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Depression Is Not A Prozac Deficiency & Other Fallacies of Western Medicine

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This article was written by Ali Le Vere for Greenmedinfo.com. It’s republished here with their permission. For more information from Greenmedinfo, you can sign up for the newsletter here.

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When people come to me for holistic health advice, my main objective is to provide evidence-based health information supported by the scientific literature. One of the quintessential pillars of my mission is to share those practices with empirical validation in order to elevate therapeutic nutrition to the same perceived mainstream legitimacy as any other science-based discipline.

Oftentimes, however, people thank me and say that they will see what their primary care physician, or worse yet, their specialist, has to say about it. Although I always advocate that you run any intervention or modality past a licensed physician for contraindications and medical advice, I can’t help but flat-out cringe when they tell me they will solicit natural health advice from their allopathic doctor, due to the shortcomings of biomedical education in true lifestyle- and diet-based preventative medicine.

Truth be told, anything other than the provision of surgery or drugs is simply not the wheelhouse of a conventional provider. More often than not, an endocrinologist will not be versed in the use of selenium with myo-inositol to return TSH to normal concentrations in Hashimoto’s patients with subclinical hypothyroidism (Nordio & Raffaella, 2013). It is similarly unlikely that a neurologist will prescribe cannabis, which is supported by the literature for migraine headaches, before resorting to more dangerous triptans, muscle relaxants, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Baron, 2015). Nor will a cardiologist be familiar with the use of berberine from goldenseal to lower cholesterol, reduce hypertension, mitigate oxidative stress, and improve cardiometabolic parameters (Hunter & Hegele, 2017).

A rheumatologist is unlikely to be acquainted with the literature demonstrating that fasting ameliorates the manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus by enhancing populations of regulatory T cells, which invoke peripheral immune tolerance (Liu, Yu, Matarese, & La Cava, 2012). Likewise, most dermatologists will be unfamiliar with findings that high dose vitamin D in concert with a calcium-restricted diet results in dramatic clearance of skin lesions and significant re-pigmentation in psoriasis and vitiligo, respectively (Finamor et al., 2013). You would also be hard pressed to find a psychiatrist aware that a multi-center double-blind human study elucidated that passionflower extract reduces anxiety in generalized anxiety disorder as well as mexazolam, a benzodiazepine, or that rose oil exerts anxiolytic properties comparable to diazepam in an animal model (Mori et al., 1993; de Almeid et al., 2004).

Over the years, before my foray into functional medicine, I saw a revolving door of specialists, each compartmentalized into their respective silos, as a consequence of the Cartesian dualism and reductionism that prevails in conventional medicine. This isn’t my first time at the rodeo.

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I have been dismissed, demeaned, and downright disparaged when I have implicitly questioned the culturally constructed authority of the man in the white coat, who we anoint with almost religious reverence as the guardian of a sacred body of privileged knowledge. When I have brought abstracts from the scientific literature to their attention, I have at times been greeted with frank hostility if the findings presented contradicted their pre-existing beliefs, formulaic treatment algorithms, and literal indoctrination.

I have heard medical physicians attempt to masquerade misinformation as fact, stating that autoimmune disease is just luck of the draw and that it is un-related to diet and lifestyle variables, when in fact the scientific literature, such as an article published in the prestigious Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) entitled “Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases,” directly contradicts this claim. In fact, research has revealed that chronic disease is only 16.4% genetic, and 84.6% environmental (epigenetic and exposome-related) (Rappaport, 2016).

I have witnessed gastroenterologists tell patients with severe inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to eat whatever they want, and claim that ulcerative colitis is unrelated to the commensal gut flora, when studies have demonstrated that high potency, multi-strain probiotics such as VSL #3 used in conjunction with standard therapies result in remission in 93% of subjects compared to 36% of controls (Miele et al., 1999). I have had neurologists tell me straight-faced that Lyme disease is exceedingly rare, when in actuality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of new cases each year is approaching 300,000, a number rivaling that of breast cancer (CDC, 2013).

Although medical doctors worship at the altar of evidence-based standards of care, they frequently engage in cognitive dissonance and confirmatory bias, as the mantle of science upon which they hang their hats and derive their legitimacy is anything but objective fact (Morris, Wooding, & Grant, 2011). This is underscored by studies which have demonstrated that there is an average 17 year lag time between what is illuminated in scientific research to be translated into clinical practice (Morris, Wooding, & Grant, 2011).

​​As catalogued in psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan’s seminal book, A Mind of Your Own, a 2013 article from the Mayo Clinic Proceedings advocated that 40 percent of current medical practices should be completely discarded (Prasad et al., 2013; Brogan, 2016). Similarly, she cites how an analysis of Cochrane reviews, one of the highest forms of research, arrived at the conclusion that 62 percent of medical treatments were negative or had no evidentiary support for efficacy (Berman et al., 2001).

Likewise, Dr. Brogan (2016) highlights how a 2011 meta-analysis performed by theBritish Medical Journal of 2,500 medical treatments found that only 36 percent of treatments were likely to be beneficial (Garrow, 2007). Thus, when you receive care from a licensed medical physician, there is a 64 percent chance that you will receive a treatment that is neither scientifically supported to be beneficial nor likely to be beneficial (Garrow, 2007).

