Nov
19
2022

Lack of Sleep Harms the Immune System and Causes Inflammation

A research group from Boston, MA and New York, NY found that a lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation. This was summarized in this CNN article.

Specifically, they first conducted experiments with a mouse model. They studied the effects of sleep disruption and sleep deprivation and could later confirm identical changes in man. The observation was that a lack of sleep caused the hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow to proliferate, but the cell diversity was less than in people with normal sleep patterns. The same pattern of bone marrow proliferation was present in mice. This research was published Sept. 21, 2022 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Chronic sleep deficit

A chronic sleep deficit caused chronic inflammation and eventually autoimmune diseases. Again, this was a pattern present in both the mouse model and in humans. Next the researchers observed what happened with sleep recovery. In the past it was assumed that with sleep recovery all of the physical changes from sleep deprivation would disappear. However, the opposite was true: both in mice and in humans the bone marrow stimulation and the lack of cell diversity persisted.

In the mouse model the researchers could show that there were permanent epigenetic changes, which were caused by sleep deprivation. The same is true with humans, but this is more difficult to show than in the mouse model. The researchers came to the conclusion that sleep deprivation stimulates bone marrow maturation, but restricts the clonal differentiation. In doing so the body initiates inflammation, which becomes chronic even with sleep restoration.

Human sleep studies

There were 14 volunteers that were the test subjects. One group was the normal sleep control. The other group underwent chronic sleep deprivation. Each group did this for 6 weeks. There was a 4-to-6-week washout period. Following this the previous normal sleep group started a 6-week sleep deprivation program. On the other hand, the prior sleep-deprived group switched to 6 weeks of normal sleep. All of the participants had daily late afternoon blood tests.

There are many sleep disruptions, which cause a sleep deficit

In modern life sleep gets disrupted in many ways. There can be sleep fragmentation, sleep restriction, jet lag, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and insomnia.

People with these conditions often oscillate between these various types. They may have a few days of normal sleep, but then have sleep deprivation again for a few days. Every time they have sleep deprivation the bone marrow enhances hematopoietic activity. Normally there is a high leukocyte number in the blood at the end of the day and in the morning a lower leukocyte count. But with sleep deprivation there is a high monocyte count in the blood that stays high even when subjects switch back to a normal sleep pattern.

Epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation on bone marrow cells

The authors found that sleep deprivation affects the genetic control of hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. They called this the epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation. This is responsible for the evening leukocyte response, the monocytosis and the tendency for autoimmune diseases. They summed this up by saying: “Our findings support the hypothesis that periods of poor sleep, even if followed by sleep recovery, have sustained consequences on immunological health.”

Lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation says the literature

There is ample evidence that a lack of sleep causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and more frequent infections. Healthy sleep is important when you want to age well without complications. But enough sleep is also necessary to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Experts consider getting enough high-quality sleep as essential as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

So far, most researchers believed that when you miss some sleep for a few nights that a afternoon nap or a few nights of longer sleep would compensate for the sleep deficit with no sequelae. Think again, because new research from a group in Boston, MA and New York, NY found that lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation permanently. Sleep deprivation stimulates the bone marrow cells to multiply and causing proliferation of monocytes, called monocytosis as well. Despite afternoon naps and recovery sleep this condition remains  and can lead to autoimmune diseases. All this was unknown up to now. Our bone marrow cells need regular sleep hours to stay diversified and to optimally fight infections in the body. This prevents autoimmune diseases and keeps our defenses against viral diseases strong.

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Nov
05
2022

Poetry Helps Anxiety and Depression

Recently CNN published an article that stated that poetry helps anxiety and depression. Notably, poetry helps to cope with loss, fear, a marital break-up and helps during loneliness like a quarantine for Covid-19. Certainly, it is because of this that two authors, David Haosen Xiang and Alisha Moon Yi wrote this 2020 review about poetry’s healing power throughout the pandemic. It is important to realize that they conducted poetry classes at Harvard Medical School and Harvard College. In doing this they observed various health benefits from writing, reading and listening to poetry. Indeed, they saw that poetry combatted stress and depression and reduced postsurgical pain. In addition, poetry improved mood, work performance and memory.

Poetry helped hospitalized children

Another key point, a 2021 study involving 44 hospitalized children measured the effects of poetry on fear, sadness, anger, worry and fatigue.  By all means, all of these parameters were reduced when the children were reading, writing or listening to poetry. However, one exception was pain in this group of children, which was unaffected by poetry.

Details of the statistical results

To clarify, here are the results of this study in more detail. A statistically significant reduction of symptoms requires a p value of 5% or less. The 44 hospitalized children had a fear reduction with a p value of 2.1%. Exposure to poetry reduced sadness with a p value of 0.4%, anger with 3.9%, worry with 4.1%, and fatigue with 0.1%. As indicated already the only exception was pain reduction, which had a p value of 9.1% meaning that it was not statistically significant. Poetry has the ability to provide comfort and boost your mood when you are exposed to stress, trauma and grief.

Emotional responses elicited by hearing poetry

Poetry can also elicit peak emotional responses. In a study from 2017, researchers examined psychophysiological responses of 27 people. They measured how many people experienced chills or goosebumps when they listened to poetry read aloud. The researchers concluded that physical responses are connect to the rewards-sensing area of the brain.

Pleasure inducing activities can stimulate the reward areas of the brain

The pleasure center consists of the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Together they contain dopamine neurons that communicate with the grey matter nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex. I have discussed this elsewhere in more detail. A pleasurable meal, sex, winning a video game, listening to music, earning money and reading a funny cartoon can all cause dopamine release that the person perceives as pleasure. But so can drugs, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and taking street drugs.

Dr. Amen’s SPECT scans

Dr. Amen is a psychiatrist who specializes in SPECT scan technology. SPECT stands for Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography. This is summarized in this review. Briefly, a SPECT scan shows where most of the blood flow occurs in the brain. People who abuse drugs or nicotine develop areas that have a lack of perfusion. It looks like holes in the brain as depicted under point 5 of the above link, which can create abnormal thinking patterns. Fortunately, with drug rehabilitation the brain pattern can normalize again.

