How a cancer diet of eating ketogenic plus tracking the glucose ketone index helped my husband gain back control of his body and health.
Our lives were turned upside down when my husband was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2014. The future looked bleak and we didn’t know where to turn to for hope, for help. My husband sat me down and showed me the passwords to all things financial. We hired an attorney to help us with a will. Then we drove to the beach in Pacifica with our 10-year-old son to watch the ocean waves crash against the sand. I sat, shivering from the cold wind, wondering how many more times we would be able to do this as a family.
After the initial shock, we decided to confront this problem together, one day at a time.
Our desperation turned into action. We decided on a multi-pronged approach to fighting his cancer.
Cancer diet – discovering keto
A good friend suggested we look into the ketogenic diet, as it might help starve the cancer cells and possibly shrink tumors. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 2B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; the size of his tumor was 8 cm. Could his tumor possibly shrink with the addition of the keto diet? That very night after our friend left, we both began to cram, like hyper-diligent grad students. We absorbed everything we could find online about how to eat keto. What was ketosis? How did one eat this way?
At the time, there wasn’t an abundance of information about the ketogenic diet. But we were happy to discover e-books by Miriam Kalamian, Ellen Davis and Patricia Daly, with keto recipes and information for people with cancer. A short while later, my sister told me about Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity book, a tremendous resource, which opened our eyes even more.
In Miriam Kalamian’s book, she asserted that “the diet alone is not a cure…instead it’s intended to slow down the progression of disease while offering you a better quality of life.”
Armed with this knowledge, we decided to use keto in conjunction with chemo and radiation treatments.
And we wanted to do this right.
One of the first things we did was consult with Miriam Kalamian (who by the way, now has a more current and incredibly informative book–Keto for Cancer–deemed by Dr. Thomas N. Seyfried as “a masterpiece.” ). She helped us navigate the overwhelm we felt during this time, trying to learn how to eat and cook keto specifically for cancer.
Next, we ordered the Precision Xtra device to measure blood glucose and ketones. To measure the amount of protein, carbs, and fat entering my husband’s body, we purchased a kitchen scale. MyFitnessPal helped us track these macronutrients and ensure his carbs were limited to 12 net grams. Borrowing from the Paleo/Primal template, we sought to buy the highest quality whole foods, avoiding processed and fast food, grains, and sugar. (Now we’re in love with the Keto-Mojo, because the blood ketone strips are so much more affordable, allowing us to check our ketones every day. Sometimes, even more than once!)
Since I also had some weight to lose around my midsection, I decided to join my husband in eating keto.
Miriam’s book introduced us to Dr. Thomas Seyfried’s glucose ketone index (GKI) as a way to monitor progress with the keto diet. The glucose ketone index measures the ratio between blood glucose and ketones. At the time my husband kept his GKI, per Dr. Seyfried, between 1 and 2. Now we’ve learned what Dr. Seyfried calls “therapeutic ketosis” — where it’s optimal to have a GKI of under 1 — and this is achieved through at least three days of fasting up to five days or more, ideally water-only, a way to “blast the crap out of incipient tumors.”
At the time, my husband couldn’t find a better way to track his GKI other than recording it in a paper notebook and Evernote. But tracking the data was worth it. In his words: ”Eating keto and tracking my progress helped me gain back a sense of control of my body and health.”
Looking back, a tool like Heads Up Health would have made this much easier and informative–especially with the ability to graph and correlate GKI and other health metrics.
Cancer diet – tracking the Glucose Ketone Index (GKI)
Physically and mentally, we both began to look and feel better. After a year of eating strict keto, along with conventional treatments, his tumor shrunk from 8 cm to 1 cm! The oncologist and nurses were awed by how fast he improved and that he didn’t experience the normal side effects of nausea and hair loss. Encouraged by PET scans showing the tumor shrinking, we felt motivated to keep on keto-eating.
Also a nice surprise: as the one cooking, I also ate this way, delighted to discover that my pre-diabetic blood glucose levels went down so much that I’m no longer in the pre-diabetic range per my last A1C test results (although what’s “normal” in the conventional range is not where I’d like to be just yet, still aiming for a more optimal range). Another nice bonus: no longer was I using multiple inhalers daily for my asthma…and I lost some weight, especially around my waist!
Now two full years in remission, my husband remains focused on keto-eating as a way to maintain good health. His goals are different, but the need to monitor and see trends remain. As a self-professed data nerd, he enjoys finding new ways to use data about his health and life to make small improvements.
