very slow deterioration.

    Last year I would say I noticed that my worsening condition was more apparent. When I was mild severity I had symptoms constantly but could still work and would crash usually once per week and then could recover. The crashes very slowly started become more frequent and took longer to recover from, and the constant symptoms became more intense. It wasn't until this summer that I fully started having moderate severity ME. Everything flipped, I was crashed most of the week with terrible symptoms and I would only get out of it for two days before crashing again. I wouldn't be able to leave the house or do much of anything other than lie in bed. I've had to take extended time off work this summer.

    I've had a rare form of psoriasis since I was a teenager, and after getting ME it made the psoriasis much worse, harder to control, and ME and psoriasis flare ups went together. The last two years I started progressing to psoriatic arthritis, which is common for psoriasis sufferers that have had it a long time.

    The beginning of this year my rheum + derm begged me to try a newer biologic. In the past, I've taken other DMARDs (such as older biologics) and they didn't work very well or caused me serious side effects, plus having ME I was really worried to go back on one in case it would trigger a viral reactivation. Still, I decided since I was indeed getting worse with ME and autoimmunity that I needed to give it a shot. So I started with guselkumab (Tremfya), the newest and most targeted anti IL-23 biologic available.

    Guselkumab significantly improved my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms and reducing flare up severity. But it did absolutely nothing for my ME symptoms. Something that was very striking to me was that my ME could make my psoriasis and PSA break through the Tremfya, which is a powerful drug. It made me think that my ME was being driven by something else entirely and it would cause an immune activation which strongly impacted the psoriatic process.

    During these years I've kept up with research always hoping for a breakthrough, in particular going through the Valcyte and Rituximab sagas. Then last year I think all the groups doing metabolomics (Davis/Naviaux/etc Stanford, Norway, Australian groups, Myhill UK, etc) published their findings showing similar metabolic issues at the cellular level, in particular the block with the glucose PDH route into mitochondrial cellular respiration and the extensive use of glycolysis producing lactate. These findings really struck a chord with all of us I think because it explained our symptoms more closely than I believe other previous hypotheses.

    These last couple months I started seeing people, in particular on PR, leveraging those findings and either trying dichloroacetate (DCA) + supplements or using a ketogenic diet since these treatments in theory it would unblock or circumvent, respectively, the above cellular metabolic issues. There have been quite a few people who've had major improvements or remissions.

    So sorry, long story short, I was basically losing all I had left these last two months and 2 weeks ago I said I need to push hard as I can to give one more try at something. Two things I hadn't tried where DCA or ketogenic diet. I read as much as I could about both and ordered everything I would need to to get either one started.

    Since DCA is potentially more toxic I decided to start with the ketogenic diet first. I was in the middle of a crash in bed and said ok I'm starting with a 48-hour fast, only drinking water and eating small amounts of ketogenic food, e.g. almond butter, olives, and celery (don't ask my why they were the only keto things I had in the fridge at the time). I lied in bed not able to move, so I slept, watched TV, and only ate those things

    After the fast I received the necessary starter things to do a ketogenic diet properly. Since I have ME, I knew that I need to be in strong therapeutic ketosis in order to see if this will work as a treatment. So I knew I had to take it much more seriously than a healthy person trying to lose weight or lower their lower blood sugar. I knew it had to be done with the same rigor as a cancer or epilepsy patient.

    I've had an absolute 180 deg turn with this disease, going from moderate severity in a crash all the time 1.5 weeks ago to now in a remission. I'm still in shock from how things have changed. Just off the top of my head, here are some of the major symptom improvements I've noticed in just 1.5 weeks:

    No more muscle tremors
    Fewer neurological problems
    Balance problems are greatly reduced
    No more visual blurring
    No more tinnitus
    Far reduced joint and muscle aches
    No more ME flabby muscles
    Hair stopped falling out so much
    Sleep much improved
    Cognition is like night and day
    Energy levels are really good
    Virtually no fatigue
    No PEM (though I need to test this by pushing harder)
    I am slowly working again
    No crazy pre-crash hunger

    I haven't gotten a chance to really push myself outside physically and/or mentally yet, but I will keep posting how things go.

    For those of you would want to try this, it's very important to do the following:

    1. Try to do the 48-hr initial fast (if you can)

    This will help jump start you into ketosis. It's not a water fast (which is really hard). You can eat maybe ~700 calories/day from food with almost no carbs and mostly fat. You can also buy exogenous ketone powder and drink that.

