Category Archives: nutritional therapy

All the pills I’ve loved before

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyHere’s a roundup of the vitamin and mineral supplements that have had the most dramatic effect on my various health annoyances. After the recent media exposure on the Target/Walgreens/GNC supplements debacle, allow me to reiterate that I operate on the theory that nutritional deficiencies are often behind health issues and that correcting the deficiency can correct the health issue. Unfortunately, with a very few exceptions — ferritin, vitamin D, B12 if you know what you’re doing, a few others — there is no way to test for deficiencies except to try a supplement and see what happens. The medical establishment would love to have you believe otherwise, but alas, it is not true. And we won’t even get into the problem of gauging what a normal test result is, even if the test measures the nutrient level accurately.

See also two earlier posts on deficiency symptoms and reactions, here and here.

Calcium/magnesium: Caused a reduction in anxiety I hadn’t even realized I had until it disappeared. Big improvement in sleep, too. Big improvement in, uh, eliminational motility.

Folic acid/folate/methylfolate: My second experience with nutritional therapy, if you exclude the Flintstones vitamins of my childhood. (The first was during my grandfather’s vitamin C kick in the early 80s.) My mother, who flew every week for work, had discovered it got rid of restless legs within 30 minutes. I used it for the same thing for years, then switched to folate/methylfolate shortly after starting this blog, I think. I’ve found that if 800 mcg of folate doesn’t get rid of it in 20 minutes, it’s probably a B12 issue. If that doesn’t work, it’s a calcium issue. If my entire body is restless — arms, too — I know it’s a B12 thing.

GABA: Turned off overactive mind at night. Also helped tinnitus. After a while, didn’t have to take it anymore.

Hyaluronic acid: Improves maddening eye floaters in a few days. Improves eyesight in general as well. Makes my skin look better and my neck a whole lot easier to swivel around while reversing out of parking spaces.

Lactoferrin: Cleared up my sinuses. I want to say that regular iron supplements did the same but took a lot longer and without as pronounced as effect. In other words, iron deficiency can screw up your sinuses.

Methionine: Normalized horrific periods at doses of about 3,000 mg a day. Also made me look about five years younger, probably by vacuuming out my crappy liver.

Vitamin B6: This was my second success and pretty much got me started on the nutritional therapy road. If you’ve never had carpal tunnel syndrome, you have no clue what anxiety this can cause when your career depends on keyboard use. Later, much higher doses of the P5P formulation of vitamin B6 put a dent in my sugar cravings, improved my sinuses, and ended years of increasingly itchy skin. However, that might be a methylation thing more than a B6-specific thing.

Vitamin C: Big doses — we’re talking 2,000 mg three times a day — lowered my histamine levels and radically improved my mental concentration. After several months I didn’t have to take it anymore. Made eye floaters worse, though.

Vitamin D: Increased my nightly sleep from three hours to 5 hours, if only for five months.

Vitamin K: Like methionine, it normalized the god-awful menorrhagia I’d had for 20 years. Commenters on a paleo blog somewhere — Mark’s Daily Apple? — alerted me to its use for what I guess you’d call TMJ pain. About once a month I get the feeling that my upper and lower palates are collapsing inward. Weird. Vitamin K gets rid of it.

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Image: Remix of 1952 Eames House of Cards by MRhea.

Tips on self-experimenting with nutritional therapy

  1. Don’t worry about proving anything to anyone. If you’re hoping to demonstrate to someone else the validity of nutritional therapy, or prove that your health complaints were not imagined, don’t bother. Save that time and energy and use it on yourself instead.
  2. Evaluate a trial not just on how you feel, but on what you find yourself doing. More than a few times when I assumed a new supplement regimen was having no effect, I later realized I had run twice the number of errands that week, or checked three-year-old items off my to-do list.
  3. Evaluate a trial based on how you feel when you stop a supplement, too. It’s valuable info. You might consider repeating the stop-and-start a few times.
  4. A bad reaction to a supplement is also good info. If vitamin B6 makes your fingers go numb, your vitamin B12 levels might be too low. If zinc makes your sinuses swell up, your vitamin B6 levels might be too low, etc.
  5. Remember that your deficiency symptoms might change over time. Low zinc levels might give you acne now, but next year it just might make you irritable.
  6. Heed that feeling that if you take one more supplement you’ll explode or go insane. It’s your body/brain/liver’s way of saying “enough.” Take a break. (Remember, you gain info from stopping a supplement, too.)
  7. Do what you can and don’t worry about it too much. This advice from one of my acupuncturists has served me well. If you find you can’t tolerate a lot of supplements, if you’re getting nowhere, or if you’re overwhelmed by all the conflicting info or frustrated by the lack of it, join the club. We’re all flying blind, really.
  8. Don’t feel pressured to self-track. By self-tracking I mean choosing a certain number of parameters — e.g., mood, suicidal to ecstatic, or hair loss, none to fistfuls — and assigning a value to each on every day of your experiment. (As distinguished from just writing down your observations so you don’t forget them.) If you don’t feel like doing it, don’t. Whether or not you can illustrate day-to-day progress with a line chart has no bearing on the validity of your experiment. If anyone gives you crap about this, tell them to go back to their Dungeons & Dragons game.

