Category Archives: symptoms and conditions

Moronic assumptions about depression

I originally started down the alternative medicine path out of desperation for a cure for my decades-long, god-awful depression. (Here’s my April 2011 post about how I got rid of it over a period of two years with a diet change and by correcting nutritional deficiencies and thyroid and adrenal wackinesses.)

Adding to the burden of depression and mental illness is having to deal with the very large percentage of the population who cannot relate to experiences they haven’t had themselves.* Like feeling effing horrid all the time. So you learn not to tell anyone about it. For a year two friends and I wrote about our experiences with this and other frustrations of the illness on our (now-defunct) blog Blessed Depth. Here’s a list we compiled of assumptions about depression that tick us off. I’ve added one more at the end.

“Happiness is a choice.” Happiness is not the opposite of depression. The opposite of depression is Not. Being. Depressed. You can be non-depressed and still be miserable.

“Everyone has bad days.” …Which they know will end tomorrow or next week. Depression doesn’t end.

“You have to try harder” or “Nothing will be handed to you.” I had to work harder than a normal person will in his entire life just to get up in the morning, and I did it for years. We’re talking about completely different scales of effort.

“Lower your expectations.” Because you’ll be so much better off when you abandon your goals and accept your fate as a mere onlooker of real life, peasant!

“Count your blessings.” Kiss my ass.

“You don’t act/look depressed.”
Acting depressed is not socially rewarded, and social exclusion doesn’t help much of anything. And why should I have to act a certain way to meet your expectations? Shall we bring back sumptuary laws, too, so you can tell how much money I make based on the clothes I wear?

All your health problems are due to depression, even if you’ve recovered from it. This kills me. My mood has been relatively fine for years but I still suffer from insomnia, brain fog, and fatigue. Here I’m editing my original Blessed Depth entry: It’s been a long time since a doctor questioned my assertion that the depression is gone (I always tick it off on the medical history forms), but occasionally the few lay people who know of my history will insist that those symptoms are proof that I’m still depressed.

I have said this before and I will say it again: depression doesn’t CAUSE anything. It is a symptom that often occurs with a bunch of other symptoms.

Depression is a mysterious illness that can only be understood, evaluated and treated by trained professionals. This is bullshit. Doctors frequently know little more about depression than what they’re told by their pharma sales reps. By observing your reaction to your diet, your environment, stressors, season changes, etc., you can make some interesting correlations. Even a negative reaction to something is a clue. The problem, of course, is that when you’re really depressed, just tying your shoes is too tedious too bear, never mind performing any sort of long-term self-experiment whilst exercising strict adherence to the scientific method.

In fact this can be an insurmountable obstacle, which is why I’m all for prescription drugs — or whatever works — if they can get you to a better-functioning place.

*…although I suspect some of these people are depressed themselves but are too — sheltered? stupid? befogged? unworldly? brainwashed? — to know it.

Riboflavin supplements and eye floaters

Updated 10/11/16   

In my earlier post about my experience with eye floaters, I mentioned that hyaluronic acid (HA) deficiency seemed to be a promising theory as to the cause. I had found a CureZone thread discussing one of their members’ success with four months of HA supplements. Vitamin C, which unmistakably makes my eye floaters worse, can degrade HA, so the idea seemed worthwhile. I put off the experiment for the future, however, as I had enough to deal with. Although the floaters can be very annoying, I haven’t gotten horribly panicky about them because they’ve waxed and waned over the years, which led me to believe that in theory it is possible to get rid of them, if only I can figure out how.

Recently my floaters got worse again. I narrowed it down to riboflavin (vitamin B2) supplements. I found a discussion of this unfortunate tendency in an online floater forum called Floatertalk, where several members had experienced an increase in floaters after taking a multivitamin.

My first experiment was with the formulation mentioned in the CureZone thread, Injuv, which seems to be marketed for the treatment of stiff joints and dry, aging skin. Apparently the Injuv form, which is made by several brands, is more absorbable. I have no idea how much more effective it is than regular hyaluronic acid. I can’t remember what happened when I took it — I think I tried it for a few days, found it worsened my insomnia, and postponed the experiment again.

Since then I have tried at least two other brands of hyaluronic acid several times, including Country Life, I think, following the label dosage. I noticed a difference in the eye floaters and my vision in general in about two days, and after several days my neck and back were noticeably less stiff. And then it stopped me sleeping. Which is what happens with 80% of what I try.

The few food sources of hyaluronic acid I was able to find are items that few Americans eat much of, which might be one reason riboflavin has this side effect. I found a list of hyaluronic acid food sources on Sandy Simmons’ site, which also refers to an ABC News report on a group of Japanese villagers whose hyaluronic acid-rich diet keeps them looking fabulous into their 80s and 90s. The list is very short: animal bones, tendons, skin, ligaments; some Japanese starchy vegetables; and miso, which does not have hyaluronic acid itself but genistein, which enhances its production.

