Keto and Carnivore: Treating Schizophrenia, Depression, and Cancer | Dr. Chris Palmer | EP 422

Keto and Carnivore: Treating Schizophrenia, Depression, and Cancer | Dr. Chris Palmer | EP 422

Tour update 2024, coming up (00:00:00)

  • Jordan Peterson announces his new tour for 2024, starting in early February and running through June.
  • The tour will visit 51 cities in the US.
  • More information and ticketing details are available on Jordan Peterson's website,
  • The tour will focus on ideas from Peterson's forthcoming book, "We Who Wrestle with God," to be released in November 2024.

Intro (00:01:18)

  • Dr. Chris Palmer, associated with Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital, discusses his hypothesis linking severe mental disorders to metabolic disorders, primarily mediated by mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • Mitochondrial disorders are serious problems as mitochondria are the energy factories in every cell.
  • Dr. Palmer has been experimenting with ketogenic diets, similar to the Lion Diet, to reduce the effects of toxins on mitochondrial function, increase mitochondrial metabolism, and promote healing through autophagy and mitophagy.
  • Research suggests that dietary factors play a significant role in the development of severe mental disorders and physical disorders like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Mental disorder, social dysfunction, skill deficit, and metabolic disorder (00:03:50)

  • Dr. Palmer distinguishes between mental states and mental disorders.
  • Mental states are normal human experiences like anxiety and depression, which can be managed through psychotherapy and life skills.
  • Mental disorders, on the other hand, involve brain malfunctions that cause symptoms like anxiety, OCD, depression, hallucinations, and manic episodes.
  • Dr. Palmer argues that these brain disorders have a central theme revolving around metabolism.
  • Understanding the metabolic nature of mental disorders can help us better understand how risk factors contribute to mental illness.
  • It also provides actionable treatments that go beyond traditional approaches, including dietary changes, exercise, addressing hormone or vitamin deficiencies, and carefully considering substance use and medications.
  • Some medications can improve brain metabolism, while others can be harmful.
  • Depression is a psychogenic pain condition characterized by decreased positive emotion, increased negative emotion, and often hopelessness and suicidal ideation.
  • There are two broad classes of people with depression: those with functional lives and those without.
  • People with functional lives often respond well to antidepressants, while those without functional lives do not.
  • The distinction between biological and conceptual depression may be related to the presence or absence of the ability to form relationships and pursue life pathways.

How to tell when your depression is caused by disorder versus circumstance (00:14:09)

  • Some people have brain disorders that cause depression even when their life circumstances are good.
  • These people may say they don't know what's wrong with them despite having a seemingly good life.
  • Their depression is caused by malfunctioning brain pathways that trigger the depression response.
  • Pain is a normal human experience, but a pain disorder occurs when the pain system malfunctions and causes pain without a clear reason.
  • People with a malfunctioning brain that causes depression have overactive or underactive networks responsible for depression experiences.
  • People whose lives are tragic messes and lack purpose should experience depression as a natural response to their circumstances.
  • The human brain is wired to make people depressed in such circumstances to motivate them to improve their lives and integrate into society.

The relationship between hierarchical status, dependency on social integration, and serotonin levels (00:18:45)

  • There is a relationship between the likelihood of a brain producing serotonin and the relative social status of a person.
  • Low social status is associated with an exaggerated response to stress, which can increase the risk of mortality.
  • Having a well-developed and functional social network and being well-regarded and respected within it can provide security and save lives.
  • The absence of social integration can cause pain and contribute to depression.
  • Humans are incredibly interdependent and social creatures, and we need social harmony and interaction to thrive.

Crossing off physiological agents before diagnosing a mental disorder (00:21:06)

  • Physiological disorders are different from abstract or mental disorders.
  • It is important to rule out physiological causes before diagnosing a mental disorder.
  • Various factors can contribute to mental illness, including:
    • Excess immunological activity (cyto kind storm)
    • Dietary reasons
    • Side effects of illnesses
    • Adverse response to medication
    • Lack of exercise
    • Toxin exposure
    • Alcohol abuse
  • A good diagnostician should consider medical conditions that can cause depression, such as:
    • Neurological disorders (epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's)
    • Hormone imbalances (hypothyroidism, women's hormones, menopause, low testosterone)
  • These medical conditions can produce the same symptoms as major depression.
  • The common thread among these conditions is that they impact metabolism, specifically mitochondria.
  • Numerous medical conditions are associated with an increased risk of depression.
  • These conditions include neurological disorders, hormone imbalances, and women's health issues.
  • All of these conditions can result in the same symptoms as major depression.
  • The common thread among these conditions is that they impact metabolism, specifically mitochondria.

Why Dr. Palmer turned to diet for treating depression (00:27:21)

  • Dr. Palmer observed dramatic improvements in psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms when he changed people's diets to help them lose weight.
  • He was not initially focused on treating mental disorders but noticed these improvements as a side effect of dietary changes.

