There are few complementary medicines that come onto the market with such a bang, opening up genuinely new therapeutic options for the effective management of such a broad range of health complaints. N-acetyl cysteine stands out for this reason and has changed the way I practice… seriously!
Recently I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar for Biomedica completely and utterly focussed on N-acetyl cysteine – its key actions, pharmacokinetics, applications and contraindications. In the process of researching for the webinar I learnt so much and to my surprise found even I was under-utilising my favourite supplement! How familiar are you with its application in cystic fibrosis, fertility, biofilm eradication etc. etc ? Not to mention, it’s incredible versatility in mental health. Recently, buoyed by some new research suggesting the efficacy in severe glutamate excess of much higher doses than previously studied for depression and bipolar, I have stepped up my doses in patients with some forms of addiction, OCD, refractory insomnia to 4g/d with great results! I could talk all day about NAC but perhaps for a starter if you missed the webinar you might want to listen to the recording? We have the Clinical Knack of NAC now available as a CD with audio and notes for purchase on the website:
This in-depth 1 hour webinar offers practitioners new to NAC, the practical knowledge and tools they need to start using it effectively and for the practitioner already dispensing it, to really broaden their understanding of indications , correct many misunderstandings and get the latest research on the why, when and how to use it. From reproductive to respiratory health, from heavy metal burdens to biofilms and athletes to addicts, this webinar covers the latest information about NAC’s real therapeutic potential. Having been a favourite nutraceutical/prescription of Rachel’s for some time, she punctuates the presentation with many of her own cases.
I briefly mentioned in a previous post Dr. Robyn Cosford’s inspiring opening speech at this year’s MINDD conference. A key point she made was the growing gap between what’s regarded as normal and what is actually healthy.
Having worked in general practice for decades, Robyn provided us with one illustration after another – Type 2 diabetes, previously called adult-onset diabetes, now not infrequently diagnosed in primary school aged children; delayed speech and learning difficulties in male toddlers which many increasingly regard as ‘normal’; precocious puberty in girls; escalating rates of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents…Robyn asked us as practitioners to be vigilant about helping patients to distinguish between what has become perceived as ‘normal’ and what is actually healthy.
In my MINDD presentation this year I talked about the mental health challenges faced by young men and I expressed a similar concern: that when we witness extensive aberrant behaviour in young men we are prone to rationalise it. Are we mistakenly attributing these signs of dis-ease in males as simply being an initiation into Australian culture? When you hear of young men exhibiting binge drinking behaviour, does it set off the same alarms as it would if your patient was female and if not….why not?
As part of a broader discussion of the issues, I presented two cases of young men with mental health problems – both from very different sides of the tracks, one gifted and the other a struggler but one of the features they shared included the way their use of alcohol & other substances had passively been condoned by society instead of being seen as a call for help. We can help these young men but only once we’ve acknowledged there’s a problem. So now I’m extending Robyn’s plea and ask you to be vigilant in making the distinction between ‘normal’ and healthy… when mothers relay stories of their son’s ‘antics’, when brothers, cousins & uncles temporarily ‘go off the rails’, when young men reluctantly present for a quick fix…
If you missed the presentation and are interested in the full recording check out https://rachelarthur.com.au/product/new-young-white-men-mental-health-challengers-face-mindd-conference1hr-total-50/
I’ve been curious about the push towards using so-called ‘active forms’ of B vitamins over the last 10 years in nutritional medicine – particularly with regard to B6 (pyridoxal-5-phosphate) and B2 (riboflavin 5’-phospate aka FMN) in light of substantial research demonstrating that these phosphorylated forms will in fact be dephosphorylated prior to uptake in the small intestine (Gropper, Smith & Groff Advanced Nutrition & Human Metabolism 2005) – so initially it seemed we were being encouraged to pay more for something that ultimately gave us less of the same vitamin. Funnily enough the only established scientific way to ensure uptake of the active forms in their intact active states is to use very high doses – however supplements containing either active B6 or B2 consistently offer very low doses compared with the regular supplements, so this seemed to rule this out as an explanation.
In spite of my scepticism & encouraged by the Pfeiffer approach, I got into using P5P and had to suspend my disbelief in the face of good clinical results.
However finally at the MINDD conference last week, scientist Woody McGinnis at last made sense of this riddle for me!
McGinnis, who some of you might know as previously being a key researcher at the Pfeiffer Institute which specialises in nutritional and integrative management of mental health & behavioural disorders, confessed that he had also struggled with concept of P5P supplementation from a scientific perspective until Bill Walsh suggested that this form was particularly indicated for the ‘lean malabsorbers’.
