After spending almost two decades in a constant struggle to regain my health after being put on benzodiazepines, my non-stop research led me to a number of possible theories as to why there seems to be so many of us that do poorly with these drugs both during and after withdrawal.
I was determined to fined answers after spending days upon days laying on the floor and being unable to do much other than listen to one You Tube video after the other. Several months ago I came across the work of Dr. Daniel Amen, who is a double board certified psychiatrist that has 10 New York Times best sellers. Most of Dr. Amen's research is based on his studies on SPECT Scans which I spoke about in my last blog. I mentioned the possible link between TBI's and having a difficult withdrawals from benzos and other types of mental health drugs. If you have an interest in this topic, I would recommend you read that blog first as it has a lot of information that is actually important to understand before you try to go further into how I came to the ketogenic diet to heal my metabolic issues, and how I suspect they were further complicated by the benzos and withdrawal from them.
When you understand how TBI's can complicate frontal lobe issues that come with having hyper-focused ADHD, you will understand more about why it is so hard to diagnose and treat these types of problems. Remember, you don't have to have a TBI to have hyperfocused ADHD, but TBI's often can trigger hyper-focused ADHD which is what I suspect happened in my case.
Even though I seemed to have almost an immediate improvement to many symptoms with going on a lower carbohydrate diet with Dr. Amen's program, after about a month I started having all kind of strange symptoms that I either didn't have before, or things that had improved seemed to get worse than they were before the diet. I was not only really disappointed, but completely confused as to why after over a months of feeling really pretty good that I suddenly had so many more problems.
It was at this point that I discovered a great deal of information on the research being done with Ketogenic Diets and TBI's, as well as how they are using this diet for a number of other brain related issues that involved seizure disorders among other things. Most of my information comes from the work of Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Stephan Phinney and Dr. Dominic D'Agostino. All of them have been heavily involved in research with this diet over the last several decades with some amazing results in treating a number of these disorders.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the difference in a low carbohydrate diet and a Ketogenic Diet, a low carbohydrate diet is where you cut carbohydrate to anywhere below about 150 grams of carbohydrates or less, and the Ketogenic Diet is about limiting carbohydrates to 50 grams or less. There are some variations on these diets, so this is just a rough guideline for the simplicity of understanding these diets in this particular blog. The idea here is to tailor a diet to your specific needs and not about fitting this into some rigid routine that is going to make you miserable.
Even though I had been on a lower carbohydrate diet, I thought it would be hard to follow, and it was at first. Making the adjustment from burning glucose to fat takes anywhere from two to four weeks for the average person. I ultimately made a few mistakes with first starting out, so highly recommend doing your homework or getting help before embarking on this diet. The biggest mistake most people make is not getting enough salt, which is what happened to me.
This is when I stumbled on to Dr. James D'iNicolantonio and his book The Salt Fix. He really goes into how much we were really fed a lot of not so accurate information about low fat, low sodium diets in preventing heart disease and obesity. When we followed that advice, most people gained more weight and ultimately got sicker. The truth about salt is that we need it, but not in the amounts we get in processed foods. We also need healthy mineral salts that give us a wide variety of other minerals and not the sodium found in iodized table salt.
When you go on a Ketogenic Diet, you are eating all healthy foods that don't contain any processed sodium, so you will natural lose sodium through your urine when you cut back on the carbohydrates. Most of the carbohydrates in our diet come from processed foods, so if you don't increase your levels of healthy mineral salts it can really tax your kidneys and adrenals as the kidneys have to work really hard to reabsorb the sodium from your system to keep up with the metabolic demands. I already tend to lose sodium, so I didn't know to increase my salt intake when I started, and I got off to a rough start.
After I got into the second week and started seeing some noticeable differences in my stamina, I was at least interested enough in pursuing it further and finding out further benefits of the diet. That is when I came across a You Tube video by Dr. Dominic D'Agostino who is a neurologist that does research for the Rangers and Navy Seals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIRfBUZrO94
I found this video to be the most promising evidence to support how this could help people suffering from PAWS from benzo withdrawal.
According to his research, the Ketogenic Diet effects close to twenty different processes in the body including balancing Glutimate and GABA activity in the brain. That was when I got really interested in finding out more and getting further into the diet to see if this could be what I had been looking for in the way of research to help myself and so many others going through this horrible experience. I had been suffering for so long that I was at a point I was willing to try ANYTHING that could possibly work.
The diet is based on how our ancestors ate. They were mostly hunter gatherers, and didn't have access to a steady diet of carbohydrates like we do in our society today. During the winter months, they mostly had access to meat and fats and would go long periods of time without food. Because they were fat adapted, they didn't have constant spikes in insulin that put a huge burden on the endocrine system. This is why we are seeing such a huge epidemic of diabetics in our culture, and I believe it is also what is adding to the mental health problems we are having as well.
After not quite two weeks, I am having some profound changes in my stamina and ability to handle stress. I am sleeping better and the electrical currents seem to have backed off to some degree. I have had some periods of the day that the muscle tightness has backed off slightly as well. Although I'm not completely where I want to be yet, I find the results very promising. Given that most of the doctors say that it take three to four weeks to see significant improvements, I am very optimistic that this appears to be a very viable treatment for those of us suffering from the long term effects of PAWS.
Although I would not necessarily recommend this diet for those of you still in withdrawal, it might be a viable option after completing your taper. If you're interested in finding out more, or trying the diet in withdrawal, you can contact me via email for further information.