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Keto Diet for Weight Loss: Good or Bad for the Gallbladder Impaired?

Posted by Deborah Graefer, L.Ac., MTOM on

Keto diet has been a popular and growing trend for the past two years according to Google. It is therefore no wonder that the Ketogenic Diet is considered one of the top five weight loss programs in 2017. Many people, including celebrities, swear by it. Research studies also confirm that this diet can help address more than just obesity but a number other diseases like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and diabetes. However, the big question is “Is it not harmful for gallbladder and liver patients?” The answer is - it depends.

Weight loss diets with low carbohydrates and high fat often cause symptoms with people with gallbladder issues including those who have had their gallbladders removed. This doesn’t mean the diet is not good. Keto diet certainly has its merits. It depends on two major factors: 1) the type of fats ingested and 2) the condition of the gallbladder or the bile.

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a normally-occurring metabolic process of the body that happens when the body does not ingest enough glucose (sugar) required for energy. Instead, the body burns fat stores for energy production. The resulting acids called ketones build up and can be measured by various means including urine sticks. So long as the body remains burning fats instead of sugar, and releasing ketones, it is considered to be in a state of “ketosis”.

There are various ways to achieve the goal of the keto diet – to force the body into this metabolic state called ketosis. And for the majority of keto diet followers, this is the way to their ultimate target, weight loss. When you try to Google meal plans and food lists for keto, you will find a long list of what to eat and what not to eat. Unfortunately, some choices that have been okay -ed for the keto diet are under the restricted food list of the Gallbladder Diet. So, what do you do? Cross-check our gallbladder food list before you follow the free keto diet menu plans available on the web. That way, you’re sure that your weight loss journey won’t put you at risk of another gallbladder attack.

If you are looking for something that would promote ketosis but would also be easy for your gallbladder or liver, then you may be relieved to know that medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) found in coconut, selected oils, and some dairy food are safe choices. MCTs like caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, and lauric acids are compatible with individuals who suffer from sluggish liver and problematic gallbladder as well as those with related conditions like pancreatitis or Chron’s disease. This is because MCTs are easy to digest and do not require bile for them to be used by the body. And if you are in search of the best MCT that will support ketosis and weight loss, then caprylic acid is the one for you. Not all MCT’s are created equal and you need to find the one that your body likes best.

Differences in MCT’s

There are several main types of fatty acid oils found in coconut oil, but only the first 3 below behave in your body as real MCTs. This means that they bypass the metabolic burden of processing in the liver so they quickly become energy in your brain and muscles. This is what people look for on a keto diet.

MCT’s or medium chain triglycerides get their name from the number of carbons in the molecular structure.

  • Caprioc Acid or C6 is the shortest but is the culprit that often causes gastric distress or irritates the throat. So this one is one to avoid.
  • C8 or Caprylic is the favored child since it is quickly converted to ATP or energy as well as brain fuel, not requiring bile or pancreatic acid action before it can be broken down and used by the body. This is extremely beneficial for those who are suffering from bile or pancreatic insufficiency. It would take almost a cup of coconut oil to get 1 tablespoon of C8. So clearly, taking caprylic oil isolated from coconut is the better choice.
  • Capric Acid or C10 (10 carbons) also does not use the bile or the liver for digestion and although it is not quite as quickly converted to energy as C8, it is quick just the same.
  • Lauric Acid is the most prolific MCT in coconut oil and although this 12 carbon (C12) is called an MCT, it acts differently than the others. And while has its own benefits, it does not bypass the liver in terms of digestion and does not give the same energy boost or keto burn.

So that leaves us with Caprylic as the best choice for a ketogenic diet.

Caprylic Acid for Weight Loss

Caprylic Acid also known as C8 is a gallbladder-friendly oil that can be purchased in the form of a tablet or a liquid. It may also be a component of some supplements for the elimination of yeast infections. Caprylic Acid is effective for weight loss as stated above, since it is quickly converted to ATP for energy and creates fat burning. This leads to high catabolism and low adipose (fat) storage, or in layman’s terms - better energy release and fewer fat deposits. Since Caprylic Acid bypasses the need for bile as well as the liver, and because of its ability to cross the blood brain barrier, it is distributed to areas it is needed independent of the biliary system. That said it is still able to cause diarrhea so proceed with caution.


How Caprylic Acid Contributes to Weight Loss

  • It is anti-inflammatory.
  • It helps with metabolic control and regulation of food intake.
  • It contributes to the regulation of blood sugar.
  • It has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-viral properties.

1. Caprylic Acid has anti-inflammatory properties

MCTs in general are known for their effectiveness against inflammation. Therefore, Caprylic Acid is often administered to patients with Chron’s Disease or short bowel syndrome. Lauric Acid and Capric Acid are the more popularly known MCT types to combat intestinal inflammation but a few related articles also prove that caprylic acid can be as effective. One example is a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology stating that caprylic acid can suppress IL-8 secretion thereby inhibiting its pro-inflammatory effects.

2. Caprylic Acid modulates appetite

The physical and metabolic properties of MCTs have been studied for a long time and it has been used as a special and alternative energy source for patients suffering from fat malabsorption and other related conditions. In recent years, however, spotlight has been on the effectiveness of Caprylic Acid to modulate physiological functions such as appetite. C8’s binding to ghrelin, a gut-derived hormone, also modulate gastric acid secretion and GI motility.

