Clams and coffee for a good morning

I like B vitamins and caffeine, that is a good combinations. And a bit of carbs. Coffee, clams, and oatmeal bar with dates makes a good breakfast. I don’t know the mechanism, but I am finding that coffee helps me to be more present in the moment with fewer anxious thoughts about the future. Going back to coffee was not a random idea, there are several studies in regards to the use of caffeine for treatment resistant OCD. By the way, OCD is not just about washing your hands multiple times or checking five times that you locked the door. The worst aspect of if it is how your mind is affected by unwanted and intrusive thoughts. There are infinite types of OCD, it can impact on any thought, on any subject, on any person, on any fear, and frequently fixates on what’s important in a person’s life. For example, if religion is important to someone, OCD fixates on unwanted intrusive thoughts around religion, perhaps making the sufferer believe their actions/thoughts will offend their god. Another example is if someone begins a new relationship, OCD can make a person question that relationship, their feelings, their sexuality resulting in almost constant rumination, perhaps with the sufferer worrying that they may be misleading their partner.

Obsessive thoughts are what happens when you just want to go for a walk in the forest. It’s a warm day, finally summer, you are surrounded by colourful moss on intriguing rocks. You want to wander around observing the details of nature, but your mind is fixated on the thought that there is no point. There is no god, therefore our lives are meaningless, and there is no point of this wandering. Or the thought is – I don’t have a child, so I need to work on getting a family. And then you feel that because you haven’t achieved this goal, you will be punished for wandering around the forest. You should be punished for any enjoyment as those are not focused on the goal. You need to solve the problem at hand, you need to act now, you need to think through the plan. And it goes on.

B vitamins are essential for creating dopamine, epinephrine, serotonin, and myelin. They also help the mind focus, help hemoglobin hold oxygen and lower cholesterol. Vitamin B is essential to good health. It is also used for energy production in the human cells. B vitamins help convert food often consumed as carbohydrates into fuel. They also help the nervous system function properly. B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that they are easily dissolvable in water and easily excreted out of the body via urine output. As a result of this type of vitamin that can be dissolved in water, individuals cannot overdose on them because all excess will simply be excreted.

Solubility – Solubility is defined as the maximum quantity of a substance that may be dissolved in another. How a solute dissolves depends on the types of chemical bonds in the solute and solvent. For example, when ethanol dissolves in water, it maintains its molecular identity as ethanol, but new hydrogen bonds form between ethanol and water molecules. For this reason, mixing ethanol and water produces a solution with a smaller volume than you would get from adding together the starting volumes of ethanol and water.

When sodium chloride (NaCl) or other ionic compound dissolves in water, the compound dissociates into its ions. The ions become solvated or surrounded by a layer of water molecules.

Thiamin is vitamin B1, it is essential in carbohydrate metabolism and neural function. It is water soluble and is absorbed through both active transport and passive diffusion. Not being endogenously synthesized, the only available source of thiamine is dietary (beef, poultry, cereals, nuts, and beans). In the human body, thiamine-rich tissues are skeletal muscles, heart, liver, kidney, and brain. Thiamine serves as a cofactor for a series of enzymes in different metabolic pathways and is required for the production of ATP, ribose, NAD, and DNA. Thiamin plays a key role in the maintenance of brain function. Thiamin diphosphate is cofactor for several enzymes involved in glucose metabolism whereas thiamin triphosphate has distinct properties at the neuronal membrane.

Thiamin metabolism in the brain is compartmented between neurons and neighbouring glial cells. Thiamin deficiency is commonly encountered in severe malnutrition associated with chronic alcoholism, HIV-AIDS and gastrointestinal disease where it frequently results in Wernicke’s encephalopathy (the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome).

In developed countries, the predominant use of industrial food processing often depletes thiamine content along with other vitamins and nutrients. An increased consumption of processed food in the form of simple carbohydrates, not supplemented with adequate levels of thiamine, has been named “high calorie malnutrition”. As thiamine is a key factor in the metabolism of glucose, an increased carbohydrate intake will proportionally increase thiamine’s dietary demand. Heavy consumption of tannin-containing or food rich in caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline (such as those present in coffee, chocolate, and tea, respectively) can inactivate thiamine, thereby compromising the thiamine status. Other risk factors that increase the likelihood of insufficient thiamine intake include aging, economic status, eating disorders, medical conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract, subjects receiving parental nutrition, bariatric surgery, diabetes, and alcohol abuse.

Thiamine deficiency might cause brain tissue injury by inhibiting brain energy utilization given the critical role of thiamine-dependent enzymes associated within glucose utilization. This is supported by the significant rate of thiamine uptake by the blood–brain barrier emphasizing the high brain demand for thiamine and the need for its supply to sustain adequate brain functions.

Throughout the digestive tract, dietary proteins get hydrolyzed, releasing thiamine. In the intestinal lumen, alkaline phosphatases catalyze the hydrolysis of thiamine-phosphorylated derivatives into free thiamine.

There are cases of psychosis resulting from thiamine deficiency.

