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Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

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Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby parboil » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:22 am

Hi, I have not posted for a long time, but I wanted to drop in to share my experiences with low carb / ketogenic diet, and possibly start a conversation with anyone who has their own story to tell.

This year I have personally experienced quite remarkable improvements to my mental health after making dramatic dietary changes, and my research has lead me to think that eating a low carb diet may have a therapeutic effect on Bipolar.

A quick, non-expert, non-professional explanation of the Ketogenic diet:

The Ketogenic diet is a high fat, very low carb diet, sometimes used to treat Epilepsy.

Basically, there are two main forms of energy burnt by the body, Glucose and Fat. Glucose comes from carbohydrates and sugary foods. Fats come from things like plant oils, nuts, eggs, dairy and meat.

The western diet tends to contain high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, however modern nutritional thinking seems to be coming around to the idea that it is a lot healthier to eat a higher percentage of good fats, and less carbs.

Why is this interesting to people with bipolar?

Well, there are some quite compelling reasons to think that the ketogenic diet might be a functional treatment for Bipolar. According to my research, Bipolar is thought to be related to Epilepsy, and this is one of the reasons why anti-seizure drugs like Sodium Valproate are used for both Epilepsy and Bipolar. The ketogenic diet is already used to treat symptoms of epilepsy, especially when people don't respond well to medication, so there is some reason to think that this could help Bipolar symptoms as well.

I have read that the brain prefers to burn glucose as energy, but that bipolar people may have some dysfunction that makes them bad at metabolising glucose. This is a possible explanation as to why fueling the brain with "ketones" instead may be effective.

I became interested in this subject almost by accident, after noticing a big improvement to my mental health when I began eating a very low carb diet, similar to the ketogenic diet. I experienced a wide range of health improvements, including reducing my bipolar symptoms enough that I was eventually able to completely stop taking the Sodium Valproate that I had been on for about ten years. (For Type II Bipolar.)

When I began eating a very low carbohydrate diet I was also exercising more, and eating reduced calories, so I naturally began to burn stored fat in my own body. I found that by reducing foods that were converted into glucose, the body automatically went into a fat burning metabolism, and I never really got hungry because I had plenty of stored energy. When I was in this fat burning mode, I began to feel a lot better, mentally.

My mental health seemed to improve at a steady rate, and the more I reduced the medication, the more in control I felt, creating a feedback loop of determination. I have now been off the medications for six months and still feel more stable than I have for many years, including the entire time I was on medication.

Of course, this is not very scientific. Obviously I could have just been feeling a lot better because I'm more fit and healthy now. However, the fact that I was thinking quite closely about Ketosis lead me to wonder if it really was the reason I was feeling so much better mentally. That's why I wanted to write this post. I'm very interested to hear any stories or research anyone has about this subject. I'd also be very interested to hear about any other nutritional therapies anyone has tried.

Awareness of the ketogenic diet has been increasing in the health and fitness world, in connection with the rise of the "Paleo" diet, which is also very low carb and high in fats. This makes me think that there must be other people out there who have had similar experiences to my own. As happened to me, it could just be the happy side effect of an attempt to be come more physically healthy.

I feel that I have really experienced a quite remarkable change, and am almost tempted to call myself "cured". Some people may say this is premature, and they would probably be right. However, I would add that I have had to deal with some quite stressful situations since I stopped taking my medication. While difficult, they did not throw me off kilter in the way that I'm sure they would have before.

I feel I have to say that I am definitely NOT encouraging anyone to go off their medications. I spent years preparing to do this, developing behavioural strategies to manage my symptoms. Also, my blood tests were indicating that I had some possible liver dysfunction that might have been related to the long term use of Sodium Valproate. For the sake of my overall health, I had to shape up and try to live without meds. (I also dramatically improved my cholesterol levels and was able to go off the medication I was on for that too.) This was all under medical supervision, and I gradually reduced my medication over about a six month period. I was always very grateful to have a medication that made things bearable, but I never expected to be able to stop taking them. Now that I have experienced this big change, it seems worth investigating further.

Bonus Links:

Ketogenic Diet on wikipedia (described as treatment for Epilepsy)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketogenic_diet

PubMed, research "The ketogenic diet for type II bipolar disorder."
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23030231

Article: "QUIETING THE BIPOLAR MIND: CAN A KETOGENIC DIET STABILIZE MOOD?"
http://www.neurorexia.com/2014/02/06/qu ... lize-mood/

Article: "Why Cutting Sugar Can Control Seizures: Scientists Identify Metabolic Regulator of Epilepsy"
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/ ... 051812.php
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby anon47 » Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:43 am

Thanks for posting this up. I've been also researching foods & supplements that are beneficial for bipolar. Glad it seems to be helping!
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby bipolarbirdie » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:52 am

I'm glad you're feeling better.

You can read my comments under the anti-psych thread in this forum. Basically I feel very strongly against promoting things that don't scientifically work. In any of these types of treatments, studies are shown that appear to be scientific but generally they are not, or they are of weak validity. For example, a 'case study' is basically you saying you tried this diet and it got better. However it has weak validity because there is no way of proving that the diet had any effect on your mental health. There could have been any number of reasons including the placebo effect. For a new medicine to be approved it needs to pass rigorous scientific scrutiny, so that statistically speaking it does work.

