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.

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.

CAMH ER Waiting Room

The room is in the building at College and Spadina. The room doesn’t have any windows,  but it does have a clock, so you can know what time of day it is. What you can’t know is when you will be let out (but to be fair, involuntarily hospitalization can be a maximum of 72 hours). There are armchairs along the perimeter of the area and in the middle. There are about six of us at the moment. Some will be released soon and new ones will arrive. None of us want to be waiting here, twisting on the pale green chairs. Also most don’t agree that they should be here. A young black woman is banging on the locked door of the staff room, a nurse comes out. The woman is nearly dressed with a designer purse and fur boots. She starts pacing back and forth. “If I knew what this place is like, – she yells at the nurse, – I would have never come here. Look at me, I don’t need to be here. I don’t cut myself and shit.” The nurse talks to her calmly, she tells her what she tells everyone – you have to wait to speak with the psychiatrist. The woman continues to yell that she is not like the rest of us. She complained to her family doctor about stress at work and the doctor referred her to this address,  told her that she could get a note for stress leave. She just wants a note,  she assures that she doesn’t cut herself.

As of that is what we all do. If only it was that simple – you either cut yourself and are insane, or you don’t,  and are not. I’ve never cut myself and yet I voluntarily checked myself into the CAMH ER. I also didn’t think that I needed to be in there, but there was no other way. I wanted to be set free from my inflamed brain, from the malfunctioning neuronal synapses. I wanted to be free to get lost in writings of other people’s ideas, to play Bach’s Gavotte, to be attracted and be attractive. I wanted to be released from the dark well inside my own mind. I wanted to suppress the hell, to get the intravenous immunoglobulin treatment. But how to convince them, how to make them understand that is what I needed?

After sometime the black woman was released. I was still waiting. There was renewed yelling,  coming from a different patient. Similar to the woman who just left,  she was yelling at the nurse that she didn’t need to be here. She was also getting extremely agitated,  I think if she had something to throw,  she would. The whole room now was aware that she was old enough to have ten children and that she didn’t want this visit on her record. Her sister couldn’t take care of her own kids and who would then be doing it if not her? But with a CAMH visit on the papers, maybe she wouldn’t be allowed to take the children in. The nurse tried to explain that visiting CAMH was not same as police record, but the woman already went into rage, reasoning does not work at that point.

So why do we all scream in fear – I shouldn’t be here, I am not like the rest of them? We must have evolved to have this fear of being declared insane. Insane means being banned from the tribe, starving alone in the savannah. It’s hard to let go of that basic fear of being abandoned by our tribe. Even in the isolated room at CAMH, where only the doctors and about five other strangers could hear you, we still don’t want to admit that something could be wrong. We could admit cancer, meningitis, infertility, but not that we are not mentally well. Most diseases are just affecting our body, but it is our mind that makes us who we are. And if there is something wrong with that, then what are we? Of course this is not what I think, this is an assumption of what goes on through people’s minds in this state of fear. There is no separation from mind and body, both are a combination of cells, proteins, amino acids. Signalling to each other, reproducing. And any part of the whole mechanism can malfunction.

I would say – learn to accept. You didn’t choose this body, you just sort of woke up in it. I would have chosen another model, if I could, but no choices were given. Well here I am, at CAMH ER, because some signals are malfunctioning, and it’s not my fault. This is the situation though, and I have to accept.

Hot weather and other factors, autoimmune disease, and psychosis

I’m thankful to bloggers who wrote about their experience with diet and depression. I’ve learned through the blogs and then my own observation that I was making my mental health worse by eating gluten in all possible forms – pasta, sandwiches, Subway, wraps, tempura, soy sauce. I have also established that casein in cow’s milk makes me more psychotic, so I had to give up a lot of delicious habits – taro bubble tea, cheesecake, easily ordering a coffee with milk at Denny’s – I now usually carry goat milk in a cooler with me everywhere, in case I want to add it to tea. This post won’t be about diet though, I have posted on diet previously:

