Monday, March 14, 2011

Nutrition and My Brain

The first time I was diagnosed with clinical depression was in the 90s. I was in my mid twenties, going through fertility treatments, and living with my non-emotionally involved husband. My depression had gotten pretty severe by the time I admitted my situation to my family doctor. I would have bouts of crying that sent me under the bed or into the closet. I couldn't stop crying and I couldn't make myself leave an enclosed space for hours. My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant and it kind of worked. Since then, I've lost track of which meds I've taken, when, and for how long. It's been a rough road. I don't like to take them, so I wean myself off for a year or two (or 5) and then have to crawl back to a doctor. I've also been diagnosed with Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder (PMDD), which is just a fancy way of saying that I get pretty psycho when I ovulate and before I begin menstruation. If you think about it, that covers most of the month. So, another doctor prescribed birth control pills (BCP) to control those symptoms. But did you know that, for some of us, a side effect of birth control pills is (you guessed it!) depression? Next, I was diagnosed as having hypothyroidism and started taking synthetic thyroid medication. That didn't help with the depression and fatigue (at the time, I was off BCP and anti-depressants) and I had a few really bad mood swings that led to suicidal desires amongst other uglies. Back to the doctor I went and he prescribed an anti-depressant. Didn't work. My gynecologist ARNP changed my prescription to Cymbalta when I dissolved in her office and sent me directly to a psychiatric ARNP. The psych NP prescribed another additional medication. Before I knew it I was taking 4 pills every morning. I started to feel better, but the fatigue and some of my low, pessimistic mood persisted. In addition, I developed microscopic colitis, gastritis, and sinusitis. I felt that things were spiraling out of control and my doctor was not listening to me. I tried an acupuncturist and she recommended that I visit a Naturopath.

In December, I started seeing Dr. Cook at Holistic Health Clinic. She listened, took some lab tests, and started me on some supplements and vitamins right away. In late January, I was really not doing well so Dr. Cook put me on a detox diet for a week. After that, I started on an elimination diet, where I added in a food every few days to see if I had a food intolerance.

The week of my detox diet, my psych nurse recommended that I might like to read "The UltraMind Solution" by Mark Hyman, MD. I found the author's website, and liked what I saw enough to order three of his books. Dr. Hyman treats what he calls broken brains with diet, vitamins, and supplements. In "The UltraMind Solution," he documents his research and successes with various patients suffering from everything from ADD to Autism.  His seven keys to balance are: Optimize Nutrition, Balance Your Hormones, Cool Off Inflammation, Fix your Digestion, Enhance Detoxification, Boost Energy Metabolism, and Calm Your Mind. Now, I bought this book because I thought it might lead me to a way to heal my depression. I was so excited when I saw the information about hormones, inflammation, and digestion! According to Dr. Hyman's experience and research, they are all connected. How intriguing! When I was about half way through his book, which is very logical and well documented, I decided to see if Dr. Hyman is on Facebook. Sure enough, there is a fan page.  I started reading the comments on his wall and saw one by a graduate of a place called Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I clicked on her link and within two weeks, I was enrolled. The year long program has two start dates, one in March and one in the fall. I registered just in time and have started classes already!

I'm still on a restricted diet, although I cheat sometimes, and I am feeling much better. I have stopped taking two of my medications, and have cut the dosage of the antidepressant by 1/3. I am still taking a lot of supplements and vitamins every day, but Dr. Cook encourages me that I'll be able to start narrow those down soon. Last week, she added a prescription, Nystatin, that fights the systemic yeast/fungal infection Candida. Candida is an entirely new post; more on that topic to come. So far, everything that Dr. Cook has recommended has fit with Dr. Hyman's theories and I'm feeling better already.

My goal in exposing all of these gory details is to share with you the hope that I've found, the direction, and the healing, while explaining how I came to start my studies at IIN. My hope is that my healing will continue as I learn about health and that I will be able to share with many people a route to wellness. I feel better, I look better, and I expect to live a longer, fuller life all because one person suggested a book and another suggested Dr. Cook. One person at a time, we can help the world!


  1. Hooray for doctors who actually listen! I'm glad you're finally seeing some improvement -- it's been a long road for you.

  2. Here is a great article by Dr. Hyman that better explains some of what I've been trying to say here!