Saturday, April 17, 2021

Comments by benjamindavidsteele

Showing 22 of 22 comments.

  • Class status and power hierarchies obviously play a major role. But privilege doesn’t always protect an individual. In the Roman Empire, slaves working in the lead mines had short lives.

    On the other hand, the elite used water from lead pipes, used lead dishes, and sweetened their wine with white lead. Some argue this is what caused the decline of the Roman Empire, as the elite were brain-damaged from lead toxicity — just a theory. For a modern example,

    look to the work of Keith Payne in his book The Broken Ladder. The data shows that high inequality causes problems in society for all involved, poor and rich alike. Sure, the poor get the worst of it. But Payne shows that even the rich in high inequality societies have on average worse rates of mortality, depression, drug abuse, etc as compared to the rich in low inequality societies.

  • The author of the article is an anthropologist, not a mental health worker. Those are two very different fields. An anthropologist doesn’t work with patients, unless they were for some reason observing a population of patients or looking at data about them.

    Also, keep in mind there is no inherent conflict between her position and your own. It isn’t only large societal factors (inequality, political oppression, environmental toxins, etc) that alter epigenetics but also the more individual factors. Psychiatric medications and other drugs can also cause epigenetic changes.

    Some of this research has been done on non-human animals, but much of it has also been done on humans. We know how epigenetics works in the human body. Scientists have been able to detect epigenetic markers that are passed on in humans from one generation to another.

    Only one of the references below is about rats. The rest are about humans.

    Epigenetics in Psychiatry
    2014, Pages 481-496
    Chapter 23 – Epigenetic Effects of Currently Used Psychotropic Drugs
    Marco P.M. Boks

    Epigenetic alterations in depression and antidepressant treatment
    Andreas Menke, MD and Elisabeth B. Binder, MD, PhD

    Effects of Antipsychotic Drugs on the Epigenetic Modification of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Gene Expression in the Hippocampi of Chronic Restraint Stress Rats
    Mi Kyoung Seo,1 Young Hoon Kim,2 Roger S. McIntyre,3,4 Rodrigo B. Mansur,3,4 Yena Lee,3 Nicole E. Carmona,3 Ah Jeong Choi,1 Gyung-Mee Kim,5 Jung Goo Lee ,1,5,6 and Sung Woo Park

    Epigenetic Effects of Drugs of Abuse
    Thomas Heinbockel and Antonei B. Csoka

  • I’m talking about mental health. The fact of the matter is mental health is inseparable from physical health — not only health of the bran but also of the nervous system, immune system, metabolism, etc. And both mental and physical health are inseparable from environmental and public health. That has been the failure of much of mainstream healthcare, mental and otherwise. I’m obviously not arguing against the necessary criticisms when rightly targeted. There are those in this field who need to be held accountable — morally, legally, and politically. On that, we both agree.

    Yet if you look at the scientific literature, you’ll find thousands of studies, meta-analyses, case reports, etc linking mental health to many of these other factors: parasitism, toxicity, diet/nutrition, inequality, poverty, etc. So, there are many practitioners and researchers in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, and neurocognition who are concerned about such things, even if they don’t get the attention they deserve. The point being that it isn’t a failure of the entire field but merely the part of the field dominated by the pharmaceutical industry, which for obvious reasons gets most of the press from corporate media.

    Out of curiosity, I did a search on Mad In America and only found 13 results about diet/nutrition but none on parasitism or toxins, although there was quite a few results on poverty and inequality. Another website I’m familiar with is Psychology Today that regularly publish articles about these topics — they have hundreds of pieces on diet/nutrition, hundreds on poverty and inequality, a little over a hundred on toxicity, and about a hundred on parasitism. It is a well known and researched area, the link between mental, physical, and environmental health.

  • That would be the advantage of a systems approach. Diagnosing individuals with “mental disease” is only meaningful if one assumes the problem is an individual problem and an isolated problem.

    But this all changes once we realize that depression is related to other health issues like toxicity rates and that those other health issues are related to the world around us such as old lead pipes in buildings, lead residue in the soil from old factories, and the toxic dump a politicians decided to locate in poor communities.

    Multiply that by thousands of environmental factors as part of numerous systems: political systems, economic systems, ecosystems, etc. Maybe we should learn from ecosystem science in particular, an entire field that is about the study of complex interrelationships. Rather than diagnosing individuals, we need to be diagnosing our entire society.

  • Once we stop treating humans as isolated individuals, once we stop treating one thing separate from all else, psychiatric medications become far less attractive. Once we realize that by taking simple collective actions like reducing rates of toxicity, parasitism, malnutrition, etc, many supposedly psychiatric conditions will begin to drastically lessen.

    But because of epigenetic changes, it could take several generations to reverse the damage we’ve caused as a society in being so dismissive of the shared conditions of our suffering, not to mention our scapegoating of individuals for the sins of society. That is why we need to make these changes as quickly as possible and so a new systemic way of thinking is necessary.

  • The rat park research is quite the opposite. It was a challenge to the chemical model of psychiatry that believed addiction was a biological disease, maybe genetically determined. The rat park research disproved this. Even with the presence of a highly addictive drug, the rats had no interest in the drug as long they that had plenty of access to all the things that make a rat happy (other rats, toys, good food).