Discussion of why poetry helps anxiety and depression

It is the excitement of the pleasure centers in the brain that relieves anxiety and depression. It seems to not matter whether we listen to poetry read aloud, read it or create it. But a pleasurable meal, sex, winning a video game, listening to music, earning money and reading a funny cartoon can also release dopamine in the pleasure centres of our brain. Repeated stimulation of the pleasure centers from exposure to poetry seems to be what gives us relief from anxiety and depression.

Xiang and Yi who observed students writing, reading and listening to poetry at Harvard Medical School and Harvard College said: “Whether it is coping with pain, dealing with stressful situations, or coming to terms with uncertainty, poetry can benefit a patient’s well-being, confidence, emotional stability, and quality of life.”

Poetry Helps Anxiety and Depression

Poetry Helps Anxiety and Depression

Conclusion

Newer research showed that poetry helps anxiety and depression. This is true in university and college students as well as in hospitalized children. One study concluded that poetry seems to activate the rewards-sensing area of the brain. Other studies showed that it is the nucleus accumbens, the amygdala and the hippocampus, which form the pleasure centers in the brain. The psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen did detailed studies with SPECT scans where brain changes are made visible. Brain SPECT scans have a similar appearance in people exposed to writing, reading and listening to poetry as people who had a pleasurable meal, sex, were winning a video game, listening to music, earning money or reading a funny cartoon. The common denominator is the release of dopamine from the pleasure centres of the brain.

Oct
25
2022

Overcoming Grief after a Loss

This article is about overcoming grief after a loss. During the Covid epidemic many people died, which caused a lot of grief among their loved ones. Unresolved grief can cause anxiety and depression. Whenever you have lost a loved one, counseling can help you to continue the grieving process.

Claire Bidwell Smith is an author of several books and has a master’s degree of clinical psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She published the book “Anxiety-the missing stage of grief” (Hachette Books, 2018). In it she explores the stages of grief and notices that anxiety is very much part of the grieving process. However, this point is often overlooked by mainstream psychologists. Claire Bidwell Smith offers strategies to deal with the loss of a loved one and overcome the anxieties that people often feel as well. Here is a write-up from CNN where Claire Bidwell Smith was interviewed.

Anxiety is a powerful emotion

Anxiety can be very powerful, but it is often mistaken for a physical problem. As a result, people present at the emergency room of a hospital for various symptoms of pain and a myriad of other complaints. After expensive tests the doctor finds no physical abnormality and the diagnosis is anxiety or panic attack. Smith said that 70% of her referrals went to the hospital first and were diagnosed as panic attacks. Patients have a hard time to understand that their anxiety is a direct result of their grieving process.

Relationship between grief and anxiety

CNN asked Smith how grief and anxiety are related. She answered that a sudden death from an infection like Covid makes you realize that we are not safe and are not in control. Everything in your life changes and emotional upheaval is much bigger than ever imagined. Grief, which consists of emotions that accompany a loss of life can force you to kneel down emotionally speaking. This process feeds anxiety. People who grieve the loss of a loved one get anxious about their own health and about the safety of other loved ones. They may not even realize that what they are experiencing is anxiety or that this is related to the grieving process.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a condition that presents with fears and worries. This can present with many different body symptoms. The patient may experience chest pains and think it is a heart attack. But tests are normal and the physician calls it anxiety. Similarly, anxiety can present as stomach aches, headaches or insomnia.

What coping strategies are available?

There are many support groups to help people with anxiety; in addition, grief therapists can help with individual counseling. It may be difficult to motivate the patient to make use of these services. Since Covid you can have access to virtual anxiety support services. It is important that people seek counseling support, as otherwise they get stuck in their anger or guilt. Unfortunately, many people give up and end up in substance abuse. They develop relationship problems and get into trouble at work or in school. So, not seeking support only backfires. Get yourself on a waiting list for a counselor! Work through your grief and you will feel better.

What is your advice to people who resist a formal mental health treatment?

Smith mentioned that there are a lot of self-guided online courses. Also, reading books and articles about grieving are useful, because you get on with your grieving process. Social media is another source for information about the grieving process. It helps you to understand what other people with the same problem experienced and how they overcame it. Having said this, people can develop a full-blown anxiety disorder or clinical depression. In this case they require an assessment by a psychiatrist.

What is the role of meditation and mindfulness in healing anxiety?

Smith pointed out that when we grieve and when we are anxious, we spend time in the past or we worry about the future. Meditation and mindfulness bring our awareness to the present moment. Meditation helps us to focus on our own thoughts. It helps us also to detach from negative thoughts or irrational fears.

Imagination as another powerful tool

Smith explained as an example that she was not there when her mother died in the hospital. When she is overcome by negative emotions regarding this memory, she envisions herself crawling into the hospital bed with her dying mother, holding her and saying good bye to her. Smith admitted that it took her about 5 years before she was ready to do these imagination experiments. By using this imagining tool your present focus is on the now away from negative emotions of the past or fears what the future may hold.

Stories help to reduce grief

How we handled a painful story from the past determines how it influences our daily thinking. Often people do not know how to handle such a story and they tend to suppress it. But psychologists found that it is much healthier to deal with these stories and reframe them. When people find a way how to explore their story, they can reframe it and remove the negative feelings that had an association with it in the past. Healing comes from therapy, from counseling, online grief forums and support groups. There are also grief writing classes where you can rewrite your story experiencing how the past memories become less powerful and the future is brighter.

Stay connected with your lost loved one

It used to be taught that the best therapy would be to “letting go and moving on”. But now psychologists think it is better to move forward with the person you have lost. Specifically, what this means is that it is OK to have an inner talk with the person you lost. Smith added: “For example, pondering: What advice would my dad give me about this job offer? What would my mom think of my new boyfriend?”

The crux of grief work is making meaning out of loss

CNN asked Claire Bidwell Smith whether she quoted Hope Edelman who authored the book “The After Grief”. Hope Edelman said in this book that the “crux of grief work is making meaning out of loss”. Smith’s reply was that this stage develops naturally. But she cautioned that guilt, regret and anger are standing in the way of our ability to make meaning. They have to be dealt with first. This is why counseling, grief work and overcoming guilt and anger are so important.

