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Man tells how Dr Chris Palmer helped him

Man tells how Dr Chris Palmer helped him


In 2016, Matt Baszuki was a freshman in college taking an engineering class when he started experiencing manic episodes.

Matt Baszucki, 27, told NBC's Kate Snow during a segment on Feb. 21 that he was “getting less and less sleep, had big ideas and was talking fast.” . All this wild impulsive behavior. ”

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Matt Baszuki has been battling treatment-resistant bipolar disorder for years. Provided by: Baszucki Family

Shortly after, doctors diagnosed Baszucki with bipolar disorder and he was hospitalized. Over the next eight years, he took his 29 different medications and visited 40 doctors, but was eventually told he had a treatment-resistant condition.

He and his family didn't want to accept this, so they started looking for professionals to help people with treatment-resistant mental illnesses. They found Dr. Christopher Palmer of Harvard Medical School. He had an unusual suggestion for treating Matt Baszucki's bipolar disorder. ketogenic diet. After three years of dieting, Baszucchi feels better.

“It was so shocking. I almost couldn't believe it,” his mother, Jan Baszucki, president of the Baszucki Group, which invests in research into topics such as metabolism and mental health, told Snow. “I kept saying to her husband, is this really a keto diet?”

Life with bipolar disorder

Although Matt Baszuki experienced stress and anxiety in school, he never showed any signs of bipolar disorder until he was a student at the University of California, Berkeley. After his parents returned home for the weekend, they noticed a change in their son's behavior. Then he dropped the class. I didn't hear from him for several days after that.

“His behavior was completely different than anything we've encountered before. It was hard to know. Well, maybe…he's 19 years old and he's changing. It’s growing,” said Jan Baszuki. “I Googled his symptoms and it said, 'Oh, he's manic.'”

By March 2016, Matt Baszuki had been in the hospital's psychiatric ward for two weeks. Doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and prescribed medication. But he didn't accept it.

“I refused medicine,” he said. “It was a trend that was going to haunt me for years to come.”

His reluctance to take medication definitely led to his symptoms worsening, and at one point he was forced to be hospitalized again and take medication.

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When Matt Baszuki went to college, he started experiencing manic symptoms. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.Provided by: Baszucki Family

“I was so manic. I was so psychotic,” Matt Baszuki said. “I couldn’t even coherently understand what was happening to me.”

Jan Baszucki and her husband, Roblox CEO and founder David Baszucki, knew their son was struggling. For two years, they watched him go in and out of the hospital, refusing to take his medication. But two years later, Matt Baszuki began to realize how sick he was.

“He didn't get better,” Jan Baszuki said. “He's stabilized a little bit.”

The next few years were difficult for Matt Baszuki as he tried various medications, most of which were ineffective. Eventually, doctors determined he had treatment-resistant bipolar disorder.

“You can't even begin to imagine what it's like to be told that your child has one of the most serious mental illnesses, a treatment-resistant disease, and that this will be a lifelong battle.” said Jan Baszuki. “We thought he would be disabled for the rest of his life.”

Frustrated, Jan Baszuki began looking for a specialist in treatment-resistant mental illnesses.

“(We were) advised that we should try to be accepted…that this was going to be his life and…that our job as parents was to try to be accepted. ” she said. “I thought, 'No, this is not acceptable.'

A family friend initially introduced her to Palmer at Harvard, as her family was invested in mental health research. Around the same time, Matt Baszuki was making changes to his lifestyle, including tracking his sleep and not drinking alcohol. Palmer suggested Matt Baszuki try a ketogenic diet, which combines exercise and medication.

“I thought, if this is a specifically designed diet, if it can be applied to this disease to stabilize mood, then I'm ready,” he recalled. “I was taking all the medications I was prescribed. I was doing therapy. I was doing basically everything you could imagine in a 21st century mental health program designed by an institution. I was doing well. And I was still sick.”

Bipolar disorder and ketogenics

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by changes in mood, energy, and concentration. According to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with bipolar disorder often fluctuate between highly energetic manic states and depressive states. Treatment usually includes medication and talk therapy. The exact cause is unknown.

Palmer works at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, a psychiatric facility in Massachusetts, where he works with patients with particularly treatment-resistant mental illnesses.

