Category Archives: symptoms and conditions

Another weird deficiency symptom: oversensitive hearing

Over the past 10 years I’ve discovered that when my magnesium gets really low I develop an annoying sensitivity to noise. It took me a few years to put it together after the first time it happened. In that case it eventually resolved by itself, but not before I spent several months plotting the demise of an upstairs neighbor.

During my last attempts to improve my vitamin D3 status with 15,000 IU a day, I experienced it again. Vitamin D supplements in big enough doses can affect your levels of the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and for me, vitamin K. And probably something else I’m forgetting at the moment. After a few weeks at this dose, the sensitivity to noise seemed to spring up in a matter of hours. I could suddenly hear the downstairs neighbor open and close her front door and all her other doors, too. I could also hear every other apartment door on my floor. Usually I only notice those sounds when a new tenant with bad door habits has just moved in.

(Speaking of which, if you are a parent who has allowed a child to go out into the world without knowing how to properly close a two-inch thick, solid wood door, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat the following: “I am a horrible person. Ebola is too good for me.”)

Luckily, this was an easy fix. After two days on maybe 800 mg of magnesium, the problem disappeared. One good thing about magnesium is that you don’t have to worry too much about how much to take. Unless you have a major heart problem, all you risk is the complete loss of your dignity should you overshoot the dose and not get to the bathroom in time.

Oddly enough, I first got wise to the idea that sensitivity to noise was a deficiency thing from a couple of novels. In one of Patrick O’Brian’s Capt. Aubrey books, the ship’s surgeon, treating either a scurvy or syphilis patient, refers to the painfully acute hearing of the terminally ill. Later I came across a novel set in Egypt, probably by Arundhati Roy but don’t quote me, in which the narrator refers to the extremely sensitive hearing of the very old or infirm. By that point I had learned that nutrients are depleted in illness and old age, so I figured that must be the problem.

Sandy Simmons has a page on her Connective Tissue Disorder site about her family’s experiences with hearing problems and nutritional deficiencies.

Things that still mess up my mood

August 13, 2017: My theories on this subject have changed. Until I can get my act together to update this content, please see this post.

This was adapted from a post on my older blog, Blessed Depth.

I’ve written elsewhere about how I threw off the yoke of my decades-long depression about 15 years ago, but a few things still trip me up. Some are culprits familiar to most sufferers, but some were a bit of a surprise.

Insufficient calorie intake. If I undereat for more than two days in a row, my mood will fall. A day of normal eating corrects it.

Vicodin. I don’t know what I’ll do if, heaven forfend, I’m ever in a long-term pain management situation, because even a modest dose makes me feel lousy the next day. Demerol, however, is lovely.

Dehydration. This happened twice, both times during the summer in my un-air-conditioned sweatbox of an apartment. I finally realized the extent of my cluelessness when my laptop coughed, flashed a blue OVERHEATED message, and died.

Large amounts of antagonists to zinc, B vitamins, or magnesium. If I take a whole lot of something that competes with one of these nutrients — for example, my experiments with intravenous thiamine — I’ll have to take supporting supplements to keep my mood from falling. (Another sign that my B vitamin status is suffering: I start dropping things a lot. Weird but true.)

The wrong contact lens prescription. I once spent about a week in lenses that were, say, five percent too weak and became increasingly unsettled until one night at a pub I discovered I was almost despairing at not being able to see the other pub-goers’ faces clearly. I’ve met plenty of people whose eyesight, corrected or not, is worse than mine, so maybe it’s not the exact 20/20 that’s important but that the prescription is what you’re accustomed to.

Watching television. I stopped watching TV in college, because most of it sucked and the moronic commercials drove me nuts. Fifteen years later, I turned the TV on out of boredom while housesitting and felt miserable the next day. Further experiments indicated that content or time of day were not factors, and that the effect was noticeable after about 25 minutes of watching. A poll of my friends revealed two people who had similar reactions, although they reported anxiety, jitteriness and spaciness, not low mood.

Weirdly, watching the same content on DVD, even for six hours at a time, had no effect. From this I logically concluded that either the commercials themselves, or broadcast television’s specific wavelengths, inject some sort of mind-control energy into our brains, which would jibe with my theories about Disney movies and Kit Kat bars. Eventually I did some more formal research, but the studies I found linking TV watching and depression focused on program content, physical inactivity, or the disruption of our circadian rhythms from the bright screen as causes. That didn’t explain my DVD immunity.