Overcoming Grief after a Loss

Overcoming Grief after a Loss

Conclusion

When we lose a loved one or lose our job, we experience a grief reaction. There are powerful negative feelings like anger, guilt and other feelings that make it difficult to overcome our grief. Claire Bidwell Smith is an author of several books and has a master’s degree of clinical psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She was interviewed by CNN regarding her work and her latest book “Anxiety-the missing stage of grief” (Hachette Books, 2018).

Anxiety is an important aspect of grieving

In the interview she explained that anxiety is an important aspect of grieving. But many people go to the emergency room of a hospital, because they think the symptoms, they feel are physical. It is the emergency physician who tells them after several tests that they have anxiety and they need to seek a counselor. After a few months of counseling grieving persons usually feel a lot better. They are now accepting what happened in the past and hope for a better future.

Sep
24
2022

When is Someone at Risk for Suicide?

We are asking ourselves: When is someone at risk for suicide? This year’s National Suicide Week was from Sept. 4 through 10, 2022. Every day of each year it is important to be aware of signs and symptoms of impending suicide. However, the purpose of the yearly National Suicide Week is to really bring it to everyone’s attention how common deaths by suicides are. We all can contribute to improve the situation by increasing our awareness.

Some suicide statistics

In the US alone nearly 46,000 persons died by suicide in 2020. This means that there is one death by suicide every 11 minutes. In 2020 nearly 800,000 died by suicide worldwide. About 1.2 million attempted it. The hope is that the public will learn through education to recognize the signs of an impending suicide. This way the suicidal person can get counselling and hopefully not commit suicide.

Abnormal behaviors to watch out for  

People who are getting suicidal may practice with guns, overdosing with pills or handle potentially lethal items. Other behavioral red flags could be giving away cherished items. The suicidal person may sleep too much or not enough. Isolation or withdrawal may be another pointer in a previously sociable person that he or she is becoming suicidal. Revenge thinking, reckless driving, agitation can all be pointers as well that the person is preparing for suicide. Justin Baker is the clinical director of The Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative for Veterans at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He said: ”A lot of times people need to kind of work up to that actual making an attempt because it’s a biologic thing you have to go against, your own survival”.

Watch what people say

When people become suicidal their words often indicate what they want to do. It is a warning sign, if someone is talking about wanting to die, by suicide or otherwise. Some people state that they feel like they have no reason to live. This is an alarm signal that they may be suicidal. Some people say that they feel like they are a burden for the people living around them. Other problematic statements are: “You don’t need me for this anymore” or “I feel like it’d be better if I just wasn’t here.” Someone uttering statements like these should get counseling. This allows them to vent their feelings and to reassess their situation.

Suicide risk factors

Hopelessness: People may express that they feel the future won’t be any better. Or they do not see a way out of the pain that they are in.

Obsession with death and dying: Some people ruminate about dying and they develop a plan what they may want to do to themselves.  

Extreme mood swings: When somebody who usually is depressed and stressed behaves calm or cheery, this is an alarm sign that the person may be suicidal. They may have struggled with their decision to kill themselves, but when they accepted that this is what they want to do it calms their mind.

Past trauma: Abuse, trauma and neglect in the past are risk factors for suicide in the future.

Drug abuse: substance abuse predisposes a person towards being suicidal later on in life.

More suicide risk factors

Severe chronic illness with chronic pain: when a person has a chronic illness, and it is difficult to treat, people lose hope and they feel trapped. At this point suicide appears to be an option.

Mental disorders: people with schizophrenia, anxiety, depression or personality disorders are at a higher risk to turn suicidal. This is particularly so when they did not receive treatment and their mental condition deteriorates.

Family history, other factors and teen suicides

Family history of suicide: when there is a family history of suicide or a personal history of failed attempt of suicides the risk of suicide is much bigger than in the general population.

Other factors: There are many more factors that all can have a bearing on the risk for suicide. Financial loss and loss of a job are examples, but also prolonged stress from bullying or harassment. Divorce, breakup of a relationship, insufficient social support and many other negative emotions can contribute to a risk for suicide as well. A lot depends on the emotional make-up and the resilience of a person.

Teens: Teens are particularly vulnerable to commit suicide. It is important to listen to the teen in trouble and to arrange for counseling and support. More on teen suicide here.

What to do when faced with a person who contemplates suicide?

There are several crisis phones that are important to remember. In 2019 congress in the US has proposed to establish crisis lines with a simple 3-digit number: 988. But not all states have this number activated yet. The national crisis line in the US is: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

In Canada the crisis hotline is: 1-833-456-4566.

There are counselors who have experience in listening to people in distress and talk to them.

When a person wants to commit suicide call 911. Sometimes a person in mental distress needs to be hospitalized and treated by a psychiatrist. Some people may benefit from electroconvulsive therapy, others from antidepressants. Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy have a place as well in treating depressed patients. Close follow-up is important to prevent a relapse.

When is Someone at Risk for Suicide?

When is Someone at Risk for Suicide?

Conclusion

This year’s National Suicide Week was from Sept. 4 through 10, 2022. In the US alone nearly 46,000 persons died by suicide in 2020, nearly 800,000 died by suicide worldwide. It is important to recognize the signs of impending suicide. There are several high-risk factors that point to impending suicide, such as hopelessness, obsession with death and dying and extreme mood swings. There are certain constellations that are associated with a high risk for suicide: a history of a mental disorder, a break-up of a relationship, a severe illness with chronic pain and others. It is important to get the person at risk to a counselor or psychiatrist.

Treatment intervention for suicidal person

By talking it out, the pain of suffering gets eased. If there is an underlying depression it can be treated with various treatment modalities. Cognitive behavior therapy may help to change the negative thought patterns. It is important to intervene early. Close follow-up to prevent a relapse is also important.

Jan
08
2022

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

A new study describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is desirable. Notably, the study published in JAMA Psychiatry took 291 people age 60 years and older and followed them for three years. In this case half the participants received treatment with sleep training, the other half treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy. The other half was the control who received sleep education therapy from a public health educator. It is important to realize that both groups received 120 minutes weekly group sessions for two months. That is to say, following training of 2 months the subjects were followed for 36 months. It must be remembered that they completed monthly questionnaires to monitor for depression and insomnia. At the end of the study almost 1/3 of the cognitive behavioral group still were free of insomnia.

