Women and Postpartum Depression

For 1 in 8 women, new motherhood is anything but joyous – Health.com

Mother In Nursery Suffering From Post Natal Depression

Postpartum depression is a very real and very serious problem for many mothers. It can happen to a first time mom or a veteran mother. It can occur a few days… or a few months after childbirth – Richard J. Codey

Recently on the news I saw that Drew Barrymore admitted that she suffered from postpartum depression after she had her second daughter.  It was a short-lived experience.  It lasted about six months. She was grateful for the experience because it was a constant reminder to stay present in the moment.  Her motto was, “one thing at a time.”

I have heard quite a bit about postpartum depression but this time I wanted to educate myself about it and my heart was touched by the experiences women go through.  First of all, I want to point out that it’s a real and serious condition.   I was appalled at how women with postpartum depression were treated.  Stigma, disbelief and lack of support from others prevent them from getting the treatment they desperately need.  So, they suffer in silence.  How terrible it is for a woman who has images of her child drowning in the bathtub or being smothered on his burp cloth, fearing for her sanity but is afraid to say anything so she keeps it from her husband for as long as she could. And how sad it is that a woman should feel judged for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression because of the mistaken belief that depressed mothers are self-centered and weak.

Women who have postpartum depression feel a triple whammy of the stigma reserved for people with mental illnesses.  Not only are they brought down by what many expect to be the happiest even in a woman’s life–the birth of a child–but also total honesty about their emotional state could invite scorn or even a visit from social services (Health.com).  

“We’re suffering from an illness that cannot be seen.  We don’t have a fever, swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea.  No open wounds that will not heal–at least not the kind you can see with the naked eyes.  So, many wonder if we’re really sick at all – Katherine Stone

Psychologist Shoshana Bennett, founder and director of Postpartum Assistance for Mothers endured two life-threatening postpartum depressions in the mid-1980s, at the time when help for women in her condition was hard to find.  “I was quite suicidal.  My doctor told me to go and get my nails done,” Bennett recalls.  Can you imagine going to your doctor because you are feeling suicidal and being told to go and get your nails done?  It didn’t help that she had an unsympathetic mother-in-law who, believe it or not, had been a postpartum nurse for years.  The mother-in-law had given birth to five children and had not suffered from baby blues with any of them.  When Bennett’s husband asked his mother what was wrong with his wife, her response was, “She’s spoiled.  It’s not just about her anymore.”

Bennett’s husband was angry, confused and upset with her.  Bennett hated herself and things got worse after her first child was born.   She was 40 pounds overweight and very depressed.  She went to her ob-gyn for help.  When she told him, “If life’s gonna be like this, I don’t wanna be here.”  His response?  He laughed and said that all women go through this.  So, there was Bennett, suffering from postpartum depression, with no support or help.  It was her own experience that motivated her to become a licensed therapist, specializing in postpartum depression so that she could counsel women who are going through what she did.

Sometimes women are given medications with terrible side effects.  Katherine Stone experienced this when the first psychiatrist she went to treated her with four or five medications.  She had to find a practitioner who specialized in the treatment of postpartum mental disorders.  She discovered the hard way that no all psychiatrists are experts in treating postpartum depression. “So many psychiatrists don’t understand the condition, don’t have the tools to treat this, and aren’t trained in varying ways in which women with this disorder need to be cared for,” she says.

It is recommended that you ask your ob-gyn, nurses and social workers if the hospital in which you delivered offers postpartum depression services or sponsors support groups for new moms. Ruta Nonacs, MD, Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Health at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, recommends, “Call Postpartum Support International (800-944-4773) to find a support group near you.  I also recommend seeing your family doctor.  They’re treating people with depression all the time and can also help with referral to a therapist.”

How can you tell that you have postpartum depression?  There are three postpartum conditions – baby blues, depression and psychosis.  Here are the symptoms outlined by Mayo Clinic:

Postpartum baby blues symptoms

Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying
  • Reduced concentration
  • Appetite problems
  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin later — up to six months after birth.

Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.

For more information such as when to see a doctor, what your options are or how you can help a friend or a loved one, click on this link.

Why do some women suffer from postpartum depression while others don’t?  According to Marcie Ramirez, Middle Tennessee coordinator for Postpartum Support International, “People with a history of mental illness have a high risk, as do people on either end of the age spectrum–young mothers or older mothers.  If you have a history of minor depression, panic attacks, or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), you are at a higher risk for postpartum depression.  A mother who experiences a traumatic birth is more likely to develop postpartum depression, as are new mothers who have a history of sexual abuse.  Bipolar disorder is a big indicator for postpartum psychosis, a very serious form of postpartum depression that affects about 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 new moms.”

Other predictors of postpartum depression are:

  • marital difficulties
  • stressful life events such as financial problems or loss of a job
  • childcare stress
  • inadequate social support
  • having to are for a child with a difficult temperament
  • low self-esteem
  • unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • being single
  • lower socioeconomic status
  • postpartum blues (Babycenter.com)

An article in the Daily Mail says that a woman’s risk of post-natal depression increases if she has a Caesarean section.  According to researchers, women were 48 per cent more likely to experience depression if they had a planned procedure rather than an emergency one.  Some women choose to have a Caesarean because they are afraid to give birth naturally, have had a previous childbirth trauma or want the convenience of a scheduled delivery.

