Category Archives: health

COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine, BAD NEWS.

The most comprehensive study on the use of these 2 drugs, including 96,032 patients in multiple hospitals and multiple countries shows increased risk of death with either of these two drugs in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. This was a retrospective study but offers the most amount of data to date on the issue of clinical efficacy and risk. You can read the full article https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31180-6/fulltext.

TreatmentDeath rateventricular arrhythmia
No drug9.30%0.30%
Hydroxychloroquine18%6.10%
Hydroxychloroquine plus Macrolide23.80%8.10%
Chloroquine16.40%4.30%
Chloroquine plus Macrolide22.20%6.50%
Macrolide is an antibiotic like Zithromax.
Differences between no drug and all drug treatment categories statistically significant.

This was not a randomized prospective controlled clinical trial. However the data were adjusted for:

age, sex, race or ethnicity, body-mass index, underlying cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, diabetes, underlying lung disease, smoking, immunosuppressed condition, and baseline disease severity.

So far it is the best information we have available.

There have been many physicians who have supported the use of these drugs without randomized controlled trials based on anecdotal reports in the medical literature. Given the desparate situation without a known effective drug that is understandable.

The authors note:

The absence of an effective treatment against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has led clinicians to redirect drugs that are known to be effective for other medical conditions to the treatment of COVID-19. Key among these repurposed therapeutic agents are the antimalarial drug chloroquine and its analogue hydroxychloroquine, which is used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the use of this class of drugs for COVID-19 is based on a small number of anecdotal experiences that have shown variable responses in uncontrolled observational analyses, and small, open-label, randomised trials that have largely been inconclusive.

 The combination of hydroxychloroquine with a second-generation macrolide, such as azithromycin (or clarithromycin), has also been advocated, despite limited evidence for its effectiveness.

This study is an important milestone, disappointing but illustrative of a common phenomenon in medicine.

Previous warnings about potential lethal heart rhythm issues were viewed with skepticism by armchair pundits claiming that there was not much data on sudden death related to use of these widely used drugs. Those pundits failed to understand that sudden death caused by prolonged QT interval (effect of these and many other drugs) cannot be diagnosed without an EKG during the event. When this occurs outside the hospital setting, or even in the hospital without a continuous EKG monitor on the patient, it goes unrecognized.

An important dictum in medicine is “first do no harm” (primum non nocere).

In the meantime, we do know what reduces risk:

Test/Trace/Isolate, social distance, MASKS4ALL, wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, show consideration for others. To understand why and how these measures can make a big difference you can go to this website. https://www.erinbromage.com/

In addition you can read a great article about the same topic here. https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/amid-the-coronavirus-crisis-a-regimen-for-reentry

I will close with the sermon on lifestyle and COVID-19.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

COVID-19 Sweden vs Other Countries

5/21/2020 deaths/ million 7 day running average doubling time
cumulative deaths/million/day days
SWEDEN 379 3.3 46
Norway 43.6 0.13 241
Finland 54.9 0.52 138
Denmark 95.6 0.49 120
USA 282 4.02 49
NZ 4.3 0 598
stay home test-trace leadership
isolate example
SWEDEN no yes ?
Norway yes yes good
Finland yes yes good
Denmark yes yes good
USA late/variable POOR poor
New Zealand yes excellent excellent

Sweden was a source of controversy for the choice against instituting a stay-home policy. As you compare Sweden with other Scandinavian countries above you will see a dramatic difference in deaths per million (cumulative), running 7 day average deaths per million per day, and doubling time. The higher the doubling time (in days) the more a country has slowed the spread. New Zealand is the obvious winner. Early and aggressive action, effective test/trace/isolate, excellent leadership and example by the president are the hallmarks of success in New Zealand. Of course New Zealand is a small island with minimal international business and tourism so the comparison is not fair. HOWEVER, their success and strategy are obvious.

