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It is not uncommon for individuals with severe chronic health conditions, such as Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to develop a post traumatic syndrome.  They literally experience damage to the area of the brain called the limbic system, the deep structure in the brain responsible for feeling and reacting. The structures which compose the limbic system are the amygdala, the hippocampus, the hypothalamus and the cingulate cortex. Individuals with histories of adverse childhood events, such as neglect and abuse, are more vulnerable to the development of this distressing condition.

In a healthy individual the limbic system functions to discern the level of threat in the environment and to mobilize a proportional response. When the limbic system becomes damaged, it exaggerates the level of threat and over reacts with an involuntary survival response in order to protect itself. Individuals with dysregulated disorganized limbic systems can experience catastrophic physical and emotional reactions to mild stimuli, including light, sounds, fragrances, touch, and electromagnetic frequencies. They can become solely preoccupied with how to survive and are prone to extreme states of negativity, depression, hopelessness and fear.  Intrusive negative thoughts are common.

When their experience is invalidated and no one has answers about  how to help, they can even become suicidal.  This is all exacerbated by the fact that their cognitive function is often compromised, including memory problems and brain fog. Physical symptoms are also common with reduced detoxification capacity resulting in symptoms of inflammation with chronic pain and sensitivity, and digestive issues with impaired absorption of nutrients and lowered energy levels.

It is easy to imagine that this profound dysregulation of the limbic system completely destroys their quality of life. It can result in extreme social isolation, as well as an inability to work, travel or interact with others. Some even become homeless because every environment feels intolerably toxic and threatening. Such dramatic and seemingly irrational behavior can result in rejection by family and friends, as it is misunderstood as volitional, manipulative and controlling or crazy. It is rarely appreciated that they are literally suffering from brain damage.

This is not a condition that typically responds to conventional talk therapy but can be effectively treated with a novel approach called Dynamic Neural Retraining System. DNRS was created by Annie Hopper, who suffered herself from traumatic damage to her limbic system. DNRS is an intensive experiential program which integrates components of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness based cognitive restructuring, emotional restructuring therapy, neural linguistic programming, incremental training (a form of neural shaping) and behavior modification therapy to rewire neural circuits in the limbic system which calms the hyper active stress response. It teaches practical tools which harness the neuro plasticity of the brain, allowing individuals to heal and to be restored to health, well being and happiness.

Annie Hopper’s book about DNRS is called “Wired For Healing”. She offers an in person five day training as well as a fourteen hour DVD or on-line home study program. She recommends that for a minimum of six months an individual devote an hour a day to practicing the tools. She believes that this is necessary in order for the newly formed neural pathways to become fully ingrained and habitual. This can be exhausting and even impossible for very debilitated individuals and some patients report benefit from doing it for shorter periods daily.

I recommend DNRS to many of my patients who are traumatized by their experience of living with chronic illness. It pairs well with ART, an eye movement therapy for addressing trauma.

Here is a fascinating interview with Annie Hopper.

Episode #42: DNRS with Annie Hopper - YouTube

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Patients with inflammatory illnesses such as auto-immune and neuro degenerative conditions, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and many psychiatric conditions see rheumatologists, dermatologists, neurologists and psychiatrists who do not ask the essential question, “Why does this person have this condition?”

The standard of care for neuro degenerative and autoimmune conditions is the prescription of very expensive and dangerous immune suppressant medications and sometimes chemotherapy drugs. For psychiatric conditions, the standard of care is psychotropic medications, which often have side effects resulting in tiredness, weight gain and low libido. Withdrawal syndromes are frequently experienced when an individual tries to stop taking them. Suppression of symptoms is the conventional approach, instead of investigating, identifying and treating the root cause of the illness. In many cases of chronic illness, organic toxins from the environment such as mold toxins and other organic chemicals are responsible.

Given the increasing toxicity of our environment, an individual who is genetically susceptible because of an impaired capacity to detoxify, will be vulnerable. When the accumulated organic toxins are removed from the body with binders or sequestrants (such as clay and charcoal), in combination with antioxidants and other supplements, a person will often heal.

Michael Gray, MD, MPH, CIME is a skilled and inspiring physician who practices internal medicine and clinical toxicology at The Progressive Healthcare Group in Benson, Arizona. He specializes in treating patients who have cumulative chemical hyper toxicity from mold or other toxic chemicals. He writes “Cumulative organic chemical hyper toxicity may effect more than 80,000,000 people in this country, and millions more throughout the world.  This epidemic is the direct result of the bad human decisions responsible for the continued, unnecessary, and still reversible, ongoing pollution of our planet, being driven by the greed exhibited by those who think falsely that they benefit from the status quo.”

Dr. Gray will be one of the presenters at the inaugural conference of ISEAI, The International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness in Phoenix, Arizona in early May entitled, “Healing Complex Patients in a Toxic World” I will be attending and the program looks incredible. I am so excited about what I will learn!

Dr. Gray has produced an absolute treasure trove of clear and highly informative YouTube videos at his channel MY CYP450 which outline his protocols. Almost all of the items he recommends are available without a prescription. Sensitive patients will need to start at low doses and incrementally work their way up to the recommended full amount.

