Can you get depressed on low carb?

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Can you get depressed on a low-carb diet? Can it worsen the symptoms – or do symptoms of depression usually get better on low carb?

We asked some of the top low-carb doctors in the world to give their quick and spontaneous answers, and made the video above (transcript).

Here are the doctors in the video:

  0:16  Dr. Jason Fung
  0:37  Dr. Peter Brukner
  1:13  Dr. Sarah Hallberg
  2:15  Dr. Rangan Chatterjee

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Do you want to check out one more of these videos? These are many more, with doctors answering more of the most common and important low-carb related questions:

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62 comments

  1. David
    Hi Thomas, wondering how you got on in the end? Did things improve or did the sweet potato get smashed!?
  2. Rachel
    Thank you so much for sharing this. My depression became dramatically more severe on keto. So much so that I had days of unexplained weeping, inability to sleep, and episodes of hopelessness unlike anything I’ve seen. I’m on three medications for depression/anxiety and even with the meds I’ve been completely unable to cope. Reading this helped me realize that maybe keto isn’t for me.
    Reply: #53
  3. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    Thank you so much for sharing this. My depression became dramatically more severe on keto. So much so that I had days of unexplained weeping, inability to sleep, and episodes of hopelessness unlike anything I’ve seen. I’m on three medications for depression/anxiety and even with the meds I’ve been completely unable to cope. Reading this helped me realize that maybe keto isn’t for me.

    The increase in depression symptoms during the first 7-10 days may be related to the transition to ketosis. While improvement is expected after that point, you should work with your medical professional to monitor symptoms. https://www.dietdoctor.com/how-might-a-keto-diet-help-with-depression

  4. Vasiliy
    Dear Doctor! I beg you for help! I`m a 26-year male. Doing keto for 6 months. Lost 45 pounds. But in the seventh month, I started to feel depressed/anxious, overthinking (about death, health and other aspects of life), feeling dizziness after I`m standing from sitting or lying positions, sometimes a little bit of nausea. These symptoms especially increased after I did 72 hours IF 5 days ago and on the second day after I finished it I started to feel even worse than on the first day when I finished IF. Any idea? Sea salt didn`t help me :(
    Reply: #55
  5. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Dear Doctor! I beg you for help! I`m a 26-year male. Doing keto for 6 months. Lost 45 pounds. But in the seventh month, I started to feel depressed/anxious, overthinking (about death, health and other aspects of life), feeling dizziness after I`m standing from sitting or lying positions, sometimes a little bit of nausea. These symptoms especially increased after I did 72 hours IF 5 days ago and on the second day after I finished it I started to feel even worse than on the first day when I finished IF. Any idea? Sea salt didn`t help me :(

    Please check in with your doctor. I am sorry that you are not feeling well; it is definitely important to get cleared medically.

  6. Heather
    Blimey! I'm very relieved that it's not just me! I've been in ketosis for 12 days, and for the last few days my depression, anxiety and despair are through the roof. I'm going to have to stop the diet, even though I've spent loads on almond flour, oils, erythritol etc, because it's putting a huge strain on my relationships too.
    I'm having huge mood swings, from relative calm to absolute fury in seconds and taking it out on everyone and everything around me. I haven't cried for months, but the last few days I cry for nothing.
    Barely being able to climb the stairs because of muscle pain and lack of breath I can deal with, but this has become a serious bout of depression. Not something to be messed with!
  7. 1 comment removed
  8. San Sam
    Hi all! Thank god for the comments. If I just watched the video I'd be having a harder time now. These "experts" never saw people getting depressed probably because people who don't like the diet and get depressed never return to their office.
    I don't think keto is the cure-all and it's sad that it's being pushed like that. I think the authors of the article need to seriously address this because otherwise, they are just another company pushing their product aggressively. This shouldn't be the case, I'd rather companies push the product to the right people who can really benefit from them.

    I've been in keto several times previously and enjoyed the mental clarity and a huge increase in energy. This time I did it just for this purpose because I have issues with brain fog, but now the mood has actually worsened. Day 9 today and I've been having no will to get out of bed since I started. I sleep more and very restless. I feel a strange tingling in my feet and sometimes dizzy. The flu phase should have passed already but I still get headaches. I'm not doing the "dirty keto" and I get 20 g of carbs from various vegetables. I will try to stick to it for a while longer. I'll try to add more green vegies before I quit. If it doesn't help, I'll try to go to a higher carb diet.

