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Does ketosis and/or intermittent fasting cause euphoria?

by (695)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:50 PM
Created July 20, 2012 at 9:13 PM

I've been using intermittent fasting for the last week (One 24 hour fast in addition to a 12 hour fast daily) and have experienced dramatically increased mood, at times I'm euphoric. I no longer have blood sugar drops after a few hours like I used to have, and how I see everyone in my family get. My ancestors diet have undoubtedly been a very fat and protein-rich diet, consisting of wild game, seals, etc. and very little carb,as I am Scandinavian, so it does make sense for me to try to replicate a high-fat low-carb diet.

While my expectation were somewhat high, I did not expect this. I'm spending all that laughing and smiling and truly feel good with myself and while interacting with others. I'm never abandoning this diet.

Anyway, is it the fasting, the ketosis or a combination of the two that's causing the mood elevation? I would really appreciate a thorough scientific explanation.

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0 · December 08, 2013 at 8:02 PM

This article is fantastic, just what I was looking for. Thanks. I presume it's a reliable

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0 · December 08, 2013 at 7:45 PM

I thought ketosis only happens 24 hours after the start of a fast. I get very happy and sociable feelings 6-12 hours in so I don't think it's ketosis. What is the process your body goes through before ketosis?

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0 · December 08, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Hi Tnq,

Great to hear of your experience as I have had the exact same however I do eat a normal amount of carbs and during the day of fasting , about 12 hours in, I start experiencing the happier, more confident, very sociable feelings that I'm really not that used to and to be honest I am really enjoying it. So much so that I'm getting to the point of looking forward to it and using fasting as a way of enjoying my social life more- I'm a healthy weight dont worry!

But I am keen to unearth the science behind it. Are you still experiencing the euphoria?

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18671 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

That's nonsense. If you want the deal on cortisol, see http://www.ketotic.org/2012/07/ketogenic-diets-and-stress-part-i.html

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12642 · August 27, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Rob, when you replace dietary carbohydrates with protein (as in the study you cited) it's unsurprising cortisol goes up. This likely isn't because carbs are inversely correlated with cortisol, but because excess protein increases cortisol, as I touched on here: http://paleohacks.com/questions/144817/fighting-cortisol-and-high-carb-breakfasts/144823#144823

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176 · August 05, 2012 at 10:09 PM

What do you base this on? there are many studies that show a an inverse correlation between carbohydates consumed and Cortisol levels, such as this one http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320587900865

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18671 · August 05, 2012 at 5:26 AM

Even under IF conditions, most people won't experience a cortisol response. Specifically, she said she is not having blood sugar drops, which physiologically implies no excess cortisol. Cortisol only comes into play if you get hypoglycemic.

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176 · August 04, 2012 at 11:18 AM

If you are experiencing some kind of change due to fasting (ie your euphoria) then it follows that is part of the bodies adaptation to you not eating. If at no point your body felt deprived of calories then there would be no change, perhaps starvation is too strong a word. But your body is certainly having to adapt from its usual process due to the lack of food intake.

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695 · August 04, 2012 at 11:01 AM

I'm not really restricting my protein intake. Before a 24h fast, I usually eat over 100 grams of protein, and the same when breaking the fast. On 12h fasts I consume between 150 and 200 grams of protein a day. Nowhere close to starvation, in my opinion.

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176 · August 04, 2012 at 10:46 AM

The Original poster is talking about Starvation, ie restricting protein for glucogensis therefore requiring a cortisol rise.

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18671 · August 04, 2012 at 8:55 AM

I completely disagree, PaleoHipster, both on the naturalness, and the crashing. My mood is still stable and better than before, and I've been in ketosis over 2.5 years. I think what Shari means is that it won't necessarily continue to feel so euphoric. Mood will become more even -- good but not so extreme.

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78417 · August 04, 2012 at 6:34 AM

Yeah - enjoy it til you crash. Ketosis is not a natural state (especially long term). As Kurt Harris said, possibly beneficial short term hormetic stressor - but long term not desirable. Like that guy whose-name-I-won't-mention who discovered cold thermogenesis.

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24271 · July 20, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Yep. Very common. You may see this symptom diminish over time so for for now enjoy the ride!