In his YouTube video entitled  “The Role of Vitamins, Nutrients, Supplements when living with an Autoimmune or Chronic Illness,” he notes the importance of a taking a variety of nutrients in addition to the binders.  He outlines his protocols in his YouTube videos, including dosages. He notes that Consumer Reports has found that the COSTCO brand of supplements offer the highest quality available of all brands tested. He cautions against the use of herbal products from China, many of which contain high levels of arsenic.

In a dramatic YouTube video entitled “Psoriasis and Alopecia” he described a 62 year old woman who was suicidal due to feeling exhausted by the relentless misery of living with a severe auto immune inflammatory skin condition, psoriasis. She had been afflicted with it since age 20. Her body was covered with scaly red lesions that were extremely painful. She took clay once a day for three years with no effect, but when she upped the dosage to twice a day, her lesions disappeared entirely in three weeks. Dr. Gray emphasizes the importance of twice daily dosing with the binders. She also had alopecia, an auto-immune condition affecting the hair follicles causing hair loss, which also entirely resolved in few months with Dr. Gray’s protocol.

I encourage you to look at all of them on Dr. Gray’s YouTube channel My CYP450.

Here is the video where he describes the case of the woman with psoriasis and alopecia:

Alopecia and Psoriasis A Case History - Toxins & Mycotoxins - YouTube

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On April 5, 2019 at 4:50 AM EST there will be a new moon at 15 degrees Aries. A new moon occurs every 29.5 days when the orbiting Moon aligns with the Sun. The energy of the new moon is associated with new beginnings and the planting of seeds, literally and metaphorically. Farmers know that timing the planting of crops to coincide with the new moon produces the highest yield. The new moon is a time that is associated with growth and thus a fertile time for initiating new projects and endeavors.

This Aries new moon carries more of this abundantly expansive potential, as it is the first new moon to occur since the Spring Equinox.

In addition, as Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and this is the first new moon of the astrological year, there is support for envisioning and manifesting the coming year in accordance with your wishes. The energy of the Aries new moon provides natural support for the development of a life plan for the next twelve months, and for the setting of intentions regarding what you would like to create and realize. Don’t miss this opportunity!

It’s actually the perfect time to press the reset button on your health. Perhaps you would like to try intermittent fasting, to stop snacking between meals, to eat a wider variety of vegetables daily, to drink more water, to replace toxic personal care products and household cleaners with healthier options, to follow the rhythm of the sun: going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, to put your cell phone on airplane mode when you carry it in your pocket, to turn off the wi-fi router at night, to de-clutter your living space, to spend time walking outside listening to the birds instead of a podcast, to prioritize spending time with friends and family instead of constantly feeling compelled to produce and achieve, to volunteer in your community, to spend time cultivating the spiritual dimension of your life though rest, silence, keeping a gratitude journal, meditation, yoga and prayer. There are so many small changes that can make a profound difference in your level of well being.

If you are interested in learning more about making use of the supportive energy of the new moon thoughout the year, the late Jan Spiller wrote a wonderful book entitled New Moon Astrology: The Secret of Astrological Timing to Make All Your Dreams Come True. This accessible book provides precise and simple instructions about how to use the energy of the new moon in each sign of the zodiac. She teaches you a technique to effectively formulate wishes that are consistent with the archetypal energy of the sign where the new moon falls.

Each month Spiller recommends hand writing more than one and up to ten wishes.  Wishes may be made up to forty eight hours after the exact time of the New Moon, though wishes made within the first eight hours are the most powerful. The wording of the wishes is important. They should be clearly stated with genuine emotion. She advises checking in with yourself after you write each wish to assess how you are feeling. If you feel happy and peaceful, this is an indication that the wish is in alignment with your Higher Self. If not, save the wish for another time.

Each sign of the zodiac has archetypal qualities associated with its energy signature. Spiller characterizes Aries characteristics in the following ways:

New Beginnings: Blazing new trails, Initiating, High energy, Taking action, Innovative approaches

The Self: The physical body, Survival issues, Instincts, Assertiveness,

Innocence: Honest, Authenticity Impulsiveness, Straightforwardness,

Self Discovery: Exploration, Taking risks, Eagerness, Competition

Independence: Self-direction, Self-reliance, Autonomy, Self-sufficiency

Warrior Nature: Courage, Leadership, Strength, Vigilance, Boldness

Disengage Self-Aborption: Lack of awareness of others, Selfishness, Vanity, Impulsive action that alienates others, Anger, Impatience

Restoring Health: Acne, Eyes, Head, Face, Scalp, Brain, Headaches and dizziness

Here is a sample list of eight wishes reflecting Aries qualities:

  1. I want all fears of being “the first” totally lifted from me. (innovative approaches)
  2. I want lots of energy and vitality. (high energy)
  3. I want to easily find inner radiance and joy manifesting in my face and physical appearance. (the physical body)
  4. I want total confidence in simply being myself. (authenticity)
  5. I want to easily find myself taking those risks that lead to personal growth and positive renewal. (taking risks)
  6. I want to easily find myself trusting myself (independence)
  7. I want to be filled with courage and awareness in actively pursuing my own aims. (warrior nature)
  8. I want total healing to occur in the area of my eyes. (part ruled by Aries)

You can model your own wishes on the wording of these wishes. As you can see, Spiller advocates using the “I want” form rather than something less direct or more tentative.