Postpartum depression should be taken seriously.  Women are so overcome with fear and anxiety that they are afraid to be in the same room with their babies.  This affects them being able to bond with their babies which is vital to their development.  Women need to talk about their feelings, no matter how painful they are.  They need the support of their husbands and families.  “A functioning, healthy mom is vital to the family unit, and getting mothers with postpartum depression professional help can ensure that they avoid years of needless depression,” says Ramirez.

Advice for mothers who are experiencing depression is, “do what’s best for yourself so you can do what’s best for your baby” (Health.com).    Ann Dunnwold, PHD, a Dallas-based psychologist who specializes in postpartum depression, says, “The key is to have it on your own terms.  Sometimes the mother-in-law will come over to be with the baby, but what the new mom needs is for her to do the laundry.  To help, everyone needs to ask themselves what the mom really wants.”

There is hope for women suffering from postpartum depression.  The key is finding a health professional who specializes in treating it and who won’t brush you off or make light of it.  There are medications and treatments that can relieve or even reverse postpartum mood disorders. Don’t wait to get help.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Speak up.

If you know a woman who is going through postpartum depression or are married to one, please help out as much as you can.  Make sure that she gets enough sleep and encourage her to speak with her healthcare provider.  Encourage her to get some kind of support.

If you are suffering from postpartum depression, here is a list of postpartum depression support groups.  Perhaps reading stories of mothers going through what you are going may help. You’re not alone.   Help and hope are available for you.

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Mature woman gives solace to crying adult daughter

Sources:   http://celebritybabies.people.com/2015/10/21/drew-barrymore-postpartum-depression-people-cover/?xid=rss-topheadlinesMayo Clinic; Baby Center; Postpartum Depression Progress; Health.com; Daily Mail; Brainy Quotes; Healthscope

Women’s Literacy = Women’s Liberty

“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right…. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
Kofi Annan

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 was an important day for lots of parents and their children. It was an important day for my family.  It was my son’s first day back to school. This year he will be in grade 2 . It was wonderful seeing parents and their kids filing into the school. The halls were crowded and noisy as we squeezed our way to the gym where the children were to line up before heading to the auditorium for the greeting and morning prayer. As I looked at the children in their uniforms, I thought of how what a blessing it is to be able to go to school.

September 8 was an important day for another reason. It was International Literacy Day, a day first proclaimed as such on November 17, 1965 by UNESCO. It was first celebrated in 1966 and its objective has always been to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. The theme for this year was Literacy and Sustainable Societies and the Day marked the 50th anniversary of the World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy. It is a day when the world is reminded of how important learning is.

International Literacy Day gives children and communities a chance to rediscover the joys of reading while raising awareness for those without access to education.

Can you imagine being a mother and unable to read your child’s school report or help him with his homework because you can’t read or write?  What if you couldn’t read the Bible or a bedtime story to your child or a Mother’s Day or birthday card?  Sadly, there are women in South Asia who can’t read or write.  Can you believe that over 30% of Asian women are illiterate? In fact, more than one out of every three women in Asia are illiterate!

There is hope, thanks to Gospel for Asia’s Literacy Program.  Through literacy classes held by GFA supported local Women’s Fellowships, women are learning how to read, write, do basic math, some of life’s most basic lessons, and, most importantly, they are learning how to read and study God’s Word on their own.  What a joy it must be to be able to read about a loving God and a Savior who gave His life for them.  And better yet, they can read to their children.

So women volunteered to teach literacy classes to other women. The program expanded into several states and two countries, so a standardized curriculum was developed.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are so many people who still cannot read or write.  Last year, Gospel for Asia supported the work of missionaries who saw International Literacy Day as an opportunity to raise awareness of the value of women’s literacy and to share the Gospel.

Gospel for Asia literacy imageI rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure – Psalm 119:162

Do you want to bring hope to women by helping to make it possible for them to read and study God’s Word?  Find out how you can do so here.  Reading and writing are basic necessities of life that everyone should have.  Women who learn how to read, write and do basic Math will be able to provide for their families.  You will be helping a woman to keep her children safe because she can read the warning labels or from being cheated at the marketplace because she knows basic Math.  Think of how different your life would be if you couldn’t read your Bible, recipes, emails or letters.  Then think of the freedom you enjoy from being literate and how you can help to liberate these women too.

Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens President Bill Clinton on International Literacy Day, September 8th 1994

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia, International Literacy Day, UNESCO

Women and Bipolar Disorder

The first time I was aware of bipolar disorder was years ago in New York.  It was there that I learned that my sister was manic depressive.  She had suffered from a nervous breakdown.  I never knew that she was manic depressive.   It was not evident to me.  She seemed fine to me.

While living in New York, she only had one episode where she had to stay in the hospital overnight but after that she was fine.  She had a good doctor who was diligent in her care.  I have other relatives who suffer from bipolar disorder.  And a co-worker of mine is no longer working because she had a relapse.  The last time I saw her I couldn’t believe it was the same person.  She called me on the phone and she was saying things that didn’t make sense and using language I never expected to hear coming out of her mouth.  I realize that when a person has bipolar disorder, he or she is different.  The illness changes the person.  Things from the past are dredged up, there are resentments and the belief that there is a conspiracy against him or her.

It’s hard to see someone you love suffering from a mental illness.  It’s harder when the person comes off of the medication and winds up back in hospital.  Each time he or she comes off the medication, it becomes harder to get back on track.  And the scary thing is they get into debt or in some cases trouble.  It’s hard for family members to know just how to cope, especially if during these episodes harsh and hurtful things are said.  It’s so disappointing when the person is doing well for a long time and then there is a relapse.  Each time he or she gets better, you are wary, wondering how long it would last.  Each time he or she promises not to come of the medication and vows to stay out of the hospital but something happens and there is an episode.

