How Does Keto Diet Affect Your Immune System?

keto diet and immune system

These days, an increasing number of people are getting into keto. Do keto foods support and boost your immune system? According to various studies, adhering to a keto diet may help ensure protection against certain infections, and some keto supplements can strengthen your body’s ability to fight disease.

In this article, you’ll learn what science has to say about your diet and your immune system, and why a high-fat keto diet may provide unique immune-boosting benefits.

What is Immunity?

Our body has a built-in resistance framework, called the immune system, which is the foundation of our endurance. Without the immune system, our bodies become susceptible to infection by tiny microscopic organisms, infectious diseases, parasites and viruses. It is our resistance framework that keeps us healthy and protected from pathogens present in our environment. Thus, immunity is a state of being able to effectively oppose specific infections, mainly by stopping the development of pathogenic microorganisms or balancing the effects of their products.

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet. It restricts the glucose supply, leading to a switch to fatty acid metabolism. In a keto diet, meals usually consist of a variety of poultry, fish, meat and non-starchy vegetables. This diet is associated with weight loss and improved metabolic health in people with obesity, which can reduce inflammation.

What Science Says about Keto and Your Immune System

The ketogenic diet may protect against flu

A groundbreaking study published in November 2019 in Science Immunology Journal reported that mice fed a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet were protected from deadly influenza infections.

The keto diet promoted the expansion of gamma delta T (γδT) cells in the respiratory tract. These γδT cells produce mucus in the lining of the lungs, which helps the body get rid of infectious substances. Thus, the researchers propose that γδT cells support the barrier function of the lungs by altering the differentiation and function of airway epithelial cells.

The researchers also found that the keto diet blocked the formation of inflammasomes, which can lead to harmful immune system responses.

In this study, survival rates were much higher in mice fed a keto diet than in mice fed a high-carbohydrate diet. While this type of research is still in its infancy, it shows some promising results for the ketogenic diet in fighting influenza viruses.

The Keto Diet Could Fix Your Microbiome

At least seven human studies and three animal studies suggest that taking keto may change your microbiome.

Some researchers believe that changes in gut bacteria may be responsible for keto’s ability to treat autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.

Essentially, your gut flora and the bacteria throughout your body play an important (and complex) role in your immune function.

And a disruption or imbalance of bacteria in your body can increase the risk of a number of health problems, including infections.

So it’s too early to know for sure, but future research may demonstrate that ketones enhance your immune response by improving the health of your microbiome.

Beta-Hydroxybutyrate Reduces Inflammation

There is growing evidence that ketone bodies may act as immune modulators in humans and animals, attenuating pathological inflammation through multiple strategies. Although the clues are scattered and unmodified, the keto diet-induced elevation of these ketone bodies in the circulatory system and tissues has been reported to affect the immune barrier, which is an important part of innate immunity. Thus, β-hydroxybutyrate, a key ketone body, may also play an important role in regulating the barrier immune system.

Insulin Resistance and Infection

Autophagy is another factor that comes into play. We can think of autophagy as the body’s innate cellular cleanup crew, removing waste and toxins that the body no longer needs. If waste and toxins accumulate over time, cellular function degrades and declines, potentially leading to weight gain, energy deficits, increased inflammation and other health challenges. Fasting has been found to induce autophagy, and a keto diet activates some of the same pathways in vivo as fasting, such as the adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway.


Research on ketones and immune function is early, but very promising.

Ketones may provide your immune system with more energy to fight off infections like the flu.

It also has a positive impact on your microbiome, lowering your body’s inflammation levels and helping to reverse insulin resistance – all good news for the flu and other infections.

Stay tuned for more fascinating keto research findings in the coming years. However, if you’re having trouble deciding which diet to adopt, don’t forget that a very low-carb, high-fat diet can enhance your health starting today.

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