ORGANIC CONDITIONS THAT ARE COMMONLY MISDIAGNOSED AS MENTAL DISEASE
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DR. HYLA CASS
People with hypoglycemia are often treated as though they have simple depression and anxiety and are put on anti-anxiety agents such as Valium or Xanax. If they are extremely depressed as well as anxious, they are put on antidepressants such as Prozac. I've had people come to me on medication that wanted to go off of it. It turned out that they were hypoglycemic.
You can replace antidepressants with amino acids, minerals, and cofactors, vitamins for amino acid metabolism. When depressed patients come to see me who are also hypoglycemic, I put them on a hypoglycemic diet, which is approximately six small meals a day. Also, I have them take chromium for balancing blood sugar. I also gave them magnesium, glutamine, and tyrosine. Tyrosine is an excellent natural antidepressant. It's a precursor to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is one of the brain chemicals that helps us feel good.
DR. LEANDER ELLIS
Hypoglycemia is a phenomenon that can be triggered by allergy, infection, exhaustion, or huge amounts of sugar that encourage the growth of yeast in the intestinal tract, which then, in turn, gives rise to some allergic effects and a variety of other subtle effects. I see hypoglycemia as a symptom of a larger problem, rather than as a disease. Most of the time there are other important causes to account for the roller-coastering of the blood-sugar levels. The most common one is probably candida, yeast. The next most likely cause is food allergy. Often, a person is not only gorging on sugar, but is allergic to sugar, is not only gorging on chocolate, but is allergic to chocolate. So you get a curious combination of candida, yeast mold, fungus allergy, and allergy to foods. You usually have to control these several elements, as well as to get adequate nutritional support, in order to quiet these symptoms down.
Candida is a major factor in hypoglycemia, depression, and chronic fatigue that the medical profession has continued to ignore, despite the research. The major reason is that medicine is taught by prestige suggestion, meaning a doctor needs someone he or she trusts to tell him what is important. Unfortunately, the people that we have the most contact with after we leave medical school are drug company representatives. And so until a learned professor at an Ivy League medical school says that candida is a problem, it doesn't exist.
DR. WARREN LEVIN
Hypoglycemia is a basic problem that is frequently stress-induced. When people take a large dose of sugar into the body (and one cola drink contains more sugar than the entire bloodstream), the level of sugar in the body goes way up. Now, the body's entire commitment is to maintain balance or equilibrium; the technical word is homeostasis. The body produces a basic hormone called insulin that is supposed to take the sugar from the blood and deliver it into the cells, and when the sugar goes up very rapidly the body reacts excessively, resulting in too much sugar being driven out of the blood, and that produces low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. The body then has to correct the balance again, and it can be an emergency. If the blood sugar goes too high, it is not an emergency; the body can tolerate it. But the brain requires a certain level of blood sugar to function, so when the blood sugar starts plummeting--and it can sometimes drop at a frightening rate--the body calls forth its emergency hormone, adrenaline.
Adrenaline was designed to protect us against the saber-toothed tigers. It mobilizes all sorts of bodily functions. One of the things it does is to dump sugar from the liver into the blood very rapidly. However, adrenline also causes what we call the fight-or-flight reaction, associated with the state of fear. We get a rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, sweating, fear, and a sense of impending doom.
Now, suppose someone has an ice cream sundae and a few hours later he sits down to read the funny papers and all of a sudden he gets this terrible reaction. He goes to the doctor and says that he was just sitting there, reading the paper, when, all of a sudden, he got sweaty and his heart started pounding. The doctor tells him that it is all in his head and that he has a Prozac deficiency, and with this Prozac prescription he will be fine. We have to stop thinking that way. Headaches are not a Darvon deficiency, depression is not a deficiency of Elavil, and until doctors realize that the body's biochemistry is an exquisite balancing act, and start treating it with great respect, we are in a lot of trouble. Hypoglycemia is not a disease; it is a symptom requiring a search for an underlying cause.
WILLIAM: A PATIENT OF DR. ALAN SPREEN
I had been seeing a psychiatrist for depression and was on medication--and still am. I noticed that while the medicine took care of certain symptoms, it seemed to have no effect on an enormous number of them. I used to be a body-builder back in the early 1980s, so I had some experience with nutrition. I went to see Dr. Spreen because I noticed that my hypoglycemia was acting up; I noticed a direct correlation between what I ate and how I felt. When I went to see him, I was complaining of really severe panic disorders, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating. I went from having an excellent memory to no memory at all. Also I had such fatigue it felt like I was walking in Jell-O all the time. I'd sleep 12 hours a day and get up with no energy at all after sleeping. I'd be tired the whole day.
The first thing Dr. Spreen did was to give me injections of B12. Immediately I noticed a difference. As soon as I'd walk into the gym to work out, my energy was there. In the morning I felt really good. But I was still plagued sometimes by panic attacks. So he put me on a high dose of tyrosine, which is one of the free-form amino acids. I took up to seven grams a day and noticed a real strong response. Tyrosine is also related to the thyroid because one of the products the thyroid needs for normal functioning is tyrosine. He also put me on a low dosage of thyroid, a quarter grain a day. I took that and noticed immediate results. With that and the tyrosine, I felt like a new person.
This experience showed me that even though a doctor may be treating you for depression, he might be missing the things that might lead up to the depression or that might go hand in hand with it. Many books that I've read--in particular, Carlton Frederick's New Low Blood Sugar and You--say that when there is any mental disorder present, hypoglycemia is going to be right there along with it. But the medical community doesn't accept that hypoglycemia is as predominant as some nutritionists say it is because the doctors are thinking about the organic forms, which are much rarer. But with the diet that we are eating nowadays, which is high in carbohydrates and low in basically everything good for you, hypoglycemia is manifesting itself in great numbers.
As a child, I ate a diet that was full of carbohydrates--all sorts of sweets and sugars--and had a lot of the symptoms that are associated with hypoglycemia: I was hyperactive and had asthma. You see, hypoglycemia can trigger asthma attacks. Since I've started working out and watching my diet, the asthma has gone away.
For the panic attacks, Dr. Spreen suggested vitamin C. I took vitamin C powder, which is ascorbic acid, in the morning. I probably took 15 to 20 grams a day. It was almost like taking a sedative. It calmed me right down. My thought patterns straightened out; I was calm; and I wasn't as irritable and fidgety as I had been. I balanced out the rest of my nutrients with a mineral supplement and a good vitamin supplement high in the B spectrum. I take an additional B complex with pantothenic acid on the side because Dr. Spreen thinks that most people don't have enough B vitamins in the diet. I'm inclined to agree with him, since I've followed his advice and noticed an enormous positive response.
DR. RAY WUNDERLICH
A very high percentage of the people I see who are depressed also have imbalances like an overgrowth of candida. It is like thyroid disease. If you took all the women in my practice, from 70 to 75 percent of them would have thyroid disease, and an even higher percentage would have some form of candida, which is yeast overgrowth.
A good example is a TV reporter I saw this morning. After coming in to film a segment in the office, she got personally interested in what I do. She is 40 years old. We did a mineral analysis on her and found that she is deficient in five nutrient minerals. She is a perfectly normal, functioning individual of 40 years of age. But when you examine her carefully, it turns out that she has recurrent vaginal yeast infections, some bloating, some gas and indigestion, and she has taken antibiotics: a classic profile of a candida patient, which is all too common. In a place like Florida, where it is so humid and molds and yeasts grow so readily, it is almost an epidemic.
DR. WALT STOLL
The immune system sees the world in black and white. Something entering your body that it comes in contact with is either you or it is not you. If it is you, the immune system is not supposed to attack, and if not you, then it is supposed to attack. One of the things that your digestive tract does is to break down things from the environment into particles small enough for you to absorb without alerting your immune system that they came from somewhere else besides you. But if, for example, your gut is not doing the job perfectly, and it leaks a particle of protein (a peptide) that is large enough to alert the immune system, in your joints, muscles, or ligaments, for instance, then your immune system can't tell the difference between the protein particle from outside and the one in your tissues, so it attacks both. Let's imagine that every time you have corn, for example, you don't break it down perfectly and one of those peptides leaks out of your intestine. Your body attacks the corn peptide, but it's also attacking the peptide in your muscle, ligament, and joint (that is identical to the corn peptide). And we feel that as arthritis, tendonitis, or other conditions.
