Can the Ketogenic Diet Help with Depression?

The ketogenic diet has been used to treat a handful of health conditions such as epilepsy, as going under ketosis has been proven to have anticonvulsant properties.

ketogenic diet

If you live with a depressive disorder, you may want to supplement your prescribed treatment with complementary and alternative medicine, and even improve your diet and exercise routines. The ketogenic diet has been used to treat a handful of health conditions such as epilepsy, as going under ketosis has been proven to have anticonvulsant properties. There is research which claims that going into the state of ketosis can help with depression as well. Learn more about the keto diet and depression below.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet, also known as keto or KD, is a diet with a high intake of fat and a low intake of carbohydrates and protein. The body runs on carbohydrates and makes these into glucose for energy. When the body runs on carbohydrates, it often does not get to use other sources of energy such as stored fat. When the body runs out of carbohydrates to use, it starts to run on fat for fuel. The body switches gears and has systems to run on fat instead of carbohydrates. On the keto diet, your body goes into a state of ketosis. Your liver produces ketone bodies, which your body parts will use for energy.

Going into ketosis generally requires you to keep your daily carbohydrate intake within 20 to 50 grams a day. However different bodies may have different energy requirements. Generally, bigger and more active bodies may use more energy than smaller and more sedentary bodies. There are no hard rules, only guidelines.

Symptoms of Ketosis

You can tell if you are in ketosis based on the symptoms your body will show. While your body gets used to running on fat, you may experience a few unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms put together are known as the “keto flu,” as the time it takes to get used to running on ketosis may make you feel like you have the flu.

Here are some things you may experience if you are in ketosis:

  • bad breath, which may taste fruity or sweet
  • digestive issues, such as constipation and diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • increased energy
  • increased urination
  • insomnia or waking up at night
  • increased thirst
  • reduced hunger
  • short-term decreases in physical performance
  • short-term fatigue
  • weight loss

Generally, it make take a few days to get into ketosis. Getting into full ketosis may take anywhere between 7 and 30 days. The lower your daily carbohydrate intake is, then the faster and easier it will be to get into ketosis. If your carbohydrate intake is low, then you should try to consume carbohydrates from healthy sources. Remember to get the amount of fruits and vegetables that you need everyday. You may do this by opting for options that are low in carbohydrates, such as dark, green, leafy vegetables.

You may also choose to eat foods that are high in carbohydrates, by controlling and limiting the portion sizes so that they fit within your daily limit. Keto-friendly food options in groceries and health food stores, such as low-carbohydrate varieties of foods that are typically quite high in carbohydrates.

Keto Diet and Depression

The ketogenic diet has been used to treat and manage a handful of health conditions. This diet has been around for almost a hundred years and has been used all over the world. The ketogenic diet has been used for mood stabilization in type II bipolar. The ketogenic diet has also been used to improve memory performance in adults with mild cognitive impairment. Murphy et. al’s (2004) study which put rats on the ketogenic diet showed that the rats who were put on the ketogenic diet spent less time immobile and showed less “behavioral despair.” The rats acted as though they were treated with antidepressants.

Sussman et. al’s (2014) study cite that because the ketogenic diet can help those with epilepsy, keto has a neurological effect. As the ketogenic diet has been found to alter the levels of metabolites of serotonin and dopamine, the ketogenic diet may work through these monoamine neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters play a role in anxiety and depression, thus going on the ketogenic diet may have anti-anxiety and antidepressant qualities. Going on the ketogenic diet may alter your brain chemistry. The ketogenic diet was shown to give mice in this experiment a reduced susceptibility to depression and anxiety.

Many studies on depression and the ketogenic diet seem promising. The studies claim that there are associations between going on the ketogenic diet and having symptoms of depression improve. However, there is still not enough research out there to prove that such as association exists. This is because most studies only apply to animals. Other studies are not generalizable to larger populations outside those in the studies themselves.

Is the Keto Diet Right for You?

Going on the ketogenic diet is generally safe for everyone. However, the keto diet may be harmful for some people. What may help someone may hurt or be detrimental to someone else. Undergoing ketosis can affect everybody differently, thus it would be safe to first consult your doctor or healthcare provider before going on a ketogenic diet. To be on the safe side, do not go on the ketogenic diet unsupervised.

If you have any of the following conditions, you must first consult a doctor or healthcare provider before going on the ketogenic diet if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding
  • You are taking medication for high blood pressure
  • You are taking medication for diabetes

Do not go on the ketogenic diet as a substitute for any prescribed medication and/or treatment for your depression. The ketogenic diet works when it complements other treatment. The ketogenic diet is not meant to replace any prescribed medication and/or treatment given to you by doctors and/or other health professionals. If you would like to try going on the ketogenic diet to help with your depression and its symptoms, you should consult your doctor or healthcare provider regarding making this change to your current treatment plan.

Keto diet and depression

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