More and more I recommend the ketogenic diet, also known as the paleo diet, GAPS, Atkins, or low carb diet, to people struggling with inflammation, obesity, cancer or psychiatric illness. The basic idea is simple. You increase fats and proteins, and greatly reduce sugars and simple carbohydrates. The body begins to burn fat instead of sugar, and switches from excessive insulin production into ketosis. Most people lose weight fairly quickly with this diet, depending on how well they are able to avoid carbohydrates. Usually the weight loss is biggest around the mid abdomen region, also known affectionately as the wheat belly or beer belly. Other health benefits include cancer reduction, since sugar is known to “feed” cancer, and improving brain function. The ketogenic diet has been used since the 1920’s to treat epilepsy, especially in children. Ninety years later no one is quite sure how it works but it does. Since bipolar illness is often now treated with anti-epileptic drugs, some have postulated that perhaps bipolar illness would also benefit from a ketogenic diet, and there are some small studies suggesting this is true.
The greatest myth in health and nutrition is that there is one diet that is superior for everyone. People have very different requirements at each stage of the lifecycle – compare the needs of a 10 year old boy to a pregnant or breastfeeding mom to a 60 year obese woman with breast cancer or a 50 year old male post MI. Each situation has a different need for calories, proteins, fats and carbohydrates. In addition many people have unique food sensitivities that are making them far more miserable than they understand. Removing gluten and casein from the diet seems to benefit a subset of autistic patients. Recently a large clinical antipsychotic trial found unexpectedlythat almost 24 percent of schizophrenics had antigliadin (gluten) antibodies. In addition spiritual preferences, cultural preferences and environment also play a role in determining diets. Howeverfor people who feel fatigued and ache all the time, have trouble maintaining an ideal weight, have been diagnosed prediabetic or have mood problems, the ketogenic diet or one of its variants is worth exploring.
Please remember that the ketogenic diet or paleo diet increases meat, vegetable and fruit consumption. Meats should always be grass-fed, to provide a non-inflammatory ratio of omega 3’s to omega 6’s. Know the dirty dozen list of what fruits and vegetable are found to be most toxic. Start slow, first getting rid of processed foods (as a hint anything bought in a plastic bag with a trademarked name is probably not good for you), trans fats, artificial sweeteners and sugars, and then start on reducing grains.
Here are some resources for people looking to get started on this diet:
AUTOIMMUNE PALEO (an elimination diet esp. good for people with Hashimotos, RA, fibromyalgia)
JOHN HOPKINS KETO (for epilepsy)
RESOURCES FOR HEALTH BENEFITS
KETOGENIC DIET and BIPOLAR
KETOGENIC DIET and INSULIN RESISTANCE
· In overweight women, a diet with less than 10% of calories as carbs improved insulin sensitivity, while a 30% fat, low-fat diet reduced it.
· In obese, insulin-resistant women, both high-fat and high-protein low-carb diets reduced insulin resistance, while the high-carb diet was not as effective.
· In obese kids, a very low carb diet was able to reduce indices of insulin resistance along with bodyweight and body fatness.
AUTISM and GLUTEN/CASEIN FREE DIETS (GAPS DIET)
The benefit of gluten free/ casein free diets in a subgroup of autistic patients seem well established. One explanation is that gluten may actually increase endogenous opiods in the brain which worsens autistic behavior.
SCHIZOPHRENIA and WHEAT
This study has always intrigued me.
Biol Psychiatry. 1984 Mar;19(3):385-99.
Is schizophrenia rare if grain is rare?
Dohan FC, Harper EH, Clark MH, Rodrigue RB, Zigas V.
“If, as hypothesized, neuroactive peptides from grain glutens are the major agents evoking schizophrenia in those with the genotype(s), it should be rare if grain is rare. To test this, we analyzed the results of our clinical examinations (e.g., kuru) and observations of anthropologists on peoples consuming little or no grain.
Only two overtly insane chronic schizophrenics were found among over 65,000 examined or closely observed adults in remote regions of Papua New Guinea and Malaita , Solomon Islands, and on Yap , Micronesia. In preneurolepticEurope over 130 would have been expected.
When these peoples became partially westernized and consumed wheat, barley beer, and rice, the prevalence reached European levels. Our findings agree with previous epidemiologic and experimental results indicating that grain glutens are harmful to schizophrenics.”
COMMON OBJECTIONS to the KETOGENIC DIET
CARDIOVASCULAR - In the 80’s we were told by the government that FAT WAS HIGHLY UNHEALTHY, and were given a food pyramid and told to eat at least 5 servings of complex carbohydrates. Most of us began to find the sight of bacon and eggs horrifying, and dutifully ate lots of COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES. And our weight kept creeping up till two-thirds of us are now considered overweight or obese by the government, and Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome became an epidemic. However a number of studies over the last ten years has completely challenged the FAT IS AWFUL hypothesis, and in fact shown that diets high in good fats are actually more healthful. To get started with relearning that fat is healthy start here
· A 2011 study found that “reducing the intake of CHO with high glycaemic index is more effective in the prevention of CVD than reducing SAFA intake per se.”
· From a 2010 study out of Japan, saturated fat intake “was inversely associated with mortality from total stroke.”
· A 2010 meta-analysis found “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”
PLANT BASED – But the CHINA Study clearly showed that a plant based diet was much healthier. Not really. Here are some links that challenge the validity of the books conclusions:
Overall the selection of diet is highly personal and unique for each individual. However diet is one of the most important components of personal health. If you are struggling with a chronic physical or mental illness you owe it to yourself to experiment and discover what others have long known, that food is medicine.