The US failed (and continues to fail) on test/trace/isolate despite the bluster and misrepresentations from the Whitehouse. California and Washington instituted early measures with respect to stay-home but without adequate test kits all of US states have been unable to execute the test/trace/isolate strategy proven effective in other countries. President Trump promised California 100,000 nasal swabs per week three weeks ago. They have not arrived. (California Department of Public Health)

Thus comparing USA to Sweden we see that with adequate social distancing, test/trace/isolate, Sweden did almost as well (or as poorly) as the US where stay at home was employed on a variable time line and to different degrees between the states.

You can review worldwide data, download spreadsheets, choose countries for comparison here.

Test/Trace/Isolate + Social distance + Masks4all + cooperation = SUCCESS

Had the US responded early and effectively, stay-home could have ended very quickly and safely with much less economic disruption.

Poor Management = inadequate Test/Trace/Isolate and other measures.

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article discussing the failure of the
USA relative to Test/Trace/Isolate.

Failing the Test — The Tragic Data Gap Undermining the U.S. Pandemic Response

 

The importance of  Reviving the US CDC after annual cuts by the Trump Administration is discussed here.

On March 25 the NEJM published an editorial on responding to the pandemic.

We did not follow the recommendations.

The AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, a conservative think-tank, published a comprehensive Roadmap to Reopening.

Unfortunately we have not followed that roadmap.

So boost your immune system and meet the challenge with your personal behavior. Be smart.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

 

COVID-19: ARDS, CYTOKINE STORM, and GLUTATHIONE

My good friend Dr. Deborah Gordon recently sent me a terrific article on an Integrative Medicine Approach to Covid-19. It confirmed much of what I have discussed about COVID-19 and provides 383 scientific references (many of which were cited in my previous posts). Thank you Dr. Deborah!

In my last post I promised to write about glutathione and cytokine storm.

Cytokines are proteins made by our immune system. When our body suffers an infection, cytokines act as essential signaling proteins that produce a defensive inflammatory response. In a cytokine storm the usual regulatory process that helps resolve inflammation becomes disturbed and self destruction can occur.

With COVID-19 this can happen in any organ of the body but frequently starts in the lungs, resulting in ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

In most clinical contexts the mortality rate of ARDS is 40-45%. In the context of COVID-19 it is 80-90 % lethal in most clinical reports (twice the usual mortality rate for ARDS). However, the ICU doctors in the Northwell Hospital system in NYC have been using NAC (n-Acetylcysteine).

While using NAC as part of their treatment protocol of COVID-19 associated ARDS, they are getting 50% of patients off the ventilator with a significant reduction in mortality rates compared to previous reports (personal communication with a Northwell physician and also mentioned in the Review Article cited above.)

This drug (also available as a dietary supplement) has been used for decades to treat acetaminophen (APAP) overdose (Tylenol brand name, also called paracetamol in Europe). If not treated early APAP overdose commonly causes death from liver failure.

Chronic acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of liver failure leading to liver transplant in the US.

How does this treatment  with NAC work in the setting of APAP overdose?

“When paracetamol is taken in large quantities, a minor metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) accumulates within the body. It is normally conjugated by glutathione, but when taken in excess, the body’s glutathione reserves are not sufficient to deactivate the toxic NAPQI. This metabolite is then free to react with key hepatic enzymes, thereby damaging liver cells. This may lead to severe liver damage and even death by acute liver failure.”

NAC (n-acetylcysteine) provides cysteine, one of the three amino acids that make up glutathione.

“glutathione synthesis is primarily controlled by the cellular level of the amino acid cysteine, the availability of which is the rate-limiting step.”

So by providing a source of cysteine, the body produces more glutathione which can detoxify the liver damaging metabolites of APAP.

Glutathione is our MASTER ANTI-OXIDANT. Since a cytokine storm involves an overwhelming amount of oxidative stress, glutathione is obviously important.

Clinical research in the 1990s established that the lungs of patients with ARDS are very deficient in glutathione.