    2. Purchase a ketone and glucose blood monitor and strips (I would recommend Keto Mojo) and always measure your glucose ketone index (GKI)

    You will never really know if you are in therapeutic or high ketosis if you don't do this. Ketone pee strips and breath analyzers are inaccurate and totally worthless. You need to measure both ketone and glucose at the same time to know if your are in ketosis.

    GKI = glucose / ketone (each in same unit of mmol/L or mg/dL; blood monitors give in same unit)

    GKI Degree of ketosis Degree of dysfunction
    --- ------------------- ----------------------------------------

    <1 Therapeutic ketosis Epilepsy; cancer; ME/CFS
    1-3 High ketosis Type 2 diabetes; obesity; ME/CFS
    3-6 Moderate ketosis Insulin resistance
    6-9 Low ketosis Optimal health; maintenance; weight loss
    >9 No ketosis

    Here are my readings from this morning:

    Ketones = 4.4 mmol/L 20180724_134314705_iOS.jpg

    Glucose = 3.8 mmol/L 20180724_145344579_iOS.jpg

    GKI = 3.8 / 4.4 = 0.86

    So far I've typically been between GKI 1 and 2. I think that is fine for ME/CFS. Other people who respond to it might not need so a high level, I'm sure it depends.

    3. Purchase an app on your phone for completely managing your ketogenic diet (I would recommend Keto.app)

    Apps such as this make it so much easier to do day-to-day. They take in your personal data and tell you exactly what calories from carbs, proteins, and fat you should follow in the ketogenic way, i.e. 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% net carbs (carbs - fiber). You don't do more than 25g net carbs per day, and you don't do more than 1g protein per kg of body weight. You will fill up the rest of you daily calories with healthy fats, which is actually really easy to do.

    People screw up this diet all the time. For example, people eat too much protein thinking it's just another low-carb diet like Paleo. Protein beyond what your body needs will just be turned into glucose by your liver (gluconeogenesis) and just defeats the purpose.

    These apps have huge databases of food and you can scan UPC codes on labels to locate products.

    4. Monitor your food intake accurately and RELIGIOUSLY.

    You cannot guesstimate, cheat, get lazy, or anything like that. Everything must be counted, weighed, measured, calculated from the nutrition label and serving sizes, you get the idea. With UPC code scanning it gets easier. If the diet could work for you then it won't have any possibility if you don't follow it in every detail.

    At first it's a pain in the neck, you just want to eat and it takes like 20 minutes get everything into the app correctly. You have to have your phone and put things in before you start eating which initially takes time. But as time goes by all of the things you eat or in there and you can copy them. It becomes more streamlined and less of a hassle. It actually becomes like a fun game. Eat out is very difficult to impossible.

    5. Make sure you are getting your electrolytes

    Magnesium, sodium, potassium are very important in a ketogenic diet. You will pee more when not eat a lot of carbs and if you are deficient in electrolytes you won't feel well. Read more about this on keto info sites.

    6. Drink baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

    Ketones lowers the pH of your blood. Drink a glass of water with 1/2 tsp of pure baking soda in between meals 1-2 times per day (I would recommend Bob's Red Mill Premium Quality Baking Soda, available at Whole Foods and other organic markets). Baking soda alkalizes your blood, helps to prevent any kidney stones, and there is some evidence that it could dampen immune activation. Since it could interfere with digestion it's important to drink it well in between meals.


    Your brain takes the most time of all your organs to utilize ketones. In fact it's the only organ that cannot totally use ketones exclusively. Even in maximum usage your brain will take 70% of it's energy needs from ketones and the rest must be from glucose. The 25g net carbs you eat will provide that glucose, plus your liver will make glucose from fatty acids.

    For the above reason I believe because having ME our brains might not ever get back to pre-disease performance. Whatever is blocking PDH is still doing it. But my brain has definitely "woken up". ME makes your senses like the volume has been turned from 10 to -1. When I went into full ketosis I had this very immense and insane reaction where my brain could suddenly utilize energy much better and could actually function again. My brain and body were not used to it becuase its been so long. It was almost overwhelming and totally felt like I was high.

    I've seen a number of posts on S4ME and PR where people said they tried this diet and it didn't work or they felt terrible. I think first make sure you did all the above, that's important. Also initially on the diet you don't feel well but I found once I kept going all that just went away. For example, I had keto diarrhea for two days which is very common. I didn't get what is called the "keto flu" that healthy people get, I think because having ME and being in a crash when I started, and ME is 100x worse than most anything so a little keto flu didn't come up on the radar.

    I think too if you have a lot of ME-related food sensitivities or gut issues it could be hard to do it. Also if you had your gall bladder removed then it would also be difficult.

