Keto and Depression: Is Keto All It’s Made out to Be?

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Depression arises in many forms and affects millions of people nationwide. In the US, an estimated 16.2 million people have suffered from a major depressive episode at least once in their life. 

We often regulate mental illness with a combination of prescription drugs and psychological aide. Did you know that in addition to medication and therapy, you can also ease the symptoms of depression with your diet?

With the help of a doctor, you can regulate your diet to strengthen your gut health and boost your energy levels!

Read on to find out more about keto and depression and ask your doctor if this diet is right for you.

What Is Keto?

Keto is a diet that focuses on eliminating or restricting carb intake. Rather than filling your plate with carb-heavy foods, you opt to eat energy and nutrient-rich foods that are high in natural fat. 

That means that instead of eating bread, pasta, and other high-carb foods, you eat primarily whole fruits, vegetables, and quality protein sources like chicken and fish. 

The goal of keto is to shift your body into an ongoing state of ketosis. When your body is in ketosis, it runs on fat for energy. In the process, it turns fat into ketones which also supply energy to the brain!

Tons of people have success with weight loss on the keto fit program. However, there’s more to this program than just weight loss! Read on for more information on how keto can help to ease your depression. 

Keto and Depression

If you have severe depression, we recommend that you seek medical help. If you want to supplement your mental health routine or you have moderate depression, keto may be a good choice for you.

How does keto help depression? Let’s find out.

Energy Stabilization

The processed grains in carb-heavy foods like bread and pasta have a tendency to drain your energy. Processed grains are stripped of their nutritious outer layer, bran. 

Without bran, grains have lower fiber levels. You digest and absorb them much quicker as a result.

That means that after eating processed carbs, you’ll experience a spike in insulin and blood sugar, followed by a rapid drop. This is what we call an energy rush followed by an energy crash.

Ketones metabolize faster, which means you’ll still get a nice boost in energy after eating keto-friendly foods. Ketones also offer a much longer-lasting source of energy, which means that your energy won’t crash mere minutes after eating. 

When your blood sugar levels drop, your body sends panic signals to your brain. This can increase feelings of anxiety or depression as your body and mind try to prepare for survival mode. Supplying your body with good energy sources will reduce these mood swings throughout the day.

Inflammation Reduction

Studies have found that people with depression have high levels of cytokines. These are molecules that your body releases in response to inflammatory substances. These molecules actually increase the symptoms of depression.

In other words, the more your gut is inflamed, the more your body is going into a state that will promote depressive feelings.

Keto-friendly foods are largely anti-inflammatory. In fact, after beginning the keto diet, you’re actually undoing some of the damage that has already been caused by inflammation in the gut. This will cut off the source for cytokines and may reduce your depressive symptoms.

Neurogenesis Promotion

Neurogenesis is the process of generating new brain cells. Research shows that people who suffer from mental illness have a lower rate of neurogenesis and their brain cells are susceptible to damage. In turn, a lower rate of neurogenesis actually lessens emotional resilience. 

One of the primary controllers of brain cell generation is diet. When insulin levels are constantly spiked by a high-sugar, high-carb diet, neurogenesis slows. When the body runs on fat, rather than sugar, neurogenesis quickens.

Serotonin Production

Because our brains are actually quite fatty, they need a supply of good fats to stay in shape. Certain omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, grass-fed beef, and fish oils. 

When you consume the right dosage of omega-3 fatty acids, your brain gets more signals to secrete serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that boosts positive moods and, overall, stabilizes your emotions. In other words, keto-friendly foods can boost your happiness and lower your mood swings!

Avoiding “Dirty Keto”

There are a lot of foods that technically pass the keto test and aren’t actually good for you. For example, cheese is not off limits and meat is encouraged. That means that you could skip the bun but still eat the filling of a cheeseburger and call it a keto meal.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals, you’re not going to get the positive effects we’ve described here. Your energy levels will not stabilize, you may still experience inflammation, and you’ll miss the serotonin production.

If you’re trying keto to see how it affects your depression, you need to eat a balanced diet. That means that at least half of your plate should be covered with fruits and veggies! 

Is Keto Right for You?

If you want to know more about keto and depression, ask your doctor or meet with a nutritionist. For most individuals suffering from depression, a change in diet, alone, is not enough. Keto will work best in combination with other depression treatments.

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