When the Body Attacks the Mind

 

Following an important weekend of discussing mental health from a more balanced perspective (that’s my new less provocative term for ‘integrative’ or dare I even mumble…holistic) in Perth for ACNEM, I remain alert but not alarmed of how much is still to be revealed in this area.   Recently, for example, in our mental health dedicated mentoring group, we discussed a case of a somewhat atypical schizophrenia presentation in a middle-age female migrant.  Fortunately, I co-chair these sessions with an incredible clinical psychologist who was quick to pick up that no CNS auto-antibodies had been tested, and given the peculiarities of the case they should have. This is a relatively new area, in terms of more mainstream acceptance of this as a differential in some psychiatric presentations and provision of these tests now through mainstream labs, but it would appear it is far from common knowledge.   Then I read this brilliant article and…well I think we all need to read it.  Here are some snippets…

Scientists had previously noted that certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, were associated with psychosis. And they’d begun to suspect that some infections might, by activating the immune system, contribute to psychiatric conditions. But Dalmau provided meticulous proof that the immune system could attack the brain. The development of a test for the disorder, and the fact that very sick patients could recover with treatment, prompted a wave of interest in autoimmune conditions of the central nervous system. In total, scientists have identified about two dozen others—including dementia-like conditions, epilepsies, and a Parkinson’s-like “stiff person” syndrome—and many experts suspect that more exist…

Robert Yolken, a scientist at Johns Hopkins University, estimates that about one-third of schizophrenics show signs of immune activation (though he adds that this could be related to other factors, such as smoking and obesity). And autoimmune diseases are more common among schizophrenics and their immediate families than among the general population, which could hint at a shared genetic vulnerability.”

There are some potent practical take-homes in this article embedded especially within the story of an 11-year-old boy who was admitted to hospital with profound psychiatric features – initially misdiagnosed and managed as BPAD and later found to have autoimmune encephalitis.  First and foremost: psychiatric conditions develop gradually.  When there is an acute onset in the absence of an acute trauma – the possibility of a biological (esp autoimmune) driver should be elevated in your differentials. And the mother of this boy, now aged 21 and having undergone 5 relapses and recoveries in between, virtually echoes the thoughts and findings of Carl Pfeiffer half a century ago, when she says, “Too often, psychosis is seen as the disease itself but psychosis is like a fever, it’s a symptom of a lot of different illnesses.” Important for thought.

Milk Madness – Is it a thing?

Could dairy intake in susceptible individuals be a risk promoter for mental health problems?  In addition to evidence of the exorphin derivatives from certain caseins interacting with our endogenous opiate system discussed in part 1, we now look at the evidence in support of other milk madness mechanisms.  Specifically, the IgG and IgA antibodies about what this tells us about the patient sitting in front of us about their gut generally and about their mental health risks, specifically.  The literature in this area dates back to the 1970s but the findings of more recent and more rigorous research are compelling. Find out more here.

Pyrroles…I Recant!!!

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This year has been a steep learning curve but this is exactly as I had hoped and planned for.  I strapped myself in for my roller-coaster ride,  a series of intensive upskilling initiatives undertaken with mentors and experts in specialist areas, and I haven’t hurled yet or screamed loud enough to make the operator stop the ride (seriously this happened to me in about 1997 on a Pirate Ship in Rosebud!)…but I have come close 😉 

One of the really big lessons has come from getting more into the science behind pyrroluria and urinary pyrrole testing again.  What motivated me to tackle this spikey beast?  Well, like many people who have been introduced to the concept of pyrrole testing and pyrrole driven mental health presentations – I had a lot of questions that hadn’t been adequately answered.  Those gaps left me with some uncertainty about the validity of this investigation and about the interpretation of the results.  I also have introduced this pyrrole theory to many naturopaths and hence feel a responsibility to polish up my knowledge on this and set the record straight.