Tracking and monitoring our health markers is now a regular part of our lives. We use Heads Up Health to track our glucose ketone index, fasting glucose, ketones, weight, and more. Recently, we added fasting to our health regimen. To stay motivated, we use the Heads Up Health Fasting Timer. Fasting, we’ve learned, is also a cool therapeutic tool that has a host of benefits, including anti-aging, cancer-prevention, and help with insulin resistance. But that’s a whole other blog post.
Cancer diet – tracking metrics with Heads Up Health
Now past this cancer scare, we’re excited about the life ahead for ourselves and our family. It’s caused a whole new shift in priorities.The cancer was a catalyst in us deciding to live more simply, free from the chains of traditional office jobs and hefty mortgages. My husband quit his full-time job and we’re selling our house to move into a RV with our kid, planning to travel the world, working part-time as digital nomads. More than ever, we feel empowered because we’ve realized health is the ultimate wealth!
About Heads Up Health
Heads Up Health is a powerful tool designed to help individuals take control of their health data. The web-based software can integrate medical records, wearables, apps and any other health metrics that are important to track. The software provides dashboards, trends, alerts and other tools to help individuals take a data-driven and self-directed approach to managing their health. Additionally, the product has been optimized for those following low-carb and ketogenic diets. Sign up for a free trial at www.headsuphealth.com.
People all over the U.S. are digging for solutions to the countless problems in the healthcare system. Heads Up Health is part of the healthcare solution, providing technology that allows you to centralize all of your health, fitness and medical data in one place.
Recently we caught up with Todd Smith. Todd used Heads Up Health technology to discover a significant heart condition that he had been born with — and living with unknowingly all along. He told us about how he used the technology and healthcare analytics to identify this issue and take appropriate action to treat it.
Heads Up Health: So, you’re in great shape, you love taking long cycling trips and pushing your body. What happened that made you realize, “Hey, something’s not right”?
Todd: In early 2014, I went to a spin class; I was training for a ride down to Sarasota, FL. After the class, I had really bad headaches for weeks afterwards. [My doctors] did a CT scan and didn’t find anything.
So, I road down to Sarasota and on the last day of the bike ride — day five — I had heart palpitations for 24 hours. I had an echocardiogram last year and again nothing was discovered, so I didn’t think it was anything serious and neither did my doctors.
When I went to get my physical [exam], my doctor noted high blood pressure and cholesterol as potential issues and recommended a medication for hypertension. But, instead of jumping on a hypertension medication, I decided to start taking matters into my own hands.
I decided to hold off on the prescription and began collecting my own data at home including blood pressure, heart rate, sleep, activity and other lifestyle metrics. I also started tracking my own lab test results in Heads Up Health. My data led me to suspect the diagnosis from my doctor was incorrect. I sought out a second opinion from a different cardiologist and that’s when the correct issue, a genetic issue I was born with but had never been properly diagnosed.
Heads Up Health: Tell us about your experience with healthcare and your life leading up to the discovery of your heart disease.
Todd: As far as my own experience with healthcare, I’ve always been physically active. When I was in my 20s I ran marathons; I ran the New York City Marathon twice, plus the Los Angeles Marathon. After having some knee trouble, I dialed back from that and got into cycling. I even rode my bicycle coast to coast. I have a long bucket list I’d like to accomplish of other bicycle rides, too.
Heads Up Health: How did you feel after your diagnosis? What did you do?
Todd: I’ve continued to track my own health very closely using Heads Up Health’s solution. I’ve finally found the right specialist, which has ultimately led me to the right healthcare treatment. I was nervous about the outcome, but I’m confident that I have control over it. My hope is to jump right back onto the bucket list and cross things off.
Heads Up Heath: How do you use the Heads Up Health technology?
Todd: I have the Withings wireless blood pressure monitoring cuff to track my blood pressure and pulse rate. I use a FitBit to track my sleep and physical activity. Both of these devices are connected to my Heads Up Health account. I manually enter my BMI, weight, body water and muscle mass into my Heads Up account about once a week.
Blood pressure tracking with Heads Up Health
As someone that’s super busy, I’ve used Heads Up Health’s Concierge Service to help me get all of my clinical data (labs, medication history, conditions, etc.) into my profile. I can now track all of my medical data alongside all of my daily lifestyle data and share this with my doctor as needed.
