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Sorry for the technobabble 🙂
This is an interesting article, but unfortunately the term pseudoscience is no longer informative because it has been hijacked by various astroturfers and disinformation artists pretending to be skeptics but in reality doing nothing but defending the establishment, an integral part of which is the pharma industry. Perhaps the words scientific fraud, propaganda, and corruption will describe more accurately what this industry does.
Wikipedia contains a lot of bad medical information as proven by various studies (for example http://pubmed.gov/28139458 ) and is the worst source regarding what is or is not pseudoscience. Various activists who experimented with software called Wikiscanner a decade ago proved that Wikipedia articles reflect the opinion of those who have tons of money and act secretly by deploying teams of troll-editors working and monitoring the content around the clock. Influence not the truth prevails in Wikipedia, which is a fertile ground for covert propaganda. Expect to find a mixture of half-truths and lies with a tiny amount of truth in articles that are important for various powerful economic and political entities. Wikiscanner is no longer helpful because nowadays hiding your true IP address is easy as pie.
All I can say is WOW! This is quite astounding. I knew that you cannot trust RCTs because of the numerous loopholes, but your findings suggest that toxic substances that make people more depressed, more suicidal, and more disabled both short-term and long-term are successfully sold as “antidepressants”!!
We live in a truly perverse and deceptive world that can only be described as The Matrix, complete with a fake government, fake mass media, and science that serves as a puppet for the Wizard of Oz.
Unfortunately, a book or an internet article will not affect the clinical practice of psychiatry, even if you give your books away for free as I do mine. I sincerely hope that you can publish these findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal with the help of the good scientists that post on this website. It doesn’t have to be a “high-impact” journal. In fact, any scientific journal that is indexed in PubMed will do. Then your results and ideas will make an impact and shake some psychiatrists off the Matrix. Publishing a comment on one of these flawed reviews like Cipriani et al. (2018) will be less effective but better than nothing.
Steve, let’s not forget about substance or medication-induced mental disorders and mental disorders caused by a general medical condition.
littleturtle, you’re welcome. The book sounds interesting. I will definitely watch this guy’s videos.
Steve, nice to see you. I don’t mind psychiatric labels if they are associated with effective treatments that really address the cause of the problem. If a label serves the purpose of “awareness” about psychiatric drugs and helps to put the sufferer on those drugs for life, thus generating an income stream for corporations, then yes, we have a problem.
Ironically, the same John Ioannidis is one of the coauthors of this new antidepressant meta-analysis. Talk about false research findings. Did he sell out?
Science is badly broken. The current system of peer review is a not a good filter for bad studies. Consequently, drug companies can fund biased research, some proportion (perhaps 10-30%) of these bad studies will get published (this is hundreds and thousands of research papers), and as a result, the pharmaceutical industry imposes a false theory on the scientific and medical community and almost everyone believes it like a gospel. Needless to say, these false theories are immensely profitable to the pharmaceutical industry. The chemical imbalance theory of mental disorders is one such example. The other big glitch in medicine is the false notion that HIV causes AIDS.
Thank you Joanna for the clear explanation! I am begging you to please publish these objections as a comment on the Cipriani paper at PubMed.gov or in the journal itself.
To the list of psychological causes of depression that you provided, I would add an unhealthy lifestyle. Already two studies showed that healthier nutrition benefits depressed patients:
and there are countless studies showing that physical exercise is a valid treatment of depression:
There are also free and inexpensive online versions of cognitive behavioral therapy:
In my opinion, depression is a complicated problem that cannot be solved by a single treatment; it can be solved by a combination of several lifestyle changes and psychotherapy. I disagree with people who believe that mental disorders (such as depression) do not exist.
>>>The fallacy is in the next phrase: “…because the brain is not functioning well…” You don’t have evidence to support the causal assertion.
