While dietary changes can’t always completely replace medications, they can improve overall health and make good sense as a viable alternative to medication in some cases, or as a complement to conventional care in other cases.

So here are some good reasons to try a low-carb or ketogenic diet for mental health:

  • The higher your blood sugar, the higher your brain sugar . . . so every time your blood sugar spikes to unhealthy highs, you’re flooding your brain tissue with excess glucose. Low-carbohydrate diets are very effective at lowering blood glucose levels. Protect your precious neurons from glucotoxicity.
  • Persistently or repeatedly high insulin levels can cause the insulin receptors on the surface of the blood-brain barrier to become insulin-resistant, meaning they can become damaged, desensitized, and dwindle in number. With fewer healthy, responsive insulin receptors on the surface of the blood-brain barrier to escort insulin into the brain, insulin levels inside the brain will fall. Low brain insulin is dangerous, because brain cells require insulin to process glucose and turn it into energy. Low-carbohydrate diets can be very helpful in lowering blood insulin levels. Protect your precious neurons from energy deficits.
  • High-sugar diets promote excessive, unnecessary inflammation inside the brain, triggering the release of various inflammatory cytokines—tiny SOS signals that recruit first-responder cells to the scene. Inflammation of this type is well established as a root cause of most psychiatric and neurological diseases. Low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to reduce markers of inflammation. Protect your precious neurons from overheating.
  • High-sugar diets cause excessive, unnecessary oxidative damage. Flooding cells with too much glucose all at once leads to a spilling over of oxygen free radicals, which are normally mopped up by our own natural, internal antioxidant molecules (such as glutathione). Left to run amok, these excess free radicals terrorize the cellular neighborhood, damaging proteins, lipids, DNA, and other important cell components. They can even damage the blood-brain barrier, allowing risky, uninvited guests into the brain. Low-carbohydrate diets naturally help improve your internal antioxidant capacity. Protect your precious neurons from internal attack.
  • High-sugar diets damage mitochondria, the energy-generating organelles inside brain cells. As a highly metabolically active, electrical organ, the brain is an energy hog, demanding about 20 percent of the body’s energy supply, despite representing only 2 percent of the body’s total weight. Mitochondria must be in tip-top shape at all times to provide cells with a steady supply of high-quality energy. Low-carbohydrate diets—particularly ketogenic diets—have been shown to improve the health and vitality of mitochondria. Protect your mighty mitochondria from power failures.

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