Case 1 – a 63-year-old woman with thiamine deficiency who showed auditory hallucinations, a delusion of persecution, catatonic stupor, and catalepsy but no neurological symptoms including oculomotor or gait disturbance. Her thiamine concentration was 19 ng/mL, only slightly less than the reference range of 20-50 ng/mL. Her psychosis was unresponsive to antipsychotics or electroconvulsive therapy, but was ameliorated by repetitive intravenous thiamine administrations at 100-200 mg per day. However, one month after completing intravenous treatment, her psychosis recurred, even though she was given 150 mg of thiamine per day orally and her blood concentration of thiamine was maintained at far higher than the reference range. Again, intravenous thiamine administration was necessary to ameliorate her symptoms. The present patient indicates that the possibility of thiamine deficiency should be considered in cases of psychosis without neurological disturbance and high-intensity T2 MRI lesions. Also, this case suggests that a high blood thiamine concentration does not necessarily correspond to sufficient thiamine levels in the brain. Based on this, we must reconsider the importance of a high dose of thiamine administration as a therapy for thiamine deficiency.

Case 2 – Mr A, a 40-year-old man, was transferred to our drug and alcohol dependency clinic after admission to the emergency department of a general hospital. He had a 25-year history of regular alcohol consumption (2 bottles of wine and 3–4 bottles of beer per day recently). Notably, he gradually increased his alcohol intake. His family stated that for the last 2 years he started his mornings with his usual “eye opener,” and he had not been eating enough or regularly. They also described periods of alcohol withdrawal, which resulted in delirium tremens symptoms such as confusion and auditory and visual hallucinations. He presented to the emergency room with forgetfulness, difficulty walking, falling down, urinary incontinence, losing his belongings, and not being able to recognize where he was or the current date. His family also reported that he had been telling incongruent stories that never seemed to have happened.

Mr A was diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome according to DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, and diazepam detoxification, rehydration, and thiamine repletion therapy were started. He had no signs of alcohol withdrawal in the clinical follow-up. He was administered intravenous (IV) 2,000 cm3 of 5% dextrose and 1,000 mg thiamine hydrochloride. This regimen was administered until the fifth day of treatment since gait ataxia and restriction of eye movements were no longer prominently present. On the sixth day of treatment, the IV thiamine was replaced with 100 mg oral thiamine. Within the third week of the treatment regimen, his gait and postural ataxia improved and his orientation to time, place, and person was intact. By the fourth week of treatment, he was able to find his way around the city and back home when he was on home leave for 2 days. However, it was observed that it took him longer to remember his past experiences when questioned. He was discharged 41 days after his hospitalization. He had no significant mental symptoms apart from a minimally longer reaction time and minimal impairments in current memory, although he still had difficulty in tandem walk and a minimal nystagmus in his neurologic examination at discharge.

Neuropathology of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is characterized by gliosis and microhemorrhages specifically in the periaqueductal and paraventricular gray matter, atrophy in the mammillary bodies and thalamus, and volume deficits in the hippocampus, cerebellar hemispheres, pons, and anterior superior vermis; however, anterior thalamus, mammillary bodies, and the mammillo-thalamic tract are reported to be related with later memory impairment and Korsakoff syndrome.

Active transport – the movement of molecules across a membrane from a region of their lower concentration to a region of their higher concentration—against the concentration gradient or other obstructing factor.

Passive diffusion – is a movement of ions and other atomic or molecular substances across cell membranes without need of energy input. Unlike active transport, it does not require an input of cellular energy because it is instead driven by the tendency of the system to grow in entropy.

Hyrdolysis – any chemical reaction in which a molecule of water ruptures one or more chemical bonds.

Alkaline phosphatase – an enzyme that liberates phosphate under alkaline conditions and is made in liver, bone, and other tissues.

Gliosis – is a nonspecific reactive change of glial cells in response to damage to the central nervous system (CNS). The glial cells surround neurons and provide support for and insulation between them. Glial cells are the most abundant cell types in the central nervous system. The four main functions of glial cells are: to surround neurons and hold them in place, to supply nutrients and oxygen to neurons, to insulate one neuron from another, and to destroy and remove the carcasses of dead neurons (clean up).

Microhemorrhages – cerebral microhemorrhages, best visualized by MRI, result from rupture of small blood vessels in basal ganglia or subcortical white matter.

Mammillary bodies – the mammillary bodies are part of the diencephalon, which is a collection of structures found between the brainstem and cerebrum. The mammillary bodies are best known for their role in memory, although in the last couple of decades the mammillary bodies have started to be recognized as being involved in other functions like maintaining a sense of direction.

Caffeine experimentation

The take on caffeine is that it’s bad for anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Yet there is research indicating that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of depression. On the other hand caffeine could contribute to a panic attack? Evidence is therefore inconclusive – should you consume caffeine if you have mental problems, and how much?

I know there are diets such as the autoimmune protocol diet (AIP) that eliminate coffee, but I have not found much evidence contraindicating coffee consumption. AIP diet includes eliminating a lot of food groups, including nuts and coffee, but Harvard Health Publishing actually states and nuts and coffee are anti-inflammatory foods. I will trust Harvard on that (as the AIP diet blogs don’t provide any actual evidence that coffee and nuts are inflammatory). From Harvard Health – “studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.” So here we go – one point for coffee.