There is plenty of evidence. In my first post, I showed several studies on the relation between brain function and nutrition and between mental health and nutrition. Here are some more:
And this argument is not difficult to grasp even without evidence. For example, chimps living in nature consume 100% raw diet without any artificial chemicals. You are saying that if we give them plenty of human junk food, so that their diet becomes completely unnatural, the chimp brain will keep functioning as well as on their natural diet. Pardon me, but your position is ridiculous. The same can be said about physical exercise. Unfortunately, your explanation about physical exercise is not supported by any evidence (feel free to post links to scientific studies) and resembles magical thinking. When you said that we are dealing with “a mental disorder due to a general medical condition”, this is closer to the truth, but a bad lifestyle may not necessarily cause a diagnosable physical disease, perhaps a borderline medical condition. What I am saying is that depending on genetics, in some people, the brain will malfunction because of the bad lifestyle. Some people will develop symptoms of schizophrenia, others symptoms of depression, etc. There is a world of evidence showing that patients with schizophrenia on average consume an unhealthy diet. If this theory is correct, then switching to a healthier diet and/or starting a regimen of physical exercise should be beneficial for patients with a mental disorder. Scientific studies show that this is exactly what happens:
There are many other lifestyle interventions that can be used, they are listed in my first post.
People with some genotypes will not develop a brain disorder, but will present with a disease of some other organ, because of the bad lifestyle.
>>>The difference between this and psychiatry is profound, in that, apart from those DSM entries labeled as due to a general medical condition or due to a substance, there is no DSM label that has an identified essence or biological pathology.
There is plenty of evidence of subtle brain abnormalities for many DSM labels, including depression and schizophrenia. These deviations are not statistically significant, but they exist, for example, greater levels of blood cortisol and inflammation markers in depression. Note that you can’t say that these subtle differences do not exist. They are small and cannot be used for diagnosis, but they do exist. You COULD say that they don’t exist if the average values did not differ between depression and no depression, but the average values differ consistently, in many studies. We can call it “a mental disorder caused by a subclinical general deterioration of health”. My position is that this subclinical general medical condition is caused by a bad lifestyle. Most modern psychiatrists are saying that the primary cause is a “chemical imbalance” which has some small physical manifestations. This is the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and their cronies.
Now, your assertion that mental disorders do not exist is not helpful for patients who have a mental disorder due to a general medical condition or due to some medication because they will never find out the cause if they don’t see a psychiatrist. Your activism *maybe* helpful for people who have a mental disorder due to a bad lifestyle because they won’t be harmed by psychiatric drugs. But you are denying the subtle physical manifestations of mental disorders (despite plentiful evidence), and you don’t tell these people that they need to review their lifestyle. These patients won’t get worse if they listen to you, but they won’t get better either. You offer them nothing useful and they will end up going to a psychiatrist, partly because they do believe that they have a mental disorder (e.g. unexplained panic attacks), and they will find your claims simply unbelievable.
I have a friend who has a “schizophrenia” label. He hears voices constantly and has some bizarre delusions (he thinks that he has a telepathic connection with Putin) and is currently living on disability payments with his parents. Your claim that he does not have a mental disorder is preposterous to say the least. Your position must be especially laughable for psychiatrists who see patients everyday. Some people, perhaps, 2% to 5% of the population, actively seek psychiatric help because their life is unbearable because of psychiatric symptoms. That’s tens of millions of people going to psychiatrists with various complaints every year.
>>>If the “symptoms” of ADHD are caused by brain malfunction, I think the onus is on psychiatry to state the nature of this malfunction and diagnose it by brain test. Until then, it’s just another unsubstantiated, self-serving assertion.
There are many self-serving and venal psychiatrists to be sure, but there are also those who say that neuroleptics harm patients, e.g., David Healy and Bruce Charlton. Regarding ADHD, there are tests, e.g. sustained attention test, which show deficiencies in patients with ADHD. There are numerous physical signs of protein malnutrition among patients with ADHD, including smaller brain size. I posted those links above. If you still cannot see the physical manifestations of ADHD, then you are in denial.
