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Will the Ketogenic Diet Help Bipolar Disorder?

How a bipolar ketogenic diet could help improve your symptoms.

A ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder is gaining popularity in terms of natural approaches to the treatment and management of difficult mental illness symptoms.  Many with bipolar disorder use medication as their primary treatment, and mood stabilizers are amongst the most widely prescribed.  Studies around a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder have demonstrated this specific food regimen can function as a natural mood stabilizer. (Note: HealthyPlace is not advocating or recommending a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder. Never stop or start any bipolar treatment or regimen without first discussing it with your doctor.)

Bipolar Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet (aka keto diet) was not first designed for managing bipolar disorder.  The keto diet, which originated in the 1920s, was popularized as an effective approach to weight-loss.  Yet increasingly, people are using this diet as a way to manage various brain conditions and mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder (see also: ketogenic diet and depression, and ketogenic diet and ADHD).  The research available, while slim, does indicate that a keto diet can help manage certain symptoms of bipolar disorder.  This may be because certain dietary changes have been shown to positively affect the brain’s neurotransmitter function, which plays a large part in mood management and emotion regulation.

The function of a bipolar ketogenic diet is to replace the high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diet that many Americans consume today.  A diet consisting primarily of carbs and sugar causes the brain to flood with glucose and free radicals, which can deplete our body’s natural antioxidants, leading to inflammation of the brain.  Yet, if following a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder, the brain pulls its energy from ketones, and far fewer free radicals are produced, allowing the brain’s neurotransmitters to function at optimal levels.  When the body gets its main source of energy from ketones, it is in a state referred to as “ketosis.”  Ketosis is the state in which the most benefits (in terms of bipolar management) are seen.

What is a Ketogenic Diet?

In general, a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder consists of very few carbohydrates, which helps keep insulin and blood sugar levels stable.  Additionally, a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder incorporates a moderate amount of protein and a lot of healthy fats. Thus, someone following a ketogenic diet should aim to eat good foods for bipolar disorder, such as the following:

  • Meats – beef, lamb, fish, poultry, and eggs
  • Vegetables – aim for the “above ground” veggies, such as broccoli and cauliflower, and leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • High-fat dairy – butter, cream, and hard cheeses
  • Nuts/Seeds – the best options when following a bipolar ketogenic diet are macadamias, sunflower seeds, and walnuts
  • Healthy fat – avocado and coconut oil are both great sources of healthy fat

Just as there are  certain foods to include in a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder, there are also some to avoid (or at least decrease intake of) including:

  • Wheat – a keto diet for bipolar disorder is low in carbohydrates, so avoiding things like pasta, bread, and cereal is recommended
  • Starch – potatoes, legumes, and beans are all in the starch family, and to be avoided
  • Fruit – high in sugar and carbs, most fruit is to be avoided on this diet

Dietary changes can be difficult, and results may take time.  Nonetheless, if you are looking for a natural way to treat and/or manage your bipolar disorder symptoms, trying a ketogenic diet may be beneficial.  Nonetheless, if you are taking bipolar medication, it is important to note bipolar diets that are very low in carbohydrates can affect and alter the way the medication is processed in the body.  Thus, it is highly recommended to seek medical advice prior to switching to a ketogenic diet for bipolar disorder.

article references

APA Reference
Jarrold, J. (2018, May 30). Will the Ketogenic Diet Help Bipolar Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar/foods-and-bipolar/will-the-ketogenic-diet-help-bipolar-disorder

Last Updated: June 3, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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