The question is though – perhaps coffee drinking in the long-term reduces some inflammation, but what if in the short-run, it increases anxiety in a few hours. Is it really worth it? And does it actually increase anxiety? What do we know so far about what coffee does to the brain? “By blocking adenosine, caffeine actually increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert. There are numerous studies showing that caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function, including improved mood, reaction time and general cognitive function.” “Caffeine helps the brain release dopamine into the prefrontal cortex, a brain area important for mood regulation. Caffeine may also help storage of dopamine in the amygdala, another part of the brain important for anxiety regulation.

One recent study with some mice (don’t really know if that is applicable to humans), found that acute caffeine administration also reduced anxiety-related behaviors in mice without significantly altering locomotor activity. I think the researchers had only 12 mice, I guess they weren’t able to get a grant to afford more, so I wouldn’t take the study very seriously.

I have consumed caffeine since childhood, since in Russia black tea is a very common drink.  Coffee I started consuming regularly later on, when I was a teenager. I did quit coffee in 2016 as I was hoping that would help with panic attacks and also I started the AIP diet which eliminates coffee. Later on, in summer of 2017, I did go caffeine free for more than a week, but I noticed that my obsessive thoughts and aggressiveness were only exacerbated. I continued to consume black tea and this week I decided to try and  reintroduce coffee.

Caffeine is the quintessential mimic of a neurochemical called adenosine. While you’re awake, the neurons in your brain fire away and produce a compound called adenosine as a byproduct. Adenosine is constantly monitored by your nervous system through receptors. In the brain adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means, adenosine can act as a central nervous system depressant. In normal conditions, it promotes sleep and suppresses arousal. When awake the levels of adenosine in the brain rise each hour. Typically, when adenosine levels drop and hit a certain low level in your spinal cord and brain, your body will signal to you to start relaxing to prepare for sleep. Caffeine mimics adenosine’s shape and size, and enter the receptors without activating them. The receptors are then effectively blocked by caffeine (in clinical terms, caffeine is an antagonist of the A1 adenosine receptor). By blocking the receptors caffeine disrupts the nervous system’s monitoring of the adenosine tab. The neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, the brain’s own home-grown stimulants, are freer to do their stimulating work with the adenosine tab on hold. When a substantial amount of caffeine is ingested—such as the typical 100 to 200 milligrams from a strong, eight-ounce cup of coffee, caffeine tricks your body into thinking that it’s not yet time for sleep by acting like adenosine. Generally, caffeine lasts about five to six hours in the body before wearing off.

Research on depression, anxiety, and caffeine is still in its early stages. One study from the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease links moderate caffeine intake (fewer than 6 cups of coffee each day) to a lower risk of suicide. Conversely, in rare cases high doses of caffeine can induce psychotic and manic symptoms, and more commonly, anxiety. Patients with panic disorder and performance social anxiety disorder seem to be particularly sensitive to the anxiogenic effects of caffeine, whereas preliminary evidence suggest that it may be effective for some patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder. In a small study, seven of twelve patients with OCD saw “immediate improvement” on 300 milligrams of coffee daily. The author suggests that caffeine may work better in one concentrated dose each morning than spaced out throughout the day, and reminds us that caffeine remains a “well-known anxiety producer in many people.”

If all of this research seems a bit contradictory, it is. Like almost anything in science, there’s no conclusive verdict about coffee.

Since my coffee reintroduction experiment starting this Monday, so far mu experiences are more positive than negative. During these past four days, it seems that I had a reduction in obsessive and anxious thoughts. A negative effect was yesterday night, I drank a decaf Americano around 11pm, and then woke up in the middle of the night from a nightmare in which I was kidnapped by a serial killer. Today I decided to have just two cups of coffee – in the morning and in the afternoon, and stop caffeine after 5pm. I don’t particularly enjoy participating in serial killer action dreams. I don’t know whether it was the decaf that lead to the nightmare, but there is one study in which Swiss scientists studying caffeine’s effects in a small group of people report markedly elevated blood pressure and increased nervous system activity when occasional coffee drinkers drank a triple espresso, regardless of whether or not it contained caffeine. The results suggest that some unknown ingredient or ingredients in coffee – not caffeine – is responsible for cardiovascular activation, he explains. Coffee contains several hundred different substances.

New Buzz On Coffee: It’s Not The Caffeine That Raises Blood Pressure

I have also come across an article discussing the best times to drink coffee. It states that The peak production of cortisol occurs between 8–9 am (under normal circumstances.) This means that at the time that many people are having their first cup of coffee on the way to work, their bodies are actually “naturally caffeinating” the most effectively.  Cortisol is considered a stress-related hormone and consumption of caffeine has been shown to increase the production of cortisol when timed at periods of peak cortisol levels. An increased tolerance for caffeine can therefore lead to heightened cortisol levels which can disturb circadian rhythms and have other deleterious effects on your health. The article suggests that the times of peak cortisol levels in most people are between 8-9 am, 12-1 pm and 5:30-6:30 pm. Therefore, timing your “coffee breaks” between 9:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm and 5:00pm takes advantage of the dips in your cortisol levels when you need a boost the most.

