Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vision therapy and the ketogenic diet

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a diet that puts the body into a state of sustained ketosis: that is when the body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate.  Ketogenic diets are, therefore, very high in fat and very low in carbohydrate.

What does it have to do with vision therapy?  I don't know that it has anything to do with vision therapy, but I suspect that at least in my case it might.

People use ketogenic diets for many reasons.  Most probably use ketogenic diets for weight loss.  Many people who have difficulty losing weight are able to lose weight using a ketogenic diet.  Often they'll lose tons of weight and then get close to their goal and then stop losing.  Then they'll cut out the remaining carbs so that they're close to zero carbohydrate, and then they're able to lose the rest.

Another reason people use ketogenic diets is because it allows them to avoid the glucose/insulin dynamic, particularly people with type 1 diabetes.  For instance they don't produce insulin, so ketogenic diets work out very well for type 1 diabetics.

Another reason people use the ketogenic diet is that it's supposedly really helpful for assuaging the symptoms of epilepsy.

I don't know why I tried it initially -- I think it's because I'm a believer in experimenting on the self.  You never know what can be your baseline experience of reality unless you change up the inputs in a systematic way.  A small and simple change can have a radical impact on the quality of your life.  For me, the ketogenic diet is an example of this.

For me, the ketogenic diet doesn't make me particularly lean.  I stay at about the same BMI, but I eat quite a lot.  Probably around 2,000-2,500 Calories, and maybe about 50 Calories worth of carbohydrate since it's difficult to completely eliminate those.  But very highly ketogenic, very high fat, and I try not to get too high on protein.

The main benefit I get from the ketogenic diet is cognitive.  I remember the fourth day of doing the ketogenic diet I remember coming back from the gym and a few hours later I suddenly felt a very unusual cool calmness wash over me.  I was sitting at my desk doing work and I suddenly noticed that I was in sync with myself.  I wasn't making any typing errors.  I stopped having to use the backspace button.  I wasn't rushing ahead of myself, and I could focus very easily.  I could watch myself focus and direct myself easily without getting distracted.  It was one of the most unusually pleasant experiences I'd had.  Very similar to being in a meditative state, but it was stronger than any meditative state I'd experienced.

Later that night I was reading a book.  At one point I noticed that I was reading much more quickly than I normally do, and I wasn't going back to re-read things.  I was just continually reading quickly and comprehending everything I was reading perfectly.  It was a very new experience.  Yet another thing I noticed is that I didn't lose energy.  Never had any sagging.  Just always awake, high focus energy throughout the day.  And I didn't seem to need to sleep as much.

I kind of got off the particular way I was doing the ketogenic diet.  I'd experimented with Calorie restriction, and I've also experimented with doing ketosis continually for more than a week.  That was bad.  Doing Caloric restriction on the ketogenic diet just takes away a lot of the huge energetic benefits that a high Calorie ketogenic diet gives me without any change in body composition.  Doing the ketogenic diet for multiple weeks in a row gets me really sick, I've learned.  After one week of high Calorie ketogenic diet with close to zero carbs, I get to about 3.2 m/MOL blood ketone levels.  If I keep at it, the m/MOL levels just keep climbing and by the end of the week it'll be at 6.8 m/MOL, which is very close to ketoacidosis.  Supposedly non-diabetics have buffering mechanisms which prevent ketoacidosis--I probably never did, and some people can stay at these levels indefinitely.  But I've done this a few times, and each time I did it, I felt god awful and got sick.  But taking a day off to load up on carbs fixes this almost immediately.

Thus, I now stick to high Calorie ketogenic diet and I load up on carbs every Saturday.  When I do this, everything works amazingly.

But I finally got back to doing two ketogenic meals per day--one in the morning, one in the evening--and the original experience is back.  I feel freaking fantastic, energy is there, and if I sleep like crap one night, it's no biggie.

I do suspect that it's having a positive effect on my vision therapy.  Like I mentioned--if you're doing high Calorie ketogenic--you get insane focus--or I do.  In particular doing the fixation cards--the accommodation seems to be getting more easily achieved.  I can get closer and closer to the cards without running into the accommodation out of sync issue.  It's still there, but I can get farther than ever before.  More energy, or I've gotten better?  I think probably both, but the energy has helped me get better.  I don't come home from work tired.  I come home from work ready to do stuff.  So the extra energy is definitely helping with vision therapy in my experience.

And I think this mental focus that a high Calorie ketogenic diet has given me has been helping a lot with my vision therapy exercises as of late.  Vision therapy is all about focus.  The better you can focus and concentrate on what you're doing the better.  The better your brain works, the more effective vision therapy is going to be.

Everything--all of our salient traits--from a biological standpoint--seem to be touched, influenced, and perhaps shaped, by the fact that we're energetic beings with a finite amount of energy.  Everything is an energy trade-off.  And this is definitely true of the visual system.  One part of your visual system can sap and take aware energy from other aspects of your visual system.  Coordination of your cilliary muscles can take away your ability to coordinate the direction of your eyeballs and vice versa.  Vision therapy can make you physically exhausted.  This might be at least part of the reason why doctors tell their patients to sleep a lot after LASIK surgery.

But if you have a huge amount of energy available always, it seems like there may be fewer required biological compromises to make.  And I don't know why this wouldn't be true of the visual system since it is part of our biology.  That's at least what my experience with the ketogenic diet has been.  It definitely feels like I need to make fewer compromises.  I can take it for granted that the energy is going to be there if I eat the fat.  I almost feel guilty because it makes me so much more effective at everything.  Almost.


  1. Hey dude. Was just prescribed vision therapy for intermittent exotropia. Was thinking about coupling therapy with tdcs and found your blog while googling around. Are you still using tdcs with your routine? I haven't read every single post yet but haven't seen it mentioned in a while. Thanks for your contribution. You have given me hope.

    1. I haven't done tDCS in a while. It's just sort of a pain to put on every time. Plus, now I'm doing VR with vision therapy and that'd make it even harder.

  2. Dear Wono,

    Would you share your contact info? I found your blog by accident, while searching for my (our) problem. I am living in the Netherlands (Europe), but it seems that our country is still far behind concerning vision therapy / recovery of stereopsis :(

    1. Sure, I'm on FB as andreas bielschowski