Wall Street Journal covers alternatives in mental health — I critique how bare-bones and ignorant their piece is

I saw this article the day it came out a couple of weeks ago. I was somewhat unimpressed at the time being that it was so incomplete, but have come to realize it is an important piece. Two days ago I was reminded of it on Sadly Normal where I left a comment. I want to reprint some of that comment and add to it here.

The biggest problem in the article is that there is no clear expert on alternatives interviewed. The anecdotal stories are good, as unfortunately, that is all we have out here in the world of alternatives. There are no systematic controlled studies being done for the most part. The talented practitioner gathers endless amounts of anecdotal evidence which is out there if you look for it. I’ve certainly found it and it has served my purposes well.

Below is what I wrote as a comment on Sadly Normal with some additions and editing:

I am using alternative treatments to withdraw from all my psych meds and it’s going very well. This article is exciting in that it comes from a very conservative newspaper and is a move in the right direction.

What is disappointing is the list of alternatives at the end of the article. It is ridiculously incomplete. To make a list so short is deceptive and misleading. There are a panoply of potential causes of mental health problems that can be addressed my another panoply of treatments, including all sorts of nutritional deficiencies for which cure could mean varieties of supplements. There are also hundreds of benign treatments for particular symptom relief.

In addition, listing just a few supplements is incredibly misleading as it is often very important to have a foundation of good nutrition which includes a foundational nutritional regime including a good multi with mineral and certain key nutrients that are often lacking in those with mental health problems. Diet plays a key role as well.

Another key issue that, as far as I can tell, most naturopaths and alternative doctors don’t begin to realize is how important gut health is. If the gut is not working well, nutrients are not properly absorbed and nutritional deficiencies are inevitable. This happened to be the case for me, but I’ve corresponded with dozens of people who found probiotics and enzymes essential to their recovery. The gut really needs to be addressed in any mental health issue. Really I would imagine it may play an important role in health issues of all kinds. I was lucky in that all I needed was probiotics and enzymes.

Fixing the gut in some cases gets much more complicated. In my case I had a 20 year history of irritable bowel syndrome which manifested in chronic diarrhea and stomach problems. I went to half a dozen gastroenterologists who prescribed useless meds with side effects that never even got rid of my symptoms. I finally started picking up the importance of probiotics and enzymes in my various forums, did some research and started taking them. In six months my symptoms of twenty years were gone–one of the greatest testimonies of alternative medicine I have. It’s indisputable. I have lots of other testimony, but people might argue I’m dealing with a placebo effect as it has to do with mind states.

In any case, my better gut health led to better nutritional health, which has ultimately led to my being more successful in withdrawing from my psych meds with minimal discomfort most of the time. I’m certainly not relapsing. I’m simply experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Back to the article discussing specific treatments and what a pathetic job they did. SAMe, for example, as now previously noted on this blog, is potentially dangerous and there is no warning in the article regarding how some of these natural treatments have to be used carefully and with knowledge. In most cases it’s best to have a doctor of some sort following your care.

Anyway, this is a promising article in that it at least gives credence to alternatives, but it only scratches the surface.

One of the hardest things for me in my journey off psych meds has been not being able to find well educated alternative practitioners. While I recommend having someone to help you– the reality is it’s very rare to find someone who knows what they are doing. I’ve looked far and wide. I’ve traveled four hours to try one doctor once. Ultimately, I’ve found most of what works for me through careful research on the internet. This includes networking with people like me who are learning to heal themselves and reaching out through email groups and blogs. This requires skill and discrimination and so for many people who do not have research skills or are short on good judgment treating oneself is risky.

My hope is that there will be more and more practitioners that understand the body and how it impacts the mind. My belief is that all mental illness can be healed naturally without toxic drugs that literally kill.

Here I speak almost exclusively about diet, nutrition and supplementation. There are many forms of talking and body therapies that help too and are sometimes quite necessary. I get neurofeedback and have had excellent results with craniosacral manipulation which they mention in the article. There is much much more out there. Psychological intervention is of utmost importance too as much of mental “illness” is harm that has been suffered by the psyche. The whole mind, body and spirit must be treated for successful healing of mental distress.

For support groups on the net see this post. These are only places to start. Pursue getting information with your own careful research once getting suggestions in these groups. And with some good luck maybe you’ll find a practitioner who knows what they are doing. I do suggest you do research whenever anything is suggested to you, regardless of the source.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

5 Responses

  1. I also have stomach problems. I stopped eating whole wheat that is in most things, and for the most part I have a good digestion. I think the medical comunity does know of it (just doesn’t talk about it), as I recall my last hospitalization there was no whole wheat in the food.

    RE:world of alternatives.
    Psychiatrists do have documented successfull alternative treatments, they chose to ignore. “Schizophrenia” & Fixing Chemical Imbalances.

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  2. “Snake oil is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain. However, the most common usage of the words is as a derogatory term for compounds offered as medicines which implies that they are fake, fraudulent, or ineffective.” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil

    I feel angry at the psychiatrists warning of “snake oil” in the original article, when that in my opinion is what THEY prescribe.

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  3. Ive got an article somewhere that calls the stomach/gut “the 2nd brain” and most mental illness can be lived medication free when avoiding various foods, corn for instance is in everything. It also says serotonin is produced in the gut via sunlight and that;s why people feel better for the most part in/on sunny days, and that 15 minutes of direct sunlight can keep one’s mental health in tact.
    I lived in ca 30 years and once I moved to a rainy and gloomy state I was dx bipolar, and had a lot of mood issues, like more depression and mania than in ca.
    Interesting, if I can find the link I will send it here.

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  4. Modern medicine sees all mental illness deriving only from the brain – primarily from neurotransmitter imbalance and nothing else – the truth is that in many cases there is often an underlining physical cause (eg: infection, celiac disease, etc) and this is often never investigated, and so its no wonder today we are faced with the current tragedy that the Mentally ill die 25 years earlier.
    Many studies show this,:
    ‘An autopsy of 82 patients who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Gastritis was found in 50%, enteritis in 85% and colitis in 92%.’
    ‘99% certain of a genetic association between schizophrenia and coeliac disease’
    ‘Enterocolitis discovered in the majority of children with Autistic spectrum disorders’
    see http://www.gutandmentalillness.com

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