Dr. Palmer’s Personal Story on Keto

Dr. Palmer’s Story with Mental Health

Growing up, Dr. Palmer struggled with OCD, depression, and suicidality. Despite these challenges, he excelled in medical school and secured a residency at Harvard. However, during his internship, he was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which included high blood pressure, poor lipid levels, and pre-diabetes.

Despite following the conventional low-fat diet and exercising regularly, Dr. Palmer’s health continued to deteriorate.

His doctor suggested that his condition was genetic and that he would need to start taking multiple medications.

Unwilling to accept this fate, Dr. Palmer decided to try the Atkins diet as a last resort.

Within three months of starting the diet, Dr. Palmer’s metabolic syndrome completely disappeared. His blood pressure normalized, his lipids improved, and he lost the abdominal fat that had been a sign of insulin resistance. But the most striking change was the dramatic improvement in his mood, energy, concentration, and sleep.

For the first time in his life, Dr. Palmer felt like he belonged to the “haves” rather than the “have nots.” He had always assumed that happy, energetic people were simply lucky or privileged, but now he realized that nutrition played a crucial role in mental well-being.

Dr. Palmer’s story highlights the intimate connection between nutrition and mental health. While many people are aware of the short-term effects of food on mood, few realize that long-term dietary habits can have a profound impact on brain function and mental well-being.

As a psychiatrist, Dr. Palmer’s journey also reveals the limitations of conventional approaches to mental health treatment.

Despite trying various medications and psychotherapies, he found that these interventions were often ineffective or even harmful.

It was only when he addressed the underlying metabolic issues through dietary changes that he experienced lasting relief from his symptoms.

Ketogenic Diet’s Surprising Impact on Schizophrenia

In 2016, Dr. Palmer helped a 33-year-old man with schizoaffective disorder lose weight using the ketogenic diet.

Schizoaffective disorder is a severe mental illness that combines symptoms of schizophrenia and mood disorders.

The patient had been suffering from daily auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and an inability to go out in public due to fear.

Despite trying 17 different medications, none had successfully stopped his symptoms, and the side effects led to significant weight gain, reaching 340 pounds.

Motivated to lose weight and improve his life, the patient approached Dr. Palmer for help. They decided to try the ketogenic diet, with no expectations that it would impact his psychiatric symptoms. However, within two weeks, Dr. Palmer noticed a dramatic antidepressant effect in his patient.

The patient became more engaged, made better eye contact, and talked more openly.

Astonishingly, after six to eight weeks on the ketogenic diet, the patient reported that his auditory hallucinations were diminishing.

He also began questioning his long-held paranoid beliefs, realizing they might not be true and that he had likely been suffering from schizophrenia all along.

The patient’s progress continued, and he lost 160 pounds, maintaining the weight loss. He was able to complete a certificate program, perform improv in front of a live audience, and even move out of his father’s home to live independently.

This case completely altered Dr. Palmer’s perspective as a psychiatrist and led him on a scientific journey to understand the underlying mechanisms of this remarkable improvement.

The ketogenic diet’s impact on such a severe mental illness challenges conventional wisdom and opens up new avenues for research and potential treatments.

Navigating Psychiatric Medications and Diet Adherence

Dr. Palmer emphasized the importance of working closely with a mental health professional when attempting to taper off psychiatric medications, as abrupt cessation can lead to severe and potentially dangerous symptoms.

Even with antidepressants, sudden discontinuation can result in a resurgence of symptoms, as seen in the case of a patient who nearly quit her job due to a medication change.

Adherence to the ketogenic diet also proved to be a hurdle for many patients. Dr. Palmer found that frequent contact and monitoring were crucial in ensuring compliance.

By seeing the patient weekly, checking weight, ketone levels, and glucose levels, he was able to provide education and support that contributed to the patient’s success.

The ketogenic diet offers a unique advantage in terms of monitoring adherence, as blood ketone levels serve as an objective biomarker of compliance.

This is in contrast to medication adherence, which can be difficult to track without regular blood tests or inpatient supervision.

Dr. Palmer and Andrew Huberman also discussed the prevalence of non-compliance with prescription medications, often due to forgetfulness or disruptions in routine.

This underscores the importance of regular check-ins and support from healthcare providers to ensure patients are receiving the full benefits of their treatment plan.

Highly Processed Foods, Ketones & Mental Health Benefits

Dr. Palmer pointed out that foods high in both sugar and fat seem to be the worst combination for metabolic health.

Emerging data also suggests that this combination is detrimental to mental health. Depression and anxiety, the most common mental disorders, have been linked to impaired glucose metabolism and insulin signaling in the brain.

Insulin resistance has been observed in patients with various mental disorders, ranging from chronic anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Palmer noted that the insulin signaling system in the brain, which differs from that in the periphery, might play a role in these conditions.

For some patients, simply reducing glucose and insulin levels by eliminating sweets can be beneficial. However, for those with more severe conditions like schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, Dr. Palmer recommends a ketogenic diet with reasonably high levels of blood ketones.

When using the ketogenic diet as a brain treatment, Dr. Palmer aims for blood ketone levels greater than 0.8 millimoles for depression and greater than 1.5 millimoles for psychotic disorders and bipolar disorder.

He emphasizes that the goal is to reverse insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, which can be achieved through various dietary approaches, depending on the individual.

Nutrition in Treating Neurologic and Psychiatric Disorders

Dr. Palmer mentioned that the disorders that could potentially benefit from nutritional interventions range from chronic depression, PTSD, alcohol use disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, to schizophrenia.

Although large-scale randomized controlled trials are still underway, case studies and mechanistic science papers have shown promising results.

One of the largest studies in the mental health sphere was a pilot study conducted in a French hospital, where 28 out of 31 patients with treatment-resistant mental disorders were able to follow the ketogenic diet.

Remarkably, 100% of these patients experienced at least some improvement in symptoms, with 46% achieving remission of illness and 64% being discharged on less medication than when they were admitted.

The guest emphasized the important connection between epilepsy treatments and psychiatric disorders, noting that many commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs, such as Depakote, Tegretol, and Valium, were initially developed as anti-seizure medications.

This highlights the potential of using the ketogenic diet, an established evidence-based treatment for epilepsy, in treating serious mental disorders.

Dr. Huberman added that psychiatry, as a field, is still evolving, with the tools of language and behavioral observation being the primary means of understanding a patient’s brain.

He emphasized that adjusting nutrition or putting people into a ketogenic state, along with eliminating highly processed foods and sugars, can be yet another tool for altering brain chemistry and providing relief from psychiatric symptoms.

Other Posts from this Episode

Dr. Chris Palmer Links

Leave a Comment