The beneficial properties of a ketogenic diet have been known for several decades. First described during the 1920’s when the anticonvulsant effects of a ketogenic diet were used to treat pediatric epilepsy.
Throughout the decades we have become more knowledgeable of how our diets influence chronic pain and have identified Inflammation as one of the principal causes of chronic pain. In this article we will briefly explore how a ketogenic diet can help you reduce chronic inflammation.
The “Keto” diet has only recently picked up in popularity, but as more and more people successfully tried it to lose weight, they almost inadvertently began to take notice and benefit of its pain-relieving effects.
Let’s go over what exactly is the KETO diet and how it leads to reduced pain.
Basically, you want to access your bodies fat stores to meet your energetic needs, “Keto dieting consists of reducing total carbohydrate intake to around 50 grams or less per day.”
What ends up happening is that as your body burns through its glucose reserves, it must switch to an alternate metabolic pathway to power your body. This alternate method is through the burning or utilization of Ketones rather than the glucose.
The process by which our body breaks down fat into Ketones is called Beta Oxidation. This is typically seen during hibernation in some animals or also during periods of extended fasting or starvation or in this case when on a carb restricted diet.
This results in significant weight loss in a relatively short time.
Although weight loss can lead to pain relief based solely on account of relieving load and stress on the musculoskeletal system, what we want to see, is how by switching from glucose as our primary source of energy to ketones, we end up with a systemic reduction of inflammatory processes and consequent reduction of many chronic aches and pains.
One of the byproducts of the complex chemical reaction when Glucose is metabolized are the Reactive Oxygen Species (superoxide O₂- and Hydroxyl *OH) also known as Free Radicals They are ionized forms of oxygen. Anyone who has ever used hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant or used an Ozone generator has seen free radicals in action.
So as glucose is metabolized it generates free radicals, these are neutralized by anti-oxidants, but given that these reactions are always occurring, the constant exposure to ionized oxygen molecules reacting with our cellular proteins causes Oxidative-Stress.
A normal healthy person’s immune system is always trying to counteract this by repairing damaged tissues or eliminating damaged cells, but this is what results in Inflammation. Chronic inflammation takes its toll in the form of accelerated aging from stress, joint and muscle degeneration like arthritis, other systemic diseases and of course PAIN!
So, the whole idea is that since we are not getting our energy primarily from glucose by eating foods rich in carbohydrates our body switches over to breaking down stored body fat to make Ketones, and since we are burning fat (ketones) instead of sugar (carbs), less free radicals are formed, putting less oxidative stress on tissues, causing less inflammation leading to…
… Less Pain!
Is it indeed possible to lessen the effects of chronic inflammation while at the same time relieving the stress excess weight places on your joints just by changing your diet?
So far, the research and supporting science point to “YES!”
The anti-inflammatory effects of a Ketogenic diet have been well documented and there are increasingly more studies being published almost every day supporting this, but as with all health-related matters make sure to do your own ample research and consult your physician before acting.
Good Luck, Stay well!