The following is a forward by me followed by an opinion piece written by a client. I wanted to provide you with an overview and supporting research.
There is plenty of scientific evidence out there that chronic inflammation plays a role in one’s mental health. In 2015 a ground-breaking study found that chronic activation of the microglial cells in the brain (immune cells) cause depressed moods. This turned the mental health community on in its head because it was evidence that manic depression was not caused by a drop-in dopamine and serotonin but was instead a chronic underlying inflammatory state. Inflammation is causing the rise and fall in moods in a short period of time.
What is inflammation exactly? Inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body. The immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and it begins the healing process.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. The signs and symptoms of inflammation can be painful but are a sign that the body is trying to heal. Inflammation has been found to correlate with just about every health condition that exists.
There are several types of inflammation the two most comment being acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation begins within seconds to minutes following an injury to your tissues. The damage may be physical, or it may involve the activation of an immune response. Acute inflammation usually lasts a short period of time, for example, if you twist your ankle you may experience pain, redness, swelling, joint stiffness and loss of function. However, after some rest and ice, it returns to normal. Chronic inflammation is a completely different issue. Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system gets permanently turned “on.” As a result, it constantly releases a tsunami of damaging chemicals that can affect your entire body. It’s like a fire that never goes out and is always burning deep inside. Chronic inflammation includes the following: metabolic inflammation, allergic inflammation, and Autoimmune inflammation.
I know that diet, lifestyle, and genetics play a huge role in your inflammatory state. Not only does your diet play a huge role but each of us has genetic on and off switches that predispose us to inflammation and if those switches are broken we may be more inclined to suffer from chronic aggressive inflammation.
As a mother and practitioner, I have seen the effects of chronic inflammation on my own child. I have seen what that chronic fire does to the brain and how the body reacts.
The science is out there…. the research is being done… so why aren’t more people applying it? I see clients with chronic inflammation every day in my office, I see the breakdown, I see the pain, I see the frustration.
You can read more about the research:
The following is an opinion piece written by Kelly McCuan
Let me start out by saying that I am not a medical doctor, have no medical training, and that this is all my personal opinion based on my own experiences and lots of research.
For most of my life, I went along in life in a manner that I would call “ok”. I ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast sometimes, which later became Fiber One. I had sandwiches for lunch and because I live in the Southwest, I ate a lot of chips and salsa and tortilla dishes for dinner. Pizza was my favorite food and I was a bread addict. Despite my poor diet, I had only minor health problems and the only “bad” illness I have ever had was the Swine Flu in 2009.
Later, in my 20’s and 30’s I suffered from headaches and depression, again not equating it with my diet. I took St. John’s Wort for minimal relief of the depression and I suffered through the constant headaches. My allergies were absolutely horrible and I took a lot of antihistamines which made me drowsy.
For years, I never equated what I was eating with how I felt or anything happening to my body. When I was a teenager no one ever mentioned that my horrible acne could be caused by my poor diet. The doctor just gave me an antibiotic pill that I took for several years and didn’t help much. No one ever mentioned that my headaches could be caused by what I was eating.
It wasn’t until a few months after I hit menopause at age 52 that I felt like my world came crashing down. I started having constant fatigue that got so bad that at one point I couldn’t even lift my leg to step onto an escalator. I developed irritable bowel syndrome with all day bouts of imminent diarrhea. I had to stay near a bathroom at all times. Traveling became a nightmare. I developed what I call “internal shaking” and couldn’t sleep at night. My skin was covered with bumps and lumps. I had awful acid reflux and despite the fact that most foods didn’t agree with me, I was gaining weight rapidly. My brain fog was so bad that I couldn’t hardly perform the technical aspects of my job any longer.
Doctor visits were useless. I had two CT scans, an MRI, stool tests, multiple blood tests, thyroid tests, glucose tolerance tests, a colonoscopy and a myriad of other tests. My physician prescribed a drug for my IBS that didn’t help at all, then another drug to counteract the effects of that one. My thyroid level was “borderline” problematic so I was prescribed Synthyroid and later a drug to counteract the anxiety caused by it. I was on blood pressure medication and kidney medication. My blood pressure kept climbing.
I thought that I was “done for”, a goner, on my way out of the world. My decline was escalating and nothing seemed to help. I got my will in order and started giving things away. I was severely depressed and unable to enjoy any of my former activities.
I asked my doctor what was causing my IBS. “No way to know” he said , “could be stress”. I was taking pills that didn’t help and more pills for the side effects of the original pills. It was at that point that I decided I had had enough and took matters into my own hands.
I decided to seek out a functional nutrition practitioner. Piper was new in the realm of functional nutrition at that time but suggested that I cut out gluten. I did so and saw some improvement within 3 months. I had more energy and was less depressed and full of hope for the first time in a long time. My IBS gradually subsided and my brain fog was disappearing.