A profound 20 fold reduction was confirmed in this study.

“Glutathione is a tripeptide that is able to react with and effectively neutralize oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide. The present study found that the alveolar epithelial lining fluid of patients with ARDS was deficient in total glutathione compared with that of normal subjects (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 651.0 ± 103.1 µM, p = 0.0001) and patients with cardiogenic pulmonary edema (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 154.1 ± 52.4 µM, p = 0.001). In addition, a greater percentage of total glutathione was in the oxidized form in patients with ARDS compared with normal subjects (30.6 ± 6.1 versus 6.4 ± 2.9%, p = 0.03). This deficiency of reduced glutathione in the alveolar fluid may predispose these patients to enhanced lung cell injury.

Subsequent studies of humans with ARDS on ventilators showed clinical benefit by increasing glutathione levels with NAC.

“In our controlled clinical trials with NAC we found that patients with ARDS have depressed plasma and red cell glutathione concentrations, that these levels are substantially increased by therapy with intravenous NAC and there are measurable clinical responses to treatment with regard to increased oxygen delivery, improved lung compliance and resolution of pulmonary edema.”

Despite these findings decades ago, the use of NAC for ARDS has not been widely adopted. But it would make sense to employ this inexpensive medication, widely used for APAP overdose, for ARDS and in particular for cytokine storm caused by COVID-19.

Oxidative stress decreases glutathione levels and if these levels reach a critically  low level in tissues, organ damage can ensue rapidly. Cytokine storm is the extreme example.

Chronic alcohol abuse also decreases protective glutathione levels in the lung.

In my recent posts on COVID-19 I have pointed out that alcohol (even 2 drinks) suppresses the immune system for at least a few days. Alcohol consumption is a double hit, first as an immune suppressant, then as a major source of oxidative stress and reduction in protective glutathione levels. Two glasses of wine tonight followed by a COVID-19 sneeze in your face the next day could be the difference between an effective immune response (mild symptoms) versus an overwhelming life threatening infection!

Likewise, one night of inadequate sleep (which immediately suppresses immunity) followed by a COVID sneeze in your face the next day could have the same deleterious effect.

Below is a chart from the review article mentioned at the start of this post. Notice the top line states “ADDRESS SLEEP, STRESS, DIET, SUGAR, ALCOHOL

If you have been reading my posts on COVID-19, you have heard this before.

integrative medicine chart

Notice the second row in the chart with escalating doses of NAC as intensity of disease increases. When cytokine storm hits NAC dose recommendations peak and glutathione (available for IV administration) is recommended. IV glutathione surprisingly is not part of most hospital formularies and I have never seen it used in a hospital setting. Functional medicine physicians sometimes use it outside of the hospital setting. IV glutathione has become a sexy and lucrative office procedure in some functional medicine practices.

NAC has high bioavailability, meaning it is absorbed well in our gut. So oral supplementation can rapidly and effectively increase levels of glutathione in the body. IN FACT, treatment of acetaminophen overdose in the ER typically begins with oral NAC (often administered through a naso-gastric feeding tube, passed through the nose and into the stomach) Doses are often calculated by the regional poison control center (available by phone 24/7/365) and subsequent doses follow a standard protocol based on weight.

I would encourage you to read through this COVID-19 INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE review article.

It is thick with science but you might be surprised by how much you understand and learn.

In the chart above there is specific mention of Vitamin C supplementation in escalating doses as degree of illness increases. Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant and in that sense is a glutathione sparing agent helping to mitigate glutathione depletion.

Other important factors mentioned in the article and the chart above include items mentioned here in previous posts: ZINC, ZINC IONOPHORES, phytochemicals (quercitin, EGCg, curcumin), Vitamin D, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, sunshine.

So I will close this post the way I have closed on many posts related to COVID-19.

Support your immune system.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8.  Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet, sugar increases inflammation, contributes to metabolic dysfunction and impairs immunity.