I had more luck finding corroborating studies when I looked at it as a multi-tasking issue, and the commercials as repeated distractions. Perhaps my brain can only be interrupted so many times.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It took me a while to figure this out because in high school in the Midwest my mood was such a constant disaster that I couldn’t discern any patterns in it — like sticking your head in a tornado funnel that’s just sucked up your subdivision and trying to spot your house — and after graduation I went straight to Southern California. Back in the Midwest years later, I thought I’d ironed out the whole depression thing, but the first winter knocked my mood back about 50%. I also ate everything in sight, lay awake all night, and was a zombie all day. I got myself a lightbox, which back then looked like a piece of airport runway equipment, and after a week was back to normal. (A few years ago, though, I noticed that light therapy no longer works if I do it after 8 a.m., whereas for years it worked as long as I did it by 9 a.m.)

The alkaline diet, colds, and cravings

A few months ago I came down with a cold that had the bizarre feature of getting noticeably worse overnight, as if a troop carrier’s worth of viral reinforcements had rolled in and disembarked. It was actually kind of scary. This monster was worse than the so-called Russian flu that went around Los Angeles in the mid-90s, which I caught three times in six months.

After reading Nancy’s post on how she solved her gallstone problems by changing to an alkaline-forming diet, I had found a lot of online anecdotal experiences from people who used baking soda (which is very alkaline-forming) to head off colds and flus. After seven days of this Cold From Hell, I started mainlining baking soda — 1/2 tsp every few hours. After four hours I was significantly better and 18 hours later the cold was almost gone. Even weirder, the insane chocolate cravings I’ve had ever since I can remember were down about 75 percent.

A few weeks before I had also started taking vitamin B2 and selenium, so that obviously had to be taken into account. If I lowered the baking soda to 1/4 tsp twice a day, or stopped the selenium and vitamin B2, the cravings came back. From this I concluded that:

1. My body is too acidic — duh. It’s not uncommon for celiacs, sugar abusers, or Standard American Dieters. Theoretically a too-acidic environment makes it harder for the body to fight off invaders or absorb nutrients.

2. My cravings for chocolate, which is very alkaline-forming, are in part my body’s attempt to balance that acidity. Even though the dark chocolate is wrapped up in sugar, I guess my body can register just enough of chocolate’s individual super-alkalinity to want more of it. (Why I don’t crave celery, also very alkaline, I don’t know.) This would explain why I prefer less sugary chocolate and have no interest in ice cream or anything sweet that is not mostly chocolate. Except the occasional Pepsi.

3. The more alkaline environment made the selenium and vitamin B2 work a lot better. I’ve suspected for a while that part of the chocolate cravings thing is that my body can’t produce enough glucose, which fuels your brain. Vitamin B2 helps with glucose metabolism, which is needed for oxygen transport. Selenium might or might not help with glucose metabolism (some say yes, some say no) but it does help with oxygen transport and energy production.

Supporting #2 is that according to alkaline diet experts, the body becomes more acidic as you sleep, and I unfailingly want to eat chocolate in the a.m., as disgusting as that sounds. During this alkaline experiment, when I ate chocolate at that time of day I would feel sick like a normal person. Eventually I didn’t bother trying and went straight for the cantaloupe (also alkaline-forming). Some weird retraining of taste going on there.

I also discovered that if I cut dairy (acid-forming) from my diet, the cravings almost disappeared. If I fell off the wagon with soda pop or dairy, the cravings came back. This observation made me wonder about what the ladies at Keeping the Pounds Off have said about dairy triggering food cravings for them. (Their cravings are much more severe and seem to include all foods). I’d never eaten a lot of dairy before — just yogurt and whatever is in chocolate — and I never noticed a correlation before this experiment.

The more alkaline diet did not seem to do anything for my semi-monthly desire to drink Pepsi and eat half a bag of gluten-free cheese curls.

Unfortunately, I was not able to continue with the experiment. Possibly because of the very acidic red meat I refused to stop eating, it took nothing less than 1/2 tsp twice a day of baking soda to see an effect, and after several weeks this was clearly too much for my digestive system. (Be warned that the sodium in baking soda can affect levels of other minerals in your body.)

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.