You are correct in that these physical deviations cannot be used for diagnosis because they overlap with the normal range, but a small change is not the same as no change.
>>>Your theory of “subtle physical problems in the brain” which cause mental suffering or disability is, in my view, problematic because of the averaging and overlapping issues that you yourself concede.
There is no problem with “averaging”. Average values show differences consistently in many studies.
In this conversation, you never support your claims with references to peer-reviewed studies, unfortunately, it seems like you are preaching. I am sorry, but your concepts of “feeling apparatus” and “adaptive response” seem like personal opinions unsupported by scientific evidence. As I mentioned above, I was depressed for many years in my teens. It was not an “adaptive response” to a bad social environment. It was a boring, unpleasant, and pointless existence associated with many small personal problems without any big negative life events, in a GOOD social environment. Therefore, your theory of depression is incorrect or requires a major revision.
For what it’s worth, I like your avatar 🙂
>>>So what’s the point of saying someone “has ADHD” when it tells you neither the cause nor the treatment for the “disorder?”
Well, this is what the term “syndrome” is for. It’s an umbrella term for a collection of signs and symptoms that can have varied causes. The notion of syndromes is not entirely pointless, it helps a doctor to narrow down the list of suspected causes. Under the current system, the label of ADHD of course is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance: “dysfunction of the dopaminergic system in the prefrontal cortex” and “necessitates” specific treatment, methylphenidate. The chemical imbalance is assumed to be the ultimate primary cause not caused by anything else. I disagree.
I know you mean well, but your statements are not supported by evidence. Of course you can measure mood scientifically, and you can use various questionnaires such as Hamilton Depression Scale, which have been validated scientifically, both for diagnosis of depression and for monitoring the effects of treatment.
Symptoms are subjective but they are as real as our conversation right now. If you ask me, my mood is more real than my insulin level, because I can feel and describe my mood, but I can neither see nor feel my insulin. Psychometrics is a valid scientific field and if you believe that nothing mental is real or measurable then you are rejecting not only psychiatry, but also psychology, the field of pain medicine, and education. Knowledge is not something you can touch, it’s a mental construct. Exams in school attempt to measure knowledge.
Whether something was invented has no bearing on whether it is real or not. An airplane was invented and airplanes exist. The transistor was invented, and transistors are real.
I agree with you that psychiatric nosology is not based on etiology and lumps together people who have different causes but similar symptoms, but your assumption that all psychiatrists are evil heartless A-holes who don’t care about patients and do not try to investigate a cause of the problem is incorrect. In any case, diagnosis based on symptoms is a start, and further differential diagnosis and stratification based on causes is possible for ADHD, depression, and other entities. For example, there is the official caused-based entity “substance-induced mood disorder”. Nothing stops a psychiatrist who arrived at the diagnosis of ADHD to investigate further, to ask the patient how things are in the family, etc. You need to start somewhere. A patient that seeks psychiatric help does not come to a psychiatrist with a well-defined cause. He or she has a list of complaints that are symptoms. You cannot disregard symptoms if you want to find a cause.
Diabetes is also a sign-and-symptom based entity and includes several types based on etiology. To arrive at etiology, you need to first detect diabetes on the basis of signs and symptoms. Incidentally, diabetes was invented by doctors, as you put it, and did not exist before the discovery of insulin. In contrast, depression and melancholy are the concepts that were not invented by MDs.
Let’s say a 40-year-old person complains of distractibility, i.e. poor attention control and impulsivity and wants to see a psychiatrist. How do you propose this person can receive free medical care (multiple visits and thorough investigation of causes) without some kind of diagnosis?
Psychiatry that is based on lifestyle changes exists; it’s a small field but it’s growing:
For example, the lovely website Rxisk.org, which is run by psychiatrists, recommends reviewing your diet and doing more physical exercise if you get depressed and to NOT take antidepressants if depression is mild or moderate:
>>>>Uh, where does Phil claim “mental suffering does not exist”?