In a future post I will describe my PERSONAL approach to dietary supplements in the context of COVID-19. I will also discuss the issue of an ADVANCED DIRECTIVE, in case you are hospitalized.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

Glutathione review links are below:

Glutathione!

Mitochondrial Glutathione, a key survival antioxidant

Glutathione: overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis

 

 

 

Study shows only 12% of US adults are metabolically healthy!

What does this mean? The authors of this study looked at several important markers of health: waist circumference, fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL, and whether someone was taking any medication related to these markers. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2016. Only 12.3% of US adults qualified as healthy on all measures. So how did we get into this horrible situation?

Let’s step back and look at modifiable factors that play into these health measures.

  • Adequate restorative sleep
  • Stress
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sunlight (Vitamin D)
  • Social connection
  • Environmental toxins
  • Rest

I have discussed the importance of sleep in several posts. Following this link you will find recommendations for good sleep habits that can enhance the quality and duration of your sleep.

If you have not watched Dan Pardi’s discussion of “HOW TO OPTIMIZE LIGHT FOR HEALTH” I recommend you watch this.

STRESS

Stress reduction is a huge topic. Managing stress involves so many areas it deserves a separate discussion. But here are some basics. Getting adequate sleep is the place to start. Activities like Meditation, Yoga, moderate exercise (walking outdoors in a green space) Tai Chi, music, practicing Mindfulness, and spending time with family and friends are all potential avenues to reduce the deletrious effects of stress in our lives.

NUTRITION

I have presented one approach to an anti-inflammatory diet  and if you have not read through the details just follow the link. The low hanging fruit begins with elimination of processed foods, sweetened beverages, and pro-inflammatory “vegetable oils” (OILS made from corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, canola, margarine). EAT WHOLE FOODS.

TO LEARN ABOUT THE ILL-EFFECTS OF “VEGETABLE OILS” LISTEN TO NINA:

EXERCISE

My post about exercise as medicine can be found here. 

The best way to exercise is to play as described by my friend Daryl Edwards in his TED talk.

 

Most Americans do not get enough, but some get too much. Moderation is important.

SUNLIGHT

Getting outdoor light exposure early in the day and avoiding the deleterious effects of artificial light in the evening (wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening) are two important ways to get the most benefit from light exposure, improve your sleep and enhance your Vitamin D level. Exercise outdoors in a green space provides more benefit than walking the treadmill indoors.

SOCIAL CONNECTION

Blue Zones are areas in the world that have the greatest numbers of individuals living to age 100. The climates and food varies among the various areas. They  all have two things in common. First is a high degree of social connection, strong family ties, lifelong friends. Social connection within a supportive community is arguably one of the most important factors affecting health, longevity, and healthspan. Second, they eat REAL WHOLE FOOD.

blue zones longevity hotspots.jpg

 

ENVIORNMENTAL TOXINS

Part of eliminating environmental toxins includes consuming organic fruits and vegetables and eating meat, poultry and eggs from hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free- range/pastured sources. (ALL PART OF AN ANCESTRAL/PALEO DIET) If you are not familiar with the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15” head on over to EWG.org where you will learn not only about what foods have the most/least residual pesticides, but also what personal care products and household cleaners are safe for you and your family.

WATER: Because humans have spent the last 4-5 decades polluting our air and water there is probably no water supply that is totally free of enviornmental toxins. To minimize your consumption of enviornmental toxins, filter your drinking water through a high quality system.

REST

Matthew Redlund MD has written a great book “THE POWER OF REST”. Here he discusses why sleep is not enough.

The fact that only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy should be cause for great alarm. All chronic and degenerative  diseases including dementia, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer rise as metabolic health deteriorates.

Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.

Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.