The control group who received sleep education therapy initially showed no longer any

improvement. In other words, the initial progress did not last with sleep education only. The study was also published in CNN.

Results about rates of depression

Those subjects of the cognitive behavioral therapy group who had a sustained remission of their insomnia disorder had a rate of 82.6% less depression. This was in comparison to the subjects who did not sustain their treatment against insomnia. Dr. Pim Cuijpers commented that the results of the study show “a completely new and innovative way” of tackling the growing problem of depression. Dr. Cuijpers is a professor of Clinical Psychology at the Free University of Amsterdam.

A brief background about depression in older patients

Depression is common in people above the age of 60. About 30-50% of this age group develop depression. Part of this could be that older people often do not get enough sleep as middle-age or younger adults do. Melatonin production declines with older age and this may play a role in insomnia of older people. On the other hand, one of the major symptoms of depression is a lack of sleep. It seems that a lack of REM sleep, the deep sleep that makes us dream, is responsible for both troubles, sleeping (insomnia) and depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy administered by a therapist is effective for insomnia

It is important that a therapist administers the cognitive behavioral therapy. There are recordings available online that provide cognitive therapy, but they are not individualised. Dr. Irwin said: “That’s why CBT-I is so effective in person, because the therapist is helping that individual navigate and negotiate with themselves — and it can be really hard work,” Irwin added. “I believe that’s also why CBT-I apps or online tools often don’t work — people get frustrated, disappointed or angry at themselves, and they basically stop the work.”

The rationale for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT for insomnia has five components: Stimulus control, sleep restriction, sleep hygiene, relaxation and cognitive behavioral therapy. Researchers gave the program the name CBT-I. Sleep hygiene and relaxation involve these sleeping habits: going to bed at the same time every day, eliminating noise and blue light from electronic devices. Also, you want to keep your bedroom cool, take warm baths and do yoga for relaxation.

Stimulus control and sleep restriction

Stimulus control involves getting out of bed, if you can’t sleep. Dr. Irvin said: “Most people stay in bed, fretting about not falling asleep, which then turns the bed into a negative space. Instead, people are taught to get up after 10 minutes of tossing and turning, do quiet, non-stimulating activities, and not to come back to bed until they are sleepy.” Sleep restriction means that a person lies in bed only to sleep plus 30 minutes. It is a way to make people with insomnia get out of bed instead of lying there awake.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy disrupts irrational thoughts and beliefs about sleep. Patients with insomnia often think “I can never sleep” or “I might die if I don’t sleep tonight.” A therapist has training to help the patient find a way back to a more realistic mindset. Eventually the patient accepts the bed as a welcoming place.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in preventing depression

Dr. Irwin pointed out that chronic insomnia often leads to depression. A dangerous consequence of depression can be preoccupation with suicide. A certain percentage of patients with depression in any age group want to kill themselves. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy can intervene and make a huge difference. As mentioned earlier almost 1/3 of patients who received cognitive behavioral therapy for two months retained their normal sleep pattern. It was among this group that 82.6% had no depression compared to a control group. These are very important statistics. Dr. Irwin said: “We have shown that we can actually target insomnia with cognitive behavior therapy and prevent depression from occurring”.

Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression


Sleep Training to Prevent Insomnia and Depression

Conclusion

A new study in JAMA Psychiatry describes that sleep training to prevent insomnia and depression is feasible. Sleep researchers used cognitive behavioral therapy sessions for two months on subjects who suffered from insomnia. The treatment group had profound effects with respect to improving insomnia and depression. Almost 1/3 of subjects treated with cognitive behavioral therapy returned to a normal sleeping pattern. And this subgroup of patients had 82.6% less depression. The lead author, Dr. Irwin thinks that cognitive behavioral therapy could become the new way of how to treat and prevent depression.

Sep
19
2021

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

A CNN article points out that world suicide prevention day is on September 10.

Some statistics regarding suicides

According to the WHO more than 700,000 People die from suicide every year.

In the US suicide rates have risen between 1999 and 2018. President Joe Biden stated: “In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 34.”

This was further underlined by a study from the CDC. It pointed out the emergency room visits started to climb in May 2020 for attempted suicide in youth. The CDC stated: “The mean weekly number of these visits was 26.2% higher during summer 2020 and 50.6% higher during winter 2021 compared with the corresponding periods in 2019”.

Triggering factors that make people commit suicide

Suicidal thoughts start when a vulnerable person encounters stressful events. The life situation can become so painful that in their way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. There are huge differences of opinions: what may be meaningless to one person, may feel devastating to another.

Common triggering factors are as follows.

  • Illness and physical discomfort
  • Conflicts with family or friends
  • Illness of family members
  • Death of family member or friend
  • Loneliness

In a study 50% expressed two of these 5 triggers, 37.5% expressed one of the 5 triggers. 12.5% expressed three of the 5 triggers.

With the Covid-19 epidemic there are new pressures on people. They cannot freely move around or travel. He/she may have lost a friend or relative to Covid. And people may be anxious about their own survival. I described this here before.

Biochemical changes in the brain with depression

In the past low serotonin levels in the brain were thought to be the main cause of depression. But researchers realized later those medications that increased serotonin levels did not always help depression. They found that dopamine and norepinephrine are also important brain transmitters that play a role in depression. When dopamine levels are low, depression occurs. Similarly, when norepinephrine is low, the patient can develop depression. On the other hand, in bipolar disorder the brain produces too much norepinephrine, which causes manic episodes. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-chemistry-of-depression-1065137 The physician needs to take a thorough history and note from that which brain transmitter system would be mainly affected. This helps the physician later to decide which antidepressant to choose from to rebalance the brain transmitters.

How to detect stress signals

There are a number of risk factors, which the CDC has outlined, for which the health professional or a family member wants to look in order to assess the suicide risk.

Does the patient have a history?

People with a mood or anxiety disorder, or with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicide.

Did the person experience a loss?