Even though I am aware of bipolar disorder, I still don’t know much about it.  I thought that I would search the web and gather all the information I could find just to get a better understanding of the illness.

What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain and behavior disorder characterized by severe shifts in a person’s mood and energy, making it difficult for the person to function. More than 5.7 million American adults or 2.6 percent of the population age 18 or older in any given year have bipolar disorder. The condition typically starts in late adolescence or early adulthood, although it can show up in children and in older adults. People often live with the disorder without having it properly diagnosed and treated.

What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder causes repeated mood swings, or episodes, that can make someone feel very high (mania) or very low (depressive). The cyclic episodes are punctuated by normal moods.

Mania Episode Signs and Symptoms:

  • Increased energy, activity, restlessness
  • Euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Racing thoughts, fast talking, jumping between ideas
  • Sleeplessness
  • Heightened sense of self-importance
  • Spending sprees
  • Increased sexual behavior
  • Abuse of drugs, such as cocaine, alcohol and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong

Depressive Episode Signs:

  • Sad, anxious or empty-feeling mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
  • Change in appetite, unintended weight loss or gain
  • Bodily symptoms not caused by physical illness or injury
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Apparently there are several types of bipolar disorder but the two main ones are bipolar I and II.  Bipolar type I disorder is the “classic” form, and patients often experience at least one full or mixed episodes with major depressive episodes. Bipolar type II disorder is where patients have at least one milder form of mania and one major depressive episode.  However, they never get a full manic or mixed episode.  Bipolar II is harder to diagnose because some symptoms of hypomania may not be as apparent. Hypomania is described as a milder form of mania with less severe symptoms.  I believe that my sister displays more symptoms of mania.

All the people I know who have bipolar disorder are women.  Although it is prevalent among men as well, it seems that it is approximately three times more common in women than in men.  For women it is rapid cycling.  Rapid cycling describes incidences where a bipolar patient experiences four or more episodes of mania, hypomania, or depression within a time period of a year (Leibenluft, 1997).

The article explains why rapid cycling bipolar disorder more common in women than in men. Three potential hypotheses to explain the higher prevalence of rapid cycling in women are hypothyroidism incidence, specific gonadal steroid effects, and the use of anti-depressant medications. First, more women encounter hypothyroidism than men do; however, there is not a general consensus on it being a primary cause of increased rapid cycling. Second, gonadal steroids, such as estrogen and progesterone, fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Sixty-six percent of bipolar type I women had regular mood changes during either their menstrual or premenstrual phase of their cycle. They were more irritable and had increased anger outbursts (Blehar et al., 1998). These may set up women to frequent mood changes (especially prior to the menstrual cycle, as noted in the term “premenstrual syndrome”). Increased estrogen may cause women to develop hypercortisolism, which may increase the risk of depression. Stress levels are associated with cortisol level, so this may possibly be the reason for increased risk for depression.

There are risks involved in pregnant women who suffer from bipolar disorder.  Manic episodes and cycling seemed to occur exclusively during pregnancy.  For reasons still unclear, apparent pregnancy poses a question of relapse, which has an important effect on women and the fetus that they are carrying. The fetus can be at risk due to lack of attention to prenatal care, if the woman is not treated for the psychiatric illness. Precipitated episodes in the absence of treatment may be very detrimental to both parties involved. Secondly, the woman would be at risk because with each successive episode, the length of time to following episodes gets smaller. That is, the woman could have manic and depressive episodes more often. This would neither be beneficial to the woman or her child. The effect on the fetus due to many mood episodes is unclear (Viguera et al., 1998). “During pregnancy, a woman’s glomerular filtration rate increases” (Llewellyn et al., 1998). This means that any medication that she takes, such as lithium (discussed below), will be excreted more rapidly. This is very dangerous because if she does not have enough medication in her system, she can fall into relapse.

A dilemma arises in that if she increases her medication amount, she may be exposing her fetus to grave side effects and even danger (discussed below). Moreover, during labor, it is important that women remain fully hydrated. Since the period of time for delivery varies with each individual, a pregnant woman can become very dehydrated. When a woman gets dehydrated, the serum medication concentrations will increase (Llewellyn et al., 1998). This is the opposite effect of the increase in glomerulus filtration. Nonetheless, both situations are dangerous and can be very toxic to the woman and indirectly to the fetus.  As varying as the symptoms of bipolar disorder, per individual, so are the treatments. It is very important that bipolar pregnant women get the appropriate care and treatment that they need, in order to properly care for themselves as well as for the child that they are carrying.

It is disturbing to know that women with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to misdiagnosis.   recent study estimated that the odds that a woman with bipolar disorder will fail to be correctly diagnosed are roughly three times the odds for a man. This disparity may be explained in part by the fact that bipolar disorder tends to look different in women than it does in men—in the same way that physicians sometimes fail to catch heart disease in women because they are effectively looking for the male version of the disease, mental health professionals may not always be aware of the distinctive signs of bipolar disorder in women.  According to Vivien Burt, MD, PhD, director of the Women’s Life Center at UCLA’s Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, “Women are more demonstrative—they have more of what’s known as ‘affective loading’—so it’s not surprising that bipolar disorder might be underdiagnosed in women compared to men.”