 

Restarting probiotic foods

So I am restarting probiotic foods. I suppose I had a bad start when I went all in and started consuming everything at once – yougurt, kefir, sourdough, yeast supplements, probiotic capsules. I was also fermenting apples, vegetables, plantains, trying to make my own chickpea tempeh. Home fermentation could go wrong at some point, also I think the supplements were a bad choice. Maybe taking saccharomyces boulardii for a week could improve gut microbiome, but taking the capsules everyday for several months I think for me led to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, in this case there was also yeast).

I think at first when I started eating goat yougurt and drinking homemade kefir, I felt better. I remember there were several days when I was helping put up posters for a missing person – the man was my close friend’s co-worker. He was last seen at a bar on a Friday night but never made it home. I didn’t personally know the guy, but since I was putting up the posters and was part of a Facebook search group, I’ve learned a lot of details about his girl friend, his parents. A week later his body was found in lake Ontario and it really got to me. I know that this tragic ending of a search for a missing person would be painful for anyone in the search group, but with depression I think such event further triggers a cascade of negative thoughts about your own life. I didn’t know the guy, I didn’t know his parents, nor his girl-friend. It was their loss, this was not about me, but anxiety and depression always find a way to relate events to your own personal issues. I remember feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and physical pain, as if it was me who let something bad happened and now I would be punished for it. I couldn’t let go of the fear of punishment for things that were happening in the world. There was a sense that I had to fix them. Maybe when I was younger I would imagine that I have these feelings because I am a morally better person, but now I know that no, feelings of guilt and fear of punishment is depression showing through.

That weekend coincidentally was also when my first batch of goat kefir was ready. The day when I tried the first cup of kefir, I had continued sense of guilt and fear. I felt guilty for trying to feel well when such tragic things were going on in the world. I have already been through a lot of cognitive behavioural therapy by that point, so logically I understood that I was not obliged to feel unwell or be responsible for the world,  but the feeling was still there. This was more than a year ago, but I do remember feeling more calm the next day after starting goat kefir and letting go of some of the guilt. It wasn’t a complete relief, but I remember  no longer feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.

Studies on probiotics and mental health are inconclusive. “A recent article in Annals of General Psychiatry reviewed the currently available medical literature on using probiotics to treat anxiety and depression. The doctors identified 10 studies that were well done (in other words blinded and placebo-controlled), and looked at each study in depth. All of these studies had relatively small numbers of patients, ranging as from as few as 42 to as many as 124. The results of these studies were mixed; some suggested that there may be mild benefits of taking probiotics if you have anxiety or depression while other studies showed no benefit. Overall, the authors concluded “the clinical effects of probiotics on mental health have yet to be studied comprehensively.” 

Can probiotics help treat depression and anxiety?

Probably just adding kefir to your diet will not cure mental issues, but I do enjoy drinking it, the sour yet creamy taste. It is also a source of calcium and protein. A glass of kefir has less sugar than a glass of milk since the bacteria and yeast from kefir grains break down the milk sugar lactose and convert it into lactic acid. “The only sugar naturally present is milk is lactose (is a sugar composed of galactose and glucose subunits). Most microorganisms lack the enzyme lactase which is required to break lactose into its two component sugars, namely, glucose and galactose. Lactic acid bacteria which do have lactase readily break down lactose and use glucose as an energy source. Lactic acid bacteria, therefore, have a competitive advantage in milk; that is, they are able to out grow other bacteria which are unable to obtain glucose from lactose. Further, some lactic acid bacteria are able to convert galactose to glucose.” Therefore when we drink kefir, the bacteria had already used up glucose and galactose for energy and therefore we don’t get glucose from the drink. When humans drink milk, it contains the sugar lactose. We have a protein named lactase that is produced in our small intestine. Lactose is then broken down by lactase into galactose and glucose, which is then absorbed into bloodstream. Therefore drinking non-fermented milk raises blood sugar more than kefir.

Is it safe to make kefir at home?

The good news is that fermentation of warm milk by lactic acid bacteria reduces milk pH to less than 4.0 and in turn makes the environment unlivable for pathogenic bacteria. Most organisms grow best at pH near physiological pH of 6.8, and not in acidic environments. I assume it would be great though for microbes from Yellowstone National Park acidic pools. these pools are usually of temperature ranging from 65 to 90 degrees Celsius and contain high sulfur contents, either as hydrogen sulfide (H2S(g)) emitted as a volcanic gas, or as elemental sulfur crystals. Who lives there – thermoacidophiles, a unique group of bacteria that are a combination of acidophiles and thermophiles. Thermoacidophiles are characterized by their exclusive ability to live in both highly acidic environments and also high temperatures. The typical conditions these thermoacidophiles live under include pH at around 2 with temperatures ranging from 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.

I am not sure if thermoacidophiles  are likely to contaminate homemade kefir, but I do sterilize my jars by pouring boiling water over them. Then I let the jar cool, place the kefir grains in, pour in milk, and cover with a coffee filter. I ferment my kefir at room temperature for 24 hours. Kefir is a versatile food as it can be drank on its own, used for smoothies, used to make tvorog (quark), syrniki (fried quark pancakes), and oladyi (fritters). Easy breakfast recipe – in the evening combine kefir, sorghum flour, ground oatmeal, egg, salt, and avocado oil in a bowl and let it stand overnight in the fridge. In the morning preheat a frying pan and then use the dough for fritters. Consume with honey and yougurt on top.