A loss can be a death in the family, a loss of a job or the loss of an important person in a relationship. This is particularly bad when there is social isolation and a lack of support. With Covid-19 millions of people have suffered the loss of a job, social isolation and having to quarantine.

Is it easy for the distressed person to get a gun?

Firearms are a common means for people to kill themselves. When there is easy access to a gun, there is a high probability that the person uses it in times of distress.

History of previous suicide attempt

When a person attempted to commit suicide, but failed, there is a higher risk for them to repeat a suicide attempt and succeed. Also, there is a copycat phenomenon when the news comes out that a famous personality committed suicide. For instance, when the comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 there was a 10% rise in suicides in the following months all over the US.

Belief system that honours personal sacrifice

Some religious or cultural groups consider suicide a noble solution to a personal dilemma.

A person from this background is at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

Warning signs of pending suicide attempt

There are a number warning signs that point to a higher risk of possibly planning suicide.

  • A person may talk about wanting to die or kill themselves.
  • Searching online for ways to kill oneself or buying a gun.
  • Feeling trapped or feeling unbearable pain.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live.
  • Stating that they feel they are a burden to others.
  • Drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.
  • Acting agitated or anxious. Reckless behavior.
  • A person withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • A person sleeping too much or too little.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Talking about seeking revenge or showing rage.

These are all red flags that should alarm you to ask for help. Not all of these alarm signs are present all the time with people who are considering to attempt suicide. When you have suicidal thoughts in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For Spanish crisis support call: 888-628-9454.

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

Conclusion

World suicide prevention day is on September 10. This reminds us every year that suicide is a colossal problem of society. Stress, loss of health, losing a loved one, a broken marriage and financial loss can all contribute to depression. If patients with mental distress do not receive timely intervention and treatment, the life situation can become so painful that in the patient’s way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. The key is for the loved ones in the circle of friends to pay attention to the warning signs and bring the suicidal person to the attention of the psychiatric health professionals. Sometimes an in-patient admission to a psychiatric facility may be required to interrupt the negative thinking pattern. Ignoring the warning signs can have devastating consequences. Prevention is the only way to avoid suicide.

Jun
26
2021

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

Normal sleep pattern

Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

“The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Reclaim your natural sleep habit

The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

  • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
  • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
  • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
  • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
  • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
  • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

Conclusion

A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

Prevent telomere shortening

Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

Nov
28
2020

Mental Illness and Covid-19

A topic less discussed is mental illness and Covid-19. Covid-19 has been noticeably around us since March of 2020. With the various social distancing and quarantining methods people become more or less isolated emotionally. Social gatherings are outlawed depending on where you live. This helps to interrupt the spread of the virus, but it makes people feel more stressed as their relationships get interrupted.

Symptoms of stress

The CDC sums up that stress during a pandemic can cause the following:

  • Fear of your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Loss of your job or financial support
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep pattern with lack in concentration
  • Increase in use of tobacco, alcohol or other substance consumption
  • Chronic health problems may deteriorate
  • Worsening of Mental health conditions

The more isolated we are, the more stress we feel. This undermines our stress coping mechanisms, makes us more anxious and more depressed.

Develop coping skills

Taking care of your family and friends may relieve your stress, but it needs to be balanced by taking care of yourself. Although you are physically isolated from others when you are in quarantine, you can stay in contact with others by phone or video chats. This makes you less lonely and isolated.

Take care of yourself. This includes eating well balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Share with a family member or friend how you feel. Maintain friendships through the phone, emails, social media and computer chats. This builds a strong support system for you.

Avoid too much exposure to news stories. Seeing negative stories about Covid-19 over and over again can be undermining, so take a break from the news media. Go for a walk. Take a nap.

Suicide

Sometimes depression can get out of control to the point of driving a person to the brink of suicide. In the US major depression is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.  At any given year 16.1 million American adults (about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older) suffer from major depression. 10.3% of Americans have thought about suicide. If you feel that way, do not act on this impulse. Call 1-800-799-4889. That is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat.

Medical literature about the psychological impact of Covid-19

In a July 2020 publication the authors pointed out that Covid-19 infection is a significant psychological stressor. There is the fear of getting the virus and uncertainty about the future. Pre-existing anxiety and depression disorders get accelerated from the stress. In addition, mental disorders like schizophrenia with psychosis may worsen. This may require more antipsychotic medication to control it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found in March 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major impact on US citizens. 45% of respondents said that the pandemic has affected their mental wellbeing significantly. If you are scared, depressed or anxious, you are tense and you have problems falling asleep, you are not alone. You can seek and receive help!

Prevention of mental disease from Covid-19

Here is some practical advice from the World Health Organization.

  • Stay informed.
  • Have a daily routine. Get up and go to sleep at regular times. Eat healthy balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Have your work routine and also find time to rest. Do things that you enjoy.
  • Watch the news only to be informed, but limit news watching to a minimum. This will keep anxiety and depression in check.
  • Stay in contact with close friends by phone and computer technology.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption low. If you did not drink before at all, don’t start drinking in an attempt to deal with boredom, fear, anxiety or social isolation.
  • Take breaks from screen time. This reduces tension.
  • Video games: doing this may relax you for a short time. But longer video game activities can make you tense; you should balance this with the rest of your daily activities.
  • Social media. Use this for honest communication. Keep it brief. If you see misinformation, point out the truth.
  • Helping others: if you can, help others in the community with shopping or other chores.

Treatment for Mental disease from Covid-19

When you notice anxiety, depression or a flare-up of psychotic symptoms from schizophrenia, it is important to see your health professional right away. You may need some counselling. Others may need an antidepressant (for depression) or an adjustment to your antipsychotic medication. Some patients with milder depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. Most importantly, know that help is available! More info about cognitive therapy for suicide prevention.

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Conclusion

Mental illness and Covid-19 is a huge topic. People definitely have experienced more anxiety and depression since the Covid-19 epidemic. This is because our lifestyle is suddenly restricted. We may have to go through a 14-day quarantine. But we also cannot participate in large gatherings with more than 50 people. Often, we have to wear masks in stores. In areas with high cases of Covid-19 there is also a severe restriction regarding with whom you can visit, leading to feelings of isolation. All of this can lead to mental illness. Essentially there are two ways of coping with this. First, we need to get a routine that makes us more resistant to mental illness. Secondly, if this fails, seek the advice of a health professional right away.