If you stop the process, the immune system settles down in 3-1/2 days, and you begin showing improvement. The first example I heard of was about 10 years ago. If you took someone with rheumatoid arthritis or took a group of these patients and put them on a fast, 75 percent of them would improve within a week. You can't keep someone on a water fast forever, of course; but here is a dramatic illustration of the fact that there is another cause that we could work with. We don't necessarily have to be stuck with gold shots, cortisone, and a crippling future.
There are a number of things that make the gut more permeable to peptides. Stress is one of them. We know not to go swimming right after we eat, because there is not enough blood supply in the body to adequately supply both the intestinal tract and the muscles. When your blood supply is concentrated in your intestinal tract trying to digest your meal, if you try to go for a vigorous swim, you can't get enough blood in the muscles, resulting in cramps and, possibly, drowning. When you are chronically stressed--and most stresses are not psychological but environmental--your body deals with it with a fight-or-flight response, which makes your muscles get a little more chronically tight and active. Your body concentrates more blood supply into the fight-or-flight area and then takes away the blood supply from the intestinal tract. The intestinal lining replaces itself on the average of about every 14 hours, so it requires a heavy blood supply. If you are chronically stressed for long enough, eventually the intestinal lining functions less normally, which of course produces other imbalances. The normal bacteria that are supposed to grow sometimes get out of balance and allow candida to move in and flourish. This damages the lining further and so things leak even more.
I've been doing this kind of medicine for 15 years and in my experience this syndrome is the main cause of brain fatigue, or "brain fag," as it is called. By the time I see most of my patients, they have had everything else tried unsuccessfully on them and a large percentage of them have this syndrome as their basic cause. If the patient is willing to follow directions, within a few weeks they already see enough improvement so that they know they are doing the right thing. Within a few months, they've usually improved enough so that they can handle it for themselves.
My procedure is to first collect all the medical records that the person has accumulated up to that time, so I don't have to repeat any tests that have already been done. If some things have obviously been missed, then I try to fill in the gaps. There are labs around the country that do a pretty good job of looking for parasites, candidiasis, low magnesium, and other disorders that are either not done or done poorly by conventional labs. I look at the entire chronological history of the patient for a couple of weeks before their appointment and try to think of anything that might have influenced their health that might show a pattern of change over time. Then we have the regular data bases that we use in conventional medicine to look for other kinds of patterns and have them keep a record of their usual diet and anything special that they ingest for a week or so. Then I put all those pieces together with a general physical exam and see if the pattern suggests some of these other causes.
Finally, when I get a picture and it's pretty obvious what is happening, I educate the patient sufficiently so that he or she is willing to try the therapy. I tell them to do it very carefully so we are sure that if they don't get well it is because we are wrong and not because they didn't do it right. Generally I can predict within a few days how long it is going to take for the person to start feeling better. I have them keep a record of their symptoms so that they can watch their own progress and improvement. As you get better, frequently you forget how badly you were feeling before. Unless someone lives with a patient, it's hard to assess exactly where you are as a patient begins to improve.
The treatment depends upon the cause, of course. If the person has candidiasis, then it is relatively simple and straightforward to treat. A strict diet is necessary for a while. I will probably have to give them some digestive enzymes to correct the poor protein metabolism, until they can do some relaxation techniques to get the blood supply back to the intestinal tract, which usually takes from three to six months. If it's candida, I usually use some Nystatin, a prescription anti-fungal agent, to try to directly attack the candida problem. If the person hadn't been absorbing things too well for a while I might use some concentrated nutrients with antioxidants to try to replenish the body with what it needs to repair itself and improve its own immune function.
ELLEN: A PATIENT OF DR. STOLL
I have suffered from chronic candidiasis since I was about 13. We think it might have been linked to my taking massive doses of sulfa drugs for kidney problems when I was younger. I can't remember a time since I was 13--and I'm 31 now--when I didn't have a yeast infection. There may have been two- and three-week periods when I wasn't suffering from symptoms, but I always, to some extent, had a very severe yeast infection. I went to conventional doctors and they gave me the typical vaginal and topical cremes, and basically patted my hand and told me to come back and see them in two weeks. It seemed to help during the time that I used it, but invariably the infection came back, often twice as bad after I stopped the treatment. So after a while, I simply avoided going to see any physician and just lived with it, unless my symptoms got so severe that I just had to go see someone.
Eventually, I went for a Pap smear and a nurse practitioner suggested that I read a book called The Yeast Syndrome. It wasn't until I read the book and got Dr. Stoll's name out of it that I even connected my physical ailments with my mental health. I had always been moody and prone to periods of depression and there was a history of depression in my family. I never needed to be hospitalized, but I felt that some of these bouts, especially during my adolescent and college years, were extremely severe. I suffered mood swings and would have described myself as having a very volatile personality. But after going to Dr. Stoll, who started me on oral Nystatin, changed my diet, and used various supplements to correct my nutritional and physiological deficiencies, within about 60 days I felt like a totally different person. In fact, my husband commented that it was like being married to a different person. In hindsight, I can see that as my candidiasis symptoms were eradicated, my mental symptoms disappeared. So I use mental symptoms now as a red flag. If I start seeing personality changes within myself, I take a look at what I've been eating lately and how I've been feeling, and make some changes there. Then I seem to get back on track.
I have learned that conventional treatments that just treat the symptoms are not going to help you. You have to look for the root cause of your ailments. There is help out there to be found. You simply have to find someone like Dr. Stoll who knows how to treat your illness, comply with their recommendations, and you will get better.
CYNTHIA: A PATIENT OF DR. STOLL
Ever since I began modeling in New York about 15 years ago, I've had tremendous difficulty with depression and also with hypoglycemia, which was then a very fashionable disease. I was constantly on a diet and constantly in doctors' offices for yeast infections and digestive and stomach problems. I visited a lot of doctors who would tell me it was all in my head and send me to psychiatrists. I spent the better part of 20 years going from doctor to doctor for various things, having my husband tell me that I was a hypochondriac and feeling like one, and also working things out in therapy trying everything that I could until I went to Dr. Stoll.
In the beginning, Dr. Stoll didn't find out that I had candida. Part of working with Dr. Stoll is learning to take responsibility for your own health, and that was a big switch in my life. Part of my health that was causing me a big problem was dental, so I went and had a lot of dental surgery done and came back to Dr. Stoll sicker than I have ever been in my life, with tremendously severe headaches. I felt as if someone was banging a steel hammer inside my head. And I was angry, even though I had been working with feelings in therapy. So I wasn't afraid of expressing my feelings, which was good, but I felt angry all the time. Dr. Stoll had me do a stool test, and it came out that I had an abundance of candida. At the time, Dr. Stoll explained to me that when you do dental work, research has shown it will exacerbate candida. In its way, this problem was a gift to me because in the past, I had only half-believed that I had candida. I didn't make a commitment to getting better. This time, within two months after taking Nystatin and vitamins, and doing aerobics, and going to an emotional therapist to make sure that I got everything worked out, I was a different person.
I felt so totally different, that it gave me the vantage point to look back over the previous 20 years of my life and say, "Oh, if only I had known all of this then, I wouldn't have done all of that." I had spent my life running down the wrong roads. And it was such a relief because it allowed me to really begin to live. Now I have my little ritual. I take my vitamins and do my aerobics, and make sure that I keep my house environmentally clean of gases and pollutants that exacerbate the condition. The change in how I felt was like going from 2 percent to 98 percent well. It was so dramatic.
NANCY: A PATIENT OF DR. STOLL
My youngest child was born with a lot of health problems--nothing life-threatening, but he was just sick all the time. He lived on antibiotics from the day he was born until he was about five years old. He cried all the time and never slept. Most people don't think of an infant as being depressed, but when a baby cries all the time, you could say he was depressed, or in an anxious state, or in a state of pain. It was certainly very stressful for the both of us. As it turned out, most of his problems were allergy-related. He had ear infections, bronchitis, very severe eczema, and his digestive tract had become very permeable.
Within a month after I had taken my son to Dr. Stoll, and we had begun replacing his intestinal lining through treating his candidiasis and watching his diet, I began seeing some improvement. Six months later, he was a totally different child. We were a totally different family.