    I track my micronutrients via Cronometer and it's impossible to get all the nutrients without having lots of veggies (especially fiber). So basically, I think that's the issue here.
    A second theory I have is that when I lose weight, maybe some toxins from "melted" fat get dumped into the bloodstream which makes us feel bad. Previously I noticed that if I lose weight my skin worsens for a period. I've read somewhere that some of the toxins we ingest are fat-soluble. That's just my intuition here, no back up for it.

    Good luck everyone! Don't give up.

  9. Giovanna
    Wow, this is scaring me. I've been doing low carb for 2 years now and had great success with weight loss and putting my type 2 into remission. But. Apart from a short period at the beginning where I felt quite euphoric, my mood has got worse for sure. Negative thoughts, anxiety, thoughts of what's the point. I've had depression on and off since my teens, but in September this year I felt so desperate I spoke to my doctor and he suggested upping the dose of my meds, which were working just fine before I started eating this way. I don't feel any better now, in fact I feel worse and have lost interest in everything, lost my sense of humour, cry all the time, can't cope with any kind of stress. I don't know whether to incorporate some grains into my diet
    Reply: #60
  10. Kerry Merritt Team Diet Doctor

    Wow, this is scaring me. I've been doing low carb for 2 years now and had great success with weight loss and putting my type 2 into remission. But. Apart from a short period at the beginning where I felt quite euphoric, my mood has got worse for sure. Negative thoughts, anxiety, thoughts of what's the point. I've had depression on and off since my teens, but in September this year I felt so desperate I spoke to my doctor and he suggested upping the dose of my meds, which were working just fine before I started eating this way. I don't feel any better now, in fact I feel worse and have lost interest in everything, lost my sense of humour, cry all the time, can't cope with any kind of stress. I don't know whether to incorporate some grains into my diet

    So sorry that you're struggling, Giovanna! Before giving up on low carb, I would recommend checking in with your mental health professional to discuss ways to combat your depression.

  11. Anna
    Keto diet is not for me for two reasons. Already existing depression and hypoglycaemia. I need about 50 grams of carbs/day. I still lose weight. Carb nazis like to convince people keto is for everyone. It is not. Low carb has just as many advantages to peoples’ health.
    Reply: #62
  12. Crystal Pullen Team Diet Doctor

    Keto diet is not for me for two reasons. Already existing depression and hypoglycaemia. I need about 50 grams of carbs/day. I still lose weight. Carb nazis like to convince people keto is for everyone. It is not. Low carb has just as many advantages to peoples’ health.

    Diet Doctor is proud to support all levels of low carb https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/how-low-carb-is-low-carb

  13. Melissa
    I keep trying now for years to do ketosis. I have prediabetic blood sugar levels in the morning if I eat any carbs night before. I’m trying to prevent diabetes type 2. I have suffered depression my entire life and every single time without fail my depression gets the worst it can get when I get into ketosis. I never cry, yesterday I cried a few times I’ve been at the diet for 9 days now. I feel extremely sad. When I eat carbs I can still have episodes but nothing can touch how bad it gets in ketosis. Scary bad. Why is there not more research on this when clearly this is a problem for many people? I can’t get over the first 2 weeks in keto to see if it resolved because the depression is to much and I end of eating fruit. I function best about 75grams of carbs a day from healthy Whole Foods. No grains, no gluten no corn but I can do potatoes, fruit. I’m a 41 year old female. Not overweight.
    Reply: #64
  14. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I keep trying now for years to do ketosis. I have prediabetic blood sugar levels in the morning if I eat any carbs night before. I’m trying to prevent diabetes type 2. I have suffered depression my entire life and every single time without fail my depression gets the worst it can get when I get into ketosis. I never cry, yesterday I cried a few times I’ve been at the diet for 9 days now. I feel extremely sad. When I eat carbs I can still have episodes but nothing can touch how bad it gets in ketosis. Scary bad. Why is there not more research on this when clearly this is a problem for many people? I can’t get over the first 2 weeks in keto to see if it resolved because the depression is to much and I end of eating fruit. I function best about 75grams of carbs a day from healthy Whole Foods. No grains, no gluten no corn but I can do potatoes, fruit. I’m a 41 year old female. Not overweight.

    It sounds like you may well function best at a more moderate or liberal low carb way of eating. If eating carbs at night affects your blood sugar, you may try eating them earlier in the day.

  15. RK
    I am struggling too but am only on day 7 of keto. I’m wondering if those of us who struggle it is a blood sugar and/or a thyroid issue?
    Reply: #66
  16. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    I am struggling too but am only on day 7 of keto. I’m wondering if those of us who struggle it is a blood sugar and/or a thyroid issue?

    I am sorry that you are struggling. If you feel it could be a blood sugar issue, please check in with your doctor. Some people also find some relief with a more moderate low carb diet than strict keto, or making a more gradual transition.

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