People living with severe bipolar can better manage the disorder by eating a ketogenic diet, new evidence indicates.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another. It used to be known as manic depression.

Matt Baszucki, 27, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016 after experiencing manic symptoms.

Since his diagnosis, Matt has seen 40 doctors and taken 29 different medications, before being told his bipolar was resistant to treatment.

However, the 27-year-old has started to feel better after following a ketogenic diet for the last three years which was recommended to him by Dr Christopher Palmer from Harvard Medical School.

Matt’s mum Jan, who is the president of the Baszucki Group, said: “It was so shocking. I almost couldn’t believe it. I kept saying to my husband, could this really be keto?”

According to Jan, Matt started showing signs of bipolar whilst he was studying at the University of California.

She said: “His behaviour was completely different from anything we’d ever encountered. It was hard to know. Well maybe, he’s 19, he’s changing. He’s growing. I Googled his symptoms, and it said, ‘Oh manic episode.’”

Before his diagnosis, Matt was admitted to a hospital psychiatric ward for two weeks. Initially, he refused to take any medication, meaning his symptoms spiralled out of control.

“I was so manic. I was so psychotic. I couldn’t even form a coherent understanding of what was going on with me,” said Matt.

After trying a variety of different medications that didn’t work, Matt was told he had treatment resistant bipolar disorder.

Jan said: “You can’t even imagine what it’s like to be told your child has a treatment resistant form of one of the most serious mental illnesses and that this is going to be a lifelong battle. We thought he was going to be impaired for the rest of his life.

“(We got) advice that we should work on acceptance, that this was going to be his life and that our job is to work on acceptance. I was like, ‘No, we’re not going to accept this.’”

The family then met Dr Palmer, who advised Matt to follow a ketogenic diet, alongside exercise and medication.

“I was like, if this is a diet that is specifically designed or can be applied to this illness to stabilise my mood, then I’m ready,” said Matt.

He added: “I was taking all the medications as prescribed. I was doing therapy, basically everything that you can imagine in a 21st century mental health program designed by the establishment. I was doing it well and I was still sick.”

Dr Palmer said: “I see the patients that other psychiatrists don’t want to treat because they’re too difficult.”

Talking about Matt, he added: “(The) medications weren’t working, his illness was severe and unlikely to get better.

“My understanding is that metabolism affects the way the brain works. The science is ridiculously complex. I don’t mean to say that it’s an easy problem to understand.”

Historical research has discovered that a ketogenic diet can also treat people living with epilepsy.

Dr Palmer continued: “People (on keto) are eating very low carbohydrates, usually less than 20 grams a day.

“They’re eating a moderate amount of protein, and that gets determined by either a dietitian, nutritionist or the clinical treatment team, and they eat a lot of fat.”

He added: “When I talk about using the ketogenic diet as a treatment for a serious, crippling mental disorder, people think that I’m a snake oil salesman.

“The ketogenic diet is an evidence-based treatment for weight loss, type 2 diabetes and epilepsy. There are clinicians and dietitians who know how to use this in a safe and effective way.”

At first, Matt found it difficult to follow the keto diet but stayed motivated due to the positive effects on his mental health.

The 27-year-old said: “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m healthy. I’m getting my brain back. It was all worth it.”

Three years after starting the diet, he is now working full time and is living a “normal life” because his “brain has been healing”.

Dr Palmer concluded: “It’s absolutely not as simple as the keto diet fixes bipolar disorder or any other mental illness. But I think the powerful news today is that dietary interventions can, in fact, be a powerful treatment.”

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