At that point, I recommended that my mother-in-law go see Dr. Stoll as well, because my child had inherited all these allergy problems from my mother-in-law. She had severe asthma and emphysema, as well as a multitude of other problems. She had gotten to the point where she was extremely depressed because she thought that she was dying. I think that had I not gotten her to Dr. Stoll, her life would have ended years before it did. She was so sick that she would crawl out of bed in the morning to a chair, and just wheeze and cough all day long in that same chair. She could do no housework, she no longer had a driver's license, and she didn't go anywhere. She spent more time in the hospital than she did at home anyway. This would depress anyone.
So I took my mother-in-law to Dr. Stoll and within a month or two, she started showing tremendous improvement. Within about four to five months, she was a totally different person. It literally turned her life around. She took the driver's test and got her driver's license again. She bought herself a car and became very active among senior citizens. The depression was gone. This lady just turned around. She had a totally different personality. She had been on 13 different drugs at the time that I took her to Dr. Stoll, for a multitude of problems, and he probably got her off three-fourths of them. Her attitude changed tremendously, as did my youngest child's.
BOB: A PATIENT OF DR. STOLL
I had been sick for 25 years and was just slowly getting worse. At my worst, I passed out and wrecked my car. It was really hard to work and I was getting very depressed. I went to the local doctors, the local hospital, and even tried five days at the Mayo Clinic. They sent me back with sleeping pills and tranquilizers, and told me that it was all in my head. Finally I went to Dr. Stoll, who was the tenth doctor I'd seen. He read over my history in about five minutes and said, "Well, I can almost guarantee you that I know what is wrong with you." He sent off a stool sample, which is an $80 lab test. When it came back, it confirmed his diagnosis. I had candida and giardia, little parasites eating holes in me. I went through this whole process of changing my diet and treating the candida and giardia and in about three months, I got better. I thought I was cured so I started eating the same old junk, and got sick again. I did that about twice. So it really took me about a year to get totally cured. But now it has been about two years and I am completely cured, thanks to Dr. Stoll.
No words can describe the joy of living in a healthy body after being sick for a long time. It had gotten so bad that I had decided to commit suicide. My wife wouldn't leave me and I was dragging her down. I was borrowing money from my family just to keep going and the Mayo Clinic had said that it was all in my head. I had no reason to think that I was ever going to get better and I was continually getting worse. So I decided to commit suicide. And I remembered when I was a kid that our dad always told us, "Kids, if you ever want to commit suicide, that is okay, but there is only one acceptable method. And that is starvation." So I said to myself, "Fine, all I have to do is stop eating for about three months and I will be dead. That sounds real good to me." So I did. I stopped eating, and of course after about two days of not eating my symptoms went away. At the time I didn't realize that it was the food that I was eating that was contributing to my being so sick and depressed. So I got to feeling better and started eating again, and got sick again. To people out there who are really, really depressed and have decided to just chuck it all in, I say, starvation is the only way to commit suicide because you may find that if you stop eating, your symptoms may go away. Plus you've got plenty of time to reconsider.
I can now eat almost anything except sugar--meaning sucrose--honey, and potatoes. I can eat fructose, corn syrup, and any other forms of sugar. When I was at the Mayo Clinic, we went through five days of tests and at the end of it I had a list of possibilities. One of those possibilities was food allergies. And I said, "I'm here, you have this nice big laboratory, why don't you test me for food allergies?" The internist, who acted like the director of the show, got mad. He said, "You don't have food allergies, and I'm not going to test you for it." So that's the kind of people I was dealing with at the Mayo Clinic. I have toyed with the idea of going back to the Mayo Clinic or writing them a letter, but I don't because I have this feeling that they are just going to put my letter aside and say, "Oh, another hypochondriac."
Dr. Stoll has been persecuted by the Kentucky Medical Board for years for that very reason. Some of his patients went back to their old doctors after they were cured and told them what had been wrong. Some of these other doctors were powerful and greedy. They got so embarrassed and mad that they filed charges against Walt Stoll with the Kentucky board. There has never been a patient complaint against him; it was from other doctors. So going back to your old doctor and explaining can sometimes have very negative repercussions.
GAIL: A PATIENT OF DR. STOLL
For ten years my husband suffered with what was diagnosed as acute, chronic gastritis and depression. For a long time, we didn't link the two. So he was treated for gastritis and suffered several endoscopies, and for his depression took lithium, Prozac, you name it. Neither condition got much better. We eventually decided that he should stop taking all those heavy-duty drugs because they seemed to be doing more damage than good. Finally, we heard about Dr. Stoll and he diagnosed my husband as having candidiasis. With the use of the anti-yeast medication Nystatin, and diet and vitamin therapy, he got better on both counts--the gastritis and the depression--very rapidly. We saw a change within about two months.
We had spent ten years, going from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital, trying to figure out what was wrong. He had been hospitalized with panic attacks; he had really been put through the mill. After all of that, his treatment and cure turned out to be quite simple.
DR. AUBREY WHIRL
Over a period of years I noticed that patients with candida manifest multiple symptoms. As an allergist, I would of course see patients with asthma, hay fever, and skin rashes. But I began noticing that many of these patients with allergies had other problems such as respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. Another complaint I see quite frequently is people just not feeling good. They're tense or headachy. They're tired and weak. They have a tendency to depression and fatigue. They're forgetful and unable to concentrate.
In actuality, these problems are often manifestations of a subtle disruption of immune function in which there's an overgrowth of yeast and an increasing allergy to mold.
How We Get Candida
The body is the source of the candida allergen. We normally live with candida, which inhabits the skin and gastrointestinal tract. A problem arises when there is an imbalance of the candida caused by an overgrowth. When there is more candida than there should be in the gastrointestinal tract, the body absorbs more of the candida antigen. You accelerate the problem by adding foods with mold and by breathing mold in.
A Combination of Treatment Approaches
I place patients with multiple symptoms on a mold- and yeast-free diet that eliminates foods such as milk and dairy products, particularly cheese. Milk and dairy products are contaminated with mold, and mold is used in the process of cheese-making. I also eliminate yeast breads and yeast foods, as well as vinegars, since these contain a lot of mold allergens.
If a person is eating a lot of sugar, if they've taken a lot of antibiotics, if they're not eating a good diet--then the candida is more apt to grow. That person is likely to have more candida antigen released into their system.
You have to use a combination of approaches in treating patients with candida. Number one, you have to have a good, nutritious diet. It can't be loaded with alcohol and sugar. It has to be composed of broad-spectrum healthy foods. Number two, you have to put them on the mold-free diet. Number three, you have to place them on Nystatin therapy for approximately two weeks.
DR. RICHARD TAN
I have been diagnosing a lot of patients with candida, and sugar affects them greatly. Quite a few patients that I am seeing have memory lapses, are forgetful and depressed, and they have seen other doctors who diagnose the depression and give them antidepressants. When I go over all the system reviews, I find that it is more of a systemic problem; along with the candida, they also have some sinus problems, achy bones and joints, stomach upsets, and gas. They often say that they have cravings for sugar or foods that contain sugar, as well as bread.
I have a survey form that I go through. In my scoring system, after awhile, if the score goes up high, then I strongly suspect that they have candida. So then I explain my hypothesis and start to treat them. I put them on a diet program plus some anti-fungal medication. When they come back after two weeks, they say that they haven't felt so well in a number of years.
This quick recovery is a revelation to me. I keep on seeing this type of patient. And every time I treat one, I am still amazed at how different they become after awhile, at how much they improve.
The estimate is that about one-third of the population has candida. I would say that among my patients about 15 or 20 percent have candida in varying degrees.
Patients with candida should avoid all processed foods, and those with sugar, such as soft drinks. Get back to the basics. Grow your own garden if you can. If not, maybe go to a health food store, where you can buy organic, unprocessed foods. While most Americans eat too much fat, people with candida need to be more concerned with sugar than with fat. If you eliminate nutritionally poor foods, you will often be surprised at how your taste for things changes as your diet changes.
DR. ALAN SPREEN
The big buzzword of today is chronic fatigue syndrome. This refers to the kind of incredible fatigue that makes people unable to get out of bed in the morning for weeks at a time. Most fatigue onsets slowly. A person gradually feels less energy than they had a few months or years previously. They just can't do the things they did before.
Physical and emotional fatigue go hand-in-hand. Fatigue tends to affect mental functioning, so that a person feels that their memory is not as good as it once was. I consider that type of fatigue biochemically based. I'm sure it's in the genes that some people wear out faster than others.