Treating a paranoid schizoaffective patient for weight loss and realizing that the ketogenic diet resolved much of his mental disorder (00:30:50)

  • The patient had schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, for eight years.
  • He experienced chronic hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.
  • He had tried 17 different medications without success.
  • The patient gained a significant amount of weight.
  • Dr. Palmer put him on a ketogenic diet to help with weight loss.
  • Within two weeks, the patient started losing weight and showed a powerful antidepressant effect.
  • After two months, he reported that his hallucinations and delusions were starting to disappear.
  • The patient lost over 160 lbs and kept it off for years.
  • He was able to do things he couldn't do since his diagnosis, such as going out in public without paranoia, completing a certificate program, performing improv, and teaching karate.
  • Dr. Palmer was initially skeptical but became interested in understanding the effects of the ketogenic diet on the brain.
  • The ketogenic diet is not just a fad or weight loss diet but a 100-year-old evidence-based treatment for epilepsy.
  • It can stop seizures even when medications fail.
  • Psychiatrists use epilepsy treatments, such as pills originally designed to stop seizures, for various mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, alcoholism, dementia, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
  • Dr. Palmer thought the ketogenic diet might be changing the patient's brain symptoms by reducing excess neural activity, similar to how it stops seizures.
  • Delusions and depression can be seen as consequences of excess neural activity.

Schizoaffective disorder versus schizotypal personality disorder (00:35:03)

  • Schizoaffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder is a personality disorder with some symptoms of schizophrenia but not as severe.
  • The client in the story had full-fledged schizophrenia and psychosis.
  • The ketogenic diet improves mitochondrial function, which is essential for brain metabolism.
  • The widely held view is that schizophrenia is caused by excessive dopamine.
  • This hypothesis does not fully account for all the available information.
  • Other factors like serotonin and sleep deprivation can also exacerbate psychosis.
  • The metabolic theory proposes that mitochondrial dysfunction may be the root cause of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • The dopamine hypothesis is based on the observation that amphetamines can exacerbate schizophrenia symptoms and antipsychotics can quell them.
  • The metabolic hypothesis suggests that dopaminergic neuron overactivity, which is a symptom of schizophrenia, may be caused by mitochondrial dysfunction.

The metabolic theory explains all manner of disorders that are often considered unsolvable or genetic (00:42:41)

  • Neurons in people with brain conditions are hyperexcitable, meaning they fire when they should not.
  • The metabolic or mitochondrial theory connects the dots and explains why certain factors like sleep deprivation, amphetamines, or cocaine can cause psychosis.
  • A ketogenic diet can stop psychotic symptoms because it focuses on mitochondria and metabolism.
  • People with mental health conditions often have more than one diagnostic label.
  • Schizophrenia is often accompanied by substance use problems, OCD, depression, and anxiety.
  • There is evidence that metabolism or mitochondria could play a role in these other mental disorders.
  • Decades of scientific evidence support the metabolic theory.
  • This evidence includes neuroimaging studies, cell biology studies, and others.
  • The metabolic theory provides a way to put together all the evidence and make sense of it.
  • The metabolic theory leads to solutions that may help people heal and recover from disorders that are currently considered lifelong and incurable.
  • These solutions are based on understanding the science of metabolism and mitochondria.
  • Mitochondria are the organelles responsible for energy production in cells.
  • They convert food and oxygen into ATP, the cell's energy currency.
  • Mitochondria also play a role in breaking down food into smaller molecules used to produce enzymes, proteins, neurotransmitters, hormones, and cell membranes.
  • They can divert energy to produce heat, making us warm-blooded animals.
  • There is significant comorbidity and diagnostic overlap between various mental illnesses.
  • The common factor is usually an increase in negative emotions and a decrease in positive emotions.
  • Different diagnostic categories have substantial symptomatic overlap.
  • This suggests an underlying commonality of cause, possibly related to metabolic insufficiency.
  • As we age, our mitochondria become less effective, which may contribute to the development of mental disorders.
  • Mitochondrial deficits can manifest in neuropsychiatric disorders through various mechanisms, including:
    • Impaired energy production, leading to fatigue and decreased cognitive function.
    • Reduced production of essential molecules, such as enzymes, proteins, neurotransmitters, and hormones, disrupting brain function.
    • Dysregulation of heat production, affecting body temperature and potentially contributing to mood disorders.

How 20 years of research have shattered our understanding of mitochondrial function—what we know now (00:53:09)

  • Mitochondria are not just the energy source of the cell, but also crucial for producing hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Mitochondria help control gene expression, inflammation, and the synthesis of key hormones.
  • Childhood trauma and adversity directly impact mitochondrial function and health.
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction is a leading theory for HPA axis dysregulation in mental illness.
  • Diet, exercise, drugs, and alcohol impact mitochondrial function.
  • Delving into the cell down to the level of the mitochondria is a good place to look for the common pathway to mental illness.
  • Mitochondria are central to epigenetic expression in cells, which involves turning genes on and off according to environmental demand.
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction can disrupt neurotransmitter production, gene expression, inflammation, and hormone synthesis, all of which are implicated in mental illness.