Spiller recommends an additional special practice for the New Moon in Aries. She describes creating a collage, which she calls a “Treasure Map” within two days following the Aries New Moon. You will need magazines, scissors, a glue stick and poster board to create your Treasure Map. Select images or headlines that symbolize your wishes, allowing your heart and intuition to be your guide. Another name for a Treasure Map is a Vision Board. I have created Vision Boards by finding images on-line instead of in magazines. Light a candle and meditate upon your wishes for the coming year before you get started.

May all your wishes come true with ease and grace, for your highest good and for the highest good of all concerned!

Happy Aries New Moon!

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An old Danish proverb warns, “Its difficult to prophesy, especially about the future”.

And yet, it is hard not to feel despairing in the face of daily alarming reports of the rapidly accelerating unfolding disaster of climate change on our planet; rising temperatures and sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the massive extinction of species, the death of the coral reefs, destruction of the rain forests, the refugee crisis, and the devastating health consequences of the increasing toxicity of our environment. This is to name just a few of the heartbreaking realities with which we are regularly confronted.

It is for this this reason, that what I love best about sacred activist Terry Patten‘s visionary book, “A New Republic of the Heart: An Ethos for Revolutionaries,  is his discussion of the concept “Emergence”. “Emergence” in the context of evolution is the appearance of a situation defined by entirely new properties, such as mind and consciousness appearing at certain critical points, usually because of an unpredictable rearrangement of the already existing entities. It involves the appearance of new characters and qualities at complex levels of organization which cannot be predicted solely from the study of less complex levels.

In other words, we cannot predict what is going to happen on the basis of the past or accurately calculate the whole through consideration of the sum of its parts. This is actually a very hopeful idea, because without the concept of Emergence, our current practices predict a trajectory which leads to the inevitable collapse of civilization and a planet that will not be habitable for future generations.

“It may be that the human species is now entering a period of such rapid new adaptation that we will undergo an evolutionary leap. These necessary changes will be psychological, cultural, social, technological, political, and even physical. The leap may take place most deeply in human consciousness itself- a leap in what it means to be a human being. The oncoming storm of global and personal disturbances will require dramatically different new choices and behaviors-in fact, whole new ways of being.

Sudden, dramatic evolutionary progress is thought to take place under conditions of extreme evolutionary tension. although ordinary levels of evolutionary tension manifest slow, gradual, shifts, intense pressure requires rapid and radical emergence. Where a species might have thrived nearly unchanged in its old ecosystem for tens of thousands of generations, it must now change drastically-in relatively few generations- to survive and to thrive.

Many scientists and scholars agree that we are entering one of these “punctuated” eras of rapid change-and we must rapidly readapt, or disappear. In other words, it’s game time on the planet-now! We will either evolve-quickly- or perish.” (pp 98-99 A New Republic of the Heart)

The years ahead promise to be ones of massive upheaval and continued logarithmic rates of change. Astrologically we find ourselves at the end of several very long cycles. We are at a time of endings and new beginnings on the planet. Last month the north node of the moon shifted into  Cancer, the archetype associated with the Great Mother, where it will be for the next 2.5 years. The nodes of the moon characterize the flavor of the zeitgeist for the collective. The North Node in Cancer counsels us that the upcoming tsunami of change can be ridden most skillfully and gracefully by cultivating the qualities of  The Great Mother. A good mother cares for the future of the children.

Cancer is the zodiac sign associated with home and family. Family should not be interpreted narrowly as referring only to blood relatives, but also to elective kinship groups. It will be vital in the coming years to increase our capacity to work collaboratively with others. This is not an auspicious time to be a rugged individualist, a lone ranger. That will not work.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, global spiritual leader, poet and peace activist said that the next Buddha maybe the Sangha, the community. ” It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.”  Thich Nhat Hanh, Inquiring Mind, Vol 10, No. 2, Spring 1994.

We are now being called upon to inspire and lift each other up, to enlarge our scope of concern beyond our own personal issues and individual life time. Cancer is the sign associated with the breasts and the stomach, with feeding and nurturing, with emotion and sensitivity. We are being called to CARE for each other and for the future of our planet, and to recognize our essential oneness with each other and all beings on Earth.

The star chart for New Years Day features Mars on the Aries Point. The Aries point is the very first of the 360 degrees of the zodiac. It signifies a new beginning and emphasizes that it is truly Game Time on the planet. Mars on the Aries point lends support for our individual contributions to have an extra powerful impact upon the collective. Mars is located in close proximity to the asteroids Chiron and Hygiea, which are in the final degrees of the last sign of the zodiac, Pisces. This indicates that now is a time when there will be cosmic support for the healing of very old wounds.

It is recommended in these coming challenging times to gather with others in person, to cultivate friendships and meaningful community, to fully devote yourself in service to planetary healing and transformation, each in your own unique way but in collaboration with others.  In this way, we may participate in the emergence of the Miracle that will allow future generations to survive and thrive on the planet, or if that is not to be, we will nobly participate in  what Patten described as a “hospice project” for our beloved planet.