The flawed premise of the allopathic model is exemplified by a public statement Dr. Brogan unearthed from Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the esteemed scientific journal, the Lancet, who stated, “The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness” (Horton, 2015; Brogan, 2016).

The Fallacy of the Serotonin Theory of Depression

Especially culpable are the oncologists, profiteering off of the carcinogenic therapies of radiation and chemotherapy in the cancer industrial complex; however, the vast majority of allopathic physicians with whom I have interacted are peddling the silver bullet wares of Big Pharma and demonstrate little receptivity to deviance from their uniformly applied, algorithmic treatment approaches. I have encountered doctors within the medical fraternity with open minds, but by and large, due to the protocols and lenses through which they are trained to operate, medical doctors do not stray from their quick fix philosophies and magic bullet approaches.

For example, although there is no scientific validity to the serotonin deficiency hypothesis of depression, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft are administered like candy, with flagrant disregard for their long-term ramifications and adverse side effects (Brogan, 2016). In 2010 alone, 254 million prescriptions were written for antidepressants, and according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 takes antidepressants (Insel, 2011).

But everyone knows that depression is a chemical imbalance, right? Wrong. If you are wondering why everybody mindlessly repeats this mantra, engendering an echo chamber where everyone is thinking alike, yet no one is thinking—look no further than Big Pharma direct-to-consumer marketing.

According to Lacasse and Leo (2015), “Such advertisements [do] not accurately reflect the scientific status of the serotonin theory in the psychiatric research community” (p. 206). For instance, psychiatrist and historian Healy (2004), states, “Indeed, no abnormality of serotonin in depression has ever been demonstrated” (p.12). Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Joseph Glenmullen, similarly articulates, “A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found” (Glenmullen, 2000, p.197).

Further, biochemist and Nobel Prize Winner Julus Axelrod concluded that, “Whatever was wrong in depression, it was not lowered serotonin” (Healy, 2004, p. 12). Another Nobel Prize winner, Avrid Carlson, likewise advocates abandonment of the over-simplified theory where a neurotransmitter excess or deficiency leads to mental illness given the lack of evidence to this effect (Shorter, 2009). In fact, as Dr. Brogan underscores in A Mind Of Your Own, animal studies, imaging studies, and human studies have never confirmed a link between neurotransmitter levels and depression (Brogan, 2016).

Northwestern University hospital psychiatrist David Kaiser states this most eloquently with, “…Patients have been diagnosed with ‘chemical imbalances’ despite the fact that no test exists to support such a claim, and there is no real conception of what a correct chemical imbalance would look like…Yet conclusions such as ‘depression is a biochemical imbalance’ are created out of nothing more than semantics and wishful thinking of scientists/psychiatrists and a public that will believe anything now that has the stamp of approval of medical science” (Kaiser, 1996).

In 2011, Ronald Pies, psychiatrist at Tufts University and former editor of the prestigious trade journal Psychiatric Times, explained that over-booked psychiatrists employ the chemical deficiency explanation to justify their dispensation of medication, knowing full well the inaccuracy of this theory (Lacasse & Leo, 2015). Pies states, “In truth, the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well informed psychiatrists” (Lacasse & Leo, 2015). In 2014, Levine named this phenomena, “Psychiatry’s Manufacture of Consent”.

“My impression is that most psychiatrists who use this expression feel uncomfortable and a little embarrassed when they do so. It’s kind of a bumper-sticker phrase that saves time, and allows the physician to write out that prescription while feeling that the patient has been ‘educated'” (Pies, 2011).

The pharmaceutical industry has taken advantage of this erroneous serotonin deficiency theory in order to promote patient compliance with antidepressant medication regimens and to acquire lifetime users. Studies have shown that when depressed individuals are told that they have a confirmed deficiency of serotonin underlying their depression, they find the idea of antidepressant medication more credible than psychotherapy and also anticipate its effectiveness, ushering in a placebo effect (Deacon & Baird, 2009). However, outcomes suffer, as “They also had more pessimism about their prognosis and a lower perceived ability to regulate negative mood states, yet experienced no reduction in self-blame” (Lacasse & Leo, 2015, p. 208).

From a medical anthropology perspective, when you lift the veil on psychiatry, you discover the irreproducibility of diagnoses and their arbitrary nature, in that they are not based on objective biochemical biomarkers. The famous Rosenhan experiment, where subjects feigned hallucinations and then were admitted into psych wards, concluded that we cannot differentiate the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals, revealed the subjective nature of psychiatric diagnostic categories, and also illuminated the dehumanization produced by psychiatric labels (Rosenhan, 1973).

A Novel Model of Depression

Instead of being a discrete disease entity, depression is a symptom, like nausea, tremors, sweating, or a cough. The evidence points to an inflammatory cytokine model of depression, whereby inflammatory intercellular signaling molecules like interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, interferon (IFN) gamma, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, produced by the innate immune system, penetrate the blood brain barrier and create mood disorders including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression—which are symptomatic of systemic inflammatory processes (Dantzer, 2008).

