Breaking the Stability Code

We dropped by Triangle Cycles this week so Jerri could check out the scooters and afterward, as we drove back to her apartment, she asked “Where’s my Nicotrol Inhaler?”

I was stunned. You see last week, Jerri left the inhaler in my car. She called later to verify it was there and told me not to bother bringing it back since she had another one at her apartment. She’d just get it from me next time. And here it was, Next Time, and she remembered. She actually remembered, without any prompting, something that I, myself, had forgotten. Her inhaler was still in my car. This might seem trivial to others, but Jerri’s inability to keep up with her things is a constant source of consternation. Stuff seemingly disappears and she has no idea where or how she lost it. She can’t remember where she put her keys or that dollar she was saving for laundry. And that’s not the half of it. She often leaves voice messages asking me to remember something she knows she won’t.

But now, she’s very present and in her right mind. The improved memory is just one indication. Last week she surfed the internet for the best scooter deals and put together a plan to save up money to buy one. Her brain is working better. But how the heck did that happen? Seriously. I wish I could break the code. You can’t replicate what you don’t understand. If we could only figure out what she is doing right, maybe she could stay stable and actually start living life. There is something in me that refuses to believe Jerri is broken for good.

She’s been stable for about 3 months. Looking back, that aligns with, you guessed it, the day Dr. F stopped prescribing the-drug-of-which-we-do-not-speak. Jerri was very upset at having her access cut off. “I can’t focus without it! I can’t do anything. I neeeeeeed it to think clearly.” So I suggested we go to GNC and look for a natural supplement to help her concentrate.

Honestly, I don’t think concentration is her problem. And I’m not a big believer in nutraceuticals. It just feels like snake oil, you know? But it’s not all hooey because my knees scream at me whenever I fail to take Glucosamine more than 2 days in a row. It’s hard not to believe screaming knees. Jerri, on the other hand, puts a lot of faith in pills. She believes there’s a magic combination that, if she could only find it, would make her completely normal again. Doesn’t matter if it’s street drugs, prescription, or nutraceutical. So, while I really didn’t expect to find something that would help her, I thought trying something would at least help her feel like all was not lost. And maybe postpone her looking for another doc who would prescribe that demon med.

The GNC clerk showed us various products recommended for people with ADHD. Memorall, for one, is supposed to improve memory and focus. Sitting on the same shelf, was Energy Enhancer, a GNC product to boost energy levels. While I contemplated Memorall, Jerri picked up EE and said, “This is what I really need. Something that will get me out of bed in the morning.” She has been taking it religiously ever since and while she’d swap it in a heartbeat for the-drug-of-which-we-do-not-speak, she always let’s me know when she’s low on EE to make sure she is never without it.

So could Energy Enhancer be responsible for her better brain function? Or perhaps just her faith in it? Belief is, afterall, a powerful thing. Or was the simple act of ridding her system of that demon med the catalyst?

Hmmm. It’s got me thinking. What if some brain disorders are a result of vitamin deficiencies? When I was studying epilepsy at work, I learned a lot about how the brain works. Potassium, sodium, calcium, and other minerals found in our food are essential to the proper operation of mechanisms that cause neurons to fire. If neurons don’t fire or fire repeatedly, it messes up the chemical balance in the brain. Which causes seizures, or depression, or other brain disorders. So it stands to reason that if you aren’t getting some nutrient vital to brain function, you could get a little nutty.

20120805-211426.jpgI’ve had personal experience with vitamin deficiencies and know how life altering they can be. As a kid, I had a terrible time staying awake. The problem was so bad, my kindergarten teacher told Mom they were not going to promote me to first grade. Since I couldn’t stay awake, I wasn’t mature enough to move up. My BFF Karen Kay’s mother took mine by the hand and said, “It isn’t maturity, it’s nutrition.” They began pumping me with chewable vitamin C tablets, orange juice, sardines, and peanut butter. I call it the special Kay diet. And it worked.

My vitamin deficiency made me sleep all the time. But Jerri had the opposite problem as a kid. She had a terrible time going to sleep. There’s a link between bipolar disorder and sleep. Lack of sleep triggers mania which then leads to sleep deprivation. Interesting, right? If increasing certain foods in my diet fixed my sleep issue, maybe it could also help with insomnia and prevent mania. So I googled Bipolar and Nutrition and found a great article at PsychCentral.com. It states:

Experts from the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Los Angeles report that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have vitamin B deficiencies, anemia, omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies, and vitamin C deficiency. They believe that essential vitamin supplements, taken alongside lithium, “reduce depressive and manic symptoms of patients suffering from bipolar disorder.” However, many of these links, although biologically plausible, are still unconfirmed.

In recent years, several studies have investigated the importance of folic acid in bipolar disorder. Deficiency of folic acid (vitamin B9, known in the body as folate) can increase levels of homocysteine. Raised homocysteine has been strongly linked to depression and less strongly to bipolar disorder.

What’s REALLY interesting is how the vitamin deficiencies listed in the article line up with the nutrients in my special Kay diet. Peanut Butter contains niacin (B3), folate, and B6. Orange juice is high in C. Sardines are high in B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Think about it. As kids, Jerri and I had the same diet. If my pre-special Kay diet lacked these nutrients, then so did Jerri’s. Or perhaps, genetically, we’re wired to need more of these nutrients. (Our Mom has to take B-12 injections because her body doesn’t metabolize it properly and she gets fuzzy-headed and at times incoherent.) In me, the deficiency caused sleep disorder. Perhaps in Jerri, it causes mood disorder.

Energy Enhancer, BTW, is primarily composed of niacin (B3), L-Arginine, and grape seed extract. Jerri also added a B-complex vitamin.

So I’m wondering how Jerri would do on the special Kay diet. I think it’s time for a little experiment.

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One Comment on “Breaking the Stability Code”

  1. I assume Jerri’s had a complete blood panel? That’s how I got diagnosed with both Vit D (very common these days) and B12 deficiencies. Getting back up to desired levels made a huge difference in my thinking and energy level. I tell everyone they won’t believe how awful and fatigued you can feel if your Vit D level is below normal.


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