Ep.17: Depression, Bipolar II Disorder with L. Amber O’Hearn


L. Amber O'Hearn[2:30] Amber considered herself happy as a child and teenager, but by the time she was 20, she was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and ultimately with treatment-resistant depression.

[4:30] In her young adulthood, Amber’s energy, joy, and motivation dissipated. Things she used to find enjoyable stopped feeling enjoyable.

[5:25] Amber describes her initial experience with antidepressants. Ultimately, she took them for over a decade.

[7:10] Amber describes the typical type of bipolar disorder (which she was never diagnosed with). It involves mania and depression in cycles and can sometimes end in delusions of grandeur and/or a psychotic break.

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[8:40] Amber was diagnosed with bipolar type 2 disorder. It does not involve total mania, but it also involves cycles of elevated mood followed by a crash. It can also involve mixed states.

[10:40] Her bipolar type 2 disorder was impacting her whole life and all of her relationships.

[11:30] Amber was actually excited to get the bipolar 2 diagnosis because she thought it provided hope; perhaps she couldn’t cure her depression before because it had been a misdiagnosis.

[12:30] Amber had many bad symptoms, including not being able to find words when speaking, and she even felt a form of “brain zaps”, amongst other symptoms.

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[15:40] Amber describes how frustrating it was in moments of self-awareness to see that she was not acting rationally.

[20:15] Amber talks about what happened with her physical health as she dealt with mental health issues. In her experience, weight gain was often associated with mood and/or mental health issues.

[21:40] Amber weighed in at her highest weight (around 195 pounds, being 5-foot-6) around the end of 2008. She got up to that weight despite eating a low carbohydrate diet, which had initially helped both her weight and her mood.

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[23:30] Amber’s weight gain was frustrating because she felt like she was doing everything right. She was reading all about the science of low carbohydrate diets and was convinced that they were beneficial. But despite eating low carb with lots of vegetables, she was gaining weight slowly. (She also attributes some of her weight gain to pregnancies.)

[26:00] One day in late 2008, Amber came across an online forum called Zeroing In On Health where people were eating only meat. No plants. The forum members had stories which seemed relatable to her; many of them had breakthrough success with this plant-free diet.

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[28:50] Amber initially started a zero-carb diet with a “diet” mindset to lose weight (with the idea that maybe then she could go back to low carb and maintain her weight).

[29:30] Within a few weeks of starting this plant-free diet, Amber lost a bunch of weight and her mood had improved. She just felt good. And her husband commented that he hadn’t known how to tell her, but in those few weeks, her mood had been more stable than it had been in all of the eight years they’d been married.

[32:20] Amber now refers to this diet as a carnivore diet instead of zero carb, as it emphasizes its plant-free nature.

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[33:30] Amber was pregnant shortly after starting this diet. She did not stay carnivore for her entire pregnancy (though she would sometimes go days at a time plant-free), but she did have to go off her psychiatric medications for the pregnancy. Within a few days of giving birth, Amber went back to her plant-free carnivore diet, and she has never needed psychiatric meds again. She has been free from psychiatric medications for about 11 years as of recording.

[37:30] No one was more surprised about her health improvements on carnivore than Amber herself. She was quite surprised to improve her health by removing vegetables.

Go for brown carbs vs. white carbs. White carbsare refined grains like white rice, pasta, white bread, crackers, noodles, tortillas, wraps, anything with white flour and breading. The nutrients have been removed in the production process, leaving them rich in calories but low in nutrients. They also cause unhealthy spikes in our sugar levels. Go for brown carbs (unrefined complex carbs) instead, like brown rice, whole grain, oats, oatmeal (not the instant kind), and legumes. These come with nutrients and vitamins intact.

[41:00] A video by Dr. Georgia Ede in 2012 turned on a lot of the lightbulbs in Amber’s head for why her carnivore diet was working. Dr. Ede’s speech was about the mechanisms by which plants need to defend themselves. Often, plants use toxins.

[46:00] Amber finds that animal-based foods often are full of vitamins and minerals; meat is much more than just protein.

[48:00] There is a wide variety of foods available to someone eating a plant-free carnivore diet. Amber does not feel deprived whatsoever.

[49:30] What foods does Amber focus on for her carnivore diet? She focuses on beef, but also likes pork (especially pork belly), eggs, brain (!!!), butter, salmon, mackerel, chicken thighs, and oysters.

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[52:20] After the initial weight loss that came from her adoption of a plant-free diet, how has her weight and body composition been impacted?

[53:00] “The one thing that happened to me when I first went on a carnivore diet is I stopped getting sick.” She says she doesn’t often mention that because it sounds so crazy. She didn’t get as much as a cold for her first 8 years on carnivore.

[53:30] Amber does not consider herself cured of bipolar type 2; she considers herself in remission.

[56:50] Despite some weight regain (which Amber attributes at least partially to some infections and corresponding antibiotic usage), Amber has not felt any dissipation in the psychiatric benefits she has gotten from her plant-free carnivore diet.

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[58:30] Amber went on a carnivore diet in 2009 which lines up with her terrific improvement in mental health. Is there anything else Amber could point to, besides the diet, that might have impacted this improvement? She surmises that coming off the antidepressants and pregnancy could have also benefited her. But she just knows that something is different from the diet.

[1:04:00] At her website mostly-fat.com, Amber has a How-to Guide for the carnivore diet.

[1:07:35] Now that Amber has improved her health, what is one thing she enjoys doing that she couldn’t do before?

Drink Some Water, Especially Before Meals. Drinking enough water can have numerous benefits. One important factor, is that it can help boost the amount of calories you burn. According to 2 studies, it can boost metabolism by 24-30% over a period of 1-1.5 hours. This can amount to 96 additional calories burned if you drink 2 liters (67 oz) of water per day. The best time to drink water is half an hour before meals. One study showed that half a liter of water, 30 minutes before each meal, increased weight loss by 44%.

[1:08:45] Where can Amber be reached online? Her website is mostly-fat.com and her Twitter handle is @KetoCarnivore

[1:11:00] As a closing message, Amber mentions that if the listener has an autoimmune, psychiatric, or other condition that they think could potentially be benefited by a carnivore diet. . . trying it for a month is a a low-risk, high-potential-benefit intervention. Her how-to guide is a great resource for anyone interested.