Blessings to all my readers for 2019. Be shining sources of light and love in your communities. Our future depends upon each of us.

Here is an uplifting interview with Terry Patten.

Terry Patten - Host Jocelyn Mercado - Embracing Radical Change Online Event - YouTube

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“One only sees what one looks for, one only looks for what one knows.” —Goethe

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” —Maya Angelou

These two beloved quotes found on each page of my website are at the heart of the recognition and healing of environmentally acquired illness. No wonder it strikes such a chord with me, not to mention my recent personal experience with exposure to mold toxins and its dramatic deleterious effects on both my physical and mental health.  I wrote my first post about it two years ago and the second over the summer.

Environmentally acquired illnesses (EAI) are often not recognized by conventional medicine. Patients run from one doctor to another and no one can help them. The usual lab studies often reveal nothing treatable because their health care providers are not testing for the right things. When all the studies come back normal, a patient may be told that her somatic concerns are an expression of her anxiety or depression, and that she should see a psychiatrist.

“Conditions that are thought to be caused or exacerbated by a person’s exposure to environmental toxins include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Dysautonomias such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes (Type 2) and metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Celiac disease, and other food sensitivities
  • Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) and dysbiosis
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Psoriasis and eczema
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Mast Cell Activation Disorder
  • Persistent Lyme Disease ”  ISEAI website

“Symptoms that can be a result of exposure to environmental toxins include:

  • Brain fog, memory problems, loss of mental sharpness, trouble organizing tasks or getting things done
  • Headaches, light/sound/touch sensitivity
  • Neuropathy, numbness, tingling, loss of coordination, paralysis, seizures
  • Fainting, dizziness or lightheadedness, vertigo
  • Insomnia, poor sleep, sleep apnea
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, emotional outbursts, mood swings, suicide
  • Fatigue, problems recovering from exercise or even daily activities
  • Muscle weakness, cramping and aching
  • Low blood pressure, elevated blood pressure, palpitations, fast heart rate
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Wheezing, allergy symptoms, shortness of breath, air hunger
  • Joint aches and stiffness
  • Swelling of lips and face, nosebleeds
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting, stomach upset
  • Frequent urination and increased thirst
  • Rashes, itching, prickling skin, blotching and redness
  • Heavy periods, irregular periods, PMS symptoms, difficult menopause, miscarriages
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss
  • Young children are likely to develop fatigue, headaches, and abdominal complaints

This list may sound crazy, as if every ailment in the book is a symptom of EAI. But it is a fact that people suffering from environmental exposure suffer an astonishingly wide range of severe symptoms. In fact, though the list is long, it understates the devastating consequences of environmentally acquired illness.”  ISEAI website

The good news is that treatment of these conditions may result in a substantial improvement in an individual’s health.

This current post has been prompted by my astonishment that almost every patient in my practice who I test has toxic mold in their system. In some ways this should not be so surprising, as mold toxins commonly cause depression, anxiety and multiple other psychiatric symptoms. In vulnerable individuals, exposure to mold causes chronic systemic inflammation. This wreaks havoc on the immune system as well as other organ systems of the body. Exposure to toxins is cumulative and is often the cause of debilitating chronic illness and can eventually even result in death. The treatment approach is to reduce exposure to mold and to help the body to expel the toxins through detoxification.

I recently joined an exciting new professional organization called The International Society for Acquired Environmental Illness (ISEAI ) which is hosting its inaugural conference outside of Phoenix from May 3-5, 2019. The title of the conference is “Healing Complex Patients in a Toxic World.” I am looking forward to it. There is so much to learn that will make such a difference in my patient’s lives.

Another important upcoming educational event not to be missed is an online “Toxic Mold Summit” hosted by Margaret Christenson, MD . Both events feature leading integrative practitioners in this field and promise to be outstanding. The ISAEI conference is only open to medical professionals but the on-line Toxic Mold Summit is intended for all. It will be streamed for free between January 28-February 3, 2019, after which the recordings can be purchased.

In conventional psychiatric practice, a patient may see a psychiatrist reporting depression, anxiety and insomnia. The standard treatment recommendation would be:  20 mg of Prozac daily for depression, 300 mg Gabapentin three times a day for anxiety,  1 mg of Ativan as needed for breakthrough anxiety, 10 mg of Ambien for sleep, biweekly CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and follow up appointment in 2-3 months for a 15 minute medication check. No one would raise an eyebrow at this treatment protocol. It’s absolutely typical. When a patient is suffering from toxic mold exposure, depression, anxiety and insomnia are more the rule rather than the exception. Psychotropic medications do not address the underlying root cause which is the inflammatory response driving those symptoms.

The current approach in my practice is to treat environmentally acquired illness in combination with a multi-modal approach to healing including:

  • following an appropriate whole foods diet and specific supplementation
  • adequate movement and sleep
  • addressing childhood trauma
  • attending to the quality of an individual’s work and love life
  • attending to the need for belonging and community
  • attending to he need for satisfying creative expression
  • attending to the need for spiritual connection and a sense of purpose and meaning
  • attending to the need for time spent in the sunshine and fresh air and connection with the natural world
  • attending the need for sufficient rest, relaxation and play

Holistic healing is a huge commitment and takes a great deal of time and effort but it is very effective. Given what all of us are up against in terms of the overwhelming toxicity of our environment and existential stress, it’s our only prayer for creating resilience during this time of ecological crisis on our planet. In the field of medicine, we are in desperate need of a radical paradigm shift. Nothing less will do. We are at a turning point and a tipping point, just as we are in terms of our relationship to the Earth when it comes to climate change.

