This article is Part I of a three part series.
“Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor 14:40 NKJV).
What is the first thing people do when they don’t feel well? What do they think they should do if they are having a health issue?
Go to the doctor.
What does the doctor do?
Typically, give a pill or surgery. Of course, this is a “not always,” scenario, but this is typical, and it is what most people have come to expect. Additionally, rarely does the system support people who desire to go deeper and get to underlying issues.
This can happen for something as straightforward as hip pain or with something more complicated like psychosis. The answer is usually the same, “Here, take this pill.”
It can be difficult to even find the right help if you try to look deeper. “What do you mean you don’t want to be on pain killers the rest of your life?”
This brings up the point behind this topic. We really need to rethink how we approach health in the sense of what we should ultimately put first, second, third, and so forth in terms of health interventions.
This is everyone’s responsibility. This includes professionals and their clients or patients. Ultimately, though, it is each of our responsibility to think about this for our own health.
This rethinking is especially needed for bi-polar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia, but it is also needed for many other mental health conditions. This document has schizophrenia and such in mind as the target audience and will reflect this focus. That said, similar things could be said for other mental health conditions as well as many other health conditions not related to mental health.
When do we introduce an intervention? What are the priorities in terms of greatest long-term value, ease of maintenance, least side effects, etc.? This document is going to introduce a list of priorities of interventions to try to think-out the most logical order in terms of relative health benefit-cost ratio for each item.
Introducing the List
In my intervention list, if you can change your attitudes and behavior at the higher levels first, you will likely be better off in the long run.
What does this mean?
The interventions at the top typically have less side effects, are less invasive, get to the root cause better, are easier to control and maintain, and/or have other unlisted benefits compared to the lower priority interventions listed. Note, I don’t write every reason that would justify why I place the priority where I do. If I listed every reason, this document would become a book.
This is a brief summary of a few points only. Many arguments have been left out for ease of reading. It is intended to introduce the concept of having different priorities than is currently typical in Western society.
This is a start at what for many may be a shift in mindset.
What type of thinking and logic went into numbering the priorities of the interventions? An example of the reasoning used was to compare diet and food (priority 3) with taking a pharmaceutical drug (priority 13). Remember my focus is treating schizophrenia and related disorders. If we can change what we eat to consuming a ketogenic diet, GAPS diet, or some other special diet, we may be able to overcome schizophrenia. On the other hand, we can take a drug to help us.
Now we need to ask, what are the side effects of the two interventions. The side effects of the diets are minimal or nil. In fact, there are likely unforeseen benefits in many cases. The side effects of the drugs are many and almost all are bad: potential tardive dyskinesia, shrinking of cerebral cortex, increasing metabolic syndrome over time, diabetes, weight gain, and many more. It would make sense to choose the diet route over the drug route if the diet would work and there were no other factors involved. (I know there are many other factors involved).
Some may ask, will a change in diet work for treating schizophrenia? Often the answer is yes: way more often than you may have been led to believe. But even if only a very small percentage of people were helped through changing their diet, it would still be worth trying first before taking medication. The side effects with the type of drug used for treating schizophrenia are really bad.
Based on the side effects alone, there is a greater benefit and lower cost to changing diet over taking a medication. This general truth of the benefit-cost ratio between these two interventions is the type of thinking I used when placing priorities. This thinking applies for everything on the list in some way or another.
Not everyone is going to be helped by every intervention listed. But, if a higher priority works, it would likely be worth trying if possible.
By the way, if you are reading this for the first time, and you are currently on medication, don’t stop your medication without professional help. Nonetheless, you may be able to try the interventions high in the list of priorities even while on medication. Over time, with the oversight of a doctor, you may be able to lower or eliminate the meds.
Again, the list should be read that item number 3, healing through what you choose to put on the end of your fork, comes with a much greater benefit, fewer side effects, and lasts longer than the various other means of getting better listed below it. These priorities could also apply to high blood pressure, auto-immune disease, or any number of other conditions, but the center of focus is schizophrenia and such.
When considering other health issues, some conditions, like an acute infection, would change around the priority for that unique situation. That said, you would be surprised about how certain approaches at or near the top of the list help more than you may have been led to believe, even with conditions like infections. Though you may need to think about it for a moment, you should be able to sense that if you have a flu or a cold, eating right can still play a role in recovery times. Think of good, homemade, chicken soup for example. Also, vitamin C may really help. The efficacy of vitamin C in helping the body fight infections is really powerful when done right. This fact is often underreported. But that is a story for another day.
There are some items missing from this list priorities below. For example, one very helpful area of natural healing could be classified as stress management techniques. Stress management may include meditation, deep breathing, low impact exercise, and prayer. It was left out because methods like exercise and prayer are important for more than just reducing stress. Because these techniques can serve other purposes, summarizing stress management as an area of practice within my list was left out. This does not mean stress management is not helpful. In fact, it is very helpful.
There are many other areas left out. Other interventions that are left out of the list include items such as homeopathic remedies, body balance therapy, and mind-body wellness techniques. Additionally, many other avenues and ways to pursue health exist. The point of the list is not to be exhaustive, but to give you a general idea of priorities to try first if possible. I will leave it up to you to fit in whatever is left out of the list.
Here is how I would generally prioritize the choices one can make:
Your Need for…
- A right relationship with God
- Good relationships with your closest caregivers and/or family and the respect and care you receive from them
- Better choices at what you put on the end of your fork by optimizing your diet
- A good living situation and shelter
- Physical exercise and daily activity
- Optimizing certain nutrients: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and healthy fats.
