Glen Finkel sits down with Dr. Westman to discuss some of the less talked about medical conditions. When discussing health conditions that improve with the adoption of a keto diet or a low-carb diet, major illnesses like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome get talked about a lot, but what about some of the other conditions that also improve with a keto diet? Find the top three chronic conditions that a keto diet or a low-carb diet is useful.
Glen: To kick it off, I’d like to speak about something that a very good friend of mine has and that is a condition called psoriasis, which is a skin condition. Can you just give us a bit of information on what you see in your clinic and what sort of help a keto diet can give?
Dr. Westman: First, I should mention we don’t talk about these a lot because we don’t have big research publications to point to. I like to keep my public conversations within the scientific realm, but this does cry out for a case series or maybe even a survey on Facebook, which is a good way to get information out.
Psoriasis, a skin condition that can be quite disfiguring and quite uncomfortable because it can cause itching, is something that gets better pretty reliably. Psoriasis is an inflammation that affects the skin and may even be autoimmune, which means your body is attacking your own skin, so a keto diet or low-carb diet, because it reduces the sugars and starches and reduces the inflammation, is also good at reducing inflammatory conditions like psoriasis.
Glen: If ten people came into your clinic and they all presented with psoriasis and they implemented the keto diet or low-carb diet to the letter, what sort of success rate would you see?
Dr. Westman: I would say ten in a row, so eight out of ten would show improvement, if not a total resolution, so not everyone, but just about everyone.
Glen: What sort of timeframe would you see this in?
Dr. Westman: It’s not the kind of thing that will go away overnight. It can take a few days to two weeks for the inflammation to go down and for the skin to heal itself, but I would probably give it a month-long good trial of a keto diet to see if your psoriasis improves.
Glen: In your 20 years of doing this, have you ever seen any other doctors specifically treating this kind of a condition using this kind of approach? Or have you ever read about it?
Dr. Westman: I think there are some dermatologists who have written books about cutting out sugar in the diet as being good for the skin and so it might be in there but in the general medical mainstream teaching, no.
The usual situation is that we’re taught to use medications rather than lifestyle change to treat it, so you might be getting the recommendation to take medication for psoriasis, instead of the diet change. It’s just because they don’t know that it can be very helpful.
Psoriasis improves on a keto diet, as well as eczema and acne.
Glen: Something that is very common in your clinic is heartburn. Can you give us some insight into that?
Dr. Westman: Being common, I can almost expect half or more of my patients coming in to be on heartburn medicine. These are the patients on proton pump inhibitors, h2 blockers or even people taking tums or Rolaids and some antacids every now and then. Heartburn gets better a hundred percent! It may take a week or two. However, if I mentioned everything gets better, no one will believe me, so I don’t always mention that the heartburn will get better, unless that’s a big complaint or problem that they’re specifically coming to see me about.
Glen: You always mentioned that when people implement this type of program in their own medications for diabetes, they should do so in consultation with their doctor because the medication can become too strong. Is this the case with regards to some of the medications that you just mentioned now for heartburn?
Dr. Westman: No, I don’t have the same concern. I’m concerned about diabetes and high blood pressure medicines because they can become too strong and then you can feel sick as a result of it. You can just stop heartburn medicine or antacids without any problem, so I’m not worried about that.
Glen: How about the third common condition that you see a keto diet being helpful for?
Dr. Westman: We’ve talked about the skin, we’ve talked about the GI tract, so now we’ll talk about the lungs. Asthma is an under-recognized yet very common thing that gets better when you do a keto diet. A lot of children are raised with these inhalers and then they become adults and still use the inhalers.
It very commonly will go away on the keto diet. We think it’s because the fewer carbs you have, the less inflammation you have in the body. You lower the inflammation and then as you lose weight, you get more of a capacity for your lungs to inhale. Any lung condition that’s restricted, including asthma, will improve as you lose weight, especially on the keto diet, because it has less inflammation going into the body.
Glen: What sort of success rates would you see in patients who come into your clinic with mild asthma? Does a keto diet help severe asthma?
Dr. Westman: With regards to severe asthma, I can remember a couple of patients just off the top of my head, who had an exacerbation, which means that they couldn’t breathe and were using inhalers, and that improved. It went away actually. With mild asthma, it’s around eight out of ten, where just about everyone will see improvement and some will have a total resolution of asthma.