Yeah, your life may be super stressful. You may have some self-esteem issues that make you sad, and you probably do need some therapy. But depression is not just a psychological phenomenon. You can treat underlying physical causes of depression. And there are ways to do it without immediately going on meds and having to deal with side effects that leave you feeling emotionally flat, mess with your stomach, or create sexual side effects.
So here is a short blog post giving you 3 reasons why you feel depressed and how a ketogenic diet can fix them. You are going to like this blog post because it is written in a super easy-to-understand format that doesn’t bog your already stressed brain down with a bunch of words you could care less about.
Your brain doesn’t have enough energy
Depression is a mental illness that affects the brain, which can lead to a lack of energy. Not just in your body, which I am sure you feel, but in your actual brain. The ketogenic diet can help people with depression because it provides the brain with more energy. A LOT MORE ENERGY.
Ketones are created when the body breaks down fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates or glucose from food sources like sugar and bread. Ketones are amazing fuel for the brain. And if you have depression, I know for a fact that you have parts of your brain that are not using glucose as a fuel source well. Ketones are favored by the brain for fuel.
As if having an alternative fuel for the brain was not enough, ketones also make more cell batteries that increase the brain’s energy supply like nothing else you can imagine. These little batteries are super powerhouses. Not only does it make more of them, but it helps the ones you already had work better. And if you use a ketogenic diet for your depression, those little powerhouses will get to burn their favorite brain fuel (ketones). What you will have is a pulsing, strumming, ready to take on the world energy source happening right in your head.
And just like that, a keto diet will have treated an underlying cause of your depression.
Your brain is on fire with inflammation
People with depression suffer from loads of inflammation in their brains. Whether because of your highly-processed food diet, your exposure to chemicals, being sick, or any number of reasons, I promise you that your brain is most likely on fire with constant low-grade inflammation. You can’t feel it like a fire. You only feel constant brain fog and no motivation to do anything. But it’s happening.
Ketogenic diets are a top-line treatment for inflammation. Ketones literally turn genes on and off around inflammation and regulate the whole process. And then those ketones help your body make more of its own antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress.
They also provide the gut’s favorite fuel source for a healthy microbiome. Ketogenic diets restrict carbohydrates, so they kill off a lot of bad bacteria in your gut. The bad bacteria LOVE sugar and highly-refined processed carbs. So starving those little suckers out is a good idea, because those bad bacteria love to create inflammation in your body – which creates inflammation in your brain.
Bam! Another underlying cause is blown away by using the keto diet for depression.
People with depression don’t have enough serotonin, and they have a lot of other neurotransmitter problems, too. Neurotransmitters identified to be involved in depression also include dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA. You are making too much of some things and not enough of other things. Some of the neurotransmitters you do make are not even being used as they should. It’s a hot mess in there. And I know you feel it. And I know that you know that targeting just one neurotransmitter with a drug (like serotonin) is not going to fix it.
Ketogenic diets help balance this whole system out like some kind of beautiful orchestral production. They help you make more of what you need and less of what you have too much of. They improve the connections going on between brain structures that are supposed to talk and reduce the freaking out going on in other areas of the brain that should be quiet.
There are a lot of ways they accomplish this happier neurotransmitter balancing act. One way is the reduction in inflammation you just read about. Inflamed brains are not able to make balanced neurotransmitters or have healthy cells that know how to use them. Ketogenic diets help cells be more sensitive to the neurotransmitters you already make and amplify your brain’s ability to use them.
And that is how a keto diet fixes your neurotransmitter balance waaayyy better than one or two psych meds trying to regulate the circus of dysfunction going on in your brain right now as you read this.
I mean why wouldn’t you use such a powerful strategy like the ketogenic diet to help your depression?
So there you have it. Keto diets are a serious win for depression. But don’t let the depressive thoughts you are having right now about changing your diet get in the way.
Too depressed to meal plan and cook? Find a keto meal service. Think you are too poor to eat a ketogenic diet? There are cheap ways to do it. Afraid you will be hungry without carbs? That’s not how it works. Having the thought that dietary therapies are not strong enough to treat serious mental illness? Well, I am sorry, but you are wrong. Don’t give me your depressive “yes, buts” that you are too sick or that you can’t do this. I promise you, there is a way.
Don’t let your depression talk you out of an effective treatment for your depression, because that is totally something depression would try to do.
I transition people to ketogenic diets for depression every single day. There are solutions to the obstacles that right now you feel are impossible. You can totally do a keto diet for depression.
As a mental health counselor and someone who practices functional and nutritional psychiatry principles, I know you can get there. We might need to just do some preliminary work first – supplements, therapy, problem-solving, and planning – but it is a therapy that you can try out and be successful with. It takes about 3 weeks of keto consistency to get a good idea if your depression will improve. I know you have a month or so to see if you can improve your symptoms. You try new medications out for longer than that all the time, hoping for relief. Why not a dietary modification like keto for depression?
If you have the energy and motivation to learn more about the mechanisms by which a ketogenic diet treats depression, I have a giant blog post about it here.
Interested in using keto for depression while also using therapy and/or medications? There is a great blog post about that right here.
Do you have other disorders with your depression? You may find it helpful to read around the Mental Health Keto blog and learn how keto can help with other mental illnesses. But don’t just read my stuff on it. You can read, watch and listen to a lot of really great nutritional psychiatrists on the Mental Health Keto Resources Page here.
If you are in the throes of depression, you may need some help using keto for depression. Keto diets for depression are a bit different than the way keto diets are used for just weight loss.
If you are interested in trying a ketogenic diet for depression, you are welcome to contact me for consultation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or for help to find resources.
I want you to know all the ways you can feel better!