May 2019 be a year of increased consciousness and awakening, so that together we may participate in creating a planet where our children and our children’s children can flourish.

Blessings to all for the New Year.

Toxic Mold Summit - YouTube

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Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. It weighs twice as much as all the other planets put together and is 1300 times the size of Earth. It has a twelve year cycle, meaning that it takes twelve years to orbit the Sun as compared to the Earth, which takes only one year. Jupiter spends a year in each sign of the zodiac, and on November 8, 2018 it exited the sign of Scorpio where it has been for the past year and entered the sign of Sagittarius. This represents a very big shift in the nature of the prevailing cosmic energies that are influencing our collective and individual consciousness.

Scorpio is associated with trauma, and specifically sexual trauma, and is about plumbing the depths of the unconscious to get to deeply buried truths. It is about power, particularly the abuse of it, as well as intensity, drama, helplessness and spiritual and emotional growth through suffering and wounding. It’s a dark energy. Jupiter’s entry into Scorpio in November of 2016 coincided with the Harvey Weinstein revelations which subsequently evolved into the #MeToo movement, as well as additional tragic revelations about the rampant sexual violation of children by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. The extent of abuse in so many spheres has been massive, which is consistent with the nature of Jupiter in Scorpio.

Sagittarius, by contrast, is a much more expansive, adventurous and optimistic energy, and is associated with seeing the larger perspective, with creating spiritual meaning and finding truth. There is a logic to the order of the signs of the zodiac; they relate to one another. After mining the depths in Scorpio we are now prepared to emerge into the light armed with fresh insights and understandings in order to create a new vision for our future.

There is an urgency for us to do so, as we find ourselves at this moment, at the end of three very long and powerful astrological cycles. The planets of Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto will all join together in the sign of Capricorn in 2020. Capricorn is the sign associated with governmental structures and authority and this union of the three planets portends the end of an outmoded approach that is no longer sustainable and does not serve us. It is not a stretch to see that this is a time of endings as the old world is collapsing around us. This process will continue through 2019 in preparation for the planting of a new seed in 2020. Jupiter is Sagittarius will be a support to us as we formulate the vision of what kind of future we intend to create.

It is for this reason that I featured Van Jones tough love book, “Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together” which is an analysis of the heartbreaking toxic divisions which blight our country today and offers the possibility of working together to transcend our differences. Jones is an inspiration, a CNN political commentator and social justice activist. He proposes projects that could unify the two parties: fixing the justice system, ending the opioid addiction crisis, opening up the technology sector to all, and transitioning to a greener economy. He writes “I am interested in the moral center, not the political center.” This is a perfect Jupiter in Sagittarius vision and project.

I include at the end of this post a fascinating interview of Van Jones by Tami Simon on the podcast “Insights at the Edge”. Jones holds up a troubling mirror to progressives, and I think his insights are valid and important with regard to our self-righteousness, lack of empathy and even contempt for those who hold views we find abhorrent.

My favorite part of the interview is his description of the “Hallelujah Anyhow” attitude, which is quintessentially Jupiter in Sagittarius. No matter what happens, we can cultivate an internal  stance of joy, hope and dignity, that is independent of external circumstances and events. “Hallelujah Anyhow” is characterized by a love of self and a love of life. It is this soulfulness that is so important to foster in these challenging times, when the consequences of climate change are upon us and which scientists tell us will only get much much worse, and the breathtaking political dysfunction at home and abroad could understandably lead one to utterly despair. It’s the perfect attitude to take with you to the Thanksgiving table.

Many blessings to my readers for this beautiful celebration of gratitude and may your days be filled with an abundance of Hallelujah Anyhow.

Here is a link to the interview with Van Jones: Breaking Out of Our Resistance Bubble.

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At the June International Conference for Functional Medicine in Florida, Dr. Jeffrey Bland, a pioneer and founder of the field of Functional Medicine declared that if any of us are not routinely fasting for a minimum of 12 hours a day, and not recommending that our patients do the same, that we are missing out on one of the most fundamentally important therapeutic strategies for supporting optimal health. Fasting increases stem cell regeneration and enhances  the immune system.

It is the norm in our culture to regularly eat three meals a day and very common to snack in between. This feeding schedule requires the pancreas to steadily secrete the fat storage hormone insulin in order to regulate blood glucose which is repeatedly elevated by the food that we eat. Our practice of constant feeding results in high insulin levels and paradoxically a resulting decreased insulin sensitivity. More and more insulin is required to move the glucose out of our blood stream and into our cells. This condition is called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and is associated with obesity, as weight gain is mediated by insulin levels.

