12 Great Herbs and Supplements to Improve Ketosis

12 Great Herbs and Supplements to Improve Ketosis

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Herbs and Supplements to Improve Ketosis

A ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high fat based nutrition plan.  A ketogenic diet trains the individual’s metabolism to run off of fatty acids or ketone bodies.  This is called fat adapted, when the body has adapted to run off of fatty acids/ketones at rest.

This nutrition plan has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.  This leads to reduced risk of chronic disease as well as improved muscle development and fat metabolism (12).

Ketogenic diets have been quite popular over the last 10 years due to the beneficial effects being in stable ketosis has on brain function, aging and chronic disease development.  People all around the world have tried going on a specific ketogenic diet and lifestyle with varying results.

Here are some helpful herbs, foods and supplements that are often overlooked by individuals who are trying to achieve stable ketosis.

1. Use Fresh Lemon/Lime:

Lemon and lime contains citric acid which helps to reduce blood sugar levels naturally (3).  Additionally, the anti-oxidants and trace minerals such as potassium help to improve insulin signaling boost liver function and stabilize blood sugar.

How To Use:  Put lemon or lime in your water and use it in your green juices, salads and squeezed over meat and cooked veggies to help improve your blood sugar and state of ketosis.

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2. Use Apple Cider Vinegar: 

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is naturally high in acetic acid.  The use of acetic acid with meals has been shown to reduce the glycemic response of a typical carbohydrate meal by 31%  (4).

One study actually showed that using acetic acid reduced a carbohydrate rich meal from a typical glycemic index of 100 to 64 (5).  Beyond the acetic acid, apple cider vinegar supports the production of hydrochloric acid and contains enzymes that enhance the metabolism of protein and fat.

How to Use:  Use ACV on as many foods as possible and/or add it to water with 1-2 tbsps per 8oz of water.  You can also get a calorie free Bragg’s ginger aid that contains ginger, ACV and stevia for a great refreshing drink that improves digestion and supports ketosis.

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3.  Use Fermented Foods:  

Fermented foods such as coconut milk yogurt, coconut milk kefir, coconut water kefir, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi are extremely beneficial to the digestive system and improve bowel motility.

Additionally, these foods have natural acids that stabilize blood sugar levels.  Additionally, the probiotics, enzymes and other bioactive nutrients help to improve digestion and support ketosis (6).  Use a variety of different fermented foods each day.  Focus on ones that you enjoy the taste of and feel good when consuming.

How To Use:  For best benefit, use these in the beginning of a meal to provide enzyme support and probiotics that will help the body to metabolize the rest of the food you will be consuming.

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4.  Use Cinnamon Daily:

Cinnamon helps to improve insulin receptor activity and inhibit enzymes that block insulin receptors.  It is also a very powerful anti-oxidant that prevents inflammatory conditions that damage cell membranes and insulin receptors (7).

How To Use:  Put a ½ tsp of cinnamon in your shakes and apply it to any sort of ketogenic dessert recipe or anything with berries.  Additionally, use it sweet potatoes, pumpkin or yams on your higher carb days.

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5. Use Turmeric:

The orange Asian herb turmeric has been traditionally used for centuries by Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.  Curcumin is the most powerful active anti-inflammatory compound within turmeric.  Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful suppressor of chronic inflammatory mediated disease processes (8).

Curcumin modulates blood sugar and improves insulin receptor function by improving its binding capacity to sugar.  Curcumin activates PPAR (peroxisome proliferator-activator receptor) which is a group of key nuclear proteins that regulate gene expression and modulate sugar uptake and utilization in the bloodstream.

Curcumin also reduces the activity of specific liver enzymes that release sugar into the bloodstream while activating enzymes that store sugar as glycogen.  Research on type 2 diabetes patients resulted in blood glucose stabilization and lowered triglyceride levels in the group that consumed curcumin (9).

How To Use:  Turmeric is absorbed best when it is combined with a good fat source and with black pepper as the peperine molecule helps to activate the curcumin.

Add turmeric to your smoothies, green drinks (juice the root), meat and vegetable dishes.  Be sure to add in the turmeric after the meal is finished cooking in order to maximize the anti-oxidant content.  I enjoy making steamed veggies and smothering them in grass-fed butter or ghee and adding turmeric, black pepper, pink salts and other herbs.

