Understanding the Biochemical and Bionutritional Factors of Mental Illness was presented at the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Conference at the Washington Hilton on July 21, 1995 to a standing room only crowd. A second presentation even had people sitting on the floor. Speakers included Janet Aiken, Ph.D., Nutritional Consultant in Miami, FL, William Walsh, Director, Health Research Institute, Naperville, IL and Linda Perhach, Family Representative from Maryland. Mike Bellovin, Moderator, substituted for Mrs. Anne Simpson, who with her husband, Senator Simpson, had to return to Wyoming for the weekend. Mike is a family member, and is on the Boards of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Northern Virginia and the Well Mind Association in Wheaton, MD.
Dr. Aiken Began Her Talk by Saying " As recently as 50 years ago, physiologists and medical students were being taught that the brain was sort of a self contained unit that was not really terribly well connected with the rest of the body. And that it would work perfectly well as long as it got an adequate and onging supply of oxygen and glucose (blood sugar). Since then we have learned that the brain and the nervous system needs more than 50 different vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids in order to maintain all of its structures in proper condition and to synthesize the neurotransmitters that it uses to communicate within its own system and with other body systems." She doesn't believe that people are born with mental illness but that there is a weakness in the nervous system, and, over a long period of time, a bad diet combined with some kind of severe or chronic stress could cause it. The body can't cope anymore and the first episode is likely to occur usually in late adolescence or early adulthood.
One of Her Clients Illustrated This She asked his mother what was going on in his life when he had his first episode? He was 18 and had been hospitalized twice. She answered, "Well, no particular stress was going on." As they talked, Dr. Aiken learned that they had just moved for the 23rd time. The father had lost his job. He was studying for his S.A.T.'s and he had to get a scholarship in order to go to college and his dog died. Any one of these probably would not have pushed him into an episode but coming together and coming together with the junk food diet that had been on for years-- it was simply more than his body could handle. Dr. Aiken planned a diet for him. Within 10 days his apathy turned to great interest in everything and talking about whatever was going on. One day he went back to square one. It seems that he had found the box of junk food that his mother had hidden and had eaten it all. Refusing to cook special meals just for him, his mother put the whole family on the diet. She and her husband lost weight, both had much more energy and weren't catching every little thing that came along. The son continued to do well after recovering from his setback episode.
Dr. Aiken Described the Four Ways that the biochemistry of a mentally ill person is different from that of the normal population.
1. They have multiple deficiencies or inactivation of those 40 plus nutrients. The body
can't make something out of nothing.
2. They are hypoglycemic and have an unstable blood sugar throughout the day causing mood swings, etc.
3. They have food sensitivities and nearly always environmental sensitivities.
4. The have a heavy metal toxicity such as lead, mercury, cadmium, etc., which may inactivate some enzymes that the brain and nervous system must have. Or there may be a toxic overload of certain nutrients which could inactivate others.
The lack of vitamin C, resulting in scurvy, is accompanied by hallucinations. Niacin or Vitamin B3 deficiency, if severe enough, results in dementia. Thiamine or Vitamin B1 can cause loss of hand and eye coordination and extreme irritability.
Regarding Triglycerides (Fatty Acids), she told us that it is bad when they are too high but it is equally bad when they are too low because they are essential for the immune system, and they also make the insulation on the nerves. If every little thing gets to you, you have to watch that level.
Dr. Aiken Commented on Having to Wave Away the Cigarette Smoke when she goes into a patient lounge in a mental hospital. She said that cigarettes are doing two things besides sedating the patient. Every cigarette uses up 50 mg. of Vitamin C. Then the papers that they are rolled in are coated with cadmium which is inhaled and goes to the kidneys where it inactivates zinc.
She Talked Further About Hypoglycemia and Food Sensitivities saying, "Nobody binges on carrot and celery sticks. They go for the wheat, the dairy, the sugar, and the caffeine."
Dr. William Walsh, whose talk at the last NAMI conference is written up in HAI Bul. #177, entitled, "Clear Thinking vs Muddled Thinking", presented Linda Perhach, mother of John, age 12, one of his patients.
Linda Perhach, with son John sitting calmly beside her for three hours during two presentations, described his experiences since birth. He was born full term, after rough induction, but from early on there was a lot of distress. He was very tense, very irritable, with hours of crying that nothing seemed to relieve. Very active, he began to run at 9 months and at 1 1/2 years his oppositional behavior started with temper tantrums and wanting control. At 3 there were learning difficulties.
Our 2nd child, Christiana, was born and he seemed to be happy about it at first but later he resented her getting any attention. We moved to a new house from a neighborhood of no children to an overwhelming number of kids. He lost a dog that he loved very much, and, when he started school, he immediately had problems. At the age of 6, we started him on Cylert and we agreed to have him repeat kindergarten.
