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Mental Illness
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND

See also: Fungal Infections, Heavy Metal Poisoning and Hypoglycemia

Mental health problems can be a "touchy" subject because most of us find the idea of "mental illness" disturbing or frightening. These attitudes about mental health problems have been around since ancient limes, when the mentally ill were considered to be possessed by devils. In fact, the phrase "casting out devils" used in the New Testament is an Aramaic idiom which would be accurately translated today as "curing the mentally ill."

Even though our understanding of mental illness has improved since ancient times, the social stigma attached to these conditions is still negative. Furthermore, even modern treatments for "mental" conditions leave much to be desired. Does drugging the brain or locking up the severely disturbed really solve the problem?

Just like any other disease human beings suffer from, the so-called "mental" illnesses have causes. While the causes of mental illness aren't fully understood, it's very unlikely that a drug deficiency is one of them. So, while drugs may be helpful in stabilizing some conditions, they are not the ultimate cure for mental problems.

Furthermore, it's not like a person wakes up one morning and thinks, "I'm going to become insane today," so people with mental health problems should be treated with the same compassion and respect we would treat anyone suffering from a "physical" disease. Shunning people or using criticism, rewards and punishments to "correct" inappropriate behavior never solves the problem. Likewise, the labels given to mental conditions are often confusing and don't really help. Labels are just names attached to certain patterns of symptoms and are of little use in helping to cure anything.

We must get past the stigmas, misunderstandings and symptomatic treatments and start undersdanding the causes of mental health issues.
Only when we understand the cause we can formulate effective treatments.

Types Of Mental Illness

To begin our journey, we need to recognize the difference between three different classes of mental health issues. First, there are mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, etc. These are not debilitating issues, as people who have them can still function in society. In fact, many are problems from which just about everyone suffers from time to time. Who hasn't felt depressed or anxious once in a while?

Unfortunately, in order to push their wares, drug companies appear to be turning these ordinary issues of mood and mental attitude into diseases. The child who is restless, bored and fidgety at school is suddenly suffering from a disease called ADHD. The person who is socially shy or a little bit anxious is a victim of social anxiety disorder. A person who is exhausted and run down from long-term stress has post traumatic stress disorder. The person who is understandably feeling "down" due to difficult experiences in life needs medication.

This is not to downplay the idea that mood disorders aren't real; it's just that if a person is basically able to function in their life, they probably don't need drugs to get over these mood problems. Some counseling (or even a listening ear from a friend), good parenting (for kids), and attention to basic health needs like nutrition, rest and exercise will usually clear up mood disorders.

A second category of mental health problems is those that are caused by actual destruction of the brain. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examples of these problems. These are caused by either physical or chemical damage to the brain tissues, which result in the destruction of brain cells. Much of this damage occurs from oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. These diseases can be prevented by good nutrition and health practices (antioxidants, detoxification, etc.), but once they occur natural therapies will merely slow deterioration rather than turn them around.

The third kind of mental health problems are those problems where there is no actual damage to the brain, but the person has mental problems which are keeping them from being a fully functional human being. These are the people medical professionals consider "insane." People who suffer from schizophrenia, severe depression or whatever other labels they use to describe the person's symptoms.

The following information may help people in this third category, but they will probably need some professional help as well. At a minimum, counseling or some kind of psychotherapy is necessary. However, people with these disorders are not "doomed' to a life of insanity. If root causes are addressed and dealt with, they can function at a high level again. It takes dedication and effort, but it can happen.

Nutrition and Mental Illness

Like any other organ, the brain needs nutrients to function properly. If the brain isn't nourished properly problems will occur. The brain needs water, fats, protein, B-complex vitamins and other nutrients to function properly. It also needs balanced blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is common in people who have been labeled mentally ill, and stabilizing their blood sugar with a low glycemic diet and appropriate supplements can create big improvements.

For example, Barbara Reed, a parole officer from New York, found that diet contributed to juvenile delinquency. As a parole officer for young offenders, she noticed that most of them were living on a junk food diet. When she was able to get these kids on a hypoglycemic diet along with a B-complex plus C vitamin supplement, they never got in trouble with the law again. This is not the only case where behavior has been linked to diet. Studies have also been done showing that prisoners have experienced remarkable improvements in behavior when put on a hypoglycemic diet.

