Let’s Talk Ketogenic Diet!

What you eat can have a profound impact on your mental well-being, influencing mood, cognition, and even the risk of developing mental health disorders. There is ongoing interest in exploring dietary interventions for severe mental illnesses. One of which is the ketogenic diet.

Ketogenic Diet in Mental Health Disorders

The use of a ketogenic diet as a treatment for severe mental illness is a subject of ongoing research and debate. Some preliminary studies have suggested potential benefits of a ketogenic diet for certain mental health conditions, such as epilepsy and mood disorders. However, it’s important to approach dietary changes with caution, especially when dealing with severe mental illnesses. We’ve listed some important points below to consider with the ketogenic diet.

ketogenic diet image of fat, vegetable, and protein

Limited Evidence for Efficacy

The efficacy of a ketogenic diet in treating severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, continues to undergo research. So far, the evidence remains limited. Research on this topic is in its early stages. More rigorous clinical trials are needed to establish its effectiveness.

Potential Mechanisms Not Fully Understood

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that induces a state of ketosis. In ketosis, the body primarily uses ketone bodies for energy instead of glucose. Some researchers believe that this shift in metabolism may have neuroprotective and mood-stabilizing effects, but the exact mechanisms are not fully understood.

Individual Response Variability

Responses to the keto diet can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals may experience improved mood and cognitive function, while others may not respond positively or could even experience negative effects like mood disturbances.

Nutritional Concerns

A strict keto diet can be challenging to maintain and may lead to nutritional deficiencies if not properly balanced. It is essential for individuals with severe mental illnesses to work with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian when considering such a diet.

Safety Concerns with The Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet can have side effects, including “keto flu,” which may include symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and irritability. People with severe mental illness may be more vulnerable to these effects, and close monitoring is crucial.

Medication Interactions

The ketogenic diet may interact with the effectiveness of prescribed medications. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to ensure that dietary changes do not interfere with medication regimens.

Risk of Disordered Eating

Restrictive diets like the keto diet can sometimes lead to disordered eating patterns, which can exacerbate mental health issues. It’s vital to address these concerns.

The evidence is currently insufficient to support the widespread use of a ketogenic diet as a primary treatment

Individuals with severe mental illnesses should work closely with mental health professionals and registered dietitians to develop comprehensive treatment plans that address their specific needs and concerns. Any dietary changes, including the ketogenic diet, should be considered as part of a holistic treatment approach and should be based on individual circumstances and scientific evidence. Nutrition plays a significant role in possible lifestyle changes to improve mental health, and working closely with healthcare professionals in making these changes is vital.

For additional information regarding ketogenic diet’s role in mental illness, please read, Brain Energy, by Chris Palmer, MD, or visit his website.  If you are interested in listening to podcasts, check out Andrew Huberman’s interview with Chris Palmer here! You can also discuss this diet as well as other nutritional options with your Lotus Center APRN. Please call to make an appointment at 385-272-4292.

Written by Cindy Wasek, APRN, DNP

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