Doctor Bob

 

Ketogenic Diet, Keto-Medicine

I have spent a few days watching lectures from various low-carb-healthy-fat meetings. There is an impressive amount of solid clinical data to support Very Low Carb (with healthy fat)  diets to treat obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and seizure disorders. Eric Westman MD, author, Associate Professor of Medicine, Past Chairman of the Obesity Medicine Association,  and director of Duke University Lifestyle Medical Clinic gave an impassioned and authoritative talk on the success of LCHF in treating all of these disorders here.

 

Dr. Steven Phinney,  Professor Emeritus UC Davis and presently Chief Medical Officer for VIRTA has given numerous talks on the beneficial effects of a ketogenic diet. He and Jeff Volek Ph.D. have done research for decades on the physiology of low carbohydrate diets. They elucidated the changes that occur in high level athletes as they adapt to burning fat as their major fuel source during and after a period of “fat adaptation”. It turns out that endurance athletes, after a period of 1 to 3 months of adaptation to a low carb-high fat diet (variable from person to person) perform at equal or higher levels as compared to their performance when previously on a high carbohydrate diet. In fact, because lean athletes have much greater energy stored in fat as compared to glycogen (carbohydrate) they can go for many hours longer than an athlete who is dependent on carbohydrate metabolism (not fat adapted). Glycogen is the starch source of energy that humans store in the liver (100 grams) and in muscle (400 grams). Compared to glycogen, fat stores in lean individuals, including buff athletes,  can provide more than 10 times the amount of energy. Endurance athletes who are keto-adapted (fat burners) can ride a bike all day or run an ultra-marathon (100 miles) without taking in any energy source. (They must of course replace fluid and electrolytes). Whereas athletes who have followed a traditional high carb diet must start consuming calories after about 3 hours of moderate-high intensity exercise. Doctors Phinney and Volek have done clinical research on humans with obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes and they have demonstrated superior results when compared to any other dietary approach.

You can learn about their work here:

And here:

So what is this all about? If carbohydrates are restricted to very low levels and instead we consume (healthy) fat as our major source of energy with moderate amounts of protein, then the human body starts to burn fat. This process results in the production of ketones (in the liver) which serve not only as a source of energy but also act as “signaling” molecules that turn on beneficial genes that fight inflammation and turn off genes that produce inflammation. When a well formulated ketogenic diet is followed under medical supervision, diabetics can often get off most or all of their diabetes medications within weeks to months as they lose weight. Improvements are seen quickly in blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, liver function tests, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, subjective energy levels, mental clarity and mood. Triglycerides are reduced, HDL increases, and improvements are seen in the “atherogenic profile” with reductions in small dense LDL particles with a shift to large buoyant LDL particles. On a ketogenic diet humans spontaneously consume lower caloric intake because fat and protein are more satiating compared to carbohydrate. Circulating saturated fat in the blood DECREASES on a keto-genic diet. Refined carbohydrates and sugar (so prevalent in processed foods) produce increased circulating fat in the blood and increased fat storage throughout the body, often leading to fatty liver disease and the long list of chronic diseases caused by and associated with insulin resistance.

A ketogenic diet is also part of Dr. Dale Bredesen’s effective treatment program for early dementia (ReCoDe-Reversal of Cognitive Decline). I have discussed Dr. Bredesen’s approach before. Here is one of his discussions.

You can read Dr. Bredesen’s report of 100 patients who have reversed cognitive decline using a ketogenic diet as PART of the ReCoDe program here.

So what are the healthy fats in a low carb high fat diet?

They include fats found in whole foods such as nuts and avocados, pasture raised animals free of hormones and antibiotics, free range poultry and eggs, wild fish and seafood (avoiding large fish that have high mercury levels), extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, butter from pastured grass-fed animals, and coconut oil. (yes butter is included despite that fact that strict paleo excludes dairy)

You should avoid all of the processed/refined oils that come from seeds, grains and legumes including soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil. You can learn why these (misnamed) “vegetable oils” are dangerous and how they were marketed to an unwitting public with the help and support of faulty science by listening to Nina Teicholz here:

There are many great lectures about the low-carb-high-fat ketogenic diet in addressing obesity, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, seizures and more. Go to youtube and search “keto diet”, “low carb high fat”.

