Exploring the Links Between Keto and Mental Health
Mental health is a subject that’s on everyone’s mind today. With all the stress and rigor of the world, it’s no surprise to learn that roughly 1 in 5 people lives with some form of anxiety, and another 17.3 million American adults suffer from depression. Factor in bipolar disorder, panic disorders and mood disorders, and it’s likely someone you know is struggling. In fact, you, yourself, are probably struggling.
There’s a whole body of advice out there for those facing mental health crises, but surprisingly, diet isn’t always talked about. In fact, the link between your gut and your brain is one of the strongest metaphysical connections. Simply put: you think and feel the way you do not just because of your brain, but because of your belly too.
The power of the gut microbiome
To understand how your gut affects your brain—your mood, mindset and focus—you need to understand the gut microbiome. This is the collection of good (and bad) bacteria that live in your gut, breaking down food and scavenging nutrients. The right balance of bacteria makes it possible for your gut to efficiently break down food and absorb nutrients.
A healthy gut sends healthy signals to your brain, and vice-versa, via something called the microbiota–gut–brain (MGB) axis. If your gut is in distress, your brain will receive panicked signals. If it’s healthy and happy, your brain will be too.
While exercise and sleep play an important role in digestive health and gut microbiome, nothing beats the importance of a well-balanced gut microbiome from diet. The foods you eat are critical for cultivating the right gut flora: the ones that will send happy, healthy signals to your brain.
The role of Keto in boosting mental health
When it comes to re-shaping your gut microbiome and balancing good vs. bad bacteria, Keto offers amazing potential. According to Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital, “The Ketogenic Diet has been found to have profound effects on the gut microbiome, which appears to play a role in mental illness in some people.”
Why Keto? It has to do with how our bodies break down energy. Bad bacteria thrive sugars, which are what our bodies break carbs and starches down into. Meanwhile, good bacteria tend to thrive on the ketones that are a cornerstone of the Keto Diet. Prolonged Keto dieting will re-shape the gut microbiome to be rife with good bacteria, allowing it to function more efficiently and healthily. The result is a happier gut that sends happier signals to your brain.
Beyond feel-good vibes, to actually feeling good
Not only does Keto give your gut (and your brain) reason to celebrate, it also helps dampen some of the other effects of the stress and panic we tend to feel on a daily basis. For example, studies have measured Keto’s ability to reduce chronic inflammation, which can help people in pain feel better, thus improving their mood.
Remember, Keto isn’t a panacea for mental health issues, and it’s not a substitute for doctor-prescribed medication. There’s also a risk that Keto might make you feel depressed as you deal with the Keto Flu or struggle to kick carbs. As always, consult with a doctor if you’re feeling worse on Keto, rather than better.
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