Articles/ Health/ Low Carb/ Tarlov Cyst Disease

Nutritional Ketosis: The WHY?

November 4, 2016
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“Making the transition from macronutrient carb loader to fat loader using basic principles of nutritional ketosis has had the most profound effects on the pain and symptoms caused by chronic illness and autoimmune disease.”

Unlike 99% of the population who seem to constantly seek various out “diets” and quick fixes strictly for weight loss, my recent dietary transitions are based solely on improving my medical conditions.  I could care less about the numbers on the scale, what my body fat percentage is, how much muscle I can build, how ripped I can get, or what my abs look like.  I’m so far beyond any and all of that.  I’m merely just (proactively) looking for anything and everything I can do to feel BETTER and live optimally despite my body breaking down before my eyes this past year.

I’ve recently chosen to change my nutritional lifestyle completely.  I’ve flipped my entire way of eating upside down (and inside out and through and through).  After recently learning about my autoimmune disease (still currently in limbo figuring out what I have), I immediately began doing research on things I might implement into my life while I wait for a real AI diagnoses.  My full time job has been to alleviate all of the growing pain, symptoms, and issues I’ve been having.  I had done everything I could externally, but now it was time to think about things internally.  You hear people all of the time talk about using FOOD as healing power, this is one avenue I hadn’t yet thought about… but it makes a lot of sense when you really think about it.

Just about everything I read and watched for autoimmune disease protocols involved a structured and LONG food elimination process.  The idea behind removing foods is to narrow down specific things you ingest that cause your body inflammation, gut irritation, adverse reactions, skin issues, etc.  After about a month, you slowly begin to reintroduce some foods.  Like I said in THIS highly valuable post, I do NOT have time for all that!  I had my PinnerTest results within a weeks time and knew EXACTLY what my body hated and couldn’t process properly.  These foods have been causing me YEARS of ongoing subtle/not so subtle inflammation which I’m guessing led to my autoimmune condition (remember 80% of our immunity and health are in our stomachs) AND caused my asymptomatic cysts to go full blown crazy.  With my food intolerance results officially in hand now, I could easily jump right into a new nutritional protocol or as it turns out… a few variations within a short period of time.

It’s been 7-8 weeks since I made the very conscious decision to change my “diet” and during this course of time, I’ve actually undergone FOUR different “protocols”.

Week 1: gluten free & dairy free

Week 2: paleo (taking out all of newly found inflammatory foods that were found via PinnerTest which I believe saved me a lifetime of ongoing, underlying issues, and inflammation)

After the first two major changes I made, I ended up coming across this book completely by “accident” (and I have that in quotes because I don’t think many things in life occur as mere coincidence).  Because all of my newer upper body symptoms all pointed towards an autoimmune diagnoses for multiple sclerosis, Terry Wahl’s and her nutritional protocol fell right in my lap.  I saw countless videos, posts on support group boards, and first hand accounts of autoimmune reversals using her protocol.  I think I was ready to go all in before even opening the book!

Wahl's Protocol

A little history on Terry Wahl’s and this book… a doctor who was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease, went through traditional medical intervention to help combat her disease, eventually could no longer walk, began research on how to help her body and system naturally and mainly through food and ended up not only fighting MS but actually slowing her declining progression.  Dr. Wahl’s went from being wheelchair bound to walking independently within THREE short months.  Absolutely remarkable and it was basically all done through specific high quality food, supplements, gentle exercise, and lifestyle changes… NOT a handful of prescription drugs (you know how I feel about those).

Exactly my kind of woman… there is a problem and it’s up to YOU to fix it using the most natural methods possible.  Proactivity at its finest!

The basic principles of her protocol all go back to the cells within our bodies.  Cells are our building blocks.  Each cell needs specific nutrients to function PROPERLY.  When cells become dysfunctional, other cells become dysfunctional which leads to organs and tissues becoming dysfunctional, which leads to pain, then inflammation, and eventually disease.  Its probably happening in your body right now to be honest with you.  A strange symptom here, a little weird pain there, constant ongoing fatigue, weird rash or skin issue, reaching for a handful of meds (where one prescription leads to needing another for side effects), headaches and migraines, inability to produce quality sleep, rapid aging, running to coffee or stimulants every time energy is low (which is usually a lot for people), and basically not feeling your absolute BEST each and every day.  These things could all be precursors to underlying body/organ/system dysfunction, slowly creeping its way into your life.

