Can Keto Help With Anxiety?

keto and anxiety

The keto diet has many benefits, and potentially reducing anxiety can be added to this list. Rich in healthy fats and protein while low in carbohydrates, the keto diet has been found to reduce cognitive decline, fight acne, help with weight loss, and lower cholesterol. Other benefits include alleviating the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), seizures episodes in people with epilepsy, and the risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancers. While the keto diet is not recommended for everyone, such as people with diabetes and women who are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, it can serve as a helpful diet plan for others.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an emotion that involves feelings of discomfort and turmoil. It is a feeling that not everything is okay or that something bad could happen at any time.

Anxiety is often accompanied by intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It may involve feelings of fear about future events, social situations, or other triggers.

Unlike fear, anxiety is not a momentary reaction to a real or perceived immediate threat. It is a worry about what might happen, rather than a worry about what is happening.

Although anxiety is a normal emotion, people who experience it frequently may suffer from anxiety disorders. The most common anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and panic disorder. Severe anxiety may be a cause (or symptom) of mental illness.

Anxiety disorders affect about 12 percent of people each year, but up to 30 percent of people may have anxiety problems during their lifetime.

Anxiety disorders usually begin before the age of 25. Twice as many women as men suffer from anxiety disorders.

Factors that Affect Anxiety Levels

There are lots of lifestyle, nutrition, and even genetic factors that influence feelings of anxiety. Here are some of the biggest ones.


GABA is your brain’s main calming neurotransmitter. It makes you feel at ease and helps you feel that everything is fine. Anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium increase the activity of GABA, which calms your brain. Glutamate is your brain’s excitatory neurotransmitter. Imbalances in these neurotransmitters and deficiencies in GABA can cause or accelerate anxiety. Inflammation, stress and obesity can also cause or exacerbate these chemical imbalances in the brain. 

When you are in ketosis, your body uses ketone bodies as fuel. Your body naturally produces ketone bodies when you adopt a high-fat, low-carb diet, and you can also take ketone supplements. A popular ketone supplement is beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), which raises GABA levels in your brain and increases the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 

Your brain uses BDNF to repair itself and make new connections. Elevated GABA and BDNF calm brain activity and prevent depression and anxiety. Ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate can improve anxiety by reducing brain inflammation.


People who deal with frequent anxiety tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies, which also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Inflammation is associated with a range of chronic and autoimmune diseases.

A ketogenic diet has been shown to reduce inflammation, especially if you eat a well-formulated, nutrient-rich, whole-foods diet.


Increasing serotonin can also reduce anxiety. Serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter that sends signals between nerve cells, making you feel calm and relaxed. Low serotonin is associated with weight gain, depression, sleep disorders and anxiety. Serotonin is also converted into melatonin, an important sleep hormone. Low serotonin also usually means difficulty sleeping, which can make anxiety worse.

Serotonin is produced primarily in your gut, so if you have digestive problems and your gut is not functioning properly, you may end up feeling more anxious.

Problem with Sugar

High-sugar diets are not only inflammatory, but they also contribute to anxiety by altering your gut bacteria. Your gut bacteria, or microbiome, are critical to optimal health, and these bacteria have a direct communication highway with your brain. Your gut bacteria actually make neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glutamate, that can influence the level of anxiety you may feel. 

A high-carb diet can also lead to insulin resistance – a condition associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance in brain cells is associated with increased levels of anxiety. A ketogenic diet is effective in reversing insulin resistance and improving metabolism.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Food allergies can also cause anxiety and there can be a delayed reaction of up to 72 hours. You may eat gluten on Wednesday and have a migraine on Friday. Many people don’t even know they have food sensitivities causing their headaches, irritability or anxiety. 

A food sensitivity or intolerance means that you can’t break down or digest food properly, or that the food irritates your digestive system. A full-blown food allergy is more serious and you need to avoid the food altogether to prevent potentially serious and life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.

The most common food sensitivities and allergies are gluten, wheat, soy, peanuts, eggs, and lactose in dairy products and milk. These common allergens are also widely used and inexpensive. Genetic components may play a role in food allergies and sensitivities. 

How the Keto Diet Affects Anxiety

When it comes to anxiety, the keto diet can have some great effects. Once your body transitions into ketosis, the neurotransmitter GABA may begin to increase. Since some anxiety disorders have been found to be caused by a dysregulation of GABA activity, increasing and streamlining GABA production in the brain can have a positive impact when it comes to anxiety. Increasing and balancing GABA production could not only lead to a decrease in anxiety, but could also reduce the risk of obesity and control high blood pressure.

Yahoo reported that changing the diet and reducing carbohydrates was associated with improvements in anxiety as well as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), largely due to a reduction in inflammation in the body produced by the diet. For people with anxiety disorders, breaking dietary habits that may exacerbate anxiety-related symptoms, such as added sugars and processed foods, can lead to improvements. By managing eating habits and rethinking your relationship with food by switching to a keto diet, stress can be reduced and, in turn, anxiety can be reduced. For people who have anxiety and want to try a keto diet, it is recommended that switching to a keto diet be accompanied by healthy habits such as hydration, mindfulness, breathing, exercise and sleep hygiene.

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