    Johann Hari talks about the evidence among humans. Drug rehab programs that re-create social connections show higher success rates. This is seen on an even larger scale with Portugal changing to compassionate public policy that no longer treated and scapegoated addict as if they were a failed individual and instead sought to help change the social conditions that promoted addiction in the first place. Their drug addiction rates then plummeted.

    It turns out the individual is not separate from the society and world around them. Imagine that.

  • What do you mean that the human is not a system? That is the problem with the conventional healthcare model. Every person and every aspect of a person is treaed as if in isolation.

    So, the individual goes to a doctor to treat their depression, another doctor to treat their psoriasis, and still another doctor to treat thei diabetes — as if the human body and mind aren’t part of the same system. Each doctor has their separate expertise and none is looking at how one thing is affecting another.

    That is precisely the dysfunction in our society that is harming so many people. A system simply means tha one thing relates to and affects another.

    When I was treated by psychiatrists and psychotherapists, no one bothered to test for nutritional deficiences, inflammatory markers, heavy metal toxins, etc. Nor did anyone discuss how my being in poverty in highly unequal and oppressive society might be contributing.

    The false assumption was that my depression was merely ‘psychological’ and ‘individual’. But my depression only went away when I stopped going to psychiatrists and psychotherapists, when instead I started to think about the larger context of what might be causing it.

    I identified the external factors I had control over and changed them to the best of my ability. That worked like magic, even though much remained outside of my control. Thinking of myself as connected to a larger world of systems made me feel not only less powerless but also less isolated and less frustrated.

    Many of the changes I made were relatively simple. But they were only possible to do once I took a systems approach, especially learning from doctors who use functional medicine.

  • To understand complex systems, we need better scientific literacy. Look at the society-wide effect from lead toxicty rates or parasite load. How is it that few people still don’t know about such basic scientific knowledge demonstrating the complexity of human society and health?

    Parasite stress theory indicates that parasites can even change personality and culture. Some parasites directly alter the brain, such as with toxoplasmosis. Parasite exposure is very much an external factor, depending on various environmental and societal conditions. Some places in the Deep South have parasite rates, not to mention poverty and mortality rates, similar or worse than many developing countries.

    Or consider the rat park research related to addiction where changes in social conditions changes behavior. Johann Hari writes about this and has another book showing the social factors behind depression. None of this is merely about the individual in isolation for we are social creatures part of social systems, not to mention political and economic systems and ecosystems.

    Another big factor I left out is epigenetics, which is influenced by environment, collective events, diet, etc. Epigenetics determines genetic expression and research shows that, in some cases, this can get passed on for at least several generations, such as with increased obesity rates of grandchildren following famine experienced before the grandparent had children. So, genetic expression that shapes who we are is inseparable from not only the environmental conditions we’ve experienced but also of what our parents, grandparents, etc have experienced.

    Research has even shown cultural carryover of social behaviors from historical events that happened many centuries before, such as increased xenophobia in villages that protected themselves during the Black Death by keeping out strangers. Also, consider how inequality remains high, even among whites, in places where slavery used to be concentrated. Talk about complexity! We need to teach systems thinking, as part of basic public education.

  • This is a great beginning. People can nitpick at it if they want and public debate is always needed, but there is no other way to move forward. It’s a simple fact that we are not only part of systems but inseparable from them. We are systems within systems. This is the future of healthcare for individuals and as public policy. Individual health is always public health.

    Oppression, disenfranchisement, social stress, interpersonal trauma, violence, economic inequality, poverty, prejudice, malnutrition, toxins, parasites, infectious diseases, etc. There are thousands upon thousands of factors that contribute to our physical and mental health or lack thereof. And none of these factors are merely personal. We need to stop thinking of ourselves as isolated individuals, a false and oppressive ideological realism.

  • I came across my comment again. I realize that, unless someone goes to my blog, they probably won’t know what I’m referring to. Most Americans have never been taught this info and so I can’t assume that anyone here has familiarity with it. Let me give an example to clarify (for more examples and info, go to my blog).

    In many chronic diseases inflammation is a central factor. This is seen in metabolic syndrome and autoimmune disorders, but it is likewise seen as brain inflammation in neurocognitive problems and psychiatric illness, from schizophrenia to mood disorders. Inflammation can be caused by lifestyle factors such as stress, inactivity and inadequate sleep, although some of the most important factors are related to diet and nutrition.

    For example, excess sugar or a generally high-carb diet along with industrial seed oils (i.e., the standard American diet; SAD) contribute to inflammation. And this SAD diet likewise contributes to metabolic syndrome which alters hormonal functioning which deals with appetite signalling and so can alter eating patterns and behaviors.

    This could get diagnosed as an eating disorder when, in reality, it is a dietary disorder. That is to say it’s a bad diet that is messing with the healthy functioning of the entire body. This can manifest in diverse symptoms that get diagnosed as a wide variety of conditions, even though the underlying causal factors might be the same or related.

