As in a way of eating foods that might actually influence the brain in a way that stabilizes and nourishes the brain and lessens the symptoms of Bipolar.
It seems like it is not that crazy to think that there may be.
Now you know this is not a “let’s analyze research” kind of a blog…but I’m gonna throw around some research in this one anyway. Because it might help somebody. And that is my mission.
Just so you know I’m not trying to sell anything here. You have to think and read and make your own decisions and talk to your own doctors etc. But I want to alert you to some stuff I have come across lately.
There is a growing body of evidence regarding the effects of diet on the brain. Research is only research and is always a flawed kind of thing for sure. And it seems for every bit of science stating one thing there is a contradictory piece of science ready to jump out with its sword at the ready.
But….let’s see what people are learning about the brain and food.
I’m going to link you to articles…of course…don’t take this post as some sort of science. I’ll say it over and over or maybe just here very vehemently and then not again…THIS IS NOT MEDICAL advice. This is just some info I am putting in front of your face. I think it is worth knowing hence I am typing right now. But nothing is conclusive and nothing is for certain and there are risks associated with things. Take it all with a big glass of salt (or Lithium. Get it. Lithium is a salt. hehe)
But let’s talk
If you google diet and Bipolar (helpful for Bipolar) you will probably turn up a bunch of articles and discussions forums where people are going on about low carb, no sugar, paleo, ketogenic type diets.
All of these diets are low carb, low sugar, no processed foods, highish in fat, high in vegetables and focused on grass fed pasture raised animal products.
In case you’re not familiar with the ketogenic thing here is the quick wiki…
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fuelling brain-function. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures.
You probably will not find much about low fat diets or excesses of processed foods. This seems to be the word on the street. Carbs and sugar not so good for the brain.
It also seems to be the word in science.
One big place to read and learn about this mindset is from Dr. Permlutter and his book Grain Brain. Again, I am not selling you him. His science just happens to back up when people are saying anecdotally. And this is the first time I have seen a book about food that is mainly focused on BRAIN HEALTH rather than weight loss and heart and all of that. That doesn’t mean others don’t exist but just that I have not seen them. I don’t see everything you know. He does talk about other parts of health too.
I tried to read as many criticisms of him as I could before I read his book and I still found it to be fascinating and hopeful.
I am going to add here that I am not a big fan of people saying they “cured” their Bipolar this way nor of Doctors saying they “cured” Bipolar. I think that is a dangerous and unfair thing to say. But I also think that if something has had that strong of an effect on Bipolar symptoms that someone would say that then it may be worth a little look.
And here is another thing guys… it isn’t just this dude saying this. There is some science out there. Not a lot about Bipolar specifically(surprise) but there is about other brain disorders like epilepsy and parkinson’s and Alzheimers.
As you read down you will probably see the word ketosis over and over again but I am going to say that it seems like a low carb diet that does not put you into mild ketosis may also be beneficial for Bipolar. Just from what I have heard.
We all have different brains and different kinds of Bipolar so what works for some may not work for others.
Don’t you love all my disclaimers here?
These are not exhaustive links and references. I am merely opening the thought path for you. Don’t expect me to prove stuff etc. I have no interest in writing papers for anyone. Been there done that bought the t shirt got manic.
In some cases, a ketogenic diet is far better than modern anticonvulsants (25). Recently, it has been shown that a ketogenic diet is a safe potential alternative to other existing therapies for infantile spasms (27). It was further shown that a ketogenic diet could act as a mood stabilizer in bipolar illness (28). Beneficial changes in the brain energy profile have been observed in subjects who are on a ketogenic diet (28). This is a significant observation because cerebral hypometabolism is a characteristic feature of those who suffer from depression or mania (28). It has also been found that a ketogenic diet affects signal transduction in neurons by inducing changes in the basal status of protein phosphorylation (29). In another study (30), it was shown that a ketogenic diet induced gene expression in the brain. These studies provide evidence to explain the actions of a ketogenic diet in the brain.
There are several reasons to suspect that the ketogenic diet may also have utility as a mood stabilizer in bipolar illness.
Mood stabilizers reduce the amount of sodium that goes into the neurons after stimulation, decreasing its ability to pass on information. In the case of epilepsy and bipolar where neurons tend to be overly excitable, less activity is a good thing. Coincidentally, a ketogenic diet reduces intracellular sodium concentration as well, mainly due to slightly increased acidity of the blood; it also decreases the level of excitatory neurotransmitters (which excites the next neuron), further dampening neuronal activation.
Another way keto may improve bipolar symptoms is through better energy production. Patients with bipolar disorder often show deficient glucose metabolism and energetics. Since keto increases energy production in the brain as it changes the fuel source from glucose to ketones, it may solve this energy deficiency problem.
Now if you continue reading into all of this you will probably get freaked out about the idea of eating tons of fat. If you read Grain Brain or do some searching around for research and articles about cholesterol and fat being good for you you will find yourself reading a lot about the cholesterol myth. This is controversial but it is not a wacky fringe thing.
Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.
Even Dr. Oz has thrown his hat into this ring.
There is even stuff out there about how the brain needs cholesterol and doesn’t function properly without it. They talk about that in the Dr. Oz clips and elsewhere.
And lastly there may even be some kind of link between cholesterol and “mood disorders”. Especially in terms of depressions and suicidality.
There is also a lot out there about saturated fats not being bad and being necessary for proper brain health but I am sure there is contradictory stuff too. C’est la vie.
Here’s just one so you know I’m not lying.
Two forms of fat that are vitally important for brain health are cholesterol and saturated fat. In the Mayo Clinic study mentioned above, it was found that those individuals consuming the most saturated fat experienced a 36% reduction in risk for developing dementia. And this comes on the heels of data now indicating that saturated fat consumption has absolutely no relevance in the area of cardiovascular risk as recently described by Dr. Glen Lawrence in the journal, Advances in Nutrition (link is external).
Saturated fat is a fundamental building block for brain cells. It’s certainly interesting to consider that one of the richest sources of saturated fat in nature is human breast milk.
Similarly, cholesterol is vital for a well functioning brain.
Okay sorry thats all I can give you.
Well if want to geek out on cholesterol and fat and all of this stuff go see this guy.
What do all these people think causes heart disease? Carbs and sugar.
Yes, all speculative kind of stuff but in our world of fatal rashes, and busted thyroids, and damaged kidneys, and weight gain, and tremors, and memory loss….I think anything that may help is worth a thought or two.
Now, maybe just maybe somebody will try to follow up on some of these ideas and research some more about Bipolar and diet.
Here is the thing I knew but didn’t really get until reading about this stuff….
Food, exercise, sleep, destressing…all of that shit they are always telling us to do….it isn’t just some namby pamby recommendations that may help us feel better…
All of that stuff actually changes our brains….like it actually gets in there and does stuff…. they are things besides meds that we do to our brains to change how they act.
There is no fix. No cure. No right answer. The brain is a fascinating enigmatic miraculous kind of thing and we cannot know it all. But learning about it can be very rewarding.
Especially when you have a brain disorder.
And in a world where Bipolar does not actually come even close to first on the priority list….
we can always think about the things that science is learning about other brain disorders and the brain in general
and apply them to ourselves where it seems appropriate.
It is going to be a long long wait for conclusive anything when it comes to us.
Just some thoughts.
You take it from here.