Ten links for July 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month.

  1. Until the insomnia cooling cap hits the market, would this pillow work?
  2. Anxious? Stressed? Visit a therapy llama!
  3. Blogger Stefani Ruger on using Epsom baths and diet to manipulate calcium levels
  4. Searchable public database lists side effects of vaccines: medalerts.org
  5. Ecstasy pills OK’d for Vancouver PTSD treatment trial
  6. Blame bacteria if you start putting on weight
  7. How chicken feed led to the discovery of vitamins
  8. What mid-Victorians can teach us about nutrition and health
  9. Prickly pear offers new remedy for jet lag
  10. Magic mushrooms can erase fear in mice

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

And then there was the time vitamin B-complex drove me insane…

One of the first things you discover when you start investigating nutritional therapy is that vitamin B-complex formulations are badly designed. Never mind the dubious value of having most of the B vitamins in the same milligram amounts when no one can really say just what ratio they should ideally exist in. (Here’s a chart by Ronald Roth at Acu-cell.com illustrating the unbalancing effect that causes.) And never mind the fact that the majority of the complexes use forms of the vitamins that really don’t work well in people with stressed or overworked livers — cobalamin instead of methylcobalamin, folic acid instead of methylfolate, and pyridoxine instead of P5P (two types of vitamin B6). And what livers among us these days are not stressed and overworked?

The biggest problem with B-complex preparations is that to save on costs manufacturers seriously shortchange you on the more expensive biotin, vitamin B12, and folate. Typically only the US RDA amount is provided, which is pointless. 400 mcg of vitamin B12, only 3% of which is absorbed, will not do much for anyone.

If you rely on vitamin B-complex for a long period of time without taking additional B12, folate, and biotin supplements, you’ll eventually induce a deficiency of them. The extra, larger amounts of the other B vitamins, all of which work together and need each other to be processed, now have increased the need for that vitamin and you’re drawing on more of it than you were before you were taking the supplement. If you’re given a ton of one but too little of another, eventually those bigger doses will require too much of the lower doses.

I experienced this effect in a dramatic fashion when in an attempt to combat fatigue I decided to try 300 mg of vitamin B-complex a day, which is advocated in some circles as a fast way to get B vitamin levels up in situations where they are presumably very low — newly diagnosed celiacs for example, or recovering schizophrenics.

At the time, I was reading what someone had recommended as one of the best American detective novels ever, The Death of the Detective by Mark Smith. As it turned out, the book made the post-apocalyptic Children of Men look uplifting by comparison, and it didn’t even involve an apocalypse. As I read it, each menacing, creepy scene created stronger feelings of dread and anxiety. Paranoia carried over into my other activities — driving a car, walking around a store, etc. When I started shaking while reading one scene, it occurred to me that this probably wasn’t a normal reaction.

I figured the best culprit was the recent megadose experiment. I had taken extra vitamin B12 and biotin for a long time so I thought folic acid was probably the problem. I took 2 or 3 800 mcg methylfolate supplements and in about an hour was noticeably more relaxed.

I tossed the book without finishing it. Luckily for the author I couldn’t track him down. I was denied the satisfaction of sending him hate mail or hate tweets or some other social media hatefulness about his soul-sucking piece of crap.


Illustration: Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd., Paramount Pictures 1950. Remix by MRhea.

If you have insomnia and are interested in homeopathy

On an online discussion on insomnia I ran across a commenter who had combined homeopathy with the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the 24-hour organ Qi cycle — that is, the idea that each organ goes into maintenance mode at a certain time of day, and if the organ is in particular need of repair, the activity might affect your nervous system. The commenter used the homeopathic formulas that treat those organs corresponding with the hours she found herself awake.

Forgive me if this is a basic tenet of homeopathy that even newbie homeopaths know. I am almost completely clueless about the subject, although I can say that choosing formulations based on their descriptions on the package in the store never did diddly for me. For all that it is maligned in the press and even in alternative health circles, however, I’ve come across enough people who used it that I’m not going to nay-say it. Who cares why it works. If it works for you, it works.