Perhaps I misunderstood, but he disregarded my statement that some people need and seek psychiatric help and he seems to think that there is no such thing as severe mental suffering because definitions are vague and arbitrary: if everyone is suffering then no one is really suffering, it’s all normal.
>>>My current doctor told me to go on a carb free diet. “No grains. Just lots of fruits and vegetables!”
Well, fruits and veggies are carbs, so technically, this is a grain-free, not a carb-free diet. Actually, there are several studies showing that a real low-carb (ketogenic) diet is beneficial for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder:
I understand your frustration and disappointment with psychiatry. Note that those 8 studies have nothing to do with Pharma, and I agree that psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good. Psychiatry exists because some percentage of the population needs and seeks psychiatric help. It will not disappear whatever you say about it. Psychiatry that is based on lifestyle changes is not a bad thing and is well supported by science (not sponsored by any commercial interests).
Thank you for the detailed response.
1. Sorry, but I find your refutation of mental illness unconvincing. Diagnostic criteria for almost any physical illness involve some arbitrariness, and they are defined by physicians and voted on by committees. You can take issue with every word and find vagueness in every sentence. Take a look at the diagnostic criteria of diabetes:
1. Diabetes symptoms (e.g. polyuria, polydipsia, and unexplained weight loss for Type 1) plus:
a random venous plasma glucose concentration ≥ 11.1 mmol/l or
a fasting plasma glucose concentration ≥ 7.0 mmol/l (whole blood ≥ 6.1 mmol/l) or
two hour plasma glucose concentration ≥ 11.1 mmol/l two hours after 75g anhydrous glucose in an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
2. With no symptoms diagnosis should not be based on a single glucose determination but requires confirmatory plasma venous determination. At least one additional glucose test result on another day with a value in the diabetic range is essential, either fasting, from a random sample or from the two hour post glucose load. If the fasting random values are not diagnostic the two hour value should be used.
Why 11.1 mmol/l and not 11.0 mmol/l? The polyuria definition is also vague and arbitrary. All these definitions were created by physicians. If we apply your logic to diabetes, then it does not exist either and should not be treated.
Your basic assumption is that psychiatrists have no right to define illnesses and are not to be trusted, but MDs of non-psychiatric kind have a right to define illnesses and should be trusted.
Your position that mental suffering and mental disability do not exist because the threshold is vague is unjustified. A more rational position would be to admit that yes, the threshold is vague, but we have good functioning and “happiness” on one side, and poor functioning and unhappiness on the other side. The threshold is necessary in our imperfect world, otherwise nobody would be able to claim disability or qualify for free medical care or for payment for the care by an insurance company. People with poor functioning and unhappiness really need help and seek help, and those with more severe problems are more likely to seek help. Psychiatrists try to define a mental illness statistically, in order to decide who qualifies for treatment and who does not. Society’s resources are limited and some arbitrary thresholds have to be set. To answer your question “why two weeks and not three”: psychiatrists use statistics to try to define the category of depressed people who are likely to seek help and who are depressed badly enough to need help. Statistics are vague and based on probabilities rather than hard, well-defined limits. Statistics also change with time. It’s called “Diagnostic and statistical manual…”
To give another example, the definition of statutory rape is vague and arbitrary, but most people would agree that we need such laws despite the arbitrariness and vagueness. Why can’t a 19-year-old guy make love to a 15-year-old girl, but a 16-year-old guy can? Where is the logic?
I agree that psychiatry is profoundly perverted by the pharmaceutical industry, but I disagree with the idea that mental illnesses do not exist. Your assertion that psychiatrists claim that an arbitrary threshold causes a mental illness to suddenly appear is also incorrect. They admit that there is a spectrum from normalcy to disorder, and they admit that there is some arbitrariness in diagnostic criteria.
