In this article, I intend to draw attention to a topic which has received little focus during the debate over how the government should react in the wake of the tragic massacre in Newtown, CT, on 14 December 2012. While there are many contributing factors (please read my last two articles below), I think that we must take a giant step back and examine America’s mental health problem, which I believe is mostly to blame for these psychotic rampages we too often witness. I am not advocating more medication, however; I am advocating much less.
First, let me be clear: I am not a doctor (neither of the M.D. nor of the Ph.D. type), nor am I a politician or an educator. For the sake of this article, I am simply a farmer and a father of two incredibly intelligent boys. It is from personal experience as a father, dieter, grower, ecologist, and so on that I base my argument.
Americans, by birth, are no more mentally unstable than any other humans on the planet, at least that’s my guess. So why is it that we are consuming 60% of the world’s psychiatric drug supply? Three reasons: perception of a problem, real problem, and creation of a problem. For the first one—perception—I am referring to what a parent perceives to be a mental health problem in a child, possibly because that parent is so desperate to have the perfect child that any behavioral anomaly must be quickly treated (or the school is having trouble getting 5-year old boys to sit still in class). Then there are the REAL problems, similar to those that we have seen with the murderers in Columbine, Aurora, and Newtown. Last, we have the created problems, the ones that the large pharmaceutical companies and mental health professionals create for the sake of profits and job security.
Even if we look only at these “problems”, we are still failing to examine the causes. Discussing at length the issues that we face in schools and with pharmaceutical lobbies would require a full book, well beyond the scope of this blog. Let me just say that government regulations—as is usually the case—do far more harm than good when it comes to prescription drugs. The government has created medical monopolies by over-regulating the industry, essentially declaring nutritionists crazy and promoting drug therapy as the only answer. The best thing the government could do would be to stay out; contrary to popular belief, their regulations cause more harm than good. Free markets would save more lives than what the government pretends to.
So, let’s consider some causes. First of all, psychiatric drugs are incredibly dangerous, especially when prescribed for those who don’t need them, when prescribed in the wrong dosages, and when individuals come off the medication. There are studies showing long-term brain damage from these drugs, and that the initial withdrawal after discontinuing the drugs can literally be deadly. How many times have we heard the warning “May cause thoughts of suicide” during a drug commercial. Well, “suicide” is simply the reflexive form of homicide; it is in this area where we have seen these mass murders occur. I’m not suggesting that we keep all patients on these drugs indefinitely; on the contrary, I think we could take 75% or more of the users off of the drugs. However, it is a painstaking process of detox, and THAT may possibly be the only area where government could be of use, by providing safe detox clinics that help get these people (and illicit drug users) clean safely.
The causes I would really like to focus on here are toxic foods, pesticides, antibiotics, additives, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I’m not a scientist, but again, first-hand experience tells me that by limiting or eliminating consumption of these things, many mental and physical problems will clear up. I know that this is a politically charged area, especially with GMOs; however, bear with me please.
Food is a drug. Let me say that again, FOOD IS A DRUG. Anything that you put in your body has the potential to alter the chemical/hormonal balance. Chocolate makes you feel good; carbs make you feel sluggish; etc. Some foods are good in moderation, while some foods are highly toxic in even small doses. Your diet, in my humble opinion, is the number one contributor to your overall health. That old saying is sadly true, though: people are more careful about what they put in their car’s gas tank than what they put in their own body. We are poisoning ourselves by eating crap; most of that crap has been advertised as “healthy”, with a stamp of approval from our friends at the USDA.
For a good deal of my life I was prone to getting sick more than any kid should. I had stomach problems, I got colds frequently, and I almost always got the flu. At 24 I had shingles (something that is rare for someone that age), and at 29 I came down with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), which is a cousin to shingles/chicken pox. In addition to that, I had some other problems resulting from food poisoning I contracted while traveling abroad. All of this came to a head in 2008, and I was then determined to figure out why I–a guy in pretty good shape (former Marine, fit) who ate “healthy” food–was always sick. Stress was a factor, and I tried my best to address that, however, there was something else, something that had to do with food that I couldn’t quite understand.
After a lot of research, I found out that one of the “causes” (it was really just a symptom in the end) was that I had a Vitamin B deficiency. Odd, because I ate “healthy” food. However, every time I took a vitamin B tablet, my mood soared…I felt so much better and my mind became so much clearer. Well, that addressed the symptoms (similar to how most medications work), but I still wanted to find the cause. In doing research, I found out that gluten intolerance is one of the leading causes of vitamin B deficiency. I was desperate, and I’d try anything. So I gave it a shot, I learned about gluten (it’s essentially a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) and cut it out of my diet 100%. I felt incredible almost immediately. After a month, I felt fantastic. At that time I decided to see a doctor to get tested for celiac’s disease (the most severe form of gluten intolerance); however the test was negative, and the doctor claimed I had no problems with wheat. Still, that wasn’t my experience, and so the best health decision I ever made in my life was to ignore my doctor, and I stayed mostly gluten free (I pay the price whenever I cheat). I rarely get sick anymore, even when those around me are suffering with colds.
