THE WYSONG e-HEALTH LETTER
~Thoughts for Thinking People~
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Wysong's new book (Jan 08) Being Wrong is Right--Living Life as if Thinking Matters
Mental Illness is not a Drug Deficiency
Depression sends approximately 25 million people to the doctor each year. Some 90% of these visits result in medications with usually little or no attendant advice on lifestyle or nutrition. Prescriptions for depression have doubled in less than a decade even though studies have shown that most such medications are no more effective than placebo (sugar pills). Even children have become a growth market for such medications. (See archive article “Corruption in Drug Companies,” http://www.wysong.net/health/hl_992.shtml)
It is estimated that fifty million Americans are on SSRI antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), such as Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. Research has shown that 40% derive no benefit, 30% have diminishing effects after initial benefits, and almost 90% will experience withdrawal symptoms. Amazingly, not one of these fifty million people developed mental illness due to a deficiency of the drug they are taking. But many reap dire consequences once they are hooked, such as violence, aggression, suicidal tendencies, heart damage, liver failure, and breast cancer. Nevertheless, these dangerous drugs (some of which are banned in other countries) are prescribed like candy. Psychotherapeutics may help in certain instances, but should never be used without addressing causes.
At the onset of mental illness, most people will make an attribution to some circumstance in life, such as a problem at work, a marriage going bad, a death, parents who were not loving enough, financial woes, and so on. But these are the things of life. Difficulties cannot be escaped because they are part and parcel of life for everyone. Try as we might, we cannot perfect life and live happily ever after with no bumps in the road. How we handle difficulty, our inability to rebound, or being incapacitated by problems has to do with our mental and emotional strength and health. That, like the strength of a muscle, the heart, liver, and lungs comes from how we care for the body’s—and brain’s—physical needs. Don’t expect to be able to sprint a mile without proper conditioning, rest, freedom from toxicity, and good nutrition; don’t expect the brain to handle the marathon of life without such care as well.
Aside from rare instances where there is a genetic predisposition to mental disease, the cause of the brain’s inability to generate healthy mood and balance is, as you might have guessed by now, our modern lifestyle. Rather than recognizing and fixing the problem, a huge percentage of the population lets themselves be convinced that mental problems are due to drug deficiency problems. We will spend a few moments on this with specifics to demonstrate, yet again, that with regard to popular and medical opinion, we must be wrong in order to be right.
Mental illness can result in violence, self-mutilation, suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, insomnia, addictions, intolerance of heat or cold, self hatred, the blahs, worrying, irritability, cravings for caffeine, sugar, and chocolate, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and virtually any other negative, aberrant, or obsessive mental state. Since the brain is an organ dependent upon specific nutrients, any imbalance in those nutrients, or toxicities, can cause the brain to malfunction and manifest these kinds of symptoms.
Biochemical neurotransmittors in the brain include serotonin, catecholamines, GABA, and endorphins. Each of these can be influenced by toxicities and diet. For example, it is estimated that over ninety percent of those seeking psychiatric help are serotonin deficient. This chemical helps us feel cheerful, emotionally flexible, not obsessive or worried, and able to relax and sleep well. It is manufactured in brain tissue from the amino acid tryptophan, which converts to 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP) to serotonin. Serotonin in turn forms melatonin, the sleep chemical. (This is why depression is usually associated with insomnia.) Tryptophan is found in proteins, but the modern sugar and starch-based diet is low in tryptophan-containing proteins. SSRIs fool the body into thinking it has lots of serotonin by preventing its reabsorption (reuptake). But the body cannot be fooled for long, and will not tolerate us fooling around with its chemistry with drugs either. Changing lifestyle, getting sun exposure (stimulates serotonin production), converting the diet to natural foods we are genetically tuned to, and taking amino acid supplements (5-HTP usually best) address actual causes and promise cure. Even a genetic polymorphism that causes depression by interfering with the conversion of tryptophan to 5-HTP can be addressed by supplementing with 5-HTP.
The catecholamines (epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine), responsible for the feeling of energy for life, are derived from L-tyrosine, a conditionally essential amino acid which is particularly high in meats. The catecholamines also stimulate the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, another feel good chemical. Coffee and other caffeine containing drinks create the temporary highs we seek when catecholamines are low. But they inhibit serotonin and melatonin, and exhaust stress hormones.
The neurotransmitter GABA (gamma butyric acid) is produced to help us cope with stress and to relax. It, too, requires dietary amino acids. Chronic stress depletes GABA. Proper diet, supplements of magnesium, potassium, green tea, St. John’s wort, vitamins B1, B6, B12, methyl donors (SAME—S-adenosyl methionine), theonine, GABA, and adrenal support with glandulars and licorice can counteract the depletion of catecholamines and GABA.
Endorphins are neurotransmittors that give pleasure and enjoyment. Without them we are oversensitive to pain, melancholy, and easily cry. They are released in response to stress and create the high from exercise. They are also responsible for why we may not feel pain at the time of trauma. Chronic pain—experienced by many with degenerative diseases—uses them up, and is why so many people are on addictive pain killer medications. Some nineteen amino acids are necessary for endorphin synthesis. The amino acid phenylalanine (a precursor to tyrosine), in particular, helps sustain endorphins by decreasing the brain’s destruction of it.
These natural dietary and supplement remedies are safe and can result in relief within ten to fifteen minutes. Although SSRIs can be discontinued immediately, the anti-anxiety benzodiazepines (Halcion, Centrax, Valium, etc.), capable of causing permanent, Alzheimer’s-like brain injury, need to be more carefully withdrawn.
Although the majority of the medical profession prescribes drugs in a hit and miss fashion to cover symptoms, there are some health practitioners who rationally evaluate lifestyle and brain chemistry and can actually cure psychiatric disorders such as depression, ADHD, schizophrenia, addictions, anxiety, and panic attacks with no risk of side effects. Aside from dietary deficiencies of amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, modern living disrupts stress hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones, digestive function, and places a toxic, stimulatory (sugars, caffeine, Aspartame, alcohol) and oxidative burden on the body.
A drug designed to bully the brain into submission is not the answer. Returning to nature, and, if necessary, seeking help from professionals who understand brain chemistry and respect nature, is.
(For resources and professional help for mental problems using safe, solution oriented methods as discussed above, order the Wysong Directory of Alternative Resources http://www.wysong.net/page/WOTTPWS/CTGY/EDUAIDS)