Is a keto diet a useful natural pain reliever?

Various Foods that are Perfect for the Keto Diet

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 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.

Crown MD: The ketogenic diet and chronic pain

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


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“The best of it all is that I’m free of pain”



  1. Linda
    This past February (I was close to 180 pounds) I started experiencing lower back pain. On Mother’s day I woke up with the worst pain I have ever experienced since I gave birth to my son, over 20 years ago (definition of irony?) Long story short: I was diagnosed with a cyst in my spinal cord. I started doing epidural/steroids injections. First one helped. 2nd was a complete dud. I spent the first part of the summer frustrated at my body and the pain I was in. So I began the month of July with my independence from carbs. I had my 3rd (and hopefully last) injection in September, by then I had lost 20 pounds. We are now in December...I have lost 40 pounds, I have not had any lower back- pain and I’m free from pain meds. I contribute all this to the keto diet!!
  2. Linda Seablom
    Sounds good but how can I find out how to get started and what to eat
    Reply: #3
  3. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    You can find our getting started info here -
  4. 1 comment removed
  5. Laurie Granda
    Linda I am impressed that your back pain went away, but I don't understand. What happened to the cyst on your spinal cord?
  6. Birgit
    Taking this "decreasing neuron excitability" one or two steps further, it could also help autistic people to prevent sensory overloads.
  7. Kristin
    Prior to my current keto journey, last year in August/September I went on holiday for 2 weeks and spent the entire time in constant pain, pain in my knees from being in the car for long periods of time, pain in my groin just getting in and out of the car, which had actually started before I went on holidays, pain from the extra walking I was doing. Even getting dressed was difficult because it was hard lifting my legs. I was having monthly remedial massages, and these were not relaxing because it was so painful, I think my body was just so inflamed. Then last year in late September/early October I recommenced keto at my general practitioner's advice. Within 1 - 2 months, my massages were no longer painful except for 1 - 2 problem areas, my masseuse could tell the difference as well. All my aches and pain cleared up, movement became much easier and since then I've lost 43 kg. I still have a lot of weight to go, maybe another 30-40kg, but I feel good. I just went on holiday for 3 weeks, and unfortunately for 2 of those weeks, I couldn't continue to eat keto (I'd made peace with this prior to my holiday), and this did affect me a little, but overall I coped really well with all the walking and the lots of stairs. I got back home 5 days ago, and have recommitted to my keto lifestyle. While I did enjoy some of the things I ate and drank on my holiday, the whole time I was looking forward to getting back home to real food, I really missed it.
  8. TruCure CBD
    Wow, I can't imagine the combination of Keto and daily CBD regiment. It's astonishing how sensitive our bodies are to a specific food. And how if we choose to avoid certain foods, and select others in place our health be better for it.
  9. Barbara
    My choice is Keto and CBD oil. Arthritis I have had for years in most of my joints has been relieved. I sleep like a baby, and I have started to drop some pounds! Yayyy

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