One of hyaluronic acid’s jobs is to increase water absorption, so it’s important to get enough water if you take these supplements. I found several accounts of people who attributed their eye floaters to periods of dehydration, and several people who found that hyaluronic acid made their floaters worse. I’m guessing that some imbalance of the two substances was involved.

Another thing that made my eye floaters worse was vitamin A supplements, possibly because it lowered my already-low levels of vitamin E, which plays a role in hydration, or so say all sorts of beauty product ads.

If you too suffer from these accursed things, I’d be interested in hearing what you’ve discovered makes them worse.

Hunting the mysterious origins of geographic tongue

by Kara

My experiences with geographic tongue (GT) started about ten years ago. GT is an unpleasant condition where patches of papillae are missing from the surface of the tongue and appear as smooth, red areas with slightly raised borders. The patterns of the lesions can change daily or hourly. It’s considered benign, but it can be painful, especially when eating acidic or abrasive foods, and is very unattractive. Because my GT makes me feel like my mouth is dirty all the time and that I have bad breath, I generally open my mouth less, am always covering my mouth or restricting myself when I laugh, and feel embarrassed to kiss my husband.

There seems to be no definitive understanding of what causes GT. When I ask doctors about it they don’t seem to take it seriously, so I’ve been doing research on my own. I’ve gathered bits and pieces of information from the internet and conversations with others and from monitoring my own condition. I have three theories as to the cause: 1) allergies, 2) vitamin B12 and/or zinc deficiency, or 3) post-nasal drip in general, either allergy related or caused by colds.

I developed GT in my early 30s, around the time I started developing my first allergies. We were living in an apartment in New York City that was situated right next to a garbage chute and had a bad roach problem. My husband was able to fill a small snack-bag with the roaches he had sprayed and killed. (He brought the bag down to the super, demanding they bring in an exterminator). Interestingly, my youngest daughter, who was about two, developed GT at the same exact time that I did. She also had dry patches of skin behind her knees and the inside of her elbows. I vaguely recall her doctor saying it was a form of eczema and that it was allergy related, but I can’t recall for sure. I once read somewhere that GT is similar to eczema in the way it manifests itself in changing patterns.

The coincidental timing of my GT and allergy onset and that of my daughter’s led me to believe that GT is an allergy symptom -– specifically, allergies which cause sinus congestion and post-nasal drip. I became further convinced of this when I came down with a bad sinus infection and my doctor prescribed antibiotics and Zyrtec. After taking these medications for a couple of days, I felt complete relief from my GT symptoms for the first time.

As the years progressed, however, my allergies worsened, and the Zyrtec did not seem to have the same effect. I eventually developed allergy-induced asthma and went to an allergist who told me that I have allergies to dust, roaches, cats and mold. I started going to her on a weekly basis and have been going to her for the past three years or so. My asthma is now under control, and I generally suffer less from my allergies. The geographic tongue improved noticeably with the allergy treatments, but did not resolve completely.

Because another woman I know with GT is also a vegetarian like me, I started wondering if the cause could be a vitamin B12 and/or zinc deficiency, developed as a result of my vegetarianism. My thinking was that the deficiencies were causing an imbalance in my immune system, but I’m not sure. I take B12 regularly now, but I don’t see any clear improvement. My next experiment will be to try taking zinc lozenges in addition to the B12, to test whether zinc might play a part in this.

When I get a sinus infection or regular cold that results in post-nasal drip, the GT comes back with a vengeance. This makes me wonder if it’s related not to allergies but to sinus issues in general. I don’t know. Do bacteria drip down my throat from my sinuses and trigger the GT?

My daughter’s GT seems to have gone almost completely away. Her tongue is as smooth and healthy as a baby’s, which I am thrilled about. She still does have occasional flare-ups of eczema, but I haven’t been taking note of whether her GT comes back during these times or not.

Kara is the post author, but in the comments below Marjorie’s avatar describes her as the post author. This is not correct but I don’t know how to change it. Apologies for the confusion. Kara is not actually responding to comments herself anymore because I don’t know something about raising two children while working full-time and studying for a PhD. Whatevah.

Associated conditions vs. symptoms

After coming across this egregious article about vitamin K deficiency on, I thought I’d point out the distinction between associated conditions and symptoms, if only for the chance to once again mock a content farm writer.

The author of the article purports to present, in true rat-a-tat internet style, a quintet of vitamin K deficiency symptoms. He begins with a general description of the bone problems vitamin K deficiency causes, then lists five bulleted examples that have nothing to do with bones. He refers to hemorrhage and bleeding problems as if they were separate things and includes Alzheimer’s as an example, although it’s not a bleeding disease. Blood clotting, which in itself is not objectionable, is also listed as a symptom because the author forgot the word “impaired.”