Who inhabits kefir?

The kefir grains initiating the fermentation consist of a symbiotic culture of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts embedded in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides. The matrix is formed by microbial activity, with color ranging from white to creamy yellow. Grains can include lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, and yeasts. During fermentation, changes in the composition of ingredients occur. Lactose, the sugar present in milk, is broken down mostly to lactic acid (25%) by the lactic acid bacteria, which results in acidification of the product. Propionibacteria further break down some of the lactic acid into propionic acid. Other substances that contribute to the flavor of kefir are pyruvic acid, acetic acid, diacetyl and acetoin (both of which contribute a “buttery” flavor), citric acid, acetaldehyde, and amino acids resulting from protein breakdown. The slow-acting yeasts, late in the fermentation process, break lactose down into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Usually ethanol concentrations are 0.2–0.3%, so kefir is not much of an alcoholic beverage.

Probiotic bacteria found in kefir products include: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactococcus lactis, and Leuconostoc species. Lactobacilli in kefir may exist in concentrations varying from approximately 1 million to 1 billion colony-forming units per milliliter, and are the bacteria responsible for the synthesis of the polysaccharide kefiran. In addition to bacteria, kefir often contains strains of yeast that can metabolize lactose, such as Kluyveromyces marxianus, Kluyveromyces lactis, and Saccharomyces fragilis, as well as strains of yeast that do not metabolize lactose, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Torulaspora delbrueckii, and Kazachstania unispora.

Kefir is made by adding kefir grains to milk typically at a proportion of 2-5% grains-to-milk. The mixture is then placed in a corrosion-resistant container, such as a glass jar, and stored preferably in the dark to prevent degradation of light-sensitive vitamins.

Celiac disease, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and a beef patty

I’ve done something today that I probably haven’t done for at least a year or more. I bought a beef patty. I felt very guilty because I don’t want to eat large mammals. Ideally I wouldn’t eat any birds or animals, but we have to make practical choices. From my experience, having celiac disease, I don’t absorb vitamins and minerals well. A chicken leg of 100 grams has approximately 6% daily value of cobalamin, 6% DV magnesium, 7% DV potassium, and 25% DV B-6. Without eating meat or fish, you could try to get vitamin B-6 from beans, also fortified cereals contain B-6. Here is the issue – with celiac you cannot eat most fortified cereals and breads since they are not gluten-free, also eating too many beans causes digestive problems. So I had to make a choice and about a year ago  I chose to eat seafood and poultry, but not mammals. My reasoning is that compared to chickens and turkeys, large mammals such as pigs and cows have more complex brains and nervous systems and therefore have more complex emotions and might suffer more during their short life in a cage at a factory farm. I have no proof of that, but I had to make a choice.

Unfortunately recently I had to make another choice to start eating red meat again. I was experiencing lethargy and noticed white bands on my nails. Some sources stated that white spots on nails could be a sign of zinc deficiency, while others indicated that there was no correlation. This did lead me to wondering whether I was getting enough zinc, selenium, and B vitamins from chicken and salmon. 100 grams of beef on average contain 43% DV (daily value) of B12, 20% DV of B6. Dietitians of Canada also list beef as top sources of zinc, 75 grams of beef containing 4.0 – 8.6 mg of the mineral (women need 8 mg per day).  Chicken is much lower in zinc, 1.3 – 2.2 mg per 75 grams. Salmon was not listed as it is not a good source of zinc, it contains about 0.64 mg per 100 grams. Some studies indicate that it’s harder to absorb zinc from a plant based diet, in addition to that my absorption may be worse due to gut inflammation caused by autoimmune disease.

With reduced intake of meat and increased intake of phytate-containing legumes and whole grains, movement toward plant-based diets reduces dietary iron and zinc absorption.

Moving Toward a Plant‐based Diet: Are Iron and Zinc at Risk?

zinc1

Why do we need zinc and what happens if there is a zinc deficiency? Zinc is found in cells throughout the body and is needed to make proteins and DNA. Zinc plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. It is important for the function of the immune system and also the senses of smell and taste.

zinc2

Zinc deficiency can cause appetite loss, poor immune system function, diarrhea, eye and skin lesions, feeling lethargic, strange taste sensations, hair loss, weight loss, poor wound healing. Individuals with chronic conditions and poor absorption are more likely to be zinc deficient.

Zinc performs its biochemical functions as a divalent cation (positively charged ion) primarily when bound to enzymes and other proteins. Zinc is essential as a catalytic, structural, and regulatory ion and is involved in homeostasis (the tendency to maintain a stable, relatively constant internal environment), immune responses, oxidative stress, apoptosis (the death of cells which occurs as a normal and controlled part of an organism’s growth or development), and aging. Zinc is recognized as being important for stabilizing DNA and appears to reside in the nucleus longer than any other cell compartment. Therefore, it is possible that as intracellular levels of zinc increase, more iron will be displaced from nucleoproteins and less OH-driven DNA damage will occur.