Before I sign off I will provide one more link:

Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.

Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.

Doctor Bob

 

 

Depression, Food, Sunshine, Gut Microbiome

A family member was admitted to a psychiatric hospital this year with a major depressive episode. For the sake of anonymity lets call her Margie. I investigated the hospital and found that the medical director, chief nursing officer and CEO had excellent credentials. I asked Margie about her food choices, opportunity for exercise and time outdoors. All of these were deplorable. The only opportunity to spend time outdoors was to go outside with the smoking group for 20 minutes twice per day (cigarette breaks). There was no exercise program or exercise opportunity other than walking the halls and walking up and down the stairs with the smoking group going to/from a smoking session. The only green leafy vegetable available was iceberg lettuce (minimal nutritional value). Food options included high sugar and high starch content items, with very few vegetables and fresh fruits. Sugar and refined carbohydrates contribute to inflammation and gut dysbiosis, both of which contribute to psychiatric illness.

Margie had insomnia and depression. These two problems travel together and feed on each other. The lack of outdoor light in the morning and presence of artificial light in the evening all contribute to disruption of  circadian rhythm, worsening depression and insomnia. Lack of exercise also contributes to both.

Here is an excerpt of a letter I sent to her treating psychiatrist with copies to the CEO, medical director and chief nursing officer.

I do have concerns about the lack of availability at XXXXXXXXX Hospital of two essential components to mental health, specifically nutritional support and exercise.

So far the dietician has not yet consulted with XXXXX. I called the dietary department to discuss my concerns that she has been served primarily nutritionally deplete starch and sugar laden foods with a minimum of vegetables, fruit, healthy fat and protein. I was told that the only green leafy vegetable available is lettuce and when I inquired about other vegetables the response was very limited. Bob in the dietary department was great and very receptive to my concerns but seems somewhat limited in the availability of appropriate nutrient dense food at XXXXXXXX.

In addition, Maria tells me that XXXXXXX has no exercise program or exercise facility for patients. The importance of exercise and nutrition has been discussed extensively in the psychiatry literature.

Enclosed are a few review articles and abstracts relevant to nutrition and exercise for in-patient psychiatry. I hope you find these useful and would consider making efforts along the lines of the author’s recommendations in these studies and review articles.

I found the review by Dr LaChance and Dr. Ramsey “Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression” to be most informative. You are probably aware that Dr. Ramsey has presented many lectures at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. The authors of the other studies enclosed have also been well represented at that meeting.

Despite requesting a response from the Medical Director, Chief Nursing Officer, and CEO, I never received any communication in response to my concerns.

The concept of “NUTRITIONAL PSYCHIATRY” has received much attention in the psychiatry literature. This article was published in the World Journal of Psychiatry. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression.

The article discusses nutrients that are “related to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders”

Here is a summary:

Twelve Antidepressant Nutrients relate to the prevention and treatment of depressive disorders: Folate, iron, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), magnesium, potassium, selenium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and zinc.

The highest scoring foods were bivalves such as oysters and mussels, various seafoods, and organ meats for animal foods. The highest scoring plant foods were leafy greens, lettuces, peppers, and cruciferous vegetables.

This description aligns with the anti-inflammatory diet that I recommend to patients.

This dietary approach provides essential nutrients for brain health but also provides for healthy diversity in the gut microbiome,.

The relationship between psychiatric illness and the gut microbiome has been extensively reviewed in the medical literature.