I am sorry, but the logic behind the notion that mental illness does not exist is circular:
1. Mental illness does not exist because psychiatrists have no right to define what is or is not a mental illness.
2. Psychiatrists are not real doctors and should not be trusted because mental illnesses do not exist.
The same reasoning can be applied to internal medicine, with the conclusion that heart attacks or strokes do not exist. Accordingly, every deviation from the physiological “norm” or average is to be disregarded and should not be treated.
Antipsychiatry people claim that mental illnesses cannot be traced to biological problems, aside from those organic mental disorders that are caused by measurable brain damage, by medication, or by a physical illness. My position is that so-called functional mental disorders (such as major depressive disorder) do exist and have a biological cause, but this biological cause is ignored by both psychiatrists and antipsychiatrists. This cause is the lifestyle. A bad or unsuitable lifestyle produces subtle physical problems in the brain, which are not statistically significant but they still cause mental suffering or disability. For instance, it is known that cortisol levels in blood are somewhat higher in depressed people on average, but this change is not statistically significant and cannot be used for diagnosis because the depression-associated range of concentrations substantially overlaps with the no-depression-associated range of concentrations. Nonetheless, this subtle physical problem in the brain does exist and causes somewhat higher cortisol levels on average.
Bad nutrition or a lack of physical exercise can make a person depressed because the brain is not functioning well and this suboptimal functioning leads to various personal problems, which make the person feel depressed. Antipsychiatrists here would say that the low mood is a response to personal problems and no biological problem exists, whereas modern psychiatrists (DSM) would say that low mood is a functional mental disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which appeared out of nowhere. On the other hand, critical psychiatrists who believe in biological psychiatry (such as myself) would say that the low mood is caused by the bad lifestyle, and correction of the lifestyle will improve functioning of the brain, and thus resolve personal problems, and the mood will improve when the problems are gone.
I can cite my own experience. I was depressed through most of my teen years and often had suicidal thoughts. This depressed mood (I did not have an official diagnosis) cannot be traced to negative life events and it was not “an adaptive response to loss or to enduring adverse circumstances.” I went to a good school, and my family was not poor. I had many tiny personal problems, none of them serious, but the whole collection was depressing. Looking back, I can say with certainty that my depressed mood was caused by cigarette smoking and bad nutrition (mostly junk food): biological causes.
2. You said “The fundamental principle of biological psychiatry is that all significant problems of thinking, feeling, and behaving are biological illnesses that need to be treated with psychiatric drugs.”
This is not the definition of biological psychiatry. Please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_psychiatry
3. I completely agree with your statements here. Psychiatry (and medicine in general) is distorted and perverted beyond recognition by the pharmaceutical industry.
4. ADHD is a valid diagnosis if we agree that psychiatrists have a right to define mental illnesses (as discussed above) and that some people, including adults, complain of distractibility. My claim about meat consumption and ADHD is supported by numerous studies: ADHD patients consume 50% less animal protein on average. ADHD patients are more likely to have iron deficiency. Iron levels in blood strongly depend on meat consumption. Children with ADHD show biometric signs of protein malnutrition. Anorexic people are very likely to have symptoms of ADHD.
I enjoyed your article immensely, but I couldn’t help but voice some counterarguments. I am not a psychiatrist, but I am a believer in biological psychiatry that is not based on drugs and electroshocks, as you put it. I would place myself in the “critical psychiatry” camp and am in favor of abolishing all coercive psychiatric practices.
Here are my counterpoints:
1. The official psychiatric definition or threshold of “illness” versus “normal distress” is not completely arbitrary and invented. For a mental problem to be considered a “disorder” it must cause substantial distress to the sufferer and to impair social functioning (e.g., work productivity). In other words the definition of “mental illness” is subjective, yes, but it is subjective on the part of the “patient” or “client” if you will. If the sufferer decides that he/she lost the ability to function normally and that mental suffering is bad enough that he/she needs some kind of help, then psychiatrists would agree that we are dealing with a “mental illness.” I am not using exact quotes from the DSM, but this is what it says more or less.