Biological consequences of zinc deficiency in the pathomechanisms of selected diseases

A study on zinc deficiency in relation to psychiatry:

“Zinc participation is essential for all physiological systems, including neural functioning, where it participates in a myriad of cellular processes. Converging clinical, molecular, and genetic discoveries illuminate key roles for zinc homeostasis in association with clinical depression and psychosis which are not yet well appreciated at the clinical interface. Intracellular deficiency may arise from low circulating zinc levels due to dietary insufficiency, or impaired absorption from aging or medical conditions, including alcoholism. A host of medications commonly administered to psychiatric patients, including anticonvulsants, oral medications for diabetes, hormones, antacids, anti-inflammatories and others also impact zinc absorption. Furthermore, inefficient genetic variants in zinc transporter molecules that transport the ion across cellular membranes impede its action even when circulating zinc concentrations is in the normal range. Well powered clinical studies have shown beneficial effects of supplemental zinc in depression and it important to pursue research using zinc as a potential therapeutic option for psychosis as well. Meta-analyses support the adjunctive use of zinc in major depression and a single study now supports zinc for psychotic symptoms.”

The Emerging Role for Zinc in Depression and Psychosis

From my own experiment with N=1, I did feel better after eating a beef patty. This could be a coincidence, a placebo effect, or an actual effect of the minerals/vitamins in beef on my mood. I also thought of a substitute for beef that is not a mammal – mussels and clams. A 3-ounce serving of cooked mussels contains about 15% of daily value of zinc. The same amount of moist-cooked clams also provides 15% of the daily value for zinc. Clams and mussels contain high amounts of vitamin B12, selenium, and iron, as well as omega-3 fats. I think therefore it’s possible for me to continue avoiding beef if I include chicken, fish, mussels, and clams.

Depression and TSH levels

I continue to track my thyroid hormone levels and thyroid antibody levels. As my endocrinologist predicted, after a thyroid inflammation event (as indicated by ultrasound test results), and a state of hyperthyroidism, my thyroid hormone levels went the opposite way and now I am hypothyroid. I will say that for me personally the hyperthyroid state did not feel as bad as the current hypothyroid state, though I am hopeful that hypothyroidism can be treated with levothyroxine, which was recently prescribed to me. My antibody levels continue to be high and my endocrinologist stated that with Hashimoto’s autoimmune disease in general antibody levels stay chronically elevated. I might be receiving IVIG treatment soon, in April, and hopefully that will reduce the inflammation of the thyroid.

test_mar2019

In terms of emotions, during hyperthyroidism, I did feel jittery and very hungry, but I also experienced a roller coaster of more positive emotions such as more interest in men, infatuation, desire for adventure. I can’t say that my depression went away, but I do remember having moments of making plans to travel to Guatemala to attend a Spanish course, thinking of having an affair, wanting to perform in a band with my violin. Recently with hypothyroidism, as I described in a previous post, what I had been feeling is complete disinterest and grief. As if your life is somehow passing by, the world keeps going without you. There is a feeling of slowness in your movements and speech, a sense of painful emotional weight, inability to fully engage in an activity. Well if you have experienced hypothyroidism, you might know what I’m talking about. It’s feeling lonely and yet having no energy to call someone to make plans. Thinking that in theory I do enjoy playing violin, but today doing that would be just too difficult. Exercising definitely was becoming impossible, my legs have been feeling very heavy, and my whole body in general.

Today I started levothyroxine 0.025mg and I am hopeful that this will lower my TSH and therefore relieve all the symptoms that I am experiencing, at least I am very hopeful that levothyroxine in combination with IVIG will really help. I found an interesting study in which the authors seek a TSH threshold for depression. Two thirds of the study participants were female, as expected. There were 174 hypothyroid patients who were receiving levothyroxine treatment and were considered euthyroid. “Individuals who had developed euthyroid state under treatment with levothyroxine with TSH levels of 0.5–5 MIU/L with no need for dosage change were included in the study. After comprehensive history taking, laboratory tests including TSH, T4 and T3 were performed. Beck depression questionnaire was completed for all patients by trained interviewers. TSH cut-off values based on depression was determined by Roc Curve analysis.” Basically, as I understand, the researchers wanted to find out whether there is correlation between TSH levels and depression for patients who were diagnosed with hypothyroidism and are receiving levothyroxine.

Results were the following: “According to Roc curve analysis, the optimal cut- off value of TSH was 2.5 MIU/L with 89.66% sensitivity. The optimal TSH cut- off based on severe depression was 4 MIU/L. The present study suggests that a clinically helpful TSH cut-off value for hypothyroidism should be based on associated symptoms, not just in population studies. Based on the assessment of depression, our study concludes that a TSH cutofff value of 2.5 MIU/L is optimal.” I think what they are trying to say here is that based on large population studies there was a range for normal TSH levels determined, for example on my lab tests that range is stated as 0.32 – 4.00. Their study shows though that even though my individual TSH could be within this range, it doesn’t mean that I won’t be having any hypothyroidism symptoms, such as depression. Maybe for me personally TSH of 3.80 would be too high and my mood would be influenced and I would be better off at a level of levothyroxine that would bring my TSH below 2.5. Therefore it’s important to consider the symptoms of a specific patient and not just the determined ‘normal’ range.

