A ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is high in fat. On this diet the body does not rely on easy sources of energy like glucose, as the liver produces ketones for energy instead, which uses up stored fat. Among the many health benefits of going keto are using the ketogenic diet for depression and anxiety. However, using the ketogenic diet for depression and anxiety may not be for everyone.
How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work?
Your liver can produce energy from stored fat, called ketone bodies. This sort of energy production occurs when your body is deprived from carbohydrates. Glucose comes from carbohydrates, which provides your body with a different type of energy. Glucose is the easiest molecule to be used as an energy source. Insulin is produced to process the glucose and break it down. Other sources of energy like fat are not used.
The ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates, which produces a state known as ketosis where the body produces ketones, produced from broken down fats in the liver. On the ketogenic diet, insulin and blood sugar levels are low. When insulin is low, fat burning increases.
What Does the Ketogenic Diet Look Like?
On the ketogenic diet, you can eat both bacon and pork rinds and still lose weight. Most of your intake should be coming from fat. There is no need to be afraid of fat consumption! The ketogenic diet does not work on starvation. Make sure you are getting your daily intake of calories by eating enough fat. Eat fatty fish like salmon, butter, cheese, and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.
On the ketogenic diet, you can only have 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates a day to maintain ketosis. You may eat proteins as well, but a protein intake that is too high may affect ketosis. Too much protein means lower levels of ketosis.
It may take a few days to enter ketosis. Full ketosis may take 7 to 30 days to take place. The lower the carbohydrate intake, the faster you enter ketosis. Since carbohydrate intake is so low, try to keep your carbohydrate intake healthy. Try to avoid refined carbohydrates and starch, and try to focus on eating vegetables like dark leafy greens, nuts and dairy.
You must drink a lot of water to keep your bodily functions normal and to control your hunger. Try to increase your intake of electrolytes as well, as your body in ketosis tends to excrete water and electrolytes. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and electrolyte drinks.
Some Signs of Being in Ketosis
Ketogenic Diet for Depression and Anxiety
Ketogenic diets have been around for almost 100 years. There is some research that shows that there are benefits to using the ketogenic diet for depression and anxiety. For instance, Murphy et. al’s (2004) study found that rats on the ketogenic diet spent less time being immobile, which the researchers suggest are similar to rats treated with antidepressants because they were less likely to exhibit “behavioral despair.” The rats on the ketogenic were more active and showed less despair.
Bostock et. al’s (2017) study writes about how the ketogenic diet has been used in lots of research on human and animal neurological conditions. Some studies were on how ketogenic diets affected depression and anxiety. The study states that because most studies have been done on animals there is very little generalizability to humans. What works on rats may not work for your mental health condition.
The ketogenic diet may help improve your mood by stabilizing energy levels and providing your brain with sufficient fat. Ede (2017) writes that “For people who don’t want to take medication, haven’t responded to medication, can’t tolerate medication, or can’t afford medication, nutritional intervention can offer real hope and empowerment.”
While the ketogenic diet may work for many people who write testimonies about it online, remember that bodies work differently. Consequently, differents sorts of treatment and treatment combinations may work differently on all sorts of people. Improving your diet and exercise may be recommended to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, however, these sometimes have to be combined with different treatments which your doctor or healthcare provider may find most suitable for you.
Are There Any Risks of Being on the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet has its risks. Because it is a diet high in fat, and possibly high in saturated fat, your risk of getting heart disease increases. An intake of so much fat may put a strain on your liver as well. The liver metabolizes fat, so a ketogenic diet may strain any current liver conditions. Your kidneys help metabolize protein, and a ketogenic diet may strain them as well. Because there is a low intake of fiber from fruits and vegetables on the ketogenic diet you may have constipation problems. A limited diet may mean you might develop nutrient deficiencies. An imbalanced diet that is low in sugar may manifest in mood swings and confusion.
It is important to go to a doctor before considering going on the ketogenic diet if:
- you are pregnant
- you take medication for high blood pressure
- you take medication for diabetes
Because there are a handful of risks associated with the ketogenic diet, it is important to first consult your doctor before choosing to try this diet. The ketogenic diet may work for others who may not experience any detrimental effects to their health. However, all bodies work differently. Speaking to your doctor or healthcare provider will help you figure out if the ketogenic diet is right for you.