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NUTRITION AND MENTAL HEALTH (A PERSONAL JOURNEY)

                                                               INTRODUCTION

                 Are you suffering from anxiety, phobias, poor thought control, poor memory and concentration, irritability, problems sleeping or staying asleep, fatigue, lack of motivation and depression? If so, it is critical that you visit your doctor to be tested, as these could be symptoms from conditions that may need medical treatment. Perhaps you already have gone to your doctor and perhaps several psychiatrists, over the years, but with few, if any results. I am not a medical doctor, nor a psychiatrist. I do, though,  have a B.A. and a Masters degree in Psychology, and I have worked in mental health for many years. Most of all, I have something that many in the mental health field do not have: I have experienced several anguishing psychological symptoms, and I have emerged from them thanks to having accidentally come across the experiences of others who have had the same symptoms and who found relatively simple solutions. The aim of this web site is to share my experiences with you hoping that they will be a blessing to you as others have been to me.

 

                Please understand that mine is not an attempt to dissuade you from the medical treatment you may be following. If you want to implement some of the principles that have helped me you should do it without dropping your present treatment. In fact, because the principles are of a nutritional basis, you do not need to change your treatment in any way.

 

Also note that I do not represent any company; I have no book or product to sell, nor am I offering counseling for payment. This page is simply the result of a strong desire to bring relief to the many that are suffering and are seeking help like I did years ago and who can improve by bringing about some very basic changes in their lives.

 

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                                              MY TEEN-AGE YEARS

As a teenager I was energetic and relatively healthy, though I was somewhat obsessive (had trouble controlling repetitive thoughts and had poor concentration), until age 16-17. It was then that I started experiencing difficulties with remembering and I also became somewhat anxious. I told my father about the problem, and he brought me to the family doctor who, amazingly enough, sent me to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist prescribed a medication that made me very weak, but did not help my memory problem. I stopped taking the medication and decided to cope with the problem instead of turning into a zombie.

 

At age 17-18, my ability to control my thoughts diminished. Floods of thoughts started racing through my mind, some were obsessive thoughts that I wanted to erase but could not. Repetitive noises, such as the hums from neon lights and strong colors, such as red carpet colors became very distressing. I also became somewhat phobic and limitedly compulsive.

 

Stress made all the symptoms deteriorate. I felt particularly miserable around Spring and Fall when my concentration deteriorated significantly, and I felt tired and depressed. At times,  my symptoms got worse after eating.

 

                                                GOING TO COLLEGE

           I finished high school with decent marks, thanks to an extremely high level of motivation and much hard work. I applied to an institution in the Los Angeles area and was accepted. That was a very bad decision, as the results made clear.

 

The program was very intensive and expensive. To cope I moved to a two-meal program, rather than the original three meals. That was also a very serious mistake as my symptoms got worse.

 

By semester two, my symptoms became worse than ever. My concentration went down to close to nil. I would read textbooks, but I would quickly forget everything. Small stresses became very difficult to deal with. In moments of stress an overwhelming feeling would invade my whole body that would then invade my mind. The experience would leave my mind in a fog for days and would slowly lift until the next bout. My head felt heavy and very uncomfortable.

 

A fear of heights became very intense. Fear of loss of mental control was very strong as well. Then depression entered in and made the whole package very scary indeed. Falling asleep became very difficult, as horrifying, vivid thoughts would invade my mind before falling asleep. Nightmares abounded.

 

One evening, the depression became so severe that I went to the nearby pharmacy to beg a pharmacist for something to give me relief. The doctor gave me an over-the-counter remedy and suggested that I go see the campus doctor, which I did. The medication was miraculous: the mental fog lifted, the anxiety lifted, as did the depression. The relief was something I had not experienced in years, except that when I read about the possible side effects I became concerned that I was trading one set of problems for very serious future ones.

                                                                              CALCIUM RELIEF

I finally decide to visit the campus doctor who was a kind of doctor-naturopath who did not believe much in prescribing medication. He asked me to go and buy some calcium lactate and to take a few tablets a day (I do not recall how many). I did and, wonder of wonders,  2-3 days later I started feeling better. My anxiety level lifted significantly, and so did some of the other anxiety-related symptoms, such as the obsessive-compulsions and the phobias. Calcium, though, would not add to my mental sharpness. In fact, I felt mentally dull. This was somewhat relieved by taking less. The fact that calcium helped made me wonder if, perhaps, there was more I could discover that would give me more relief, and so I decided to go and research mental health at the college library. That was the best decision of my life.

