Most people are heard about the keto diet thanks to its effectiveness when it comes to managing weight. It has gained even more attention because the Hollywood stars have also started to embrace the high-fat lifestyle while managing their weight effectively at any age. What is often overlooked is that it was first developed as an epilepsy remedy, which was a success and is used effectively today. This by itself should be the evidence, that your nutritional choices have a direct effect on the workings of your brain. Although the ketogenic diet is mostly followed thanks to its abilities to burn fat, it also has some other intriguing benefits. One of the strongest positive side effects of the keto diet is the enhanced mental capabilities – reduced anxiety and improved focus and mood.
This information is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified medical professional. If you are suffering from anxiety, please consult with your physician before you start changing your dietary regimen.
Anxiety Has Become A Common Problem
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common types mental illness in western society. Anxiety is a mood disorder in which a large number of people are suffering from. Anxiety can have both external and internal causes. For example, stress, dietary habits, trauma, substance abuse, hormone imbalances, medical conditions, etc. Some common anxiety symptoms include high blood pressure, insomnia, panic attacks, focus problems, sweating, anxiousness, and difficulty socializing.
Anxiety is very different for everyone. Sometimes you may not understand why you feel anxious, and other times it’s very obvious. When you have been fighting with anxiety during your life, you are probably aware of many of the tricks: meditation, CBD gummies, essential oils and so on. You probably have tried them all and discovered that some work better than others. The keto diet works through nutrition to elevate your mood.
What Is The Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate protein, and very low carb eating style. The purpose of this diet is to lower blood sugar and insulin levels and start producing ketone bodies by removing carbohydrates from the menu. Your keto food list will include a variety of foods from bacon and eggs to heavy whipping cream and broccoli.
Once you remove carbs from your menu, your body starts depleting your glycogen stores until there’s nothing left, after what your body starts producing ketone bodies. Body fat and fat from the diet will be broken down into ketones, which travel through your body and be used as an energy source.
After that, your body will enter into the state of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state, where your body switches from burning carbs for the energy to a better and more stable fuel source, fat. One your body is in ketosis, you will be running solely on fat.
Probably one of the biggest reasons why this high-fat eating style differs from other Western diets is that there are no cheat days once a week or even once a month during the keto diet. This is because, in order to lose weight and get additional health benefits, your body needs to be in the state of ketosis. Entering ketosis is a process which takes from 3 days to up to 2 weeks (depending on the individual). During this time you will experience temporary keto-flu which will fade, but if you start cheating every weekend then this eating style will become intolerable. If you have tendencies to cheat while dieting, then we don’t suggest the keto diet.
The keto diet is all about managing your blood sugar levels. This diet cuts out all foods that will spike your blood sugar, resulting in way more stable energy levels and focus. When your body does is in ketosis and does not experience those nasty and consistent ups and downs of blood sugar levels, it’s way easier to manage your anxiety.
To reap the benefits of the ketogenic diet, you don’t need to be in deep ketosis. You can already see benefits during the first weeks. It’s important to monitor and be aware of how different foods change your mood, then you can start choosing what type of eating style fits you the best.
What does the science say about the keto diet and anxiety?
The ketogenic diets have been around 100 years now and it has proven to be a valuable tool in the treatment of different neurological conditions (e.g. epilepsy). But what does the science say about the keto diet and anxiety?
There have been done in many studies. For example, Dr. Emmanuelle Bostock notes that improvements in anxiety and depression may be related to changes in neurotransmitters during the diet. Dr. Marcelo Campos notes that aside from epilepsy, we need more evidentiary support before doctors can start prescribing a keto diet as a psychiatric medicine.
Although we don’t have enough human-based research done on this topic, the initial research looks promising. Harvard Medical School researcher Dr. Chris Palmer noted in his research that two of his schizoaffective patients noticed dramatic improvements in their psychological state – their symptoms diminished and the quality of life went up. Oh, and they lost weight while doing this. One rat study found that adding ketone supplements to a standard diet reduced rats anxious behavior drastically.
Despite its long history in neurology, the effect of the keto diet in mental disorders is unclear. Currently, there is insufficient human evidence that can guarantee the effectiveness of the keto diet as a remedy for mental disorders. But if you are fighting with anxiety, this eating style may be worth trying. At the end of the day, the right nutrition may work as a natural remedy that can help reduce anxiety.
How can the ketogenic diet ease anxiety?
As previously described, once your body enters ketosis, it’s breaking down fats into ketone bodies. This is now used as the main source of energy for your body and brain. This is good news for your brain because its where the potential mental health benefits kick. Ketosis helps to neutralize the body’s natural internal antioxidants thanks to the decreased number of radicles. It also supports the movement of neurotransmitters. All of this may help improve anxiety levels, depression and even sleep quality.
One thing is clear, you are what you eat. Food can be an effective medicine. Your nutrition intake can and will have an effect on your mood and mental health.
During the first weeks after the keto diet initial start, you may feel a little bit down. This is normal and sometimes called the “keto-flu”, a state where your body is transitioning from carb burning to fat burning. This is totally okay and this won’t last long. Once you are in ketosis you will start seeing other effects on your body and brain. For example, enhanced mental focus, boosted brain power, clarity of thought.
Although the ketogenic diet doesn’t work as a direct remedy for anxiety it has a strong effect on your physical and mental health. It alleviates the symptoms and brings clarity and makes you feel better overall. Plus, you will experience weight loss sooner or later, which will also make you feel better and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Changing your diet is definitely a natural way to try to improve your mental health overall.
PS! If you are suffering from anxiety, then before you start changing your dietary regimen or drug schedule, please consult first with your physician.
If you are looking for another natural anxiety remedy, you might try drawing or coloring as research shows they can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the fight or flight response, easing stress and anxiety. It certainly helps me! Healthline is even having a Color For Calm Contest, if you want to enter!