Seek mental illness treatment right away

When you catch mental illness early, it is much easier to treat. Milder cases of depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. More severe cases often require medication. In this outline I have discussed mental illness during the Covid-19 epidemic. I have not discussed the cases where people came down with Covid-19 coronavirus and got affected in their brain function from the virus. These cases need treatment by a neurologist and psychiatrist, and they are much more complicated.

Apr
04
2020

Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill

Dr. Jolene Brighten gave a lecture about side effects of the birth control pill. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas from Dec. 13 to 15th, 2019. Her exact title was “Your Body on Birth Control- What Prescribers Should Know About the Effects of Birth Control on the Female Body”.

Most commonly the oral contraceptive pill is prescribed to prevent pregnancy. But the long-acting reversible contraceptives like the IUD and progestin implants are also popular. Depot Provera, the ring and the patch are the least popular ones.

Why women use the birth control pill

Women age 15 to 49 are often on some form of birth control method. 58% of women who use the birth control pill use it for reasons other than to prevent pregnancy. They use it to control symptoms of various conditions.

  • 31% use it for menstrual cramps
  • 28% want to regulate their periods
  • 14% hope to improve their acne
  • 4% use the pill for menstrual pains associated with endometriosis
  • 11% for other reasons

What the birth control pill does

The birth control pill exerts a negative influence on the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. This is called “functional hypothalamic amenorrhea”. The birth control pill is not suitable to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome. Symptoms of bleeding may improve for 3 months, but after that the original symptoms return. Thyroid disease that may be present needs separate investigations.

The hormones that are part of the birth control pill are synthetic hormones. They do not quite fit the body’s hormone receptors. For instance, the progestins, artificial analogues of progesterone behave like estrogens, not progesterone. This causes clotting problems cancers of the uterus, breasts and cervix. It can also cause heart attacks and strokes.

List of side effects of the birth control pill 

From depression to liver health

The list of side effects of the birth control pill (BCP) is long. The BCP can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. The deeper the depression is, the higher is the risk for suicide. There is increased risk of hair loss. The BCP depletes nutrients in the body that the thyroid gland needs to produce thyroid hormones. This can result in hypothyroidism.

It also increases thyroid binding globulin, a protein in the blood that binds thyroid hormones. As a result, there are fewer thyroid hormones available to the body cells. Breasts may become tender and enlarged after the start of the BCP. In some women with fibrocystic disease of the breasts the BCP may improve her cyclical breast changes. The BCP changes the liver both structurally and genetically. As a result, there is a higher risk of developing benign liver tumors and liver cancer.

From gallstones to blood clots

Women with a history of gallstones may experience faster gallstone formation on the BCP. The pill also can elevate your blood pressure. You should have blood pressure checks from time to time to prevent a stroke. Weight gain is common on the BCP. However, some women experience weight loss. Usually the BCP is 99% effective for the prevention of pregnancy. Pain from heavy periods or menstrual cramps are often relieved by the BCP. There is an increased risk to develop diabetes, because insulin resistance is gets worse in patients on the BCP. In postmenopausal women on HRT there is an even higher risk of developing diabetes. Blot clots are a common side effect of the BCP. Being a smoker, having a heart or liver condition, a history of genetic risk of blood clots, having migraines with an aura or being overweight are all additional risk factors for developing blood clots.

From effects on the brain to cancer risks

The BCP can change brain function and structure. This may lead to a different mate selection and production of neurotoxins. Some women get relief from hormonal headaches; but others experience exacerbations of migraines and headaches. In some women acne improves on the BCP; in others acne gets worse. When it comes to stress, some women experience an altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland response from the BCP. The BCP reduces some cancer risks, like the risk of ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancer. But the risk for breast cancer, brain cancer and liver cancer are higher. The BCP increases gut permeability, leads to leaky gut syndrome and the disruption of the microbiome. There is often overgrowth of yeast in the gut. In addition, people with a genetic predisposition for autoimmune disease of the gut can develop immune diseases. Multiple studies have shown malabsorption of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants when on the BCP.

From vaginal yeast infections to osteoporosis and autoimmune diseases

Many women develop vaginal yeast infections. Women on the BCP often complain about low or a lack of libido. There can be vaginal dryness and pain with sex.

Teenage women on the BCP often develop decreased bone density. Synthetic hormones lack the specificity to the natural hormone receptors, which leads to decreased bone density. On the other hand, bioidentical estrogen and bioidentical progesterone will indeed build up bone mass. In the past it was thought that hormones would be good for the bones and this is still true with the use of bioidentical hormones.

A number of autoimmune diseases have been identified to be directly related to the use of the BCP. These are Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, interstitial cystitis and ulcerative colitis.

Synthetic hormones will always have side effects

The body is a complex organism with various hormone receptors built into its cells. In order to be able to cash in on patented modified hormones Big Pharma introduced progestins to replace natural progesterone and various synthetic estrogen products to replace natural estradiol. However, the Women’s Health Initiative has shown  in 2002  that these artificial hormones produced heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, colorectal and endometrial cancer and hip fractures. There was an increase of mortality of 15% over 5.2 years compared to controls who did not take artificial hormones within the same timeframe.

Bioidentical hormones have a perfect fit to the natural hormone receptors

In contrast, when bioidentical hormones are given in menopause, there is a 10 to 15 year extension of life expectancy and researchers did not see any of the above mentioned side effects that were noted with synthetic hormones. Many people in Europe have elected to stick to bioidentical hormones for decades; they did not use the synthetic hormones. As a result, there are good data going back to the 1960’s about the safety of bioidentical hormones. In this study several thousand postmenopausal women were followed for 9 years or more and showed no increase in the rate of heart attacks or any cancer. Their postmenopausal symptoms were optimally controlled. I conclude from this that bioidentical hormone replacement in menopause will protect the women from missing hormones safely. There are no side effects and for this reason the bioidentical hormone replacement should become the standard of care.

Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill

Side Effects of the Birth Control Pill

Conclusion

Synthetic hormones have a long list of devastating side effects. Yet, Big Pharma managed to influence general practitioners and gynecologist to prescribe them to postmenopausal women. The Women’s Health Initiative has changed everything. The promise was that synthetic hormones would show heart-protective effects, cancer protective effects and healing effects for osteoporosis. These have been empty promises! None of this occurred with synthetic hormones- to the contrary! Many physicians are now prescribing bioidentical hormone replacement for women in menopause.

No good alternative for teenage girls

However, for teenage girls there is no good alternative for the traditional birth control pill, even though the catalogue of side effects is of serious concern. One compromise is to limit prescribing the birth control pill for up to 5 years only and then switch to several years of a copper T or other intrauterine device (IUD). Suicide in teenage girls on the BCP is of real concern. Despite the list of side effects many doctors continue to prescribe synthetic hormones for decades to the same patients, who trust that it will benefit them. In time patients will know about the side effects, and unfortunately many will experience them. As a result, it is only a matter of time, till this will be exposed as malpractice!

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Feb
29
2020

Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Dr. Tom O’Bryan gave a lecture in Las Vegas on Dec. 13, 2019 about celiac disease in various disguises. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The title of his talk: “An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Protocols: Halting Our Brains Slow Deterioration”.

Case # 1: 44-year old male with an assumed diagnosis of ALS

In the first place a 44-year old male had a history of a right leg weakness that developed over the last 6 months. He had intermittent spasms in his right quadriceps muscle. In addition, over the last few months he noticed a weakness develop in his right arm with difficulties writing. Significantly, his family history revealed that a maternal aunt had celiac disease. Moreover, a sister had Crohn’s disease and his maternal grandmother had multiple sclerosis. Electromyographic studies showed widespread acute denervation. An MRI scan of the spine showed hyperintensity in the corticospinal tracts. A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) followed as a result based on the MRI scan findings.

Further tests

At the same time blood tests revealed that his anti-endomysial antibodies were elevated.  Duodenal biopsy demonstrated villous atrophy, crypt-hyperplasia and increased intraepithelial lymphocytes consistent with gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease). An MRI scan of the brain also showed some hyperintense lesion in the left-brain hemisphere.

Gluten free diet instituted

It was clear with these test results that the initial diagnosis was a misdiagnosis. The real diagnosis was celiac disease. 7 months after the onset of his symptoms he started on a gluten free diet. He received no medications. Notably, his right arm function returned to normal after 9 month of the gluten free diet. Although there was some improvement in his right leg function, he still had some muscle wasting and spasticity in his right leg. However, he could now walk without any aid. His hand-writing was back to normal, and he could button his shirts again. Repeat MRI scans followed 2 months and 9 months after the start of the gluten free diet. At two months after initiation of the gluten free diet the brain lesion in the left brain was somewhat larger than before, but at 9 months it was half the original size.

Case #2: Autism in children, youth depression and Alzheimer’s patients

The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has significantly increased from 1 in 166 in 2004 to 1 in 40 in 2018. In addition, Dr. O’Bryan also mentioned that in 2017 statistics showed that 13.3% among youth aged 12 to 17 in the US suffered major depressive episodes. 1 in every 12 youth suffer from severe behavioral and emotional problems. According to the CDC since 1994 the number of children on psycho-stimulants increased 5-fold. In the same time children under 18 with bipolar disorder have increased 40-fold. There has been a 6-fold increase of prescriptions for antipsychotic medications for children in the same time frame.

Other effects on adolescents

However, I like to point out that there are other powerful factors that can explain increased depression and emotional problems in adolescence. The Canadian Medical Association published an article about social media and smart phones and the effects they have on adolescence.

On the other end of the life cycle 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Between 2000 and 2015 death from Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 213%.

Breakdown of the blood brain barrier

According to Dr. O’Bryan autism in children, behavioral and emotional problems in teenagers and dementia from Alzheimer’s disease are all related to the same process, namely a breakdown of the gut barrier, often called leaky gut syndrome. It is important to realize that this leads to a secondary breakdown of the blood brain barrier. The end result is a compromise of the brain, where antibodies attack the brain protein. In young children this causes lower adaptive and cognitive function and behaviors typical for autism. Teenagers are more likely to present with depression or schizophrenia. In older people the breakdown of the blood brain barrier can result in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

25 to 30% of protein in wheat are non-gluten. Antibodies can be directed against gluten, but also against non-gluten protein.

IgG antibodies against gluten cross placenta

In the later stages of pregnancy IgG antibodies cross the placenta easily. They provide passive immunity from various viral infections. Unfortunately, antibodies against gluten also cross through the placenta, which can lead to a breakdown of the fetal gut lining, in the sense of leaky gut syndrome. In this study 211 children were found to have a risk of 1.7-fold to develop psychosis later in life. The mothers were positive for anti-gliadin IgG antibodies in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-casein antibodies did not have this psychosis effect (risk only 0.8-fold). The investigators felt that an allergy to wheat in the mother set up general inflammation. Psychosis in the offspring only develops when inflammatory mediators reached the brain of the fetus. It was the brain inflammation, which caused the subsequent psychosis later in the child.

Blood brain barrier and healthy gut barrier

Another key point is that the barrier both in the gut and in the blood brain barrier consists of a single epithelial layer. The cells are held together by zonulin and occludin proteins. Autistic children were exposed already in the uterus to mother’s wheat induced anti-gliadin antibodies. This led to a break-down of the children’s blood brain barrier and the symptoms of the autism spectrum disorder. These children have a lot of brain inflammation and in addition often have impaired gut barrier integrity. It must be remembered that they require a comprehensive program to improve the gut flora, build up the gut barrier integrity and re-establish the blood brain barrier.

Effects of phthalates on young children

A 2014 study measured urinary metabolites of phthalates and related this to the children when they were 7 years old.

The investigators did several cognitive tests and measured the IQ (Wechsler Intelligence Scale). Children of mothers with the highest quartile of phthalates had an IQ, which was on average 7.0 points lower than the control group of the lowest quartile of phthalates. Dr. O’Bryan showed a slide taken from this study.