 

                                           HELP FROM A JUDGE ?

As I perused through the section on mental health, my curiosity was piqued by a relatively small book titled, Mental Health Through Nutrition[i], by judge T. Blaine, a name I will bless forever.

 

The book was the personal account of a judge who, at one point in his life, became afflicted by many unexplainable psychological and physical symptoms that made his life very difficult to cope with. The symptoms sounded very familiar: Poor memory, poor concentration, poor thought control, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, depression, etc.

 

Seeing that my symptoms had been shared by others gave me some relief. (The fact of the matter is that millions suffer from these symptoms, as they are the typical symptoms characterizing what psychiatrists call neuroses).

 

The most amazing thing was to read about the fact that he was able to connect his symptoms to a relatively common condition known as Low Blood Sugar, or Hypoglycemia.

 

Judge Blaine explained that many people who experience such symptoms simply do not have enough glucose (digested sugar) going through their system, and because glucose is critical for proper brain functioning, the brain starts starving and the above symptoms ensue.

 

He also explained that, paradoxically, one who suffers from Hypoglycemia must not try to treat it by eating more sugar but by evading sugar like the plague. The reason for this is the fact that eating refined sugar brings about a sharp increase in sugar levels that, in turn, stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin so as to neutralize the sugar and bring the level back down. The problem is that in people who are hypoglycemic the process brings the level of sugar way down and, thus, the body and the brain enter a starvation condition with a host of accompanying symptoms such as the ones I remember listed in Judge Blaine's book listed plus lethargy, lack of motivation, shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling faint etc. I just happened to have all or almost all of them.

 

He also emphasized that to prevent sugar drops it would have been wise to stay away from bananas, pineapples, sweet pears, and other very sweet fruit. He also listed white bread and white pasta and honey as a potential problems. Alcohol, coffee, regular tea and chocolate were listed as enemies as well.

 

Judge Blaine had tried the regimen with superb results. His symptoms had been totally conquered for as long as he stuck to his dietand was functioning as a successful judge. The Judge was so amazed by the results that he would order couples who wanted to divorce to undergo a Glucose Tolerance Test, to check for Low Blood Sugar before allowing them to divorce. The reason for this strange practice was his belief that some people who become very difficult to deal are, in fact, hypoglicemic.

 

Right before me was finally the hoped-for deliverance from a nightmarish life. Finally, after years of anguish, I saw the possibility of deliverance, and I was not going to pass it by stupid skepticism. There was only one way to test things out and that was to follow Judge Blaines advice which was more or less as follows:

  1. Stay away from sugar, honey, sweet fruits, refined white flour, coffee, chocolate, tea, and alcoholic beverages.
  2. Eat all three meals and add a snack in between meals (Cheese, apple, nuts). Have a snack before going to bed.
  3. Have a good breakfast emphasizing protein (Eggs, cheese, nuts) and whole-grain cereal bread.
  4. Take a B-Complex + C tablet and a multivitamin plus minerals tablet to build the immune system. (I should emphasize that people with high blood pressure may have an increase in their blood pressure with these vitamins, thus their family doctor should be consulted first before taking them).  

Since it was simple and easy to follow, I went to work right away. To be objective about the results, I decided to keep daily record of the symptoms so as to assess whether or not there was any improvement. The results were not immediate, but they did happen gradually. After following the diet for three weeks my mind had cleared significantly, the anxiety had decreased noticeably, the problems with sleep pretty much disappeared, as did my depression. Needless to say, I felt elated.

 

Because of financial problems, I decided to go back to my home city and attend a local university. While there, I decided to get tested by a medical doctor to have a medical confirmation of what I now had strong evidence for. Judge Blaine and other authors[ii] who had written other books on hypoglycemia emphasized that simple blood tests rarely show its presence. The most reliable test was the Glucose Tolerance Test (G.T.T.) a six hour test used to check for diabetes. Getting a doctor to agree to such a test became a challenge indeed.