In fact, elevations in inflammatory cytokines are observed in subjects with major depressive disorder, and a concomitant “resolution of a depressive episode is associated with normalization of levels of circulating inflammatory cytokines” (Hannestad, DellaGioia, & Bloch, 2011). Likewise, administration of the cytokines, such as IFN-gamma, which is given as a treatment for hepatitis C, induces a predictable major depressive episode in one fourth of patients (Udina et al., 2012).

The inflammatory model of depression is further buttressed by studies demonstrating that the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-alpha are significantly higher in depressed patients compared to controls (Dowlati et al., 2010). Further, inflammation, as indicated by elevations in serum high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), is an independent risk factor for de novo major depressive disorder in women, which researchers posit, “supports an aetiological role for inflammatory activity in the pathophysiology of depression” (Pasco et al., 2010, p. 372).

Another line of evidence is that the intravenous injection of Salmonella abortus equi endotoxin is accompanied by increased circulating levels of cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-alpha, the levels of which are significantly correlated with transient escalations in anxiety and depression (Reichenberg et al., 2001.

Beck et al. (2013) submits this and several other lines of evidence in his ground-breaking paper where he discusses that, “Depression is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response and activation of cell-mediated immunity… It is similarly accompanied by increased oxidative and nitrosative stress (O&NS), which contribute to neuroprogression in the disorder”. Rather than a Prozac or Zoloft deficiency, Beck (2013) provides scientific proof that depression is induced by systemic inflammation related to factors such as vitamin D deficiency, psychosocial stressors, smoking, obesity, nutrient-poor diets, a sedentary lifestyle, leaky gut, atopy, dental caries, and impaired sleep (Beck et al., 2013).

Cytokine induced sickness behavior—a more accurate description of clinical depression—is a phenomenon characterized by relapsing-remitting aches, pains, lethargy, apathy, loss of appetite, attenuation of parasympathetic tone, altered thermoregulation, flattening of diurnal rhythms (adrenal ‘fatigue’), and social withdrawal, which evolved as an adaptive mechanism to facilitate the retreat from society required for the body to slow down and heal (Dantzer, 2008).

This is the evolutionary reason behind the depression and self-imposed social isolation that frequently accompanies autoimmunity and other chronic illnesses. It is also one of the contributory factors behind the comorbidity of autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and infection with depression, and the reason why depression often accompanies acute, inflammatory illnesses such as colds and flus (Dowlati et al., 2010; Reichenberg et al., 2011).

Cytokine induced sickness behavior leads to endocrine, autonomic, perceptual and behavioral changes which enable ill individuals to better cope with infections (Dantzer, 2001).

Depression is now being re-conceived of as a decompensation of the mechanisms that regulate sickness—and because a pathogen is often behind chronic, dysregulated immune responses in autoimmunity—some researchers such as Turhan Canli are suggesting depression be re-branded an infectious disease.

In the opinions of many researchers, however, a neuro-inflammatory model, with pathologic neural microglial activation in the brain, better characterizes depression (Brites & Fernandez, 2015).

​​The Implications of the Flexner Report for ‘Alternative’ Medicine

Most of us can acknowledge the historical malfeasance of psychiatry; however, limitations exist when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of traditionally somatic diseases as well. The knowledge deficit when it comes to anything other than pill-for-every-ill Big Pharma-driven, conflict of interest-ridden medicine is exemplified from a passage extracted from my recent piece, ‘How Functional Medicine can Reverse Your Autoimmune Disease’:

“Any historian of the evolution of medicine understands the inextricable marriage between the pharmaceutical industry and the conventional medical establishment.

Business magnate and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, funded the earliest American medical schools on the condition that synthetic, petroleum-based drugs from which his businesses would profit be the cornerstone of disease treatment.

He also hired Abraham Flexner to submit his famous early twentieth century report to Congress, which made illegal the practice of medicine by ‘itinerant healers’ such as hydropaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, and herbalists. This produced a climate of warring practitioners and fostered “sectarian antagonism,” “internecine hatreds,” and “mutual hostility” in the medical profession, and led to the concerted dissemination of propaganda dismissing their healing modalities as “quackery” (McKeown, 1979).

The American Medical Association sponsored a massive smear campaign such that natural medicine practitioners were marginalized and barred from inclusion in orthodox medical societies, forbidden from formal licensure, and stripped of prestige and legitimacy. For instance, “A committee of the AMA recommended that the Massachusetts Medical Society, which continued to harbor homeopaths among its members, lose representation until it purged itself of heretics” (McKeown, 1979).

Thus ushered in the era of chemotherapy and synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, the magic bullet solution to all of humanity’s ills.

As a consequence, here we stand today, in the largest chronic disease epidemic in human history, where only one third of medical doctors receive a single course in nutrition during their professional training (Adams et al., 2006). Among that third who receive nutrition instruction, the average time spent learning nutrition-related material is a mere 23.9 hours (Adams et al., 2006).

Thus, if you are seeking advice on therapeutic nutrition and holistic lifestyle interventions from your conventional physician, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Where Conventional Medicine Fails, Functional Medicine Succeeds

Dr. Sidney Baker, one of the founding fathers of the functional medicine paradigm, employed a metaphor of a tacks in one’s foot to describe how functional medicine removes the tacks, one by one, that are allowing disease to manifest, whereas biomedicine ignores the tacks and administers xenobiotic poisons, or prescription pharmaceuticals, in a symptom-suppressive manner to mask the ache. In another metaphor, functional medicine looks to the origins of the “check engine light” that appears on your dashboard, rather than putting masking tape over it to conceal the harbinger of malfunction.