There is a strong correlation between insulin levels and the degree of inflammation in the body. The higher the level of insulin, the greater the degree of inflammation. Inflammation is the mediator of chronic disease states. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, auto immune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases to name just a few, are all fueled by inflammation. Inflammation is also associated with depression, anxiety, attentional difficulties and brain fog and other psychiatric symptoms. It is directly linked with aging.

I recommend that my patient’s fast for a minimum of twelve hours a day, and if possible, to extend that interval. The narrower the window of eating the greater the health benefits. Many patients initially respond that they could NEVER do that, that they would experience hypoglycemia and would not feel well if they did not eat. The biggest obstacle to implementing this practice seems to be psychological. People are terrified at the thought of skipping meals. For most it is very possible over time, to gradually extend the window of fasting. I suggest to them that they extend the fasting interval by half hour increments. Many now eat between 3 in the afternoon until 8 at night.

It does not matter when you fast in terms of accruing fasting’s health benefits, though our natural hormonal circadian rhythm makes it easier for most to skip breakfast. In the morning the hunger hormone ghrelin seems to be naturally at the lowest point. It’s important to adapt your fasting schedule to your life style and to implement it in a way that works for you. Many people eat dinner together with others, so it would be best to not fast at that time. It is also important to be flexible and if there is a special occasion to participate and to put fasting aside for the day and to fully enjoy the celebration. The intermittent fasting routine can be quickly resumed afterwards. In other words, intermittent fasting is the routine habitual long term plan with exceptions made so that one may fully participate in special occasions.

In my clinical and personal experience, this practice is a magic formula for weight loss. I have a number of patients in my practice who have lost significant amounts of weight using this strategy and feel so much better. Excess weight has steadily dropped from those who previously had difficulty shedding pounds and their feeling of well being, alertness and energy has exponentially increased. Many report that once that they get used to it, that its really so much easier than trying to lose weight by controlling portion size. Though they may be very hungry when they do finally eat, they discover that they feel full much more quickly. They are finding that they are eating much less at dinner than they previously did when they were eating three meals a day plus snacks. This reduced intake is not imposed or a result of deliberate restriction but is organic. They are just not as hungry.

The book that is pictured at the beginning of the post “The Complete Guide to Fasting” is by a nephrologist, Jason Fung, MD who successfully treats Type 2 Diabetes and obesity with intensive dietary management and Jimmy Moore, a lay person who has been instrumental in popularizing low carb diets. It’s an excellent accessible book. Be sure to read the many reviews of the book on Amazon which bear witness to the fact that intermittent fasting is the only weight loss approach that has ever worked for them and that has been sustainable.

The authors have found that many people are still able to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting when they include drinking broth during the fasting intervals. The inclusion of broth makes fasting even easier. The book also includes information of the considerable health benefits of extended periods of fasting, but I have not yet explored this personally or in my practice.

Here is a page of questions and answers by Dr. Fung regarding intermittent fasting.

Here are a couple of fascinating interviews about the therapeutic benefits of fasting.

Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Jason Fung (Full Interview) - YouTube

Why You Shouldn't Fear Fasting with Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore - YouTube

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This morning I gathered with my congregation at Temple Emanuel, a synogogue very similar to the Tree of Life in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, where a hate inspired massacre occurred yesterday during a baby naming ceremony. Temple Emanuel is in Newton, Massachusetts, in a community very similar to that of Squirrel Hill. Our rabbi, Wes Gardenswartz, called us together this morning to mark and mourn the tragedy.

I grew up in Pittsburgh. When my father died in 2005, I spent the summer there with my mother, helping to ready my parent’s home for sale. Each morning I walked to the Tree of Life synagogue to say the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father, the ancient prayer for the dead. It was a soothing and uplifting ritual. The murderous attack yesterday on the worshippers at the Tree of Life feels deeply personal and I am in a state of shock and grief.

I found the rabbi’s sermon this morning profoundly moving, meaningful and helpful. I wanted to share it with you. His message was that we do not need to experience ourselves as helpless and powerless in the face of this violence and evil. He framed the massacre at the Tree of Life as a call to each of us to be a force of love in the world, and to fully devote ourselves daily to making the world a better place. He enjoined us to wake up each morning until the day we die, setting an intention to be of help to others and to go to bed each night asking ourselves, what had we done to make the world a better place.

He quoted the words of the modern day prophet Dr. Martin Luther King engraved on his memorial in Washington:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I am writing to encourage each of you, to be a endless source of love and light in your communities. This will empower you and will serve as an antidote to the natural helplessness and fear we are all feeling. It is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and each other during these dark times.

I chose a pomegranate tree as the image for this post. Pomegranates are sacred in many traditions and are a symbol of fertility and abundance. May your love and good deeds be as abundant as the seeds of the pomegranate and the stars in the sky, and may we all in this way honor the dead and bereaved, and make our lives a blessing.

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In December of 2016 I wrote my first post about toxic mold after becoming severely afflicted with anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, massive bloating, urinary frequency and tinnitus in the context of doing a lengthy daily yoga practice involving deep breathing in a moldy basement. Please read my first post about this topic for additional background.

After my own dramatic personal encounter with toxic mold, my consciousness about the potential profound impact that this bio toxin can have was raised. As a psychiatrist, it was particularly notable to me that my exposure resulted in the most common of psychiatric symptoms: depression, anxiety and insomnia. This lent credence to the hypothesis that the root cause of psychiatric illness is often neuro inflammatory in nature, and possibly much is the result of environmental exposure.