 

                                                         THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE

     To be tested, I visited a medical doctor in a clinic near where I lived. I told him about my symptoms and about my research on the need for a G.T.T. to test accurately for Low Blood Sugar. The man smiled and refused. He said normal blood tests were sufficient.

     Angry and disappointed, I decided to go to another doctor in the same clinic. This doctor was again willing to do the normal test but not the G.T.T. I insisted, but he became upset and told me that I was a neurotic. In fact I saw him write the word in the chart. I told him to help me get it out of my head. He finally agreed, but only to show me how smart he was and how unstable I was.

     The test consists, first of all, of fasting for several (12 hrs?) hours before going in. Once at the lab, a blood sample was taken, and then a bottle of liquid glucose was given to me to drink. Blood samples were taken for the next two half hours, and then every hour, for five hours.

     About a week later, I returned to the doctor who was smug and distant. He sat, opened the chart and then his face turned somewhat purple--and embarrassed. Finally he looked up and, with hesitation, he told me I had been right all along; I did have a bad case of Hypoglycemia. For those who want more details here are the numbers:

Fasting               58

hr.                111

1 hr.                 75

2 Hrs                52

3 Hrs.               80

4 Hrs.               42

5 Hrs                57

6 Hrs                53

 

The man told me that he was going to send me to a capable specialist, and he then added, "Dont say anything about what you know as he might think that you know more than him." I had no intention of embarrassing a specialist, so I went to see how sharp he was.

I believe he asked me to be re-tested,  but I do not have a copy of his results. He told me that I definitely was hypoglycemic, but that there was little he could do. The best way to deal with it was not to eat sweets and to have a snack between meals, which I had known all along (Thanks to Judge Blaine)--but it was good to have it confirmed by two medical professionals.

The moral of the story is that if you try to get tested you may have the same response. Today, more doctors are aware of the impact of hypoglycemia than in the seventies, and more than in the past may be open to prescribing the proper test. You may have to persevere like I did, though.

 

                                                              MORE TO IMPROVE

Months went by on my new diet. I was feeling better, but I felt that I was not there yet. Being in tune with my physical and mental response to what I was eating, I noticed, with time, that some of the symptom, such as mental confusion and poor memory, would reoccur as soon as I ate. Those symptoms should have occurred a few hours after eating when my sugar dropped, but, instead, they would happen immediately after eating and stayed with me for quite some time, which did not make sense.

    

           I continued researching the subject, and I came across one

 

author that had noticed such a reaction and had concluded that it was a

 

conditioned response. In other words, the body would react to the taste

 

of certain foods by releasing insulin immediately and thus the sugar

 

level would drop quite fast. It sounded reasonable, but that was not the

 

right reason, I later found out.

 

More research brought me to another amazing discovery that Judge Blaine had not been aware of: cerebral allergies (He did become aware of them later as he published a book on it)[iii] If I recall correctly, the discovery came about by reading the amazing book Mega-Nutrients For your Mind, a book written by another amazing author, on a par with Judge T. Blaine: Dr. H. L. Newbold, a psychiatrist who like Judge Blaine had the misfortune of experiencing debilitating psychological symptoms. In fact, they were so bdebilitating that he had to end a successful psychiatric practice.

Dr. Newbold later found by accident that his main problems were hypoglycemia, deficiencies and cerebral allergies. By addressing these areas, he not only went back to a successful practice but later wrote a 393 page book in which he addressed, in great detail, how these problems affect the mind.

Dr. Newbold believes that, food allergies are very common. He also holds that between eighty and ninety percent of patients with emotional problems are significantly affected by allergic addictions, and that their emotional symptoms could be partly, largely, or totally eliminated simply by taking the allergic conditions into considerations. [iv]

 I had been aware of environmental allergies--but food allergies? Yet, this was one of the missing links. I had severe brain sensitivities to some common foods, specifically sugar, wheat, eggs, milk products, and apples. I also had milder reactions to pears, bananas, pineapples and a few others.

The explanation given, which seems to be the most reasonable, (Which I hope to explain accurately), is that the stomachs of people like me dont seem to produce enough digestive enzymes, thus, some proteins are not broken down and work their way into the blood stream. Because they should not be there, the body produces histamines to attack the invaders. The presence of histamines affects the body and the brain as they do in people who have allergies to pollen, for instance.