Our health care system is, in at its essence, a disease management system, entangled and enmeshed with corporate agendas and conflicts of interest.  During one of my extended hospitalizations, during a massive health crisis, it struck me that one of the nurses attending to my care said, “You don’t go to the hospital to get better”. By the same token, I’ve learned over my three decades of escapades with chronic illness, that you don’t go to the [regular] doctor to get well.

This is revealed by studies which have found that at least 44,000 and up to 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. Deaths due to iatrogenesis, or harm inflicted by the medical establishment, kill more people than motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297) or AIDS (16,516), and exceed the number attributable to the 8th leading cause of death (Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, 2000). Moreover, the total national costs of adverse events are between $37.6 billion and $50 billion dollars (Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America, 2000).

Worse yet, is that conventional medicine belittles nutraceuticals as unsafe and unproven and relegates natural medicine to realm of make-believe, despite the litany of high quality peer-reviewed literature supporting their use. Of the 136 million emergency room (ER) visits each year, only 23,000 (0.019%) are attributed to dietary supplements, whereas 731,000 (thirty one times that number) are associated with adverse events resulting from the correct, prescribed use of medical drugs—not overdoses (Geller et al., 2015).

Of these ER visits resulting from supplement use, 20% were owing to accidental ingestion by children under the age of four, and 60% of the 3000 visits attributed to people over age 65 were due to swallowing issues (Geller et al., 2015). Products responsible for 42% of the total ER visits were supplements advertised for energy and weight loss, many of which contained stimulants and ingredients that were undeclared active pharmaceuticals rather than dietary supplements (Geller et al., 2015). Hence, authentic, high-quality, professional-grade nutraceutical supplements have excellent safety profiles, whereas the medical use of pharmaceuticals is a major source of morbidity and mortality.

In addition, whereas Western medicine excels at acute, emergency care, it fails when it comes to the burden of non-communicable disease, with an infant mortality rate higher than 27 other developed countries, and a fifth-time ranking as the worst health care system among all industrialized nations (Helman, 2014; Ingraham, 2014). Although the United States has the most expensive health care system in the world, it ranks lowest in terms of “efficiency, equity and outcome” (Helman, 2014).

Further, the marriage between the pharmaceutical companies, insurance carriers, and medical system dictates the treatments offered to patients, which are patentable and profitable pharmaceutical drugs. The file drawer phenomenon, where publication bias favors the reporting of positive findings, means that negative drug trials which yield unfavorable results can be permanently shelved and never revealed to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the process of drug approval.

For example, a 2008 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed how 37 out of 38 positive studies on antidepressants were published, whereas only 3 of 36 negative studies, demonstrating no benefit, were published as such (Turner et al., 2008; Brogan, 2016). The author states, “Selective publication of clinical trials, and the outcomes within those trials, can lead to unrealistic estimates of drug effectiveness and alter the apparent risk–benefit ratio” (Turner et al., 2008).

Thus, for those who can afford it, I recommend embarking on your healing journey with a functional medicine practitioner for a revolutionary operating system in which antecedents, or predisposing factors, triggers, or instigating factors, and mediators, also known as perpetuating factors, are systemically addressed in order to remove each proverbial tack that is contributing to dysfunction and pathology. Contrary to my dismal experience within Western medicine, all of the functional medicine doctors I have encountered have had a genuine desire to engage in an egalitarian therapeutic partnership and to systematically unearth the root causes of my diseases.

Anyone with training through the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) should be well acquainted with the root cause resolution, bio-individualized approach that can help you reverse your autoimmune condition, mood disorder, or other chronic illness.

Related CE Article: Study Finds That Big Pharma Completely Lied About Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) For Depression

Ali Le Vere (the author) holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Human Biology and Psychology, minors in Health Promotion and in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society, and is a Master of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine candidate. Having contended with chronic illness, her mission is to educate the public about the transformative potential of therapeutic nutrition and to disseminate information on evidence-based, empirically rooted holistic healing modalities. Read more at @empoweredautoimmune on Instagram and at www.EmpoweredAutoimmune.com: Science-based natural remedies for autoimmune disease, dysautonomia, Lyme disease, and other chronic, inflammatory illnesses.

References

Adams et al. (2006). Status of Nutrition Education in Medical Schools. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(4), 941S–944S.

Baron, E.P. (2015). Comprehensive review of medical marijuana, cannabinoids, and therapeutic implications in medicine and headache: What a long strange trip its been. Headache, 55(6), 885-916. doi: 10.1111/head.12570.

Beck et al. (2013). So depression is an inflammatory disease, but where does the inflammation come from? BMC Medicine, 11. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-11-200

Berman et al. (2001). Reviewing the reviews. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, 17, 456-466.

