Keto heals depression, bipolar, schizophrenia? Interview with David Gornoski

David Gornoski, of A Neighbor’s Choice, interviews Chris Palmer MD. They discuss using the ketogenic diet as a therapeutic intervention for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. In this discussion you will learn how brain cells that have trouble processing glucose for energy use fat as an alternate fuel source provided by the ketogenic diet.

Keto Heals Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia? Dr. Chris Palmer Interviewed by David Gronoski on A Neighbor’s Choice.

Listen to podcast at either link below

Show Notes – David Gornoski interviews Chris Palmer, MD

Epidemic of mental illnesses

  • 1:39 Introduction
  • 3:40 Chris Palmer, MD begins
  • 3:50 We all know people who are having some hard times. It seems like it is happening more often to more people.
  • Epidemic of mental illnesses
    • Mild depression, anxiety and burn out. deep sadness and lack of joy. Sleep, lack of appetite. Thinking of death and dying.
    • More serious disorders of bipolar, schizophrenia, severe depression
    • Depression, has taken lead as leading cause of disability world-wide
  • 11:00 Dr. Palmer tells the story of a male schizophrenic patient and how his symptoms improved gradually at the 6 week and again about 3 months on the diet.
  • 26:00 Causes of seizures

The Ketogenic diet is doing at least 40 different things to the brain

28:00 We know of at least 40 different things, scientifically, that the ketogenic diet is doing to the brain. That’s probably shocking to a lot of people because we really don’t know all that much about different dietary interventions and the human brain. We have some idea what eating Omega-3 fatty acids or eating fruits and vegetables might do to the brain. We actually know the most about what the ketogenic diet does to the human brain. The reason is that it has been used for a hundred years by neurologists to treat seizures. So neurologists have been studying this diet for decades trying to figure out what on earth is this diet doing.

Helping cells repair themselves helps the body heal

One of the things that the diet does do is help cells repair themselves. If a cell did have a damaged myelin sheath or damage to the cell in some other way, then this diet puts the body into repair mode. The fancy word for that is autophagy. But when your body is in that mode it is basically in repair mode. It is getting rid of debris or old cell parts and it is creating new ones. It is basically helping the body to heal. But the diet is doing a lot of other things as well.

Alternate fuel for brain cells – switching from glucose to fat

One of the big theories is that some people with epilepsy, their brain cells aren’t getting enough energy in the form of glucose. So glucose is normally the fuel for brain cells under normal circumstances 30:00

Is metabolism a simple fix?

30:00 David Gornoski astutely summarizes other recent, relevant guests

33:00 We know from, decades of research that metabolism is impaired in the cells of people with all of these disorders (epilepsy, cancer, cardiovascular disease and serious mental disorders). Fixing metabolism isn’t just a simple fix. Metabolism is an extra-ordinarily complicated thing. Metabolism is influenced by so many different factors. What we eat. are we getting enough oxygen? affected by toxins in the environment, that , temperature, sunlight, whether we get a good night’s sleep, stress levels.

Why just any healthy diet won’t do

35:20 Ketogenic diet is a very specific diet that mimics the fasting state. You can achieve the same results with fasting. You can’t achieve these same results with just any diet.

What’s a schizophrenic to eat?

37:30 Listener question – What would you recommend that people with schizophrenia [or a serious mental disorder] eat?

Answer – If someone has schizophrenia and they want to try this intervention they should try this in a serious and meticulous way. It is not about adding a little bit more fat to your diet. It can be really hard to do. It is important that you are monitored by a competent medical professional. Why? Because carbohydrate withdrawal period can be especially dangerous.

Beware carbohydrate withdrawal!

38:00 Keto Flu, Keto adaptation, carbohydrate withdrawal – experienced among people doing this diet for weight loss. In people with serious mental disorders their symptoms can get worse before they get better. As a result, that keto adaptation period is more dangerous for them than for someone just losing weight. Manage it with your mental health provider. If your current provider is open-minded but unfamiliar with this treatment, you can find a ketogenic dietitian on our web site to add them to your treatment team.

What about Asian cultures?

41:00 What about Asian cultures where they comparatively eat a lot of rice?

Asian cultures historically have had much lower rates of mental illness. That’s changing over the last 20 to 30 years as some Asian cultures are becoming more westernized.

Cecile Seth

Cecile Seth, MBA. Journalist. Co-Founder. Harvard Business School. Wellesley College. Bain & Company. Ms. Seth's award-winning blog, STEMshoots, helps her suburb with community planning and strengthening its schools.

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