TSH cut off point based on depression in hypothyroid patients

Also different countries and labs don’t state the same ‘normal’ ranges. In the study the TSH range is indicated as 0.5 – 5 MIU/L, while my lab states 0.32 – 4. So if I went to a doctor in another country, he could have said that my thyroid hormone levels are normal, but based on my lab’s range, my endocrinologist said that I might be becoming hypothyroid, since TSH is out of range, and therefore prescribed me levothyroxine. Also he did take into account the symptoms that I was experiencing, which is what the authors suggest – don’t just look at the TSH, how does the patient feel?

 

Doing something while depression is on

On Sunday I woke up not very late and made pancakes, brewed a thermos with green tea and drove on a highway to a park to build a snow woman. Yes, it was specifically a very shapy lady, not a snowman. Today after I got home from work I felt that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move because of overwhelming emotional pain – it was a sense of grief, a feeling that my personal world has collapsed, that there is nothing to look forward to. I am not going to say that on Sunday I was extremely happy, but it was clearly a more normal and stable day. What has occurred to make today different? I’m sure the answer lies in biochemistry, but at this point we don’t have the tools or knowledge to know what exactly should be measured and when. My last period started on February 15th. (I suggest to record start dates in order to understand whether the cycle affects your mood – at least in the case that you usually feel worse in the first few days before/during your period – you can remind yourself that this is not permanent and it will pass as it did before).

Today it is March 14th, could my serotonin levels be dropping? WebMD suggests that “as many as 90% of women experience unpleasant symptoms before their periods“, it has now been almost a month since my period, therefore today is supposed to be close to the “before period” time.

Estrogen and Women’s Emotions

My thyroid antibodies also continue to be high, Anti-TPO at 250 and Anti-Tg at > 4000. TSH is abnormally high as well. My CT scan also indicated “partially imaged polypoid mucosal thickening in the right maxillary sinus”. What does that mean, does that have anything to do with depression? It seems to mean chronic sinusitis. I don’t know whether this ever has any effect on your mood.

lifelabs_15032019

The information above leads to some guesses about why I started to feel more severe emotions, but I can’t say that I actually know. I believe I have already made the changes to my lifestyle that I could – cutting out gluten and cow dairy because of celiac disease, avoiding processed foods, eating a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I drink a lot of green and black tea, never drink or smoke, I go to sleep a bit before 12am and sleep for 8 hours. I walk to the subway instead of taking the streetcar, on a grey day I use my daylight lamp in the morning. I got an unlimited pass to a yoga studio and go there during lunch. No caffeine after 6pm. I call my mom and my grandmother. I try to avoid scrolling through Facebook. Therefore I would say – I’ve really done it all, what I could.

So what if you feel you’ve been as healthy as you can, you see your psychiatrist regularly, but the depression still sets in? Currently I am waiting for the IVIG procedure which is supposed to be done in April. You might be waiting for your next appointment to talk about switching medications, or you just started an antidepressant and the psychiatrist said that the positive results may take effect only after four to six weeks. I think the only strategy in such a situation is to think of activities to pass the time. Doing something even though feeling depressed. Even if your brain is dissuading you from it, it’s telling you to sit still, to not move, that any action you take will make it worse.

In DBT therapy there is an idea of opposite action and I believe this is a useful technique. “In DBT, the opposite action skill is a deliberate attempt to act OPPOSITE of your emotion urge. If your emotions are doing more harm than good, try acting opposite.” My thoughts are telling me that I am in too much emotional pain to do anything, but doing nothing will prolong the sense of time and I will just suffer more while waiting. For example last Thursday while sitting at work, I felt that I feel too depressed and lethargic to do anything expect stay seated during lunch and that trying to do any activity would make me feel worse. In this case my emotions and thoughts were only harming me because continuing sitting, after already three hours of sitting, would definitely not make me better off. I would be wrapped in my thoughts, prolonged sitting is not good for blood flow and chronic pain, time would also go very slowly. I had to use opposite action and I forced myself to go downstairs, change, and attend a yoga class. The 45 minute class passed quicker than 45 minutes of sitting would be and because the classroom was hot and I had to keep focusing on switching poses, my negative thoughts were less persistent. I am not saying that I went to yoga and felt delighted and blissful for the 45 minutes, I am saying that I was better off by going there instead of following my emotions and doing nothing.

Another example where following my emotions would make me worse off is often when I start feeling lonely I get wrapped in thoughts that I don’t have any close people and not many people to spend time with. Next, I start to think that I am the only one with no plans for the evening/weekend, and therefore it is pointless to ask anyone whether they want to meet. Clearly in this case acting as my thoughts and emotions tell me to would only harm me as I would end up not reaching out to anyone and of course then I will have no plans with certainty. Here opposite action would be texting/calling someone and proposing to make plans. Preferably be specific with an activity, place, and time. Refer to Sheldon’s friendship algorithm for instructions.

Sheldon’s Friendship Algorithm

Suggestions for passing time with depression are listed below. What works for me are simple activities, not trying to follow some life changing goals or saving the world. Depression is a real illness, and if all I was able to do during a bad day is coming out to convenience store to buy plantains, I will say – good for me.

