This article is Part III of a three part series.
This post continues the discussion on priorities in interventions. In this post, I'm going to look at priorities 8 - 14 from the 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.
There are more microorganisms living in your gut than there are human cells in the body in terms of number. Some say that the number of microorganisms present in the body is roughly equal to human cells if one counts the red blood cells.[i] In either case, there are a lot of foreign, non-human cells in the human body.
These tiny plants, bacteria, and other such organisms can either help us or hurt us depending on their relative population densities. If you have a higher number of the “good guys” and a lower number of the “bad guys” you will generally have better health, and this includes brain health.
As has been stated above when considering exercise, the gut is the birthplace of many neurotransmitters in the human body, and this will affect the brain and our mental health.
Achieving optimal gut health will help many with mental health conditions.
Often supplementing with a good probiotic can help in this process. Other helpful things to consider may be healing the gut walls through L-Glutamine and other supplements. Additionally, digestive enzymes and fiber may help with this gut rebuilding process.
In addition to exercise and supplements, eating right will also allow the good bacteria and other tiny friends to grow, whereas sugar, wheat, and other poor choices tend to make the bad guys grow.
Rebuilding your gut can reap huge benefits for your mental health condition in many ways.
Note: Placing this intervention as number 9 in priority is particularly difficult, as it could easily move up or down in this list. Essential oils could also be separated from herbs in many ways and given a slightly different weight in priority. As will be discussed in a moment, herbs may just be regular everyday food. If you have a heavy metal overload, eating parsley and/or cilantro may help your body detox this situation in a mild and safe manner. Thus, herbs could move up in terms of priorities. On the other hand, some herbs act and function a little more like pharmaceutical drug interventions. This would move this item down in priority. With this in mind, let me begin my very brief discussion of this intervention.
Like pharmaceutical drugs, some herbs and essential oils may be considered foreign to the human body, whereas other herbs would be classified as normal food. In the discussion above, the nutrients were classified as orthomolecular, and the pharmaceutical drugs were described as being toxi-molecular. Herbs and essential oils fall on a sliding scale all along the slope from orthomolecular to toxi-molecular. Some herbs are more toxic and would need to be taken with more care, others are just food like parsley or cilantro. Both of these food-grade herbs may be used as natural chelators (detoxifiers), for example. And both are relatively safe for long term use in many regards.
Herbs and essential oils have several advantages over drugs:
- Herbs are more whole plant in nature making them less prone to side effects generally speaking.
- People have been working with herbs for thousands of years, so there is a good amount of information and experience with them.
- Herbs are not patentable, making them available to everyone.
- Since Herbs are not patentable, they are also generally way less expensive.
In contrast to herbs which are more whole-plant in substance, some pharmaceutical drugs, consist of isolated parts of the herbs and plants. The process usually involves manipulation of the plant and uses only a chemically isolated part of the plant. When herbs are used for making pharmaceuticals in this way, usually the result of the processing makes the final substance prone to more side effects. Herbs in whole form will usually produce fewer side effects when taken.
Herbs should not be taken without knowledge because they can be very powerful, and some are more toxi-molecular in nature. A good book on herbs for the more technically minded is The Herbal Handbook: a user’s guide to medical herbalism by David Hoffmann. Or, for a more simple and easy to follow book, see Rosemary Gladstar’s medicinal herbs : a beginner’s guide by Rosemary Gladstar. Additionally, there are other books specifically dedicated to essential oils.
Note: Some may ask why is physical therapy not listed right after exercise if the point is to get the body to move? I would argue this way. Perhaps you can’t exercise because you have arthritic pain in your knees or some such. Often-times, you can receive more benefit from detoxing, correcting nutrients, and such before taking the time to see a professional physical therapist. In any case, everyone’s situation is a little different, so moving this intervention up in priority for unique needs may be right for you.
Oftentimes, when we are in pain or suffering from other musculoskeletal issues, we don’t want to, or can’t, move. If we can’t move, we can’t exercise well, and we won’t receive the many benefits of exercising. This is not only bad for the body; it is bad for the brain as well.
If you are in need of information about exercise, if you are struggling with a nagging injury, or if you were born with a musculoskeletal weakness, a Physical Therapist may be able to help you.