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6. Chromium and Vanadium:

Chromium and vanadium help improve blood sugar regulation.  Chromium acts to increase the production and the release of glucose transport molecule called GLUT-4 receptor in the liver and muscle tissue.  It does this by shifting GLUT-4’s location from deep within the cell to a position on the cell membrane.

This activity opens a window in the cell that allows glucose to flow down a concentration gradient into the cell where it can be metabolized for energy.  This acts to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce insulin secretions.(10, 11).

Vanadium is a unique trace mineral works to lower blood sugar by mimicking insulin and improving the cells’ sensitivity to insulin (121314).

How To Use:  Take 250-500 mg of chromium and 375 – 700 mcg of vanadium with a higher carbohydrate meal can improve post prandial blood sugar significantly.

If you can get these nutrients in a high quality, bioavailable multi-vitamin it is even better as you will be supplying your body with tons of easily absorbable trace minerals, anti-oxidants and B vitamins that are key for blood sugar stability.

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7. Fenugreek Seed:

Fenugreek is native to the Himalayan region of India and it is now grown wildly all over the southern and Mediterranean Europe, Middle-East Asia and northern African regions.  Fenugreek seeds are tiny, bitter and pungent seeds.  They have been used for centuries to improve digestive function as a bowel toner and carminative.  They have a beneficial effect on kidney health and act to improve breast milk secretion in nursing mothers.

Fenugreek Seed and its constituent, 4-isoleucine appear to directly stimulate insulin (15). The combination of fenugreek with vanadium appeared to normalize altered membrane linked functions and GLUT4 distribution (16). Fenugreek also lowered high serum cholesterol and triglycerides.

How To Use:  Take 200-300mg with meals to keep blood sugar stable

8. Bitter Gourd (Bitter Melon):

Bitter gourd is a tender, edible fruit pond that grows on climbing vines and originated in India.  As the name implies, it is a bitter tasting melon.  It is in the same family as squash, watermelon, cantaloupes and cucumbers.

Bitter Gourd (aka. bitter melon) contains a powerful phytonutrient called Polypeptide-P which has a insulin-like effects that have been shown to exhibit hypoglycemic effects (17).  Polypeptide P has an onset of action between 30-60 minutes and a peak effect at about 4 hours (18). It is approved as an antidiabetic drug in China (19).

How To Use:  Take 100-150mg with meals

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9. Gymnema Sylvestre:

Gymnema is a climbing green shrub native to the tropical forests of southern India and Sri Lanka.  The leaves have been used for centuries to make an Ayurvedic medicine called gurmar, which means in Hindi “destroyer of sugar,” as it helps to reduce sugar cravings and balance blood sugar naturally..

Gymnema contains many powerful phytonutrients including triterpenoids which have adaptogenic qualities that enhance the body’s ability to respond to stress.  Gymnema sylvestre reduced fasting blood sugars, glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and glycosylated plasma protein levels and thus insulin requirements in Type 1 diabetics.

It did this by reducing glucose absorption in the intestine, stimulating pancreatic beta cell growth and possibly increasing endogenous insulin secretion as suggested by an increase in C-peptide levels. Gymnema was shown to also reduce serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, VLDL and LDL (20).

How To Use:  100-200mg with meals

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10.  Herbal Adaptogens:

There are a unique array of compounds used in natural medicine that are called adaptogenic herbs that help the body to better adapt to stress.  Adaptogenic herbs don’t affect an individual’s mood but they help the body function at its optimal level during times of stress.  They do this by modulating the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (2122).

Adaptogenic herbs include Panex ginseng, ashwaghanda, rhodiola, cordyceps, astragalus, holy basil, Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero root) and maca as well as others.  Start with small doses of these and gradually go up.

These herbs are best used in the morning and mid-afternoon for most individuals. Many people notice an increase in energy and mental clarity from them and if you take them at night they could possibly keep you up.

Some individuals find they respond better to certain adaptogens better than others so be sure to monitor how you feel and your level of stable ketosis.  If you notice that they induce cravings or make you feel fatigued you are probably having a stress response to the herb itself.  Here is how I recommend using them.