“I see patients that other psychiatrists don't want to treat because they're too difficult,” he told Kate Snow.

Matt Baszucki fits that description.

“Medications are not working, his illness is serious, and he is unlikely to get better…” Palmer said.

Palmer's approach is different and takes an unconventional way of thinking about mental illness.

“My understanding is that metabolism affects how the brain works,” he explained. “Science is tremendously complex. I'm not trying to say it's an easy problem to understand.”

Although people may think of ketogenics simply as low carb diethas historically been used to treat epilepsy patients.

“People[on a keto diet]are eating very low carbohydrates, usually less than 20 grams per day. They are getting a moderate amount of protein, but it is not recommended by a nutritionist, nutritionist or clinical care team. to be determined,” Palmer explained. And they eat a lot of fat. ”

Prescribing diets to treat mental illness is not usually part of the standard of care, and Palmer acknowledged that some people detract from his approach.

“When I talk about the ketogenic diet as a treatment for severe and severe mental disorders, people think I'm a snake oil salesman,” he says.

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A ketogenic diet helped Matt Baszuki with bipolar disorder. Provided by: Baszucki Family

Still, he believes there is a role for ketogenics in helping people with mental illness.

“The ketogenic diet is an evidence-based treatment for weight loss, type 2 diabetes, and epilepsy. And there are clinicians and nutritionists who know how to use it safely and effectively,” he says. Told.

“A ketogenic diet can actually change neurotransmitters in the brain,” Palmer continued. “It can reduce inflammation in the brain, it can change gene expression, and it changes the gut microbiome in beneficial ways that actually impact the brain. We've all heard about the gut-brain connection. , and the mechanisms are becoming increasingly understood.”

Critics of the keto diet point to a lack of research and risks such as nutritional deficiencies, heart disease, and low blood pressure. Palmer stressed that the intervention is only used in people for whom drugs have not worked and is not recommended for everyone.

Palmer added that there are risks, especially with the keto diet. For example, many people who try this experience something called a “ketoflu” that makes them feel sick at first.

“I've seen their condition deteriorate during this period,” Palmer said. “In fact, this adjustment period can be dangerous, which is one reason why we strongly recommend working with a mental health clinician if you are attempting this,” he said.

When Matt Baszuki switched to a keto diet in January 2021, his symptoms initially worsened. But if he survives March, when his symptoms were most severe and frequently hospitalized, his family will know it made a difference.

“His family said, 'We won't know if this diet works until we get through March Madness.' If we can get through March Madness without being hospitalized, we know this is the real deal.” “You'll see,” Palmer explained. “Sure enough, he made it through March without being hospitalized or having a seizure.”

Matt Baszuki continued to take his medication while changing his diet. About six months after starting the keto diet, Palmer noticed that he needed fewer medications to manage Matt Baszucki's symptoms.

“Matt gradually tapered off his medication,” Palmer said.

“It was worth it.”

In March 2021, Matt Baszuki continued to look for telltale signs of mania. But he had nothing on him.

“I had no symptoms. Zero,” he said. “When I started the diet that year, it lasted day and night. It's blatantly obvious.”

His parents seemed surprised too.

“It was shocking for us,” said Jan Baszuki.

When Matt Baszuki first started his diet, he had a hard time seeing his friends go out and enjoy things like pizza and beer. But the positive effects on his mental health keep him motivated.

“I thought, 'Oh my god, I'm healthy.' I'm getting my brain back,” he said. “It was all worth it.”

Matt Baszucki didn't experience any mental health symptoms until he entered college. He then suffered for years from what his doctors called treatment-resistant bipolar disorder.
Matt Baszucki didn't experience any mental health symptoms until he entered college. He then suffered for years from what his doctors called treatment-resistant bipolar disorder.Provided by: Baszucki Family

After three years on the keto diet, he works as a project manager at Roblox and feels life is “pretty normal.”

“(I) work full time, exercise, play with friends and sleep well,” Baszucki said. “My brain is healing. …I can't believe I'll have a normal life.”

Palmer said the keto diet is not simple enough to cure bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses. “But I think the powerful news today is that diet can actually be a powerful treatment.”

He emphasized the importance of working with a mental health clinician if you are struggling. Also, if your symptoms are severe, ask if you might benefit from changing your diet.

Sunny Choo contributed reporting.




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