Additionally, many surgeries could be avoided if a person were to spend some time going to a physical therapist first and receiving support for a weak area of the body. Too often, we skip right to the final step and have a surgery without considering other options first.
Most often, we have to go to the physical therapist after surgery anyway. Again, this depends on your unique situation, but very often surgeries are over-prescribed and other measures are not fully investigated like physical therapy.
To some extent, the above could apply for chiropractors and chiropractic manipulation as well. A series of visits to the chiropractor may help more than, or be a preferable substitute for, surgery in many cases.
Therapeutic Massage and Acupuncture could be discussed separately, but sake of brevity, they are listed together here.
Both massage and acupuncture can help with stress. If done right, they can remove headaches and relieve anxiety. Stress, tension, and anxiety all can hinder the body’s healing processes.
There are many other benefits to these practices as well. For example, therapeutic massage can help the body release toxins which is one of the higher priorities discussed above.
Talk therapy can often help reduce stress and bring about a preferable outcome to aid in mental health recovery. Though it is sometimes of great value, it can also be over-relied upon, and sometimes talk-therapy is not helpful at all.
For some, counseling may be error prone at the core of the technique used. For example, frequently in the not-too-distant past, counselors tended to blame the mother of the patient for any number of given conditions. Schizophrenia was considered a byproduct of poor parenting and an aspect of a poor relationship with the mom. There was a negative term given to the mother by others. The mother was sometimes called a “refrigerator mom” in a pejorative sense. Pejoratives aside, this type of talk therapy is not helpful anyway.
Talking someone who has a severe brain chemistry imbalance into health using psychotherapy is rarely successful even in the best case of using more helpful counseling techniques. Consider this point. Even modern antipsychotic drugs alone will usually outperform psychotherapy alone. If drug therapy alone only allows around 10% recovery rates for psychosis, how does psychotherapy measure up?
The statistics of psychotherapy used as an intervention by itself can be hard to find. The lack of statistics notwithstanding, consider that the following.
First, there was no race to empty the mental institutions in the early 20th century when psychotherapy was most commonly used as an intervention by itself. In fact, the number of patients was growing until the advent of drug therapy introduced in the 1950s through the 1960s.
Second, during the heyday of psychotherapy (again, the first half of the 20th century), many other ghastly alternatives were developed. This was apparently due to the ineffectiveness of the psychotherapy alone. These treatments included treatment by infection, treatment by induced seizure, treatment by frontal-lobotomy, and finally shock therapy.
If psychotherapy alone is so great, why the need for all these terrifyingly barbaric alternatives?
- Treatment by infection was introduced by Julius Wagner-Jauregg who was awarded the noble prize for this. The idea was to induce fever in the patient and thereby help in recovery. Many patients would die. Hmm. I wonder why?
- The idea of giving patients seizures was brought to us by Manfred Sakel, an Austrian psychiatrist. He induced the seizures with high does of insulin. The side-effects were obesity, brain damage, and even death.
- Frontal-lobotomies were introduced by António Egas Moniz in 1935 who also won the noble prize for his ideas. He successfully created zombie-like patients. Hmmm. Great. Right?
I’m not trying to say modern psychotherapy is of no use. Coping mechanisms may be helpful for some as they learn ways to get to the root chemical problem through means such as changing diet. Fixing brain chemistry can sometimes be a long process, and it can be helpful to cope until you arrive at healing in a more genuine sense.
Beyond coping, correcting the way one looks at things can sometimes really help change brain chemistry. This process can, many times, be a very slow process and may be akin to trying to move a mountain with a shovel, but sometimes a shovel is needed and can be helpful.
It is beyond the scope of this document to describe all of psychology or even give it a complete introduction. Remember, there are many different types of counseling and techniques used by various schools of thought.
For many with full-blown schizophrenia, pharmaceutical drugs are given first and, all too often, they are the only intervention used. This is true for many other mental health issues as well. I hope you have read the above 12 points before coming here to see how far down the line this step is in terms of true, long-term healing.
Drugs often can be, relatively speaking, very quick acting and often can help to stabilize a person. However, altering brain chemistry through foreign substances often results in very severe side effects, and many times does not do a very good job at allowing for a complete recovery. What winds up happening in many cases is only partial recovery.