Autoimmune Encephalitis and Diet

This post is about the fact that changing your diet may improve your mental health but it won’t necessarily cure you. I think it’s important to remember that in order to not constantly blame yourself. I used to do that when I was on strict AIP diet – I used to blame myself for feeling depressed. After I noticed that the AIP diet was actually helping, I became convinced that I would soon be cured, as long as I stay on the diet. Probably I’ve read too many blogs claiming that grains contain lectins that cause brain inflammation and therefore depression. There are a lot of success stories online with bloggers stating that their depression vanished after going on AIP diet or paleo or keto or vegan, you name it. It’s easy then to start blaming yourself each time you feel depressed again – if all those people were cured, maybe then I am slacking, not avoiding enough foods, not being strict enough. I think we may go into the blaming state because we want to believe that we can have full control of our mood and it would be nice if as long as we didn’t eat certain ingredients, we would never be depressed or psychotic.

Blaming yourself only makes you feel worse though and it doesn’t let you accept the reality that mental health problems are caused by many factors. I think yes – you should definitely strive for a healthy diet – avoid fried foods, high glycemic foods, red meat, etc., but should you feel guilty about the brown rice bowl that you ate yesterday because AIP and paleo bloggers claim that all grains cause inflammation? No, I am not sure if there is any evidence that grains are an issue, some research actually suggests that the healthiest diets are ones that include whole grains – such as the Mediterranean and MIND diets. I think we have to accept that there are other factors affecting our mental health and some we cannot control. Periods are definitely one of them and they suck. I find that my paranoia and obsessive thoughts are definitely exacerbated during the first three days of my period. Can I cure this issue with diet? I don’t think so. Being female, my hormones will always fluctuate with the menstrual cycle, there is nothing I can do about that. I can remind myself that it’s only worse for three days and it will get better, I am not always psychotic, I can try exercising more, going for a walk. But cure? I don’t know of one.

Menstrual Psychosis: A Forgotten Disorder?

I have recently realized that heat increases my intrusive thoughts. I had observed for a while that hot weather makes me lethargic and quick-tempered, but now I have also correlated hot weather with psychosis. It had occurred several times during the past month when I experienced exacerbated negative commentary in my head. I noticed that each time this happened on a weekend when I was away, camping. Supposedly camping is better than work  – I was not alone, I was with friends, eating meals together – just as I like. Also I was moving – swimming, kayaking. Getting enough vitamin D. Definitely sniffing a lot of soil (reference to the antidepressant bacteria Soil Bacteria Work In Similar Way To Antidepressants), always bringing my own food in a cooler – tempeh, mung beans, buckwheat, freeze-dried vegetables, oatmeal. Stuff that I usually eat, so that was a constant factor. When analyzing what caused an event, we have to look into the differences, and the only factor that I could think of is heat. This summer has been very hot in Ontario, multiple days above 30 degrees. Every weekday though I am in an extremely air conditioned air building where I often wear my shawl. At home I have two functioning ACs. It was only during the camping that I was exposed to extreme heat for many hours in a row. I think I have to accept this fact – I love camping, but hot weather increases my aggression and psychotic symptoms.

There is also research supporting the idea that heat exacerbates mental health problems. “Above a threshold of 26.7°C, we observed a positive association between ambient temperature and hospital admissions for mental and behavioral disorders. Compared with non–heat-wave periods, hospital admissions increased by 7.3% during heat waves.

The Effect of Heat Waves on Mental Health in a Temperate Australian City

Heat exposure associated with mental illness – A mental hospital-based study in Hanoi, Vietnam looked at if there is a relationship between heat exposure and mental health problems. The results showed significant increase in hospital admissions for mental illnesses during periods of heatwaves, especially during longer periods of heat exposure.

Heat exposure associated with mental illness

Exposure to sun can also exacerbate autoimmune disease symptoms, and for me this directly means worsening of mental problems. ”

“‘Photosensitivity can trigger the whole darn disease, including full systemic flare and joint pain and kidney failure,’ Dr. Connolly said. ‘The younger patients sometimes say, ‘The heck with this, I’m tired of carrying sun block,’ and they’ll stay out there, and it’s not just that they are going to give themselves a bad rash. This is something to take seriously.’

