A Mind of Your Own
by Kelly Brogan, MD, with Kristin Loberg
There is something about upset apple carts that I find very entertaining so I enjoy a book that upsets a few, and this one does. A Mind of Your Own talks about depression in women but I think much of it applies to both men and women. One popular paradigm holds that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Dr. Brogan scrutinized this theory and found. . .nothing. That is, no studies that support the idea that depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, lack of serotonin or any such thing. If anything, higher serotonin levels in the brain cause more problems than they solve. She goes on to say that most cases of depression are not due to any malfunction of the brain at all. If you understand how the pharmaceutical approach to psychiatry works then you already hear those apples rolling around on the floor.
So what is depression? It is not a disease. It is a symptom. Your body is telling you there is something wrong, something out of balance. There are a number of things that can trigger depression. One is inflammation in general and in the bowel in particular. Disruption in the microbiome (caused by toxic chemicals, drugs, artificial sugar, lack of nutrients or stress) is often a factor. Diabetes is another trigger.
Do anti-depression drugs work? That depends on what you mean by work. If you are hoping for side-effects like headache, nausea, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, stroke, cardiac conduction defects and increased risk of death, then these drugs are great.
A paper published in The British Medical Journal revealed that more than half a million people aged sixty-five or older die in the West each year from psych meds. Five of the top ten violence-inducing drugs are antidepressants. That sounds pretty depressing to me.
Why do they cling to such an unsuccessful approach? Brogan gives a brief, insightful history. For a long time psychiatry didn’t get a lot of respect. People have gotten very attached to the idea that you aren’t doing much if you don’t dish out drugs to solve every problem. When someone came up with the idea of using drugs to treat depression, the pharmaceutical industry was more than happy to help with that. A great quote right at the beginning of chapter 1 perfectly summarizes what is going on out there: “The medicalization of distress obliterates meaning and creates profit.”
One favorite explanation for almost everything is genetics. I’ve never been real impressed by that explanation, and Brogan isn’t either. Our understanding of genetics has gone through some profound transitions in recent years, and there is no reason to believe we now have it all figured out. The Human Genome Project identified twenty-three thousand genes, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t nearly enough to define the diversity and complexity of the human species. Brogan answers at least part of that riddle by explaining that our human framework is occupied by trillions of bacteria that perform critical functions such as digestion and immune function. Each of the many species of bacteria has its own DNA. Epigenetics is another relatively new development. In most cases, to say the cause of an ailment is genetic is a popular way of saying. “We don’t know.”
This book has a good list of the leading causes of depression. Number one is drugs for birth control. The author used to think of this as a woman’s right but her perspective has changed a little since she became more aware of the side effects. Blood clots, cancer, gallstones, high blood pressure and low libido are on the short list. Responsibility for birth control lands primarily on the woman in this scenario. If you really want to dig in your heels and demand that right, that’s fine but you might want to think that
through carefully first.
Number two is statin drugs. Hormonal imbalance can often be a factor in depression. Hormones are made from cholesterol. If you have any issues with hormones being out of balance, and many do, the last thing you want to do is mess around with cholesterol.
Next on the list is proton-pump inhibitors. They inhibit vitamin B12. That will always break your brain. Then we have Tylenol, the drug of choice for zombies or anyone who wants to be just like a zombie. Marching on to the next item we have Advil which is great for tearing up your stomach and gut lining in general. Fluoride has been shown to lower IQ (which explains so much I don’t even know where to start) and disrupt thyroid function, which means more hormone disruption. Rounding out the parade are endocrine disruptors (BPA, PCBs, etc.) and vaccines.
A lot of chemicals in the modern world can create problems leading to depression. Even things that sound good to most people can be trouble. Hand sanitizers have been found to enhance penetration of chemicals through the skin by up to two hundred-fold.
Given the steady climb of depression and mental illness in this country it seems clear to me that there is something fundamentally wrong with our approach to solving these problems. It is really nice to see someone willing to face these uncomfortable facts, go against the flow and suggest a different approach.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2016