Brogan, K. (2016). A Mind Of Your Own: The Truth about Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. New York, NY: Harper Wave.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Press Release: CDC provides estimate of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2013/p0819-lyme-disease.html

de Almeida et al. (2004). Anxiolytic-like effects of rose oil inhalation on the elevated plus-maze test in rats. Pharmacology and Biochemistry of Behavior, 77(2), 361-364.

Dowlati et al. (2010). A meta-analysis of cytokines in major depression. Biological Psychiatry, 67(5), 446-457. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.09.033.

Finamor, D., Sinigaglia-Coimbra, R., Neves, L.C.M., Gutierrez, M., Silva, J., Torres, L.D.,… Coimbra, C. (2013). A pilot study assessing the effect of prolonged administration of high daily doses of vitamin D on the clinical course of vitiligo and psoriasis. Dermato-Endocrinology, 5(1), 222-234.

Garrow, J.S. (2007). What to do about CAM: How much of orthodox medicine is evidence based? British Medical Journal, 335(7627), 951.

Geller et al. (2015). Emergency department visits for adverse events related to dietary supplements. New England Journal of Medicine, 373, 1531-1540

Glenmullen, J. (2000). Prozac backlash. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hannestad, J., DellaGioia, N., & Bloch, M. (2011). The effect of antidepressant medication treatment on serum levels of inflammatory cytokines: a meta-analysis. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(12), 2452-2459. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.132.

Healy, D. (2004). Let them eat Prozac: The unhealthy relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and depression. New York: New York University.

Helman, M. (2014). U.S. Health Care Ranked Worst in the Developed World. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/2888403/u-s-health-care-ranked-worst-in-the-developed-world/

Horton, R. (2015). Offline: What is Medicine’s 5 Sigma? Lancet, 385, 1380.

Hunter, P. & Hegele, R. (2017). Functional foods and dietary supplements for the management of dyslipidaemia. National Reviews in Endocrinology, [Epub ahead of print].

Ingraham, C. (2014). Our infant mortality rate is a national embarrassment. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/09/29/our-infant-mortality-rate-is-a-national-embarrassment/?utm_term=.f28b433b478d

Insel, T. (2011). Post by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel: Antidepressants: A complicated picture. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2011/antidepressants-a-complicated-picture.shtml#_edn2

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. (2000). To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press (US). Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225187/

Kaiser, D. (1996). Against biologic psychiatry. Psychiatric Times, 8(12).

Lacasse, J.R., & Leo, J. (2015). Antidepressants and the chemical imbalance theory of depression: A reflection and update on the discourse. The Behavior Therapist, 206-266.

Lan, J., Zhao, Y., Dong, F., Yan, Z., Zheng, W., Fan, J., & Sun, G. (2015). Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. Journal Of Ethnopharmacology, 69. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.09.049

Liu, Y., Yu, Y., Matarese, G., & La Cava, A. (2012). Cutting edge: fasting- induced hypoleptinemia expands functional regulatory T cells in systemic lupus erythematosus. Journal Of Immunology, 188(5), 2070-2073. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.1102835

Mori et al. (1993). Clinical evaluation of Passiflamin (passiflora extract) on neurosis – multicenter double blind study in comparison with mexazolam. Rinsho Hyoka (Clinical Evaluation), 21, 383-440.

Morris, Z.S., Wooding, S., & Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question? Understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12), 510-520.

Nordio, M., & Raffaella, P. (2013). Combined treatmetn with myo-insoitol and selenium ensures euthyroidism in subclinical hypothyroidism patients with autoimmune thyroiditis. Journal of Thyroid Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/42/4163

Pasco et al. (2010). Association of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein with de novo major depression. British Journal of Psychiatry, 197(5), 372-377. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.109.076430.

Prasad et al. (2013). A decade of reversal: An analysis of 146 contradicted medical practices. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 88(8), 790-798.

Rappaport, S.M. (2016). Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases. PLoS One, 11(4), e0154387.

Reichenberg et al. (2001). Cytokine-associated emotional and cognitive disturbances in humans. Archives of General Psychiatry, 58(5), 445-452.

Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). On being sane in insane places. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 179(4070), 250-258.

Shorter, E. (2009). Before Prozac: The troubled history of mood disorders in psychiatry. New York: Oxford.

Turner et al. (2008). Selective publication of antidepressant trials and its influence on apparent efficacy. New England Journal of Medicine, 358, 252-260

Udina et al. (2012). Interferon-induced depression in chronic hepatitis C: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 73(8), 1128-1138. doi: 10.4088/JCP.12r07694.

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Awareness

Half of All Commonly Used Drugs Seriously Affect The Gut Microbiome, Scientists Warn

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Many commonly prescribed medications have been found to have a drastic affect on the "good bacteria" in our gut.

  • Reflect On:

    It is important to be aware of all potential side effects before taking a new drug to decide whether or not it's worth it for you.

The link between a healthy gut microbiome and overall well-being has been established in recent years as we are learning that around 95% of the serotonin (commonly referred to as the “happy hormone”) produced in our bodies actually comes from our gut! This is one of many reasons why it is important to take care of our health, be mindful of the foods we are eating and be aware of adverse reactions from any drugs we are taking.