The link between the sun and lupus flare-ups is thought to be a set of inflammatory protein molecules called cytokines, which are activated when ultraviolet light hits the skin. The skin inflammation that results can create a chain reaction of other symptoms.

A Sunny Day Can Mean All Sorts of Distress

This is all sad news, but I still want to go outside. I want to go hiking, kayaking down whitewater rivers, canoeing through uninhabited islands. I still have to accept that sometimes camping might make me feel worse. Probably I need to give up on t-shirts and always wear long sleeves when it’s hot. I do always wear a hat and sunscreen. Also going outside is important for vitamin D and we do need UV light to set our circadian rhythm. Therefore no, you shouldn’t lock yourself up in the house, but it’s better to not be out in the sun in the swim suit for too long. I’m going to stick with pants, shirts, running shoes, and caps. On the other hand I’m also not going to blame myself if I do feel worse. I did not create this disease, it’s not my fault that I react to weather, I can’t control the weather and I can’t avoid the weather. Let’s not feel worse by blaming, let’s learn from the available information and also remember that even if you are doing everything right, sometimes psychosis may still occur and we won’t know why. Maybe we will in the future and you will have this device that will tell you in real time ‘your dopamine levels are going higher than the suggested threshold, eat this scientifically advanced cookie and it will fix the problem’. I do hope for such a future, but for now it’s just science fiction. Research has shown that one way to reduce suffering during a psychotic episode is to accept the experience but not act on it. Accept also that there will be a peak of the symptoms but then they will diminish, it will pass.

Depression, inflammation, and what you could do

I am not a doctor, but I have been to many, so I am going to write out here the information that I have collected over the few years. The first step, if you are feeling depressed, would be going to a doctor. In Canada you can visit your family doctor if you have one, or you can go to ER. In October 2015 I was waiting for a subway train in the station and I thought of jumping under it. The thought was not spontaneous, I have been getting more and more depressed over a period of time. I told my boyfriend about my thoughts of jumping and he convinced me to go to the ER. I was terrified when the doctor who examined me said that I would be involuntarily hospitalized in the psychiatric unit. The first thing that came to mind was probably a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Given that I was in a psychotic state, I imagined that my boyfriend and the doctors conspired to lock me up for an indefinite amount of time. Well, none of this happened. The law is that you can be involuntarily hospitalized for three days, and then your case has to be reviewed. Two opinions of physicians are required to maintain the detention.

Involuntary hospital admission – Canada

Actually I should say I got lucky that when I went to the ER I got seen by several psychiatrists and got to be examined for three days. At the moment there are not enough beds and not enough psychiatrists in Ontario, often people needing help are placed on six to nine months wait lists. Going to ER is therefore a good option because it’s more likely that there will be a psychiatrist available right away (yes, you might sit in the waiting room for five hours, but that’s not six months). Also blood tests would be performed to determine whether any health conditions could be causing your psychiatric symptoms. Tests performed could include the following:

  • TSH level to check for hypo/hyperthyroidism
  • Blood glucose level to check for diabetes
  • Iron/ferritin levels to check for anemia
  • Renal function (for chronic kidney disease)

In my experience doctors did not check for autoimmune diseases as part of the lab work, but if you are experiencing physical symptoms as well, you could ask your doctor to check this. Autoimmune testing:

  • Thyroid antibody levels (Anti-Tg and Anti-TPO antibodies) – high levels can indicate Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy (but this is quite rare)
  • C-reactive protein – marker of inflammation
  • Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) – checking for lupus
  • Rheumatoid factor – associated with rheumatoid arthritis
  • Anti-NMDAR antibodies – anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis (rare occurrence)
  • Celiac disease testing (it is also an autoimmune disorder)