Another article stated that a woman is likely to have more symptoms of depression than mania.  And female hormones and reproductive factors may influence the condition and its treatment.  Research suggests that in women, hormones may play a role in the development and severity of bipolar disorder. One study suggests that late-onset bipolar disorder may be associated with menopause. Among women who have the disorder, almost one in five reported severe emotional disturbances during the transition into menopause.  Studies have looked at the association between bipolar disorder and premenstrual symptoms. These studies suggest that women with mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, experience more severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

My sister had the disorder since she was in her thirties.  She is unmarried and doesn’t have any children.  If she had children would they be at risk?  Bipolar disorder is more likely to affect the children of parents who have the disorder. When one parent has bipolar disorder, the risk to each child is estimated to be 15-30%.  Bipolar symptoms may appear in a variety of behaviors. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, up to one-third of the 3.4 million children with depression in the United States may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder.

If you notice mood swings in yourself or someone else, don’t write them off as hormonal changes.  Seek medical help.  And if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, consult a psychiatrist or a general practitioner with experience in treating this illness.

My sister is currently on disability.  A bipolar diagnosis can have a great effect on your job and career.  In a survey of people with depression and bipolar disorder conducted by the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 88% said their condition affected their ability to work.  Don’t be discouraged, though.  Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep your job. Plenty of people with bipolar disorder work and live normal lives.  If you are currently unemployed and are seeking employment, find a job that is a good fit for you–one that is not stressful and has a flexible schedule.  If you are currently in a job that is not working for you–is affecting your health, not letting you get enough sleep, maybe it’s time to make some changes.  Here are some things you should consider:

  • Decide what you really need from your job. Do you need to reduce your responsibilities? Do you need extra breaks during the day to reduce stress? Would you rather work independently or in a group? Do you need to work shorter hours or take time off? Or do you need a different job altogether?
  • Make decisions carefully. People with bipolar disorder are prone to acting impulsively. Think through the effects of quitting your job — both for yourself and possibly for your family. Talk over your feelings with your family, therapist, or health care provider.
  • Look into financial assistance. If you do need to take time off because of your bipolar disorder, see if your employer has disability insurance, or look into Social Security Disability Insurance, which will provide some income while you recover. You can also look into the Family and Medical Leave Act. Ask your doctor or therapist for advice.
  • Go slowly. Returning to work after you’ve taken time off can be stressful. Think about starting in a part-time position, at least until you’re confident that your bipolar disorder has stabilized. Some people find that volunteer work is a good way to get back into the swing of things.

Unfortunately you may encounter stigma at work.  Some people might treat you unfairly because of your disorder.  If you feel that you are being passed over for promotion or are being treated unfairly, there are things you can do.  Find out what policies are in place at your company that will protect you from this kind of discrimination which is illegal.    The Americans with Disabilities Act can protect some people who are discriminated against because of a health condition.  Before you do anything, research the law and talk things over with family, friends and therapist.  Mitzi Waltz, author of “Adult Bipolar Disorders,” advises bipolar employees to call a counselor or local support group to help them with workplace problems.

Bipolar disorder is tough on families and spouses.  They have to cope with behavioral problems.  Family members often experience feelings of extreme guilt after the individual is diagnosed. They are concerned about having had angry or hateful thoughts, and many wonder whether they somehow caused the illness by being un-supportive or short-tempered, although this is not the case.  There are times when I feel guilty because I didn’t touch base with my sister as often as I should have.  There are times when I am frustrated with her for coming off her medication because she is aware of what happens when she does.  I feel that she should take more responsibility for keeping the disease under control by taking her medication.  I see how her relapses affect my mother who has Parkinson’s.

I realize that although it is difficult to cope, families of patients with bipolar disorder need to be more supportive.  It is in the best interest of the person to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much needed treatment if he or she is in the middle of a severe episode.  And it is important for the patient to  to understand that bipolar disorder will not go away, and that continued treatment is needed to keep the disease under control. It is important that they understand that proper therapy will enable them to have a good quality of life and enable them to have a productive life.

The following tips are for families who want to help their loved ones to cope with the illness:

  1. Educate Yourself
  2. Learn How–and When–to Talk
  3. Make Some Rules
  4. Plan Even More
  5. Listen
  6. Go Gentle
  7. Laugh Together
  8. Support Yourself

I encourage families of people with bipolar disorder to educate themselves and then see how they can help their loved ones to cope.

Sources:  http://bbrfoundation.org/frequently-asked-questions-about-bipolar-disorderhttp://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/women-and-bipolar-disorder/all/1/http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20274376,00.htmlhttp://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/guide/bipolar-disorder-womenhttp://www.bphope.com/BipolarIndepth.aspxhttp://www.ehow.com/about_5032842_signs-bipolar-disorder-women.htmlhttp://www.webmd.com/bipolar-disorder/going-to-work-bipolarhttp://www.livestrong.com/article/23014-good-career-those-bipolar-disorder/http://www.psychiatry24x7.com/bgdisplay.jhtml?itemname=bipolar_familyhttp://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Emotional-Health/Bipolar/8-Ways-to-Help-Your-Bipolar-Loved-One-Cope.aspx

Protect Your Brain–Avoid These Common Food Additives

I got this in an email from Food Matters and thought that I should share it.  I hope that this will motivate all of  us to watch what we eat and to be proactive in learning what foods to avoid so that we can enjoy great physical and mental health.

