What a difference a change of continent makes

Abilify (aripiprazole) is still considered an antipsychotic in Europe (or in Switzerland, at least) but by changing continents with my recent move to the US, I find that Abilify has grown in stature, no longer a drug used by a small percentage of the population, but more like a drug superhero that watches over a lot more people with its magic protective powers. The drug superhero is paid handsomely for services rendered.

We all know that several years ago pharmaceutical companies began to market Abilify as an add-on treatment for major depressive disorder, downplaying its original role as an antipsychotic. Then, $uddenly, our $uperhero $aw a chance to help more people, $o pre$to chango, our $uperhero is now primarily an antidepre$$ant.

I don’t normally read the folded up drug information that comes inside the box. This time the Aripiprazole Oral Solution information was printed on two front and back pages of letter size paper stapled to the receipt, so it was hard not to be curious about the contents.

Let’s assume that a person who is being treated for depression, but is otherwise quite functional in his or her day to day life, decides to actually read the Aripiprazolerole literature, like I just did. She will see that the first page through to the very top of page two Continue reading “What a difference a change of continent makes”

Grapefruit consumption and the country reporting the lowest cause of death from hypertension

In my last post I supplied some ancedotal evidence about the amazing grapefruit’s ability to lower blood pressure. Coincidentally, we, meaning Chris and me, have just moved to Florida. Let the grapefruit fest begin! (Except for me with my low blood pressure.) As further proof that grapefruit lowers blood pressure, I’d like to show you what I’ve since learned, by introducing Exhibit A, my husband, and Exhibit B, the country of Japan.

Exhibit A: Ian, my husband, is worried about staying in Switzerland without me while Chris and I take up residence in Florida. Ian won’t be joining me until he retires from his job early next year. The usual stresses (paperwork and logistics) of a transatlantic move have also weighed heavily on him. Ian will continue to cohabit our flat in Switzerland with Taylor, our youngest son.

Not unsurprisingly, my husband’s blood pressure over the past year has been on the high side. Just before we crossed the pond in early August, it became worrisomely high. So, I convinced him to have a glass of grapefruit juice every day. After doing so, he said he felt better but of course, wanted to have it checked by a doctor, so we got him in for an appointment the week after we arrived here. He was greatly relieved to learn that his diastolic blood pressure had dropped a whopping 19 points (!) since it was last measured in July. There was no need to discuss medication, according to the doctor.

Exhibit B: Curious about grapefruit’s astonishing effect on blood pressure I did a bit of internet research on Florida and grapefruits and learned the following: Continue reading “Grapefruit consumption and the country reporting the lowest cause of death from hypertension”

Anecdotal evidence

Like many people, as I’ve aged, I’ve learned to trust my intuition when summoning the body’s ability to heal using non-drug interventions whenever possible.

Three examples come to mind:

Example #1. The amazing grapefruit. A few years ago for a while on and off I could hardly get out of the bed in the morning. I simply didn’t have enough energy to propel myself and had to sit down or lie down at every opportunity. My naturally low blood pressure had never bothered me before. What was  I  now doing differently that might contribute to the problem? It had to be something.  The answer: Stop the recent daily breakfast routine of a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Switch my daily baby aspirin from nighttime to daytime. Baby aspirin taken at night lowers blood pressure. I certainly didn’t need to aggravate my low blood pressure.

So, I’m guessing that anyone with high blood pressure should do the opposite: Drink grapefruit juice daily and if taking a baby aspirin to avoid strokes and heart attack, take it at night.

The usual disclaimer applies: I am not a physician. Check with your doctor.

Other examples of unexpected and rather miraculous healings to follow in future posts.

 

Why I don’t write about Chris much anymore

I haven’t updated readers a very long time on what Chris is doing. The main reason is that he’s thirty-four, and well, it just gets awkward. He’s done enough therapy and the ball’s been in his court for quite a while now. I’ve written my book, we can all take a breather.

Chris will be moving to Florida with me in August where he plans to enroll in a program that will help him find a job and upgrade his skills. My husband will join us when he retires early next year. Chris has a new girlfriend who he met in April. Not great timing given the move, but these kinds of things have their own timing.

He’s becoming more assertive and motivated by doing the Focused Listening music therapy every day and having a girlfriend who’s pushing him to achieve more. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern right now waiting to see if the promise of the music therapy will come to pass. (I’ve been told that I won’t recognize the old Chris once his ear muscle is no longer weakened by the medication. (Chris may want to begin tapering his medication after he transitions to his new environment.)

Booked for safekeeping

Booked for safekeeping is a 1959 Public Health Service instructional film intending to show policemen proper procedures for handling mentally disturbed citizens. It was front page of WikiMediaCommons* on May 31st. Well worth watching, for many reasons, but one that stands out for me is how important it is for the disturbed person to feel that someone is on their side and for the person who professes to be on their side, to carry through on his promises. This attitude applies in how family members establish good communication with their relative.