Gastrointestinal disorders are also associated with depression. Individuals with gastritis are more likely to suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Depression and anxiety is also more often present in people with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any gastrointestinal/abdominal pains and discomfort, it’s important to visit a gastroenterologist. You can be tested for celiac disease. New research also indicates that many people who considered themselves having a gluten sensitivity actually had issues with high FODMAP foods. These are fermentable oligo di mono-saccharides and polyols, short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols. Personally I was diagnosed with chronic gastritis a few years ago, even before I got to the psychiatrist. The gastroenterologist who diagnosed me did not have any suggestions for me. A year ago I visited a different gastroenterologist, and she advised me to try a low FODMAP diet. I have been following it for a while, even after I stopped the AIP diet, and it definitely reduced my abdominal pains. Hopefully it is affecting my mood positively as well.

Gastritis linked to mood and anxiety disorders

Is gluten causing your depression

Once you talk to your family doctor or your psychiatrist about depression, if you do get diagnosed with depression, usually anti-depressants are prescribed. If you experience psychosis, anti-psychotics can be prescribed (on their own or along with anti-depressants). I am not a doctor, so it’s not for me to tell you which medication to take, but I just want to bring to your attention recent research on the link between depression and inflammation. I think no matter whether you do or don’t take psychiatric medication, it might be worthwhile to analyze your lifestyle and to think whether there are unhealthy aspects of it that you could change.

New research shows depression linked with inflammation

I know this may sound pointless – it may seem that no medication or lifestyle changes can help because it is life itself that is so meaningless, so emotionally painful, and how is that going to get changed? I used to get angry at suggestions by psychiatrists to attend therapy or my mom telling me to take fish oil. What does fish oil have to do with my life? How will it make me less lonely, how would it make life less dull and meaningless? The thought that helps me to try a suggestion is “what do I have to lose?” If I am already at the point where I no longer want to live, what will I lose by trying fish oil? Yes, it means I will agree to still be alive and try taking these stupid capsules, but I don’t have to be alive forever, it’s not possible anyways. I am not agreeing to suffer forever, I am just agreeing to stay alive for now, and to try.

Back to inflammation discussion – so for example you say “ok, fine, maybe I will try to stay alive, but so what? What is the suggestion?” Well my suggestion is in addition to discussing with your psychiatrist medication/therapy options, look into your daily diet and activities. From the article above, it is stated that the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study with results indicating that increased inflammation in the body may be linked with depression. Inflammation is when there is a response from the immune system. Many different immune cells can be activated during inflammation and they produce different substances, such as antibodies (there are different types).

We need the immune system to be active to fight viruses and bacteria, but what the authors of the paper are saying, is that chronic inflammation does not help us and is damaging instead, reducing chronic inflammation may reduce depressive symptoms. PsychologyToday author in the article recommends avoiding fried foods, soda, white bread and pastries, margarine, lard, and red meat. In general highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates are considered to be linked with inflammation. White bread, white rice, pizza pops, hot dogs, salami, cookies, etc. In general a lot of doctors advise to follow a Mediterranean diet, which means reducing red meat, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sweets. It includes eating the following:

  • whole grains/pseudograins (quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, buckwheat, etc.); it is suggested to eat them whole and not in form of grain flour
  • poultry – turkey and chicken
  • fish, especially fatty fish like salmon
  • eggs (I suggest trying quail eggs!)
  • vegetables
  • berries
  • olive oil instead of vegetable and seed oils
  • legumes (checked whether you have issues with high FODMAP foods)
  • nuts and seeds (try finding those that weren’t roasted in vegetable/seed oils, you can eat raw nuts)
  • dairy – if you have issues with cow milk, there is goat milk; there is also goat yougurt and you can make goat kefir
  • some fruits

