In 2004, Dr. A. M. Husain published an article in Neurology called “Diet Therapy for Narcolepsy.” Dr. Husain conducted a study on the effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (LCKD) on people with narcolepsy. Basically, he put a few patients on the Atkins Diet, and asked: “Were they less sleepy?” Over the course of just 2 months, the patients that were able to adhere to the diet noted a significant reduction in their total sleepiness (assessed by a Narcolepsy Symptom Status Questionaire). Overall, patients reported an 18% reduction in daytime sleepiness.
So why is this paper interesting?
1. It demonstrates that diet can affect how tired you are.
Food affects how you feel. Particularly, specific foods may make you more tired, especially if there is an underlying intolerance to a specific food group. By eliminating self-identified foods that seem to make you more tired, it is possible to manage the symptoms of narcolepsy, at least in part, through diet modification.
2. It also points to a group of foods that may be causing the sleepiness in the first place!
Low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets (LCKD), such as the Atkins and more recently popular Paleo diets, restrict carbohydrates which usually come from grains. Of these, wheat is the most common source of carbohydrate in the American/Western diet. By going on a low-carb diet, you are in part severely limiting grain and wheat flour consumption.