Last but not least, in our local area we reputedly have a ‘pyrroluria plague’ at play – every man woman and their dog is getting this diagnosis and it had added not only to my misgivings about testing but also my concern about misdirected & unsafe treatment. (more…)

Mental Health Assessment for the Integrative Practitioner

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I became interested in working in mental health not entirely of my own free will.  I guess you could say, it had made it’s way into my world via family members and friends as well as my own problems when I was younger. So when I was at uni and I came across any information about mental illness, whether it was pathology or prescription, it was when I undoubtedly resonated most strongly with what I was learning. I’ve had some great opportunities throughout my career to feed my interest, met some wonderful mentors and some other powerful teachers who were often my patients. It’s now become a running joke among my teenage children that all my friends are either psychologists or have some sort of mental health diagnosis, ‘…and what does that say about you?’ they love to add teasingly.  Well it says a lot probably: that I enjoy people who are comfortable talking about the psychology of our lives and ourselves, that I deeply appreciate that to be human is to suffer and we all suffer it’s just a question of degrees and the bravest of us share that with others.  Lastly, I think it tells you that I live in the real world with real people 🙂 (more…)

Top 10 Investigations in Mental Health Patients

One of the most common questions I’m asked is whether I have a ‘set list’ of tests that I request for every patient.  Of course there is no ‘one size fits all’ in health & each patient presents with their own novel combination of issues & investigative challenges, however, years of clinical experience have taught me which pathology parameters are the most clinically meaningful.

Asking yourself, ‘Will the results of this test determine my thoughts about treatment & therefore ultimately the clinical outcome for my patient?’, before referring for any investigation is a good habit to get into.

Many of us are increasingly aware of the changing environment around pathology testing, which includes reduced access to some tests in mainstream pathology.  Rbc folate has had its subsidy withdrawn which means if we request this we’re now likely to receive a serum value or nothing.  But does this matter? (more…)

End of Year CD Clearance

As we head rapidly towards the change over of our calendars we would like to offer you a special on the very best educational recordings from 2014 – buy 2 CDs before Jan 31st and receive one complimentary Premium Audio Recording of your choice  OR purchase 4 CDs and receive a 3 month Premium Audio subscription for free

It’s been a busy year during which Rachel has delivered 7 very successful new seminars in the area of mental health and  beyond, most notably fortifying her role as a leader in the field of diagnostics and pathology interpretation.  This has included collaborations with ACNEM, Biomedica, Health Masters Live, MINDD and Nutrition Care, however, each recording is classic Rachel – full of fresh perspectives on diagnosis & treatment, colourful analogies  & humour.  In case you missed some of these this year or want a copy for keeps – here’s a quick summary of the 2014 recordings included in this end of year offer: (more…)

Mental Health – The Real Story

“Two great speakers – inspirational in the first half and bang on in the second – I now know how much I don’t know”

Just out now in time for Christmas…no seriously though… this year I had the good fortune to team up with Biomedica and in particular Rachel McDonald and we delivered a 3 hour seminar called Mental Health in Holistic Practice.  The intention behind this collaboration was to shift the education focus for practitioners from a prescription based approach, to one really about the clinical reality of managing mental health clients.  Probably most of you will agree that the ‘treatment’ counts for only a portion of the positive outcomes in your patients and this is particularly true in clients challenged with mental health issues. After more than 20 years in practice working in this area, I’m keen to share what I’ve learned so other practitioners can get there much much faster! (more…)

I’m coming to Sydney!

So far this year I’ve been doing most of my presenting online which has been fantastic because we can all be in our PJs and no one’s the wiser (except now!!) but I do miss the face to face seminars where sometimes the real magic happens thanks to the two-way dynamic between you and me!

So guess what?  I’m coming to Sydney on the 31st August (and then Brisbane 6th September and then Melbourne 13th September) to touch base with many of you again.  I’m joining forces with Rachel McDonald from Biomedica to talk about the real world application of naturopathy in mental health conditions.  (more…)

Something on my MINDD

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/

 

P5P V Pyridoxine supplements – when and why?

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! 🙂