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  • Writer's pictureSusan Valproate Victims

The K-Word

Updated: Jan 17

People on the ketogenic diet usually don’t talk about it because of the reactions received from others.  They chat secretly on forums, afraid that they may upset someone. Animal rights, libertarians, anti-fattists target them with abuse. Family and friends get upset when you can’t accept their food gifts.  Doctors squirm uncomfortably, or leave a bit of a silence in the telephone consultation.  

Recently, in an attempt to lose weight I went on a very low carb ketogenic diet. I checked my ketones daily and meticulously recorded every detail of what I ate.  The impact was dramatic, I lost 20lb, my cravings and crashes, my bad skin.  Mentally I gained motivation, focus, energy, positivity.  It was worth the trade-off of changing the shopping list, menu and dinnertime dynamics.

The more I read about carbs and its effect on our metabolism, microbiome, neural system, the more I was convinced that carbs, or lack of ketone production, were a problem.  The evolving scientific evidence now points towards the concept that our bodies were never built to consume more than a small amount of carbs, perhaps a glut of honey or sweet fruits in season. Periods of hunger were normal and restorative, producing ketones which benefit the brain.  Without the ability to produce ketones (whether through hunger or overuse of carbs) the body is forced to produce insulin to cope with it, and over time and in excess, this can have damaging effects on our health - not just our physical health such as diabetes, the effects include our nervous system - including ADHD, BPD, Autism but also pain, inflammation, PCOS - the list goes on.

The very low ketogenic diet began to be used to treat epilepsy 100 years ago when a doctor noticed that a prisoner in starvation would stop having seizures. The effect was caused by the effect that ketones have on the brain.   Epilepsy guidelines dictate that the ketogenic diet can only be used if all other meds are ineffective in children - adults are prescibed meds immediately following diagnosis.  Valproate was the first line treatment in adults for around 20 years.  Later, valproate and other epilepsy drugs were repurposed for a range of other neuro-psychological disorders such as bipolar, neuropathic pain or dementia adding tens of thousands to the list of long term valproate dependency.  Expensive to the taxpayer and profitable to big pharma.

As the positive effects of the very low carb keto diet became apparent in my own health, the negative effect that excess carbs potentially have had on my relatively long life as a woman with epilepsy, became evident and I’m beginning to look back with sadness at how my life could have been better.  Perhaps my life would have been more stable, and my daughter would have avoided lifelong harm caused by being exposed to valproate in pregnancy.   My diet and lifestyle was never considered in my epilepsy treatment; it was based on specific details around the type of epilepsy that I had and which meds were most suitable for that type of epilepsy.  

Our excessive consumption of carbohydrates, or more specifically our inability to produce ketones, has not to my knowledge, been considered seriously by the medical associations as a potential cause of neurological disorders.  If the ketogenic diet can control epilepsy (in some cases), could it be that the inability to produce ketones through excess carbs or lack of any fasting time could cause, or at least exacerbate neurological disorders?  

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