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.

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