Sure enough, a couple of years down the road, new studies are appearing showing that gluten intolerance is much more widespread than previously thought, and it’s nearly impossible to test for. Imagine this: the very grain that the U.S. has subsidized heavily to “feed the world” actually makes a good portion of the population sick! Perhaps it’s worth noting at this point that Bill O’Reilly (whom I rarely agree with) recently went gluten-free, and he has also advocated the change, saying that he feels better than he has in years. Half of my family is now gluten-free, including a sister-in-law whose arthritis actually cleared up after getting rid of gluten.
Do a search of “diseases linked to gluten intolerance”, and you find anything from diabetes to depression listed. It’s not because of the gluten itself, it’s because the gluten messes with your stomach, allowing in toxins that would otherwise be blocked and blocking vitamins that would otherwise be absorbed. B-vitamin deficiency is a major cause of mental, mood, and energy problems. Beyond those B vitamins, there are dozens of other nutrients that our bodies need which we simply do not get.
Enough with gluten and on to milk. I love milk; I love cheese. However, milk doesn’t love me. I have had issues with milk for years, mostly lactose intolerance. However, I never thought much else about it, until my son started having major problems in school. He was 7, and he couldn’t focus to save his life. He fit the description of ADD (not ADHD) perfectly. Despite his intelligence (reading at a 6th grade level as a 2nd grader), he had trouble doing classwork and taking timed exams. We couldn’t get him to responds to us…we had to repeat ourselves several times. Ritalin was the recommendation, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to drug my kid. After doing some research, I found a European study (Norwegian, I believe) that tested hundreds of ADD-diagnosed kids. Researchers removed dairy from their diets, and something like 90% of the kids no longer had ADD symptoms. Apparently milk has compounds in it which cause a doping effect. My son was consuming 4 cups of milk per day (more than half was forced on him by the school), and I could clearly see that we might have a problem. It’s not easy to go dairy-free, but it was worth a shot. Within a week, my son’s behavior changed drastically. It actually wasn’t until we reintroduced dairy though that we could really see the contrast: no dairy, normal boy; dairy, doped up zombie. Anytime my son consumes dairy (more than a cup of milk a day), he zones out and is hard to reach. So, we continued with dairy-free, and he felt happier, more focused, and more energized. He went from needing special attention to finish his classwork to achieving honor roll. Fuck you, Ritalin.
At this point, I don’t want to go off on some ecological rant about saving the environment or attempting to push an organic agenda. However, I will say that I continued to clean up my diet, removing essentially all dairy and gluten, and switching to an organic diet for everything else. When fresh fruits and veggies are available, I try to juice them as well (highly recommended). And while organic meat is expensive, trust me, it’s worth it. Toxins that animals consume are stored in their fat; when we eat those animals, we are also consuming those toxins. If you don’t care about the humane treatment aspect, the health aspect alone should be enough. Again, though, I’m not here to preach, I’m simply here to offer up some suggestions.
Let’s consider pesticides: they are everywhere. Industrial farmers love pesticides, because they kill off every insect they touch, and it makes their lives easier. They love herbicides, especially with the new “Roundup Ready” crops (GMOs) that allow them to spray Roundup directly on the crop, killing everything but the crop. Monsanto is one of the largest producers, and while I don’t intend to go off on how destructive they are, I’d like to remind you that they were the company which manufactured Agent Orange. I’m not saying the government should ban Monsanto, but I do think the government should stop subsidizing their chemical warfare (Monsanto would have failed 50 years ago without government assistance). Back to the chemicals: if they kill all the bugs, and they kill all the plants, how on earth can that possibly be good for humans to consume? This shit gets into the soil, into the aquifers, into the rivers…and we consume it for the years that follow. Then we eat these crops that were grown with poison. The systemic herbicides and GMOs, in my opinion, are scary. The conventional poisons normally wash off with the rain, but these new ones are in the genes. They grow with the plant. Any insect that nibbles on the leaves dies. There has been a huge controversy over the fact that it was discovered (first in France, and then about 10 years later in the U.S. after it was exposed) that some of these, specifically neonicotinoids, were actually doping and killing the honeybees.