Food Sensitivities, Fatigue, and Mental Health
Food sensitivities often manifest themselves as cravings. We try to get people off the foods they crave. Chances are they may be sensitive to these foods, which can manifest as fatigue and mental states tied to fatigue, such as irritability or frustration.
Depression is another commonly experienced reaction to fatigue. People think they're getting old or sick or that they're dying because they don't have the energy they once had. And depression causes a domino effect. Once people are depressed they don't care to do anything. If they don't do anything their self-worth decreases. They feel worse and worse.
We try to take a complete approach. We find that as ingestion improves, with proper foods and supplemental digestive enzymes, fatigue tends to diminish. Subsequently, energy levels and clarity of mind improve. People can concentrate better. They can remember things better because their mind isn't experiencing brain fog from all of the toxic junk floating around in their system.
We ask people to give us two weeks. We want them to stop eating the foods they crave the most. If there is anything they feel the day just isn't complete without, we tell them that that's what they need to give up first. Once they give that up, if their fatigue worsens for the next two or three days--they become more irritable, they pick fights with family members, their self-worth diminishes, they feel like they're not getting anywhere, they have more intestinal problems--I can almost guarantee that that food is a major part of their problem.
Once they get past that hump, which I call withdrawal--we witness true withdrawal when people are sensitive to whatever they were ingesting--they tend to feel much better afterwards and everything seems to improve. Their peace of mind improves; they are less fatigued; their depression tends to decrease, if it's not true clinical depression from some other cause; their energy level increases; sleep improves; and their relationships are better. Their state of mind seems to domino the other way where everything becomes better. It's not a panacea but it's a place to start.
A Nutritional Approach to Regaining Energy
Our efforts here are to optimize a person's biochemical intake nutritionally so that they can make the best use of whatever genetic disposition they have and overcome fatigue. Of course, there's always the possibility that fatigue represents the onset of something serious like cancer or something else. Our approach to treatment is to consult on a nutritional basis, doing something aside from whatever diagnosis a person might have from their primary physician. We don't work as a primary physician.
Normally I start by taking the known stressors out of the diet. The first three are sugar, sugar, and sugar. When people eat a lot of refined sugar, the body tries to bring the sugar level down. Their sugar levels bounce up and down, up and down. They're getting highs and lows, which make their mind fog up and prevent clear thinking and memory.
This is a frustrating situation. When people get frustrated they get irritated. When they get irritated they pick fights or get depressed. Their self-worth goes down or they hit their wife or smack their kids when they really don't mean to. Sugary items alone are usually a major part of most people's diets and a hard thing to stop.
After that we do other simple things. We ask people to eat foods in their natural state, not refined foods like simple carbohydrates. If a person stays on junk all the time--eats 12 candy bars a day, three cokes or more (with 17 spoons of sugar in each soft drink), and smokes and drinks and gets stimulants in other bad foods--taking a multivitamin just isn't going to do the trick.
I try to get people off caffeine (found in coffee, soft drinks, and cocoa) and theophylline (found in tea). A person who fights that and says, "Gee doc, just don't take away my coffee in the morning," or "Don't take away my chocolate," has just picked the thing that they will have to give up the most. I don't consider coffee a food. It's a toxin but people do drink it, so we do have to consider it a food item.
I give people vitamins and supplements that they hopefully will absorb. If their absorption is not good they may require digestive enzymes, additional acidophilus, or stomach acid supplements.
We find that people straighten out to a large degree if they straighten out what goes into their mouth. And it's rewarding. Some of the nutrients we use to overcome fatigue are the following:
B Vitamins. I almost always recommend that a person with fatigue start with a B12 shot, the old "quack" remedy that most doctors consider a placebo and don't like to even talk about. I try to get a B12 shot into anybody that mentions fatigue because it's cheap, harmless, and easy, and the results are so good. I'm batting about three out of four that just with a B12 shot people can feel more energy within a day.
B complex is needed today more than ever before in the American diet. The foods most of us eat are almost totally refined. Most of our carbohydrates have been processed, resulting in nutrient loss. At the top of the list are B complex vitamins. All of the B vitamins work together, predominantly to help with the assimilation of carbohydrates. When that's removed, people use up their B complex stores in the body, which are somewhat limited, being water-soluble. If they ate unrefined foods, they would have what is required in the food for the assimilation of that food. So I give both B complex in a supplement and extra B12 if fatigue is a problem. Plus I try to get people off refined sugar, refined white flour, refined pasta, and anything else that might stress the body.
Herbs. I'm not an herbalist but I'm using herbs more and more in my practice. To boost mental function, I use ginkgo biloba, probably the number-two herb after ginseng. We'll give a trial of that to people who say they don't remember things the way they used to, and to children with learning disorders. We'll try the herb for about six weeks. If the person doesn't feel a noticeable difference in that time we'll conclude that it probably doesn't work for them. The nice thing about this type of remedy is that it's harmless. If it doesn't work, all people lose are a few dollars; it hasn't done them any harm. I tend to think that herbs with a 2000-year history have done people some good.
Some botanicals that worry us are at the opposite end of the spectrum. We want to get these substances out of the body. Non herbal teas and coffee bother us because they are artificial stimulants. They make people feel good momentarily but harm them in the long run. We compare it to the difference between feeding a horse right and whipping a horse. You can make a horse work harder for awhile with the whip, but you'd better feed him or he won't continue to work. We try to get the whips out of there and enhance nutrition instead.
If we can help a person to sleep we can help him or her to think and feel better when awake. Valerian is an herb that has been used for years to help with sleep. Sometimes we mix that with taurine, which is not an herb but an amino acid. These two agents together tend to help people relax, although this does not work all the time.
This combination is not nearly as good as tryptophane, which was removed from the market a few years ago. There was a really shameful campaign to have it removed by people who claimed tryptophane caused a toxicity reaction. But the toxic reactions had nothing to do with pure tryptophane at all. Tryptophane produced wonderful results. It was the best help for depression, sleep disorders, and mood swings. But I understand that tryptophane is still available out of this country.
There are a lot of herbals that help to alleviate individual complaints. I'm not an herbal expert but I'm getting more and more involved with herbs. I'm finding that herbalists past and present, dating back to the Indian medicine men and ancient Chinese, knew what they were doing.
DR. RAY WUNDERLICH
When we assess people's hormones and glandular functions with good chemistry, we can help make them less sensitive to the toxic assaults of the environment.
While there are no such things as panaceas in medicine and we want to beware of unwarranted enthusiasm and zeal, the hormone DHEA is probably the closest thing to a panacea in medicine that we have found as of yet. It is the so-called "mother hormone" of the adrenal which is antidepressant and seems to be able to counter a lot of the allergic reactions that we see in people who are accumulating toxic insults as they age, decade after decade. This adrenal hormone declines from the age of 20 to death, due to illness and aging. By intervening with appropriate does of the adrenal hormone DHEA, we can reverse many of the allergies and immune susceptibilities that we see in people over 25 years of age.
Mental functioning is also impaired in people who are low in the adrenal hormones, especially in DHEA. When these hormones are down, people are chronically fatigued. They have difficulty getting into mental gear, making decisions, seeing options, and fighting off the chemical assaults found in their environment. We can measure adrenal function in the saliva and the blood, and we can show that it increases with supplementation, just as we can do with a thyroid deficiency.
People who are low in thyroid are frequently tired and constipated, and they have dry skin and sluggishness of thought. Recent studies suggest that even among hyperactive kids, at least 10 percent have thyroid disorders and auto-immune thyroid disorders. And so glandular function is extremely important with regard to mental function, feeling well, and being able to make decisions on a daily basis.
Here's a typical case that I have treated. A 40-year-old woman was having marital difficulties and had been seeing a counselor for a couple of years for this problem. While she did need to straighten out her interpersonal relationship, that wasn't causing her physical and emotional problems. She was deficient in adrenal hormone. She was tired and irritable and couldn't get through the day. She couldn't manage the children. They would get on her nerves and she'd fire off at her husband. I tested her blood level of DHEA and found that it was more than two standard deviations below the mean. I put her on a very minimal dose of DHEA, and within two or three months she had discharged all of her counselors and her husband called me to tell me what saviors we were. These are some of the miracles we see.
Not every case is going to be a miracle cure. But some cases of chronic depression, irritability, and premenstrual syndrome are related to adrenal dysfunction, with low levels of the mother hormone of the adrenal gland. This is particularly so in people with low-blood-sugar symptoms.