(NaturalNews) In the following interview, Dr. Russell Blaylock, renowned neurosurgeon, author and researcher, talks to Mike Adams about MSG, aspartame and other brain-damaging excitotoxins that are widely used in our food supply today. Dr. Blaylock is the author of ‘Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills’ and other important books on this important topic as well as others. In this interview, find out why Dr. Blaylock was shocked at what he found out about the effects MSG and aspartame have on our brain function and pathology and much more.

Health Ranger: Hello and welcome everyone, this is Mike Adams, the Health Ranger for Natural News.com and today I’m joined by neurosurgeon and author, researcher, Dr. Russell Blaylock. He’s widely regarded as the foremost authority on excitotoxins, and we’re going to be talking about MSG, aspartame, and other issues as we interview him today via Skype video. Dr. Blaylock, thanks for joining me today.

Dr. Blaylock: Well thank you, Mike.

Health Ranger: It’s great to have you on, you know I’m a big fan of your work and your books. In fact, one of your earlier books, ‘Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills’ is one of the first books I read that helped get me into the business of teaching people about health.

Dr. Blaylock: I’m glad I contributed- you’re a great person to teach people about these things. I’m a great fan of yours as well.

Health Ranger: Well, I’m a huge fan of your work, but for those watching, most people are probably familiar with you and your work and your books, but for those who may not be, can you give us just a brief background of how you got started in this, what encouraged you to write that book and so on.

Dr. Blaylock: Well, I was a neurosurgeon and during my residency training, I was interested in what causes all these neurological diseases and I was particularly interested in something that most of my colleagues were not interested in. That’s nutrition and its effect on the brain and recovery from brain injury. So that naturally led into looking at things that produce these problems. And I came across a book by George Schwartz on the MSG syndrome and as I read this little book about it, I said well there’s a lot of things in here I wasn’t familiar with. So I started researching monosodium glutamate and what it does to the brain and I was astounded by what I found. This is a very common additive to food and most people have no clue as to what it’s doing to the brain function and pathology, particularly in the developing brain, a child’s brain. I amassed all of this research, and so I decided to write a book, my first book, and I put it together and I presented it to the publishing company and they liked it and printed it.

Health Ranger: Now, most people who read that book are truly astonished by what you unveil in there. You talk about how the excitotoxins overexcite nerve cells and cause those cells to die, how it passes through the blood/brain barrier and so on. Just how toxic is MSG really and then, might you also add, what have you learned since writing the book that would add to the weight of the evidence?

Dr. Blaylock: Well actually, this book was written in 1994 and updated a few years after that but the amount of information we have about this toxicity has grown by leaps and bounds. There’s an enormous amount of literature, so the weight of the evidence on my side is just overwhelming. Now, what we’ve discovered is that this is a very toxic substance, particularly to the developing brain. So if a mother is consuming it while she’s pregnant in these high amounts, it not only passes through the placenta to the developing baby, but the amount or concentration of glutamate in the baby’s blood is twice as high as the mother’s. And of course this is a very delicate developing brain, the brain is under very complex development and we know that glutamate plays a big role in brain development. If the levels are too high or too low it can cause significant abnormalities in how the brain develops. Well women have been consuming this stuff and children have been consuming this stuff since 1945. And the amount in the food has doubled every decade since that time. Massive amounts of this stuff- and a study, a research foundation found out in fact that the amounts humans are consuming is the same amount that produces lesions in animal’s brains. So of all the life forms on earth, humans are the most sensitive to the MSG toxicity.

Health Ranger: Well let’s make sure we cover two of the basic concepts again for those viewers who may be new to this. Number one, why is MSG added to foods and then number two, what are the most common symptoms that people might observe in their own physiology that would be a clue that they’re experiencing MSG toxicity.

Dr. Blaylock: Well it was previously added to food during wartime into the sea rations, into the Japanese rations for the soldiers to increase taste, to stimulate taste. And they had discovered long ago that if you add a little bit of monosodium glutamate, it stimulates certain cells in the tongue to make food taste very good- so you could take a very bad tasting food, particularly canned foods, they have that tinny type taste to it, a metallic taste, and you put MSG in it, it just tastes scrumptious. Well, all the food manufacturers discovered this as they were introduced to it by the military and so all the major food manufacturers started adding MSG to food, including baby foods. So, up until 1970 it was placed in the baby foods itself and then when Dr. John Olney, a neuroscientists, discovered this toxicity to the brain and the serious implications of that toxicity, that’s when we started giving a little bit more attention to it. As far as symptoms, of course the first group of symptoms that came to the public’s attention was the MSG syndrome in which people would have flushing of their face and heart palpitations and sometimes pains going down their arms and even episodes of GI discomfort and diarrhea. Well those are the obvious symptoms. What was discovered after that in fact that there’s silent damage to the brain in which there’s very few symptoms. But over time, we see destruction of major important areas of the brain, things that can cause Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and that if you have these diseases it’s make them progress much faster.

Health Ranger: Now, as a neurosurgeon, have you ever actually seen brains that you know those those tissues have been damaged by MSG, is it something that’s visible when you’re actually looking at a living brain or is it not visible?

Dr. Blaylock: Well it’s not visible to the naked eye, you would have to look under a microscope to see it, but we know there are certain areas of the brain that are very sensitive, for instance the hypothalamus. There’s a nucleus in the hypothalamus called the arcuate nucleus, that controls your energy supply. That’s where leptin receptors are located and growth hormones. And it is the most sensitive place in the entire brain, it’s virtually wiped out by high doses of MSG. We know there’s a lot of damage to that nucleus and there’s good evidence that this obesity epidemic is caused by damage to that nucleus by the large amount of MSG put in food. Germans knew this, the German research scientists are writing about this regularly. In America, they don’t want to talk about it because of the enormous wealth.