The Peterson family’s experimentation with the carnivore diet (00:58:44)

  • The Peterson family experimented with a radical keto diet, specifically an all-beef diet with salt.
  • They chose this diet because it eliminates a significant number of variables, making it easier to identify potential dietary links to pathology.
  • A carnivorous diet can sustain a person for a long time, as seen in populations like the Inuit and the Masai.

Using an elimination diet to parse out symptoms and potential causes, how the ketogenic diet tricks the body into a false starvation mode (01:00:38)

  • A carnivorous diet can be considered a ketogenic diet, especially if the meat is consumed with fat.
  • The ketogenic diet tricks the body into thinking it is fasting, providing the benefits of fasting without the risk of starvation.
  • This principle led to the development of the ketogenic diet by a neurologist who sought to control seizures in children with epilepsy without causing malnutrition.

The two big issues with ill effects from our foods, autophagy versus mytophagy (01:03:35)

  • Some people have allergic or toxic reactions to certain foods, including processed foods.
  • Fasting and fasting-mimicking diets like the ketogenic diet induce autophagy and mitophagy, which are processes that remove old and defective cells and cell parts, including mitochondria.
  • This repair process can have profound healing potential regardless of the quality of the diet.

The use of fasting across cultures and time for religious and health intervention, starvation periods are when our bodies heal (01:05:47)

  • Fasting has been used for millennia as a healing and religious intervention in various cultures.
  • Fasting can induce physiological healing by tapping into the body's innate ability to repair itself.
  • Examples of religious fasting include Lent, a 40-day period of intense prayer, fasting, and giving leading up to Easter.
  • The Hallow app offers a 40-day prayer challenge focused on surrender, with meditations, music, and Bible stories.

Differences in diet choice, knowing your body and choosing the appropriate course (01:08:44)

  • Different dietary interventions can have varying effects on individuals depending on their health conditions and needs.
  • Fasting offers unique benefits, such as stimulating autophagy and reducing cancer risk, that may not be achieved with carnivorous or ketogenic diets.
  • Some individuals may benefit from a simple, all-meat diet due to food sensitivities.
  • Experimentation is crucial to finding the optimal dietary pattern, considering factors like health conditions, digestive tolerance, food preferences, and fitness goals.
  • The speaker highlights the surprising effectiveness of a radical dietary change in treating conditions like schizophrenia, depression, and cancer, acknowledging potential skepticism but encouraging consideration.

It’s not as simple as one solution fits all, a good start is a short-term water-only fast to assess change (01:14:56)

  • A reductive diet can help identify food intolerances and sensitivities, and can include a carnivore diet, a keto diet, a FODMAP diet, or a whole-food plant-based diet.
  • Keto and carnivore diets promote autophagy and mitophagy, which are essential for cellular health.
  • A carnivore diet can be an effective elimination diet due to its simplicity and ability to reduce variables.
  • For individuals with severe health conditions, a water-only fast under medical supervision can be the ultimate elimination diet.
  • There is growing evidence of a gut-brain connection, with gut problems potentially contributing to various mental disorders.
  • Water-only fasting can be a drastic intervention for treating mental health conditions, but it should not be done for too long to avoid starvation, especially in underweight individuals.
  • The Lin's diet, which consists solely of meat, particularly beef, provides sufficient nutrition to sustain a human being.
  • Fiber is not necessary if you don't produce much waste.
  • A carnivore diet can help reduce waste production.
  • A three-month trial of a carnivore or ketogenic diet is recommended to assess symptom improvement.
  • The carnivore diet is a type of ketogenic diet.
  • Ketogenic diets have a strong evidence base for safety and effectiveness in various conditions, including seizures, weight loss, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer.
  • Dr. Palmer supports the therapeutic ketogenic diet due to its scientific evidence.
  • Suggesting extreme dietary changes that individuals are unlikely to follow is not practical.
  • Offering a range of alternatives, including less extreme options, can increase the likelihood of adherence and potential benefits.

Tammy’s rare form of cancer, the ability to “starve” cancer in order to fight it, and where the line is for treatment (01:23:31)

  • A carnivore diet may help individuals with advanced cancer and limited treatment options.
  • Before making significant dietary changes during cancer treatment, consult with an oncologist.
  • Ongoing clinical trials are investigating the effects of ketogenic and other dietary interventions in combination with chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment.
  • Dietary interventions like a ketogenic diet, carnivore diet, water fasting, or intermittent fasting may slow tumor growth, reduce chemo and radiation-induced nausea, and decrease inflammation and insulin levels, which can contribute to tumor growth.
  • Anecdotal evidence and scientific research support the potential benefits of ketogenic and other dietary interventions in slowing tumor progression and even shrinking tumors.
  • Dr. Cyre published a case report about a woman with an incurable brain tumor (gleoblastoma) whose tumor shrunk after following a strict medically supervised ketogenic diet with calorie restriction, but returned aggressively after stopping the diet.
  • It is crucial to work with oncologists and try the best possible treatments to eliminate cancer.

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