Here are insomnia-related Qi cycle hours:

7-9 pm – pericardium
9-11 pm – Triple Burner. This is not actually a specific organ. The commenter used pineal gland and hypothalamus preparations for the 6-10 pm time.
11pm-1am – gallbladder
1-3 am – liver
3-5 am – lung
5-7 am- large intestine
7-9 am – stomach
9-11 am – spleen

Wake therapy for depression adnuther.com

Menorrhagia, meet methionine

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyAfter a disastrous niacin self experiment confirmed once and for all that my liver is a shadow of its former self, I experimented with a selection of OTC supplements frequently mentioned in discussion forums on liver damage. Glutathione did nothing as far as I could tell, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and alpha lipoic acid (ALA) do not agree with me, and I was already taking vitamin B6 in the form of P5P. Methionine was the only other supplement I could tolerate.

Within days the scariest of the liver symptoms had gone. After several weeks it became apparent that it also had a significant effect on my heavy periods. With 1500 mg of methionine, I had a manageable period, like a normal person’s — easier even than what vitamin K2 supplements did for me. Since I had recently taken truckloads of niacin, I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t the niacin that did it, so I stopped the methionine and voila, back to the old Maxi Curse.

The 1500 mg dose turned out to completely stop me sleeping, so I tried 1000 mg. Subsequent periods were indeed easier, although not as easy as on 1500 mg.

For more on my attempts to treat heavy menstrual bleeding, see my posts on Niagarrhagia and sea sponges.

Illustration: Detail of 1940s American Airlines travel poster by E. McKnight Kauffer.

Melatonin madness, continued

Soon after I wrote this post about my melatonin megadose experiment, I experienced one of those wacky sleep phenomena that seem to happen when you futz with the pineal gland, as SSRIs are famous for and melatonin does as well. I had a short, vivid dream that ended with someone shooting me in the head with a shotgun. Weird, but very common in these situations, as are dreams/experiences of alien abduction, sleep paralysis, and a buzzing or exploding head.

Other effects that continued for months after stopping the melatonin were not as dramatic but a lot more entertaining. Dozing off while reading a book at night, in those 30 or so seconds when I was half asleep, I’d have a dream in which some factor of human existence of which I’d been hitherto ignorant was made suddenly clear to me with the force of revelation. I would then snap back awake.

Usually I could not remember the details. The ones I do remember explained such burning existential questions as why men in Louis XIV’s court at Versailles wore high heels (to protect their feet from sewage in the halls), why five years seems to be the limit for a good TV show (the writer buys a too-expensive new house and anxiety about the mortgage ruins his mental state), and why the Maya disappeared (they got bored and wandered off). As revelations go, it’s not exactly start-your-own-religious-following caliber, but I appreciated the distraction.

Is this a type of lucid dreaming? I’m a bit vague on the definition. (It’s referred to as hypnagogia. Now I know.) Go to erowid.org if you want more info on how to make common OTC supplements work for you in mind-altering ways.

ANT - Louis XIV

Illustration: detail from painting of Louix XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701. {{PD-art}}

Twenty links for June 2013

Here’s a selection of articles I’ve tweeted/facebooked/google-plussed about this month.

  1. If someone asks you for a double-blind study proving that vitamin XYZ works…
  2. 97 percent of UK doctors have given placebos to patients at least once
  3. Yes, you can be overweight and malnourished
  4. World’s first clinical trial supports use of kava to treat anxiety
  5. Your gut flora might determine whether or not you develop celiac disease
  6. Seth Roberts on how to encourage personal science (AKA self-experimentation)
  7. Magnetic pulses now used in Britain to treat depression
  8. Rosemary aroma may help you remember to do things
  9. Sun exposure benefits may outweigh risks
  10. The quality of your health insurance has little effect on your health
  11. Infographic: Why you still feel like crap: the vicious cycle of drugs and side effects
  12. Flawed papers appear regularly in science journals, says biotech research expert
  13. China report on human rights in US points out deaths due to lack of health coverage
  14. Giving up reading the news will make you happier!
  15. JAMA study on why US adults use supplements
  16. Healthkeep.com, a social network for health issues
  17. Modest changes in miltary dining facilities promoted healthier eating
  18. Hands-on treatment improves chronic low back pain, reduces medication use
  19. PepsiCo to halt use of bromides in Gatorade
  20. Brain cancer patient asks online world for input into cancer treatment