That was the reason why when I ate the above foods I felt miserable. But there was a way of coping with it: taking vitamin C before eating. That, according to doctors who specialized in the area, would have an antihistaminic effect and would decrease the symptoms--and it does. Except that I can take vitamin C after eating the offending foods, and I get almost as much relief.

Other doctors suggest that the problem should be addressed at the source: the stomach. They suggest that digestive enzymes be taken after eating so as to help break down proteins and prevent their absorption into the blood stream.  Together, vitamin C and the digestive enzymes, do wonders and the results are totally amazing.

I have experimented with various kinds of vitamin C, and I find the more natural they are the better the results. I take papaya enzymes and it seems to suffice. I must confess I have not experimented enough with enzymes, as what I take seems to do the job quite well for me.

To test for such allergens, you can visit doctors in your area who do sub-lingual testing or naturopaths who use other methods. The fastest and easiest way is to take a few of the foods listed above, (I would start with sugar, wheat and milk products) and I would evade them totally for a minimum of a week, preferably two. I would then reintroduce one food for a couple of days and then another and then another. If you have sensitivity, you will feel the difference mentally and or physically.

If you are allergic to wheat, you may replace it with rye bread; if you are allergic to milk, you may replace it with goats milk (You may react to it as well) or Soya milk. If you do react to milk, make sure you start taking one or two calcium/magnesium (They come together) tablets to continue having a good intake of calcium. Please do not take calcium during the day as it tends you make you sluggish; take it at supper time or before going to bed. If you have a proclivity towards kidney stones you will need to drink a lot of water to prevent their formation. Ask your doctor about his opinion before taking them.

After experimenting with the above three classic culprits, continue experimenting with the rest, the same way.

In regards to seasonal allergies, I also suffer from allergies to pollen, both in the Spring and Fall. I am especially allergic to ragweed. During those seasons, I tend to feel more tired than usual, and I tend to be a bit depressed and irritable. Drinking milk products worsens my condition, and, for some reason, I tend to crave them. My doctor suggested that I take four shots before ragweed season (I think the shots are called Pollinex), and they have helped me a lot. On some occasions, if the symptoms get very bad, I do take some over-the-counter tablets as well. If I get plenty of sleep the symptoms almost disappear. Stress makes them get worse.

 

                                                                       CANDIDA TOO?

Researchers in the area never seem to stop and come up with amazing new insights. The last wonderful insight came to me from

 

doctors who specialize in a condition called Candida. Candida is a yeast

 

infection that many women experience, and which they seem to treat

 

with well-known medications. Some doctors believe that yeast can

 

invade the body of both women as well as men. One of the biggest

 

causes of Candida appears to be the use of antibiotics, which they say,

 

facilitates the growth of Candida. [v] A high consumption of sugar and

 

refined carbohydrates seem to add to the problem considerably, as do

 

sweet fruits and vinegar.

The pioneering work on the subject, which I highly recommend, is The Yeast Connection, by William G. Crook, M.D. This books clearly and thoroughly explains how Candida afflicts millions that suffer from all sorts of mental and physical symptoms.

Careful experimentation has convinced me that they are right in my case, thus, I stay away from the foods that add to the condition. I know others that have the same condition and treat it the same way. There are people out there that feel they have a cure for it, such as drastic diets that last weeks and months, but I know of no person who has been freed from the condition totally. I have an open mind, but I am not very open to drastic diets, though they might work for some people.

 

                                                    THE IMPACT OF STRESS

It would be a mistake on my part not to emphasize an evil that we all must be aware of: the power of stress in contributing to mental turmoil and physical ailments. Stress can deplete us of essential stress vitamins (Bs and C), the loss of which can contribute to many psychological symptoms. Stress seems to make Hypoglycemia deteriorate, and it also makes the body less able to cope with allergens. During times of high stress, taking extra doses of vitamin B complex and vitamin C seems to help. Taking a multivitamin plus minerals might also make a difference. Getting enough sleep is critical to allow the body to heal and rejuvenate itself. Ultimately, dealing with the cause of stress is most important.