With this in mind, it points out that a pregnant woman has an intact blood brain barrier, which prevents antibodies from entering. However, the immature brain of the fetus has not developed an efficient blood brain barrier yet. This allows maternal gliadin antibodies from wheat intolerance to enter the fetal brain and cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

PCB’s disrupt the blood brain barrier

In mouse experiments the effects of PCB’s were investigated. By the same token, researchers found that the blood brain barrier was broken down by PCB’s that are known to have carcinogenic and neurotoxic properties on the brain. The researchers injected melanoma cells into the animals and found that the PCB pretreated mice sustained brain metastases. However, the control animals that did not have PCB pre-treatment did not develop brain metastases. They concluded from this that PCB’s are breaking down the blood brain barrier.

Maternal brain antibodies causing autism in children

This publication examined antibodies to two different brain proteins. The researchers found that 86% of the children from mothers with two different fetal brain antibodies were diagnosed with autistic regression. According to this publication there are at least 50 different epitopes of gluten peptides that exert cytotoxic, gut permeating and immunomodulatory activities.

DNA microarray technology can now detect many subtypes of food disorders and gluten sensitivities. The tests for celiac disease have a sensitivity of 97% for IgG and 99% for IgA. With regard to specificity the test is now 98% accurate for IgG and 100% for IgA.

Case #3: 34-year old female vegan patient with depression and mild cognitive decline

A 34-year old woman has followed a Vegan lifestyle for 10 years. She has been working long hours and had a lot of stress. In addition, her thyroid was borderline low with high TPO antibodies. A blood test for vitamin D showed vitamin D deficiency. For the past year her energy level was low and she had developed chronic depression. Her physician did a genetic test that found she carried the gene that converts GABA into glutamate. She thinks that she has small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). A review of her dietary habits revealed that she ate more cooked foods and less raw food. Her memory is slightly off, her speech not as fluid and she has some cognitive decline.

Her blood tests showed anti-immunity to RAGE peptides. To put it another way, RAGE stands for “receptor for advanced glycation end products”. When you eat too much overcooked foods you ingest advanced glycation end products. This can have adverse effects on your body, particularly the brain.

More tests regarding this woman

Another specific test revealed a blood brain barrier disruption with the presence of anti-brain antibodies. A stool sample was obtained. It showed low Akkermansia, low Faecali bacterium, low Bifido longum and low Bifido adolescentis bacteria. A chemical analysis revealed low butyrate, propionate and acetate. The treating physician concluded that she had a gut dysbiosis and a dysfunctional gut barrier. This has also affected her blood brain barrier. The constellation of symptoms and blood tests explain her clinical condition. She has developed autoantibodies that affect her thyroid gland and her brain because of the antibodies against her RAGE peptides. People can develop Alzheimer’s disease given enough time with exposure to these antibodies. The leaky gut has led to a break-down of her blood brain barrier and exposed her brain to autoimmune antibodies directed against brain cells.

Treatment of gut dysbiosis

This patient started a gluten free diet (GFD). But one of the problems of the GFD is that wheat is removed that normally provides 69% inulin and 71% oligofructose, both important prebiotics that are necessary for probiotics to work with. Inulin is contained in beets, leeks, asparagus, onions, garlic and bananas. Oligofructose is contained in chicory root, bananas, onion, and garlic.

When people consume a typical Western diet, they get between 1 and 4 grams of inulin daily. But others who eat balanced diets get up to 25 to 100 grams of inulin per day. Dr. O’Bryan explained that going on a GFD leads to an altered microbiome.

Experiment with volunteers to measure the effects of a gluten free diet

He discussed an experiment on 10 healthy volunteers who were fed a GFD for 1 month.

The researchers ordere stool samples in the beginning and at the end of the experiment. There was less of the good bacteria and more of the the bad bacteria. This led to a less protective and more inflammatory environment. The remedy for that is to eat 1 root vegetable and 2 other prebiotics per day. The patient on a GFD must supplement with prebiotic-rich foods to prevent this from happening.

Non-digestible oligosaccharide supplement

Inulin and oligosaccharides support the intestinal microbiota.  Dr. O’Brien suggested to add a supplement, called Precision Prebiotic™, non-digestible oligosaccharides that can increase microbial diversity. This supplement supports the growth of the healthy bacteria. These are keystone bacteria like Akkermansia muciniphila, Faecal bacterium prausnitzii, and Bifidobacteria.

Other supportive measures for the gut

  • 1 tablespoon of fermented vegetables like sauerkraut once per day
  • The ingestion of fermented foods increases the beneficial gut bacteria by a factor of 10,000-fold!
  • A 100% spore-based probiotic supplement increases diversity of the gut flora and helps to maintain the gut barrier
  • Sodium butyrate, which comes from fermented food is an important modulator of the central nervous system
  • In addition, sodium butyrate also inhibits pathological gut bacteria and maintains the gastrointestinal balance
  • In neurodegenerative disorders sodium butyrate provides anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects
  • Sodium butyrate restores the blood brain barrier
  • Following heart attacks or strokes sodium butyrate promotes tissue repair and recovery through cell survival
Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Celiac Disease in Various Disguises

Conclusion

Dr. Tom O’Bryan delivered a lecture at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas on Dec.13, 2019. Wheat allergies have increased in the last decades. Researchers have found that in many people there is a deterioration of the gut flora and a breakdown of the gut barrier. This leads to antibody formation against gluten or gliadin (wheat proteins). This exposes the body to many proteins from the gut. The body reacts by producing antibodies to them. These are also affecting cells in the body as they cross react with body proteins. The inflammation from the autoantibodies cause the blood brain barrier to break down. Now the immune system can produce antibodies against brain tissue. In the past  with an intact blood brain barrier this was not possible.

Autoantibodies in various life epochs

At a young age autism can develop because of antibodies against gliadin from wheat. In our youth schizophrenia and depression can occur from gut dysbiosis and a subsequent break down of our blood brain barrier. In old age Alzheimer’s disease develops in 1 out of 3 people due to gut dysbiosis and a breakdown of the blood brain barrier with anti-brain antibodies. Dr. O’Bryan explained how a person can turn this negative spiral around and start a new life without these problems. You can avoid a lot of these diseases by eliminating wheat and processed food from your diet.