    God I have so much more I could say.... Those of you who know me and my background know I'm not messing around. I've had this disease for a fairly long time, was doing really terribly and on a trajectory of being totally housebound and this was my last ditch effort to try and improve. This has been no placebo effect and is not a spontaneous remission. I'm sure if I go off the diet my ME will come raging back. I was an athlete before getting ME and only gained a minimal amount of weight due to the disease. I do not have prediabetes or anything like that.

    I am definitely part of the possibly major subgroup that has glucose cellular pathway blocked and eating carbs actually contributes to the symptoms because your body cells cannot use them so it likely just causes inflammation.

    Finally, I've formulated and written this entire long post without any ME symptoms coming back due to the exertion. That would of been impossible just a couple weeks ago...

    Added November 2020:
    EDIT: read my long-term updates and caveats about this diet here:
    and here:
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2020
    Daisy, J.G, Caesar and 27 others like this.
  2. Mij

    Mij Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Congratulations! I'm happy you're doing so well. I'll be interested to hear your PEM experiment experience.
    erin, Hutan, Marky and 3 others like this.
  3. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Thanks Mij. I’ve already worked full-time from home the last two days on cognitively challenging work without any PEM yet. I would’ve gotten PEM right away the first day only 2 weeks ago.

    The only thing i’ve gotten is a minor neurological issues at night, mainly where I feel like my body is going up and down in space though I’m not moving. This happened a lot with my ME and was much worse only a short time ago, like that part of my brain which tells me where my body is in space just goes haywire.

    I hope to experiment soon with a full day with work, social interactions, and being outside moving. We’ll see...
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    erin, Trish, Marky and 1 other person like this.
  4. Hutan

    Hutan Moderator Staff Member

    New Zealand
    Thanks for sharing that @leokitten. I'm so pleased that you are feeling so dramatically better. It sounds as though you have approached this with military precision. I look forward to hearing progress reports.
    erin, Trish, Skycloud and 1 other person like this.
  5. Marco

    Marco Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Very interesting and congratulations.

    Years ago when I had to travel for work purposes or in recent years to see family the only way I could manage it (for gut/bowel reasons mainly) was to completely fast for periods of up to 24 hours or so. I distinctly remember feeling much better during these trips - improved mood; more energy etc.
  6. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I too am on a low carb diet - aiming towards keto - and it has really helped me.

    HOWEVER, please be cautious. I can have periods of several days where things feel really good, but I can still dip dramatically after a few days doing more than my new ceiling.

    Please take a month or two to carefully find your new normal, so that you avoid any big crash that might be damaging. In my experience, it is when we are “feeling well” that we are most at risk.

    Having said that, I really appreciate your detailed post, and am going to look more closely at some of your suggestions. I am still unable to work and require regular rests daily to remain stable..
  7. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Fasting too was also one of my first clues, I had done it a few times over the last 6 months and it would make me feel slightly better for a couple hours or so. But then without realizing it I would eat a normal, healthy meals and this would insidiously make me crash.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
    erin, adambeyoncelowe, Trish and 3 others like this.
  8. Trish

    Trish Moderator Staff Member

    Good luck with it, @leokitten. I hope the effects last for you.
    I have looked into keto diets a bit but been put off by the health warnings for long term use - muscle loss, weakness, heart damage, kidney damage, high cholesterol - though I'm not sure how accurate these are.
    I'm also a bit puzzled because Ron Davis in his latest talk at the IiMER conference gave this answer to a question:
    Given that the keto diet is high in fats, I wonder whether long term use of the diet might be a problem if there's a problem with fat metabolism.
    shak8, erin, mango and 4 others like this.
  9. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Fasting helps me. If I'm "doing" anything extra I find I do better not eating til after the event is over.

    Last year I did 2 x 36hr fasts most weeks. And they were everything except coffee (with a splash of milk).

    I started keto in April, and paused the longer fasts. I probably need to combine both efforts now to see if I get another uptick.

    Keto is easier than fasting though. I find evening meals a particularly difficult time to miss. Our family always sits down together.
    erin, adambeyoncelowe and leokitten like this.
  10. Keela Too

    Keela Too Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Hmmmm.... Personally I would say I have a bigger problem with carbohydrates, and especially sugar. Not a nice experience when I eat a sugary something (and that is from before all the keto I'm doing).
    erin, adambeyoncelowe, Trish and 3 others like this.
  11. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    It is definitely possible that this effect of the disease process is partially because people are eating carbs? I am definitely metabolizing fats to a high degree, my body is fully converted to running mostly on ketones.

