Real Food: The Best Diet – Andrew Weil, M.D. explains what to eat and drink more and less of:
(This talk is largely about USA diet. USA has the highest incidence of bipolar and many other modern disorders. Elsewhere in the world we need to learn from America’s mistakes.)
Can there really be an optimum diet?
It perhaps depends on what we mean by optimum (or maybe it is optimal?). If optimum diet means the best diet we can work out for ourselves, and a diet we can stick with, to keep us healthy then, yes, it just takes a while to figure out what is good for us.
Why did I start searching for my optimum diet?
Stress caused indigestion, such that I could not sleep and this led to a psychiatric admission where I was heavily sedated, and started to rapidly gain weight. I reacted badly to some of the newer sedative drugs and was diagnosed as bipolar. Eventually coming off the drugs I then had gut pains almost every night. I had to work out what was causing these pains. It took me years to find most of what works and does not work for me. Even with my current optimum diet my quest continues as there is always room for improvement.
It is all about balance
What has worked for me is finding out more about our daily needs for moisture, protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre. That makes five ‘macro-nutrients’ to be balanced. There are plenty of micro-nutrients#1 to be considered too, just that I have found that getting the five macro-nutrients in about the right proportions at each meal time to be life changing.
Modern myths were the biggest challenge to overcome
- I was once told, “eating fat makes us fat”. It sounded so believable. It is so untrue. What I was eating that was putting weight on was a lot of carbohydrate, and the same was true for every person I knew who was getting fatter. We were all addicted to carbs and we were cutting back on fat. It wasn’t working.
- I came to believe that “eating lots of protein is a good way to get slimmer”. This is half-true. Protein is more slowly digested than carbohydrate and usually makes us feel fuller for longer. Changing to a high protein/low carb diet is slimming. However, it is rarely a good long-term plan, as high protein diets are often not high enough in fat. On high protein I lost 40 pounds in weight but gradually felt weaker and was not sleeping well. See point 7 that I have just added below – 25th August 2016.
- I was told that “fibre does not provide any energy and so is slimming”. Yes, fibre can help with slimming, however gut bacteria can partially digest some fibre for us, giving us extra energy. This turns out to be a good thing for moods as this energy is released gradually and helps our guts to work better.
- I believed, “fruit is slimming”. If you look around (in UK) you may well notice that most over-weight people are eating lots of fruit and very little of green vegetables. Fruit is high in the fruit sugar, fructose. Unlike glucose (the main ‘vegetable sugar’), fructose is not used as energy by the muscles but can be readily turned into body fat by the liver. Fruit may be good, just rarely as good as salad and vegetables.
When we get past the myths we come back to looking for balance. Here is some good information#2 that works for me:
1) Proper meals need to have a good percentage of both protein and fat as once digested these can travel through the blood together as lipoproteins, to allow the right fats to be delivered to the right parts of the body and brain to allow repairs. This seems to help a lot with steadying mood.
2) Most of us are not getting enough good quality fat and are often short of fats known as omega-3 and MCFAs.
3) It is close to impossible to have fried foods not containing damaged fats, so my current optimum diet is one with no fried foods.
4) The brain needs glucose, so although we can live with almost no carbohydrates, this is likely to lead to misery. I can get enough glucose by digesting vegetables without needing to eat grain/cereal every day.
5) There are many types of fibre, so eating a range of vegetables and just a little fruit every day helps with steadier digestion, which in turns helps us to have more of the moods we want to be having.
6) There can be no set amount of water to go with our diet. Learning to be guided by thirst and drinking as soon as I start to get thirsty works for me. Carrying a bottle of water on all but the most local journeys makes a lot of sense.
7) It is 2 years since I published this article (16th July 2014) and reading it through today (25th August 2016) the only thing I want to add is: It is so easy to eat too much protein. If you have always eaten meat and fish it takes a while to get used to eating a little less protein. I believe it does help for long-term health and mood stability. For me, a diet with only about 15% protein and close to 50% healthy fats (including; avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and butter) seems to be helping my liver and kidneys to heal after all those years on prescription drugs and lithium.
From disorder to order
Eliminating the disorder part of bipolar is likely to require dietary changes. For me the most outstanding results have come from increasing#3 my variety of fat sources and ensuring every meal has a good content of healthy fats. It was the extra fats working with the protein in each meal that allowed my brain and body to heal and allows me to go longer between meals. Balanced meals help us to avoid slumps in energy and periods of despondency. This approach continues to work for me.
#1 I will be writing more about micro-nutrients and how these link to common modern disorders.
#2 I have written about or am writing about these aspect of balancing diet and mood. Contact me if you would like to learn more now.
#3 Overall I am only eating a bit more fat as I cut out fried foods. Eating more fat and being more active go together. If we eat more fat then we are going to need to walk more. When I do eat more fat I find it easier to be doing more exercise while being less tired. I will write more about this later.
Roger Smith – www.rethinkingbipolar.com – article 14th July 2014