A ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that can be an effective tool for weight loss and diabetes.
In addition to these benefits, many people have reported additional improvements in mood and concentration during this time of dieting. Is it possible that a ketogenic diet could cause depression?
Some researchers have discussed the effects of a ketogenic diet on mood, but there is little evidence to suggest that these changes are greater than those seen in people who eat less carbohydrates overall.
Instead, it is likely that the benefits reported here result from ketosis altering the connections between nerve cells, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and inflammation.
The Ketogenic Diet Transition Period
Ketosis, a state of “burning fat for fuel,” is experienced by low-carbers who consume high amounts of healthy fats.
This diet involves eating little to no carbs, moderate amounts of protein, and fat consumption.
During the transition period, known as “keto-adaption” or “becoming keto-adapted,” rapid changes in brain chemistry and function are made. These changes are primarily due to the body switching to fat as the primary source of fuel rather than carbohydrates.
However, since being keto-adapted requires adhering to a strict low-carb diet, many people wonder if this is the cause of mood swings or depression.
Although some people report feeling mildly fatigued and sluggish when first transitioning to a ketogenic diet, these symptoms typically disappear within weeks of making the switch.
Most people find that they have regained lost motivation and energy once their body becomes accustomed to burning fat for energy.
In fact, one study demonstrated improved cognitive performance in those who ate less carbohydrate and more fat.
It may be possible for people to experience depression during the transition phase of becoming keto-adapted. This can occur if a person is not eating enough calories or protein while on the diet.
Is Depression A Side Effect Of Keto?
There is a lot of media hype regarding depression being a side effect of the ketogenic diet.
However, there are no substantial studies or reports providing evidence for this correlation. One of the main reasons for this is because most people following a ketogenic diet are relatively young and healthy.
This means that they are unlikely to have any underlying health problems and genetic predispositions, so there is no reason to suspect them of being vulnerable to depression.
In addition, it becomes more difficult for individuals to follow this diet if they don’t enjoy it, which then provides the motivation to continue.
Therefore, keto is a lot more difficult for people who do not have a burning desire and obsession to lose weight.
However, as such individuals are usually prone to depression already, following the ketogenic diet does not add further vulnerability.
On the other hand, it is possible for people suffering from depression to find ketosis beneficial. This is due to its ability to provide energy and mental clarity.
In addition, most of the symptoms associated with depression are related to hormonal imbalance, which results in a lack of energy and irritability. A ketogenic diet eliminates these two issues, thus providing relief.
If you are suffering from depression, it is recommended that you speak with a doctor and/or psychiatrist about the possibility of following a diet such as keto to feel better.
This is especially important if you are taking any medication for your depression or having suicidal thoughts.
In addition, it is important to speak about your plans with a doctor before undertaking any diet plan. This will help ensure that you will undergo the transition safely, without any side effects or negative consequences.
What Happens When You Start Following A Ketogenic Diet?
When you start following a ketogenic diet, it will take some time before your body and mind fully adapt to ketones as energy.
Therefore, it is also important to be patient with yourself if you encounter some symptoms of the “keto flu.” This can include nausea, brain fog, fatigue, and irritability, which lasts for a few days before your body begins to function properly.
In addition, it is normal for your body to lose water initially. This is especially so if you have been following a high carbohydrate diet for a long time.
However, as soon as you begin losing fat and gaining muscle, the weight loss will be easier and more consistent than before.
How Keto Affects Mood
A ketogenic diet has been known to help stabilize moods and reduce irritability. This is because the brain will begin to use ketones as energy, which is an alternative to sugar.
When your body begins using fat for energy, it becomes more efficient at utilizing the fats in your system and eliminating excess water retention. Both of these contribute to a better mood.
As with any diet plan, listening to your body and adjusting at the appropriate time is important.
People will also experience different things when they are following keto, depending on their situation, dedication level, and motivation for beginning this diet in the first place.
This means that there isn’t always going to be a precise answer to the question of whether or not keto will make you feel depressed.
With that being said, the ketogenic diet has been known to promote mental clarity due to its ability to increase levels of several neurotransmitters such as serotonin and beta-hydroxybutyrate.
This means that you will be able to focus more on whatever task you are involved in without taking a break as soon as you start experiencing symptoms of fatigue.
In addition, ketone bodies boost energy levels and improve mood due to their ability to alter how certain neurotransmitters operate in the brain.
This means that your body will not require carbohydrates for fuel when there is an abundance of ketones present.
Although a ketogenic diet is known to improve mood, it does not mean that following this diet will automatically result in greater happiness.
You should not assume that the diet provides instant gratification or relief from depression.
However, if you are struggling with depression and weight loss, giving the ketogenic diet a try might be helpful.
What To Do If You’re Depressed
No matter what diet you may follow, if you suffer from depression, you must find a professional to help you work through this issue.
At the very least, a ketogenic diet can be an effective way of losing weight due to its ability to provide an energy boost in combination with feeling full for longer periods of time.
If this is the case, following a ketogenic diet may provide you with more energy and drive to help you get through your day-to-day activities.
If you are concerned about feeling depressed while on the keto diet, then speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Depending on what type of medication you are currently taking for depression, your doctor may be able to recommend an alternative medication that you can use alongside the ketogenic diet.
However, it is important to remember that behavioral changes and lifestyle alterations are often necessary for depression sufferers to get better long-term results.
Therefore, if you are currently depressed, then a ketogenic diet might not be enough on its own to help you get better.
It is important that you also make some changes in your daily routine and take more time for self-care.
For example, you should do things like exercising or meditating to improve your mood regularly. Also, avoid eating processed foods full of additives which may cause inflammation in the body and contribute to an imbalance in your mood.
Not only will making changes to your diet and lifestyle help you if you are depressed, but it will also improve the chances that the ketogenic diet works for you.
You should also engage in other healthy habits such as eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining an adequate sleep schedule, and managing stress levels.
How To Follow A Ketogenic Diet For Depression
For the best results, it is recommended that you officially begin a ketogenic diet and follow it for about 3 months.
This will give your body time to adjust to using ketone bodies as energy instead of glucose.
In addition, this will provide you with the opportunity to get used to the diet and its effects on your body before deciding whether or not it is right for you.
If you are currently on medication for depression, you must speak to your doctor about any concerns you might have about following a ketogenic diet.
Also, if you notice that the ketogenic diet causes extreme fatigue or other symptoms when starting, then monitor this closely and consult with your doctor immediately so that they can adjust your dosage.
While the ketogenic diet can be a great tool for weight loss and improving your health, it is important not to expect that you will automatically feel better because of the diet.
You should also remember that making changes in your diet without consulting your doctor may result in nutritional deficiencies and other complications.
It is also critical that you discuss with your family doctor whether or not following a ketogenic diet is suitable for you.
Various factors should be taken into account when deciding on the right diet plan for your situation.
If you are battling both depression and weight gain, it is worth trying a ketogenic diet to see if this improves your mood and provides other benefits.
However, 3 months should be the minimum time you follow this diet to get used to its effects before deciding whether or not to continue with it.
There may be something you can do to help yourself feel better, even if you’ve been dealing with depression for a long time.
For example, allowing your body time to adjust to the diet while maintaining a positive outlook on life may help reduce your symptoms and improve your mood.
A ketogenic diet might also be one way of helping you feel better, but start with a short duration first to see how it affects your body and any side effects that may occur before committing to longer periods.