MENTAL HEALTH AND THE KETOGENIC DIET EXPLAINED
The ketogenic diet is a nutritional intervention supported by almost 100 years of research demonstrating its effectiveness as a treatment for epilepsy. It is a high fat, low carbohydrate, and moderate protein diet. Many people have heard of this diet as a tool for weight loss, and it can be very effective for that purpose when calories are also restricted. But even when calories are not restricted the medical version of the ketogenic diet also has the power to reduce or stop seizures in a high percentage of patients including those who do not respond to medications. That is what the diet was created for in the first place, as a treatment for epilepsy, not weight loss. In fact, calorie restriction for weight loss is not required for the ketogenic diet to have anticonvulsant effect and is often prescribed for growing children (who develop just fine on the diet) with epilepsy.
Since its introduction in neurology, the ketogenic diet has also been applied to help those with diabetes by lowering blood glucose and insulin resistance and is currently the subject of much interest in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other brain disorders.
The application of the ketogenic diet to treat psychiatric illness is new by comparison to its acceptance in neurology. However, the potential of the ketogenic diet to treat psychiatric disorders is evidence-based and is now gaining more momentum in the literature providing new hope to many who suffer crippling treatment-refractory mental illnesses. While much of the discussion on this website pertains to mood and psychotic disorders, some of the most difficult to treat conditions with standard medications, when properly supervised by qualified mental health care providers and physicians the ketogenic diet might also be an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. What could explain this connection between an anti-convulsant diet and psychiatry?
There is a well-documented bidirectional relationship between psychiatry and neurology. The use of anti-convulsant medications (Depakote, Lamictal, Tegretol, and all of the benzodiazepines including Ativan, to name just a few) to treat mood dysregulation and other psychiatric symptoms is widely accepted in psychiatry. It follows that the ketogenic diet, a nutritional strategy inducing metabolic changes known to have an anti-convulsant effect, may also be effective as a treatment for the same kind of mental disorders that, in some people, respond to anti-convulsant medications. The early research supports this idea. And while the ketogenic diet for psychiatry is already gathering more evidence of its effectiveness, more research is desperately needed to better understand the connection between mental health and metabolism and to make this treatment more available to those who suffer. Supporting that research is among the primary purposes of The MH Paradox Foundation.