Bees had been disappearing for years, a strange condition that was labeled “Colony Collapse Disorder”, and it completely baffled scientists. Bayer, Monsanto, and the other chemical warriors claimed that their tests showed no adverse effects in bees. However, after hundreds of billions of bees disappeared (literally, they couldn’t be found, even dead ones), someone finally did testing that showed that when bees consumed the pollen and nectar from these treated plants, they quickly became drunk and uncoordinated. They were lucky to fly at all, and most of them could not find their way back to the hive. They didn’t die immediately from the poison; rather, they died out in the wilderness because they got lost. For those that did make it back, the chemicals were found in the honey and in the brood (the bee eggs). Again, if honeybees can’t handle consuming some of the pollen, it probably cannot be good for us as humans to eat. Even if these crops aren’t for human consumption, they’ll go into animal feed instead, where they’ll still be toxic to the animals, and those toxins will be stored in the muscle and fat that we eventually consume.
Antibiotics. Americans are addicted to antibiotics. They are in our soaps, our medicines, our toothpaste, and our animals. There have been hundreds of studies done that have shown the adverse effects of a population which consumes far too many antibiotics. In the case of our animals, what I recently discovered is that factory farms (not mom & pop down the road) have been administering “subtherapeutic” doses of antibiotics to the animals (chickens, pigs, cows mostly) for about 50 years, not to keep them healthy, but to fatten them up. In the 1950s the U.S. Navy did a study which showed that recruits who were given antibiotics got fatter than those who weren’t. The Navy didn’t want that effect, but the farmers surely did. This is why an organic chicken at 20 weeks is half the size of a factory chicken at 16 weeks. Companies like Tyson are able to double their production using antibiotics. However, those antibiotics remain in the animal, and we consume them. It is partly because of this overuse of antibiotics that we have all of these outbreaks of salmonella and e-coli. I raise my chickens on mostly grass, bugs, and organic feed. I have NEVER had a sick chicken, even though I have NEVER given them any medication. However, factory farms lose a lot of chickens to disease, because they are fed shit and they are overmedicated (just like Americans).
I also read a study from this past November which has linked a major uptick in autism to our overuse of vaccines. I have not had a chance to research that thoroughly, but it apparently is related to higher levels of aluminum. So, I mention it here.
I won’t get into GMOs, as there is still a scientific debate. However, these plants are genetically modified to be poisonous to certain insects. That cannot be good for us or for the environment. Do your own research on GMOs, and draw your own conclusions.
I’d also like to mention artificial sweeteners, specifically aspartame. For the majority of the population, aspartame does not cause major problems. However, for some, it causes major mental problems. There have been numerous independent studies which have proven it to be a deadly toxin for some; however, corruption at the highest levels allowed it to pass through, and the government insisted that it was “safe”. It is a manufactured toxin which breaks through the blood-brain barrier, and you put yourself at risk if you consume it. I personally have issues with the monosodium glutamate (MSG) that is found in a lot of spices and processed meats; it quickly fogs my brain if I consume it. While the effect goes away after a few hours, I try to avoid consuming the drug to begin with.
In the end, most Americans are unhealthy. When the food we consume causes us to be unhappy or depressed, we rarely look at food as the cause. Most doctors never learn nutrition, so they rarely will even consider food as a cause. Instead, doctors will suggest medication. That medication may at first work at addressing a symptom, but it does not address the underlying cause. At some point, you “feel better”, so you decide to give up the medication, and that can often have the terrifying effects that I previously mentioned, and you may end up worse than you were before the medication, or you might lose your mind altogether.
My point in all of this is that if we understand and accept that “food is a drug”, we can start to have a dialogue about some of the potential causes for America’s mental problems. Neither we nor our kids are receiving proper nutrition for healthy bodies and brains. Let me emphasize the fact that it is the government which dictates our nutrition. They determine the food that is served in schools, they provide the subsidies to corporate farms (not small, organic farms) that produce the cheap shit we eat, they push the milk and wheat agenda, and they swear up and down that it’s all safe. When prescription drug overdoses kill more Americans each year than guns do, the FDA is obviously wrong. When food-related diseases kill 300,000 (10x what guns do, 20x if you take out suicides) per year, the USDA is obviously wrong. When psychiatric drugs are not CURING our mental health patients, the medical/pharmaceutical industry is obviously wrong.
Please, if these topics have at all given you something to think about, open up the dialogue with your friends and families, and let’s try to make some changes. All of our health problems are getting worse, so we are obviously doing something wrong. For the sake of our loved ones, we must start considering alternative explanations for these problems. The government sure as hell won’t do it, so it is up to us as concerned Americans to educate ourselves and each other.