Caprylic Acid helps in the regulation of food intake, boosting metabolism in the process. In a separate study with animal subjects, it was demonstrated that caprylic acid infusion acts in the liver to decrease food intake in rats. This is believed to be due to C8’s ability to increase hepatic fatty acid oxidation.

3. Caprylic Acid helps in the regulation of blood sugar

Insulin resistance plays a major role in a lot of diseases especially the accumulation of body fat and obesity. Caprylic Acid can help with this concern through its relationship with ghrelin. Aside from its impact on appetite, C8 bound with ghrelin also regulates glucose homeostasis and may improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics. It is important to note, however, that due to the ketogenic effect of caprylic acid, diabetics must always consult with a medical practitioner before engaging in a keto diet or taking caprylic acid supplements. Excess formation of ketones is dangerous and may lead to ketoacidosis and for this reason, a keto diet is generally not recommended for diabetics.

4. Caprylic Acid helps fight infection

Numerous research studies back up Caprylic Acid’s antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is most known as a fungicide though, as it is a popular agent in eliminating yeast infection including candida. This is an important benefit for those who are trying to lose weight because candida yeast infection and leaky gut are closely related and both can cause various GI symptoms and inflammation. Caprylic Acid is also deemed to be an alternative treatment for H. pylori infection, cytomegalovirus, and SIBO.

Aside from attacking bacteria and viruses, Caprylic Acid also helps combat infection by increasing antibody production and influencing T-cell helper activity.

Other Benefits of Caprylic Acid

Caprylic Acid may be popular because of its fat-busting and weight-reducing properties, but its benefit does not end there. It can help manage hypertension or high blood pressure by improving general circulation. It also has potential application for its anti-cancer and anti-autism benefits.

In recent years, C8 has also been infused in food and drinks because of its brain boosting powers. Studies have shown that Caprylic Acid intake can improve brain function and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Reminder for Gallbladder Patients

Anyone with an acute gallbladder problem should not be focused on weight loss so much as reducing gallbladder symptoms and inflammation. Only if symptoms are negligible or absent, should one proceed with a keto diet and the one I recommend is the KetoFlex 12/3 Diet because of its emphasis on the vegetables and low amounts of meats and fish. Also, since food allergies contribute to inflammation, and both allergies and inflammation are prevalent in gallbladder disease, I appreciate how the 12/3 diet cuts out allergens including the foods highest in inflammation-producing lectins. But please note that cruciferous vegetables are highly recommended for their detox properties. This includes cabbages, cauliflower, onions and garlic. If any of these are still a problem for you on your gallbladder program, please avoid them. For many, they are only a problem in the acute phase before they have done work on the bile.

Also, in losing weight, take note that there are no shortcuts. Crash diets or programs that cause drastic weight loss can be a potential cause for the development of gallstones. When in doubt about your weight loss options, it is always best to ask your doctor. You also have the  option of setting up an appointment, so I can provide you individualized help for your condition.

Good Source of Caprylic

Bulletproof makes two excellent products, one that is strictly C8 and a less expensive one that is a combination of both C8 and C10 - Brain Octane Oil and XCT Oil.Personally,I find I am more easily able to handle the combination in the XCT, but each body is different. I also appreciate Dave Asprey’s research and education and highly recommend his in-dept articles and video on the subject on his site.


References:

Asprey, D. (n.d.) Coconut Oil vs MCT Oil vs Lauric Acid: What is MCT Oil really? 

Brennan, K., & Zheng, J. (2011). Interleukin 8. In xPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference. Elsevier Inc..

Hoshimoto, A., Suzuki, Y., Katsuno, T., Nakajima, H., & Saito, Y. (2002). Caprylic acid and medium‐chain triglycerides inhibit IL‐8 gene transcription in Caco‐2 cells: comparison with the potent histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A. British journal of pharmacology, 136(2), 280-286.

Lemarié, F., Beauchamp, E., Dayot, S., Duby, C., Legrand, P., & Rioux, V. (2015). Dietary caprylic acid (C8: 0) does not increase plasma acylated ghrelin but decreases plasma unacylated ghrelin in the rat. PloS one, 10(7), e0133600.

Maggio, C. A., & Koopmans, H. S. (1982). Food intake after intragastric meals of short-, medium-, or long-chain triglyceride. Physiology & behavior, 28(5), 921-926.

Mumme, K., & Stonehouse, W. (2015). Effects of medium-chain triglycerides on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(2), 249-263.

Morrow, W. J., Ohashi, Y., Hall, J., Pribnow, J., Hirose, S., Shirai, T., & Levy, J. A. (1985). Dietary fat and immune function. I. Antibody responses, lymphocyte and accessory cell function in (NZB x NZW) F1 mice. The Journal of Immunology, 135(6), 3857-3863.

Nair, M. K. M., Joy, J., Vasudevan, P., Hinckley, L., Hoagland, T. A., & Venkitanarayanan, K. S. (2005). Antibacterial effect of caprylic acid and monocaprylin on major bacterial mastitis pathogens. Journal of dairy science, 88(10), 3488-3495.

Omura, Y., O'Young, B., Jones, M., Pallos, A., Duvvi, H., & Shimotsuura, Y. (2011). Caprylic acid in the effective treatment of intractable medical problems of frequent urination, incontinence, chronic upper respiratory infection, root canalled tooth infection, ALS, etc., caused by asbestos & mixed infections of Candida albicans, Helicobacter pylori & cytomegalovirus with or without other microorganisms & mercury. Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research, 36(1-2), 19-64.

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