What Woody essentially took from this was that patients with leaky guts could absorb the P5P intact & would ultimately benefit from this form. Adding to this is my understanding that the dephosphorylation process for P5P in the gut occurs via ALP – a zinc dependent enzyme found in the brush border of the small intestine…so here you have the double whammy – if your patient is a malabsorber AND zinc deficient (which of course commonly go together) they are the ones picking up the P5P perfectly and for the rest of us perhaps the pyridoxine will do.
Woody also attested to this with his story of his own pyrroluric son who initially only responded to P5P but in his teens (with significantly improved gut health) appeared to stop responding – at which point Woody switched him to the higher dose pyridoxine with fantastic results…..Aaahhhh at last my scientific curiosity has been quenched! 🙂
I was honoured to speak at the MINDD conference again this year. MINDD is an organisation that really sets itself apart by providing incredible hands on support for parents, carers and practitioners in the area of integrative mental health management and one of the key strengths is the sense of community they’ve developed secondary to this. A key message echoed by numerous speakers was the enhanced clinical benefits for patients when a truly whole health, multi-modality approach is taken – from naturopathy to psychology, from neurology to audiology, from building biology to biological markers and so on.
And just to put the brakes on the whole ‘genes are us’ movement that is currently sweeping Australian integrative medicine, Dr. Robyn Cosford (a highly-regarded integrative GP) kicked off the whole weekend with a presentation that included a study of some of the oldest Okinawan individuals and their genetic profiles. These individuals aged well over 100 and fighting fit each possessed hundreds of genes currently thought to be associated with chronic disease: cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer. Robyn reminds us all that while genetics loads the gun it is our diet, lifestyle and environment that actually pulls the trigger!
While I was inspired by the research and insight offered by clinicians and scientists from various modalities, I was reminded again, that no one individual can be across it all and to attempt is to fail or become exhausted in the process and this of course is where the community bit comes in – we need a network of integrative individuals to refer between and support each patient & my experience this weekend suggests these events certainly build that community. Our job is to practice within our scope and know when and where these other therapies and approaches are indicated and to develop a good referral network. So many great speakers this year and this time I actually managed to sit still and enjoy some of these so I’ll be bringing you the highlights over the next couple of weeks so stay tuned! 🙂
We’ve all heard about the higher incidence of mood disorders (depression, anxiety etc.) in women and chances are we’ve all seen this reflected in the dominance of female clients who present seeking help but what’s this really telling us? Many of us are aware that men are more likely to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol and other substances, as a maladaptive way of dealing with the psychological stressors, however, the lesser talked about fact is that substance induced (i.e. cannabis etc.) psychotic disorders are significantly more prevalent in men and occur at younger ages than women (Bogren et al 2010) and substance use & abuse is commonly not sufficiently explored or adequately diagnosed in general practice amongst male patients. Oh dear…what else do we need to know?
The results of a large English survey on mental health and help-seeking behaviour published in 2005 found that men were less likely than women to say that they would seek help (OR=0.78, 95% CI 0.72–0.88,P<0.001). The preferred reported source of help was friends or relatives with 63.1% saying they would seek help from this source. In addition to this and somewhat, more alarmingly, the WHO reports that “doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women compared with men, even when they have similar scores on standardised measures of depression or present with identical symptoms.” https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/ So even when males do finally present for help, often, the mental health problem is being overlooked or missed.
One theme that keeps coming up in research is the ongoing associated stigma for men with mental health issues. A study published in 2008, conducted by two National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellows in mental health care policy at Harvard Medical School, investigated the effect of gender, race and socioeconomic status on psychosocial barriers to mental health care and found that white males were most likely to mistrust the mental health care system and were also likely to perceive mental illness as a stigma and therefore avoid formal mental health care https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908125123.htm
In my practice we actually have a high proportion of males presenting with mental health concerns, admittedly, our practice specialises in this area so that may be a key reason for this and in many instances the appointment has been instigated or driven by a concerned mother, a wife etc. Regardless, I’ve found that many men really struggle & it’s made somewhat more complicated by the role they are expected to play in society. I think the key message is not to reinforce gender based stereotypes on our patients, have the confidence to explore mental health with male patients, their vulnerabilities, concerns etc. as much as you would your female patients. Make sure you thoroughly assess their substance use and take heart there is a lot we can do for these individuals, the first step is recognising there’s a problem.
Rachel will be speaking on Young White Men & the Mental Health Challenges They Face at the MINDD International Forum in Sydney June 14-15th. For more information and bookings check out: https://mindd.org/forum/mind2014.html