And so it goes

Sometimes I feel the burden of life is too much. What have I done to deserve this heavy, hellish life? Where is my luck? Good luck? The luck I see so many people possessing. Some people can skate through life without getting a concussion. They can grow up without suffering abuse. They can have siblings, all of whom live to old age. Their families do well. There is not some crisis or other every few days. I am tired. I am exhausted. Lately, things had been looking quite rosy, had been looking up. But once again, it did not last. Someone extremely dear to me was physically harmed by hoodlums. I feel sick, nauseous, not knowing what I do next. How to survive, indeed why survive when there will only be another calamity sooner or later?

And again I sit here and wonder. When does it stop. Does it ever stop? Will me and mine always be used as a cosmic punching bag?

Literally sick and tired. The fight inside me ebbing away, seeping away. 


Fluffin, our adored kitty, will be 22 years old in June! That in itself is amazing! That she’s been deaf for years, at least five years, didn’t stop her. Last December, she had a stroke and lost her sight as well. For two weeks,  she didn’t move, but then slowly started getting up, eventually walking all over the house just by her sense of smell, which is prodigious (!!) and sense of touch on her whiskers and ears and fur. It was unbelievable, she walked the length of our condominium. She found her food, water, litter, her summer residence and her winter one. She was doing so very well. A week ago, she had another stroke. Again, it’s affected her left side. She is getting up with difficulty, but persisting until she’s up and drinking water on her own. We’re feeding her, mostly baby food, every few hours. She is recovering. At almost 22 years of age, every day with her is a bonus. 

I can mourn and be sad and I am. I can also think how lucky I’ve been to have this remarkable being in my life. How sweet she is and has always been.  Rest and recover, my baby girl. 


Struggling. Brain seems to have shut down. No bright ideas, no strong opinions. Just a nothingness, a confusion, a desolation. Is this anxiety, is it depression? Perhaps, I don’t know, all I know is it’s not me and it doesn’t feel good. I think part of it is the awful political climate, everyday I feel battered by the things coming out of DC. Totally disagreeble yet out of my control. The people who tried to stop Hitler in the resistance, they were amazing, they were heroes! Do we have those within us?

Anyway, it’s not all political, it’s just a mood that’s descended upon me. Worry, dejection, some hopelessness, stress, silence. A heavy weight sitting on my chest. Again not living a life.

Bipolar Disorder and Association With Immune Dysfunction

My favorite theory, that mental illness is an immune illness, borne out here by the observation that people with bipolar disorder have many inflammatory illnesses, such as numerous allergies, asthma, metabolic syndrome, and numerous autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and autoimmune thyroiditis. Must look into this some more and write a more comprehensive post about it.

The life expectancy of individuals with BD is approximately 11 to 20 years fewer than that of the general population.
The life expectancy of individuals with BD is approximately 11 to 20 years fewer than that of the general population.

A narrative review published in Journal of Affective Disorders found that the increased risk of general medical comorbidities (GMC) in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) may be mediated by immune dysfunction.1

A narrative review published in Journal of Affective Disorders found that the increased risk of general medical comorbidities (GMC) in patients with bipolar disorder (BD) may be mediated by immune dysfunction.1

The life expectancy of individuals with BD is approximately 11 to 20 years fewer than that of the general population, which is believed to be caused primarily by the elevated prevalence of GMC in BD.2,3 For example, cardiovascular disease is more common in individuals with BD vs healthy controls and individuals with other mental disorders, and it is the top cause of mortality in BD.4 Additionally, diabetes-related death is more common in individuals with BD compared with the general population. Though these associations may be partially accounted for by the metabolic effects of medications used to treat BD, drug-naive patients also experience weight gain and impaired glucose metabolism.5

Along with the increased risk of mortality, GMCs influence BD severity and course of illness, as well as disability and cost of treatment. The reasons for the higher prevalence of GMC in individuals with BD are unclear, though multiple studies have found evidence of elevated systemic inflammation in BD,6,7 suggesting that “immune dysfunction may be an important mechanistic link between BD and metabolic-inflammatory comorbidities,” according to the current review.