Terry Wahl’s answer and life saving grace?

Cellular Nutrition

Our mitochondria (the energy suppliers in each of our billions and billions of cells) need to not only be repaired, but actually altered as new cells die and new ones form.  By feeding our cells optimally through food (specific sources & nutrients), we can actually reverse and/or prevent a long list of medical issues and diseases.  In my case, I was already diagnosed with a spinal disease (a cluster of cysts grown on the nerves at S1-S2) and now I was facing an autoimmune diagnoses.  Something was clearly going wrong within my body (and organs and systems and tissues).  I could sit and wait for months and years on end or I could try to do something MYSELF.  My cells were begging and pleading for something new.

Over the course of this past year I have reduced my pain dramatically using 100% completely natural methods (supplements, foods, lifestyle changes, movement, etc.), so within the first 2-3 pages of this reading this book, a light bulb went off in my head.

“The lifestyle you choose can actually repair your broken biochemistry and restore your vitality.  That’s big, big news for anyone with an autoimmune or any other chronic disease.  YOU can turn your life around.  Not your doctor. Not you pharmacist.  Not that bottle of pills.  The power is in YOUR hands.”- Terry Wahl’s MD

Again, MORE of my kind of “medical” language!

So while multiple sclerosis has more or less been ruled out for me at this point, my nerve and autoimmune symptoms were still very prevalent and continuing to rapidly progress.  The mere mention of MYELIN in the “The Wahl’s Protocol” book is what really sold me though.  Multiple sclerosis and symptomatic Tarlov cysts share nearly all of the same symptoms:

  • Bladder and bowel problems
  • Difficulties with attention, learning, and memory
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle rigidity or stiffness
  • Weakness or poor coordination
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Pain in arms and legs
  • Visual disturbances

With MS you are left with lesions on your brain and/or spine where the myelin is damaged and deteriorating and with my spinal disease, cysts actually grow between the myelin and spinal cord.  Dysfunctioning nerve “shields” in both conditions that are just manifested a bit differently.  This constant inflammation and breakdown eventually break down the that protective coating, causes damage to the nerve fibers, and produces neurologic issues. Dr. Wahl’s continued speaking my language and I was all ears and fired up to get going on this new adventure!

I was SO fed up with conventional medicine, SO fed up with prescription drugs being thrown at me anytime a new pain/symptom would arise (I’ve been completely prescription free since November 2015, treating ALL of my issues 100% naturally), SO fed up with doctors not taking a “full body” and organ and system approach to my care, and so fed up with feeling like I was completely helpless and at the mercy of doctors who clearly had no clue why I just kept feeling worse and worse.  I had been proactive about my spinal disease from day one, why on earth would I stop now with the new issues I was having?

Let’s do this…

Dr. Wahl’s presents three different nutritional “levels” or protocols:

  • Wahl’s Diet:

*NINE cups of vegetables and fruit everyday (she breaks it down on which, how much of each, and WHY each)

*  gluten free/dairy free

* organic, grass fed, and wild caught seafood

  • Wahl’s Paleo:

*NINE cups of vegetables and fruit everyday

*  gluten free/dairy free

* organic, grass fed, and wild caught seafood

*reducing ALL grains, legumes, and potatoes

* add seaweed or algae AND organ meats into your diet

* add fermented foods, soaked, nuts, and more raw food

  • Wahl’s Paleo Plus:

*  gluten free/dairy free

* organic, grass fed, and wild caught seafood

*eliminating ALL grains, legumes, and potatoes

*instead of consuming the NINE cups of fruits/vegetables, you reduce to SIX

*reduce cooked starchy vegetables and fruit

*add more fat into your diet

I initially chose to jump head first into level TWO (Wahl’s Paleo).  Since I had already gone dairy & gluten free those first two weeks, I thought this would be the easiest transition for me.  So on weeks 3 and 4 of my new dietary protocol I removed all grains (I occasionally snacked on popcorn and may have had a sweet potato or two, but that was it), stocked up on a TON of vegetables and produce, bought seaweed to snack on, attempted to add organ meat (liver pate), began soaking & sprouting my cashews and almonds, and bought some red cabbage kraut to add to certain meals and salads.

