A ketogenic diet has numerous benefits for the body as it helps to reduce weight and the risk of diabetes. The most interesting effect is its role in reducing anxiety, which is a condition that affects more people around the world. Apart from medication and therapy, a ketogenic diet can be a good supplement to these methods of reducing anxiety in the long term. First, let us see what a keto diet is.
What Does a Ketogenic Diet Contain?
Ketogenic diets are low in carbs and high in fats. The purpose is to help the body shift towards fats as the primary source of energy instead of carbs since the metabolizing of carbohydrates releases glucose that directly affects weight.
On the other hand, metabolizing of fats helps to maintain a desirable equilibrium of blood glucose levels (Ede, 2017). A keto diet minimizes the intake of bread, sugars, and fruits. On the other hand, foods rich in good fats such as fish, cheese, chicken, eggs and coconut oil are preferable (Campos, 2012). The liver breaks down the fats in these foods into ketones, which the body cells metabolize to release energy.
Since this process is slower than the metabolizing of carbs, the energy released into the bloodstream is relatively measured.
How a Ketogenic Diet Reduces Anxiety
Controlled release of energy
Due to the effects of glucose on the mind and mental processes, a keto diet can have direct effects on anxiety levels. A study, conducted with rats shows that a high-ketone diet leads to reduced anxiety levels (Ari et al., 2016). The fact that ketone metabolism results in a controlled explains the regulated release of energy. Which helps the mind to function consistently without experiencing spikes and drops in mental alertness, focus or concentration. A study by Lambrechts et al (2012) showed that people who switch to a ketogenic diet experience fewer fluctuations in mood and cognition levels.
Regulation of glutamate and GABA
Two important chemicals play a crucial role in controlling anxiety levels. These are glutamate and GABA. To explain it in simple terms, glutamate causes our neurons to become excited. GABA, on the other hand, has an opposite effect. Both actions are important to make our brain alert and calm in different situations. However, when they are not in balance it can cause problems. When glutamate levels become much higher than GABA levels, our brain remains in a perpetual state of alertness (Deans, 2011).
This leads to anxiety and an inability to focus on one particular thing. There is not enough GABA in our bloodstream to balance the effects of glutamate. Ketogenic diets are effective because they target the excess glutamate and convert them into GABA (Deans, 2011). In this way, these two chemicals fall into a balance and as a result, we experience less anxiety.
Getting the Most Out of a Keto Diet
Many studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can help to reduce mental disorders related to anxiety, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. The studies are using mice and rats, but there is a possibility that there can be similar results in humans too. The studies also show that a keto diet results in increased physical activity (Bostock et al., 2017). This has an indirect effect on reducing anxiety by providing a positive outlet for channelizing energy.
Keto diet has a stabilizing effect on the mood, which also helps to keep anxiety levels in check. It does not contain chemicals or compounds that will trigger off a firework of hormones in your brain causing your mood levels to swing wildly. The keto diet helps to maintain a stable hormonal balance in the body. Thus preventing you from feeling nervousness, anxiety and other similar emotions. According to Elliott (2014), by following the 60/35/5 rule for calorie intake we can maximize the positive effects of a keto diet on anxiety levels. Thus, at least 60 percent of our daily calories should come from fat, 35 from proteins and only 5 percent from carbohydrates.
How to Make a Ketogenic Diet Effective
You can make you ketogenic diet even more effective by taking some glutamine supplements with your diet (Corleone, 2017). Of course, this has to be under the guidance of a doctor who can prescribe the precise amounts of glutamine that will suit your body.
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