Does The Keto Diet Help Relieve Symptoms Of Depression?

You've probably heard of the many benefits of the keto diet, from weight loss to clearing acne (via MedicalNewsToday). The keto diet has been found to relieve symptoms of epilepsy, polycystic ovary syndrome, brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease, and may even slow the growth of cancerous tumors. But if you're someone who experiences depression, is the keto diet right for you?

Healthline reports that the keto diet is predicated on ketosis, a metabolic state your body enters in which fat instead of carbs are used for energy and fuel. Since each person's body is unique, the experience of entering ketosis is different for everyone who tries the keto diet, and there are side effects that are both positive and negative. The keto diet is known for being restrictive, with banned items including starch, sugar, legumes, and fruits and vegetables rich in carbohydrates. When foods are taken out of a person's diet, or when new foods are introduced, the body will go through a period of adjustment. The transition into ketosis that occurs when the keto diet is started has been found to result in certain side effects regarding mental health. Here is what you should know about how the keto diet affects symptoms of depression.

Anxiety and stress may lessen

Generally, after the body adjusts to ketosis, the keto diet can have beneficial effects on several neurological and mental health conditions. The keto diet may help with symptoms of depression, according to WebMD. It may also improve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and sleep issues. For people with chronic pain, the keto diet can reduce inflammation and offer relief to those suffering from pain that is made worse by inflammation. A 2022 study published in Oxford Academic found a significant reduction in pain for patients with chronic pain who followed a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet. In reducing levels of pain, symptoms of depression associated with chronic pain may be improved.

Healthline delineates that the keto diet can cause positive changes in the brain that can decrease symptoms associated with mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. Because of the positive influence that the keto diet can have on the brain, symptoms of neurological conditions like epilepsy, migraines, Alzheimer's, and seizure disorders can be improved to varying degrees. It's important to note that the improvements in anxiety and depression typically occur after the initial transition to ketosis.

Depression symptoms could worsen

While the keto diet helps some people feel better, it could have the opposite effect on others. WebMD reports that not every person adjusts well to ketosis, and some people can experience symptoms that worsen depression, anxiety, and stress. Symptoms that can be experienced at the onset of the keto diet are often called the "keto flu" and include cramping, fatigue, and headaches (per Healthline). Sleep disturbances caused by entering ketosis can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Increased fluid intake can counteract negative side effects as your body adjusts to ketosis.

To mediate the keto flu, there are a few tactics you can try, says Healthline. Since symptoms of entering ketosis generally last a few days, you may begin feeling better after a period of time. You can try cyclical keto dieting, which means that you ease into the diet and give your body a softer adjustment to ketosis. For cyclical keto dieting, start by loading up on carbs one day a week and work your way up as you feel comfortable. While your body adjusts to ketosis, it's important to consume plenty of electrolytes, protein, and vegetables.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.