Even those of us who aren’t familiar with ketosis have probably heard that fasting and psychedelics going hand in hand. So, can ketosis or fasting impact the psychedelic experience?
However, how exactly the psychedelic experience is impacted by fasting is another story. If you’ve ever spent some time on psychedelic forums or talking to psychonaut friends, you may have heard that for the most part, ketosis and fasting will intensify the psychedelic trip. In fact, fasting has been used in concert with psychedelics for millennia—and the combination of the two is still a part of many ayahuasca and mushroom ceremonies.
There are several reasons and potential health benefits as to why people choose to experiment with ketosis and fasting on their own. Similarly, there are as just as many reasons people may want to incorporate ketosis and fasting with psychedelic use.
Done right, it may produce enjoyable effects and may help mitigate nausea. However, both ketosis and fasting come with their own set of risks, as does combining them with any substance. If you’re new to the idea, start slow, and seek advice from experts. In this article, we’ll discuss in detail the relationship between ketosis, fasting, and psychedelics as well as considerations to help you practice these options safely.
What is Ketosis?
Ketosis is when your body is short on glucose for energy, so it begins to metabolize (burn) fats instead. The name ‘ketosis’ comes from the fact that this process causes a build-up of acids called ketones. There are two ways ketosis is possible: through fasting or by following a ketogenic diet (often called ‘keto’).
The ketogenic diet was developed in 1921 and was initially a way to treat epilepsy. Now, it’s a popular health trend used to aid in rapid weight loss and its known anti-inflammatory properties may help with pain relief.
We’ll leave you to the diet and nutrition books to learn more, but essentially, a ketogenic diet is high in fats, moderate in proteins, and includes very little carbohydrates. A standard ketogenic diet will be about 55-60% fat, 30-35% protein, and just 5-10% carbs.
How Can Ketosis Impact the Psychedelic Experience?
When we look at ketosis and how it impacts an experience with psychedelics, we have to realize that everyone experiences psychedelics differently and everyone who combines ketosis with psychedelics will also have different outcomes. While we can make assumptions based on anecdotal information and what we know about how ketosis impacts the body, there is no way of knowing how ketosis + psychedelics will affect you specifically.
As you’ll see, many people report differences when they combine ketosis and different psychedelic substances. For the most part, the effects are heightened and are positive. In some cases, however, ‘keto-psychonauts’ may experience the opposite.
Ketosis and LSD
For instance, individuals have reported that a standard keto diet (high fat, very low carbohydrate, moderate protein) results in a diminished effect of LSD. Why could this be? Well, the reason ketosis happens in the first place is the result of a reduction of available glucose in the body (from the lack of carbohydrate intake).
LSD has been observed to significantly increase the breakdown of glucose as it’s metabolized. The theory is that when there’s little glucose available, the LSD isn’t broken down like it usually is.
Looks like there’s science behind the rumors in the psychedelic community that “glucose is your best friend during a trip.” Some have reported that while on a keto diet and not feeling the effects of LSD, a simple remedy of 1-3 tablespoons of honey (very high in glucose) will have someone feeling the effects in no time at all.
Ketosis and Psilocybin
Psilocybin and ketosis have an interesting history. Terrance McKenna, the author of Food of the Gods, believed in what he called the Stoned Ape Theory. This theory involves the evolution of Homo erectus to Homo sapiens and revolves around one thing—magic mushrooms. In this theory, hunter-gatherers evolved after stumbling across psychedelic mushrooms, which contributed to the higher levels of consciousness that made humans what we are.
What’s interesting is that these hunter-gatherers were probably unknowingly consuming what we would refer to today as a “ketogenic diet.” What’s even more interesting is that if McKenna’s theory is right, humans have continued combining ketogenic diets and psilocybin for around a million years.
When the body is in a stage of ketosis, users have found that the effects of psilocybin are enhanced. One user reported following a vegan keto diet and was able to experience the effects of a standard dose of psilocybin (3.5 grams) after only consuming 0.4 grams! Another user reported combining a microdose of psilocybin with a ketogenic diet and was able to get off drugs for her type two bipolar disorder.
While this hasn’t been studied extensively, research would suggest that because the blood-brain barrier is more permeable on a ketogenic diet, it stands to reason that psilocybin would also be able to pass through more effectively. Because the brain is permeable to any glucose and ketone bodies that pass through, psilocin (the psychoactive metabolite of mushrooms) also might hitch a ride and allow the user to feel more of the drug, even after less has been consumed.
Ketosis and MDMA
While a semi-recent news article alerted to the fact that being on a keto diet produced euphoria similar to ‘ecstasy,’ that ecstasy they were referring to was ‘liquid ecstasy,’ or the drug GHB. However, there have been cases where citizen scientists have explored the combination of ketosis and another type of ecstasy—MDMA.
The effects of ketosis and MDMA are reportedly enjoyable. The body feels clean and the mind feels clear-headed. Like with psilocybin, the increased permeability in the blood-brain barrier will help someone feel stronger effects. Therefore, it’s important to note that a much lower dose is required. Some users report taking just a ⅓ of their normal dose to feel the same effects.
Also, because the release of serotonin and dopamine will speed up metabolism, having enough glucose in the body to maintain proper brain function is key. Many people recommend having electrolytes and snacks handy, like some fresh fruits (bear in mind you might not be that hungry). And, to help with that serotonin crash, some keto-friendly and tryptophan-high snacks like cheese and nuts might be your best friend in the days before and after the experience.