    Other reasons not to self-track:

    • If you have a longstanding, distressing health issue, it might be a psychological drain to focus on it every day. Writing down “15 minutes” on a sleep chart every morning for weeks will suck you dry.
    • If you’re experimenting to see what effects a supplement has, you won’t have parameters. What you discover might be completely unexpected.
    • In theory, self-tracking (aka quantified self) apps can be hacked and your data used against you by insurance companies and employers.

ANT - Nutritional therapy tips

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Image: still of John Barrymore in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” 1920. {{PD-1923}}. Found on the Internet Archive’s Silent Films site.

Nutritional therapy-based alcohol treatment center

A staffperson at Julia Ross’ Recovery Systems Clinic directed my attention to an alcohol treatment center in Minneapolis run by a woman with a “philosophy similar to Dr. Ross’.” The Health Recovery Center, run by Joan Mathews-Larson, addresses the nutritional deficiencies behind conditions that tend to drive people to self-medicate — depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, etc.

 

Nutritional therapy clinic programs for depression

A version of this post originally appeared on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyAn April 2011 Vogue article, “Bitter Pills,” mentions two U.S. clinics that focus on nutritional treatment for depression. (Read the article here.) The first is Recovery Systems Clinic in Mill Valley, California, which originally focused on treating drug addiction. I remember looking at it about 12 years ago when I was first starting my medical experiments to end my depression. I couldn’t afford the trip out there, though. The founder is psychologist Julia Ross, M.A., who is the author of The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure, both of which I have found helpful.

The other is the National Center for Whole Psychiatry in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The author of the Vogue article uses the words food and nutrients interchangeably, which is annoying, but who’s quibbling. I usually look askance at these types of articles because they end up touting the promise of some single, minor substance like blueberries or miso or cordyceps mushrooms, but here the author mentions many of the supplements/substances that I myself had the most success with.

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Image: Remix by MRhea of detail of Edgar Degas’ “The Absinthe Drinker,” 1876. {{PD-art}}.

Know any nutritional therapy-minded doctors?

If you have worked with any doctors or other type of practitioners who focus on nutritional therapy for health problems, please let me know in the comments or via email. I’d like to start a list.

It doesn’t matter where they are located. I’m still looking for one in Northeast Ohio. There was rumored to be one in Medina, but when I finally called to make an appointment, the receptionist said the last time they saw him his limp body was being loaded into a van bearing the Pfizer logo.

That was a joke.

If possible, in addition to the practitioners’ names and cities, please include what you were seeing them for, if you’re comfortable with that, and what types of tests they use. And whatever else you feel might be helpful.

Scientific American article series on self-experimenters

While investigating insomnia I came across this 2008 series of Scientific American articles on eight people who’ve been experimenting on themselves to investigate a variety of hypotheses. The subjects include a cybernetics professor who’s wired his nervous system to a computer, the playwright who made the movie “Super Size Me,” and a cardiologist who tried an obscure drug to stop his alcohol binging.

The fella after my own heart is Seth Roberts, who after ten years of experimenting, finally resolved his insomnia by moving breakfast back a few hours. He also curbed his overeating by ingesting several tablespoons of vegetable oil a day and as a result lost a significant amount of weight. Then he wrote a diet book about it and gained a significant amount of attention.

One expert’s response to it:

“Experimenters who test ideas on themselves may be biased to produce the result they expect to see,” says David Katz, an internist and associate professor adjunct at Yale School of Public Health.

…which jibes with my experience with the so-called expert (SCE) in Chronic Fatigue at the Cleveland Clinic. I had gone to check once and for all that I do not qualify for the diagnosis (I don’t, thank God) and when I mentioned that I had occasionally gotten tantalizing increases in energy from large doses of zinc, after years and years of trying everything, the SCE said it was in my mind: I wanted it to work and it did. When I pointed out that 80% of the things I tried didn’t work, he changed the subject. Then he offered me an antidepressant.

Roberts, a professor at UC Berkeley, has his own website where he’s posted the reports he wrote on his own experiments, should you happen to need a good example of scientific method usage.