A recent study presented at UEG Week 2019 (United European Gastroenterology) has found that 18 commonly prescribed prescription drugs extensively affect the taxonomic structure and metabolic potential of the gut microbiome. Another eight drugs from different categories were also found to increase antimicrobial resistance mechanisms in study participants, and that’s not good.

According to the official press release regarding the findings of the study,

“Researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen and the Maastricht University Medical Center looked at 41 commonly used drug categories and assessed 1883 faecal samples from a population-based cohort, patients with IBD and patients with IBS intermixed with healthy controls. The researchers compared the taxonomic and metabolic functions profiles of drug users to non-drug users, looking at the effect of single medication use and then combined medication use. The changes observed could increase the risk of intestinal infections, obesity and other serious conditions and disorders linked to the gut microbiome.”

In a healthy gut, we all have a microbe population living inside our intestines. This microbe population consists of tens of trillions of microorganisms, which include over 1000 various species of bacteria. There are many different factors that can affect the microbiota population in the human gut, including various forms of medication.

The drug categories that were concluded in the study to have the biggest impact on the gut microbiome are as follows:

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  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) – used to treat dyspepsia which affects between 11% and 24% of the European population. PPIs are also used to treat peptic ulcer, H. Pylori eradication, Gastro reflux and Barrett’s oesophagus.
  • Metformin – used as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, affecting 10% of European adults
  • Antibiotics – used to treat bacterial infections, taken by 34% of the European population each year
  • Laxatives – used to treat and prevent constipation, affecting 17% of European adults

More Important Findings

The study also showed that the gut microbiota of PPI users resulted in an increased level of upper gastrointestinal tract bacteria as well as increased fatty acid production. Metformin users showed higher levels of bacteria Escherichia coli (E.coli).

The research also showed that seven more categories of drugs were linked to significant changes to the levels of bacteria populations found in the gut. Oral steroids were related to higher levels of methanogenic bacteria, which has is associated with an increased BMI and obesity. Also, certain antidepressant drugs (known as SSRIs) used by those who also suffer from IBS was linked to an abundance of a bacteria species called Eubacterium ramulus, which can be harmful.

Lead-researcher of the study, Arnau Vich Vila said: “We already know that the efficiency and the toxicity of certain drugs are influenced by the bacterial composition of the gastrointestinal tract and that the gut microbiota has been related to multiple health conditions; therefore, it is crucial to understand which are the consequences of medication use in the gut microbiome. Our work highlights the importance of considering the role of the gut microbiota when designing treatments and also points to new hypotheses that could explain certain side-effects associated with medication use.”

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand all potential side effects when deciding on introducing a new drug into our system. The bacteria in our gut is there for a reason and it assists our bodies with many functions and if they are killed off or thrown off-balance it could result in more serious issues down the road.

If you are experiencing any of these issues and taking any of these medications it may be worthwhile to talk to your doctor about it and see if there are any alternative methods for treatment.

Our health is our greatest wealth!

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Awareness

The Health Benefits Of Reading Books Compared To Reading From Screens

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Numerous studies show the scientific benefits of reading. These benefits tend to increase when reading from actual books rather than screens.

  • Reflect On:

    Do screens consume the majority of your time? When was the last time you read a book? Reading is akin to exercise for your brain.

In the age of information we are being bombarded left, right and center with quick facts, fake news, censored information, video images and so much more. This is greatly affecting the span of our attention. To many the idea of picking up a book, when we could just as easily listen to it, or read segments on our phones is completely absurd. However, there are many benefits that come along with reading books that just might make it worth it to you.

Consider just the very act of reading a book in itself, holding it, turning the pages, seeing your progress in the development of the story, it’s almost as if you are a part of it.

Benefits Of Reading Books

Reading requires patience and diligence, which is not something required from a glance and a click on a quick headline. Reading a book  is almost a kin to running a marathon for your brain, I mean if you can finish a whole book!

Reading stimulates imagination and creativity.

Research has shown that reading helps with comprehension and emotional intelligence as well as fluid intelligence — meaning the ability to reason and have flexible thinking. This leads to smarter decision-making regarding yourself and others.

As we age, our memory will decline, but regular reading can help keep minds sharper longer according to research published in Neurology. Frequently exercising your mind was also proven in that same study to lower mental decline by 32 percent.

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“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert. S. Wilson of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago said in a statement. “Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents.”

Reading can help make you more empathetic — researchers from the Netherlands designed two experiments showing that people who were “emotionally transported” by a work of fiction experienced boosts in empathy,

“In two experimental studies, we were able to show that self-reported empathic skills significantly changed over the course of one week for readers of a fictional story by fiction authors Arthur Conan Doyle and José Saramago,” they wrote in their findings. “More specifically, highly transported readers of Doyle became more empathic, while non-transported readers of both Doyle and Saramago became less empathic.”

Even More Reasons Read Books

Aside from these deeper reasons to read books, here are some more basic ones:

Books are a lot easier on the eyes than screens, which will provide a nice break for many of us as we are spending an increasing amount of time staring at screens at work, at home, on our smartphones while watching Netflix — your eyes could use the break.

