How The Diet Alleviates Anxiety
The keto diet stabilizes your mood by lowering your sugar intake and increasing your fat intake.
Too much sugar in the diet puts your blood glucose on a roller coaster ride. Thats because insulin tries to bring back your blood glucose to a normal range. Even if you feel good eating those desserts initially, that blood glucose roller coaster will leave you feeling irritable, tired, and more stressed.
On the other hand, eating more fat, specifically healthy fat , helps your brain function better. Brain signals move smoothly since a large percentage of your brain is composed of fat.
Studies Show That The Keto Diet Can Help Fight Anxiety
According to a 2014 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior, a ketogenic diet can have powerful effects on your mood. In fact, when researchers looked into how a keto diet can not only affect adult mice, but also their offspring, they found that an increase in keto foods reduced susceptibility to anxiety and depression, and elevated physical activity level, meaning that not only their mood improved, but their preference for fitness did too. And if we could boost our mood, fight anxiety and depression, and love our workouts even more, it sounds like its worth a shot. And since we know that exercise is a natural way to fight anxiety and depression, it means an even added mental health reinforcer. Whats more is that if you follow a keto diet early in your life, it can continue to work its mood-boosting effects long into adulthood and beyond.
Does The Keto Diet Really Fight Depression
It actually might, says womens health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D. Your diet can absolutely have an effect on your mood, she says. Many studies have shown a clear link between diet and a person’s state of mind. The keto diet in particular may cause certain bodily processes that can help fight depression, she says.
I Tried It: Keto Diet
Heres how it works: For some reason, when you’re on a ketogenic diet, your body produces more GABA, a major neurotransmitter that helps the brain function properly, says Wider. When GABA levels are low, youre more at risk for anxiety and depression. When theyre high, it may help stave off depression, she explains.
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The Brain Can Use Two Fuels
Glucose comes from the breakdown of carbs you eat and is also made by your liver via a process called gluconeogenesis Ketones are formed in the liver from the breakdown of fatty acids that come from fat in your diet and fat stored in your body.
Although the brain always needs some glucose, your liver will make all the glucose it requires even if you dont eat any carbs.17 Whats more, researchers have reported that during fasting or strict low-carb eating, ketones can be used to meet up to 70% of the brains energy needs.18
However, in 2017, two psychiatrists reviewed the research base for psychiatric issues and noted that while promising, there isnt enough evidence yet to recommend it.19
That stance may be evolving, as a 2020 review from another group of physicians concluded that although evidence is mixed, the ketogenic diet has potential as a therapeutic tool to manage some aspects of poor mental health.20
Can The Ketogenic Diet Cause Depression
Currently, theres no peer-reviewed evidence proving that the ketogenic diet causes depression or otherwise results in depression-like symptoms.
That said, some case studies and anecdotal evidence do suggest that keto could make some people feel depressed.
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For example, in a 2019 case study, a professional triathlete reported very negative subjective psychological well-being while following a 32-week low-carb, high-fat diet, with feelings of depression, irritability, and bad mood.
The triathlete was also a vegetarian with pre-existing gastrointestinal problems, which could have confounded the outcome of the case study.
But perhaps the most common anecdotal cause of depression-like symptoms on keto is the keto flu.
Keto flu symptoms sometimes occur as your body adjusts to the keto diet. Fortunately, these side effects are temporary, but you can also use BHB ketones, MCT oil, and electrolytes to ease the transition as your body becomes fat-adapted.
People who take medication for depression might also need to adjust their medication when switching to a new diet.
If youre new to keto and take antidepressants, you may want to ask your doctor whether you should consider a medication adjustment.
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Does Starting A Keto Diet Help With Anxiety
There are many benefits to the keto diet, and it’s possible that anxiety reduction can be added to the list. The keto diet, which is rich in healthy fats and proteins while being low in carbohydrates, has been found to decrease cognitive decline, fight acne, aid in weight loss, and reduce cholesterol . Additional benefits include lessening symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome , seizure episodes in people who have epilepsy, and the risk of both cardiovascular disease and several cancers. While the keto diet isn’t recommended for everyone, like people with diabetes and women who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, it can serve as a helpful diet plan for others.
