Mental illness runs in my family, both immediate and extended. Most have various forms of depression and are on antidepressants. In my travels I have found that this condition is quite common. There are multiple studies indicating that 1 in 5 people in the US and Canada suffer from some form of mental illness (Google search). I have also observed that artists and other creatives are even more likely to have some form of mental illness (Google search). I mention this part because I am an artist/creative.
If you ask someone on the street why people have mental illness the most common answer is "it's a chemical imbalance in the brain". After all, this is what we've been led to believe by the main stream media, drug commercials and our doctors. But is it? After all, there is no evidence to support this. It is just a theory.
Most people confronted with this type of condition, as well as the people who care for them, are content with going along with the main stream beliefs and do whatever their doctor says. Which, regardless of the issue, involves drugs. This, despite the statistics that show that antidepressants work no better for depression than a placebo. The most encouraging stats I could find in favor of drugs comes from the book Brain Maker by David Perlmutter MD in which he states that antidepressants work no more than 7-12% better than a placebo. Dr. Perlmutter also goes on to say that antidepressants eventually destroy the body's ability to produce the "happy chemicals" like serotonin thus making the patient dependent on the drug.
I used to be one of those people. "It doesn't matter what's wrong, there's a drug for that." Then I started realizing that all the drugs I was taking for various ailments did nothing for the ailment, they just covered up the symptoms. I, just like everyone else, just assumed and believed when the medical industry said these things were incurable. And given the toxicity of all synthetic drugs (side effects), it doesn't make much sense to treat symptoms while ignoring the underlying problem.
The problem, it turns out, is not simple. It's rarely, if ever, a single problem. And thus rarely, if ever, a single solution. There are a multitude of factors, and what is a problem for some people may not be a problem for others.
So, what is the problem when it comes to mental illness? And what is one to do? Well, I've found several things which I will outline here.
It has long been thought that if you have a gene for cancer, mental illness or a myriad of other diseases and ailments, you would then get that disease. However, as scientists became better and better at identifying genes, this philosophy made less and less sense. The more up to date science of epigenetics says that, yes you are born with genes relating to a particular illness, but having the gene doesn't mean you'll get the illness. Epigenetics introduced the concept of "expressing" the genes. In other words, the gene may be there, but it needs an outside influence to "turn it on" to create the illness. So what turns genes on? Again, there are a myriad of influences.
An excerpt from an article by Dr. Mercola:
"The United States permits more than 84,000 chemicals to be used in household products, cosmetics, food, and food packaging, and a majority of these have never been tested for safety. More than 10,000 chemical additives with questionable safety - as most have never been tested in humans - are allowed in food and food packaging alone. Roughly 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics, of which only 10 percent have been evaluated for safety. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, 85 percent of new chemical applications include no testing whatsoever.
Scientific evidence strongly suggest that exposure to chemicals is contributing to cancer, reproductive abnormalities, early puberty, and a host of other endocrine, neurological, and metabolic problems."
Many chemicals have been known to express genes related to various illnesses, as mentioned in this article, including mental illness, and have even been known to alter DNA. Altered DNA means that cells don't reproduce properly (DNA is where the information comes from to produce a new cell) and this DNA damage gets passed on to your children and grand children.
The article above mentions "more than 10,000 chemical additives... most have never been tested on humans". Some have been tested on humans. Unfortunately, the testing of many of these has been done on the general population AFTER government approval. And despite overwhelming negative reactions, big money keeps them on the market. One in particular I have looked into is Aspartame - the most widely used artificial sweetener on the market. It is used in almost all "diet" products (the term diet is permitted to be used despite the fact that Aspartame causes weight gain). This product has been widely shown to cause a myriad of problems including mental illness. (Sweet Misery, The Sweet Deception, Nutrition & Behavior) What's really disturbing is the fact that most of the many problems this chemical causes were well known long before it was ever approved by the government. Money talks.
Drugs are chemicals. Some are based on natural sources, but they're still chemicals. Many medications can cause depression and other psychological disorders, even antidepressants. You can read the list of known side effects but just because psychological disorders are not listed, doesn't mean it cant' happen. For example, a few years back I had cortisone shots in my knees which made me very depressed. Depression is not mentioned on the list.
A class of drugs that are of particular concern are antibiotics. These drugs are probably the most valuable of any - millions of people would have died without them. But there is a serious drawback that the medical industry ignores. Antibiotics don't just kill the bad bacteria in your body that cause infections and the like, they also kill all the good bacteria in your gut. You can't live without this bacteria, and some of it is essential to good mental health. Many of the "happy" chemicals and hormones such as serotonin are either produced by or are wholly dependent on this gut bacteria.
