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LowCarbUSA co-founders Doug Reynolds and Pam Devine recently sat down with Dr. Erin Bellamy, PhD, MHP, a ketogenic specialist and metabolic health practitioner, for an illuminating podcast episode. Dr. Bellamy, who holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of East London and an MSc in psychiatric research from King’s College London, brings a wealth of experience in using ketogenic metabolic therapy to improve mental health.

A Journey into Ketogenic Diets and Mental Health

Dr. Bellamy began the conversation by sharing her journey into the field of ketogenic diets and mental health. Her interest was sparked during her time working in psychiatric inpatient units, where she noticed a connection between diet and mental well-being. “I always had an interest in nutrition and diets,” she explained, recounting her early research on eating disorders and her personal struggles with weight.

Her curiosity led her to explore the impact of low carbohydrate diets on type 2 diabetes and subsequently on mental health. She recalled discovering a 1965 study on the ketogenic diet and schizophrenia, which demonstrated significant improvements in patients’ symptoms. This study ignited her passion for investigating the potential of ketogenic diets to support mental health, ultimately leading to her PhD research.

Pam highlighted the burgeoning interest in this field and the importance of collaboration among researchers and practitioners. Erin echoed this sentiment, expressing her excitement about the growing momentum in the field of metabolic psychiatry. “It’s mind-boggling to me that we are actually building a little bit of momentum,” she said. “We might actually get somewhere.”

The Foundational Role of Nutrition

Throughout the interview, Erin emphasized the foundational role of nutrition in mental health. She likened metabolic health to a pyramid, with stable blood sugar levels, good sleep, and strong social connections forming the base. “You need a strong, healthy foundation,” she stressed. Only after solidifying this foundation should individuals consider other interventions, such as hormonal testing or specialized therapies.

One of the most impactful insights she shared was the transformative effect of nutritional ketosis on mental resilience. “Once you have somebody on a ketogenic diet for a while, they start to feel that kind of Zen feeling and sense of calm,” she observed. This newfound stability enables individuals to effectively utilize cognitive behavioral therapy and other therapeutic tools. “It seems like through nutritional ketosis, people seem to have a bit more buffer space,” she added.

Erin’s approach underscores the importance of addressing the root causes of mental health conditions. Her work demonstrates the potential of ketogenic diets to not only improve physical health but also to provide a foundation for mental well-being. As the field of metabolic psychiatry continues to grow, her insights offer a promising perspective on the integration of nutrition and mental health.

Pam shared an anecdote highlighting the profound impact of metabolic health on anxiety. She recounted a story about someone who had a severe fear of bees, which subsided once they achieved metabolic health through ketosis. This led to a deeper discussion about the physiological and hormonal changes brought about by ketosis. “The really cool thing about ketones is they have lots of different roles,” Erin explained. “One of them is their anti-inflammatory properties, and another is that they are anxiolytic, meaning they reduce anxiety in the body.”

Qualitative Research on Ketogenic Therapy for Depression

Erin also discussed her recent research, which focuses on the qualitative experiences of individuals using ketogenic metabolic therapy for depression. Her study revealed that those with higher levels of depressive symptoms found it easier to adhere to the ketogenic diet and reported significant improvements in self-esteem, motivation, and overall outlook on life. “One participant said he had a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life,” she shared, highlighting the transformative potential of the diet.

Doug noted the importance of these personal stories in convincing others to try ketogenic metabolic therapy, recounting a Symposium for Metabolic Health held in Boca Raton back in 2020 when Christopher Palmer MD, a Harvard psychiatrist, delivered a powerful presentation where he described a case of a patient with schizophrenia. 

Palmer went into great detail explaining how traumatic the person’s life was beforehand, and then told the story of how the patient used a ketogenic diet to effectively put his schizophrenia into remission. “No meds, functioning as a regular person in society,” Doug recounted. “And I’m even choking up now with that,” he said. “It was amazing. And everybody in attendance just sat there and looked at each other. I think everybody had a lump in their throat. I had to kick off the Q&A session after that, and I couldn’t speak.” Doug continued, “What you’re doing, Erin, relating all of these other anecdotes and these people’s experiences, I think that’s what’s going to convince people that this is something that’s worth trying much more than somebody giving them the physiology of it behind it – This is how different your life can be. I think that’s huge.”

The Importance of Proper Medical Supervision

Erin concluded by emphasizing the importance of proper medical supervision for individuals on psychiatric medications who wish to try the ketogenic diet. She advised working closely with a knowledgeable professional to ensure safe medication adjustments and overall well-being.

Accreditation and Ethical Standards of The SMHP

In the podcast, Erin emphasized the value of her accreditation as a Metabolic Health Practitioner (MHP) through the Society of Metabolic Health Practitioners (The SMHP™). She noted that prior to The SMHP, there was no international consensus on guidelines for therapeutic carbohydrate restriction or ethics in the field. She stressed the importance of having a governing body like The SMHP that works to establish clinical guidelines, ethics, and scope of practice. This helps ensure MHPs are providing safe and beneficial care to clients. She appreciates being part of a like-minded group of practitioners who have access to science backed information from a trusted organization.  As a chartered psychologist, under the jurisdiction of the British Psychological Society, she is governed by ethical standards through her professional body. She sees The SMHP membership as complementing this, allowing her metabolic health work to be backed by a trusted society. 

Access the full podcast interview through the links above.

9th Annual San Diego Symposium for Metabolic Health

The 9th Annual San Diego Symposium for Metabolic Health will be held August 15-18. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and interact with leading experts in metabolic health. This year’s symposium will feature a full day, Thursday, August 15th, dedicated to exploring the connection between mental health and metabolic disease. Learn more and register here.

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Erin Louise Bellamy, PhD’s first publication from her PhD research has been published as part of the research topic: ‘Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy as a Treatment for Mental Health Disorders’ in Frontiers.  Title: “Understanding the experiences of ketogenic metabolic therapy for people living with varying levels of depressive symptoms: a thematic analysis”. 

Her Website:  INTEGRATIVE KETOGENIC RESEARCH & THERAPIES  where you can see more about her work, and the programs she has created to support not only clients, individually or in groups, but also professional consultations and trainings for clinicians.

 

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