Health Ranger: It’s really extraordinary, the food lobby has so much influence in Washington that they’re able to keep the FDA off of this issue or the USDA off of this issue. And it’s not just MSG, they’re able to put sodium nitrite in processed meat for example, to the point where today if you go buy beef jerky and you look at the ingredients, it’s got both MSG and sodium nitrite in it. It’s like a double dose of a toxic chemical cocktail, it’s amazing.

Dr. Blaylock: Well if you look at a lot of processed food you’ll see they do contain multiple toxins and multiple forms of glutamate, this excitotoxin. So I refer to them rather than MSG I refer to it as excitotoxic food additive. And they put it in virtually everything. Every processed food and those that don’t put it in there have trouble selling their food because they can’t get the taste hyped up enough to be able to sell it.

Health Ranger: You know that’s a good point, Dr. Blaylock, I also have noticed because I’m very sensitive to MSG and I have been for as long as I can remember- decades. Causes severe headaches, face flushing and things like that so I know if I’ve had some MSG. I’ve learned to look for it on labels. And I’ve found that, of course, the food companies hide it under all these different names. And my pet peeve name today is yeast extract because it’s used by many of the so-called natural food companies and even the vegetarian foods. They’re loaded with yeast extract. Can you talk about yeast extract and other hidden names for a minute?

Dr. Blaylock: Yeah When I first spoke on this issue in Chicago at a convention one of the chief manufacturers of processed foods came up and told me, he said if you convince everyone of the toxicity of this, we’ll just change the name. We’re gonna get it in the food one way or another. I told him, well, I’m gonna tell everybody the story of our conversation and I do, I repeat this story because it’s very important. And the government allows them, if it’s less than 99 percent pure MSG they can call it anything they want to. Caramelized yeast, caseinate, carrageenan, natural flavoring, vegetable extract, protein concentrate, soy isolate, the names just go on and on and on and on, and they’re very benign sounding like natural flavoring. Well people think that’s natural, or it’ll say hydrolyzed protein or plant protein, people think that’s natural. That’s why you see it in so many natural foods and these natural food stores.

Health Ranger: Yeah, it’s sickening, it’s insidious, I mean this is an age when consumers want full transparency, consumers want to know, are there GMO’s in the product, They want to know, is it organic or not, they want to know is there MSG in there and these companies just keep trying to hide it. Now to their credit, some companies have placed claims on their labels that say no MSG added and generally I find that to be an honest claim. And some of those companies are very much doing the right thing in that realm, but other companies just hide it under a different name. Seems to be a wide diversity of ethics in the food industry.

Dr. Blaylock: Well you see they do this quite commonly. When my book came out and a lot of people were talking about it, it had a big impact on these companies. They began to remove MSG on the label. And they would even put NO MSG and I would look at the label and I would see about three to four different forms of disguised glutamate in it. So they learned very quickly to just disguise the name, most of the public’s not going to know what it is and they’ll say well it says plainly on the label, no MSG, but in fact it contains more glutamate.

Health Ranger: Incredible, I want to urge those watching right now to learn more from Dr. Russell Blaylock and his website is RussellBlaylockMD.com did I get that right?

Dr. Blaylock: That’s right.

Health Ranger: Russell BlaylockMD.com, put it on the screen there, and then also you could check out his books at bookstores everywhere, including Amazon.com where he’s got Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills and Health and Nutrition Secrets, is that another one? What’s your book on cancer, Dr. Blaylock?

Dr. Blaylock: Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients.

Health Ranger: Ok, good,Natural Strategies for Cancer PatientsI really want to encourage you to check out his books, you’ll learn a wealth of information. It’s just astonishing. Dr. Blaylock, you, as a neurosurgeon, you are of course well informed about the structure and function of the brain and yet, I’m sure you often find yourself either arguing with or debating with some sort of MSG pusher who says things like, Oh, it’s perfectly safe, it doesn’t affect brain function at all. Is that a common piece of feedback that you hear from the industry?

Dr. Blaylock: Well not anymore. In the beginning, I did. When I first started giving lectures, when the book first came out. I did an interview with Chicago Tribune and I pointed out all these different dangers and then they had the representatives of the company that makes the product come back after me and say, well it doesn’t enter the brain because of the blood/brain barrier, and I’d already discussed that with the reporter. That in fact there’s compelling evidence and now absolute proof that it does pass the barrier. And that there’s many tissues in the body that have glutamate receptors. Virtually every cell in your body has glutamate receptors, and there’s no barrier. Now they know I’ve accumulated so much powerful evidence they never try to confront me directly, they know I’ve been to an audience, they never try to come back and defend themselves. There’s no defense. All the evidence is on my side.

Health Ranger: They just hope people don’t pay attention to your message?

Dr. Blaylock: Exactly. That’s right. They just ignore me, have the major media ignore it because they evidence I have is so compelling, most of the scientific world would agree with what I’m saying once they start looking at it, and more and more articles are being written on this.

