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Why some doctors are saying a ketogenic diet is more powerful than medication

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Photo: Stocksy/Susan Brooks

The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, known for helping out folks who have inflammation issues (so basically, everyone) has been on the up-and-up the wellness world. And according to a Psychology Today article, the benefits of the 100-year-old, celeb-beloved keto diet go way deeper than just treating physical ailments and promoting weight loss: It could actually be more powerful than psychoactive medications.

Chris Palmer, MD, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, reported seeing two successes come from schizoaffective patients—those who suffer from schizophrenia-associated psychosis in addition to depression, suicidal thoughts, and mood swings—who went on the ketogenic diet. Their symptoms improved and their moods stabilized; they began to live their lives in a way that their disorders had prevented.

“You really don’t want people in any way thinking they should stop their antipsychotic medication and start a ketogenic diet.”—Dr. Drew Ramsey

But, don’t trash your prescriptions just yet. These patients compromise a case report, not a study, and Drew Ramsey, MD, brain-health pro, psychiatrist, and Well+Good council member cited a few red flags with the findings. While Dr. Ramsey admitted that Dr. Palmer’s hypothesis that glucose metabolism being a possible cause of the illness merits more investigation, he added, “you really don’t want people in any way thinking they should stop their antipsychotic medication and start a ketogenic diet.”

Dr. Ramsey is hardly against food prescription. In fact, not only does he utilize the practice himself, but his experience with schizophrenic patients inspired him to implement the strategy—but not to treat symptoms.

“There are so many side effects associated with [these patients] that we need a great food plan,” Dr. Ramsey said, which aligns with his belief in a 360-degree approach to treatment: food prescription in tandem with medication.

So, feel free to give the keto diet a whirl (Vanessa Hudgens is into it!), but before you make changes to your prescription regimen, talk about it with your doc.

Here’s what Well+Good council member Dr. Ramsey thinks everyone should know about mental health and what men *actually* talk about in therapy