Ashwaghanda: Begin with 400mg – 1x per day and if you feel good using it you can gradually go up to 400-800 mg – 2x per day

Astragalus:  Begin with 500mg – 1x per day and if you feel good using it you can gradually go up to 500 mg – 1000mg – 2x per day

Cordyceps:  Begin with 400mg – 1x per day and if you feel good you can gradually go up to 400-800 mg – 2x per day

Panex Ginseng:  Begin with 200mg – 1x per day and if you feel good you can gradually go up to 400mg – 2x per day

Holy Basil:  Begin with 300mg – 1x per day and if you feel good you can gradually go up to 300-600mg, 1-2x per day

Maca:  Begin with 1.5g -1x daily and if you feel good you can gradually go up to 1.5-3.0 grams – 2x daily.

Rhodiola:  Begin with 100mg -1x per day and if you feel good than go up to 100-200 mg – 2x per day

Siberian Ginseng:  Begin with 100mg -1x per day and if you feel good you can gradually go up to 200 mg – 2x per day

11. Acetyl L-Carnitine: 

Carnitine was originally identified in animal meat and got its name from the latin word for flesh, “carnus.”  This nutrient is critical for fat metabolism and energy production in the cellular mitochondria.

Carnitine helps muscle cells drive energy efficiently from fat metabolism.  Up to 70% of the energy produced by muscle cells (including the heart) come from burning fats.  Carnitine is the gate-keeper that allows fatty acids to pass into the mitochondrial furnace effectively (232425).

Low levels of carnitine cause a reduced ability to use fat for energy.  This will drive up blood sugar because the cells will be starving.  To remain in ketosis, you need to optimize your L-carnitine levels.  The best way is to consume healthy animal products and consider high quality Acetyl-L-Carnitine supplementation.

Optimal Dosages:  500-1000 mg – 2x daily

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12. Alpha Lipoic Acid: 

This is a unique and powerful anti-oxidant that has both water and fat soluble properties. This unique characteristic allows it to be absorbed and transported into many organs and systems such as the brain, liver and nerves.

Lipoic acid is able to regenerate vitamins C and E and other major anti-oxidants such as glutathione and CoQ10. Lipoic acid protects the mitochondria, the energy producing factories of cells, from being damaged by oxidative stress so they can produce energy more efficiently (26).

There is overwhelming evidence that ALA is critical for maintaining insulin sensitivity, optimal blood sugar levels and blood vessel integrity. This is important for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health (27).

Optimal Dosages:  100-200 mg with each meal

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Conclusion:

I am just scraping the surface here with how many herbs and supplements help to improve blood sugar regulation, mitochondrial function and fat burning mechanism.  The most important thing is to find what works best for you.

You can use blood sugar testing, ketone blood testing or a ketonix breath meter in order to quantify your blood sugar stabilization and ketone levels.  Additionally, see how you feel when you use the dosages recommended in this article.  Experiment with some or all of these nutrients if you wish.

In order to help my clients, I have formulated several supplements that combine many of these nutrients.  This includes Insulin manager, High Energy Support, Adapt Strong and Brain Supercharge which all improve blood sugar regulation and support mitochondrial health.

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Sources For This Article Include:

1. Krilanovich NJ. Benefits of ketogenic diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jan;85(1):238-9; PMID: 17209202
2. Manninen AH. Metabolic Effects of the Very-Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Misunderstood “Villains” of Human Metabolism. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2004;1(2):7-11.
3. Radulian G, Rusu E, Dragomir A, Posea M. Metabolic effects of low glycaemic index diets. Nutr J. 2009 Jan 29;8:5. PMID: 19178721
4. Brighenti F, Castellani G, Benini L, Casiraghi MC, Leopardi E, Crovetti R, Testolin G. Effect of neutralized and native vinegar on blood glucose and acetate responses to a mixed meal in healthy subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1995 Apr;49(4):242-7. PMID: 7796781
5. Liljeberg H, Björck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;52(5):368-71. PMID: 9630389
6. Kim EK, An SY, Lee MS, Kim TH, Lee HK, Hwang WS, Choe SJ, Kim TY, Han SJ, Kim HJ, Kim DJ, Lee KW. Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):436-43. PMID: 21745625
7. Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003 Dec;26(12):3215-8. PMID: 14633804
8. Prasad S, Gupta SC, Tyagi AK, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin, a component of golden spice: from bedside to bench and back. Biotechnol Adv. 2014 Nov 1;32(6):1053-64. PMID: 24793420
9. Neerati P, Devde R, Gangi AK. Evaluation of the effect of curcumin capsules on glyburide therapy in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus. Phytother Res. 2014 Dec;28(12):1796-800. PMID: 25044423
10. Chen G, Liu P, Pattar GR, Tackett L, Bhonagiri P, Strawbridge AB, Elmendorf JS. Chromium activates glucose transporter 4 trafficking and enhances insulin-stimulated glucose transport in 3T3-L1 adipocytes via a cholesterol-dependent mechanism. Mol Endocrinol. 2006 Apr;20(4):857-70. PMID: 16339278
11. Qiao W, Peng Z, Wang Z, Wei J, Zhou A. Chromium improves glucose uptake and metabolism through upregulating the mRNA levels of IR, GLUT4, GS, and UCP3 in skeletal muscle cells. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2009 Nov;131(2):133-42. PMID: 19283340
12. Xie M, Chen D, Zhang F, Willsky GR, Crans DC, Ding W. Effects of vanadium (III, IV, V)-chlorodipicolinate on glycolysis and antioxidant status in the liver of STZ-induced diabetic rats. J Inorg Biochem. 2014 Jul;136:47-56. PMID: 24747360
13. Willsky GR, Chi LH, Godzala M 3rd, Kostyniak PJ, Smee JJ, Trujillo AM, Alfano JA, Ding W, Hu Z, Crans DC. Anti-diabetic effects of a series of vanadium dipicolinate complexes in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. Coord Chem Rev. 2011 Oct;255(19-20):2258-2269. PMID: 23049138
14. Poucheret P, Verma S, Grynpas MD, McNeill JH. Vanadium and diabetes. Mol Cell Biochem. 1998 Nov;188(1-2):73-80. PMID: 9823013
15. Sauvaire Y, Petit P, Broca C, Manteghetti M, Baissac Y, Fernandez-Alvarez J, Gross R, Roye M, Leconte A, Gomis R, Ribes G. 4-Hydroxyisoleucine: a novel amino acid potentiator of insulin secretion. Diabetes. 1998 Feb;47(2):206-10. PMID: 9519714
16. Siddiqui MR, Moorthy K, Taha A, Hussain ME, Baquer NZ. Low doses of vanadate and Trigonella synergistically regulate Na+/K + -ATPase activity and GLUT4 translocation in alloxan-diabetic rats. Mol Cell Biochem. 2006 Apr;285(1-2):17-27. PMID: 16622606
17. Sarkar S, Pranava M, Marita R. Demonstration of the hypoglycemic action of Momordica charantia in a validated animal model of diabetes. Pharmacol Res. 1996 Jan;33(1):1-4. PMID: 8817639
18. Raman A, Lau C.Anti-diabetic properties and phytochemistry of Momordica charantia L. (Cucurbitaceae). Phytomedicine. 1996 Mar;2(4):349-62. PMID: 23194773
19. Jia W, Gao W, Tang L. Antidiabetic herbal drugs officially approved in China. Phytother Res. 2003 Dec;17(10):1127-34. PMID: 14669243
20. Shanmugasundaram ER, Rajeswari G, Baskaran K, Rajesh Kumar BR, Radha Shanmugasundaram K, Kizar Ahmath B. Use of Gymnema sylvestre leaf extract in the control of blood glucose in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990 Oct;30(3):281-94. PMID: 2259216
21. Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009 Sep;4(3):198-219. PMID: 19500070
22. Panossian AG. Adaptogens in mental and behavioral disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Mar;36(1):49-64. PMID: 23538076
23. Bremer J. The role of carnitine in intracellular metabolism. J Clin Chem Clin Biochem. 1990 May;28(5):297-301. PMID: 2199593
24. Stephens FB, Wall BT, Marimuthu K, Shannon CE, Constantin-Teodosiu D, Macdonald IA, Greenhaff PL. Skeletal muscle carnitine loading increases energy expenditure, modulates fuel metabolism gene networks and prevents body fat accumulation in humans. J Physiol. 2013 Sep 15;591(Pt 18):4655-66. PMID: 23818692
25. Stephens FB, Galloway SD. Carnitine and fat oxidation. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2013;76:13-23. PMID: 23899751
26. Liu J. The effects and mechanisms of mitochondrial nutrient alpha-lipoic acid on improving age-associated mitochondrial and cognitive dysfunction: an overview. Neurochem Res. 2008 Jan;33(1):194-203. PMID: 17605107
27. Pershadsingh HA. Alpha-lipoic acid: physiologic mechanisms and indications for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2007 Mar;16(3):291-302. PMID: 17302524