Other drugs and chemicals can also kill gut bacteria. Chlorine is a big one. Drinking chlorinated water, swimming in chlorinated pools and even showering in chlorinated water and breathing fumes or touching chlorine cleaners can all introduce chlorine into your body which will kill your bacteria.
There are a multitude of chemicals produced in nature. Even in our own bodies. These are a normal part of life, are for the most part perfectly harmless, and some even essential to life. But man has learned to extract and concentrate many of these natural chemicals. Most are beneficial, some are not. One that I know for an absolute fact affects mental illness (extensive personal experience) as well as many if not all other diseases is Monosodium Glutamate or MSG. Or more accurately, glutamate or free glumatic acid.
Mercury, lead, aluminum and other toxic metals are a surprisingly big problem, especially on the brain.
Where would you get mercury from? You know those silver fillings in your mouth? They're called "silver" because of the color, not the content. They are [approximately] 30% silver, 5% nickel, 15% other (binders, etc.) and... get this... 50% mercury! And no, silver amalgam fillings are not stable. Watch these videos.
Lead is less common, but a surprising number of people have chronic lead poisoning. I grew up in a lead mining town (Pine Point NWT) where they pumped the water out of the same ground they got the lead from. I didn't find out I had lead poisoning until a naturopath did a broad spectrum test for heavy (toxic) metals in around 2011. My lead level was eleven and a half times higher than what is considered safe. Almost a year of chelation therapy later and my thinking improved dramatically. BTW, if you want a test for chronic lead poisoning, don't bother going to your family doctor. The medical establishment will only provide a blood test, knowing full well that a blood test will not show chronic lead, only accute lead. You need a provoked urine test only available from a naturopath.
You may think you haven't had any exposure to aluminum either, but if you or your family has ever cooked with aluminum pots and pans, and especially if food was stored in them, you likely have aluminum poisoning. There are other sources of aluminum too, but I won't get into those here.
It may seem strange that some things we eat in every day meals can cause mental illness. But it's true. Some more so than others, and most only in a small minority of people. One though is of particular concern as it effects everyone in one way or another and those with a propensity toward mental illness in a more obvious way. Gluten.
Gluten is found in wheat barley and rye, but especially in wheat. Many would argue that man has been eating these grains for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. In evolutionary terms, we should have adapted by now. I believe this to be true. But there's a problem, especially with wheat. The wheat we're eating today - organic or not, is not the same wheat our ancestors ate 10,000 or even 200 years ago. Wheat has changed. Not by genetic modification as is a big concern today, but by decades and even centuries of selective breeding - a technique commonly used in the farming industry to produce better plants. Wheat these days has been bred to have a higher yield, shorter stature for easier harvest and more tolerant in various climates. All desirable qualities in a plant. Just one problem. In doing so, modern wheat also has more than ten times the amount of gluten as ancient strains. And gluten protein has five times or more glumatic acid as most proteins (see MSG above). (What Are We eating?, The Truth about Gluten, Wheatlessness, Grain Brain)
Everyone has heard that stress can impact your health. Trust me, this is greatly understated. But I would also like to add to this section the subject of attitude. Your thoughts greatly impact how you feel. Scientifically this gets into the field of quantum physics so I won't go into the scientific end of this here. On a more down to earth level, learning about and studying the Law of Attraction (LOA) is an excellent route to take. And if you can afford it, a life coach is of immense benefit. I know of a couple of good ones, feel free to contact me for their names.
I would also like to add here that applying LOA principles requires at least a moderately functioning brain. And I can say from experience, when it comes to mental illness our brains are not functioning well, thus making application of these principles very difficult. I highly recommend applying the other principles and methods I've outlined here in conjunction with studying LOA. They will work synergisticly.
By far I have not addressed every possible cause of mental illness. But after studying this for over ten years and from extensive personal experience, I do believe that what I have discussed here plays the largest role in the problem. I also have not included everything I have learned on these various subjects. That would take volumes. There is a great deal of information available on each of them. I do however thoroughly believe that the vast majority of people diagnosed with various mental illnesses, to one degree or another, have been misdiagnosed. Not that someone diagnosed with depression or bi-polar or schizophrenia don't have these illnesses. They do. But bi-polar disorder isn't the problem. It's the chemicals and/or the MSG and/or the gluten, etc. that's the problem. I thoroughly believe that the majority of the problems in the majority of the people with mental illness can be alleviated by resolving the issues I have discussed.
So, how to correct these problems?
