Updated: Nov 4
At the age of 51, a routine blood test revealed elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA), which could indicate possible prostate cancer.
Rather than have a biopsy, I resolved to treat myself with ketosis.
After three months of cycling in and out of keto, my PSA had returned to normal.
Adding a regular ice bath practice dropped my PSA to 0.8 ng/mL, and my testosterone jumped to levels ordinarily seen only in teenagers.
Does every man my age have a prostate problem?
Back in September of 2017, before Jason C Stauffer and I started ice baths, I had a health scare based on an elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test result. Normal for a man my age at that time was less than 3.5 ng/ml.
Mine came back at 7.
I started doing some reading and I came to learn that only 25% of elevated PSA results are indicative of cancer. Still, at my last prostate exam ten years earlier, my doctor commented that my prostate was enlarged and it was probably nothing to worry about, but she'd like to "keep an eye on it."
I haven't had any exams since.
Prostate cancer typically grows slowly, so I thought it was conceivable that whatever enlargement was detected ten years ago had grown into a full-blown cancer.
Was I becoming incontinent? Feeling the urge to pee all the time? Experiencing difficulty urinating?
I didn't even know. I became hypersensitive to any perceived change in my urination habits, and that didn't help me at all. The more I tried to be aware of difficulties in urination, the more paranoid I got about my pee.
Although the normal thing to do would be to go back to my doctor for another exam. I wasn't so sure.
I decided to talk to other men, first.
How does allopathic medicine treat the prostate?
You might be surprised how little men talk about the aspects of their anatomy they all have in common. There's no customary way to raise topics of male reproductive health among other men. Yet here I was, trying to chat up any man approximately my age, and especially my older friends, about the condition of their prostate.
As it turned out, almost every man had a story to tell, Some had their prostates removed. Others had biopsies. Others had radiation.
Each and every one of their stories sounded like a nightmare to me. I resolved to treat my elevated PSA without further contact with the medical establishment, which I became certain would set in motion a cascade of catastrophic and painful procedures that would eventually render me impotent.
I decided that before I had a biopsy, I'd try a ketogenic diet.
Cancer is a metabolic disease
I didn't share my diet decision with anyone but one of my closest confidants. At that time, the idea that a ketogenic diet could treat or reduce the risk of cancer was still very controversial, and because most of my older male friends are academics with doctorates like me, they don't trust anything that seems to contradict established medical science.
But the metabolic theory of cancer isn't new. In medicine, it's called the Warburg Effect (e.g., Liberti & Localsale 2016) and it's been documented by scientific studies for over 90 years. It demonstrates that cancer cells require glucose to grow (Seki et al. 2022), because most forms of cancer are incapable of metabolizing fat. Instead, they thrive on excess glucose in the bloodstream. A ketogenic diet starves the cancer cells of glucose because it requires reducing carbohydrate intake to levels that are insufficient to maintain basic metabolic function with glucose alone (Seyfried 2012). At near-zero carb intake, the body switches to a fat-based metabolism that produces ketones.
I found that out the hard way in 2001, when my 6 year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Because his pancreas wasn't producing insulin, he was incapable of glucose metabolism, and his body was producing so many ketones that he was at risk of ketoacidosis -- a life-threatening condition that results from changes in the pH of the blood.
It is partly because ketosis can be dangerous for Type 1 diabetics that the diet has a bad reputation. Many medical doctors will discourage their patients from experimenting with ketosis, but I already knew from 15 years of managing my son's diabetes that ketosis presented no danger to me.
The ketogenic diet for treatment of cancer has become much more popular since publication of Tripping Over the Truth: The Return of the Metabolic Theory of Cancer (Cristofferson 2016). As it turns out, a ketogenic diet not only starves cancer cells, but kills them outright, as if ketosis was the body's own natural chemotherapy (e.g., Weber et al. 2018, and Weber et al. 2020).
Since at least 1965, medical science has understood that one of the fastest ways to produce ketones is acute cold exposure (Hanson & Johnson 1965).
Cold therapy can get you into keto
Because I live in Phoenix Arizona, there is no such thing as a cold shower in August. Phoenix is the hottest major city in North America, and the tap water here reaches temperatures in the upper 80's during the summer.
But temperatures start to cool off by November, and I started thinking I might produce more ketones if I dropped the water temperature of my showers.
I struggled, until I read Scott Carney's account of Wim Hof's remarkable stamina and health in What Doesn't Kill Us (Carney 2017). Carney's description of Hof's breathing technique helped relax me during those showers, and that helped me extend my cold shower practice and stay in ketosis longer.
By December 2017, just 3 months later, my PSA had dropped into the middle of the normal range.
I don't really know if the cold showers brought my PSA levels down, or if they would have come down all by themselves. But I was relieved and impressed and convinced that deliberate cold exposure was an essential part of my improvement.
To be sure it wasn't some sort of anomaly, I tested again six months later. That was the summer of 2018, and by then Jason and I had started a regular practice of ice baths and founded Morozko Forge for the purpose of manufacturing equipment that would freeze water for us and save us the hassle of buying ice from the store.
To my satisfaction, my PSA dropped a little lower.