Sunday, 23 November 2014

Salicylate Sensitivity

"Pancakes" by
Pancakes with maple syrup are low in salicylates
According to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit:
“Some people are born with a sensitive constitution and react more readily to food chemicals than others. The tendency is probably inherited, but environmental triggers — a sudden change of diet, a bad food or drug reaction, a nasty viral infection (for example, gastroenteritis, glandular fever) — can bring on symptoms at any age by altering the way the body reacts to food chemicals … the natural chemicals in many ‘healthy’ foods can be just as much of a problem for sensitive people as the ‘artificial’ ones used as food additives. Foods vary tremendously in chemical composition. The natural substances most likely to upset sensitive individuals — salicylates, amines and glutamate — are the ones common to many different foods …

Symptoms triggered by food chemical intolerances vary from person to person. The commonest ones are recurrent hives and swellings, headaches, sinus trouble, mouth ulcers, nausea, stomach pains and bowel irritation. Some people feel vaguely unwell, with flu-like aches and pains, or get unusually tired, run-down or moody, often for no apparent reason. Children can become irritable and restless, and behavioural problems can be aggravated in those with nervous system disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) [].”
This topic interests me because salicylate sensitivity runs in my family. However, as far as I am aware there is little evidence to suggest that food intolerance can cause or exacerbate bipolar, and as a low salicylate diet is quite restrictive I would not recommend it to any but the desperate and/or the diagnosed.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Please Like Me

Just a quick post to help raise awareness of the best television series I know of dealing with bipolar (amongst other topics) - Please Like Me. Note that series one deals mostly with the principle character's coming out story, with some mention of his mother's mental health woes. Series two (2014) deals with mental illness, especially bipolar, with more depth - it is hilarious, insightful and touching. I highly recommend.

While on the topic, there are a couple of Doctor Who episodes that also deal with mental illness in a sympathetic light. First, Vincent and the Doctor (2010) and, second, In the Forest of the Night (2014). Stephen Fry's much more serious documentary, The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, is also well worth a watch.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Diabetes and Bipolar

"My Conspiracy" by
On the official Seroquel website the following concession is made:
“High blood sugar and diabetes have been reported with SEROQUEL XR and medicines like it. If you have diabetes or risk factors such as obesity or a family history of diabetes, your doctor should check your blood sugar before you start taking SEROQUEL XR and also during therapy. If you develop symptoms of high blood sugar or diabetes, such as excessive thirst or hunger, increased urination, or weakness, contact your doctor. Complications from diabetes can be serious and even life threatening [].”
However the makers of Seroquel (AstraZeneca) do not accept that Seroquel (known generically as quetiapine) causes diabetes, although there is plenty of online speculation that this may be the case. Similar speculation abounds regarding other atypical/second generation antipsychotics (especially olanzapine, clozapine and risperidone) used to treat bipolar, possibly because of the associated weight gain that can come with these medications – for it is well established that there really is a link between being overweight and type 2 diabetes. It is also well established that for many people certain lifestyle choices will beckon the disease and that to some extent the onset of type 2 diabetes is preventable. So, given that anyone on atypical/second generation antipsychotics should probably do what they can to avoid getting diabetes, what do we need to do?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Bodhisattva Aspiration

Statue of a Bodhisattva from Ghandara
Lately I have been deepening my understanding of what Bodhisattvas are, including the aspiration to attain this state. Loosely put, Bodhisattvas can be described as Buddhist deities, or if one comes from a Christian background one might understand them to be like saints. Bodhisattvas are particularly important within the Mahayana tradition and practitioners are encouraged to aspire to become Bodhisattvas themselves. The history of the Bodhisattva concept is described thus:
“The term ‘bodhisattva’ appears first as the title the Buddha used to refer to himself before he realised nirvana. The Jataka Tales, popular scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, extend the concept of bodhisattva to include previous lives of the Buddha before he was born as Siddhattha Gotama [Skt. Siddhartha Gautama] … Already on the path to Buddhahood, the bodhisatta (Skt. Bodhisattva) in these stories exhibits many of the qualities of a Buddha, most notably a selfless desire to serve others regardless of the consequences for himself.   
… Mahayana Buddhism … seized upon the concept of the bodhisattva as one of its most important spiritual ideals. Followers of Mahayana Buddhism are expected to take and repeatedly reiterate the ‘bodhisattva vow’, a promise to dedicate one’s life to the welfare of other beings and to forgo final realisation of nirvana until all beings have been led to release. In essence, the bodhisattva vow replaces nirvana, the supreme goal of Theravada Buddhism, with the supreme goal of Mahayana Buddhism: Buddhahood [Reat, Buddhism: A History at 50-51].”

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Ketogenic Diet and Bipolar

"Cheese paradise" by dreamcatcher-hina
In 2012 Phelps, Siemers and El-Mallakh published a study with the following findings:
“Successful mood stabilizing treatments reduce intracellular sodium in an activity-dependent manner. This can also be achieved with acidification of the blood, as is the case with the ketogenic diet. Two women with type II bipolar disorder were able to maintain ketosis for prolonged periods of time (2 and 3 years, respectively). Both experienced mood stabilization that exceeded that achieved with medication; experienced a significant subjective improvement that was distinctly related to ketosis; and tolerated the diet well. There were no significant adverse effects in either case. These cases demonstrate that the ketogenic diet is a potentially sustainable option for mood stabilization in type II bipolar illness [The Ketogenic Diet for Type II Bipolar Disorder].”

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Schools of Buddhism

Footprints representing the Buddha, 2nd century CE, Ghandara, Afghanistan
I have been studying and practicing Buddhism on and off since my teenage years. As a child my father was interested in Vajrayana (Kagyu) Buddhism and so inevitably I was exposed to this form of Buddhism first. Later, when I was in my mid to late 20s I became quite devout but found myself most drawn to Theravada Buddhism. More recently, I was going to a Vajrayana (Nyingma) centre for about a year, but stopped a couple of months ago – somehow it just didn’t seem to be quite working out, despite my genuine respect for its teachings and many of the wonderful people I met there. In recent weeks I have developed an interest in Nichiren Buddhism (a Mahayana lineage from Japan), after discovering I know a couple of people who are involved with it and reading parts of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren’s writings (Nichiren was a Buddhist monk in 13th century Japan), but I confess that I am becoming confused – there are so many schools of Buddhism and just about all of them are represented in multicultural Sydney, where I live, such that spiritual shopping seems to be becoming a habit. At some point I would like to have enough confidence in a path to stick to it. In an attempt to make sense of these many paths I will attempt to summarise the core teachings of Buddhism, as recognised by all the schools, and then look a little at the different practices associated with various lineages.


Friday, 2 May 2014

Baring the Aegis: Guardians of Mental Health

Aegis shield. 
For a discussion of mental illness from a Greek polytheist perspective see this post: 

Briefly put the Gods mentioned include:
  • Hygieia (also spelled Hygeia; known to the Romans as Salus), Goddess of good health and well being, inter alia.
  • Asclepius (also spelled Asklepios; known to the Romans as Aesculapius), God of medicine, inter alia. 
  • Apollon (also spelled Apollo; known to the Romans by the same name), God of healing and disease, inter alia.
  • Dionysus (also spelled Dionysos; known to the Romans as Bacchus and/or Liber), God of ecstasy and madness, inter alia.
  • Athena (also spelled Athene; known to the Romans as Minerva), Goddess of skilful thinking/wisdom, inter alia. 
See also this post, with a Roman polytheist orientation: The Gods of Misery.

If you like this post you may like my earlier post on Emotional Pain - A Buddhist Approach