We believe that this DHEA is kind of a baseline hormone. It feeds all the other systems, including the ones that regulate the sugar balance in the body. It can also serve as a precursor to the sex hormones--both the female and male hormones--as well as to the electrolytes, the salt and water hormones of the adrenals. It is highly individual in its response, but it is a major reactor that we didn't know about some years ago. The effects of DHEA have been well-researched; it has an anti-cancer, anti-viral, and anti-depressive effect in animals. People have improved through the use of herbs, vitamins, and minerals, which have probably been supporting the body's function of this hormone, among others.
People who are tired when they get up in the morning, who have reactions to sugar, who have to eat frequent meals, who have family histories of low blood sugar or diabetes or alcoholism frequently have low adrenal function. Vitamins and herbs that help support the adrenal function and the precursors of the adrenal function are vitamin C, pantothenic acid, B-complex, licorice, and Siberian ginseng.
DR. HELEN SCHLEAGLE
I have had a lot of clinical experience with controlling moods by using amino acids. Right now, I am quite concerned about the current effort by the FDA to ban amino acids, which takes away the right of individuals to help themselves. In a sense, it's like banning proteins, which is ludicrous. So I hope that people will fight this reactionary effort on the part of our government to make amino acids available only through physicians--which will cost a person far more.
I have treated patients with amino acids for almost 20 years to control moods, depression, anxiety, and memory problems, and I continue to be amazed at their efficacy. I usually use them in combination with proper diagnosis and treatment of other conditions.
The first step I take with my patients is to make the correct diagnosis. Usually, by the time people get to me, they have already been many places and tried many drugs, and I am the end of the road for them. So these patients don't have simple, straightforward kinds of problems. They usually have multiple-system problems, for instance, chemical sensitivities, viruses, food sensitivities, auto-immune problems, parasite problems, fungus, and so on.
So first I find out what is going on. When a patient comes to me, I always do an amino acid panel so that I can measure 42 different aspects of amino acids in their body. There are 22 amino acids, but I am also measuring metabolic breakdown patterns that might indicate connective tissue or auto-immune disease, chronic viruses, chemical sensitivities, candida. All these conditions can be determined or are hinted at by the amino acid pattern. While it is an extensive process, it does seem to find the cause at the root of some very puzzlingly complex physical and mental problems that patients are experiencing.
Then I remove the offending agents, such as chemicals or candida- or yeast-inducing foods, or drugs (many people have drug-induced auto-immune problems). We have to clarify and clean up their environments and their diets.
For depression, I use tyrosine, which is an amino acid that raises norepinephrine, a major brain chemical that maintains good mood, drive, motivation, and concentration. Glutamine makes glutamic acid, one of the two major brain fuels, and is important for memory, focus, and concentration. I use these two amino acids for depression combined with the active form of B6, which controls the absorption, all metabolism, and conversion of amino acids into all their various end products, such as neurotransmitters, antibodies, digestive enzymes, muscles, and tissues in the body.
I also give my depressed patients a basic multivitamin with minerals. Many depressed people are magnesium-deficient, so I've been using a relatively large amount of magnesium in my practice. I've also incorporated a fair amount of potassium use for chronic fatigue syndrome patients. Many of them have potassium problems that are not necessarily picked up by a standard blood test. I do cellular potassium rather than the regular blood tests and I use some homeopathic cortisone with certain people with auto-immune disease.
Two other amino acids that I use are taurine and cysteine. Taurine is a neuro-inhibitory transmitter that has a calming effect. It also controls heart rate and helps with fat metabolism. Many of the people who have chemical sensitivities and yeast problems (probably 90 percent of the ones I see) have a reduced taurine as well as a reduced cysteine level. Cysteine, like taurine, is an amino acid that helps the body to detoxify.
In many people with chemical sensitivities, the detoxification processes in their bodies have broken down due to overload, or deficiencies of various nutrients, or a liver dysfunction. So they aren't able to handle the same kind of toxic load that other people might handle who aren't dealing with the same variables. I use large doses of vitamin C and multi-amino acids.
At the risk of sounding fanatical, I believe we are poisoning this earth. Many of the people with chemical sensitivities, auto-immune disorders, and immune deficiency problems are early victims of what is happening to the planet, which may grow into a more serious and more obviously recognized problem. I have begun to see in my practice a vast number of auto-immune problems that I feel are environmentally or chemically induced. This is significant and deserves to be paid attention to. I really appreciate the work that Dr. Rodgers has done and I recommend that people, particularly those with chemical sensitivities, read her books.
DR. SIDNEY BAKER
I presented a paper on magnesium at a conference in La Jolla, California, a few years ago. At this colloquium, there were magnesium experts from all over, mostly academic people, and mostly people who had jobs like running an intensive care unit or a cardiac care unit, or a department of immunology or obstetrics and gynecology. Everyone there from every medical specialty was saying, "Isn't it amazing that our colleagues are not aware of the very lengthy published information on the prevalence of magnesium deficiency in America, and its very widespread picture in clinical practice?" Any ordinary person would have come away from the conference saying, "Well, how come this problem is being overlooked?" The cynical answer may be the truth: Magnesium deficiency research has no corporate sponsor.
I've become convinced that magnesium deficiency is one of the biggest epidemics that we are experiencing in North America. Magnesium deficiency is widespread in its pattern of symptoms. It affects cardiovascular disease, allergies, tension, panic attacks, premenstrual syndrome, and hyperactivity in children, to name just some of the conditions. The underlying theme behind many of the symptoms is what you might call being "uptight."
Both magnesium and yeast problems probably have their roots around 1950. The magnesium problem probably has its roots in the widespread use in agriculture of fertilizers containing potassium. The yeast problem probably arose because of the widespread use of antibiotics in the population, which began around 1950.
Many people come to see me specifically because they think that I am a yeast specialist, and so perhaps I have a rather distorted view. But I think that this epidemic, which is being denounced by many people in mainstream medicine, is simply overwhelming in its prevalence in the United States. Many people's medical histories show a quite obvious yeast problem. They started getting sick soon after they started taking antibiotics; they have bloating and difficulty concentrating; they have intolerances to foods, gastrointestinal disturbances, and recurring vaginitis. Unfortunately, when they seek help from most doctors, they are told, "Gee, we're very skeptical about this whole yeast idea; it isn't proven and so therefore we won't try you on simple remedies to see if you might have it." The dogma has overcome the simple observation of nature.
As a practitioner, I have a worm's-eye view of the world. I see things very close to nature and hear from my patients directly about what is going on with their health. I have formed strong opinions that these epidemics--magnesium deficiency, problems with fatty acids or yeast, calcium and trace mineral deficiencies--are crucial to people's health, both as prevention and cure. It is very dangerous when intelligent and strong-willed people get themselves into positions of authority within the medical bureaucracy, and feel quite justified in dictating to everybody what they consider to be the truth, rather than letting the truth grow, in an organic way, from the experience of those of us who are seeing patients.
DR. LENDEN SMITH
I've been working with a chemist out of Spokane, Washington, whose name is John Kitkowski. He started doing experiments with animals by taking blood samples from them and finding out that these horses were low in calcium, or magnesium, for example. So he would put standard feed out in the corral, and then he would put standard feed plus calcium, or magnesium, or zinc, and let the animals go out and freely eat. They would smell everything and eat only what they needed. If they were low in calcium, they would eat just the calcium-supplemented feed, and then when they had had enough he noticed that they would come back to the standard feed. He would take a blood test and find out that their body chemistry had returned to normal. He figured out that the reason why the nose is placed in front of the mouth is to tell us "don't eat that" or "do eat this." The sense of smell, along with taste, is a monitoring system.
With hundreds of hours of data to verify his hypothesis, Dr. Kitkowski and I have found that people who are low in magnesium are more likely to have emotional problems--to experience anxiety and tension, to be upset, and to be unable to relax in sleep--and that leads to secondary factors. If the body chemistry is balanced, then the body can handle almost any kind of stress or stressors that come along.
Dr. Kitkowski also noticed that 80 percent of the people living in North America--and he has enough data to verify this--are somewhat alkaline. If the body is alkaline, then minerals are not soluble enough to make the enzymes do their job.