    I believe carbs, in particular sugars, are poisonous to a healthy person in the amounts we eat them today. For a person with ME carbs are even more poisonous, I can tell you that based on my experience these last two weeks going from house and bedbound to now near remission just by changing my diet.

    People can certainly do the ketogenic diet wrong. If you are going to constantly eat bad meats and bad fats and not get enough vegetables and fiber everyday I'm sure it's not going to be good in the long run. On so many non-ME keto forums and blogs I see what people are eating, they just want their cake and to eat it too (except not a cake o_O). They think that oh I'm not having carbs so I can eat tons of unhealthy fatty foods.

    I will certainly go probably next month to get my blood work done and post it.
    Caesar, erin, adambeyoncelowe and 4 others like this.
  12. JamBob

    JamBob Established Member (Voting Rights)

    Congratulations leokitten - I'm glad you've had such a big improvement.

    I have been looking into the Keto diet for diabetes purposes but was put off by the fact that so many recipes seem to revolve around dairy products. I have major issues with dairy due to chronic sinusitis and frequent respiratory infections so often can't eat cheese, cream or yoghurts.

    I just wondered if you think it is possible to follow a "keto" diet without dairy?
    Sarah94, leokitten and Trish like this.
  13. Mij

    Mij Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    How is your physical PEM? By that I mean walking, exercise etc. Did you have a 'window' of energy for physical activities? Or was your PEM mostly brain function?
    leokitten likes this.
  14. Ryan31337

    Ryan31337 Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Hi @JamBob,

    It is harder but still entirely possible to achieve ketogenesis without dairy. I did it on a very restricted diet due to multiple food & histamine intolerance.

    I eat a lot of egg, avocado, coconut & olive oil, coconut yoghurt, macadamia nuts & almonds.

    EDIT: and peanut butter! nomnomnom

    Last edited: Jul 25, 2018
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  15. Kafka

    Kafka Established Member (Voting Rights)

    Wow @leokitten

    I am also in remission with a ketogenic diet but I don't have to be deep into ketosis to make a difference.
    It works with the combination of MAF (Macrophage Activating Factor) a probiotic mix which I culture with Agar.

    I've gone off each (the MAF I switched temporarily to a diff formulation) and my remission ends - so I know I need the combination.
    Also I've found that any inflammation causes me to come out for a few weeks, like surgery & overtraining.

    I just threw myself out of ketosis without realizing (lots of personal trauma and weight loss which led to overeating macadamia nuts). After about 2 weeks I'm back in remission. Still early days and not out cycling/walking yet (though I did 16,000 steps on Saturday)

    Before starting the MAF and the keto I was housebound and mostly bed/couch bound.

    But it seems it doesn't work for everybody - as it didn't help my daughter - though she continues on the keto diet anyways.

    As for other symptoms it has relieved:
    All my arthritis (off all pain killers for first time in 30 years)
    Eyesight back to normal (distance)
    Steady blood sugar - can fast
    Better mood
    Absolutely no CFS symptoms

    I'm so excited to hear of your success with the keto diet- Do you think other things you are taking - or have taken are contributing to your remission?

    I've been doing it off and on for 3 years. It took a year for me to realize why I was in and out of remission because I wasn't doing the keto carefully. I'm following the Wahl's diet.

    There's a facebook group ME/CFS DIET - Keto/Paleo/Gut Health started by people on this site.
    erin, Hutan, Ryan31337 and 4 others like this.
  16. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    My PEM was everything, neurological, cognitive, physical, etc. Everything just got worse. For the time when I was mild severity ME, PEM was a very insidious thing, you would keep doing things and not pay attention to it and it would creep up on you with symptoms building over a few days until you fully crash and are bedridden. For the time this summer that I've been moderate severity I was basically in PEM all the time.
    Caesar, adambeyoncelowe and Mij like this.
  17. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    @Trish to ++ @Keela Too one part of a healthy ketogenic diet is to do intermittent fasting. This definitely keeps your body in a good state.
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  18. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Nothing I ever have taken made even a dent with this disease until this diet.
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  19. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Posting today's GKI! Everyday is like this....

    Ketones 3.4 mmol/L 20180725_160321438_iOS.jpg

    Glucose 4.0 mmol/L 20180725_160306311_iOS.jpg

    GKI = 4.0 / 3.4 = 1.18
    adambeyoncelowe and Kafka like this.
  20. leokitten

    leokitten Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    Hi all - I've added a #6 to the OP about baking soda.
    Trish likes this.

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