2. Biological psychiatry is based on hard scientific evidence, not a vague set of beliefs (although these are also present there). I will list the effects and provide some references (I can provide a hundred references and many more effects if you need them):
a) different diets and even different types of meals have various effects on mental state.
b) cooling or heating of the body have effects on mental state.
c) hyperventilation alters mental state
d) breath-holding alters mental state
e) physical exercise alters mental state
f) colon cleansing has effects on mental state
g) probiotic supplements have effects on mental state
h) bright light and darkness affect mental state
i) sleep deprivation affects mental state
j) exposure to low doses or radiation affects mental state
k) fasting affects mental state
l) and to state the obvious, ingestion of chemicals and brain trauma change mental state
3. Some people need psychological help (e.g., couples counseling) and others need psychiatric help (e.g., insomnia, mania, poor attention, hearing voices, etc.). Some kind of organization or individuals need to provide this help. Inevitably, the question will arise about licensing and proven practices versus unproven claims and practices. The government and law enforcement will get involved. There will be abuses, and I don’t have all the answers, but someone needs to provide psychiatric care according to proven practices because some part of the population needs this kind of help. I am not saying that a label has to be attached to a sufferer and I am against psychiatric drugs, but someone has to deal with severe disability and suffering of the mental kind. For example, the government could publish a set of self-help interventions and certify them as valid and proven and some people, let’s call them “mental health counselors” would manage this system by advising those who need help on how they can help themselves. For example, physical exercise is now scientifically proven as a treatment of anxiety and depression. Some diets can help with insomnia (scientific proof is currently lacking, but the government or somebody else could fund this kind of research).
4. There is plenty of good evidence now that ADHD is caused by poor digestion or insufficient consumption of meat. This is biological psychiatry, but it involves self-management, no drugs are needed.
I don’t believe that antipsych medication is the only effective way to sedate yourself.
During my experiments with raw diets in the early 2000s, I experienced hypomanic or perhaps manic episodes (without disability) and would go without sleep for 3 days (that is my record). I was still attending grad school and functioning during the day. Hypersexuality was a problem though. I was never diagnosed and never reached a point where I needed help.
It later occurred to me how to best deal with such episodes and I came up with a set of sedative methods. They work against insomnia, and they work against hypomania and severe agitation. I occasionally experiment with hypomania to this day, just for fun, but I now know how to control it.
Without further ado:
1) The simplest calming diet consists of whole-grain bread and water, but I recommend the following “depressant diet” instead because it is more balanced and effective: whole-grain bread, boiled meat (normal-fat or fatty), and nuts (preferably pulverized in a blender; note that peanuts are not nuts). The depressant diet (not the bread-and-water diet) is likely to cause constipation; therefore, you can add raw fruits and vegetables. That’s it. Dairy is not allowed, and neither are junk food and various seasonings and food additives. If you have problems with anger, then my advice is to exclude any pungent vegetables such as horseradish, garlic, onions, hot peppers, and spices. This diet can make you apathetic and depressed within a few days or weeks. Nowadays, in my normal state, this diet makes me feel like a zombie in a few days. Nuts are an especially heavy food that makes you feel awful in large doses.
2) A hot environment, several days or longer. Increase the temperature in your room or home using a heater and a fan or central heating, if you can, and put on extra clothes: thermals, a warm sweater, etc. Oppressive heat causes fatigue and will bring you back down to earth. It is a scientific fact that patients with schizophrenia have better outcomes in third-world countries (most of which are in the tropical zone).
3) A hot bath or a hot shower (excluding the head). These have a relaxing effect but only a temporary one. Can be combined with a hot environment.