Chemicals: It is pretty much impossible to completely eliminate all chemical exposure. But eating all organic food is a good start. But beware: the laws governing "organic" products are surprisingly lax. A product can be labeled as organic if it contains 95% organic ingredients. That last 5% leaves a lot of room for hidden MSG (see MSG below) and other harmful chemicals.
Gut Bacteria: Replacing your gut bacteria is relatively easy, in most cases. Pretty much everyone could use at least one month of probiotics, but especially if you have ever taken antibiotics or drank very much chlorinated water, you need probiotics. Consult the book Brain Maker for more on this.
Aspartame: This one is fairly easy to avoid, if you read labels. The easiest way is to avoid anything that says "Diet". You could be on a carb free diet, a high protein diet, or any other kind of diet. The word diet simply means what you generally eat. Diet doesn't mean it'll help you loose weight. Remember, Aspartame causes weight gain. Other artificial sweeteners aren't quite as bad as Aspartame, but not by much. Best to avoid all of them.
MSG: You would think this would be easy to avoid too. Just read the label and avoid "MSG" or "Monosodium glutamate". Not true. glutamate is hidden behind more than 50 different names. The Truth In Labeling site has a great list to follow. It's best to avoid everything on this list, but the first section especially. I've found a couple of general guidelines here - 1) if it's organic it's probably safe, but read the label. I once bought some organic yogurt which I didn't realize had powdered milk (milk solids) in it. I came within two days of dying. 2) If it's cheap and packaged, the odds are extremely high it has some sort of glutamate in it. Sorry, but good health is not cheap.
Gluten: This is a tough one. Organic or not, almost all packaged products contain gluten. Fortunately there are many gluten free alternatives available today. Most of them taste like crap, but there are a few good ones out there. The good news is, although people with a sensitivity and probably most people with a mental illness should avoid gluten as much as possible, most people can get away with a few traces here and there. But the only way to tell if you are sensitive or not is to cut gluten out altogether for at least 6 weeks, then add a little back in slowly and see how you feel. Keep in mind you could take as much as 12-24 hours to react.
Food: In a nutshell, eating organic is very important. This at least will help you avoid the chemicals absorbed by and contained in non-organic food. Unfortunately, eating organic is no guarantee that you're getting the nutrients you need. This is because the government standard for organic is so lax that the majority of the produce, meat, packaged products and other food stuffs do not contain the nutrient value of true organic food. If you live near Mennonite or Hutterite communities or farms you're in luck. They never did bow to the government and economic pressure to use the chemicals which have destroyed the vast majority of the farm land in industrialized nations and therefore have maintained a true organic environment.
Since for most of us true organic food is not an option, supplements are needed. There are many multi-vitamins on the market. If you currently take a multi-vitamin purchased at a normal store, stop! Not only are they so small and have such a poor absorbancy rate as to be useless, they literally do more harm than good. I have heard of several vitamin/mineral supplements that claim to have a high absorbancy rate, and most have a great deal of anecdotal evidence (improved health in customers) to back up those claims, but I only know of one that has actual laboratory studies to back up the claims. That doesn't mean there aren't others with lab studies or that the ones without the lab results aren't good. I just only know of the one with the lab results. Feel free to contact me if you wish to find out more.
Juicing is another option to increase your nutrient intake. Juicing vegetables extracts the bulk of the nutrients and makes them more easily available to your body since they are in liquid form instead of solid form. I usually have a quart (liter) of juice for breakfast consisting of carrots, apples, celery, ginger for flavor and sometimes beets. Some green juice each day is also of great benefit. I've noticed a huge difference between the times in my life I was able to have juice and times I was not. If you are new to all of this and are trying to recover from an illness, I recommend taking supplements and juicing for at least the first year. You will notice a difference while doing these things probably within a week, and definitely within a month, but it takes time for your body to heal from the years of neglect.
You may think that chemicals, MSG, Aspartame and gluten don't effect you. You're wrong. They effect everyone. If you have one or more chronic illnesses, especially mental illness, the odds are extremely high that one or more of these things is at least exasperating it if not causing it. Even if you seem perfectly healthy now, these chemicals are causing hidden damage. I can't tell you how many people I've seen that live a relatively long and healthy life then all of a sudden - BAM! Everything goes wrong at once. I'm sure you've seen them too.
Also everyone, especially those with mental illness, should get a broad spectrum heavy metal test from a naturopath. It's good to rule things out, or address it if there is a problem.
This has been a nutshell version of what I have learned so far. I know it seems long, but trust me, there is a great deal of information on all of these subjects available. I encourage you to do your own research on all of these.