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Counselor Morgan Randall's blog, bookstore and more. A place to explore the paradigm shift to systems thinking that views body and mind as one

The gut-brain connection strikes again

As biology continues to mature as a science, we learn more and more how the small intestines, i.e. the gut, must be healthy to have a healthy brain. Mind is a different thing altogether and consciousness is, most likely, an all-body mechanism, so being mentally ill is not about the brain so much as it is about the whole body and specifically about the gut. Human beings have known for a long time that if a person goes long enough without sleep, he can die. The utterly fascinating thing that research is showing is that when we go without sleep long enough, it’s not so much the brain that is negatively affected, as it is the gut. We absolutely must sleep or oxidative stress wrecks our small intestines and we die. But we’ll probably go crazy first…—MR

Why Do We Die Without Sleep?

Conversation with Steven Strogatz, Quanta Magazine, March 22, 2022.

The reasons why sleep is so vital often hide in unexpected parts of the body, as podcast host Steven Strogatz discovers in conversations with researchers Dragana Rogulja and Alex Keene.

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September 10th, 2022 | Permalink

Let’s get real

There was a time in my life when confronted with a problem or simply some distasteful conversation, I would slip into a Star Trek rerun in my head. Sometimes I would even change the plot line to a more preferable outcome. In a session with my first mental health counselor in the nineties, she saw me gazing off into space. Asking what I was thinking about I described a conversation between Jean Luc Picard and Worf. After that, when she saw me gaze out into my mental stars avoiding a subject in session, she’d snap her fingers and say, “Hey! Get back here!”—MR

I just go into my head and enjoy it’: the people who can’t stop daydreaming

by David Robson, The Guardian US, August 28, 2022

Psychiatrists may soon recognize ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ as a clinical disorder. But what is it, and how can it be treated?

Every day, Kyla* travels to a fictional universe with advanced space travel. It’s not real, of course – but an incredibly vivid daydream, centered on a protagonist with a detailed history. “It covers 79 years in the life of my main character,” she says. “I know how the whole thing plays out, and I can drop into it at whatever point I want to experience.”

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August 28th, 2022 | Permalink

Not a surprise

Guess I should be pleased at the news contained in the below article. It will guarantee a steady stream of miserable patients to my offices until I retire. It’s a stunning victory for Big C capitalism and the alcohol and drug industries!—MR

Marijuana, hallucinogen use at all-time high among young adults

by Morgan Sherburne, Michigan News, University of Michigan, August 22, 2022

Marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs in this age group since 1988, according to the Monitoring the Future panel study.

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August 23rd, 2022 | Permalink

Big deal

Golly gee whiz, the FDA approved the first new type of anti-depressant in 60 years! The below article reports it reduces symptoms a whopping five percent more than a placebo. What it doesn’t say is how long it’s gonna work for someone or what side effects are over the long term. Honestly, does that sound like something to sign up for?—MR

FDA OKs First Oral NMDA Receptor Antagonist for Depression

by Kristen Monaco, MedPage Today,

The FDA approved combination dextromethorphan and bupropion extended-release tablets (Auvelity) for adults with major depressive disorder (MDD), Axsome Therapeutics announced on Friday.

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August 20th, 2022 | Permalink

Why risk it?

The below reviewed book underscores one of the dangers of drinking, i.e. dementia. Its author, Dr. Richard Restak, advises his patients to quit alcohol by 70 at the latest. Over 65, he writes, you typically have fewer brain neurons than when you were younger, so why risk them? “Alcohol is a weak neurotoxin – it’s not good for nerve cells.”—MR

Stop drinking, keep reading, look after your hearing: a neurologist’s tips for fighting memory loss and Alzheimer’s

by Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian US, August 17, 2022

You walk into a room, but can’t remember what you came in for. Or you bump into an old acquaintance at work, and forget their name. Most of us have had momentary memory lapses like this, but in middle age they can start to feel more ominous. Do they make us look unprofessional, or past it? Could this even be a sign of impending dementia? The good news for the increasingly forgetful, however, is that not only can memory be improved with practice, but that it looks increasingly as if some cases of Alzheimer’s may be preventable too.

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August 18th, 2022 | Permalink

Heart of the matter

Most docs, psychiatrists, PAs, nurse practitioners and even psychologists who practice under the umbrella of allopathic medicine are focused on alleviating the symptoms of mental illness as quickly as possible and getting to the next patient in their busy day. Finding out what is causing those symptoms and helping tweak the causal structure is simply not their job, hence their reliance on prescribing psycho-pharmaceuticals. Mental health counselors, who do not prescribe, seek the reasons for mental health disorders and help the patient alleviate those causes to achieve a lasting cure thereby mitigating the need for drugs. They are like the Native elders below who get to the heart of the matter and come up with a plan to address the real issue.—MR

‘We look deeper’: the Native court settling cases outside the justice system

by Stewart Huntington, The Guardian US, August 6, 2022

In South Dakota, the Oyate Court – made up of Lakota elders – uses traditional peacemaking principles to stress healing over punishment.