The ketogenic diet, or the keto diet as it’s popularly known, dates back to the 1920s, when Dr. Russell Wilder from Mayo Clinic began experimenting with a diet focused on healthy fats that ultimately depleted sugar from the body, reports Men’s Health. The concept of the diet is that your body will learn how to pull its energy from healthy fat sources instead of from carbohydrates. At times, the keto diet has been controversial as it can have side effects, like kidney stones, vitamin deficiencies, and a buildup of fat in the liver . However, if conducted in a balanced and intentional way, the keto diet’s advantages can be extremely beneficial.
The Potential Benefits Of Some Diets Are Truly Food For Thought
Diet has a direct impact on how well our bodies function, from digestion and sleep to feeling tired or having the ability to focus.
There have been plenty of fad diets over the decades as well as popular ones that get a lot of fanfare. Some have been shown to work, while others are simply marketing gimmicks aimed at selling commercial products with little evidence to point to their effectiveness.
Two diets that have resurfaced in popularity, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet, can be impactful on your physical healthand your mental health too. As research around these two diets has grown, their potential benefits to our mental health are more obvious now than ever before.
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Keto: A Medical Approach To Wellness
The ketogenic diet has a lot of fansand a lot of naysayers. Some argue it works very well, delivering on its promises and providing expected results. Others argue the diet can result in health risks, especially from a cardiac perspective. This polar spectrum of support and opposition has made keto more controversial than other diets that have come and gone.
There is a tremendous amount of informationand misinformationout there on the keto diet, Palmer said.
Weve been using the ketogenic diet since the early 1900s to treat seizures, Palmer said. In psychiatry, the use of seizure treatment is common, so its not farfetched to be thinking about an effective, evidence-based seizure treatment alongside the treatment of psychiatric disorders, Palmer explained.
Dr. Russell Wilder officially named this newer approach the ketogenic diet or keto, which Palmer explained is the original fasting-mimicking diet, developed to imitate the benefits of a fasting state. R.T. Woodyatt confirmed that ketones caused by fasting could be triggered by a high-fat, low-carb diet. By using fats as fuel instead of carbohydrates, the body creates ketones and doesnt need to fast to achieve the same result.
Its surprising to most people to learn that we actually have a lot of scientific evidence of the effects of the ketogenic diet on the brain, said Palmer.
What Is The Keto Diet
Before we dive in, lets discuss the keto diet. In a nutshell, its a low carbohydrate, high fat and moderate protein eating plan. Youll hear people talk about macros, and what theyre referring to are the ratios youll need to follow to stay on track.
For me, it looks like this:
Every person is different, and you can use a macro calculator to determine your needs. Ive played around with it over the past couple years, and this really is what works best for me.
Now, you might be under the impression that the keto diet means you can just eat bacon and cheese all day. And, while thats somewhat true, you dont even have to eat meat or dairy to follow a keto lifestyle. Some of my favorite sources of fat include avocado and macadamia nuts! Of course, its also best to enjoy some low carb fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, broccoli and cauliflower.
While I could stumble my way through an explanation of the keto diet, its probably best to check out informative sites such as Ruled.Me and my favorite, Keto Connect. Follow keto accounts on social media for inspiration, especially in those early days!
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How The Keto Diet Might Reduce Depression
The keto diet is proven to be beneficial in treating migraines, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the ways the diet relieves depression include:
âIn addition to preventing depression, a keto diet has been found to help with sleep and slowing down the growth of cancer cells. Individuals on a keto diet in one study found it easier to fall asleep faster than those not on the diet. The rate of cancer cell growth is reduced since cancer cells rely on sugars to thrive.
My Book As A Resource If You Are New To Nutritional Psychiatry
If you are new to nutritional psychiatry, do read this blog: Nutritional medicine in modern psychiatry: position statement by ISNPR.
If you do not yet have my book, The Antianxiety Food Solution How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings, I highly recommend getting it and reading the chapters on diet, sugar and blood sugar control, gluten and grains, and caffeine/alcohol so you have the foundation in place. Who knows, it may be the only changes you need to make to eliminate your intrusive thoughts and other anxiety symptoms!
Be sure to share it with the health team you or your loved one is working with.
If you are new to using the the amino acids GABA or 5-HTP/tryptophan as supplements, I cover this and pyroluria in part 1: Intrusive thoughts are a thing with anxiety: low GABA, low serotonin, pyroluria and hormone imbalances as possible causes. Be sure to read the many comments and especially Kimberlys feedback she combined everything in the above blog and saw wonderful results.