Health Ranger: You mentioned the scientific world. That’s one of the most extraordinary things happening today is that the so called scientific world, in many cases they simply abandon the science and they become a priesthood of defenders of a certain narrow mythology. Such as, MSG doesn’t harm the brain or all vaccines are safe and effective, for example, complete quackery. But that becomes the line of the so-called scientist who abandoned the science. I mean are you concerned about the reputation, the credibility of the scientific community because of that, or what are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Blaylock: Well, you’re exactly right and this is a major problem and a number of studies and articles have been written in some of the clinical journals, very good journals, pointing out this fact. The fact that the pharmaceutical companies, the food industry is having such a massive affect on publication of papers and research articles that it’s really polluting the scientific world. They’re trying to make this more stringent, where there’s transparency and you know that these people work for the company. For instance, when I look at an article that says MSG is good for the elderly because it makes them eat more nutritious food or that it’s safe, I can almost assure you if I look at who wrote the paper it’s either someone that works directly for the “geno-modo” company or is connected and is being funded by the “geno-modo” company [sic], the principle maker of monosodium glutamate and its other additives.

Health Ranger: What do you think about the theory, there’s something that I’ve noticed as a very keen observer of this, that Chinese people in particular seem to not suffer the migraine headaches that many white people do when they consume MSG. Is there a metabolic difference in the way different people process glutamate?

Dr. Blaylock: Well, actually, the difference is they don’t consume near as much of this as we do.

Health Ranger: Really?

Dr. Blaylock: When they eat, they eat small portions, and now we’re starting to see in the Japanese population that are eating these higher portions, they’re getting grossly obese, they’re having neurological problems, Alzheimer’s increasing, ALS, Parkinson’s disease- all increasing significantly in Japan and these countries that traditionally ate a smaller amount. The other thing is the rest of their diet. For instance, they eat a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, they have one of the highest flavonoid intakes from fruits and vegetables of any population in the world. These are protective against a lot of this toxicity. Americans don’t do that, they do just the opposite. They’re eating things that enhance the toxicity of glutamate.

Health Ranger: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Instead of the antioxidants, they’ve got other junk food, other fried food and then maybe a couple vaccines on top of that and some chemtrails on top of that. It’s like a toxic stew.

Dr. Blaylock: Fluoride and aluminum, it just goes on and on and on. Pesticides, herbicides, all add to the toxicity and have been shown to enhance the toxicity of glutamate additives.

Health Ranger: Incredible. Alright, one last question for you in this segment, Dr. Blaylock, and then we’ll wrap this up. What about the critics of your work who say, hey well glutamate appears naturally at some level in tomatoes or seaweed or other natural foods. What’s your response to that criticism?

Dr. Blaylock: Well it does, but it’s almost always bound as a protein so when it’s released in your body, it has to break down the protein. It’s a slow release so your blood levels really don’t go up that high. Now we know in people with, for instance, ALS, if they eat, for instance, a steak their blood level goes twice as high as a person that does not have ALS. So with certain neurological conditions, you do have to avoid foods that naturally have high glutamate levels, like meats and pureed tomatoes. When you eat a whole tomato, it’s very slow release of the glutamates and your blood level really does not rise that high. If you’re physically active, that glutamate, instead of going to your brain, goes into your muscles. If you’re sedentary and you eat the very same diet, most of it’s going to go to your brain and have toxicity. So there’s so many variables there.

Health Ranger: Yeah, that’s interesting. So there’s a fitness level impact on the way your body metabolizes it. That’s fascinating. I want to bring up one last question, sorry, one more that just came to mind when you were speaking there. People talk about glutamine, the amino acid, and the dietary importance or applications of glutamine, and then some people confuse glutamine with glutamate. Can you briefly describe the difference for those watching?

Dr. Blaylock: Well, glutamine is an amino acid that’s converted to glutamate. In your brain, in order to make glutamate, your body has glutamine that is converted in your brain cells into the glutamate neurotransmitter. If you feed an animal a lot of glutamine, you will produce excitotoxicity in the brain. You will produce these brain lesions. Patients who have ALS, if you feed them a lot of glutamine, they will get worse and die a lot sooner. So there is a conversion of glutamine into glutamate. They’re related amino acids, so there’s a relationship. As far as the health effects of glutamine, that’s just way overblown and I get this question a lot when I lecture. People want to say, well isn’t it good for gut repair and good for immune stimuli and I say well, yes, your immune cells have glutamate receptors that have to do with producing the free radicals they use to kill microorganisms. So, to a limited degree, yes, it’s good for that. Now as far as for gut repair, the new results show that glutamine is not that good for gut repair. Things like pyruvate are much more effective. Pyruvate also protects your brain against glutamate.

Health Ranger: Oh really. Pyruvate, which, any mineral bound in pyruvate form?

Dr. Blaylock: Magnesium or calcium, it doesn’t matter, its’ the pyruvate that protects you. Pyruvate’s used in the Krebs cycle to produce energy. When you produce energy in the brain, it protects the brain against excitotoxicity. And it’s an antioxidant.

Health Ranger: Now you’re getting me fascinated, I’m going to ask you one more question, sorry. People often ask me what is the defense against high glutamate foods. For example, if they know they’re going out to eat, with a social group let’s say, they know they’re going to get some MSG in the soup or whatever, can they take something beforehand to reduce the effects of MSG?

Dr. Blaylock: Well there are several things. One of the most important is magnesium. One of the most prominent glutamate receptors, one of the regulators of its over activity is magnesium. So people who have low magnesium, that eat soup for instance with MSG in it, they’ll have a terrible headache, terrible response to the glutamate. If they have a higher magnesium level, if they take magnesium supplements, then get their brain levels up higher, they’re much more resistant to the toxicity. Also, curcumin, all your antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin C. These things protect against glutamate’s excitotoxicity in the brain and its toxic response. And the pyruvate.