4) Excessive amounts of physical exercise: they will keep you fatigued and sedated. (Small or moderate amounts of exercise will have the opposite effect.) A stationary bicycle in your home is the easiest form of exercise. You can do a 30- to 60-minute workout 6 days a week as follows: Turn on a TV or a radio or put on some music. Do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling followed by 30 seconds of maximal-speed cycling. Next, do 20–30 situps. Then do 10 minutes of normal-intensity cycling and another 20–30 situps. Add another one or two repetitions if necessary. Take a shower. All done.
5) Breath-holding exercise. Three to four breath-holds (30–60 seconds) with an interval of about 5 minutes. These sessions can be repeated once a day when sedation is needed. This is an exercise for the brain and is known to have strong effects on the brain, for example, this method can cause a panic attack in some patients with a diagnosis of anxiety. But usually, this treatment has a sedative effect and if I do it everyday, then I start feeling depressed.
>>But your bread would make me sick,
That’s exactly how a neuroleptic treatment should make you feel 🙂
Seriously, I used to avoid bread and would go for years without it, until I found through trial and error that bread helps with self-control. Around 2009, I spent a week on nothing but bread and water and despite my expectations I did not feel bad. There were no negative effects on either physical or mental health, aside from slowing and low capacity for work.
After my experiments with hypomania (cold showers plus a raw diet), bread quickly brings me down to earth.
It seems that my post triggered some keywords for spam and was automatically deleted. I wrote to the moderator about this problem.
This is an interesting article, but I have to disagree with the premise that a mixture of vitamins and micronutrients such as rare minerals is good for health. First of all, it is well-known that artificial vitamins are mostly excreted with urine, they are not assimilated by the body. Second, a mixture of chemicals is not “natural” and therefore cannot be expected to improve health, mental or physical if we are talking about natural health. Multivitamins are not different from a mixture of drugs. Third, dietary supplements do not address the problem of bad nutrition. Your health will improve if you reduce consumption of unhealthy foods (fast food, fried meat, coffee) and start eating healthy foods most of the time (fruits, veggies, whole grains, boiled meat, fish, nuts, etc.). If a person consumes fast food mostly and adds multivitamins to this diet, I don’t see why his or her health would improve.
Because many diseases go into remission without any treatment and because the course of a disease may go up and down (regardless of treatment), some people will become convinced that a dietary supplement improved their health, when in fact it’s just a coincidence with the natural progression of the disease. This effect should not be confused with the so-called placebo effect, which does not exist according to several well constructed studies. The effect of placebo is usually confused with the natural course of a disease, which becomes obvious if you compare a placebo group with no-treatment group (there is no difference in most cases, see the studies by Hrobjartsson A.).
There are many beneficial and free (or cheap) interventions that anyone can do to improve their health and which do not involve ingestion of artificial chemicals be that vitamins or prescription drugs. In my view, it would be worthwhile to try to organize clinical trials of these treatments instead of dietary supplements, which seem to be a dead end.
I use the interventions listed below on a regular basis and can say that they have an instant strong effect on both physical and mental health. Some of them probably work because of hormesis (not to be confused with homeopathy).
1. Gradual cold shower (not a sudden one; can be preceded by a moderately hot shower). It has an instant mood-lifting effect and a stimulant effect (documented in various studies too).
2. Hyperventillation exercise (stimulant effect).
3. Breathholding exercise (sedative effect).
4. Fasting on water or without water for 24 to 48 hours a week.
5. Complete colon cleansing once or twice a year, followed by a course of a good multi-probiotic.
6. Nasal washings.
7. Use a tongue scraper regularly.
8. Good-quality balanced nutrition. Avoid dietary supplements and food additives.
9. Physical exercise that does not require will power or time: a stationary bicycle in your home makes exercise extremely easy.