As I mentioned in part 1, lets talk about intrusive thoughts so we dont have to feel alone and so we can find solutions. And share your success with nutritional solutions when something works for you. Share it with your friends, your health practitioner, researchers and on this blog.
Did you know intrusive thoughts are a thing, or did you think it was just you? And what kind of intrusive thoughts have you had?
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My Experience Going Low Carb/high Fat
The first week of keto can be a little difficult. Many refer to it as having the keto flu. You might have a headache , diarrhea and fuzzy thinking, among other things. The good news is that, once it passes, you will probably feel amazing. I definitely did!
After a couple months, not only did I win my local Orangetheory Fitness Transformation Challenge for most weight lost, but my mind and body felt completely different. Here are the things I noticed:
- Less bloating and gas
- No more mood swings with hunger
- Better digestion
- Very small appetite
- Greater ability to taste flavors
Once the sugar and wheat were out of my system, it made me feel physically sick whenever Id cheat a little. After having bread or a piece of cake, I couldnt believe how bad I felt. It made me sad to think that I lived feeling that way all these years.
Does The Keto Diet Help With Depression Symptoms
To date, no one has conducted any clinical trials examining the effects of the ketogenic diet in clinical depression.
However, according to a 2018 review, numerous preclinical studies, case reports, and case series have demonstrated promising antidepressant and mood-stabilizing effects from going keto.
For example, a 2019 case study of a 65-year-old female patient concluded that keto served to functionally reverse 26 years of ameliorate two and half decades of chronic depressive disorder as part of an individualized treatment plan that included psychotherapy and exercise.
A 2013 case report found that two women with type II bipolar disorder who followed the keto diet for 2-3 years experienced significant subjective improvement and mood stabilization that exceeded their former results with medication. They also tolerated the diet well.
According to a 2007 trial, individuals who used a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet to lose weight reported greater improvements in negative affect compared to those who followed a low-fat diet.
Finally, at least two controlled studies of rodents have shown a reduction in depression-like behaviors when animals were placed on the ketogenic diet.
In the next section, youll learn more about how the brain health benefits of keto could translate for people who experience clinical depression.
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May Regulate Insulin Function
Insulin, a hormone that helps manage your blood sugar levels, may also play a role in depression and mood.
Some people, especially those who eat a diet thats high in sugar and refined starch, can develop insulin resistance which is when their body doesnt respond to insulin as well as it should .
Insulin resistance is not only linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease but also depression (
There may also be a social isolation component, especially if many of your social gatherings revolve around food. If youre cooking at home more often to stick to your keto diet, you may experience some depressive episodes if youre more socially isolated as a result.
Keto can be restrictive and potentially socially isolating, and some of the symptoms especially when you first start the diet can be difficult to manage. This may cause you to feel depressed.
Might Improve Mitochondrial Functions
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. every high school biology teacher ever
But a keto diet seems to have a positive impact on folks with mitochondrial diseases. And if the keto diet turns out to be effective against mitochondrial dysfunction, the diet might also improve depression caused by the dysfunction.
More research is needed, but its a start!
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A Low Carb/high Fat / Ketogenic Diet Study
Most of the LCHF diet research focuses on weight loss and improvement of metabolic markers for conditions like diabetes. However, there is some promising new research on mental health.
This 2020 paper is one example Ketogenic Diet: A Dietary Modification as an Anxiolytic Approach?
Diets with low amounts of carbohydrate consumption seem promising both for weight mass optimization among mentally ill patients and for their possible anxiolytic effect.
A diet is characterized as being low-carb high-fat when fat comprises > 70% of the daily calorie consumption, with sugars being 515%, and the rest of the calorie intake being made up of proteins.
This paper discusses anxiety and the role of serotonin, GABA/glutamate imbalance, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and elevated cortisol, inflammation and oxidative stress, the microbiome and leaky gut.
It also covers some ways LCHF diets may reduce anxiety: via impacts on the microbiome , by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, and by providing omega-3 fatty acids and healthy oils . The inclusion of real whole foods with quality protein and zinc-rich foods such as oysters, low glycemic index carbohydrates and leafy greens as a source of magnesium, all contribute too.
The authors do mention canola oil which I do not recommend. And contrary to their mention of egg whites, I recommend the entire egg.
Their conclusion includes these statements:
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