Health Ranger: That’s really interesting, so there is a strategy you might call defensive eating. Again, if you know you’re gonna subject yourself to the toxicity, obviously it would be wiser to not do that. But, if you want to, you could protect yourself in advance with better nutrition. That’s fascinating.

Dr. Blaylock: If you combine these nutrient protectants, and I’ve protected the literature about how to protect yourself against glutamate toxicity. If you combine them you could produce tremendous protection against this toxicity to the brain. But like you say, you don’t want to expose yourself to a toxin just because you can reduce the level of damage.

Health Ranger: Right. It’s like putting a helmet on your head so you can strike yourself with a sledgehammer.

Dr. Blaylock: That’s exactly right. You brought up the migraine headaches. I want to expand on that a little bit- the interesting thing, when you look at people who have migraine headaches, number one they have very low magnesium levels. When they have an attack of migraine, the spinal fluid glutamate level goes up tremendously. Once the attack stops, the glutamate level falls. And this is why glutamate in your diet can trigger a migraine headache. And usually when I was treating migraine headaches that were very resistant to treatment, the first thing I’d tell them, get off all the glutamate. I’d make a list of things and tell them how to get off the glutamate. Their attacks would get dramatically better, they were less intense and easier to control. And you put them on the magnesium or the pyruvate, they got even better. A lot of them never had a migraine attack again.

Health Ranger: That’s fascinating, you’ve got so much great information here, we’re about out of time for this segment. Let me just give your websites again- RussellBlaylockMD.com, folks, sign up there for Dr. Blaylock’s email newsletter and you can stay informed on issues like what we’ve talked about here. Also, you have a wellness center website, is that right? Can you give us the URL?

Dr. Blaylock: It’s BlaylockWellnessCenter.com

Health Ranger: Perfect, BlaylockWellnessCenter.com, and there you can find books, DVDs, lots of information Dr. Blaylock has put together to educate you about how to protect your health against excitotoxins. Dr. Blaylock I want to thank you for joining me in this segment. We’ll do more in the future, but I thank you for this time.

Dr. Blaylock: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Health Ranger: Alright, folks, that was our interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock. Share this video, it’s very important to get this out there. Check out his websites for more information, and also search YouTube and TV.NaturalNews.com for more videos interviewing Dr. Russell Blaylock. We’re gonna talk to him about vaccines and other topics in future videos. Thanks for joining me today. This is Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, reporting for NaturalNews.com

Source: http://www.naturalnews.com/035555_Russell_Blaylock_interview_excitotoxins.html#ixzz1sQzrpvXG

Hungry For Change

I got the following email telling me about a film titled, Hungry For Change.  I haven’t watched it as yet but plan to sometime tonight.  I encourage you to watch it with your families and friends.

We all want more energy and healthy bodies. So what’s stopping us from getting there? From the creators of the groundbreaking documentary Food Matters comes another hard-hitting film certain to rock your world. Hungry for Change exposes the secrets of the diet and food industry, and how their deceptive strategies keep you craving more and more. Today marks the worldwide premiere of Hungry for Change, and you can watch it online for FREE until March 31st. Check it out today!

http://www.hungryforchange.tv/fresh

In this movie, you’ll hear the truth behind “diet,” “sugar-free,” and “fat-free” products, and learn what to avoid in your supermarket. You’ll be inspired by transformational stories from people who have recovered from being sick and overweight. You’ll find the solutions to vibrant health for yourself and your family. So, watch the movie and share the knowledge with a friend–it may save a life!

http://www.hungryforchange.tv/fresh

To a more energetic you,

Ana and Crystal
The FRESH Team

Beauty Rest

Just recently I was thinking about this nursery rhyme:

Early to bed,
Early to rise.
Makes a man,
Wealthy and Wise.

I guess I was thinking about it because I have a very bad habit of going to bed late at night and struggling to get up early in the morning.  Sometimes I feel as if I am sleepwalking.  I am so tired.  I keep promising myself that I will turn in early but I end up going on the computer and spend hours on it (another habit I need to break).  For someone who loves sleep I am just not getting enough of it.

What happens when we get enough sleep?

The Harvard Women’s Health Watch suggests six reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer (http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/importance_of_sleep_and_health).

A new study, derived from novel sleep research conducted by University of California, San Diego researchers 14 years earlier, suggests that the secret to a long life may come with just enough sleep.  Less than five hours a night is probably not enough; eight hours is probably too much.  Read more.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100930161837.htm.

Sleep is important to create a healthy life and maintaining appropriate weight. If you want to have a healthy life and perfect weight for your body you have to create consistent lifestyle behaviors to support health. It means looking at what you eat, when you eat, exercise, sleep and lifestyle habits (http://www.empowher.com/healthy-eating/content/weight-gain-not-getting-enough-sleep-can-make-you-fat?page=0,0).

I generally try not to eat late but there are times when we get home after seven and have to prepare dinner and eat after 9.  Then we turn in around mid-night.  And then we have to get up at 5:30 to get ready for work.  This schedule is not only affecting our sleep but our weight.  We have to stop this vicious cycle and start making changes.

Growing up I used to get more sleep and I felt great!  I was full of energy and more active.  Now I am tired and don’t feel like doing much.  And I get irritable.  There’s a solution to all of this.  Go to bed early.  Make sure I finish eating dinner and snacks 3 to 4 hours before I call it a night. 

Ladies, let’s make an effort to get our beauty rest.  Our weight, health and overall well-being depend on it.