One survey of 429 university students revealed that nearly half had complained of strained eyes after reading digitally. Electronic books can cause screen fatigue, which may lead to blurred vision, redness, dryness, and irritation. With print books, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

If you are reading an actual book, there is less of a chance that you will be distracted compared to reading on your phone. A book has no notification pings, buzzes or pop-ups, and you can ensure this distraction free time by leaving your phone in another room or putting it on silent or on airplane mode while reading.

Another great thing about books and the wonderful byproduct of less screen time is less exposure to electromagnetic frequencies, if you don’t have your phone on you, and perhaps you even have your Wi-Fi turned off while not in use you are giving your body a bit of a break from the constant bombardment of these frequencies.

Reading books before bed can help you sleep better, the main reason being — they do not emit blue light, or any kind of light at all actually, which has been shown to interfere with a good night’s rest. Not only that, but personally I find in general, reading a book tends to make me sleepy, so I enjoy reading a few chapters before putting my head down for the night.

Who doesn’t love the smell of a good book? You know that lovely, kind of musty smell old books give off? Or the fresh, crisp paper smell of a brand new book?

Final Thoughts To Consider?

Will reading books become an outdated thing of the past? Or will we be able to stand by the benefits of books and keep collecting them for generations to come? Only time will tell! To finish off, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from the late, great, Dr. Seuss,

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

Much Love

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Alternative News

Research Suggests Many Diagnosed With ADHD May Not Actually Have A “Disorder”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The fact that ADHD is diagnosed strictly on behavioural characteristics and not brain imaging or other science means that many who have this label don't formally have a neurodevelopmental disorder.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is medication the only resort to combating the symptoms of ADHD? Why are other interventions, like meditation, dietary changes, a change in lifestyle/environment never really discussed or emphasized?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD, has become an epidemic. According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviours (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

They go on to state that it’s normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. “However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviours. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.”

The CDC claims that children with ADHD might daydream a lot, forget or lose things a lot, squirm or fidget, talk too much, have a hard time resisting temptation, have trouble taking turns, and make carless mistakes or take unnecessary risks. But are these really symptoms of a serious “neurodevelopmental disorder?”

Is This Science-Based?

It’s not as if children are taken into the lab and have their brains scanned to determine if serious brain abnormalities exist. ADHD is diagnosed purely off of behaviour, and there may be something very wrong with diagnosing someone with neurological abnormalities simply baed on observation, instead of actual science. Who is to say that the behaviours listed above are not those of a normal child, or even a normal adult, especially within a school or work environment that does not seem to be foster a human being’s natural state? Perhaps the person or child in question doesn’t actually have neurodevelopmental problems, but is simply responding appropriately to the environmental that they find themselves in?

There is hardly any evidence suggesting that there is a neurological problem, as is often expressed by the medical industry. There are studies, however, that do show differences. For example, one of the largest imaging studies of ADHD to date recently identified differences in five regions of the brain, with the greatest differences seen in children rather than adults.

It’s important to note here the the brain of a child is still developing, and that the structure is not permanent and continues to develop until early adulthood.  More than 3,000 people diagnosed with ADHD had an MRI compared to controls, to measure the volume and the size of seven regions of the brain that were thought to be linked to ADHD–the pallidum, thalamus, caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and hippocampus. The study found that overall brain volume and five of the regional volumes were smaller in people with ADHD — the caudate nucleus, putamen, nucleus accumbens, amygdala and hippocampus.

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“These differences are very small — in the range of a few percent — so the unprecedented size of our study was crucial to help identify these. Similar differences in brain volume are also seen in other psychiatric disorders, especially major depressive disorders.”–Dr Martine Hoogman, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.(source)

Smaller brain regions do not equate to a neurodevelopmental disorder or a lack of brain functioning though. This is simply an assumption. As with depression, where 6 decades of research that serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) deficiency is the cause of depression and anxiety, scientific credibility has not been achieved. This is well known. A New England Journal of Medicine review on major depression stated:

” … numerous studies of norepinephrine and serotonin metabolites in plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid as well as postmortem studies of the brains of patients with depression, have yet to identify the purported deficiency reliably.”

Despite this fact, drugs are being prescribed that alter brain chemistry based on the prevailing unsubstantiated ‘theories’ regarding several ‘mental disorders.’ Here is an eye opening quote regarding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

“[DSM-V] is a wholesale imperial medicalization of normality that will trivialize mental disorder and lead to a deluge of unneeded medication treatment – a bonanza for the pharmaceutical industry but at a huge cost to the new false positive patients caught in the excessively wide DSM-V net.”–Allen Frances, DSMIV Taskforce Chair (source)

Financial Ties With Big Pharma

Speaking of the DSM, American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and researchers have investigated financial ties between the DSM panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. She published her research in the journal Plos OneThe study found that, of the 170 DSM members who sat on panels of ‘mood disorders,’ ‘schizophrenia’ and other psychotic disorders, most of them had financial ties to drug companies. The connections were especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders:

The revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), scheduled for publication in May 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has created a firestorm of controversy because of questions about undue industry influence. Some have questioned whether the inclusion of new disorders (e.g., Attenuated Psychotic Risk Syndrome) and widening of the boundaries of current disorders (e.g., Adjustment Disorder Related to Bereavement) reflects corporate interests. These concerns have been raised because the nomenclature, criteria, and standardization of psychiatric disorders codified in the DSM have a large public impact in a diverse set of areas ranging from insurance claims to jurisprudence. Moreover, through its relationship to the International Classification of Diseases, the system used for classification by many countries around the world, the DSM has a global reach.

Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Carlat has said:

“And where there is a scientific vacuum, drug companies are happy to insert a marketing message and call it science. As a result, psychiatry has become a proving ground for outrageous manipulations of science in the service of profit.”

Questioning The System

Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician and longtime Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal (NEMJ), also considered one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals in the world, said the following:

It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. (source)

Here is another great quote:

“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”–Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard professor of medicine and former Editor-in-Chief of The New England Medical Journal  (source)

A very interesting and uncharacteristic article in the New York times titled The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder raised awareness about this issue in 2013. The article discusses efforts to expose the manufacturing of a “profit driven machine into which our children are being fed.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990.

Behind that growth has been drug company marketing that has stretched the image of classic A.D.H.D. to include relatively normal behavior like carelessness and impatience, and has often overstated the pills’ benefits.

According to Kelly Brogan, MD, psychiatrist:

Psychiatric studies funded by pharma are 4x more likely to be published if they are positive, and only 18% of psychiatrists disclose their conflicts of interests when they publish data.

Psychiatry is particularly susceptible to industry corruption because of the highly subjective, non-biological, impressionistic nature of diagnostic criteria. With our “governing body” the American Psychiatric Association heavily funded by pharmaceutical companies, the temptation is all too great to open the diagnostic umbrella to encompass behavioral criteria like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.”

Looking At ADHD Differently

What about other aspects of ‘ADHD’ that are never really emphasized? Recent work in cognitive neuroscience shows that people with an ADHD diagnosis and creative thinkers have difficulty suppressing brain activity that comes from the “Imagination Network.” This suggests people with ADHD might have differences in parts of the brain that actually makes them ‘superior’ in many ways, but it’s information that pharmaceutical companies can’t make a profit off of.

Currently, there are no school assessments to evaluate creativity and imagination. The fact remains,  people who show characteristics of ADHD are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement compared to those who don’t show these characteristics.

“By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability– as we so often do in an educational context– we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.”–Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. (source)

Scrutinizing ADHD Treatment

A longitudinal NIMH study, the only one of its kind, demonstrated that after an initial decrease in ADHD symptoms, at three years, there was deterioration in the medicated group, and by six, worse attentional and behavioral symptoms than unmedicated controls, and increased functional impairment. Despite claims that stimulant side effects are “generally mild,” data accumulated by psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin has demonstrated quite the opposite. He cites studies that demonstrate concerning risks for:

  • Motor and vocal tics
  • Addiction, withdrawal and rebound
  • Growth suppression
  • Adverse cardiovascular effects
  • Mania, suicidality, psychosis

A study by Nasrallah et al in which more than 50% of young adults treated with ADHD medication experienced PET-confirmed brain atrophy, concluding “cortical atrophy may be a long-term adverse effect of this treatment.” In rhesus monkeys, Wagner et al demonstrated long-term changes to dopamine levels and receptor density, related to compensatory changes the brain undergoes in the setting of chronic intoxication. Subjects abstinent from stimulants for three years were found to have persistent dopamine-related brain changes on PET scans, related to Parkinsonian pathology.

That being said, many people have reported success with medications, but could this be placebo?

Alternatives

Dr. Kelly Brogan sees pharmaceutical intervention for symptoms of ADHD as very harmful for a child’s development:

When we interfere with behavior and brain growth, when we force children to conform to our needs as busy, distracted, and often chronically ill adults, we may be fundamentally compromising their expression of self, as Breggin cites Greenough et al.

Spontaneous or self-generated activities–play, mastery, exploration, novelty seeking, curiosity, and zestful socialization-are central to the growth and development of animals and humans and necessary for the full elaboration of CNS synaptic connections. (source)

She looks at other ways to treat these symptoms, and feels the first line of defense is dietary solutions. 

Some studies have, indeed, emerged that show a link between a gluten/casein free diet and improvement in autistic symptoms, and some parents have already seen the benefits of implementing this research.

The Mayo Clinic claims that certain food preservatives and colourings could increase hyperactive behaviour in some children. It would be best to avoid these, regardless of whether they are linked to ADHD or not.

It has also been suggested that EEG biofeedback (electroencephalographic) could help. It’s a type of neurotherapy that measures brainwaves. You can read more about that here.

In 2003, a study published in the journal Adolescence looked at how regular massages for 20 minutes twice a week could improve behaviour in the classroom. This is interesting because studies have also suggested that tai chi and yoga may also help improve ADHD symptoms. According to the studies, children with ADHD that practiced tai chi became less anxious or hyperactive. (source)

Other safe interventions are out there, you just have to look for them.

The Takeaway

I hope this article provides insight for people as well as parents who are considering using medications if their child is labeled as having ‘ADHD’. This article is not meant ignore symptoms of ADHD, but the idea of administering drugs so someone can better fit into a regimented environment should be questioned.

A challenge to convention like this can often be vilified, and that’s ok. We are going through a period of time where it’s best to keep an open mind, as new information is emerging in various areas that challenge our long-held belief systems.

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