3 Ways the Keto Diet Can Help Heal a Concussion
It seems like everybody is talking about the ketogenic—or “keto”—diet these days. It’s been touted as the latest weight-loss secret with bonus side effects, such as a boost in energy and enhanced mental clarity. There’s actually another benefit to this diet that most people don’t know about. And if you, or a loved one, have ever suffered a concussion any type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), you’ll want to take note.
How a Change in Diet Changed His Life
Just ask Chris. When he came to see me, he was at the end of his rope.
Two years after cracking his head on a sidewalk in a bike crash, he still struggled with daily headaches, crushing fatigue, and keeping his balance—all of which contributed to him losing his job as captain of a ferryboat that plied the San Juan Islands. His marriage was in divorce court because of the anger and rage he exhibited.
In the midst of this personal turmoil, Chris wasn’t getting any better. After telling me that he had little money for treatment, he asked, “What are the one or two supplements I can take to heal my brain?” It was obvious that Chris wanted to get the most bang for his buck.
I told him that one of the most powerful treatments he could do for a brain injury was not to take a supplement but to change his diet. I recommended a version of the keto diet, which is basically a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Within one week, Chris noticed that he felt better, and his sleep improved. Within a month, as he faithfully stayed with his new way of eating, he experienced more energy, felt his depression lift, and started to lose the weight that he had gained in the past two years.
3 Ways the Keto Diet Helps Heal a Brain Injury
1. The ketone effect
The keto diet is thought to be effective because of the healing effect of ketone bodies on the brain. Ketones are three water-soluble molecules produced by the liver when fatty acids are broken down for energy. Early research on ketone bodies showed that they caused the body to go into a state of nutritional ketosis, whereby the body shifts over from burning carbohydrates as its predominant fuel source to fats.
Take note, the keto diet does NOT mean going into a state of ketoacidosis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition for type I diabetics.
In addition to the keto diet’s energy-stabilizing effect on the brain, it also has neuroprotective effects. For openers, patients experience decreased oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects through the body’s antioxidants system. In fact, research shows that the ketones themselves have antioxidant capacity.
3. Improving low-brain states
In recent years, studies have shown that the keto diet has helped a number of low-brain and energy-state conditions such as TBI, as well as migraine headaches, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, stroke, mitochondrial disorders, depression, and autism.
Is Your Injured Brain Starving?
A single common pathway of dysfunction for a number of neurological conditions is that a very hungry organ—the brain—is starving, and according to research in Frontiers in Pharmacology, the keto diet is one solution for replenishing it.
This is an important point because early in a TBI, brain glucose levels rise and then drop below normal. A wealth of scientific evidence shows that giving glucose to TBI patients—or eating high-sugar foods if you’ve had a head injury—certainly worsens outcomes.
- A human study in which patients were fed a low-carb diet, but not a keto diet, demonstrated they did have some ketone production compared to a control group fed a standard carbohydrate-rich diet.
- A laboratory animal study where rats fasted after suffering a TBI demonstrated that fasting for 24 hours after a TBI event was protective.
That said, we need more human research on the keto diet for acute and chronic brain injury.
How to Modify the Keto Diet for TBI Healing
In my book, Concussion Rescue, I offer a 5-step blueprint of the important ways people with a TBI need to modify the keto diet for maximum effectiveness. You’ll also find an easy meal plan to help you get started. And if you’re considering switching to a keto diet, be sure to check with your doctor first!
If you or a loved one is struggling with symptoms that may be related to a concussion or TBI, making changes to your diet and nutritional supplements can be an important part of an effective treatment plan. If you want to join the thousands of people who have already healed from TBIs with the Amen Clinics Concussion Rescue Program, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.