In the case of schizophrenia, the user of the medications often never really feels totally well even if they can cope and work. And the number of people who can really even work and get along are not very high in terms of percentages.
As previously stated, for full-blown schizophrenia, success rates for recovery are only around 10%, or, on the optimistic side, as high as 30% when coupled with effective psychological counseling. Clearly, these numbers can be vastly improved when all, or even just a few, of the steps above are done first.
Some people are able to recover with the use of very low doses of medication after only one or two steps above are employed. More specifically, some people balance their nutrients through diet and supplementation following orthomolecular methods and at the same time are able to lower their medication to very low levels. In these cases, a low dose of medication may need to be used for a lifetime. (Note: this process should be done under the supervision of a doctor).
The percentages of people who recover from schizophrenia and remain in recovery by following the process just described is much higher than simply using medication alone. Dr. Hoffer and Dr. Pfeiffer both reported a recovery rate near 90% recovered using this methodology, and others have seen similar success as well.
Surgeries and major interventions should be a last resort in the treatment of many conditions. The medical community will often agree with this idea in principle, but often the desire for surgery and other major physical interventions will be pushed forward in priority more than is helpful or necessary.
It is beyond the scope of this document to discuss all the major physical interventions possible besides just surgery. Some of examples are chemotherapy, radiation, implants, and perhaps, electro-shock therapy.
Too often, we run to surgery for all kinds of ailments that could be better served with other treatments. Dr. Amy Meyers documented many cases in her book, The Thyroid Connection: Why you feel tired, brain-fogged, and overweight – and how to get your life back. Dr. Meyers tells how she regularly helps people return thyroid function to normal without surgery, and very often without medications, by changing diet and lifestyle.
On one occasion, a person with whom I talked was scheduled to have dual knee replacement surgeries. Before the date of the first surgery, he discovered that he had a sensitivity to the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers, etc.). After avoiding all nightshades for a few days, all the swelling and pain in his knees was gone. No need for surgery.
Surgery for mental illness is rarely a good idea. As discussed in the psychological counseling priority above, in the past, frontal lobotomies were performed. Frontal lobotomies were surgeries designed specifically for people with psychosis in the early 20th century where part of the front lobe of the brain is destroyed. Frontal lobotomies are a now unused technique. They were clearly unethical and inhumane. Very often they left the patient in a vegetative-like state and usually completely changed a person’s personality. Patients were left without any emotions and many other negative side effects.
“Patients became more compliant, spurring wide adoption of the procedure, which was subsequently used on thousands of patients. Over time, however, it became apparent that it destroyed personalities and turned people into zombie-like beings.”[ii]
These surgeries were never necessary and should not have ever been tried, let alone lauded by giving the creator of this idea a noble prize. As was stated in the intervention discussion above, frontal-lobotomies were introduced by António Egas Moniz in 1935 who also won the noble prize for his ideas.
That said, there may be an occasion when brain surgery, in a more modern sense, is necessary for some people. Brain surgery is not a general cure for run-of-the-mill mental illness, not even for psychosis. But examples of conditions that may require necessary surgeries include head trauma or brain tumors.
Surgery or other major physical interventions such as shock therapy are not ideal first resorts to treat mental illness. And they are often completely unnecessary for mental illness and other conditions as well. Again, there are exceptions, but all too often surgery is called upon for intervention when a change in diet and behavior would be much better options. Integrative therapies combining two or more higher priority interventions listed above are proven to be more effective at treating mental health conditions and produce better results.
A lot more could be said on each of the points above, but I hope you can begin to see where I am going with all of this. We should try the more basic interventions first before moving on to the ones that have greater consequences. Often the interventions at the bottom of the list are also a lot less effective in the long run. This is especially true for conditions like schizophrenia, but it is true for many other conditions as well.
Too often we forget God, eat whatever we want, and take a pill… and we call this pursuing health!
This needs to change if we really want to follow the path of wellness!
This article is Part III 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 III
[i]Emeran, M. (2016). The Mind – Gut Connection: How the hidden conversation within our bodies impacts our mood, our choices, and our overall health. Blackstone Audio, Inc.
[ii]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, Inc.. Kindle Edition.