What’s the biggest health challenge facing industrialized societies today? Likely it’s the obesity, diabetes and chronic disease epidemic. Not far behind, however, could be the epidemic of chronic pain and resulting opioid use and abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 46 people die each day of prescription painkiller overdose, with over 259 million prescriptions written in one year. It makes sense, therefore, that we should actively search for any and all safer alternatives to chronic pain control.
It turns out, one answer may be the same answer that is combating our epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease — a low-carb ketogenic diet.
A recent three part series posted on CrownMD.net highlighted the role of insulin resistance as a contributor to arthritis related chronic pain, and the keto diet as a treatment. Since obesity places excess strain on joints, thus leading to chronic pain, it makes sense that a keto diet is helpful simply by promoting weight loss and preventing obesity. But the benefits of a keto diet go beyond simple weight management.
Excessive neuron excitability is one mechanism contributing to chronic pain. Animal studies show ketones inhibit neuron excitability, and this is one potential mechanism by which ketogenic diets help with seizures. It is no surprise, therefore, that ketogenic diets also help with certain type of chronic pain by the same mechanism of reducing neuron excitability.
In addition, the ketone body betahydroxybutyrate (BHB) can directly inhibit pain pathways in mice and rats, thus further reducing chronic pain.
This one-two punch could make a ketogenic diet an effective treatment. It can prevent the cause (obesity and increased stress on the joints) and treat the symptoms (decreasing neuron excitability and inhibiting pain pathways) of arthritis-related chronic pain. We still need more human studies before we can prove the effectiveness of ketones, but the science looks promising at this point.
That’s one more reason to skip the pasta tonight and instead see our amazing list of keto recipes for dinner inspiration!
Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher, MD FACC