In 2000 Bill was 45 years old. A toxicologist by training, he was at the peak of his career and enjoyed sailing as a pastime. With experienced sea legs he found it unusual that he had begun to lose his balance and fall over in the boat. He had also developed a tremor so noticeable his little two person boat would shake.
Over the months more symptoms developed. His memory was getting worse, he was having trouble remembering phone numbers and his right arm had stopped swinging. That is when he decided the time had come for him to consult a specialist. His doctor at the University of Maryland confirmed what he already suspected, he had Parkinson’s disease.
For the next 10 years the disease progressed. In spite of being on every category of Parkinson’s medication available his tremor worsened. In 2011 his father sent him an article written by Dr. VanItallie [i] on how the ketogenic diet was improving Parkinson’s symptoms. Bill, a trained scientist himself, was skeptical, there were only five people in the study and the idea of 80% calories from fat he felt was pretty extreme so he put it aside. Instead he focused on his participation in a research trial supported by Michael J Fox which encouraged exercise as a means to lessen his symptoms.
By 2012 Bill was experiencing what he called “unrelenting fatigue” he recalled being at his father in laws and washing car windows and feeling as if he just had to sit down. “I felt I couldn't continue and all I was doing was washing windows”.
The weightlifting exercise did very little for his Parkinson's but it got him thinking that there might be another way to increase fuel to his brain.“ So I bought a textbook on advanced sports medicine. I read it and decided that if there was going to be a way to exercise and improve the brain it would probably involve generating ketones. “
Generating more ketones became his goal. He decided to fast overnight and exercise in the morning in a fasted state. After his workout he had a protein shake and noticed that several hours later most of his Parkinson's symptoms had gone away. The folks at the University of Maryland were quick to tell him that people with Parkinson’s should not exercise fasted as they were concerned that his blood sugar would drop and he would increase the likely hood of falling. He took that under advisement and continued to experiment.
A week later after he had been fasting and exercising daily and eating significantly fewer carbohydrates he was back at his father in laws. This time there were stumps to clear and Bill spent several hours with an axe. He felt normal, no fatigue. He thought this was interesting and he decided to do a little experiment. He figured if cutting the carbs had made him feel better, then drinking a big bottle of Gatorade G2 full of sugar should reverse the effect. So that is what he did. “I didn't tell my wife and the next day she said ‘what in the world happened to your miracle exercise and eating program?’ And I thought oh this is really neat; if I take sugar my symptoms get worse. She ordered me to stop my research.”
Needless to say he kept exercising and cutting his carbohydrate intake and his weight dropped 60 lbs. In spite of his symptom reduction it became obvious that he needed to stop driving. As a result getting to the gym became harder and he looked for a way to boost his ketones without exercising as much.
It was about this time that Bill came across Dr. Veech who was working with Ketone esters which could be taken as a drink. “I wrote to him” said Bill “and he replied and we began to trade articles. “
In 2015 Dr. Veech received an email from Dr. Thomas N. Seyfried a professor of biology at Boston University with research interests in neurodegeneration, cancer metabolism and ketogenic diets. He had heard through the grapevine that some folks experimenting with bulletproof coffee had been able to really boost their ketones. Dr. Veech passed on the info to Bill and he began to start his day with a mug of coffee with three Tbsp. of Kerry Gold Butter, 2 Tbsp. of heaving whipping cream and 1 of Coconut oil or MCT oil .
Bill recounted that he “…set up a little experiment and I wrote down every single symptom I thought I had and made a chart. Every hour of the day I would look at the chart and see what symptoms I had experienced in the hour previous. I started the first day and in the first hour after having a BPC there was no change but in the second hour I said no to every symptom except for dyskinesia (dyskinesia is a jerky movement that is actually not really a symptom of the disease, it’s a side effect of the medication). [ii]
Bill described the symptoms he tracked. “Dystonia which is worse in the morning and it’s when your toes are all pointing at the floor and wrapped around each other. You can hobble along but you can't really get too far. Bradykinesia, which is walking very slowly are moving very slowly. Tremor and pain, Bill told me that Parkinson’s has its own unique kind of pain and that it would go away when he was taking the BPC but when he stopped it came back. The same thing happened with his ability to walk. “Without the BPC I can only walk 50 yards and feel like I have to sit down and can’t really go on but when I am taking it I can walk just fine.” The other symptom he charted was the cognitive impairment. “I wasn't able to write a complete sentence before. I would start to write and forget what I was writing about. Forming a whole sentence in my brain at one time was very hard, I could never have done a telephone Interview like we are doing today” He says. The only symptom which did not get better was the urinary incontinence.
So Bill took the BPC every day for 10 days charting his symptoms and noticed a big reduction in his Universal Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. It Dropped from 50 to 11. He noticed that as soon as he would eat carbohydrates he would start to shake more and that everything would fall apart until he had fasted all night and started over. “It was pretty instant but also reversible” He noticed this over Halloween when he ate a few more carbohydrates than usual. Needless to say he eats very low carb now and tries not to give in to the lure of Halloween candy. He also discovered the hard way that eating too much protein can also knock him out of ketosis so now he is more careful with that too. One last addition to his self-experimentation led to gaining control over the last symptom that diet alone could not fix. With the addition of daily ketone esters supplied by Dr. Veech Bill no longer has an issue with urinary incontinence.
Bill has a website which shows some before BPC and after BPC videos of his symptoms. He uses his site to educate others about the effect of ketones on Parkinson’s symptoms. He's very clear he's not a physician but he’s very happy to connect with people and share his experience. I asked Bill about his helping other people and whether he has seen responses as impressive as his. He said yes, he has seen similar responses. He has noticed that people with the most severe symptoms are helped the most. Some people are not able to tolerate the coffee but of the people who started it, if they saw a change they kept going. Some people say that it's changed their lives. It has certainly changed Bills life.
Bill says that “Doctors don't necessarily know what to do with people like me” I ask if they are being supportive of his approach and he says yes, but with caution. He is adamant that people not try and do this without consulting their doctor. “It is outside of their normal way of approaching Parkinson's so don't expect a lot of support but you should still keep them in the loop. It is still considered very alternative and there is very little in terms of trials as there is no money for it”.
Bill was quick to give credit to Dr. Veech and the nutritionist Mariam Kalamian as being incredibly helpful to him on his journey. He follows that up by crediting his sister Cindy who cooks for him and makes sure that he has healthy keto meals such as his favourite crustless quiche.
Bill has used his scientific mind and tenacious spirit to fight his degenerative disease. He ended our interview with a sobering statement: “Most people I know who were tracking along my same symptom development path are now dead”. I can only hope that pioneers such as Bill can stay around for a long time both to support other Parkinson’s sufferers but perhaps even more importantly, to pique the interest of those willing to invest in scientific trials which look at the impact of ketones on degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s and fully investigate the potential of Dr Veech’s ketone esters.
[ii] For Bill it is going away largely because he is able to cut back just a little bit on a few of his medications just enough to drop the dyskinesia.