Ketogenic diets have risen in popularity in recent years. Whether losing some weight or improving other physical conditions, this low-carb and high-fat diet has become the go-to for many. However, the benefits of a keto diet extend beyond physical health. Recent studies have cropped up showing how it positively impacts mental well-being.
However, how do low-carb and keto diets work, and how do they help a person’s mental and brain health?
The Science Behind Low-Carb and Keto Diets
Typically, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to create energy and fuel variousfunctions. However, consuming excessive carbohydrates can result in the body storing the excess as fat, leading to weight gain and other health issues.
In contrast, low-carb or keto diets limit a person’s carbohydrate intake, prompting the body to turn to fat for energy. When this happens, the body produces molecules called ketones—the alternative fuel it makes when it’s low on glucose. Using stored fat for energy means a person can lose weight and alleviate several ailments.
Potential Benefits to Mental Health and Brain Function
1. Regulates sugar in the blood
As mentioned, glucose is the energy that the body gets from eating carbohydrates. However, having too much of this simple sugar can increase blood sugar levels. However, blood sugar levels become manageable in a keto diet as it changes the body’s energy source to ketones.
This change in fuel source can significantly benefit one’s mental health and brain function. For instance, this diet can prevent the excessive sugar’s effect on orexin, a neuropeptide responsible for inducing wakefulness. Moreover, the body won’t experience a sudden surge and rapid crash of blood sugar levels that can lead to irritability and annoyance—stabilizing a person’s mood.
2. Controls insulin levels
Dementia and cognitive decline are common consequences of constant high insulin levels. One factor that leads to these outcomes is the body developing insulin resistance. This condition happens when the body produces too much insulin from excessive carbs and becomes less responsive to the substance.
A keto diet drastically reduces carb intake, putting the body in ketosis. In this state, your insulin levels remain low and help your body maintain insulin sensitivity. On top of controlling diabetes, this diet can improve your brain health and cognitive functions.
3. Reduces inflammation
Besides high insulin levels, inflammation can lead to declining brain health. According to a study, inflammation in different cognitive parts of the brain has led to the worsening symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.
To combat this effect, some people follow a keto diet. The ketones the body produces in this diet have shown the potential to be a long-term treatment for inflammation. With a low-carb diet, you can protect your brain from damage and even improve its functions.
4. Balances stress hormones and adrenaline levels
High sugar and insulin levels can cause the body to release too much cortisol and adrenaline, resulting in increased heart rate, blood pressure, and other “hypoglycemic” symptoms. A person can experience excessive sweating, anxiety, irritability, shaking, and difficulty concentrating.
These hormones are essential in responding to stressors. However, you can develop mental health disorders like depression and cognitive damage when sustaining these hormones at high levels for extended periods.
Following a keto or other low-carb diet can help you prevent these conditions from happening. Its ability to regulate your blood sugar prevents spikes and crashes that trigger the release of stress hormones. As a result, you can achieve healthy mental well-being from a balanced level of stress hormones.
5. Stabilizes neurotransmitters
Research suggests that following a keto diet may increase the production of happy hormones or dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. Firstly, the body regulates pleasure and induces motivation and reward through the dopamine neurotransmitter. Meanwhile, the body releases serotonin to signal mood changes, appetite, and sleep.
Adopting a keto diet can also boost GABA production, a neurotransmitter that controls nerve cell activities, effectively improving cognitive functions. All in all, regulating the level of these neurotransmitters prevents them from becoming low for better mental health.
Tips for a Healthy and Effective Keto Diet
1. Include the right food in your meal plan
include low-card and nutrient-rich food in your keto diet to give your body enough energy to properly function while feeling full and satisfied. Additionally, ensure your food has high-quality proteins, which can help with muscle growth and repair.
Some food options you can incorporate into your meal plan include:
- Leafy greens
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught fish
- Free-range poultry
2. Stay hydrated
A keto diet can lead to dehydration because the body excretes more water and electrolytes than usual without carbs. As such, increase your daily water intake to stay hydrated. Consume electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium, to maintain fluid balance.
3. Increase your fiber intake
Aside from dehydration, you may experience constipation when on a keto diet due to low fiber intake. That said, include more fiber-rich food in your diet. You can also take fiber supplements to support your digestive health.
4. Ease into the diet
Gradually ease into a keto diet, as it can be a drastic change for your body if you do it suddenly. Slowly reduce your carb intake instead of cutting it entirely at once. Doing so can minimize some of the potential side effects of the diet and make the transition smoother.
Keto Diets: A Holistic Approach to Health and Wellness
A low-carb keto diet has proven effective in improving several physical health conditions. However, new studies have discovered the capabilities of a keto diet in supporting one’s mental well-being. From alleviating mental health disorders to enhancing cognitive functions, this diet has become a go-to for many people seeking a holistic approach to their health.
That said, adopt healthy habits to support your keto diet efforts and help your body reach optimal physical and mental health, ultimately improving your quality of life.
got this info from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/diagnosis-diet/201906/8-reasons-try-low-carb-mental-health
but the link is similar to this article so I’m not sure if I link to it.