Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Ms Lab Rat’s Review of Ketotarian: The (Mostly) Plant-Based Plan to Burn Fat, Boost Your Energy, Crush Your Cravings, and Calm Inflammation

On Friday night, Dawn Elise posted a book recommendation on the Ms Lab Rat comment page. Because I like that gentle reader’s taste in authors, I immediately downloaded her recommendation on my Kindle without getting worked up about the title or giving any attention to the cover photo. If I had so much as glimpsed at the image of the egg centered on the book’s cover, I might have passed over Ketotarian. I am allergic to eggs, and I have not had all that much luck with Keto. What could be in it for me?

I found the narrative voice of the first pages so compelling that I read straight through to the recipe section. No regrets. Who cares if you are up half the night and must sleep in ’til 9 am? I’ll give myself a pass; we’re in Covid-19 Quarantine.


What I like most about this book is that its mission is not to proselytize, but to inform and entertain. Cole is honest about the convolutions of his personal food journey. Through his struggles he has gained the wisdom to refrain from pressuring his reader to follow him in lockstep. For example, he provides Instant Pot recipes, but doesn’t urge you to go out and buy an Instant Pot, or worse, to buy a particular model of Instant Pot (a habit of certain medical professionals-slash-food celebrities that I, for one, find galling.)


Cole covers an impressive span of topics; the index alone makes for fascinating reading. These are 38 entries under H: from hair dyes (47) to hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis (134). And while we are on the subject of thyroids, let’s go to page 134. For there I discovered a confirmation of why Keto dieting hasn’t worked for me: “…some people with thyroid problems don’t do very well with fasting, making intermittent fasting a case-by-case tool for people with thyroid issues.”

Cole explains, “The queen of all hormones impacts every single cell of your awesomely designed body. If your thyroid isn’t working well, nothing is. The crazy thing about thyroid hormone problems is that there are many different reasons for them…There are autoimmune thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s disease, thyroid conversion issues like low T3 syndrome; thyroid resistance, which is similar to insulin resistance; and thyroid problems that are secondary to brain-thyroid axis dysfunction.”

I have known I have hypothyroid for thirty years. But have any of my conventional medical practitioners told me I have Hashimoto’s? No. I’m not sure they knew, themselves. I had to go to a doctor who practices functional medicine to find out.

Cole makes a convincing case that western medical schools have dropped the ball on educating doctors about nutrition. “Expecting health guidance from mainstream medicine is akin to getting gardening advice from a mechanic. You can’t expect someone who wasn’t properly trained in a field to give sound advice. Brilliant physicians in the mainstream model of care are trained to diagnose a disease and match it with a corresponding pharmaceutical drug. This medicinal matching game works sometimes, but often it leaves the patient with nothing but a growing prescription list and growing health problems.”

I’m really grateful to Cole for giving me such an in-depth research fueled assessment of the diet he’s had the most success with personally, and for giving me a pass if I don’t think it will work for me. I haven’t had a chance yet to try any of the recipes, but I’ll be sure to update on my Goodreads Page
when I do.

Big News

I just got a call from Dr. A, the neurologist who follows me when I participate in clinical trials at the NIH. She is always a delightful conversationalist. This time, topics ranged from the music of poet Joy Harjo to the mindfulness meditation of Dan Harris to the benefits of exercise. She asked about my Covid-19 quarantine routine, which includes yoga, pilates, qigong, breath work, short walks—and cold showers. Dr. A is one of the toughest ladies I know. But even she didn’t warm to the notion of a cold shower. Instead, she deftly switched topics to the motive for her call — would I be interested in participating in a new NIH study on the effects of diet on MS?


Would I? Of course I would.


As long term readers of this blog already know, this diet study would not be my first rodeo. I had participated in a trial conducted by Dr. Wahls which compares the efficacy of her eponymous diet to that of The Swank Diet. If you have a grain of common sense, you will not be shocked to learn that I found her study to be biased. I joined it in good faith, expressed a willingness to be assigned to either diet, and pressed on when I was assigned the less desirable Swank Diet. I kept scrupulous record of every food I ate, down to the last teaspoon. The low fat Swank Diet may have helped many people with MS, but it didn’t help me. On the last day of the study, I broke my fast with an avocado. Yum! Fat! I’ve been back to eating fats—healthy fats—ever since.


As soon I had control of my own diet back, I switched to the Wahls Diet I’d been waiting for—and I found the recipes lacking. This was a few years ago; I know Dr. Wahls has been tinkering with her diet every day since then. At the time I felt like her focus was entirely on feeding the brain, and not on delighting the palate. I despaired of convincing my family to adopt the diet along with me. While gripped with anxiety about facing a lifetime of stoic meals, I stumbled on this happy website, which is run by two unpretentious women with five autoimmune diseases between them. They call their diet the AutoImmune Protocol (AIP), and that’s the diet my husband and I have merrily adopted. I asked Dr. A if I could remain on AIP throughout the study. She asked a few questions about it to determine if it could fit within the framework of the diet the NIH would want me to adopt. At this point, she thinks it could work. I’m certainly not willing to go back to a SAD Diet (Standard American Diet) to provide a before and after. I have learned my lesson and will never again martyr my diet for science. I will, however, happily chart my progress teaspoon by the teaspoon, if it will help others make well informed decisions about changes they can implement to optimize their immune system.


Diet should never be about cults of personality. An impartial government study of diet and immunity will be beneficial to all of us with multiple sclerosis, whether our current diet is Swank, Wahls, or the sweet, generic-brand AIP. A diet study came out earlier this month which shows AIP can change gene expression. That’s big news—proof that diagnosis isn’t destiny.

This new NIH diet study is not yet official; it is still just a twinkle in a researcher’s eye. It won’t happen if our researchers can’t find NIH study participants willing to document our food intake (tedious) and swab at least one poop sample (odious). But if I know my NIH researchers, and my fellow lab rats, we will be up for the challenge.


In my experience so far, diet adjustments can be arduous and imprecise and emotional and sadly not entirely curative. I see them as necessary, but not sufficient. A new diet study, if done well, can help all of us struggling through autoimmune disease to direct our efforts toward our best possible outcome, whatever that might be.

Gentle Reader, may you be happy. Stay well!