After a few years, gluten-free became grain free. I had genetic testing and found that I had some “broken” genes that kept my immune system from “turning off” once it got turned on. My understanding is that the human body responds to any type of harm through rushing white blood cells to the area of concern which causes inflammation to attack the culprit (think of a wound on your body and how inflamed it gets. ) Once the wound is healed the body turns off the inflammation. In my case, my broken genes cause the inflammation to never turn off. My body stays in a constant inflammatory state.
Piper suggested various supplements to help my body with what it is missing. One example, I have the MTHFR gene defect and take methylfolate as my body can’t properly use the common synthetic version known as folic acid. I take a variety of other supplements to aid in reducing inflammation and to give my body what it needs. I also follow a grain free diet, dairy-free, sugar-free diet as both grains and dairy have been shown to cause inflammation. Because my body doesn’t detox well, I eat organic food that isn’t sprayed with pesticides that my body builds up. Am I perfect? No, but I try to keep ‘cheats’ to a minimum.
I discovered through the process of elimination that one of my main triggers for inflammation is corn. It’s so hard to live in the Southwest and love Mexican food and be unable to eat the corn chips and the corn tortillas, but I’ve found that the grain free chips are a great substitute and the grain free tortillas taste just as good smothered in enchilada sauce as the corn do. It’s challenging to go out to eat at a restaurant and avoid all the inflammatory triggers like sugar and grains, but it’s so worth it too when I feel amazing.
I am happy to report that I just turned 60 years old and I feel better than I have ever felt. I take no prescription medications other than one low dose cream which helps reduce inflammation. My blood pressure and thyroid tests are normal and I have so much energy that I now have 3 jobs and no problems handling them. I am free of depression and free of headaches and life is fun again.
So what does all of this have to do with increased suicides? I am convinced that if I had stayed on the declining path that I was on that I would have ended up committing suicide. I was so severely depressed and felt so terrible that I saw no reason to continue. My medications just caused side effects that compounded how badly I already felt. I was hopeless and tired of seeing doctor after doctor while my symptoms continued to escalate.
I think that my body was able to somewhat compensate for my faulty genes when I was younger, but once I got to my 50’s and my immune system started to decline, my poor body was no longer able to keep up. Since I couldn’t detox well the pesticides and other environmental toxins were building up in my body. The constant inflammation in my brain was making me depressed and making my poor bowels unable to function.
I don’t think that the majority of people believe or accept the concept that food is medicine. Just like fuel in a car, our bodies put out when we put in. I wonder if Kate Spade, or Anthony Bourdain or Robin Williams had tried a diet change if their brain inflammation would have subsided and thus their depression, just as mine did when I quit putting in poor food and started giving my body the supplements it needs to run!
I am not trying to say that mental illness doesn’t exist as I know it does, but is it possible that people would be better able to cope if their brains weren’t inflamed? Scientific research has already proven that grains and sugar are highly inflammatory, and on top of that many people deal with faulty genes that cause their bodies to not be able to readily get rid of the inflammation. 90% of our soy, corn, sugar beans and wheat is sprayed with pesticides that are killing our bees? What do you think that pesticide is doing to human bodies and are your genes able to help you detox to get rid of it or are they broken like mine?
In an age where our science has advanced to the point where we can know what our gene defects are and where we might need help, why are we not all availing ourselves of genetic testing to determine how to help our bodies be the best that they can be? In an age where our research capabilities have advanced to the stage where we can look at advanced scientific data on the internet, why are we not
looking at the data to help determine why our bodies aren’t functioning properly? Why is the first word out of the mouths of doctors not “What are you eating?” instead of “Here, have this pill”?
I truly believe that suicide rates are increasing because the American diet is full of chemicals and corn syrup. We are inundated with constant ads trying to get us to eat sugar (the most inflammatory substance of all } – cokes, candy bars, ice cream and cake, and on and on. You can’t even get a salad dressing these days that isn’t loaded with sugar, or a spaghetti sauce, or even ginger for your sushi. Even the salads themselves have candied nuts, sugared dried cranberries, sweetened beets.
Would our suicide rates start going back down if people ate better food that wasn’t sprayed with chemicals and full of sugar, and if we were all genetically tested and prescribed supplements to help us with our genetic deficiencies? If brain inflammation subsided would we be happier and healthier? Would less Alzheimer’s disease exist?
My brother started his own steady decline at age 55 and without knowing about my situation, he told me that he was ‘getting his affairs in order” because he, too, felt so terrible. After changing his diet and through supplements, he started getting the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that his body was missing, and he too is on the road to recovery. One more soul saved by science and nutrition
As for me, I was finally able to make the connection between what I was putting in my mouth and how I felt. I stick to the right foods and take my supplements. I only wish that more information like this was available to those so severely depressed that they have to take their own lives. Perhaps if someone had provided them with this insight they could have at least tried these changes in their lives to see if it helped. Hopefully, America will wake up soon and use science and nutrition to change lives instead of pills and more pills.
This is an opinion piece based on the experiences of Kelly McCuan