Archives for Health Matters Blog

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the result of infection with the spirochete Borrelia Burgdorferi. It is generally thought that the infection is the result of a tick bite, which about 50% of the time results in a rash, often described as a ‘bulls eye’ rash, but which can vary in appearance. Symptoms of untreated Lyme disease typically include joint aches which seem to migrate from one joint to another over days), flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, body aches, headache), neuro-psychiatric problems (e.g., Bell’s palsy-paralysis of one side of the face; numbness, weakness, mood disorders, psychosis, cognitive impairment, even seizures). Some people report abnormal
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Memory Matters

Memory loss creates fear in the very core of one’s being because it threatens one’s identity, and raises the specter of losing one’s independence. Forgetfulness can be a signal that dementia is imminent, but it can also be a warning that other problems are present, which untreated, may develop into pseudo-dementia (a false dementia). The idea that it is normal to lose memory as one ages is not correct. Memory loss is always a result of some abnormal body processes. In this article I will review some basic information, which you can use for dementia and its prevention (yes, it
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Panic Disorders: Part 2

Biological Theory of Panic Disorder (Recurrent Panic Attacks) The prevailing theory of panic disorder states that there are two types of panic attacks, non-phobic spontaneous panic and triggered panic attacks. Nonphobic panic attacks are thought to be the result of abnormal, over- sensitivity of a brain alarm system whose function is to detect early signs of suffocation. This theory is called the suffocation alarm theory. The cardinal symptoms of nonphobic panic are respiratory: shortness of breath, chest discomfort, palpitations and choking or suffocation sensations. Normally, carbon dioxide, the waste product of respiration, is exhaled from the lungs. In the event of
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Panic Disorders: Part 1

The Spectrum of Disorders Associated with Panic Panic attacks are among the most terrifying experiences a person can have. Panic disorders include panic with and without agoraphobia, simple phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and perhaps social phobias. The controversy over whether these disorders are closely related, and in what way is not addressed, since the research in this area is inconsistent and inconclusive. The focus here is on the current understanding of the biological underpinnings of the panic attack itself, as well as the psychosocial aspects of panic disorder. Diagnostic Considerations Symptoms of panic disorder, according to the DSM IV, include
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Do Antidepressants Really Work?

Antidepressants have a role in clinical practice but they are grossly over-utilized.  As a certified psychopharmacologist, practitioner of The Center for Whole Psychiatry + Brain Recovery (Functional Medicine and traditional psychiatry) and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown School of Medicine, I prescribe antidepressants, but  only after a thorough multi-faceted  evaluation of the patient. We rely on drugs as a solution rather than deal with root causes of illness, and the pills generally are not as effective as we would be led to believe by the pharmaceutical companies (publically acknowledged as distorted in peer reviewed journals such as New England Journal of
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Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency and its detection have been in the news lately from the New York Times and The Dr. Oz Show. B12 Deficiency Effects Widespread The effects of vitamin B12 deficiency are widespread.  Vitamin B12 has a major influence on the function of neurons and also on the ability of the bone marrow to make red blood cells. B12 Causes Psychiatric Symptoms B12 deficiency can cause almost any psychiatric symptom—from anxiety, and panic to depression and hallucinations.  This is because B12 deficiencies trigger symptoms in the nervous system and red blood cells. Diagnosing B12 Deficiency While it is not
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Mood, Gut Bacteria, and the Immune System

Many people would be surprised that the immune system, the gastro-intestinal tract and stress interact, but that is what the most recent of a number of studies shows. In this study on mice, (Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Volume 25, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 397-407. Researchers demonstrated that  psychological stress causes almost immediate changes to the gut bacterial population, and that some of these affected sub-populations strongly influence the effect that stress has on immunity. In the study, the researchers exposed mice to social disruption, which is known to cause increases in circulating cytokines (‘hormones of the immune system), which themselves induce enhanced
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Laughing Gas (Nitrous Oxide) is No Laughing Matter

I was wandering around the internet last night, looking for scholarly articles on something called ‘methylation pathways’, when I came across a very disturbing article on the potentially quite toxic interaction between nitrous oxide (NO2) and certain states of B12 deficiency. Before getting into the nitty gritty, bottom line, let me give you some background. Nitrous Oxide (NO2)-commonly referred to as ‘laughing gas’ was used for years in the practice of dentistry.  It is used currently as part of general anesthesia, and recently has been gaining popularity as a ‘recreational drug’.  An article in Popular Science in the late 1940’s
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Light Therapy & Health

Your Biologic Clock Your Biologic Clock keeps our body rhythms and sleep –wake cycles in synch with the light-day cycle of the earth. It is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hormone control center of the brain, the hypothalamus.  When light enters the eye, it activates this part of the brain and reduces production of the sleep hormone (melatonin) produced in the pineal gland of the brain.  The light also acts to the release of a variety of other hormones and affects body temperature. Interestingly, we are programmed to cycle every 24.2 hours―but our exposure to light on
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Can a Brain Be on Fire?

Yes! Over the last 20 years, ample evidence has accumulated to prove that inflammation in the body causes changes in the brain that lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and memory problems. Inflammation comes from the Latin  ‘inflammare’ — to set on fire.  Our brain is ‘on fire’ when it is inflamed, or when our body is inflamed. What sets your brain on fire? Your body experiences inflammation the way your skin reacts to a cut:  The area becomes swollen, warmer, and it may hurt.  (This happens because there is increased blood flow, increased immune activity, and a change in
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