You may have heard a lot about reducing inflammation with the ketogenic diet. Many people state that the ketogenic diet is anti-inflammatory. But, how does that actually help you?
A keto diet reduces the carbohydrate and sugar intake. When you reduce your sugars, you reduce foods that trigger inflammation. One of the first things that happens when you start a keto diet is your body drops some weight quickly. Your body is releasing the bloating that tends to accompany excess inflammation.
Aside from some quick weight loss, there are plenty of benefits to reducing inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
First, it is important to understand the role of inflammation. It is a natural process the body has to infection and injury. The body’s white blood cells release substances into the body to combat bacteria, viruses and foreign material that is considered a threat to your health.
An excess amount of inflammation can cause muscle pain, joint pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, fatigue, headaches and more. Many diseases are beginning to be associated with excess chronic inflammation. These include Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and autoimmune conditions.
NLRP3 inflammasomes play an integral role in inflammation. These are a group of protein complexes that are created to mediate immune responses to microbial infection. NLRP3 is involved with our innate immunity. This is our first line of defense for protecting ourselves against pathogens. It is suggested that NLRP3 is involved in several autoimmune processes.
The Low-Carb Benefits
The ketogenic diet requires you to cut your carbohydrates below 20 grams of carbohydrate per day. Due to the reduced carbohydrates that are fueling the body, you must increase the fats to meet your caloric needs. This changes the way the body uses energy.
The body responds to a shortage of carbohydrate derived sugars by breaking down fat into ketones. It uses ketones as alternative fuel.
The reduction of excess glucose reduces the inflammation in the body. It has been found that the presence of excess glucose in people with diabetes, for example, is associated with a pro-inflammatory state. This inflammatory state in diabetics often leads to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty plaques that can block key arteries.
How Ketones Fight Inflammation
As you follow a well-formulated ketogenic diet, your body is in a constant state of ketosis. It is producing the ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). This ketone has been associated with activating genes that improve mitochondrial function and reduce the oxidative stress on the body. The state of ketosis also activates the AMPK pathway (Activated Protein Kinase). This pathway assists in regulating energy and inhibiting the inflammatory Nf-kB pathway.
Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are the two main factors in the development of many neurodegenerative and neurological diseases. These include Alzheimer’s and Epilepsy. The presence of ketones has been shown to lower neuroinflammation.
Researchers studied the C-reactive protein (CRP) and the white blood cell count. The CRP was dramatically reduced in the ketogenic diet group compared to the standard diet at the one and two year follow up. The CRP reduction in the ketogenic diet group was comparable to the reduction with the most potent statin drug. Unlike the statin drugs, nutritional ketosis addresses both the CRP and lowering the white blood cell count. It provides a more balanced effect on the components impacting inflammation.
Ketogenic Diet Improves Chronic Pain
Since the ketogenic diet has shown effectiveness in reducing the inflammation in neurological conditions, researchers have studied the ketogenic diet to determine if it can reduce pain. The evidence has been growing that a ketone based metabolism elevates the neuromodulator, adenosine. Adenosine has long been known to be anti-inflammatory.
One aspect of chronic pain is due to excessive neuron excitability. Animal studies have demonstrated that ketones have the ability to inhibit neuron excitability. This is the mechanism that ketogenic diet use to control seizures. It is not surprising that this mechanism can also help with chronic pain by reducing neuron excitability.
Through cutting carbohydrates, increasing ketone levels and controlling the inflammatory pathways, the ketogenic diet is able to fight off excessive chronic inflammation. This creates multiple benefits for the patient including reduced levels of pain, controlling seizures, reduced levels of C-reactive protein and white blood cell counts.
The ketogenic diet naturally reduces inflammation without creating the side effects that accompany most pharmaceutical drugs. If you are suffering from inflammatory conditions, it is worthwhile to check out the ketogenic diet and give it a try.