The way to determine the levels of chemicals in your body is to have blood tests done. GGT, a liver-function, gall bladder-function enzyme, is low if a person is low in magnesium because it's a magnesium-run enzyme. If a person has high levels of GGT, they often have too much magnesium. Dr. Kitkowski uses the standard 0 to 40 to 50 on the testing, going by the deviation from the mean. If somebody has around 20 on their GGT, then they are probably alright. But if they are low, and they have signs of anxiety and tension, if they can't relax and get spooked by people as if they have a truncated ability to handle the stresses of the world, then magnesium will help.
DR. HYLA CASS
A 30-year-old woman came to see me recently, two months after she had broken up with her boyfriend. She was depressed. She'd gained weight. She was exhausted. She had trouble keeping up with her work. She had been in psychotherapy but it wasn't helping. I asked her what she was eating and it turned out that there were a number of dietary patterns that were contributing to her emotional state. After I took a careful history of her dietary habits, I discovered that she wasn't so much overeating as having coffee and sweets at times of the day when she was starting to feel tired. She not only gained weight, but the coffee and sweets induced a hypoglycemic cycle, so her blood sugar levels were irregular--which was already making her feel anxious. It was as though at a certain time of the day she was going into a withdrawal phase and the caffeine and sugar would help bring her back up.
So the first part of her problem was this hypoglycemic cycle. The other thing she was suffering from was PMS, which had gotten worse over the past few months. She had always had PMS and thought that this was normal, that this was what women had to live with. This is a misconception that many women have. Her lab work revealed that she did have a fairly low fasting blood sugar level. I prescribed some dietary changes for her. To handle the hypoglycemia, I put her on chromium. For the PMS symptoms, I prescribed magnesium, B6, and an herbal compound that contains dong quai and other herbs. Of course I also recommended regular exercise. After a month on this regimen, she was feeling much, much better. She started to feel like she had some control over the break-up with her boyfriend and over her work problems. She was able to take control of her problems rather than allowing these factors in her life to control her.
This was one case of depression where the combination of herbal and natural remedies, diet, exercise, and psychotherapy--but not psychotherapy alone--was really what she needed.
Here's what I use to treat women with PMS: For the first two weeks of their cycle, I put women on a dong quai herbal combination; then for the second two weeks, they take a PMS combination. These supplements also contain ingredients that detoxify the liver, which is very important in treating PMS.
Another young woman, a 26-year-old whom I had been treating for several months, was finally helped when I pinpointed the problem as PMS. She had been to several doctors--holistic, alternative people that tried a variety of herbs--and she still complained that she wasn't getting better. One day she came into the office and said, "I'm tired of all this. You're not helping, no one is helping." She wasn't just complaining; she was in a really nasty mood. And I asked, "Are you premenstrual right now?" And she said, "Yeah!" And I said, "Are you aware of how you sound?" So first, as her therapist, I got her to see how provocative she was; then I asked her how she was feeling. She was miserable, she was bloated, she really couldn't think straight.
At that point I decided to prescribe natural progesterone creme. It's a creme that you can put on the skin of any fatty area of the body where it can be readily absorbed. I gave her instructions on how to use it, and almost immediately she began to feel better. The next cycle she began to use it a week before she was expecting PMS and throughout that part of her cycle. At the end of the month, she told me that she'd had the most comfortable menstrual cycle ever.
The kind of progesterone I recommend is a natural progesterone, not the progesterone that's in the regular phamaceutical birth control pills or the hormones that are administered by prescription. It's a derivative from wild yams that's available in health food stores. It's also useful for menopausal symptoms.
Not long ago I had a 48-year-old woman who came in complaining of just feeling her life wasn't working. She had been a very successful professional. She had a great marriage. Her children were grown and in college and they were doing well. Her husband was successful. She really had a very good life, and yet she was unhappy. Now you could call this a midlife crisis. However, when I took a psychological history, aware that this was a time of life for her to start looking inward, to evaluate her life, at the same time I asked her about her menstrual cycles. She said she was still menstruating. Her periods were changing in frequency and amount, but with no other symptoms. I sent her to the lab and it turned out she was very low in progesterone, low in estrogen, but particularly low in progesterone. So I put her on the progesterone creme. It really helped. Her irritability went way down. She started to realize that a lot of the uneasiness she was feeling was really chemical. It wasn't simply a psychological, personal issue. It really had to do with what was going on in her body, that her hormones were changing, and that it had been such a subtle change over time. Although she was still menstruating, she was peri-menopausal. Peri-menopausal women will often think that it's psychological, and not think to look at what's going on biochemically in the body. Aside from the progesterone creme, I also put her on the herbal formulas, and that really did the trick.
Even though people do have psychological issues to deal with--and its important to deal with them--it's important also to look at and treat the underlying chemistry. Often the psychological problems will lessen in severity or even disappear with treatment of biochemical imbalances.
DR. DORIS RAPP
The foods that you crave premenstrually are the foods that could be causing you to feel sick. If you are a chocoholic and you can't manage without eating chocolate, it's a good clue that chocolate is a food that is causing you a problem. I know one mother who put the chocolate bars in the freezer so she couldn't eat them so fast when she was premenstrual.
DR. HYLA CASS
The thyroid is a very important component of the immune system. When the thyroid isn't working properly, the immune system is impaired, and this sets up a vicious cycle. You have a person who is depleted and anxious; they're told by regular doctors it's all in their head, that there's nothing physically wrong with them. So then they feel worse.
A large number of patients who come to see me have thyroiditis. I really can't emphasize it enough because this can lead to the mixed infection syndrome that we see so much of: parasites, candida, and even the viral syndromes--the Epstein Barr virus and the cytomegalovirus.
To treat thyroiditis, I've done nutritional consults on people that were under the care of other physicians. When I suggested that they had thyroiditis and that it was to be treated with low doses of thyroid hormones, I was met with skepticism from the other doctors.
When people have these longstanding chronic conditions, they can become extremely depressed. They feel like they can't go on anymore, particularly when their body has been so debilitated by the continuing illness. Also, some of the mixed infection of thyroiditis and the parasites or other viruses can actually affect the brain directly. Thyroiditis and its accompanying infections affect the central nervous system along with every other organ of the body. So people come in extremely depressed, both as a reaction to their prolonged illness and as a primary symptom of the illness--and this is usually totally overlooked. That's why it's crucial to do a good medical work-up on a patient.
DR. STEVEN LANGER
Many people come into my office who have primarily an organic kind of illness who are misdiagnosed as being psychosomatic or having a primarily psychological disorder. Very rarely do I see somebody who comes in with complaints that are primarily psychological in cause. Very often, they have some organic basis which, if taken care of, allows them to resolve much more easily whatever psychological problems they do have.
The thyroid gland is a little butterfly-shaped organ at the base of the neck that puts out a teaspoon of hormone a year which affects the metabolism and acts as a cellular carburetor for every cell in the body--from our hair follicles down to our toenails. As such, the thyroid can be implicated in just about any kind of condition you can think of. As for its relationship to psychological disorders, since it plays a role in the metabolism of the nervous system, people who have thyroid disorders have conditions like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and bipolar disorders.
If a person's metabolism is hypo-functioning, everything is going to be slow. In a book I wrote called Solve the Riddle of Illness, I explain why upwards of 40 percent of the population may have subclinical hypothyroidism and not detect it by the traditional blood chemistry work that's done at their general practitioner's office. The symptoms of low thyroid include weakness; dry coarse skin; slow speech; coarse hair; hair loss; weight gain; difficulty breathing; problems with menstruation; nervousness; heart palpitations; brittle nails; and severe chronic fatigue and depression.
Now if you get somebody with a constellation of symptoms like that they're going to be sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Plus they're going to feel depressed all the time because they're going from one doctor to another, sometimes with two or three or four pages worth of complaints, and the doctors tell them it's all in their head, or go home and learn to live with it. Obviously you're going to see depression. Now not everything that I see is hypothyroidism by any means. But it is so easy to pick up and detect and so ubiquitous in the population, and it can be treated so well and so rapidly for so little money, that it's become a primary interest of mine.
To treat someone with hypothyroidism, I put them sometimes on as little as a quarter of a grain, which is a newborn-infant dose, and this produces a radical change in the way the person functions. Of course, for someone who has low thyroid function, I also use orthomolecular nutrition and a lot of clinical ecology techniques along with treating the thyroid gland.