*Wikimedia Commons has more than 38 million media files, one of the largest free media collections in the world.

A psychophysical approach to treating schizophrenia

In my memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness (coming out in the New Year), I devote part of a chapter to The Alexander Technique. In researching the technique, I came across the name of Kitty Merrick Wielopolska who was a student of the technique in the 1930s. I haven’t read her book, but it seems that it would be well worth adding to a collection of schizophrenia memoirs that have credited healing to a non-mainstream approach. In this interview, I also learned for the first time about a relatively recent psychotherapy (phenomenological psychotherapy) which my experience tells me shows great promise in breaking the habitual patterns of thought that Alexander termed a “misuse of the self.”

Never Ask Why

THE LIFE ADVENTURE OF KITTY WIELOPOLSKA (1900-1988)
Her experience with the Alexander Work, schizophrenia and the psychic state

Published by Novis Publications, January, 2002. www.novis.dk

(NOVIS is a small publishing company specializing in publishing literature on the Alexander Technique)

The following is from Joe Armstrong’s interview with Kitty that was published in 2001 several years after her death

From the moment I met Kitty (Catharine Merrick) Wielopolska in 1966 – over ten years before we began recording these stirring conversations about her struggle with schizophrenia 1  – I felt she was an extraordinary person. But after hearing for the first time in these talks about her many breakdowns and the inspiration for getting herself well that she found in the Alexander Work, 2  I realized that there were many more reasons why she was so very remarkable than I could ever have imagined.
While these conversations don’t claim that Kitty used the Alexander Work itself as a direct means to her recovery, 3  I believe they do show that her intensive experience of it had a substantial indirect influence on her ability to find her way to health. This is because the Alexander Work is based on the conception that it is impossible to separate “mental” and “physical” processes in any form of human activity, and it would therefore require us to regard a condition like schizophrenia not just as a “mental disorder.” It would also require us to take into account the “use” of the whole person when diagnosing the disorder and searching for ways to treat it. “Use,” in Alexander terminology, refers to our combined manners of responding, moving, and thinking as they are manifested in our overall behavior at any given moment, whether the behavior is governed subconsciously by our habits or is consciously guided by our chosen intention.

With that in mind, it’s very interesting to read that at least one branch of psychiatry has recently been taking a psychophysical approach to schizophrenia and is focusing on the same area of concern that F.M. Alexander found to be central in re-educating the use of ourselves as a whole. Phenomenological psychiatrists such as Shaun Gallagher are considering the possibility that the “voices” heard by people diagnosed as schizophrenic stem essentially from a breakdown in what he calls our “protentional function.” This governs our ability to “anticipate experience which is just about to happen,” in contrast to our “retentional function,” which governs how we “retain previous phases of consciousness and their intentional content.” Gallagher also says that our sense of “agency” in both motor action and cognition “depends upon  Continue reading “A psychophysical approach to treating schizophrenia”

Ketogenic diet and schizophrenia

The case for the link between inflammation and schizophrenia is getting stronger.

From Psychiatry Advisor

A specialized weight loss diet preferred by some bodybuilders may be effective in treating schizophrenia, according to research published in Schizophrenia Research

Although further studies using other animal models are needed to confirm these findings, the authors wrote that “as [a ketogenic diet] has been safely and effectively administered to humans in different pathological conditions, [this treatment] has the potential to be swiftly translated into a novel, safe and effective management of schizophrenia.”

Reference

Kraeuter AK, Loxton H, Lima BC, Rudd D, Sarnyai Z. Ketogenic diet reverses behavioral abnormalities in an acute NMDA receptor hypofunction model of schizophreniaSchizophr Res. 2015; doi:10.1016/j.schres.2015.10.041.

A case report From US National Library of Medicine  National Institutes of Mental Health website

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009; 6: 10.
Published online 2009 Feb 26. doi:  10.1186/1743-7075-6-10
PMCID: PMC2652467

Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets: a case report and review of the literature

Abstract

We report the unexpected resolution of longstanding schizophrenic symptoms after starting a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. After a review of the literature, possible reasons for this include the metabolic consequences from the elimination of gluten from the diet, and the modulation of the disease of schizophrenia at the cellular level.