As I mentioned in my first post, not every one who is exposed to mold toxins will become symptomatic. Mold toxin sensitivity affects 25% of the population. Only those individuals who have difficulty detoxifying mold toxins will be impacted by exposure. An entire family can be living in a moldy home, and only one family member who has an impaired capacity to detoxify will fall ill.

This difference between people was highlighted this summer when I was vacationing with my childhood friend, Betsy, in the lush green mountains of western North Carolina. Most of the hotel rooms in which we stayed were carpeted, and I began to sleep increasingly poorly and started to feel more anxious and depressed for no reason. Betsy slept and felt well. The coin finally dropped when we were staying in a room that actually smelled moldy, and I was utterly unable to sleep and found myself getting up every half an hour to urinate. Suddenly I realized that this was exactly how I had felt when I had gotten sick two years previously when doing yoga in the moldy basement.

Needless to say, I could not get out of that room fast enough. It now adds a whole layer of complexity to traveling. When I travel, I know that I need to find food on the menu that does not trigger an auto immune reaction, but now in addition, I need be aware of the possibility of encountering toxic mold in my lodging. This was absolutely not on my radar previously. It maybe true for you too, and an important factor to consider when making travel plans.

Conversely, there are some people who only feel well when they are traveling and away from their homes which are contaminated with toxic mold. Many people are unaware that their homes have sustained water damage and that they are being regularly exposed to mold toxins. They do not link their chronic headaches, anxiety, gastro intestinal complaints and joint pain to mold toxins. The whole issue of mold toxicity is much more pervasive than has been previously appreciated and has huge implications for psychiatric practice.

I recently joined an exciting new organization, The International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness (ISEAI) whose stated mission is to “Restore health to individuals with environmentally acquired illnesses through clinical practice, education, and research.”  Environmentally Acquired Illness are illnesses that are a result of environmental triggers such as mold, infection with tick born illnesses, chemical exposure from a variety of sources such as plastics, heavy metals, pesticides and personal care products, electromagnetic frequencies, to name a few. This organization is responding to a desperate need as these sorts of conditions are becoming an epidemic and more people are getting sicker and sicker. These illnesses all adversely impact the immune system and set up a chronic inflammatory response. ISEAI will hold its first annual conference in May of 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. It is entitled, “Healing Complex Patients in a Toxic World.”

Here is some information from their website:  

“How do environmental toxins make people sick?

Exposure to triggers such as environmental toxins and infections can cause chronic inflammation in multiple body systems. These triggers cause damage to the immune system, the brain, the heart, the lungs, and many other body systems. Exposure to triggers is cumulative and can, over time, cause debilitating chronic illness and even death. An important part of the treatment of all EAIs is to reduce exposure to environmental triggers and to help the body to expel toxic buildup through detoxification. Treatment of EAIs is more likely to be successful if the patient and physician can identify the specific triggers affecting the patient’s health. EAIs are interconnected. For example: a person with biotoxin illness is likely to become more sensitive to chemicals and develop multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). Likewise, a person who suffers from chronic Lyme disease is likely to become more sensitive to mold and other toxins found in water-damaged buildings. Some people who have become ill from exposure to one set of triggers may become sensitive to wi-fi exposure.

It is thought that many illnesses not mentioned above may be caused or exacerbated by a person’s exposure to environmental toxins. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
  • Dysautonomias such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes (Type 2) and metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Celiac disease, and other food sensitivities
  • Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) and dysbiosis
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Pneumonia and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Psoriasis and eczema

Treatment of EAIs may lead to substantial improvement of a person’s health.

What symptoms are experienced by people suffering from EAIs?

Chronic exposure to harmful environmental toxins and other triggers interferes with the normal functions of your body. They can even affect your mind. It is not uncommon for children or adults with recurring exposures to moldy indoor environments at home, work, or school to develop multiple symptoms. Some of the symptoms of EAIs include:

  • Brain fog, memory problems, loss of mental sharpness, trouble organizing tasks or getting things done
  • Headaches, light/sound/touch sensitivity
  • Neuropathy, numbness, tingling, loss of coordination, paralysis, seizures
  • Fainting, dizziness or lightheadedness, vertigo
  • Insomnia, poor sleep, sleep apnea
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, emotional outbursts, mood swings, suicide
  • Fatigue, problems recovering from exercise or even daily activities
  • Muscle weakness, cramping and aching
  • Low blood pressure, elevated blood pressure, palpitations, fast heart rate
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Wheezing, allergy symptoms, shortness of breath, air hunger
  • Joint aches and stiffness
  • Swelling of lips and face, nosebleeds
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting, stomach upset
  • Frequent urination and increased thirst
  • Rashes, itching, prickling skin, blotching and redness
  • Heavy periods, irregular periods, PMS symptoms, difficult menopause, miscarriages
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss
  • Young children are likely to develop fatigue, headaches, and abdominal complaint”

I now routinely test most patients in my psychiatry practice for mold toxicity. I believe that it should be ruled out in cases of depression and anxiety that is accompanied by other medical and neurological symptoms, whether or not the patient is aware of water damage in the home.  Recently I have seen several new patients with histories of severe bipolar and psychotic disorders with multiple medical and neurological symptoms who have tested positive for mold toxicity. I have prescribed treatment to promote the elimination of mold toxins and am hopeful that this approach will have a positive impact upon their psychiatric conditions.