- Gut microbiome support and probiotics
- Herbs and essential oils
- Physical therapy or manipulation
- Massage and acupuncture
- Psychological counseling
- Pharmaceutical drugs
Again, my list is intended to give general priorities of choices to try first. It is not saying you will never need the interventions on the bottom of the list or that your priorities won’t change based on your unique needs and situation.
For example, if you have a major bone spur on a vertebra of your neck causing you to have headaches and giving you mental health conditions, you may likely need to skip to step 14 and have surgery to have a chance at recovery. That said, your diet may have been the primary cause of the bone spur growing in the first place. Additionally, taking some vitamin K2 (listed as priority 7) may help the body utilize calcium to prevent a bone spur from coming back.
As was said earlier in a different way, if you can get better from schizophrenia by eating a ketogenic diet, GAPS diet, or other special diet, don’t go out and have a frontal lobotomy surgery. This may sound extreme, but in the past, some mental health patients had this procedure forced on them. In fact, frontal lobotomies were performed not that long ago as a regular part of medicine. This continued well into the middle of the 20th century. There is something to be said for rethinking “healthcare.”
The priorities are just a basic way of thinking about what to try first. They are not intended to be dogmatic or inflexible. Also, combinations of interventions may often be started at the same time in actual practice.
Too often, in our Western society, if we are having health issues, we think, “Live like you want, eat what you want, and take a pill or have surgery.” This line of thinking is not a healthy lifestyle and will not optimize wellness in the long run for most people. In point-of-fact, we have an ever-increasing rate of cancer, diabetes, mental health disease, heart disease, and degenerative diseases of all sorts.
Here are some facts about how we are doing in one area of healthcare: mental health and brain health.
- One-in-ten Americans is on an anti-depressant.[i]
- About one in a hundred suffers from schizophrenia.[ii]
- Autism has skyrocketed over recent history.[iii]
The list of problems could go on and on. We need to change our attitudes, priorities, and behavior, or it is unlikely these conditions will improve.
Here is quote from Dr. Perlmutter, with over 30 years of experience in neurology, specifically about brain health:
“The United States is among the ten wealthiest Western nations where death from brain disease, most commonly dementia, has skyrocketed over the past twenty years. We, in fact, lead the way. Since 1979, deaths in America due to brain disease increased an astounding 66 percent in men and 92 percent in women. In America today, it’s estimated that 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is predicted to double by the year 2030! Someone in the United States develops the disease every 66 seconds; it kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined. …More than 26 percent of adults in the United States – that’s about one in four people – suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, from anxiety and mood issues to psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, and full-blown depression, which is now a leading cause of disability worldwide.”[iv]
You might be thinking, “I don’t have Alzheimer’s disease. I feel fine. I’m functioning ‘normally.’” However, it has been shown, largely through the efforts of Dr. Daniel Amen and his brain SPECT imaging, that the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be present in the brain image 30 years before outward symptoms become apparent. In other words, you can already have brain degeneration and a dangerous bio-chemical condition long before you begin to forget your keys.[v]
Americans are dying younger than their relatively equal economic counterparts in the rest of the world. Listen to what Dr. Perlmutter said,
“And although we are presently ranked first in the world on health-care spending, we are ranked thirty-seventh in overall health-system performance, according to the World Health Organization, and twenty-second in life expectancy among the thirty developed countries.”[vi]
If you do manage to live into your older years, you have an ever-increasing chance to have a very poor quality of life. Furthermore, the age of decline keeps getting younger and younger. This includes an increasing population of children suffering from degenerative diseases of all sorts.
In the next post, I'm going to look at each priority item on the above list individually. Each priority item could receive several volumes of information about its relative importance. A lot could also be said just to introduce information about each intervention, so the explanations are by no means exhaustive or complete.
This article is Part I of a three part series.
If you would like some help with the process of applying the interventions to your unique situation, I coach people through a 6-month program toward recovery. This program includes 12 coaching sessions 50-minutes in duration. My goal is to be the guide on your side and not the sage on stage. To see if this is a program right for you, I also give away a free 50-minute Health History Coaching Session to bring the total number of sessions to 13. You can find out more about this Health Coaching Program Here.
References - Part I
[i]Amen, Dr. Daniel G.. The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience Is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders, and More (p. 27). Tyndale House Publishers.
[ii]Hoffer, A. (2007). Psychiatry Yesterday (1950) and Today (2007), from despair to hope with orthomolecular psychiatry. Trafford Publishing.
[iii]Amen, D. (2020). The End of Mental Illness, How neuroscience is transforming psychiatry and helping prevent or reverse mood and anxiety disorders, ADHD, addictions, PTSD, psychosis, personality disorders, and more. Tyndale House Publishers.
[iv]Perlmutter, M. D., & Loberg, K. (2016). The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan: Boost Brain Performance, Lose Weight, and Achieve Optimal Health. Boston: Little Brown & Company.
[v]Amen, D. (2020). The End of Mental Illness, How neuroscience is transforming psychiatry and helping prevent or reverse mood and anxiety disorders, ADHD, addictions, PTSD, psychosis, personality disorders, and more. Tyndale House Foundation.
[vi]Perlmutter, M. D., & Loberg, K. (2013). Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. New York: Little Brown & Company.