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August 6th, 2022 | Permalink

Beware of dinosaurs

Time to let go of a dinosaur-sized erroneous hypothesis, i.e. that depression is caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals that can be managed by psycho-pharmaceuticals. It was simply a hypothesis pushed by Big Pharma to make billions. As many practitioners have been saying for decades, it just ain’t true. Yes, anti-depressants sometimes work to allay symptoms—though science doesn’t know why—but have been clearly shown to be connected dementia later in life by huge statistical margins. Also, we don’t know why. To err on the side of caution, I’d check out alternatives before taking a weird chemical that no one knows what it does to my brain.—MR

The chemical imbalance theory of depression is dead, but that doesn’t mean antidepressants don’t work

by Christopher Davey, The Guardian US, August 2, 2022

The chemical imbalance theory of depression is well and truly dead. A paper by Joanna Moncrieff and colleagues, longtime critics of the effectiveness of antidepressants, has caused a splash. The paper provides a summary of other summaries that confirm there is no evidence to support the idea that depression is caused by disturbance of the brain’s serotonin system.

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August 3rd, 2022 | Permalink

Not your grandma’s pot

Cannabis in not “primarily addictive,” so science refers to it as “dependency.” Actually its dependents are addicted, just not to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that gets them high. They have become addicted to an opioid, i.e. the reward chemical, in their own brains that THC triggers at much higher than normal levels. Consequently, daily behaviors no longer trigger the reward chemical, so addicts feel unmotivated by events in life that would have been motivating, like getting an A on a math test or winning the attention of a young woman.—MR

Higher-Potency Cannabis Linked to Psychosis, Dependency

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July 30th, 2022 | Permalink

Food comes first

We’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but what does that mean to one’s mental health? It means that your body, of which your brain is a part, is constantly rebuilding itself with the what goes in your mouth. Whole or low processed foods create a healthy brain which is the first thing needed to be able to have healthy mind. So if you want good mental health, start with what you eat or drink. Replacing just ten percent of ultra-processed food weight with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed foods led to 19 percent less dementia in the below study!—MR

Dementia Risk Climbs With Intake of Ultra-Processed Foods

A diet higher in ultra-processed foods was linked with a higher risk of dementia, but substituting unprocessed or minimally processed foods for ultra-processed ones dropped dementia risk, a longitudinal study showed.

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July 28th, 2022 | Permalink

It’s not in your head

The below meta-analysis of dozens of studies has demonstrated that depression is NOT a low-serotonin brain-chemical imbalance. A pill can’t fix the many actual causes of depression, but a counselor can help you overcome them. Since 95% of serotonin is found in the small intestine, a good probiotic protocol (note: all probiotics are not created equal) may be the way to go. Sure chased away my blues! Frankly to me, the scariest part is that antidepressant use, as opposed to depression, presages dementia.—MR

The serotonin theory of depression

by J. Moncrieff, R.E. Cooper, T. Stockmann, S. Amendola, M. Hengartner & M. Horowitz, Molecular Psychiatry, 2022

The serotonin hypothesis of depression is still influential. We aimed to synthesize and evaluate evidence on whether depression is associated with lowered serotonin concentration or activity in a systematic umbrella review of the principal relevant areas of research.

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July 21st, 2022 | Permalink

Gut feeling

The below study finds a link between Alzheimer’s disease and gastrointestinal disorders. More and more this gut-brain axis is being proven to be at the root of much mental distress particularly depression and anxiety. Avoiding ingesting stuff that hurts the gut such as white flour, sugar and alcohol can go a long way toward improving your mental health.—MR

A large-scale genome-wide cross-trait analysis reveals shared genetic architecture between Alzheimer’s disease and gastrointestinal tract disorders

by Emmanuel Adewuyi, Eleanor O’Brien, Dale Nyholt, Tenielle Porter and Simon Laws, Communications Biology, July 20, 2022.

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July 20th, 2022 | Permalink

It’s your choice

Finally, science is showing how much alcohol hurts the brain. The lovely thing about scientific research is that facts as opposed to product marketing can inform people who read. Then, they can make an informed choice about their behavior. Personally, I drink about four drinks a year because I would like my brain to function at its optimum well into old age. How about you? It’s your choice.—MR

Just 4 Drinks a Week Tied to Brain Changes

by Judy George, MedPage Today,

Moderate alcohol consumption was linked to higher brain iron and worse cognitive function, an observational study showed.