Have a specific question about ketosis and psychedelics? Until deregulation can allow for more scientific research, the best source of knowledge is other people who have experienced psychedelics. That’s why we’re here—to help support you on your journey.
If you want to ensure that you’ll get the most out of your experiences—and do so safely—we suggest you connect with one of our psychedelic integration coaches today!
What About Fasting?
Fasting and ketosis are often combined with intermittent fasting being one of the most popular options. One important distinction, however, is that it takes several days of fasting to lead to ketosis. The ‘metabolic switch’ (where the body begins using fat instead of glucose for energy) typically takes place after 12 to 36 hours of water-only fasting.
While the hunter-gatherers in McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory were thought to be eating ketogenic diets, they were also understood to undergo periods of extended fasting due to the unavailability of food sources. And if this was how psychedelics were discovered, then perhaps this is why fasting has remained such a crucial part of many psychedelic practices. Ancient civilizations and modern thinkers have used fasting alone to access different levels of consciousness, so it’s no wonder the effects are synergized in combination with psychedelics.
Fasting is commonly practiced both before and after ceremonies and rituals with mushrooms, peyote, and ayahuasca. Many retreats will encourage attendees to either follow a specific diet or participate in a juice fast (or water fast, if capable) in the days before and after the experience.
Even when doing psychedelics outside of the ceremonial setting, many people opt to incorporate days or even weeks of fasting into the experience. For some, this produces extremely positive effects—for others, it ends up being awful.
For some users, experimenting with tryptamine-containing psychedelics like DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, ayahuasca, or psilocybin after or during a fast results in a ‘clean’ experience (clean meaning with little to no adverse or unintended side effects). In fact, some people will only use these substances after they’ve fasted for at least 24 hours.
Some people liken the experience to “letting go of what weighs you down in order to fly.” Others feel great from just fasting alone and psychedelic use is just an added benefit.
For others, the experience isn’t as great. Psychedelics on a very empty stomach can lead to vomiting, stomach pain, exhaustion, discomfort, lightheadedness, or even fainting. In most cases, these negative symptoms happen to people who have little experience with fasting. If you are not accustomed to healthy fasting practices or very new to fasting, you may be depriving your body of necessary nutrients and subsequent energy to endure an intense psychedelic experience.
If ketosis and fasting are not for you, even waiting three to six hours since your last meal can help. For many people, just having an empty stomach assists the psychedelic experience. With LSD, having a large meal before the trip resulted in only half of the orally ingested LSD being absorbed. Psilocybin and MDMA are the same, and users report feeling the drugs much less—or not at all—right after a meal.
There’s clearly a reason that people may choose to fast before a psychedelic experience. However, the main factor when it comes to a successful psychedelic experience after/during a fast is experience.
Here are a few ways to safely consider combining fasting/ketosis with a psychedelic experience
- If you’re new to a keto diet, or still experimenting with how to make it suit your nutritional needs and lifestyle, give it some time before you add psychedelics to the mix.
- Similarly, fasting presents its own set of risks and complications. It’s okay to try it out a few times before even considering using fasting to prepare for a psychedelic trip.
- If you’re new to either ketosis or fasting, seek the recommendation of an expert.
- Start small. If you’re new to fasting, trying it for a few hours or a day at a time is okay. No need for you to jump right into a 14-day water fast just yet!
- Use a smaller dose, too. You’ll likely require much less of the psychedelic substance if you’ve been fasting.
- A few hours are enough! For most of us who haven’t experienced a lengthy fast, but still want to experience some benefits of fasting + psychedelics, a few hours are generally enough. Try to wait at least three to six hours after a meal to consume psychedelics. (And the healthier the meal, the better).
- A common practice is to break your fast and eat towards the end or shortly after a trip. The brain is the body’s biggest consumer of glucose so if you want to sweeten things up mentally, it’s better to go with healthier sources (even though you might be craving candy). Grapes, bananas, or dark chocolate are much better choices!
- Eating may end up being your last priority. You may end up completely forgetting what food is—let alone that you might need it. If you think you’ll be hungry, or want to have something available after a 10 to 14 hour fast, have some easy-to-consume snacks handy (watermelon, melons, mango, passion fruit, nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese).
- Similarly, cooking may not only be extremely difficult but might not be the safest activity during a psychedelic experience. Having an already-prepared meal is recommended (or have someone sober to assist).
- If you’re not following a ketogenic diet, a whole-grain pasta salad with spinach and hard-boiled eggs will provide a much-needed glucose boost and some tryptophan to assist with any residual serotonin deficits.
- If you are following a ketogenic diet, try a leafy kale and spinach salad with either chicken or tofu and nuts and cheese.
Safety, Safety, Safety
As always, safety is the most important focus of any experience with psychedelics. And when you’re adding ketosis or fasting into the mix, you’ve got another element with their own set of risks. While combining ketosis/fasting with psychedelics is generally a positive experience, that’s heavily based on the individual’s own experience with changes to their diet. Fasting itself can be a psychedelic journey on its own, so consider starting with just that!
If you’re looking for support with fasting and psychedelics, we suggest you speak with one of our knowledgeable psychedelic integration professionals today. Our goal is to ensure you have a safe and meaningful experience with psychedelics while navigating avoidable mistakes and minimizing the risk of a “bad trip.”