In the documentary Super Size Me, a school for troubled teens is shown where the teens are calmer because they are being fed a high quality diet. Research on the link between nutrition and mental ability has been around for a long time. Michael Lesser testified before the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in the 1970s that 70% of all previously uncontrollable schizophrenics showed improvement when put on a diet to counter hypoglycemia. They also showed improvement with vitamin supplements, particularly certain B vitamins.

The brain is probably the most chemically sensitive organ in the body, so it is highly susceptible to damage from environmental toxins. For this reason, chemical toxins are another major root cause of "mental" illness. For example, intestinal inflammation and leaky gut syndrome have been linked with depression, hyperactivity, ADHD and schizophrenia. So, a good cleanse can often help "lighten" a person's mood and clear their thinking.

Yeast infections can also "mess up" one's thought proceses. Since yeast feed on sugar, yeast infections contribute to sugar cravings, too.

A major contributing factor to mental breakdown is heavy metal poisoning. Mercury, lead, cadmium and aluminum all contribute to the breakdown of brain and nervous system tissue. Clearly, detoxification of heavy metals will help protect the brain and may improve brain function.

Since toxins damage brain tissue by causing inflammation and free radical damage, antioxidant supplements, such as Grapine, Thai-Go and Brain Protex, may also protect the brain from deterioration due to chemical toxicity and free radical damage.

Mental and Emotional Stress

In addition to the issues of nutrition and detoxification, we also have the issue of unresolved mental and emotional sress. The simple fact is that many of the people who have been labeled "insane" have simply suffered trauma or abuse that has overwhelmed their ability to cope. Physical and sexual abuse in childhood can set up patterns that contribute to poor mental (and physical) health.

As Peter R. Breggin, M.D. points out in his book Toxic Psychiatry, many people who are labeled as "mentally ill" are simply in emotional and spiritual crisis. Their language is metaphoric. It sounds crazy because people can't hear what the person is really trying to communicate. Delusions of grandeur ("I'm God or Napoleon", for example) can indicate that a person is struggling with their sense of importance.

Dr. Breggin stresses that locking these people up, drugging them and shocking them doesn't help them work through their inner crises or deal with their repressed emotional pain. He also suggests that drugs (which includes medications, alcohol, tobacco and illegal street drugs) only act to chemically lobotomize the brain and numb a person to their inner pain.

What people in crisis really need is a good psychologist or counselor who can help them work through their unresolved issues. Flower essences (such as Distress Remedy) may be helpful in bringing repressed emotions and issues to the surface. Aromatherapy oils can also be used to help improve mood. Space doesn't permit a full discussion of these tools, but there are plenty of resources for learning more about them.

Many people who do bodywork, from massage therapists to Rolfers, have observed that people seem to store stress and pain in the body. When people experience intense feelings they don't know how to deal with, they hold their breath and contract around the emotions to avoid feeling them. This creates tension in the body and "stores" the memory of the trauma in the tissues.

Bodywork can release these tense areas and help a person reconnect with pain and emotions they have repressed, promoting release and healing. So, bodywork techniques like chiropractic care, rolfing, deep tissue massage, yoga and other bodywork techniques can be very helpful in improving mental health. A number of innovative psychologists have used movement and bodywork to improve mental health.

Supplements that can help a person suffering from mental illness vary, depending on the underlying health problems. The following are possibilities to consider.

Below is a list of suggested products.
Those in bold are key products for the health issue explained on this page.
For details and ordering simply copy a product's name in the search box above or click on the bold name.

Therapies: Affrmation, Visualization & Meditation, Emotional Healing Work, Flower Essence Therapy, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Low Glycemic Diet and Stress Management

Herbs: Licorice Root

Herbal Formulas: HY-A, Mood Elevator, Nervous Fatigue Formula, Pro-Pancreas, Stress Relief and Stress-J

Nutrients: Calcium, Chromium G T F, DHA, Grapine, Magnesium, Niacin and Omega-3

Nutritional Supplements: Nutri-Calm and Vitamin B-Complex

Nutraceuticals: Adrenal Support, AnxiousLess, Brain-Protex W/ Huperzine A, Heavy Metal Detox, Mega-Chel, Thai-Go, Thyroid Support and Yeast,Fungal Detox

Packs: Candida Clear and Super Trio

Flower Essences: Distress Remedy

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Disclaimer: We do not directly dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of herbs or supplements as a form of treatment for illness. The information found on this Web Site is for educational purposes only and to empower people with knowledge to take care of their own health. We disclaim any liability if the reader uses or prescribes any remedies, natural or otherwise, for him/herself or another. Always consult a licensed health professional should a need be indicated.