Heads Up Heath: How did this whole experience — between the Heads Up Health technology and interaction with healthcare providers — make you feel confident about being in control of your health?
Todd: I think the analogy is, you’re becoming the driver of your own healthcare, as opposed to a passenger. Especially when you have a tool like [Heads Up Health]. I feel very confident about my situation. I don’t feel like I’m in the dark; I feel like I have control, and that’s pretty cool.
Other issues could crop up as I get older — I’m 45 — but hopefully I’ll be able to make decisions quickly, especially seeing trends over time. The more information you have, the more you have to make decisions to take care of yourself.
Heads Up Heath: OK last question. Based on your personal experience, what’s the one piece of advice you would offer others who are on a similar journey toward health transformation?
Todd: My one piece of advice is that people should take 100% control of their own health, instead of relying on hurried, overburdened healthcare providers. At the end of the day, I know that no one has a more vested interest in my health than I do. Far too many people place some sort of mystical trust in doctors, and the fact of the matter is they’re human, they make mistakes and overlook things, and they’re really taught to be reactive instead of preventative.
Learn More about Heads Up Health
Interested in another Heads Up Health Story of Transformation? Check out beta user Bill Schuller’s story about how the technology helped him organize all his electronic health records.
Heads Up Health is currently in beta. Sign up to experience the beta version today. Or, if you’re just interested in staying up-to-date with the latest healthcare, fitness and wellness trends, follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook.
At Heads Up Health, we’re looking to transform healthcare for our users; to make the disjointed health care continuum seem a little less daunting and a little more manageable by creating one place where someone can store their medical records, integrate all the data they are collecting at home and share their data with whomever they choose.
One of our beta users that’s helping us all get there is Bill. Bill is a busy professional and father of two. He’s originally from California and he currently calls Frisco, TX his home.
Bill uses our Concierge Service to help him manage all of his healthcare data within Heads Up Health. After a few weeks of using Heads Up Health, we sat down with Bill to pique his brain about the software and how it has transformed the way he views his health.
Heads Up: In your experience so far, what’s been the greatest benefit of using the Heads Up software?
Bill: The biggest benefit is the ability to see all my lab results in one place! Due to a genetic condition, I have to run blood work every three to six months. Over the years I had accumulated my lab results in over 13 different PDFs. Some of the files had over 100 individual tests.
Paper records and PDF files – what a mess!
The lab’s patient portal only maintains two years of history and their PDF reports only show the last two results. I had no easy way to see all the historical data in one place and compare it with other data I was collecting. Heads Up solved this problem for me and provides a friendly user interface where I can view trends and much more.
Heads Up: Tell us about your experience with Heads Up’s Concierge Service.
Bill: The Concierge Service has been incredibly helpful. I’m very busy with work and family and simply did not have the time to manually enter historical medical records data into my Heads Up profile. I just upload the file and Concierge takes care of the rest. This is a huge benefit for people who are busy and on-the-go and need help managing their health data. Now I just get my labs from Quest Diagnostics which automatically synchronizes with my Heads Up account so I don’t have to worry about data entry.
Heads Up: What other data are you tracking in Heads Up?
Bill: I use the Basis Peak* to track sleep, heart rate, and physical activity among other things. I use a Withings scale for tracking weight and body fat. I also use the iHealth Bluetooth glucometer and pulse oximeter, which automatically upload data into my Heads Up account.
Heads Up: Can you tell us about any specific experiments you’re doing within Heads Up?
Bill: I am currently using Heads Up to help me test different statin and non-statin interventions for cholesterol. I have been tracking physical activity (from my wearable device) to see if it can positively affect my lab results (lipid panels).
Long-term cholesterol tracking in Heads Up Health
Heads Up: How else can we help you achieve your health goals?
Bill: It would be good to have notifications based on analytics that go beyond the usual “exercise more and weigh less.” With this technology it’ll be possible to have more “hey, have you noticed?” type notifications, such as comparing cholesterol results with exercise, and so much more.
Sounds good to us! Thank you Bill!
If you’re interested in seeing all your healthcare data in one spot, sign up for the beta version of Health Up Health. Or, if you’re just interested in staying up-to-date with the latest healthcare, fitness and wellness trends, follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook.
*Although Basis Peak does not have a supported API, Heads Up allows users to upload some of this data in .csv format so it can be tracked their profile.