Surprisingly, I felt significant improvements with my pain and symptoms after the two weeks of implementing the changes to my diet, but nothing like that first week of being on Wahl’s Paleo.  By the end of week 4 I was back to my lifting program AND walking AND every single joint pain I was having began to lessen… AND I was feeling all kinds of awesome!  I remember experiencing a huge shift in my mental state as well.  The surge of energy, the brain clarity, less pain… I felt like I was on the right track and now fully committed to my new dietary changes.

At week 5 though, I was doing SO good I wanted MORE.  I wanted to feel even better!  My transitions had been more or less effortless at this point and I was already starting to feel even better day by day, why stop there?  Terry Wahl’s mentions mentions a final “level” in her book.  Ketosis: using high quality fat sources for fuel instead of glucose/carbs, but its a very small section.  When I first read the book, I think I glanced at that option but it stopped there.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew I couldn’t go all in with those changes.  It was way too  drastic and I didn’t think it would be at all maintainable in the long term… THIS is the difference between jumping into a fad “diet” and making something your lifestyle.  Fad diets come and go (and usually continue in that pattern indefinitely).  If you can’t maintain something, its simply not worth it to me.

But… back to ketosis!



How on earth could I EVER give up carbs???  I’ve been a carb fueler my entire life!  I’ve been a “flexible dieter” who thrived on carbs, never in my life feared them, and knew how much our brains need them to function properly.  Keto basically went against every single dietary approach I believed in.  “Low carb diets never work, they aren’t maintainable, and too much fat is bad for you.  You’ll get high cholesterol and have a heart attack.”  So much bad info with no scientific backing had been shoved down my throat and regurgitated.

Researching on though…


However, through the power of ongoing research & proactivity during my month of dietary transitions I started to see a common denominator with many people suffering from specific brain & spinal diseases, diabetes, chronic migraine sufferers, autoimmune dysfunction, and even cancer… a ketogenic diet is actually helping them dramatically IMPROVE and even REVERSE their diseases.  Making that switch from your body running on glucose/carbs to high quality fat sources can not only change your body (a simple perk of keto done right, mere sprinkles on an ice cream sundae because this is NOT about losing weight in my book), but also open up a whole new world to you… a world that is more clear, free of constantly thinking about food & your meals, constant snacking/grazing, steady energy, stable glucose levels, and most importantly for me… a reduction in nearly ALL of my pain, symptoms, and issues.

On week 5, I decided to attempt to “keto adapt” (turning on the switch from burning glucose to burning fat as fuel) and feel so strongly now that this is what I have been preparing my body for the past 5 years of my life.  In all honesty, I feel like my body was completely primed for this huge change.  Everything I did up until this point led me here.

…”clean” eating to flexible dieting, reverse dieting and taking care of my metabolism, ensuring my thyroid/adrenals/hormones were in tip top shape, learning about macronutrients, falling in LOVE with vegetables, striving for health instead of how I look physically, having to reduce my protein intake to protect my compromised kidneys, two entire years of an intermittent fasting lifestyle under my belt, regular exercise and movement whenever possible, implementing meditating into my daily routine to reduce stress, focusing on sleep quality & quantity, looking at my body as fully functioning (or disfunctioning) system, reducing any and all stress in my life, and basically beginning to look at the world and everyone in it differently…

This was my path.  The stars and planets were subtly guiding me to ketosis for this very purpose…

to improve and slow the progression of my medical conditions 

Simple and to the point.  This is not about my physical shell and what I look like on the outside, it’s about changing the cells within my body to simply live with the best quality I can!  After only one week of my keto adaptation phase where I was merely beginning to reduce carbs and increase fats slowly, the changes I felt with nearly EVERY aspect of my life began to change.  I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous and impossible, but its something I truly can’t explain.  I won’t lie and say I didn’t struggle at all (especially that first week). There were cravings, feeling like crap every other day, and I even had battles of the keto flu which I think even led me to urgent care last week.  Turning the fat burning switch on is NO joke, its serious business NOT to be taken lightly!