Source of image:

Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 11 September 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fnint.2018.00033

This complicated picture depicts the interaction between food, gut microbiome, immune system, inflammation, endocrine system (stress response mediated by the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis), nervous system, neuro-transmitters including serotonin (the target of many ante-depressant medications). BBB is the blood brain barrier. ENS is the enteric nervous system. SCFAs are short chain fatty acids, very important for health, produced by “good” gut bacteria by using dietary fiber. SCFAs serve several useful purposes including nourishment for the cells that line the gut, protection of the tight junctions between those cells (prevent leaky gut), direct anti-inflammatory actions and more. Leaky gut leads to an increase in pro-inflammatory substances crossing the gut barrier and entering the body (instead of staying in the gut and leaving with stool) with a cascade of undesirable consequences. LPS (lipopolysaccharides) are bacterial wall toxins that stimulate the immune system and create inflammation. This inflammatory response is a major contributor to death in the setting of systemic infections (sepsis).

If you are interested in understanding this picture you can read the entire article here.

It is clear from this picture that the authors recommend beans and whole grains. I advise  against the consumption of grains and legumes in favor of colorful vegetables which provide for 5-7 times the amount of fiber per calorie compared to grains. Many reasons to avoid grains and legumes discussed on the website many times.

Fiber-rich diets are the main fermentable sources for SCFAs which contribute to the attenuation of systemic inflammation by inducing regulatory T cells. (Lucas et al., 2018) and through multiple other mechanisms.

SCFAs are one of many metabolites produced by gut bacteria that contribute to the prevention of depression

The mechanisms of action include direct communication to the brain through the vagus nerve, absorption of SCFAs into the blood where it can reach the brain and have beneficial effects, dampening of the inflammatory immune response, protecting the gut lining as mentioned above. These are depicted below.

 

SCFAs and depression

Image Source : Microb Cell 2019 Oct 7,; 6(10): 451-481, PMID 31646148

Exercise protects against depression and is useful as therapy for depression.

In her discussion of depression as a brain inflammatory disorder Psychiatrist Emily Dean describes well some of these interactions.

This is not the first time I have observed  very limited access to nutritious foods, exercise and sunlight in the setting of a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, it will likely not be the last despite multiple studies and articles in the medical literature pointing to the importance of these three ingredients for general and psychiatric health.

To prevent and treat depression and other psychiatric illnesses, nutrition, exercise, sunshine are all important. Lack of these basic treatment modalities hampers recovery and health.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose.

Doctor Bob

 

 

 

 

Exercise as Medicine

For many chronic health problems, regular exercise is more effective than any drug.

Exercise as Medicine is a major movement at John’s Hopkins School of Medicine.

You can visit this website for links to many topics on the benefits of exercise.

You can find the top 10 things you need to know about exercise here. They include the following evidence based recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. Americans can benefit from small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day.

The benefits of exercise are cumulative, walk 10 minutes 3 times per day and you get the same benefit as a 30 minute walk. Walk  5 minutes 6 times and the benefit equals that of 30 minutes continuous walking. So you can break up your exercise in little pieces throughout the day. No requirement for a specific long period devoted to exercise.

New evidence shows that physical activity has immediate health benefits. For example, physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.

Exercise improves cognition, decreases cancer risk, decreases risk of depression, hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It lowers risk of falls and injuries from falls. It decreases pain and helps a variety of conditions. Exercise reduces all cause mortality (death rates from all causes)

Here are some direct quotes from the second edition of the  Physical Activity Guidelines.

  • For youth, physical activity can help improve cognition,* bone health, fitness, and heart health. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
  • For adults, physical activity helps prevent 8 types of cancer (bladder,* breast, colon, endometrium,* esophagus,* kidney,* stomach,* and lung*); reduces the risk of dementia* (includingAlzheimer’s disease*), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
  • For older adults, physical activity also lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.*
  • For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression.*
  • New evidence shows that physical activity can help manage more health conditions that Americans already have. For example, physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.

You can choose from a variety of TEDtalks on exercise here.

I particularly enjoyed my friend Darryl Edwards talk here.

 

So sleep well, exercise often, eat clean, filter your water, avoid environmental toxins, get plenty of sunshine, and most important of all, stay connected with friends and family.

Doctor Bob