  • See an old friend, talk about your feelings, or talk about nothing in particular – remember a dumb high-school story, laugh about it
  • Talk on the phone to someone you think is a good person, call them even if your brain is telling you that you are better off not speaking to anyone
  • Cook/bake something that you know how to make and enjoy eating, I make crepes because the recipe is simple and this activity passes time as I have to fry each crepe separately
  • Walk to a store nearby to buy something small – tea, eggs, apples, etc.
  • Jump with a skipping rope at home, or on a porch, or outside. Aerobic exercise is healthy
  • Get the lyrics to a song that you know and sign the full song, even if initially you really don’t feel like it. It will help pass the time and singing will not hurt you
  • Walk around the block while listening to a podcast
  • Watch CollegeHumor or Big Bang Theory

 

Planks, gut health, and mental health

I’ve had many conflicts with my father, but one thing I’ve always agreed with him on is that there is no mental health without physical exercise. Especially for those with emotional instability like me, I find that exercise is a necessity. It’s definitely not easy to do it with an autoimmune disease since sometimes after I get home from work – I feel lethargic, or I feel arm pain, or I feel isolated and a need to go on Facebook and see that people are alive. Well this is where logical thinking comes in – in the end choosing to exercise has the best payoff even though it’s not immediate. Lying down on the sofa and turning on Netflix has an immediate pay off, but if this is what I will do daily after work, after a while I will be worse off.

Currently I am trying to exercise two to three times a day. I do about 10-12 minutes before leaving for work in the morning, I include stretching, planks, downward dog, inversion poses, etc. Recently there have been some articles about positive impact of even very short intervals of exercise. I would like to believe that these statements are true as I am not able to force myself to wake up another twenty minutes earlier and engage in a 30 minute work out before work or breakfast. I do believe that some exercise is better than no exercise. I work in a boring office, so my hours are pretty standard. During lunch I walk around listening to a podcast and currently I signed up at a yoga studio located in the office building downstairs, which offers lunch classes. In the evening I try to do another 20-30 minutes of exercise. Is this exercise plan difficult? Yes, but once you do it several days in a row, I feel that there is some kind of adjustment and you get used to the schedule. Also I find it easier when I know that my exercise interval is only 12 or 20 minutes, I am not trying to push myself into an hour jog. In fact I don’t jog at all. I mentioned this before – one psychiatrist with whom I had a consultation stated that the best way to combat inflammation is exercise and that I should only do the type of exercise that I like, otherwise I will not stick with the routine for long. Therefore no jogging for me, I am doing planks and yoga poses.

The latest research shows that a single 10-minute bout of very light (30% of VO2 Max) physical activity can increase the connectivity between brain regions linked to memory formation and storage.

This potentially groundbreaking study on the cognitive benefits of short periods of mild exertion activity (such as gentle yoga, tai chi, slow dancing, or playing bocce) was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

Ten minutes of mild exercise may improve brain connectivity and enhance memory

From the abstract of the actual paper: ” A single 10-min bout of very light-intensity exercise (30%V˙O2peak) results in rapid enhancement in pattern separation and an increase in functional connectivity between hippocampal DG/CA3 and cortical regions (i.e., parahippocampal, angular, and fusiform gyri). Importantly, the magnitude of the enhanced functional connectivity predicted the extent of memory improvement at an individual subject level. These results suggest that brief, very light exercise rapidly enhances hippocampal memory function, possibly by increasing DG/CA3−neocortical functional connectivity.

Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise

I now have some evidence to support my belief that my 10 minute work-outs are useful. Sometimes at work I do yoga poses in the staircase, or run up ten flights of stairs. There are many ways to exercise for free, it’s not necessary to purchase a monthly gym membership or pay $20 for a yoga class.

Some studies also indicate that exercise positively modifies gut bacteria. This change in turn can reduce inflammation and depression.

Recent studies suggest that exercise can enhance the number of beneficial microbial species, enrich the microflora diversity, and improve the development of commensal bacteria.

Collectively, the available data strongly support that, in addition to other well-known internal and external factors, exercise appears to be an environmental factor that can determine changes in the qualitative and quantitative gut microbial composition with possible benefits for the host. In fact, stable and enriched microflora diversity is indispensable to the homeostasis and normal gut physiology contributing also to suitable signaling along the brain-gut axis and to the healthy status of the individual. Exercise is able to enrich the microflora diversity; to improve the Bacteroidetes-Firmicutes ratio which could potentially contribute to reducing weight, obesity-associated pathologies, and gastrointestinal disorders; to stimulate the proliferation of bacteria which can modulate mucosal immunity and improve barrier functions, resulting in reduction in the incidence of obesity and metabolic diseases; and to stimulate bacteria capable of producing substances that protect against gastrointestinal disorders and colon cancer (such as, SCFAs).

Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects

From ScienceDaily – “Two studies — one in mice and the other in human subjects — offer the first definitive evidence that exercise alone can change the composition of microbes in the gut. The studies were designed to isolate exercise-induced changes from other factors — such as diet or antibiotic use — that might alter the intestinal microbiota.”

Exercise changes gut microbial composition independent of diet, team reports

I think it’s very crucial to our mental health to exercise daily in any way – on a yoga mat at house, running up the stairs at work, going out for a jog, dancing, playing ping-pong, jogging with your dog, anything really that replaces sitting.