However once the adjustment period was over, my family was officially on board and supporting my new efforts, and I found my sweet spot with new macronutrients… the skies cleared!  Again, I had brought my pain levels down naturally over the last 7-8 months, but my nerve issues were still progressing and I still felt like crap most days.  After that episode in urgent care last week, EVERYTHING changed.  I wish I could adequately describe how AMAZING I have felt.  Energy is through the roof, pain is even better and more manageable (I literally have moments now where I actually feel NORMAL… only someone with my spinal disease can understand how profound this is), nerves have even calmed down a bit, no brain fog, no spikes or dips in how I feel.  I just feel more balanced and at ease.  I also have enough energy and feel like I could run a marathon (and I have always hated running)!

Again it’s the strangest feeling I’ve ever experienced, but I am LOVING it!

So there you have it.  I’m nearly fully kept adapted now and plan to share everything I can about this new journey.  I’ve kept a journal of what I have felt, what I experienced, things I did to make my adaptation phase go more smoothly, tested my glucose AND blood ketone levels each day, began tracking my calories temporarily until I get a feel for how much I should be eating and the breakdown of fats/carbs/protein that keep me in ketosis, and… I want everyone to know about it ALL!  SO much information to provide… I don’t think I’ve been this excited or motivated in the past year since being diagnosed!!!

Stay tuned friends… can’t wait to share and let you know whats swirling around in my head 🙂

Nutritional Ketosis: The HOW

Nutritional Ketosis: The PITFALLS (coming soon)

Nutritional Ketosis: The SUGGESTIONS (coming soon)

Nutritional Ketosis: The FULL ADAPATION (coming soon)

Nutritional Ketosis: What I’ve Learned (coming soon)

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  • Reply
    November 5, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    So happy to hear this!

  • Reply
    Staci Phelps
    November 5, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Corina, This is the best news! So glad this is working well for you and can’t wait to hear more about this journey!

  • Reply
    Michelle Jones
    November 5, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Corina I was diagnosed with Tarlovs about 6 months ago. I have been suffering in pain for more then 4 years. I have had a consult with Dr. F and I see you had surgery as well. I just can’t find enough good results to justify surgery at this time. I’m currently doing acupuncture to help with pain but still hurting. I read your blog and saw about the pinntest. Is this the way you have decreased your pain by eliminating inflammatory foods that it said you were sensitive to? Please let me know how you have achieved pain relief. I’d love to hear back from you. Thanks

    • Reply
      November 5, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Hello michelle, I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnoses :(. This is a horrendous disease and can literally change evert fiber of your being. Fortunately I have been overly proactive and refused any and all “treatments” by my local doctors who I know would have made me worse because they aren’t familiar with this disease. I did have a consult with dr f but opted NOT to have surgery at this time. I’ve been doing so so much better, especially this past month! The PinnerTest was a HUGE part of this equation because I have been able to reduce the majority of my inflammation (most of which I didn’t even know I had)! Worth every single penny and helped me continue on my road to “recovery”!!!

  • Reply
    November 7, 2016 at 1:30 am

    This is very interesting! I always learn something new when I read your blog, Corina. I’m so glad that you’ve found something to address your pain and improve your quality of life. I really admire you for sticking to your convictions and having the mental strength to never give up! Your kids must really look up to you! I’m looking forward to reading more about this in the weeks to come. ?

  • Reply
    November 7, 2016 at 6:27 am

    Wow! Great post! Being 3 weeks in on Keto and reading this made me feel like I wasn’t nuts doing this! I have days where I think ‘I can’t believe all the fat I’m eating and I’m losing weight’! Plus my energy levels are up too…I’m looking forward to following your journey! Autoimmune stuff is hard! ?

  • Reply
    November 8, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Corina I am so so over the moon happy for you. Kudos on taking your health into your own hands. So many people think doctors have all of the answers, but we need to do our own research and be active participants in finding the answers. I’m thrilled to hear you are doing better.

  • Reply
    Michelle L Lear
    February 1, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to share your journey and your discoveries with us. I am learning to manage this new life of pain and your publications are very helpful.

  • Reply
    Anne Wheeler
    March 27, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Keep it up and keep sharing Corina! I am so proud of you Cyster! I still don’t fully grasp this Keto part to healing but I am so encouraged to see someone else never giving up and trusting their heart! You’re right we just have to keep moving forward, never give up, and then share the blessings as they come. Thank you for sharing!

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