Mediterannean diet plan

I think no matter what you were diagnosed – depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar, etc., a healthy diet is very important. It’s very important for anyone. Our brain is just an organ like all other organs and it needs proper nutrients and can also get damaged, like other organs, by chronic inflammation. At first I was very skeptical about the correlation between diet and my thoughts, but then as I started experimenting with changes in what I eat, I noticed that it does affect what I think. Sometimes I am really tempted to buy ice-cream or something like that, but I just remind myself that for me it’s not worth it, it can take me to a very dark place. I just have to accept that as someone with diabetes has to watch their carb intake, I also have to watch what I eat because of my chronic autoimmune condition. This is just how it is, I have to accept that it’s chronic, and that I can’t just go to the food court and buy whatever I want. I mostly bring food from home or I buy from places that list all of their ingredients, so that I can make sure it doesn’t have gluten, cow’s dairy, a lot of sugar, high FODMAP items, etc.

Yes, it’s not pleasant having to worry about the ingredients each time you eat, but the benefit for me was a change in my thought process, and I find that the most valuable. Our thoughts and emotions are what matters because that is our experience of life, so that is the number one thing that I want to change myself, I want to have a positive life experience.

 

Auditory Hallucinations Simulation

I hope technology will help us to simulate others’ experiences. This is especially needed in psychiatry. I often found myself lacking appropriate words to describe what I felt. My previous psychiatrist misdiagnosed me with schizophrenia. There is currently no lab test to verify whether someone does have schizophrenia, my diagnosis was based on a verbal consultation. I don’t know what people with schizophrenia experience so I can’t know whether my experiences were actually similar or not. Did we all feel this extreme fear in the same way or was ‘fear’ just a common word that we used but our experiences were actually different? I’m sure many people out there, like me, dream of a machine that would allow us to project our feelings onto someone else. We don’t have such an invention at the moment, but the first step is through the use of audio and video. I discovered an interesting representation of auditory hallucinations on YouTube, link below. I know that it doesn’t convey the emotions that a person could be experiencing along with the hallucinations, but it is a start in explaining how schizophrenia/psychosis can affect a person.

Auditory hallucinations – representation

It’s better to listen to this audio in headphones in order to get a better simulation of the surrounding sound. Put on your headphones and try to go through the whole length of the audio. It’s quite unpleasant. It’s nice to know that any second you can pause the video. With real psychosis unfortunately you don’t know when it’s going to end. Psychosis also is usually not just hearing voices that aren’t there, it’s thoughts and emotions – panic, fear, distrust. How can someone know that they are having a psychotic episode versus rational thoughts that are unpleasant? The line is not clear. Recently I had an episode at work during which I kind of heard my boyfriend’s voice inside my head saying that what I did was a ‘low level job’, ‘it was pointless’, that he wouldn’t do such a job, that I was wasting my life. Was that a psychotic episode caused by my immune system acting up or does everyone experience such moments? I would say it was closer to psychosis as it was similar to the audio representation – the voice was not part of my thoughts, it was inside my head, but I could not control it. This seems similar to what people with schizophrenia describe about auditory hallucinations, but then many people without schizophrenia also complain about inside negative ‘voices’. Perhaps by ‘inside voice’ in general people really mean thoughts, and these are more under their control, unlike the hallucinations.

Below is another video of schizophrenia simulation. As one comment states, “This is KINDA accurate but you can’t really recreate the feeling of panic and doubt and paranoia. During an episode you’re possessed by so many emotions that a video just can’t convey.”

Schizophrenia Simulation

What I experienced in the most acute stages of encephalitis also could not be portrayed well with just audio or video. What I experienced was primal fear. Imagine maybe being in an airplane, a long trans-Atlantic flight. You are going 900 kilometers per hour, ten thousand meters above the ocean. Suddenly there is severe turbulence. You’ve experienced turbulence before, but not of this magnitude. You hope it will cease soon, because the pilots know what they are doing, right? But it doesn’t, there is another fall through the air, you can feel it. Perhaps before the turbulence started you were reading a book, do you think you will be able to continue? Or you were talking to the person you are flying with about housing prices, will you be able to hold the conversation, or will you be overwhelmed with the primal fear? The fear that we experience when we are suddenly reminded of our mortality with an added rush of adrenaline. And not just our mortality, but also the mortality of people who for us make our world. That’s what acute encephalitis episodes were like for me. It was like constantly being in that passenger plane above the ocean in severe turbulence. And if that goes on for long enough, when the fear is constantly present, you may then actually start to wish for the situation to resolve in any way, as long as it resolves quickly. I mean that you may wish for the plane to just fall quickly, you no longer believe in safe arrival, but you just want to already escape the fear and the anticipation of pain.

