What are mental health conditions and what causes them?
Mental illnesses include a broad spectrum of conditions that can affect how an individual thinks, feels, and acts. Examples of mental disorders include anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and sleep disorders. An underlying cause in all of these disorders is neurochemical imbalances. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers within your brain. They remain in a delicate state of homeostasis and disruptions can lead to various mental disorders. For example, depression is linked to low levels of serotonin, bipolar disorder is linked to dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, and schizophrenia is linked to high levels of dopamine and serotonin. These mental illnesses not only impact our moods and attitudes but can be harmful to overall health. Sleep dysfunction, gastrointestinal disorders, substance abuse, arthritis, and cardiovascular diseases are all co-morbidities of mental health disorders.
How can the ketogenic diet help with mental health issues?
The ketogenic diet has been shown to have substantial impacts on physical health, but its effect on mental health may be even more substantial. To understand how the ketogenic diet alters your brain’s biochemistry, think about its original usage. The ketogenic diet was founded in the 1920s to treat epilepsy—which it did by altering neurotransmitter production. Keto promotes the glutamate to GABA transition, whereas GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter of the brain and glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. GABA acts as a mood stabilizer and has been shown to help reduce depression, anxiety, paranoia, and panic. In a 2012 case study, two bipolar women were treated with the ketogenic diet (one for two years and one for three years) and researchers found that the diet acted as a powerful mood stabilizer and was superior to the current medications they were taking. Another 2012 case study found that a 70-year-old schizophrenic woman had significant improvements in symptoms after starting a ketogenic diet and was even completely rid of hallucination from which she had suffered for over 60 years. Several animal studies have shown the ketogenic diet to reduce anxious and depressive behaviors.
The status of your mental health is so important and has tremendous effects on your overall health and wellbeing. Your mental health can also affect your weigh journey and eating habits. That is why so many people are starting the ketogenic diet for weight loss but staying on it for the improvements in their mental health.