To clarify the mechanisms underlying the association between BD and GMC, the authors aimed to explore the role of metabolic-inflammatory dysfunction and related treatment implications. They summarized epidemiologic research showing a high prevalence of comorbid inflammatory conditions in BD, including numerous allergies, asthma, metabolic syndrome, and numerous autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and autoimmune thyroiditis.

Genetic alterations represent one mechanism by which BD may increase immune dysfunction, with some findings indicating that individuals with BD may have more inflammation-prone genotypes. Other potential immune-inflammatory mechanisms reviewed include psychosocial stress, substance abuse, alterations to the gut microbiota, and even episodes of mania, which have been linked to a proinflammatory state.

Though further research is needed to elucidate the most appropriate interventions for GMC in BD, evidence suggests that prevention and treatment approaches might include increased physical activity and dietary changes, preferential prescribing of medications with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, and adjunctive anti-inflammatory agents. In addition, the simultaneous treatment of BD and GMC could improve outcomes for both conditions. “Further study is merited to further the understanding of the underlying mechanisms and consequences of such interventions,” the authors concluded.

This is Your Brain on Serotonin
By Jacob Devaney 

Understanding the cocktail of chemicals that fuel our consciousness
As we dive into the complex and beautiful neurochemical cocktail that fuels our brains, serotonin is a bit of an enigma. Research shows that serotonin plays an important role in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and dreaming. It can have both a sedating or stimulating effect and this is somehow related to the flow of thoughts through your mind. Though neuroscience is in its infancy, we can still gain a lot of personal insight through exploring research being conducted across a number of fields, and comparing it to what we have felt or experienced internally.

So what is serotonin? It is a neurotransmitter, which means its a type of chemical that relays brain signals from one area of the brain to another. Nearly every one of the 40 million brain cells we have, are influenced either directly or indirectly by serotonin. Many researchers believe an imbalance in serotonin levels leads to depression. If there are any biochemical glitches like a shortage of tryptophan, the chemical from which serotonin is made, or a lack of receptor sites able to receive serotonin, or serotonin is unable to reach the receptor sites, then researchers say this can cause depression, as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, anxiety, panic and excess anger.
Serotonin has been in the spotlight for its potential role in combatting conditions such as anxiety and depression, which affect many people. Prescription medications like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft are in a class of drugs called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The theory is that these drugs are able to modify the extracellular level of serotonin in the brain by limiting its reabsorption. It is believed that by increasing the level of serotonin surrounding the presynaptic cell the symptoms of depression will be erased. However, there is much research that now refutes this theory; claiming that anti-depressants are glorified and expensive placebos. We know that serotonin plays some role in moods (and mood disorders including depression) but we are not exactly sure how, to what degree, and why.
Serotonin receptor 
A study from the laboratory of long-time depression researcher Eva Redei, presented at the Neuroscience 2009 conference appears to topple two strongly held beliefs about depression. One is that stressful life events are a major cause of depression. The other is that an imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain triggers depressive symptoms. – Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Psychedelic Drugs

LSD has been in the news lately due to the release of recent brain scans of people under its influence. It doesn’t take a research laboratory to tell that LSD has a profound effect on peoples’ mood, and perceptions. Just take a look at the numerous artists, like the Beatles, Steve Jobs, Alex Grey, or Dock Ellis who have pitched a no-hitter on LSD. The enhanced focus and hallucinatory, dream-like experiences on this substance are attributed to the fact that LSD suppresses the serotonin system. The result is an induced dream-state while wide awake. MDMA (ecstasy) is another psychedelic that influences mood, by causing the brain to become flooded with serotonin.
Ecstacy and serotonin receptor
Our bodies produces endogenous DMT (dymethyltryptamine), which is a structural analog of both serotonin and melatonin. DMT attaches to serotonin receptor sites which exist in high concentrations on nerve cells in brain areas. Occurring naturally in the plant kingdom and in mammals, DMT is the psychoactive component of Ayahuasca, the visionary Amazonian brew. Not surprisingly, many have attested to the ability of Ayahuasca to cure depression.

