Mental illness is concerning in any form, be it mild or completely debilitating. Medical research has led to the discovery of certain treatments for these disorders, particularly schizophrenia. However, a new breakthrough of using ketogenic diet has been made recently. The real question is, can ketogenic diet treat schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety?
Yes, research is heading towards a new dimension to treat different mental disorders, even schizophrenia. This new dimension does not involve taking any psychotropic drugs or supplements. It does not even have any side effects associated with it.
In fact, this new treatment approach is even being reviewed for actually reversing all the side effects associated with the conventional antipsychotic medications like insulin resistance and weight gain.
You may be surprised to link ketogenic diet with schizophrenia but this fact may be true. The low-carb, high-fat diet may actually be the most-wanted solution for thousands of people suffering from schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression.
The ketogenic diet is also being applied as a treatment regimen for other disorders such as autism, ADHD, major depressive disorder, and mania.
Before proceeding to the scientific evidence, let’s talk about why there is a need to consider a ketogenic diet for treating these disorders.
Psychoactive Drugs are not Promising
The biggest reason for choosing alternative treatments in case of mental disorders is because the conventional medications are not promising. For example, the usual anti-depressants prescribed to patients are effective up to 10 to 20 percent only.
A review of various antidepressants, in fact, concluded that it is impossible to conceive if a particular antidepressant is going to work in a patient or not. This is because most of the time, the psychiatrists , and the researchers are unable to submit their clinical trials upon receiving unfavorable results.
Problems also arise with antipsychotic drugs which may also not be highly effective. A layman may render these drugs as the only solution to control delusions, hallucinations, and other symptoms, but at the same time, these drugs actually increase the need for getting external help.
Can ketogenic diet treat schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression? Let’s see what science has to say about this.
The Ketogenic Diet and Schizophrenia
The role of ketogenic diet in the treatment of schizophrenia can be proven by considering the case of a woman, 70 years of age, who was referred to as C.D. She had been suffering from this disease since the age of 17 years.
As per her own experience, she had been experiencing hallucinations ever since she was 7. Before C.D. was endorsed in the trial, she had been admitted to a hospital almost six times for problems like suicidal attempts and psychosis.
The patient was already taking six extremely potent psychotropic drugs simultaneously. In addition to her mental problem, C.D. also had other health disorders like GERD, sleep apnea, and obesity.
She also had glaucoma and problems with continence. For all these medical problems, C.D. was also taking seven other medications along with the psychotropic drugs.
Her appointed doctor suggested her to follow a high-fat, low-carb diet and to restrict her daily carb intake to even less than 20 grams per day. She was followed up for 19 days after which she reported significant improvements in her hallucinations.
C.D. was followed up for an additional 12 month period in which she did not suffer from any visual or auditory hallucinations. She even lost 30 pounds even when she stopped taking ketogenic diet 2-3 times during her treatment.
Another similar report was highlighted by a Harvard psychiatrist who noted improvements in two of his patients after they switched to a ketogenic diet.
One of these patients was a 31-year-old female who had been a patient with schizoaffective disorder since the age of 23. This disorder is characterized by severe mood swings, psychosis, and depression or mania.
The patient had been taking 12 different medicines including clozapine when she was asked to switch on a ketogenic diet. After a follow up of 4 weeks, the patient had seemed to lost 10 pounds and no longer suffered from delusions.
After four months, she had lost 30 pounds altogether and her PANSS score had dropped down to 37 points.
The other patient was a 33-year-old man who started following a ketogenic diet when he weighed 322 pounds. He was also a known patient with schizoaffective disorder.
He had already tried 17 different medicines including clozapine and had experienced no improvements. With ketogenic diet, the patient not only lost weight but also experienced a significant improvement in his mental symptoms.
His score on PANSS scale dropped by 49 points, enabling him to resume education and live a normal life.
Each of the patients experienced a rebound phenomenon as they stopped taking the diet. However, the symptoms vanished again as soon as they resumed the diet
The Ketogenic Diet and Anxiety
The ketogenic diet has not been studied deeply in relation to anxiety. However, the little research done in this area has produced promising results.
A research published in 2016 has concluded that induction of ketosis in rats by providing them with ketone supplements externally can successfully reduce their anxiety-related behaviors.
This highly warrants further research deep into this topic in order to establish the role of ketone supplements in controlling anxiety.
Another study utilized an animal model to study the association between anxiety and the ketogenic diet. The study indicated that providing a ketogenic diet to pregnant mice significantly lowered the risk of depression and anxiety in their offspring.
The role of ketogenic diet and its effects in pregnancy have not been researched well in humans. So, if you are pregnant and considering this diet as your treatment, do not forget to consult your OB-GYN before starting it.
The Ketogenic Diet and Depression
You may find it interesting to know that epilepsy and depression and interconnected. Because of this, the researchers are wondering if the ketogenic diet is useful for depression as it has been able to control the symptoms of epilepsy for a long time.
No human trials have taken place so far and animal studies may not depict the usefulness of a particular treatment in humans. However, there is still hope.
A study involving rats has indicated that those rats who were fed a ketogenic diet were found to be more mobile as compared to others. This is a sign that renders ketogenic diet as an effective antidepressant.
The results that have been discussed above are surely promising in many different ways. They also raise our hopes of finally being able to discover a natural solution to all the mental illnesses including schizophrenia.
However, it is important to remember that these mental disorders have a complex nature and must be managed with the help of a qualified psychiatrist.
You must consult your psychiatrist every time you think of beginning a new dietary regimen. If you are taking drugs for your mental illness, it is necessary to discuss any alternative remedies.
Never stop taking these drugs abruptly and without the consultation of your doctor as this may harm your health in an adverse way.