    This is where something like functional medicine comes in. It looks at the body as a system but also at the totality of the individual’s lifestyle, relationships, and environment. Many systems in the body are interrelated. There are several connections between the gut and the brain, one of which is direct. Or consider insulin which is a hormone that is used as signalling both in the metabolic system and the immune system.

    I came to understand this from personal experience. I went on a very low-carb diet to lose some extra body weight. Unexpectedly, decades of severe depression disappeared and never returned. This is a common experience with a number of other psychiatric and neurocognitive ailments and issues. A lot of research has shown the mechanistic causes behind this.

    I don’t specifically know about eating disorders. But I’d be surprised if it had no relation whatsoever to diet and nutrition.

  • Why not mention how different diets have been shown to cause and alleviate various serious mental health conditions? Maybe eating disorders are real, even if the cause has been misattributed. Maybe it’s not about how someone eats but what they eat.

    The science points to this understanding being more widely applicable: mood disorders, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s, etc. For centuries, experts have been linking mental health to physical health, often emphasizing diet.

    [I posted this comment once, but it had links in it and the comment disappeared. Apparently, links aren't allowed to be posted. If you want to see the links, go to my WordPress blog Marmalade (benjamindavidsteele) and look for the following posts: "Physical Health, Mental Health", "Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health", The Ketogenic Miracle Cure", "Diets and Systems", "Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration", and "The Agricultural Mind".]

  • The serious problem isn’t that we’ve pathologized eating problems for the minority diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Rather, much worse is that we’ve normalized the eating problems for the majority not diagnosed with anything. The standard American diet, including ‘plant-based’ versions, is a collective sickness.

  • Few people realize that the modern industrial diet is extremely unnatural with its high intake of starchy carbs and low intake of nutritious animal foods. Such a diet wasn’t even possible until quite recently.

    It was only in the 1800s that there were consistent high yields of grains and even then it was mostly fed to animals, not humans. Wheat and sugar are fairly recent introductions to the common diet, as they previously were only affordable and accessible to the wealthiest. Prior to the 1900s, Americans ate more meat than bread and, prior to the 1930s, more lard than seed oils.

    I’m constantly surprised, despite all the vast research, that most people still don’t realize the powerful impact diet and nutrition has over neurocognitive development and mental healthy. An unhealthy relationship to food is largely to do with what kinds of foods one is eating. Our entire industrial food system is built on and creates eating problems.

  • Then again, much of the unhealthy standard Western diet of chemical-saturated monoculture and industrially-processed foods was also exported to the East and elsewhere in the world. Maybe people have unhealthy eating patterns and unhealthy psychological patterns partly because they are part of an unhealthy food system that creates havoc in the body, including in the gut-brain system, nervous system, hormone system, etc. There is a tremendous amount of research showing the connection between diet, nutrition, neurocognitive development, and mental health.

  • I haven’t been to a functional doc. But I’ve been reading about it this past year.

    I’ve had depression for decades. And I used to be on antidepressants and antipsychotics. That isn’t what led me to dietary changes, though. I was a sugar addict for my whole life. And weight I had gained wouldn’t go away in my 40s. I had been decreasing sugar for a while. I didn’t make a big difference. Then I tried low-carb paleo. That helped a fair amount.

    Though I felt better, it was only when I when went very low-carb (keto) that I realized my depression had entirely disappeared. No moody funks, brooding, apathy, irritability, etc. Just gone. For all the doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists I went to, not a single one ever recommended functional medicine or anything like it. I never had any tests on much of anything. Most simply told me to take drugs.

  • In my ideal world, there would be no coercion and no mental health issues. And, for that reason, I want to understand what causes such things. But, as everyone knows, correlation doesn’t inevitably prove causation.

    Still, causal links can be proven (and disproven). In fact, research has already discovered many of them. We do know that malnutrition, heavy metal, and parasites directly cause or contribute to numerous issues of neurocognitive development and mental health.

    Lead toxicity, in particular, is one heck of a doozy. Besides physical health problems, it causes depression, ADHD, learning disabilities, impulse control, aggressive behavior, etc. Urbanized and industrialized populations will obviously have higher toxicity rates than, for example, tribal people on small islands.

    Even more interesting are some of the parasites. Consider toxoplasmosis gondii. It infects the brain and alters its functioning—in many cases, leading to: depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. This is the origin of the crazy cat lady stereotype. It is contracted from cat feces, and infection increases with childhood contact with housecats which are more common in the industrialized West.

    The physical and environmental sources of mental health are very much real. But that doesn’t disprove the connection to social and cultural factors. It’s just that the latter are hard to prove, especiall in terms of all the known and unknown confounding factors.

    There is also something to be wary about in non-physical explanations. Culture, in particular, has been a favorite tool of the political right to bash over the heads of minorities and the poor. It is often argued that an inferior culture is to be blamed for the problems and struggles of impoverished and oppressed. It is conveniently ignored that thee populations live in unhealthy environments (e.g., toxins) and have limited access to quality affordable healthcare.

    I don’t doubt that cultures can become dysfunctional under conditions that are far from optimal. Yet that leaves ultimate causes unclear.