“…the brain is where DMT exerts its most interesting effects. There, sites rich in these DMT-sensitive serotonin receptors are involved in mood, perception, and thought. Although the brain denies access to most drugs and chemicals, it takes a particular and remarkable fancy to DMT. It is not stretching the truth to suggest that the brain “hungers” for it.” – DMT: The Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman, M.D. (2001)
Dreaming and sleep

High levels of serotonin are associated with wakefulness, and low levels are associated with sleep. Therefore it comes as no surprise that the REM sleep cycle (during which most of our dreams occur) happens when the serotonin system shuts off during sleep. Melatonin plays a supporting role to serotonin in this function because it prepares the body for darkness and sleep, regulating our circadian rhythm. As you can see, sleep disorders, moods, ability to focus, alertness, and dreams are quite entwined with the level of serotonin in our brains.
Sleep disorderSerotonin levels are related to sleep disorders
The Brain-Gut Connection

Believe it or not, much of the serotonin in our bodies (up to 95%) resides within our gut. The brain and gut communicate back and forth through the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin functions as a key neurotransmitter at both ends of this network. An amino acid, tryptophan, is converted into 5-HTP in the small intestine. 5-HTP is then converted to serotonin that is later converted into melatonin. (See tryptophan-rich foods listed below)
Gut brain connectionThe brain and gut communicate
So, the question most people are probably asking is: can I increase my serotonin levels, and if so how?

If you have ever experienced a gut feeling then you may have been tuning in to what researchers call the second brain which is the enteric nervous system. This part of the gut consists of sheaths of neurons embedded in the walls of the long tube of our alimentary canal, which runs from our throat to our anus. Not surprisingly, much of our brain processes are affected by mood which are a direct result of our gut health.
Serotonin is a bit of a mystery because excess levels of it in the gut are also associated with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome. A recent Nature Medicine Study done with rats using a drug that inhibited serotonin in the gut appears to have cured osteoporosis. There also seems to be a link to autism yet the research is still in its early stages. People who take SSRI’s (anti depressants that inhibit serotonin) often have digestion issues as a result. So keep eating sauerkraut, and other live cultures like jun or kombucha to keep healthy flora in your digestive tract. The irony is that so many of us focus on our thoughts, meditation, etc. when the issue may be rooted in our digestion.
How to Increase your Serotonin
It is not so simple to determine the perfect amount of serotonin needed because it appears that too much and too little can each have both beneficial and detrimental effects. It does however seem that increasing ones serotonin levels will help with focus, energy, and mood if you are feeling low. Eating foods rich in tryptophan helps the body synthesise 5-HTP, which can then be turned into serotonin. These foods include but are not limited to: nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. There are 5-HTP supplements available but it is preferable to source nutrients from whole and organic foods.
TryptophanFoods rich in tryptophan
Research shows that serotonin production is a two-way street with mood. By doing things that elevate your mood, you will increase serotonin production which will get you in an even better mood as the cycle feeds on itself. Yoga and exercise have proven to be beneficial in mood elevation, especially when combined with being outdoors. There is evidence which suggests that exposure to bright light increases serotonin, and people often employ full-spectrum lights in the winter to keep from acquiring SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Exercise and sunlightExercise and sunlight have been linked with increased serotonin production
We humans have inherited quite an awesome and complex physiology. Serotonin is perhaps one of the most mysterious and important of all neurotransmitters and being more aware of its interactions will hopefully bring about improvements in your moods and dreams.

Is Your Gut Making You Depressed or Anxious?

If you had to guess the organ that has undue influence on your emotions, your mood, even your choices, what would you guess? The brain? Sure, but what else? The heart—that mythological seat of the soul? Not quite. The stomach? You’re getting warmer. Would you believe it’s the large and small intestine, collectively known as the gut? More specifically, it’s the trillions of bacteria—the microbiota—that live in your gut. Each of us carries up to four and a half pounds of bacteria around in our guts at any given time. More than 100 trillion microbes live down there. That’s as many cells as make up the rest of your body.

Now, this crowd is mostly good guys, and they do important work, to the extent that some scientists advocate classifying these collective microbiota as its own organ. Aside from helping digest our food, they protect us from disease, neutralize some of the toxic by-products of the digestive process, and make it harder for bad bacteria to set up shop. In short, your gut does way more than just digest everything from Cheetos to camembert.

But it turns out gut bacteria may also affect how we feel. Who knew the next frontier in mental well-being would lead right to the toilet? With that lovely image in mind, here are 3 big ways our microbiota are connected to our mental health.

Below is the MP3 link (after a Talkspace ad):