An excellent and very informative book on stress, which deals with the subject clearly and exhaustively, is Stress Management, by Charlesworth and Nathan[vi]. There are, of course many other excellent works on the subject that you may buy or that you may borrow from your local library.

 

                                         WATER IS ALSO IMPORTANT

One of the faults I use to have -- which kidney stones have helped to correct --was not drinking sufficient fluids. After an agonizing bout with kidney stones, I learned to take a bottle of water to work and sip throughout the day. The benefit has been wonderful, as it not only helps prevent a reoccurrence of the stones; it also helps me feel more alert and energetic. Yes, not drinking enough water can make a person's mind foggy and the body weak. This has also added to my mental and physical health.

 

     CORRECT YOUR THOUGHTS AND ATTITUDES

In many cases, we cause our own inner stress by entertaining negative thoughts and attitudes. If you are a perennially negative and cynical type, you are placing your  mind under unnecessary mental stress. Positive thinkers live happier, healthier and longer lives.

Negative, hostile, cynical types erode their health unnecessarily. Attitudes are a choice. Negative thoughts can lead to bad moods and depression. The wonderful thing is that we have the power to replace bad thought with good thoughts. When a negative or depressive thought arises, it will soon be joined by other similar thoughts, and the end result will be irritability or depression. If we replace such thoughts with positive thoughts, the opposite takes place, and we will feel better. It takes some effort, but the results are quite positive.

 

                                                                                        FAITH HELPS

            The verdict is now in. People who believe in God, and who are sincere believers are better able to cope with stress than people who do not; they also live longer and healthier lives. Having meaning in one's life adds energy and helps the person to better cope with the challenges of life.[vii] If you have taken this area lightly, it may be worth reconsidering. 

 

                                                                     CONCLUSION

I have shared with you my experiences in going through the dark tunnel of mental turmoil. I have shared with you what I have done, and how I successfully helped myself to come out of it. For over two decades, I have helped dozens of people who had the same condition and have improved wonderfully. I have also come across health professionals that have suffered like I did and have been helped by the very same principles that helped me.  I hope and pray that my account will give hope to you as Judge Blaine's did to me. I hope that the simplicity of it all will not turn you away. If you decide to try to implement these principles, the benefits may be dramatic for you as they were for me.

Since 1974, thanks to these adjustments in my daily living,  I have finished the equivalent of 10 years of post-secondary education.  Besides being a mental health professional, I am a qualified high school English and History teacher, and I teach psychology part-time in a local college. I serve as an elder in my congregation and I write theology books. I have almost finished raising three special teens and have a very fine relationship with my wife.

Had I not had the willingness to explore and try new approaches, I would have never been able to tackle such a busy life; I would have been seriously debilitated, and my future would have been far from bright. May the Almighty help you to reach the end of your dark tunnel soon and may you emerge happier and stronger than ever.

GOD BLESS YOUR EFFORTS AND GIVE YOU PEACE.

                                              Michael


 PS. The above are the experiences and opinions of the author. You should consult with your doctor before trying the above suggestions.
 
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[1] [2] Blaine, Tom, R. (Judge) Mental Health Through Nutrition. New York, Citadel Press [1969]

 

[3] Adams, Ruth, Murray, Frank, Mega-Vitamin Therapy, New York: Larchmont Books, 1973, P. 147.

 

Hoffer Abraham, Walker, Morton, Orthomolecular Nutrition. New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, 1978, P. 24.

 

Newbold, H.L. Mega-nutrients for you Mind. New York: Berkley Medallion Books, 1978, P. 66.

 

 

[4] Blaine, Tom, R. . Goodbye Allergies. New York: Citadel Press, 1965.

 

[5] Newbold, H.L. Mega-nutrients for you Mind. New York: Berkley Medallion Books, 1978, P. 62.

 

[6] Crook, William, G. The Yeast Connection. New York: Vintage Books, 1986.

 

[7] Charlesworth, E. A. Stress Management, New York: Ballantyne Books, 1984.

 

[8] McIntosh, Phyllis, Faith is Powerful medicine. Readers Digest, November, 1999, P. 155.

 

PS. The number of books on the subject of Hypoglycemia, Cerebral Allergies and Candida are extensive.  Visit your local health food store and you should find several.

 

 

 

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