Ketogenesis has existed as long as humans have. If you eat a very low amount of carbohydrates, you starve your brain of glucose, its main fuel source. Your body still needs fuel to function, so it taps into your reserve of ketones, which are compounds the liver creates from fat when blood insulin is low. This process is known as ketosis: It’s like when a hybrid car runs out of gas and reverts to pure electricity.
Although the exact role of the ketogenic diet in mental and brain disorders is unclear, there has been proof of its efficacy in patients with schizophrenia. And, to boot, the ketogenic diet works to reverse many conditions that develop as a side effect of conventional medications for brain disorders, like weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risks. More research is needed to understand the role of the ketogenic diet in treating or improving schizophrenia, as the current available studies are either animal studies or case studies, but the benefits of a high fat, low carbohydrate diet in neurology is promising.
Hi Lauren, I just started this diet. Any tips for beginning? I am not sure I am taking in enough throughout the day. I snack on cheese and red grapes, raspberries throughout the day. I have a protein shake for breakfast and lunch. and then this evening I am having a chicken salad with avocado and romaine. Like I said I don’t think I am taking in enough throughout the day.
In the first week, many people report headaches, mental fogginess, dizziness, and aggravation. Most of the time, this is the result of your electrolytes being flushed out, as ketosis has a diuretic effect. Make sure you drink plenty of water and keep your sodium intake up.6One of the fathers of keto, Dr. Phinney, shows that electrolyte levels (especially sodium) can become unbalanced with low carb intake.
You can use the Ketone Test Strips to test your ketone level. These are strips that use urine to measure excreted ketones. These are inexpensive and popular, but unfortunately highly inaccurate. They only measure the level of ketones that are excreted as waste, and not used by the body. They show that you’re producing ketones, but not necessarily using them for energy.
Over the past century, ketogenic diets have also been used to treat and even help reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairments, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s symptoms. Research shows that cutting off glucose levels with a very low-carb diet makes your body produce ketones for fuel. This change can help to reverse neurological disorders and cognitive impairment, including inducing seizure control. The brain is able to use this alternative source of energy instead of the cellular energy pathways that aren’t functioning normally in patients with brain disorders.
Aside from the various keto-friendly foods mentioned in this article, you may be wondering if there are other options that may help support your ketogenic diet. If you find that the ketogenic diet is limiting when you start out, don't worry. There's actually a lot you can add to your diet that's "keto" as long as consumption is controlled. Here are some commonly asked questions:
Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1There are scientifically-backed studies that show the advantage of a low-carb, ketogenic diet over a low-fat diet. One meta-analysis of low-carbohydrate diets showed a large advantage in weight loss. The New England Journal of Medicine study resulted in almost double the weight loss in a long-term study on ketone inducing diets.
First, let’s start with the fact that most of the food in your cabinets just won’t work anymore. They’re not keto. Period. Lock them up, throw them out, donate them to a neighbor – whatever you have to do to get them out of the house. In the first week, when you’re craving carbohydrates, these foods will be the death of your ketogenic diet. Purge your pantry of carbohydrate foods!
Experts are split on whether the keto diet is a good idea. On the one hand, Lori Chang, registered dietitian and a supervisor at the Center for Healthy Living at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles, says using a “cleaner” source of energy—ketones rather than quick-burning carbohydrates—can improve mood and energy levels. When you eat refined carbohydrates or just too many carbs in general, the blood is flooded with excess insulin, Chang says. "This can lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster that stresses the body and negatively impacts energy levels and mood. When you’re in a state of ketosis, however, ketone bodies don’t require insulin to cross the blood-brain barrier, which wards off unfavorable blood sugar levels."
The end result is staying fueled off of circulating high ketones (which are also sometimes called ketone bodies) — which is what’s responsible for altering your metabolism in a way that some people like to say turns you into a “fat-burning machine.” Both in terms of how it feels physically and mentally, along with the impact it has on the body, being in ketosis is a very different than a “glycolytic state,” where blood glucose (sugar) serves as the body’s energy source.
The current hypothesis is that the brain functions differently on ketones than on glucose, and this is what causes certain brains to reduce epileptic seizures. I would then also hypothesize that certain people who feel that “brain fog” lifted on ketosis is due to either placebo effect OR their brain actually functioning differently on ketones vs glucose.
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