Case report

C.D. is a 70 year-old Caucasian female with a diagnosis of schizophrenia since the age of seventeen. Her diagnosis was based on paranoia, disorganized speech, and hallucinations. She reported both auditory and visual hallucinations, including seeing skeletons and hearing voices that told her to hurt herself. According to her history, she has had these hallucinations on almost a daily basis since the age of seven. C.D. has also been hospitalized at least five times over the last six years for suicide attempts and increased psychotic symptoms. She has attempted to overdose on medications, cut herself, and ingest cleaning agents. Her most recenthospitalization was five months prior to initiating the low-carbohydrate diet. She has discussed both her suicidal ideations and her hallucinations with her psychiatrist who has tried to optimize her medication regimen in an effort to improve her symptoms, but this has been largely unsuccessful. Her prior anti-psychotic and mood-stabilizing medication regimen has included lithium 900 mg qhs, olanzapine (dose unknown), ziprasidone 40 mg bid, aripiprazole 30 mg qhs, lamotrigine 100 mg bid, and quetiapine 900 mg qhs. She is currently managed on risperidone 4 mg qhs.

Continue reading “Ketogenic diet and schizophrenia”

Writing my way through The Scenic Route

In August, I came to the end of my ten year writing marathon to document the healing journey that my son and I embarked upon. The Scenic Route will be published in January. Why did it take so long, you may well ask? For one, I’m not a writer. I became a writer over the course of the journey, partly as a way of holding on to my own sanity by having a Purpose in life. Finding a purpose in life is one of the many side roads that Chris and I ventured off on, me doing the driving and he mainly along for the ride, at least for a good part of these years. I felt sure that if he found a Purpose in life, too, perhaps he would eventually take over the steering wheel.

Chapter 46 opens when Chris is 27, which is 7 years after his first psychotic breakdown, and after multiple therapies have been tried. Continue reading “Writing my way through The Scenic Route”

What doctors should believe about recovery (and often don’t)

“Monsieur Auclair,” Saint-Vallier spoke up sharply. “I feel that you evade me. Do you yourself believe that the Count will recover?”

“I must ask your indulgence, Monseigneur, but in a case like the Count’s, a medical advisor should not permit himself to believe in anything but recovery. His doubts would affect the patient. If the Count still has the vital force I have always found in him, he will recover.”

From Shadows On The Rock, a superb historical novel published in 1931 by Willa Cather.

“….this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women who struggled to adapt to that new world even as they clung to the artifacts and manners of the one they left behind.” (Vintage Classics, 1995)

Baby aspirin as a possible treatment for schizophrenia

I’ve said it many times. I’m a slow learner. For several years I have read the news and reports about the latest theory that conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression are linked to the body’s autoimmune system producing a low grade inflammation of the gut and brain. I set this theory aside, figuring that by the time pharma produces a new medication with side effects, another theory will have taken hold.

Last night I was wide awake at 2 a.m., my thoughts pinballing their way as usual around my brain. I was trying to get back to sleep by practicing mindfulness techniques, when suddenly I had a eureka moment. Baby aspirin! Why not baby aspirin for schizophrenia? It’s an anti-inflammatory. I’ve been taking baby aspirin for the past three years to reduce the risk of inflammation leading to heart attack and stroke, but it never occurred to  me to think that it might also be considered a possible treatment for schizophrenia.

This morning I did a bit of google research and discovered that, indeed, researchers have been on to this possibility for several years. If you “do the research” like I did (lol) you’ll see that some articles are quick to say that baby aspirin appears to be an effective “add on” to your normal intake of antipsychotics or antidepressants. Just an add on, not taken on its own. But it you dig a bit further, you’ll come across a different story – that some scientists hope that anti-inflammatory agents such as baby aspirin may eventually  replace the need for prescription drugs.

From the website of a for-profit treatment center: “A number of studies in recent years have drawn connections between schizophrenia and the immune system and have suggested that anti-inflammatory medications may improve treatment of this illness. The immune system has been linked to various psychiatric disorders, and research has associated the HLA gene system in particular (a system that plays a controlling role in various aspects of the immune system) with schizophrenia.

The Dutch study looked at a range of the best of these studies—all double-blind, randomized controlled trials—in order to determine if there was strong evidence in favor of the use of anti-inflammatory medications in combination with antipsychotic drugs. They found that a number of anti-inflammatory agents improved the results of antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenic patients.”

From an article in The Daily Mail:

“As soon as the word depression is mentioned, we tend to think of a mental problem that may need treatment with antidepressant drugs, with all their risk of side-effects such as weight gain and loss of libido.

But what if it actually has a physical cause that could be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or even antibiotics?

This is the fascinating possibility being explored by scientists at Cambridge University.”

“The Cambridge team’s hope is that by teasing out the link between inflammation and depression, they may be able to help prevent thousands of deaths among those who suffer from the mood disorder — and prevent people needlessly being on antidepressant drugs.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3077263/Can-ASPIRIN-banish-depression-Scientists-say-illness-caused-inflammation-body.html#ixzz4iBvs8xXA