About the age of 5, he began stealing and lying. His medication was changed to Ritalin and we did have periods of good control. At the age of 9, he began to be more out of control, having more difficulties in school and also get in trouble with the law. He stole a sailboat and sailed it down the Severn River with another boy. He never told us where he was going and the lying and stealing became more pronounced. His first hospitalization was in March, 1992 and he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disabilities, Anxiety Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant. He was discharged on Ritalin and Imipramine. Things seemed to be all right for a short period of time. Then he began to be very violent at home and at school. We became aware of problems with fire setting- -fascination with fire. He was rehospitalized in October 1992 and started on Prozac because he was depressive. The same story. We brought him home and he was OK for a while. Beginning to hang around with older children, we learned later on that he had begun to experiment with inhalants and other drugs. He became involved with the Juvenile System, had repeated violations of theft and destruction of property. He became abusive to both of us and attempted to stab me a one time. During a 3rd hospitalization, he tried to commit suicide. Even though he had been taking large, large, doses of Imipramine, he never reached the therapeutic level. We found later that he had a malabsorption problem which could have accounted for a lot of his problems both with diet and the medication.
Family Therapy, Individual Therapy, and the Juvenile Services helped us tremendously. By a weird turn of fate, John's grandfather saw the Donahue show on TV when Dr. Walsh was a guest. Through the Juvenile Services, on June 22, 1994, John was able to be treated by Dr. Walsh in Naperville, IL. Within that time he was also placed in a residential facility; the Hoffman Home for Youth in Pennsylvannia, probably one of the best things that could have happened to him. He did have almost immediate results with Dr. Walsh's treatment. Three or four days later he said he felt a lot happier, although we did have some periods of back and forth. He was taken off Prozac in September and I am proud to say that he is most recently off his lithium. This may not be the only answer but it is one thing that you can do for your child, or any loved one, along their journey. Treatment is individual for each patient.
A cassette containing all the foregoing talks is available at ACTS, Inc., 14153 Clayton Rd., Town & Country, MO 63017. (800)642-2287. Ask for Tape #M195048
Super Cola: Do you sometimes feel like you need a jolt of something to get you going in the morning or mid-afternoon? The Jolt Company, Inc. decided to capture the public's attention with a double dose of caffeine and an extra shot of granulated sugar, not the fructose substitute. JOLT is available in stores around the country. (Montgomery Journal 7/15/87)
Not to be Outdone Pepsi is uncorking a brand new soft drink, "Josta" which contains an extract from a Brazilian berry called guarana. A spokesman for Pepsi calls the guarana exotic and invigorating--it's seven times stronger than caffeine. Antonio Fernandes, who manufactures guarana products calls it "soft cocaine". Sold on the East Coast now, it is expected to be available nationwide in about 6 months. (Examiner 7/25/95)
Sunbolt Energy Drink from Gatorade is a mixture of the vitamin C from one whole orange, fructose, glucose, and maltodextrin (3 sugars) -- plus caffeine. (The Sun 7/4/94)
Mary Louise Bunker, clinical dietician at St. Luke Hospital in Pasadena, CA, says "Drinking colas can turn your child into a caffeine junkie." She emphasized, "The amount of drug given to a person is often related to body size. If a 4 year old weight about a quarter of her father's weight, drinks one can of coke, then that would be the same--in terms of caffeine consumption--as his father drinking 4 cups of coffee." (Enquirer 12/11/79)
Mary D. Moller, MSN, ARNP, CS, an Advance Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry, gave even more reasons to avoid caffeine in her talk, "How Foods Mess Up Your Meds and How Meds Mess Up Your Foods", at the NAMI Conference on Saturday, July 22, 1995. In her lively talk, she showed how what we called, "over the counter" drugs, namely caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, crack cocaine, marijuana, PCP, etc. affect the prescription drugs taken by the mentally ill. Using words like "slam dunk" and "gunk" we educates the mentally ill, their families, and caretakers on the importance of having a "clean brain" which is not full of "gunk" from those non rescription items. By educating them and hopefully getting their cooperation, lower doses of the prescription drugs will be needed, and as a result, there should be fewer side effects from the prescription drugs.
She Described The Receptor Sites in the Brain which are supposed to receive the medication but, instead, they are already clogged up with the caffeine, nicotine, etc. So even more medication is given. Ms. Moller believes you should not say that somebody is a hopeless person, relegated to a State Hospital because no medication ever seems to work, when this person is doing 2-4 packs of cigarettes, 2-3 liters of Coca-Cola and 16 candy bars. She explained that if you are doing more than 2 cups of coffee a day, and you are wondering why your Atavan prescription doesn't work, it's because the caffeine is in the receptor sites where the Atavan is supposed to go. If you are drinking 1800 mg a day of caffeine, cut it back by 300 each week. Starting with one item at a time and eliminating it slowly is her advice. Your medications may be able to be reduced as a result and should be closely monitored. She described many other aspects of food and drug reactions. During the question and answer period she was asked, "What is the effect of Hypoglycemia?" The answer was in part, "Altered brain function...usually causes you to go out and get some quick sugar but that will contribute to the Hypoglycemia about 2 hours later." (A cassette is available from ACTS, Inc. Ask for #M195075. Videos of some of her lectures are available from NurSeminars, Inc. 12204 W. Sunridge Drive, Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026, (509)468-9848