If weight management has been a life-long struggle, it is likely that the challenge is about a lot more than food and exercise.
The connection between mood and food is a reality for many, with emotions and mental wellness often dictating food intake and contributing to food binges or other unhealthy food-related behaviors.
Obesity is a matter of calories in and calories out—or at least that's what we're told—but a closer look at how mental and hormonal health may contribute to body weight paints a much more detailed picture.
Come for Weight Loss, Stay for Mental Health
The ketogenic diet has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to facilitate weight loss, but metabolic health is only one of the diet’s benefits and not the reason for its initial acclaim.
A ketogenic diet is a powerful tool for children with epilepsy, and the diet’s benefits related to cognitive performance are considerably more researched and established than its ability to facilitate fat loss—although anecdotal stories of those following the diet swear by the fat-burning benefit of keto.
As the pounds melt away effortlessly on keto, you may also notice a boost in energy and sharper mental focus, along with an improvement in mood.
Also, the diet’s ability to help regulate mood is particularly beneficial for those suffering from mental disorders like anxiety and depression—even being helpful to mitigate the symptoms of neurological and developmental disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and autism!
Poor Mental Health: A Global Issue
Our society is always on and moving at warp speed with minimal downtime unless we make a conscious effort to carve out space in our schedule for rest.
Furthermore, the frenetic pace of modern life may be a cause for the uptick in instances of depression and anxiety in Americans and others around the globe.
The individual and societal impact of mental health issues in those living in Europe and North America are significant. Each year, one in five people will be affected by a mental health disorder with almost one in three impacted by a mental health condition throughout a lifetime.
Mental health issues exist on a spectrum from mild to entirely debilitating. A significant point of concern is that since 2005 the rate of depression alone has increased by 18%, now affecting 322 million people globally and making it the primary cause of disability in the world!
Along with how mental health impacts our general quality of life, those with forms of mental illness have higher rates of physiological illness and premature mortality, with lifespan being shortened by 13 to 30 years.
Individuals with mental health conditions also have higher rates and poorer outcomes when living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Luckily, although not a silver bullet, the ketogenic diet—thanks to its call to reduce sugar and carbohydrates from one's diet—typically combats many symptoms experienced by those with a variety of mental conditions, hopeful news for those affected.
The Brain Can Use Two Fuels
Anyone eating a Standard American Diet uses glucose for fuel, but the body is agile and can run on another fuel source: fat.
Not only can the body and brain use fat for fuel, but it’s also our body’s first and preferred form of fuel which improves overall physiological and brain function.
Once we deplete our glucose stores by removing carbs and sugar from our diet, our body seeks out an alternative fuel source in the form of consumed and stored body fat.
Once the body converts to burning fat for fuel through the process of ketogenesis, our bodies become fat-burning machines, and our cognitive and physical performance are much improved, as well.
Eating a diet that’s low in carbs and rich in healthy fats (e.g., salmon, avocado, MCT oil, etc.) is beneficial in many ways.
The reduced number on the scale when eating a keto diet is exciting, but the boost in mental clarity and stability is a benefit that one may not expect, yet a considerable sell to make the diet a lifestyle long-term.
Epilepsy and Bipolar Disorder Share Features
Established research related to the impact of the ketogenic diet on those with epilepsy, and emerging anecdotal stories related to the mental health improvements associated with mitigating symptoms of those with bipolar disorder, are encouraging.
Breakdowns and miscommunications within our neurological pathways are hallmarks of epilepsy and bipolar disorder.
Luckily, the ketogenic diet is especially helpful for those with either disorder, and emerging research appears to indicate a similar benefit for those with bipolar disorder, as well.
Although medication may still be required to manage epilepsy and bipolar disorder, the ketogenic diet appears to improve the adverse effects of either disorder by making them more manageable.
You can also read our article discussing the keto diet, and its benefits to those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) here.
A Word about Wheat
Increasing information is emerging related to the brain-gut connection, and the significant role gut health plays in our overall mood, particularly as it relates to reducing anxiety.
Those with a compromised gut lining, typically the case in those with autism and some other neurological or physiological disorders, often have a difficult time digesting and metabolizing wheat because of the protein gluten found in wheat-based products.
Just note, eliminating wheat and wheat-based products is typically an all-or-nothing proposition, especially for those with disorders like “leaky-gut” syndrome or celiac disease.
If you are experiencing stomach aches, fatigue, or any mood disorder when consuming wheat, it may be worth eliminating it from your diet for a period to see how doing so affects your mood and level of physical well-being.
Find out more about celiac disease by reading our article here.
You may be ready to jump into the keto lifestyle given the possible benefits related to mental health, cognitive function, and mental clarity, but knowing how to do so may be posing a roadblock.
No worries, we’ll touch on some of the many benefits of the ketogenic diet below, along with some easy tips to help you get started today!
The ketogenic diet has existed for about a century, and many of its benefits are well-documented for their therapeutic and preventative properties. The following are some of the powerful and medicinal benefits of the ketogenic diet:
Benefits of the Ketogenic Diet:
Fat loss is a highly sought after benefit of the ketogenic diet, but it’s just one of many.
The keto diet and subsequent state of nutritional ketosis are shown to boost energy, enhance mental clarity and cognition, and mitigate the possible devastating effects of several neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, and autism.
Click here to read more on the benefits of the ketogenic diet, ketosis, and intermittent fasting, a powerful and highly-effective combination to achieve physiological and cognitive health.
Don't miss our easy and beginner-friendly recipes, to make the transition to keto as delicious as it is nutritious and get our free keto coffee and smoothie recipes here.
Mood and mental health appear to be directly linked. The good news is that we control our dietary choices. Consistent and straightforward changes to our meal plan can produce significant health benefits.
Keep in mind; it’s advisable to seek professional guidance to manage mental health conditions. In doing so, look for a physician that takes a holistic approach and uses nutrition as a part of your wellness protocol to receive the most benefit.
Health is inclusive of the entire body, including the brain, and a balanced mind is as important as a balanced body. The regulating properties of the ketogenic diet naturally create a homeostatic state that sets the stage for overall health.
With mental and nutritional support, life can get easier and become more joyous—just give it a little time and trust the process.