But enough of all that. Let’s focus on bullet point 5, which refers to calcium deposit symptoms in general and malabsorption, biliary obstruction, cystic fibrosis, and resection of the small intestine specifically. Never mind that none of those conditions has anything to do with calcium. What they do is lower vitamin K levels, directly or indirectly. The conditions come first, and somehow or another, somewhere down the line, vitamin K deficiency results. The conditions are not symptoms of the deficiency. The deficiency is a symptom of the conditions.

The deficiency might be ten steps down a chain of reactions from the condition, or the intervening steps might not even be known. That’s why the conditions are referred to as “associated” instead of “causative.” Gum disease, for example, recently became an associated condition for heart disease when researchers began to suspect that some migrating bacterial mischief was going on, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what.

The term “associated” is also used when two diseases or conditions or symptoms or disorders — however you want to look at it — frequently occur together without one clearly causing the other, and experts haven’t figured out the exact relationship between them. People with depression often have lousy digestion, and people with Tourette’s often have tics. In these cases the rather grim term “comorbid” is also used.

As if that mistake weren’t enough, the poor author also seems unaware that a small intestine resection is a surgical procedure. According to him, without enough vitamin K, you run the risk of waking up to find that a foot of your small bowel has been neatly removed.

Get thee behind me, methyl bromide

For anyone out there wondering to what extent the pesticide methyl bromide builds up in our bodies, I offer my recent bromide-detox experience after I switched to organic chocolate.

After seven months on iodine I still can’t seem to lower the dose below 100 mg a day without losing its benefits — mostly increased energy and concentration — which is getting a little tedious and expensive. In theory you shouldn’t need more than 15 mgs or so of it once you’ve corrected a deficiency. I found a few people on various forums who are experiencing the same thing and who suspect it’s because they haven’t removed all the bromide sources from their diets. The only one I had left was chocolate, so two weeks ago I switched to a brand of chocolate that isn’t sprayed with methyl bromide.

About bromides: they are chemicals used in baked goods, citrus drinks, fire retardants in mattresses, carpets, etc., and pesticides such as methyl bromide, which is used extensively on chocolate, among other crops. (The theobromine in chocolate is not a bromide.) In the 1970s, the US and other countries banned a type of sedative medication called bromides due to their potential to cause brain toxicity. For similar reasons, and because of its ozone-depleting properties, the pesticide is also being phased out around the world.

Bromides also displace iodine in the body (as do chlorine and flouride). When you take iodine, it in turn displaces the bromine and you feel lousy for a few days or weeks or months as it exits your body. It is thought that the symptoms associated with iodine toxicity are in fact these bromide detox symptoms.

When I started my iodine experiment I had already quit most bromide-containing foods and I figured that pesticide-sprayed chocolate wasn’t a significant enough source to bother with. It is possible that denial was also a factor in my attitude. As for environmental bromide sources, avoiding them is pretty hard. The “organic” mattresses I priced a few years ago, made without chemical fire retardants, started at $3,500.

The Sunspire organic chocolate I chose as a replacement has almost the same ingredients as my usual crank, minus some milk fat and whatever secret mind-control ingredient Nestle uses. After two days I started experiencing a mild version of the effects most people get when they start iodine, namely acne, constant headaches, a metallic taste, and a sore throat, plus a weird stomach stretching sensation that made me feel like a horse that got into something bad. I started drinking salt water a few times a day, which binds with the bromide and flushes it out faster. The symptoms were not as pronounced as they were when I first started iodine, but so far they have lasted three times longer.

Even more interesting is that on the second day of organic-only, my cravings were noticeably less. Other factors might be involved: I recently started shooting thiamine (vitamin B1), which is related to carb metabolism (more on that in a later post), and I also stepped up my protein intake a few weeks ago, which some say is linked to sugar cravings. But still, the timing was pretty suspicious.

Exercise idea for mental function when you’re energy-challenged

For all that the experts go on about exercise and mental function, walking, which is all I’ve been able to manage for a while, never does a thing for mine, no matter how winded I am when I finish. It turns out I need a different kind of exercise for that.

After I started taking the more bioavailable forms of folate and vitamin K, I would very occasionally have a day where I was unusually productive. Finally it occurred to me that the day before each I’m-a-genius day, I had spent 30 minutes vacuuming the upholstery with my hardcore HEPA-filtered anti-allergen handheld vacuum, which weighs 6.5 pounds. It’s a royal pain after about 10 minutes of use, but what it does for my sinuses is a miracle, so I deal with it.

Needless to say, I’m not about to vacuum every day. Instead I get out my 6-pound exercise ball and pretend to do free throws (without actually releasing the ball, obviously) for a few sets of however-many reps, then do it again every few hours. I increase the reps when it gets too easy.

Vacuuming definitely had not had that effect before the folate and vitamin K2. Deficiencies of the two cause anemia, which is associated with less-than-optimal brain function due to insufficient red blood cells, which are needed to move oxygen around. But apparently correcting that isn’t enough…you have to get the blood to the brain in the first place. And for me, walking doesn’t quite cut it.