Recently I treated a patient who was the wife of a doctor across the street from my medical building. She was the mother of two young children who basically came in and told me that she didn't want to go on living. She was so tired all the time and so depressed she couldn't keep her head off the pillow after two o'clock in the afternoon. If she didn't go to bed, she would have just fallen apart. I did a history and physical on her and we made some dietary changes, but basically this woman was profoundly hypothyroid. We put her on a quarter of a grain of thyroid, which is what I start my patients with before building them up very gradually. A quarter of a grain is the smallest dose available. It's such a small quantity that most pharmacies don't even carry it, because when doctors order thyroid they don't even think to order so small a dose. But a quarter of a grain of thyroid was enough. Within a three-week period, this woman not only regained her mental health, but she was out taking tennis lessons, which was shocking to me because though it usually works it usually takes a longer period of time. So, just that amount of metabolic support was enough to turn this person's life around.
Another person I treated was a 62-year-old woman who was a member of the Catholic clergy. She had been a nun for at least 30 years when I met her and I will never forget this woman. She came in bloated, profoundly depressed, and fatigued. The only thing that kept her going was basically overworking her adrenal glands. She came in and told me that when she was 12 years old, she went under a dark cloud. When I saw her it was 50 years later, and by that time she had been through 30 or 40 different doctors, including internists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists of various sorts. One of the first things that showed up in her--which I thought was a very positive sign--was that she was freezing all the time. When we did a basal body temperature on her, it never went above 95 degrees. Basal body temperature is a person's resting temperature when she wakes up in the morning. However, when I did a blood work-up on her, all her thyroid hormone levels were within normal limits. I empirically placed her on a dose of thyroid that we gradually built up to about four grains a day, which is quite a high dosage. She's one of the few people I've treated who has needed that high an amount. Within three months her depression of 50 years duration was totally gone.
Now, obviously she was bitter and angry that she had been suffering for all that time. But the organic feeling that she had of the overwhelming fatigue totally disappeared within a three-month period of time, and I've seen that in thousands of patients over the years. A small dose of thyroid, combined with things like nutritional support and eliminating food allergies, can really turn a person's life around.
Very often people who are thyroid deficient will have tests that show up normal. It's become apparent, particularly over the past 10 years, that some people with thyroid conditions have normal thyroid hormone levels and are suffering from another condition known as Hashimoto's disease, or auto-immune thyroiditis. There is a very precise blood test that any doctor can order called the auto-immune thyroid antibody test, and most of the people who I suspect have thyroid conditions and have normal thyroid hormone levels will have an elevation in their anti-thyroid antibodies. If they have an elevated anti-thyroid antibody level, they have the symptoms that go along with low thyroid, which can be any one of 125 symptoms that we enumerate in Solve the Riddle of Illness.
A lot of the symptoms of thyroiditis are psychological symptoms, such as being profoundly depressed. With thyroiditis people get anxiety attacks and panic attacks for no apparent reason. They could be sitting and reading a book. All of a sudden they will develop a cascade of heart palpitations and fearfulness. I've had a number of patients who have been rushed, almost on a monthly basis, to the emergency room to be worked up by cardiologists because their heart was pounding over 200 beats a minute. Cardiologists would do EKG's and echocardiograms and tell them to go see a psychiatrist who would work them up, not find anything, and then put them on an antidepressant or a tranquilizer, and actually make the condition worse. When you have an undiscovered organic basis for a psychological problem, being put on psychotropic medication is like sitting on a thumbtack and being put on pain pills for the rest of your life. It has about the same effect. It wears the system down, and as a result the patient's condition not only does not improve but will in fact deteriorate, because the underlying cause is not being treated.
To treat patients with thyroiditis, I put them on a trial dose of thyroid and continue to monitor their thyroid hormone levels. Most of these people wind up taking between one and two grains of thyroid a day and their thyroid hormone levels still stay normal despite the fact that their levels were supposedly normal to begin with. More importantly, they get a complete remission of symptoms, many of which are psychological.
One woman I treated became a pioneer in the holistic health movement up in northern California. She was in her late 30's and she had exactly the same symptoms that I enumerated above. She had a relatively good job, a stable marriage, and children in school who were no problem, but she was having problems periodically with palpitations and fearfulness, ranging from anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. This woman would call her husband, who was a fairly significant executive in a large corporation, at least twice a month to tell him that she was having one of the attacks, and he would have to drop everything, come home, and take her to the hospital where she was worked up by psychiatrists and cardiologists who could never find anything. She was, in fact, placed on a number of different psychotropic medications when she came in to see me, in desperation, after reading my book.
I did a full blood work-up on this woman, and all of her lab tests, with the exception of her anti-thyroid antibodies, were within normal limits. It turned out she did have severe auto-immune thyroiditis. Since her thyroid turned out to be enlarged, we did another test called a thyroid scan, a test that tracks iodine uptake over a 24-hour period and is administered by a radiologist at the hospital. It turned out that her thyroid condition was so severe that she required an operation to remove part of her thyroid--a procedure that is very drastic and is rarely ever indicated. As soon as the operation was done and this woman was placed on a therapeutic diet with the proper nutritional support and a small amount of thyroid, she never had the psychological symptoms again. She went on to become an advocate for holistic and environmental health and founded an organization called the Environmental Health Network which now has thousands of members, including many prominent clinicians. This is an example of how turning one person's life around can affect the lives of many other people.
This kind of constellation of problems occurs not only in middle-aged people but in young people, and not only in women, but in men. While thyroid disease, particularly auto-immune thyroiditis, is classically considered to be primarily a disease of women, this is just not true. I have seen as many men as women who are suffering from auto-immune thyroiditis and, I might add, from hypothyroidism. Many men are really given short shrift and aren't even given the requisite diagnostic tests in many instances to rule out thyroid disease because the medical profession thinks that it's strictly a woman's disorder.
Moreover, I have seen teenagers and children who are acting out, who are written off as hyperactive, when they may be suffering from a thyroid disorder. Very young children or teenagers express their emotions differently from adults. Sometimes they get written off as being mentally retarded or having minimal brain dysfunction. Then they're given any one of a number of different drugs and placed in special classes. Many times, these young people have thyroid disorders that can be easily treated. But because thyroid dysfunction often leads to frequent infections, these kids are placed on antibiotics. Then they wind up with an overgrowth of yeast in their gut that in turn causes a low-grade inflammation in their gastrointestinal system. As a result, they don't adequately digest their food, so the body starts regarding the food as a foreign invader and puts out antibodies to the food. The child starts exhibiting the classic symptoms of food allergies, which are psychiatric complaints: anxiety attacks, depression, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, even full-blown panic attacks. In a lot of these cases, you can actually isolate and eliminate the foods that cause an anxiety attack, but merely removing the food in these people is not enough to get to the underlying cause of the disorder. Frequently these people have the food allergies because they have something pre-existing going on in their digestive systems which has to be addressed. This can all cause immune system alterations which result in auto-immune dysfunction. So this is a vicious circle. One of the chief target organs of auto-immune dysfunction is the thyroid gland. You get auto-immune thyroiditis.
The question for the holistic clinicians to ask regarding an individual patient is where they're going to intervene. Different physicians will intervene at different places, depending upon their background and interests. I try, to the best of my ability, to get to the root cause of what's going on, and if I am having difficulty figuring out the cause, then I try to intervene at a point in a person's imbalance that would cause the least disruption to their lifestyle and give them the best results for the least amount of money in the quickest period of time. Frequently, that turns out to be treating with small doses of thyroid and altering their eating habits. In my clinical experience, I have found that with the thyroid and nutritional support, very often a person will get better. The thyroid is not a lifetime treatment and can be removed after the person's condition has been stabilized. What's more; thyroid treatment is inexpensive, works rapidly, and if it's done properly, absolutely nontoxic.
There is one more connection to be drawn between depression and the thyroid dysfunction: poor libido. One of the classic symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in sex. Those people who in the past were sexually active, but who just all of a sudden started to, or gradually started to, lose interest in sex, will be diagnosed as being depressed right away. I see men who come into my office by the score--many of them young--who have potency problems, and they can't figure it out because they have no apparent organic illness. As a result, they get performance anxiety, and if it continues long enough, they wind up getting severely depressed. But I have found that if you go to the root cause of their depression, very often it's the thyroid that's malfunctioning.
If a person develops an acute type of a depression that leads to a sexual dysfunction--which it frequently does--a doctor would be remiss if he or she didn't look for an imbalance in the thyroid. Patients have got to start taking their health destinies into their own hands and demanding that doctors do the thyroid testing and look for auto-immune thyroid disorders and nutritional imbalances, which are frequently the underlying causes of sexual dysfunction and depression.