The reasons that these types of diets are promoted are along the lines of the anti-psychiatry movement, basically for three reasons: 1. people who wish to deny their mental illness, 2. people who wish to exploit vulnerable people to either make money or abuse them and 3. it is perpetuated by people who have a stigma against mental illness, still believe in century-old thinking and are actively against treatment.

So the diet is marketed to you and you try it and feel better. For you this is all the evidence you need. Remember that it might not work for everyone. The danger is that it feeds into people's preference to deny their illness. They think the diet helped so they are not really sick. All fine until the have another episode. It's fine to try the diet, just remember it's not THE ANSWER we all want.
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby parboil » Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:06 pm

@bipolarbirdie - I agree with your statements. I do think it's dangerous to assume you have been cured, and to make any assumptions about what it was that brought about the change.

As you said, its important to back up personal experience with scientific research and confirmation. That's basically what I'm here to discuss. The scientific research that has already been done is at an early stage, but building awareness of the idea, and sharing non-scientific personal experiences, could promote further scientific interest.

I would honestly just approach this as a decision to improve overall physical health, not just as a bipolar treatment. It's basically a win either way. Being healthy makes you feel better in general, even if it doesn't affect your bipolar.

I should add that most of what I've read about the ketogenic diet refers to Bipolar Type II in particular. My bipolar was already well managed with medication and behavioral techniques, but my overall health was quite bad. I was in a good position to make a change.
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby user83749 » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:52 am

Hey everyone, my friend's new e-book contains all of the necessary information about KETOGENIC DIET is now available on Kindle. *mod edit*
Last edited by quietgirl2538 on Wed Jul 20, 2016 2:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Please do not post commercial links
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby z7z » Wed Jul 20, 2016 9:16 pm

A low sugar diet is good for everyone, not just bipolars. But let's be honest who doesn't love cake and ice cream?
Be kind to everyone you come across because you never know who’s suffering inside.
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby Oliveira » Fri Jul 22, 2016 8:18 am

Me when off seroquel and mirtazepine! :)

I've never liked sugar since I turned 15 or so. As a kid I wanted to buy myself a whole box of choco marshmallows because my mom would dole me one or two. AND I WOULD EAT IT ALL WHAT NOW MOM. This didn't happen. ;)

Now that I am off seroquel I am immediately back to low-carb diet where a bit of pasta and tiny container of apple mousse is considered a cheat meal and I have zero interest in sugar. On mirtazepine I once left the house when heavily anxious and depressed because there was no way I'd survive another hour without pancakes and Nutella. I brought that home and ate it all – 10 pancakes and a jar of Nutella.
Currently working on my upcoming signature.
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby KDog96 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 10:56 pm

The best way to treat bi-polar naturally is to be in a place where you can have a positive mindset, generally in areas with lots of bright natural light. Have never heard of anyone trying to diet the disorder before but i remember my therapist mentioning to me not to be one of those people that think im going to heal myself by taking fish oil
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Re: Ketogenic Diet for Treating Bipolar (Low Carb)

Postby parboil » Fri May 04, 2018 9:17 pm

Hi

A couple of people have recently contacted me about this post from 2015, so I thought I would post a quick update. I wonder if there is an increasing awareness about keto diets in the last year? It seems to me that this new understanding about the roles of carbs and fats in the diet is beginning to filter up into mainstream consciousness.

Since the original post, after a period of time I found myself falling off the more strict keto diet that I had been on. It is a quite hard diet to maintain long time, at least for me. I did find that my mental health degraded when I started eating carbs again. There is just a greater up and down cycle with that kind of food, more cravings, more emotional highs and lows associated with fluctuating energy levels. Carb metabolism is just a more unstable energy source, whereas fats provide a very even energy level.

I can say that when I do go back onto a very low carb diet again, I definitely feel that my mental health is improved. In fact, my whole health feels improved, so it's hard to say if it's a specific effect on my brain chemistry or just the effects of overall improved wellbeing, but either way it does always make me feel better. It is widely reported by people who do keto diets that there is a change to mental state which is generally considered to be a positive one, in which people feel they are thinking more clearly, their senses are heightened, etc. I do tend to think that the effects of ketosis on the brain have some specific positive effect on bipolar, in the same way that they help with epilepsy. I really hope some science about this comes out eventually. (A quick google indicates an increased number of articles on the subject since I last checked.)

One observation I have made in recent years is that I seem to have shifted more into the depressive spectrum. I almost never experience elevation now, but I have had some quite bad depressions in the last couple of years, which have been possibly worse than any I've had before. I've had some quite intense anhedonia, which is disruptive to my family life. I think that the period of keto-transition can cause quite depressive states, due to the low blood sugar. Once the keto state kicks in properly I feel amazing and very clear and calm and smooth (it really does feel like I've taken a strong mood stabilizer), but there have been a couple of times when I was starting a keto style diet and bailed out becuase I was too worried about triggering a longer term depression before the good keto state kicked in.

So, I do recommend trying keto for bipolar, but also recommend caution, especially in the first week.

I will add that I am still medication-free, and only ever consider going back onto meds when I am very depressed, but so far I've managed to endure. This is probably in part because I used to get very depressed even when I was on meds (Epilim / Valproate), so I don't necessarily think they were helping me much with that.

Summary / TLDR: I''m not on a full-time Keto diet these days, but still often go back to it as I feel it provides me with relief.
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