Laboratory testing for mold toxins has become less expensive and is done via urinalysis. Great Plains Laboratory has a new test, GPL Myco Tox, that is much less costly and provides more accurate results than previous tests, and detects a wider variety of mold toxins. The test is very sensitive. It is possible that the test is so sensitive that it is detecting mold toxins, but that their presence is not actually causing the psychiatric symptoms. This remains to be discerned. Treating environmentally acquired illness is a new field, and there is so much to be learned. There is pioneering work to be done correlating levels of mycotoxins with symptomatology and tracking response to treatment. I believe it is the future of psychiatry.

“Toxic” Heal Your Body from Mold Toxicity, Lyme Disease, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Chronic Environmental Illness, the book pictured at the beginning of the post, is brand new and authored by Neil Nathan, MD , a family practice doctor in California with a long standing interest and expertise in treating chronic acquired environmental illness. I highly recommend it. The writing is very accessible to the lay person and is based on Dr. Nathan’s wealth of experience treating these conditions.

Mary Ackerley, MD is an integrative psychiatrist who I admire with a practice in Tuscon, Arizona. She is another expert in the field of chronic acquired environmental illness. Below is an absolutely fascinating YouTube video of an interview with her entitled “Brain on Fire.” Both Dr Nathan and Dr Ackerly are members of ISEAI.

Episode #49: Brain on Fire with Dr. Mary Ackerley, MD - YouTube

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The film “Eighth Grade” is an intimate honest portrayal of a very shy awkward girl’s eighth grade year in a contemporary suburban school. It is a new and moving universal coming of age story by Bo Burnham, an immensely gifted 27 year old YouTube comedian and musician. The film skillfully represents the centrality and intensity of a girl’s relationship with electronic devices and social media in the context of struggling to navigate the developmental tasks of adolescence.

Kayla, played by Elsie Fisher, is a motherless girl, whose most sustaining emotional relationship is with her cell phone, lap top and imagination. Her father is loving and well-meaning, but she, for the most part, is intent on pushing him away as she tries to separate from him and her little girl self.

Kayla’s loneliness, longing and anxiety are palpable throughout the film. Her habitual withdrawal into her darkened bedroom with only Snapchat and Instagram for companionship only fuels her angst. Kayla tries to master a variety of social situations through the creation of a series of self-help videos. She films herself talking into the camera, dispensing sage advice that applies directly to the challenging social and existential situations which she endures.

One of the most distressing scenes was the portrayal of a drill to prepare for the eventuality of a school shooting, with the kids obliged to crouch under their desks for shelter. It is breathtaking to acknowledge that in today’s world, that this is actually necessary. This is one of the many reasons children today are beside themselves with anxiety. The mainstream medical response is often to prescribe psychiatric medications.

The following information is the most accurate and documented data available on psychiatric drug usage in the United States. The information is from IQVia (formerly IMS Health), a company that provides information, services and technology for the healthcare industry. It is the largest vendor of U.S. physician prescribing data. The following data was taken from the IQVia Total Patient Tracker Database for Year 2017, extracted April 2018. The number of kids seventeen and under on anti-depressants was 2,100,315 and on anti-anxiety medications  1,445,509.

The film “Eighth Grade” provides insight into and understanding of what kids today are up against. A great deal of anxiety just comes naturally with the territory of adolescence, separating and individuating from parents, navigating changing bodies and sexuality and exploring issues of identity, but other sources of stress such as the pressures created by social media and the frequency of school shootings are new. In addition, though not mentioned in the movie, is the deleterious effects of the toxicity of the environment and the over prescription of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics and hormones. All of these factors have an undermining effect on immunity with consequences for mental health.

Though at moments it was excruciating to witness Kayla’s struggles; her ardent desire to belong and to be considered cool, the rejections she sustained, and the confusion of navigating sexuality as a young teen, it was nevertheless, an uplifting, tender and very funny movie. There are mean girls but also kind ones, predatory exploitative boys and others that are earnest and sweet. Her father clearly adores her and tries his best. It’s a complicated movie. It brought home yet again, how intrinsically challenging it is to be human, to have a body and to figure out how to grow up, let alone to contend with all the new unique pressures and self consciousness generated by social media.

Technology and the on-line world creates psychiatric situations that I never encountered previously. I recently interviewed a 15 year old who was suicidal because she had broken up with a boy who she had never actually met in person. Their only connection had been on-line. The reason for the break up was because he was cheating on her virtually, with another girl he had never met. There was obviously much more to it, but this was her version of why she felt suicidal.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact that technology and social media is having on all of us, but its particularly distressing to contemplate its impact on impressionable, vulnerable, developing children.

I highly recommend this very contemporary movie to you and would welcome hearing your thoughts and feelings about it.

Here is a trailer that captures the essence.

Eighth Grade | Official Trailer HD | A24 - YouTube

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