On the subject of nutrition, if I could, I would also study so-called functional foods, i.e. foods that have therapeutic effects, rather than multivitamins. Some examples of functional foods are raw fish and raw meat. The trick is to make them safe for human consumption using some kind of novel sterilization technology. Pascalization for example, is pretty close. It kills most bacteria and parasites while keeping the meat and fish almost raw. These foods are not socially acceptable at present because of the long-standing ban, but I can say that they have a strong positive effect on mental state and should be effective against depression and ADHD. Whereas cooked meat has been proven to lower mood, cause constipation, increase fatigue, increase the risk of cancer (because cooking of meat generates carcinogens), and to overload kidneys, raw meat does not have these negative effects. On the contrary it elevates mood. In my experience, going on a raw diet for a few weeks is a reliable way to experience hypomania.
There are also some strongly sedative lifestyle changes, which in my view can replace sedatives and neuroleptics. A hot environment (including an extra layer of clothes) causes fatigue and apathy and sedates well. Can be combined with moderately hot baths and showers. I already mentioned breathholding exercises (but paradoxically they can cause a panic attack in some patients with anxiety). A diet consisting of whole-grain bread and water only has an excellent sedative effect (if you add boiled meat, you may also become depressed pretty quickly). A ketogenic diet has been shown to be effective against schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in some small studies.
In conclusion, there are more interesting interventions than dietary supplements for people who wish to take psychiatry in a new direction.
Thanks for sharing your story and I hope you get well. Your writing is clear and enjoyable.
These could be honest people or they could be shills for drug companies. You never know. For example, former CBS investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson says that you cannot trust Wikipedia regarding medical information because drug companies *pretending to be regular users* badly distort all the information there.
Here is the Australian study: Ng KH, Meyer BJ, Reece L, Sinn N: Dietary PUFA intakes in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms. Br J Nutr 2009, 102(11):1635–1641.
And here is another one, showing that ADHD correlates with iron deficiency (meat is the main source of iron): Konofal E, Lecendreux M, Arnulf I, Mouren MC: Iron deficiency in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2004, 158(12):1113–1115.
I haven’t followed the literature on this topic since 2012, perhaps there are newer better studies. Your experience puts a dent in my theory, but perhaps you are an outlier (wink, wink)?
Interesting article. Thanks for sharing your experience. Medicine and biomedical research are dominated by pharmaceutical companies because science in its present form is easily influenced by funding. Peer review does not filter out flawed studies effectively. If you apply enough funding to biased research, then you can impose widely accepted but false theories on science because you can get hundreds of bad studies published with enough money.
I did a lot of research on ADHD and nutrition and came to the conclusion that adding high-quality protein to the diet, especially meat, should be effective against ADHD. For example, one Australian study shows that ADHD patients consume 50% less animal protein on average. The vast majority of anorexics have ADHD symptoms. In my experience, a good experimental model of ADHD is a fruit-and-vegetable diet for several days: it causes all the symptoms of ADHD quickly.
Self-experimentation suggests that the most effective supplement for attention function is boiled meat and pulverized nuts, the more the better. This method is less effective against impulsivity. Through trial and error I found that the most effective food against impulsivity is whole-grain bread (boiled whole grains are less effective, but also help), the more the better. If you go on a bread-and-water diet, you will notice that you are very calm and perhaps somewhat slow. Zero impulsivity, but attention function is not very good. Attention function returns to normal if you add meat to your diet. The bread-and-meat diet will make you severely constipated unless you add sufficient amounts of raw fruits and vegetables to your diet.
My theory and experiments (with tons of scientific references) are detailed in my free ebook available everywhere (How to Become Smarter, Charles Spender).
Wonderful. This study supports my hypothesis called “natural nutrition theory of intelligence.” I wrote a free ebook detailing the effects of various diets and individual foods on mental state. This ebook also describes the effects of other physiological treatments on mental state: cold and hot hydrotherapy, hot environment, breath holding, hyperventilation, physical exercise, fasting, etc., etc. The book contains over 1000 scientific references, “How to Become Smarter” Charles Spender, 2010, available everywhere. I will definitely add this study to the list of cited literature.