Autoimmune Encephalitis vs. Schizophrenia

I don’t have schizophrenia so I can’t say that I experienced it, but I was misdiagnosed with it, therefore it’s possible that some of my experiences are similar to those of people with schizophrenia. Unfortunately autoimmune encephalitis is often  misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder. I spent a lot of time in the Understanding Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy Facebook group and after talking to the women there, the commont story that emerged was that most of them were initially referred to a psychiatrist and treated with antipsychotics/antidepressants/benzodiazepines. I say women because the group members are mostly female, probably over 90%. Autoimmune diseases affect women more often than men and this seems to hold true for autoimmune encephalitis. Schizophrenia on the other hand is more common among males.

I am not a schizophrenia expert, but since my psychiatrist assumed that I had it and I was treated for it, from experience I can say that schizophrenia is usually treated with antipsychotics such as risperidone and olanzapine. Psychotherapy can also be recommended but in addition to the antipsychotics, it would not be enough on its own usually. Autoimmune encephalitis does not improve with antipsychotics. AE is inflammation of the brain that is caused by the immune system and it required immune suppression such as IV steroids, IVIG or plasmapheresis. Many patients have to stay on oral immune suppressants such as prednisone or Cellcept. Some get regular Rituxan infusions. Some patients do take antidepressants or antipsychotics in addition to the immunosuppressant treatment, but the first step should really be suppressing the immune system.

Autoimmune encephalitis often does cause psychiatric symptoms such as intense fear, panic, paranoia, delusional thoughts and depression. All these symptoms could be present in patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is also much more common than autoimmune encephalitis, it affects about 1% of population. Since psychosis due to autoimmune reaction is quite rare, it’s reasonable for a psychiatrist to assume schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or psychotic depression. I do think though that if the psychosis is present along with physical symptoms, a blood test for autoimmune conditions should be performed as well. I don’t think schizophrenia is associated with facial swelling, lightheadedness, brain fog, extreme fatigue, etc. Autoimmune encephalitis on the other hand does cause all these physical symptoms and more severe ones as well such as seizures and going into a coma. Also I think that if a patient has tried different antipsychotics for several months and has not responded to them, it’s probably time to consider that there might be a different cause and perform further testing. My psychiatrist for some reason did not consider this. I was not aware of existence of autoimmune diseases, it was my mom who suggested specific blood tests.

BBC – Some psychosis cases an immune disorder

Further on, once I started reading more about causes of panic, anxiety, and mood swings, I bought a glucometer and decided to check my blood glucose. My fasting blood sugar was checked previously at the hospital and it was fine, but after performing my own measures, I noticed a problem. After specific meals that contained high glycemic index foods, my blood sugar could stay at higher than 11 mmol/L two hours after eating. Diabetes UK states that blood glucose over 8 mmol / L two hours after a meal is of concern. Later on I spoke about these results to a doctor and she said I may have hyperglycemia. I also noticed feeling psychologically worse when my blood sugar was high. My point here is that if you are not responding to antipsychotics, there are further things to investigate. There is autoimmune testing – high levels of thyroid antibodies could indicate Hashimoto’s encephalitis, there are also other types of autoimmune encephalitis with different antibodies (NMDA receptor encephalitis, for example). TSH, free T3, and free T4 is a standard test to check the thyroid function, hypo/hyper thyroidism can also cause psychosis. Diabetes/hyperglycemia can affect your mood. Usually fating blood sugar is checked, but I would also verify blood glucose levels two hours after a meal with high glycemic carboydrates.

Diabetes UK – Diabetes and Hyperglycemia