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24528 · July 20, 2012 at 9:17 PM

It is pretty common. I've enjoyed it myself. http://www.ergo-log.com/bhb.html

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18671 · August 04, 2012 at 8:52 AM

There are a couple of similar threads:

4 days on VLC - suddenly feels happy?

Low Carbs - Coincidence?

Some possible reasons could include:

  • blood sugar regulation, so you don't have the bad moods that come with hypoglycemia
  • better access to energy
  • improvements in brain functioning

ETA:

Incidentally, while researching something else, I came upon this today (emphasis mine):

Low-carb diets, fasting and euphoria: Is there a link between ketosis and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)?

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence links the initial phase of fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet with feelings of well-being and mild euphoria. These feelings have often been attributed to ketosis, the production of ketone bodies which can replace glucose as an energy source for the brain. One of these ketone bodies, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), is an isomer of the notorious drug of abuse, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate). GHB is also of interest in relation to its potential as a treatment for alcohol and opiate dependence and narcolepsy-associated cataplexy. Here I hypothesize that, the mild euphoria often noted with fasting or low-carbohydrate diets may be due to shared actions of BHB and GHB on the brain. Specifically, I propose that BHB, like GHB, induces mild euphoria by being a weak partial agonist for GABA(B) receptors. I outline several approaches that would test the hypothesis, including receptor binding studies in cultured cells, perception studies in trained rodents, and psychometric testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans. These and other studies investigating whether BHB and GHB share common effects on brain chemistry and mood are timely and warranted, especially when considering their structural similarities and the popularity of ketogenic diets and GHB as a drug of abuse.

So that's an acknowledgement of the phenomenon and another hypothesis of a mechanism.

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4100 · July 21, 2012 at 4:28 AM

I dont have the full explanation, but I can give you a lead.

This phenomenon has been studied in anorexics as a possible reinforcer once they begin to go low carb/low calorie and start to starve (living off their own body fat).

I remember seeing the explanation there, but I am too tired to search for it for you now.

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0 · December 09, 2013 at 3:19 AM

Troll [edit by Matt11]

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176 · August 04, 2012 at 8:51 AM

I'm not sure what the accepted reason is but I see two.

Your body cortisol levels will soar, that alone will be enough to make you feel euphoric - you'll also crash out at some point though.

Or

You have had a toxoplasmosis infection in the past, and now your starving all the little cysts causing them ultimately die - filling you with L-dopa. Its a long story in total, best to google.

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18671 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

That's nonsense. If you want the deal on cortisol, see http://www.ketotic.org/2012/07/ketogenic-diets-and-stress-part-i.html

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12642 · August 27, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Rob, when you replace dietary carbohydrates with protein (as in the study you cited) it's unsurprising cortisol goes up. This likely isn't because carbs are inversely correlated with cortisol, but because excess protein increases cortisol, as I touched on here: http://paleohacks.com/questions/144817/fighting-cortisol-and-high-carb-breakfasts/144823#144823

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176 · August 05, 2012 at 10:09 PM

What do you base this on? there are many studies that show a an inverse correlation between carbohydates consumed and Cortisol levels, such as this one http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320587900865

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1
18671 · August 05, 2012 at 5:26 AM

Even under IF conditions, most people won't experience a cortisol response. Specifically, she said she is not having blood sugar drops, which physiologically implies no excess cortisol. Cortisol only comes into play if you get hypoglycemic.

8e403031cae4272bac5c25c40446daaf
176 · August 04, 2012 at 11:18 AM

If you are experiencing some kind of change due to fasting (ie your euphoria) then it follows that is part of the bodies adaptation to you not eating. If at no point your body felt deprived of calories then there would be no change, perhaps starvation is too strong a word. But your body is certainly having to adapt from its usual process due to the lack of food intake.

Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae
695 · August 04, 2012 at 11:01 AM

I'm not really restricting my protein intake. Before a 24h fast, I usually eat over 100 grams of protein, and the same when breaking the fast. On 12h fasts I consume between 150 and 200 grams of protein a day. Nowhere close to starvation, in my opinion.

8e403031cae4272bac5c25c40446daaf
176 · August 04, 2012 at 10:46 AM

The Original poster is talking about Starvation, ie restricting protein for glucogensis therefore requiring a cortisol rise.

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