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July 15th, 2022 | Permalink

Poisons are poisonous

Poisons poison the mind too. We cannot separate our body from the mechanism that controls its flow of energy and information which is the simplest definition of what mind is. I can only encourage you to at least try to limit your ingestion of poisons like pesticides, herbicides, pollution, alcohol and drugs. You’ll feel much better for it.—MR

‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples

by Carey Gillam, The Guardian US, July 9, 2022

More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called “disturbing” and “concerning”.

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July 9th, 2022 | Permalink

Move if you want to groove!

The mental health improvements from movement of any kind, but particularly exercise, are well proven. If you do not wish to feel depressed, move your body for about five minutes or more and you will feel better.—MR

Move yourself happy! How to exercise to boost your mood – whatever your fitness level

by Elle Hunt, The Guardian US, June 29, 2022

Everyone knows the benefits of exercise: stronger muscles, more energy, weight management, better sleep. A mood boost is often tacked on as a bonus. But there is stronger evidence than ever before that movement not only improves your mental health, but also protects it.

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June 29th, 2022 | Permalink

Run while you still can

It’s not just teens who are losing it. Cannabis may be more dangerous to mental health than any other drug. Please don’t believe the Big Lie. Follow the money.—MR

By Christina Caron, New  York Times, June 24, 2020

With THC levels close to 100 percent, today’s cannabis products are making some teenagers highly dependent and dangerously ill.

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June 24th, 2022 | Permalink

Green away the blues

Simply put, feeling better mentally and physically is all about eliminating things that make you feel bad and piling on things that make you feel good. There’s a tipping point toward one side or the other like a teeter totter. One thing you can add to your life for positive effect is houseplants. Even fake plants or photos of plants can help, but real ones help more. More than five sitting within ten feet of you increases the effect significantly and ones with flowers really give the mind a boost! There’s a therapeutic reason my counseling office has nine green friends growing there to greet you.—MR

What science tells us about the mood-boosting effects of indoor plants

June 24th, 2022 | Permalink

Risky business

Cannabis, thank goodness, is finally becoming legal. Because it is legal in many states, science is now able to collect statistics and do the research that proves how dangerous it can be to mental health. While some practitioners look at the psychosis it often causes as schizophrenia, I don’t. I call it “cannabis psychosis.” The distinction is important because schizophrenia is a genetic/family systems disorder that is often incurable. Cannabis psychosis, on the other hand, is totally curable and should not be treated with antipsychotics or it can become incurable. It’s the wild west out there, folks! By that I mean, we are in radically new territory. My recommendation is just say “no” to cannabis in any form unless, shrug, you like the idea of being a lab rat.—MR

California may require labels on pot products to warn of mental health risks

by April Dembosky, NPR Morning Edition, June 17, 2022

Liz Kirkaldie’s grandson was in the top of his class in high school and a talented jazz bassist when he started smoking pot. The more serious he got about music, the more serious he got about pot.

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June 22nd, 2022 | Permalink

Just breathe!

The most effective intervention and the least expensive thing you can do to help your mental health and your overall health is to learn to breathe correctly. That is not an overstatement. The below article has some excellent guidelines, but in one sentence here’s the most important point:  ALWAYS breathe through your nose.—MR

How to breathe

by Martin Petrus, Psyche newsletter, June 22, 2022

Whether your aim is improved health, mental calm or achieving transcendence, breathing techniques can help you get there.

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June 22nd, 2022 | Permalink

The small stuff adds up

Mental health boils down to how we manage anxiety. Anxiety is the feelings we get from experiencing stressors in our environments. It’s impossible to get rid of the constant flow of stressors, but it is possible to learn self-regulation skills. The more a person limits stressors on one side of their mental health teeter totter, e.g. turning off the evening news, and adds even little behaviors, e.g. a daily 20-minute walk, that reduce anxiety on the other, the more quickly she can come back to a balance and ease. Note: pharmaceutical anti-anxiety meds are being proved to cause Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Don’t go there.—MR

When stressed, we ‘catastrophize’ – but we can learn to calm our irrational fears

by Sophie Brickman, The Guardian US, June 20, 2022

Our primitive brains summon up worst-case scenarios to protect us from danger. In today’s world, that can be debilitating.

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June 21st, 2022 | Permalink

Who are you?

Sometimes patients’ depression, anger or substance abuse has deep roots in historical oppression and internal conflict about personal identities. A patient may be a woman, indigenous or have indigenous ancestor’s used as fodder for paternalism and/or imperialism. Until these often unconscious conflicts are looked at closely and, at least, accepted to exist, denial can wreak havoc on emotional health. Sometimes you just gotta look.–MR

Only love can stop war: a Northern Cheyenne chief’s call to the world

by Heive ye ‘keso,/Chief Phillip Whiteman, Jr., The Guardian US, June 17, 2022

Our people’s teachings, connecting us to the land and the universe, have enabled us to survive genocide and can point the way to peace – 146 years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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June 17th, 2022 | Permalink

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