There are many reasons why people might choose to go on a diet. One of the most common reasons is for weight management, more specifically, weight loss.
However, this is not the only reason to go on a diet. Some diets have been shown to improve mental health, as well as physical health. As the ketogenic diet becomes increasingly more popular in today’s time, more and more people are beginning to turn to it in hopes of being able to live a happier, healthier life.
This will eventually pose the question of whether or not dietary ketosis, which is the main goal of a ketogenic diet, increases the amount of serotonin in your blood.
However, before you can begin to learn whether or not this myth is true, you will first want to understand a little bit more about the role that serotonin plays in your body, and how dietary ketosis influences serotonin.
What Is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a chemical that has many, many functions within the human body. If you want to be more specific about it, serotonin is a neurotransmitter with the scientific name of 5-hydroxytryptamine (or 5-HT for short).
Because its job is being a neurotransmitter, serotonin works to transmit messages between the nerve cells in the brain and the bowels.
While many people believe that serotonin plays the biggest role in the brain, it is actually mostly found in the GI tract. Many people believe that serotonin plays a role in appetite, as well as motor, cognitive, and autonomic functions.
Many more people know serotonin to be a neurotransmitter that is closely linked to emotions and mood disorders such as depression.
Considering that serotonin is found in both the brain and the bowel, it is reasonable to consider the idea that altering your diet can alter the amount of serotonin in your body.
The Connection Between Ketosis and the Brain
Ketosis is a normal metabolic state that is purposefully induced when people choose to go on a ketogenic diet. Because of this, it is often referred to as dietary ketosis.
Instead of burning glucose for energy, when in a state of ketosis, the body will begin burning fat instead, which is why the ketogenic diet is so popular.
Ketosis, or rather, the ketogenic diet is not anything new. In fact, the idea of using ketosis to help with brain function has been around for at least a century, and possibly longer than that.
Sometime in the 1920s, something resembling the ketogenic diet we know today was introduced as a medical solution to epilepsy.
With research, doctors found that high levels of blood ketones (the acids produced when the body burns fat, rather than sugar) led to a reduction in seizures from epileptic patients.
Not only was this a fascinating discovery, but it also shows that the ketogenic diet and, therefore, ketosis, has a chemical effect on the brain.
This means that it is possible that dietary ketosis could very well influence the amount of serotonin in your body. Unfortunately, hard research for this claim is still in the stage of working with lab rats, but these studies are beginning to show their results.
What Did the Study Show?
While researching what dietary ketosis does to the serotonin levels in your body has not reached the stage where people are being tested, in March of 2017, a study was conducted on a group of rats.
This study was not the first study on this topic, nor will it be the last, but it is one that you might want to pay attention to if you are wondering whether or not dietary ketosis affects the amount of serotonin in your body.
Of course, you can’t really ask a lab rat how it is feeling to gauge whether or not the rat is suffering from depression, there are ways to tell if a rat is “feeling” depressed. For instance, reduced physical movement is one of the signs of depression in rats.
During this study, the rats who were not in the control group were fed a ketogenic diet to induce dietary ketosis. There were a number of common mental disorders that were tested for in the rats. Depression is one mental disorder that is most commonly linked to serotonin.
In the two studies done comparing the rats who were on a ketogenic diet and the control group, it was found that going into dietary ketosis “significantly reduced” the symptoms of depression in rats.
For the other mental disorders being tested that serotonin plays a role in, many of the results either showed some improvement or no improvement, which is something to keep in mind.
With this being said, the brain of a rat and a human are quite different, but this study shows that there is the potential for there to be solid proof that a ketogenic diet and dietary ketosis can improve the serotonin levels in the body, reducing the symptoms of certain mood disorders.
Are There Other Ways a Ketogenic Diet Can Improve Brain Health?
One of the keys to increasing serotonin production is to make sure that your brain is healthy as well. Thankfully, the ketogenic diet is one that does promote a healthy, happy brain, which increases the chances that your body will begin producing more serotonin.
After all, when a body is well nourished, it will generally be a better-functioning body.
Arguably, one of the biggest aspects of the ketogenic diet is eating meals that are heavy in healthy fats, so that your body has something to burn to produce energy. Your brain is made up of about 60% fat, meaning that a good portion of the healthy fats you consume will be going to your brain.
Not only does this mean that your brain is getting fed the food it needs, but that it will also get some of the nutrients it needs as well. There have been countless studies done that show that fatty acids (specifically omega-3 fatty acids), which are found in many foods with healthy fats, can actually aid in the production of serotonin.
If you are working to focus your ketogenic diet on increasing the amount of serotonin in your body, then you will want to look for the fatty acids called EPA and DHA.
In addition to eating a good amount of healthy fats, there is potential to the idea that dietary ketosis can improve serotonin levels.
While there haven’t been any studies done on humans yet, as researchers focus more and more on the topics at hand, there is a good chance that more concise information will come forth about this idea.
In the meantime, it is safe to go with the idea that dietary ketosis does, in fact, improve serotonin production.
Final Thoughts on Does Dietary Ketosis Increase Serotonin
There is still much work and study to be done including on humans that will lead to many more discoveries to our health and wellness along with hormones. Serotonin is an important thing to manage in your body as it has ties into many overall feelings of happiness.
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