If you’ve been hearing that the keto diet is associated with treating or eliminating inflammation in the body, there’s a reason for that: in addition to its benefits for weight loss, the keto diet is a natural anti-inflammatory diet. When on a ketogenic diet, you reduce your carbohydrate/sugar intake. When you do this, you are reducing the foods that feed inflammation. In fact, one of the first things that happens when you go on a keto diet is that you rapidly lose some initial weight. This is your way of saying goodbye to the bloat that accompanies inflammation. But there’s more to keto and inflammation, and we’ll explore it all here.
What is Inflammation?
People often associate inflammation with post-workout muscle soreness, for example. It’s called acute inflammation. It is our body’s natural response to protect and repair – whether from an infection or a muscle strain. Acute inflammation typically starts quickly and escalates rapidly.
However, the signs and symptoms are usually only present for a few days to a few weeks. In most cases, this inflammation is actually a good thing – you won’t heal without it. However, there is another type of inflammation that we need to be aware of.” Chronic inflammation “is not part of our body’s natural healing process. It refers to long-term inflammation that can last for months or even years.
Our bodies are not designed to cope with this type of immune system activity, and it can lead to long-term damage to the body and organs. Essentially, this is the kind of inflammation you want to avoid.
Does diet Make a Difference?
The short answer here is yes. Certain foods contain ingredients that can promote inflammation, while other foods contain vitamins and minerals that will help reduce inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet combines a variety of nutrient-rich foods that provide an array of antioxidants and contain healthy fats. Antioxidants are important because they fight the free radicals in your body. Free radicals can cause cell damage and increase the risk of inflammation.
The most well-known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, as well as minerals such as copper, zinc and selenium. Include foods such as blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, eggplant and legumes such as red or black beans. Limit consumption of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and red meat.
The Role Ketones Play in Fighting Inflammation
When you follow a ketogenic diet correctly, you are in a constant state of ketosis. This means that your body is producing the ketone body BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate), which has been shown to be associated with the activation of genes that improve mitochondrial function and reduce oxidative stress. Ketosis also activates the AMPK pathway (activated protein kinase), which helps regulate energy and inhibits the inflammatory Nf-kB pathway. (Nf-kB represents the nuclear factor kappa light chain enhancer that activates B cells; it is a protein complex that controls DNA transcription, cytokine production, and cell survival, so inhibition of inflammation in these pathways is important for cell health).
Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are thought to be two key factors in the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and recent studies have shown that the presence of ketone bodies can reduce neuroinflammation.
There are even more compelling statistics. VirtaHealth, a high-tech health company, has conducted a number of clinical studies around nutritional ketosis and chronic diseases affected by inflammation. In one study, both white blood cell counts and C-reactive protein (CRP) were substantially reduced in the low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet group compared to the usual care group at both the one- and two-year follow-ups. In particular, the reduction in CRP in the ketogenic diet group at one year (35% to 40%) was comparable to that seen with the most effective statins. However, unlike statins, which appear to focus primarily on CRP and have no effect on leukocyte counts, nutritional ketosis addresses both issues (reducing both leukocytes and CRP), providing a more balanced effect on the network of interacting bioactive components that influence inflammation.
The Final Word
Overall, a keto low-carb diet has many anti-inflammatory effects and immune health benefits that can help prevent and reduce chronic pain and reduce many autoimmune diseases and their symptoms. These benefits can be life-changing for some people, and it’s worth talking to your healthcare professional about healthy dietary changes and how a keto diet can help you manage your inflammation and produce anti-inflammatory effects, even as a preventative measure. Reducing your carbohydrates, incorporating good healthy fats (think avocados, coconut oil and olive oil) and avoiding added sugars (glucose) are the first steps to making optimal health possible. When properly implemented, a keto high-fat, low-carb diet is a way of life that will make you feel better than ever.