Sleep disturbances are very common with auto-immune thyroiditis. Most people with thyroiditis spend an overwhelming portion of time during the day in a condition somewhat like low thyroid, which means they're very, very sluggish. The symptoms of thyroiditis include: profound fatigue, memory loss manifested by problems with recent memory and concentration, depression, and then nervousness ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. What's really going on is that these people are swinging from low thyroid to high thyroid.
What triggers an auto-immune response? Imagine auto-immune thyroiditis is like a rheumatoid arthritis of the thyroid gland. A person can have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune condition where the body puts out antibodies to the joints. Frequently people with rheumatoid arthritis stay in long periods of remission. When they are under a great deal of stress, the body puts out antibodies to the joints and all their joints swell up. Similarly with the thyroid, if a person gets stressed out for any reason whatsoever, the body can start pumping out antibodies to the thyroid gland. The thyroid becomes acutely inflamed and the hormone which should not be in the system starts escaping. The clinical term for the gland is an "escaping gland." The hormone escapes from the gland and it's almost like pumping speed into your system. For some reason (possibly having to do with the cyclical variations in hormone output called diurnal variations), it happens very frequently that people with thyroiditis have an auto-immune reaction at night, making the body put out antibodies, and these people will wake up with their minds racing, their hearts pounding, and feeling anxious and nervous. It's often written off as just a sleep disorder--sleep apnea or some sleep problem of unknown cause--when in fact its cause can be detected and corrected.
DR. ALAN SPREEN
I'd love to say that correcting thyroid function is a panacea. While it doesn't work 100 percent of the time, if a patient comes in complaining of fatigue and depression that is linked with the physical findings of foods not digesting well, and cold extremities, then an underactive thyroid may be the root cause. People come and say, "Oh, my husband says, `Don't touch me with your feet at night because they're just ice cold.'" These are the same people who are comfortable in a room when everybody else is boiling and they're freezing in a room when everybody else is comfortable. Their thinking seems to have slowed down; they just don't seem to be able to concentrate like they used to; and they don't remember lists the way they used to.
In this kind of a situation, once I find that their blood levels of thyroid are normal, I go back to the old school of Rhoda Barnes, who, 40 or 50 years ago, did axillary temperature testing. I ask my patients to keep a record of their early morning basal body temperature. If their basal metabolic rate based on early-morning body temperatures is really low, then I consider them to be candidates for thyroid supplementation. In axillary testing, Rhoda Barnes talked about temperature ranges between 97.8 and 98.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than the 98.6 people think of as normal. But the axillary temperature is taken in the armpit first thing in the morning, using a mercury thermometer that stays there for 10 minutes before they get up. If their temperature is, much of the time, down in the 96.8, 96.7, 96.5 range, I at least consider the possibility that the person needs low doses of natural thyroid, which is still available.
Thyroid is a prescription drug, but it can be broken down into very low doses. Some doctors who use this type of testing use the synthroid drugs, which are synthetic thyroids. I prefer to prescribe natural thyroid in very low doses. If a person responds--either their temperature rises or their symptoms lift--then I retest them to see if their blood levels of thyroid have changed. Many times a person with this profile of symptoms who takes thyroid will feel better, and their blood tests will have remained unchanged, including their thyroid stimulating hormones and their actual thyroid hormone levels. So the blood testing has missed the difference of whether the person is on a low dose of thyroid or not, and yet the person feels well with the increased, but undetectable dose of thyroid hormone.
JENNY: A PATIENT OF DR. SPREEN
I came to be treated by Dr. Spreen only after first following the conventional route in medical treatment. In 1988, I was in my fifth year of infertility treatments, had taken multiple infertility drugs, and wound up severely depressed, which caused me to lose 35 pounds in two months. I couldn't sleep, I had panic attacks, the whole horrible group of symptoms associated with depression. The doctors put me on the conventional Xanax treatment for three years before I met Dr. Spreen, who was helping me with some other related medical problems. I had hair loss, skin problems, nail-biting problems. I had aches all over my body, especially in my legs. Dr. Spreen got me on a vitamin regimen, which made me feel somewhat better.
Then, last summer, Dr. Spreen put me on very low doses of thyroid and immediately--within two to three weeks--all the problems I just mentioned were gone. Now I had had thyroid checks three times during the whole time when I was being treated for infertility, and the blood tests had always come up negative. But I knew that in my family there were thyroid problems. There are at least six members of my family that I can think of who have thyroid disorders, but mine just never showed up on my tests. After taking these very low doses of thyroid, my skin problem cleared up, I stopped biting my nails, and my legs stopped aching. The mild depression I was still suffering from all of a sudden in August vanished. I felt great. I slept like a normal person again; I had energy; people started commenting on how I seemed to be like my old self again. It was like getting a new lease on life!
I feel rather fed up with the original doctors I went to see. They treated me like I was an hysterical woman who needed to get a grip on things. I have never told them about my recovery using alternative methods because I don't think they'd be receptive to it. I did tell my therapist who has been very receptive to these new treatments and is most interested in the thyroid treatments. But I'd say that the medical community is not open-minded about alternative treatments at all.
HELEN: A PATIENT OF DR. HELEN SCHLEAGLE
I had hives, some kind of an allergic response, about five years ago and it progressed to the point where I had hives on my vocal chords. It was a pretty serious allergic reaction, for which I was first treated with antihistamines. Later, I was treated with prednisone. When small doses of prednisone given every other day didn't help, my doctor began increasing the dosage until I was taking 70 mg every day. After about six weeks I started declining physically from taking this tremendous dose. I gained about 50 pounds; I had conjunctivitis in both of my eyes; I had open sores; I was so weak I was almost bedridden. I did find another doctor who slowly weaned me off of the prednisone. But when it was all over, my immune system had been damaged. I had a lot of viral illnesses that are usually associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. I could scarcely get out of bed, and I couldn't lose all the weight I had gained. So I went from doctor to doctor. I was living in the Midwest at the time and many of them said, "Your metabolic system has been altered by prednisone. Too bad, but you will never lose that weight. And prednisone can damage the immune system. Too bad, but your immune system has been damaged." No one could offer me any help at all.
I first went to Dr. Atkins in New York and he was a lot of help to me. It was through Dr. Atkins and his association with Dr. Huggins that I learned about dental amalgams, because when your immune system is depleted you are much more susceptible to any kind of toxins, including mercury leaching from the mercury amalgam fillings. It was causing me a great deal of trouble and I did have those removed.
Then I moved to California and I had heard, previous to my moving, about Dr. Schleagle and her work with depression. In fact, I referred friends to her, friends I had made in California, and they had these miraculous cures from depression after two weeks of taking B-complex and amino acids. But I didn't think of going to her myself for quite awhile because I thought of her as someone who only treated depression. In fact, like many alternative physicians, she treats the whole person. She had worked with fatigue a lot, and she first tested me thoroughly and found that my thyroid and, in fact, my whole endocrine system, was not functioning properly--most likely as a result of prednisone. She picked up subtleties in the test that other doctors ignored. She has the philosophy that a body should be healthy and whole. She doesn't need gross parameters of unusual test results to say something is wrong here. So she was able to discover that I had a rather unusual problem in my thyroid and she was able to treat it.
When I began seeing her I still had very limited energy. Even though Dr. Atkins had helped me lose weight so I looked normal, I still didn't feel normal. In one day, I could either go to the grocery store and rest the rest of the day, or go to a doctor's appointment; that was all I could do. I went to Dr. Schleagle and after she began treating my thyroid I had a leap of improvement. I regained my energy. She also gave me amino acids, which heightened my mood. Even though I hadn't thought I was depressed--and I still don't think I was--generally the amino acids made me feel healthier. And while I don't have the energy of a lot of people around me, I can pretty much function normally, which is a miracle. It has been a five-year struggle and I'm finally living practically a normal life.
Here's what I have learned from my experience. You simply cannot go to a traditional physician and carelessly allow that doctor to treat your symptoms with drugs. Traditional physicians tend not to look at the whole person, but to give drugs to ameliorate the symptoms, or to treat individual problems without regard to what that treatment does to the rest of the body. I learned to use tremendous caution when entrusting my body to someone. If you're going to trust your body to someone, you should know a lot about the physician. You should know whether the physician treats the whole person and sees you as more than an allergy or a gallbladder.