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In today’s fast-paced life it’s not uncommon to come across many people suffering from depression.
Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression affect people in many different ways.
Work-related challenges, the ever-increasing family expectations, insufficient rest and poor diet, are just some examples of these causes.
With this in mind, it’s obvious you need credible, easy to understand research-based information on the best remedy to treat depression and other mental illnesses.
Much research has been carried out and continues to help people deal with problems of mental health.
Numerous psychoactive drugs prescribed by doctors help treat mental disorders.
However, recent studies have revealed that these drugs present some dangers to the users.
The latest research also shows eating low carb high-fat diet can help with the management of metabolic disorders such as types 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the relationship between keto and your emotional state, you may wonder?
Moreover, can the ketogenic diet positivity affect your emotional state?
This article gives you links to findings from reputable clinical studies to help support our views.
So What is Keto
You will hear varying definitions of a keto diet, but essentially it is when you eat low carb, low sugar, high-fat nutrition plan.
Let’s break it down.
Carbohydrates are the source of fuel in ordinary diets.
When you starve the body of carbs, it seeks newer pathways for generating the energy to feed the cells.
One pathway that can serve this purpose is ketosis.
Ketosis is a process where the body breaks down fats contained in the liver to get its fuel instead of utilizing sugar and glucose.
What the keto diet intends to accomplish is to lower insulin and blood sugar levels.
When you starve the body over a prolonged period, it will naturally turn to body fat as food for use as the primary source of energy instead of sugar.
As opposed to a high protein Atkins Diet, the Keto diet also requires eating low amounts of protein as excess protein will also spike insulin and blood sugar levels.
Fat from the keto diet is broken down into ketones which promptly travel through the blood to different parts of the body and up towards the brain.
Several things happen when the body is in the state of ketosis and is what can make the ketogenic diet beneficial for emotional stability.
Ketones and Mood
People who are depressed or have manic-depressive disorder have also been found to have cerebral hypometabolism, where the brain can not use glucose as the primary source of fuel.
The brain works better with the alternative fuel source ketones and can result in positive changes in the mind.
Observations of people on a keto lifestyle have also revealed a decrease in the sodium in the cells when the body goes into ketosis.
Ketones can work great in favor of mood stabilization.
There is two main chemical that should be well balanced for optimal functioning of the brain.
The first GABA decreases brain stimulation, while the other, Glutamate (neurotransmitter) stimulates the brain.
When the quantity of Glutamate in your brain is too much compared to that of GABA, susceptible neurons could get injured and a fog forms in the brain.
When eating a high-carb diet, the body uses glutamate together with other energy types as a source of energy and in so doing the astrocytes are unable to convert glutamate into GABA.
Neurotoxicity, (excess glutamate) is the result, and in severe cases, neurotoxicity can trigger an epileptic attack.
On a Keto diet, the brain is equipped to utilize energy and manage the levels of glutamate efficiently.
Two ketones, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate have been proven (through rat studies) to thwart any negative consequences of glutamate excitotoxicity.
These small changes and regulations of chemicals in the brain help control mood changes.
What is Depression?
The diathesis-stress model states that depression consists of the interaction of two factors.
Diathesis is the hereditary predisposition to depression and, as a further influence, the social environment.
Even small stressful events in later life can lead to a release of stress hormones.
Corticotrophin and cortisol are released into the brain and the whole body.
This model explains the emergence of depression through the interplay of many factors.
There is an overreaction due to environmental stressors.
Even a little stress in everyday life is now added and helps to release stress hormones in the body.
The stress hormone cortisol leads to depressive behavior.
These include poor performance, concentration problems and lack of energy.
Due to physical predicaments, the immune system develops a different pattern of behavior.
It is not a mental and emotional illness but is due to physical causes.
Keto Diet, Depression and Anxiety
Is it plausible to positively influence depression through ketosis?
The keto diet initiates specific processes in the body that help fight anxiety and depression.
When on a keto diet, the switch in energy source from glucose to ketones as fuel is the underlying neurological benefit of this diet.
When ketones are the primary source of food for the brain, there is a decrease in the number of radicles produced which allows the body’s natural internal antioxidants to neutralize them easily.
Consequently, neurotransmitters find it easier to move over synapses and the mitochondria function far more effectively.
All these are said to help improve anxiety, depression, and even quality of sleep.
Being in a state of ketosis seems to help people against depression.
Since ketogenic nutrition influences the body in many different ways, it is still not clear which are the levers it tackles.
Hence, it is why we present different forms of depression, their origins, and effects – with the aim of identifying possible levers of ketosis.
Treating Mental Disorders with Psychoactive Drugs
What are some of these dangers?
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Side effects
- Heart problems
- Violent behavior
- Worsened mental illness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Increased risk of car accidents among drivers using these drugs
These are not the only dangers posed by these drugs, but they suffice to demonstrate that these medications are not as harmless as many users might think.
Using a ketogenic diet is one of the new approaches to dealing with mental health conditions.
Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of this diet in treating diverse neurological disorders.(3)
Using this approach to treat this health problem is a sure way to avoid all the risks mentioned earlier and attain mental health more effectively and naturally.
The use of natural remedies to treat stress, anxiety, and other mental illnesses appears untenable to some people.
However, such remedies do exist and may even work more effectively than the usual conventional drugs.
Studies have strongly demonstrated the potential that this treatment has the potential to help treat these mental health conditions.
For instance, research findings suggest that this diet significantly reduced depressive behaviors in mice and rat models in two controlled studies.(4)
Granted, these are animal models, but they suffice to show the potential that this diet has a superior and natural treatment of mental illnesses.
How Keto can Benefit Mental Health Problems
Ketogenic diets seem to affect the brain in several positive ways including:(5)
- Boosts brain power
- Provides a feel-good effect
- Antioxidant effects
Let’s delve a little deeper into these effects.
Boosts the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters
Taking this diet increases the production of GABA, a common neurotransmitter in the brain.
Studies show that dysfunctional GABA activity leads to depression and various anxiety disorders.
On the same note, studies carried out on the use of ketogenic diet show that the right balance of neurotransmitters leads to improved mental focus and reduced depression and anxiety.(6)
Bolsters Brain Power
Ketone bodies produced from fat can provide an alternative fuel for this organ.
Why is this power important in fighting mental illnesses?
The answer is simple.
Many mental disorders have one thing in common:
An insufficient energy production.
So how does this work?
These bodies are known to increase the number of mitochondria in the brain cells.
Mitochondria are responsible for manufacturing energy in the cells.
Long-Term intake of a ketogenic diet boosts the energy levels in these cells thanks to the increased number of mitochondria.
An improvement of mitochondria contributes to the reduction of depression and other related mental illnesses.
On the same note, the improved power helps to elevate and stabilize your mood.(7)
Depression and anxiety form some of the most common stress-induced mental disorders.
The body’s antioxidant defense system helps combat the biochemical changes that arise as a result of stress.
The good thing is that research suggests that ketogenic diet may significantly reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.
Lower levels of inflammation plus enhanced energy can contribute to improved brain function.
By removing high carb foods and grains from the diet and ensuring you get the right minerals and vitamins.
You can heal your body, lift your mood and resolve behavioral issues.(8)
As sugar is highly inflammatory to the body, switching to burning ketones for fuel will greatly reduce inflammation.
Because these ketones are highly anti-inflammatory, they help remedy inflammatory conditions such as leaky gut.
Inflammation like the one caused by leaky gut and some types of mental disorders are intertwined – they fuel one another.
By reducing the level of inflammation in your gut, you also minimize the level of depression and vice versa.(9)
Treating Bipolar Disorder
So far we have considered depression in its very general sense.
However, can this diet be of use to anyone suffering from manic depression?
In the actual sense yes, keto is known to impact positively on the mental health of people who have a bipolar disorder.
The sodium-lowering action of this diet is one reason why a high fat ketogenic diet helps in managing bipolar disorder.(10)
What to eat and avoid on a Keto diet?
To go on a keto diet, you must first have a meal plan.
What you eat will determine the speed at which you get into a state of ketosis.
If you limit carbohydrates to 20g-50g a day, you are likely to enter ketosis within a few weeks or much sooner for the lower end of carbs.
Avoid high carb foods such as starchy potatoes, rice, cereals, wheat products, lentils, beans.
Also, avoid high carb fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Recommended natural foods for a keto diet include high-fat fruits including avocados, olives, coconuts.
Low glycaemic fruits such as berries.
Veggies that grow above the ground and small amounts of nuts and seeds.
To help transition off sweet foods, you can use sugar substitutes including Erythritol, Stevia, and monk fruit.
For more details see our LCHF food list for a complete guide.
When you start ketogenic eating, you will most likely go through a period when your overall condition might feel worse.
It is known as keto flu and it can take a couple of weeks or longer for the body to adjust to a diet low on carbs, you should not worry.
During this time your body has to adjust to the new reality of having to burn fat instead of glucose.
While the body is busy making these adjustments, you are taking fewer carbs.
Your brain chemistry is changing, and it may make you feel depressed at times.
However, over time the body learns and adapts, the depressive feelings lift, and your mood can improve considerably.
A ketogenic diet has shown much potential in helping people suffering from depression and other mental disorders.
Recent studies as highlighted above, attest to this fact.
Research is ongoing we can only wait to see what other new findings will come up to support the potency of this diet in helping people who suffer from these conditions.
Overall, a Keto lifestyle is an excellent depression treatment option.
However, since mental disorders are complex, it is advisable that you always consult your mental health expert before beginning this dietary journey.
Remember, depression is not an easy topic, and it should not be taken lightly.
A change in diet is not always a relief. Depending on the person, the effects on depression may be different.
Following your doctor’s advice will always be important.
However, a ketogenic diet has long been known to improve conditions with neurotic disorders and may be worth trying to contribute to your personal healing.