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18 Responses to 12 Great Herbs and Supplements to Improve Ketosis

  1. Roberta October 19, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    Thank you for this information. I had heard of the herbs, but not how to use them. Thank you so much!

    • Dr. Jockers October 19, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

      Your welcome Roberta! Glad you got a lot out of the article!

  2. Dannette March 9, 2016 at 11:53 am #

    Thank you for the information. You have been an inspiration for me on a ketogenic diet.

  3. Shirley Jacobson March 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    There is so much talk about the ketogenic diet. I have yet to see a book that gives meal plans to help you understand how to get the best balance. Just saying eat low carb, high fat, moderate protein is not enough to help me get started.

  4. Angela June 26, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Great post! I was wondering if Maca powder would kick me out of ketosis though. It’s a root vegetable with mostly carbs in it. Could you please tell me what you think?

    • Dr. Jockers June 28, 2016 at 4:29 am #

      You would have to use the maca extract Angela.

  5. Faith March 2, 2017 at 1:54 am #

    Can I take ginseng tea on keto

    • Dr. Jockers March 2, 2017 at 7:19 am #

      Yes you can Faith! That is a great one!

  6. Amy March 22, 2017 at 10:20 am #

    I wish there were sites like this 15 years ago. I lost 70lbs by doing exactly what you are talking about with your program, but had no idea what I was actually doing. I had gotten the idea from Medical Weightloss while trying them out to lose baby weight. Long story, but I had gained weight back and couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money again so I started their “3-day cleanse” and lost 7 lbs…so I tried it a little longer,which became a year and moving from a size 22 to a 4 or 6. I hadn’t been that size since high school. The problem is that I didn’t know how I was losing but I knew it had dome thing to do with veggies and protein. When Atkins came along, i thought I was doing the Atkins diet because it sounded similar. But the older I got the less it seemed to work and now I’m up 40 lbs again. So, I’m super stoked to find your site and a few others and have begun to get back to the Ketogenixs lifestyle this is exactly what I needed to do and I’ve already lost 10lbs by just restricting sugar a bit more and watching the carb intake.

    • Dr. Jockers March 24, 2017 at 5:44 am #

      Great to have you on the ketogenic lifestyle Amy!!

  7. Eleni May 10, 2017 at 5:43 am #

    Hi, are supplements like Acetil L-carnitine, Q10 and ALA allowed, when pregnant??

    • Dr. Jockers May 12, 2017 at 11:00 am #

      Yes Eleni all of these are safe during pregnancy!

  8. Judith June 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    I have found that microwaved foods have just as much increase in nutrition as fermented foods and don’t take days/weeks to develop. Raw foods have the least amount of available nutrition. I haven’t been able to find a source to compare, for example, cooked carrots to pickled carrots for comparison but I can compare dill pickles with cucumbers and dill pickles have less nutrition than peeled and unpeeled cucumbers for instance. But sour dill low sodium has more Vitamin K than do either raw with peel or raw without peel. So there’s some differences in the nutrition of that pickled food.

    • Dr. Jockers June 19, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

      Hey Judith, I definitely do not recommend microwaved foods.

  9. Tilly July 25, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    Really! It’s hard to believe anyone interested in eating healthfully would consider microwaving their food.

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