A Unified Theory of Mental Health – Part 1. Blood

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I am not a qualified person. I just spend my time reading everything I can to get a unified picture of mental health. Do not do anything suggested here without talking to a medical professional first.

I think that mental health is hard to deal with currently because we’ve disconnected so many fields from each other. I’m going to postulate a few ideas I have about what might need to be included to work toward a more unified complex system model of health. There’s evidence of things working in isolation – but the fields seem too disparate and disconnected to make sense to my brain after wide reading.

I think a lot of current autoimmune conditions are the result of psychosomatic occurrences – that absolutely does not mean that these do not occur but I think when it’s been repeatedly demonstrated that cortisol causes an exacerbation of many of these – the role of this hormone and it’s production in the adrenal gland cannot be ignored.

Blood

I got interested in blood because they said in the old days to just drain it all the time – that’s something they stopped doing – then I started to look into the treatment of conditions in non-Western countries. Blood letting is still used in a lot of places – it might actually have some therapeutic effect. I will talk about why soon – I don’t know if this is the best practice – just removing it, but I want to discuss why it might work.

I think two things are important in regards to blood – blood flow, and iron levels, not necessarily blood pressure.

Iron (Fe) – Specifically Iron Homeostasis (The right level)

A complex set of interactions occurs with iron – one of the most important trace elements in health.

Iron deficiency has been associated with obesity, congestive heart failure, gastrointestinal disorders, and neurological conditions such as restless legs syndrome and attention deficit disorder, whereas iron excess contributes to a number of diseases including neurodegenerative diseases 

Evidence for communication of peripheral iron status to cerebrospinal fluid: clinical implications for therapeutic strategy

There’s a number of studies that have come out recently that support the hypothesis that iron levels in blood may play a major role in neurochemistry. The mechanism is from my research still vaguely understood and there’s a reason why it might not be as simple as supplementing iron or reducing iron.

In this study one of the things they noted is that serum ferritin levels (blood iron concentration) was not as important as hemoglobin concentration. Hemoglobin protein’s primary function is to transport oxygen.

We need iron to make more red blood cells – and those who have anemia are likely to have low hemoglobin. One of the things the brain appears to do is to regulate where iron is directed if it is low, and when it does this – it will forgo using serum ferritin levels in place of making sure that hemoglobin production takes place as oxygen transportation is more essential for survival

Our data are also consistent with the report that Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms fail to respond to intravenous iron treatment in individuals with low hemoglobin levels (< 12.5) and suggest in that study, the brain may have participated in an active redirecting iron delivery rather than simply a failure of enough iron to reach the brain in the anemic patients.

Evidence for communication of peripheral iron status to cerebrospinal fluid: clinical implications for therapeutic strategy

These results are to be viewed with caution as this is a single study the further avenues for research here are presented as follows:

These findings provide a number of avenues for further basic science and clinical investigation: (1) hemoglobin levels signal the brain, presumably regarding oxygen availability, which releases some factor(s) into the CSF that alters iron transport across the BBB; (2) efforts to provide iron to the brain could be impacted by hemoglobin levels, even if these are in normal range, (3) the brain is seemingly tolerant of some degree of brain iron deficiency (i.e. in the case of RLS there is hypomyelination and impairments in synaptic dopamine signaling;) but intolerant of diminished oxygen availability (4) the therapeutic implications of the findings in this paper suggest that hemoglobin levels, not serum ferritin should be considered as the peripheral indicator for efforts to replenish brain iron levels.

Evidence for communication of peripheral iron status to cerebrospinal fluid: clinical implications for therapeutic strategy

Blood Flow to the Brain

This is different to blood pressure, but also tangentially related. Recently a couple of drugs have been approved for ADHD treatment of impulsivity and aggressive behaviour. Both of them are heart drugs – Clonidine and Guanfacine.

I was wondering why these drugs might work. They say it’s a neurochemical reaction – but I am skeptical of these claims, their suggested mechanism of action is that with Guanfacine in particular it binds to neurotransmitters and therefore repairs damage – this might be entirely true – but here’s what the drug is supposed to do for people with heart conditions:

Guanfacine treats high blood pressure by decreasing heart rate and relaxing the blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily through the body. Guanfacine extended-release tablets may treat ADHD by affecting the part of the brain that controls attention and impulsivity.

Guanfacine

What if it wasn’t neurochemistry but simply blood that was important actually regulating the level of amygdala function – when the amygdala is primarily used for interpreting signals this triggers anxiety responses – it’s the fight or flight centre of the brain. If we argue that blood flow is important it might better explain how blood is able to reach the prefrontal cortex that supposedly controls impulsive behaviour. If you look at how blood is transported up the brain stem and out into the other regions of the brain maybe the simplest answer here (Occam’s razor) is the right one.

Supporting Evidence – Massage

Blood flow has beneficial effects and this has been measured in a variety of contexts – investigating the sport benefits they have consistently found that blood flow increases with massage.

Massage is believed to benefit sportsmen through its biomechanical, physical, neurological, and psychological devices. Research has reported the effects of massage on physiological (investigated by simply blood flow and blood-borne substance)

Determining the Benefits of Massage Mechanisms: A
Review of Literature

Ok that’s sports people what about evidence for other conditions?

In summary, evidence indicates that acupuncture treatment may be of benefit in several neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and AD.

The Effects of Acupuncture on Glutamatergic Neurotransmission in Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Review of the Literature

Supporting Evidence – Exercise

So everyone knows that exercise seems to work for mental health – but exercise improves blood flow…

Sensitivity analyses revealed large or moderate to large antidepressant effects for Aerobic Exercise (AE) among trials with lower risk of bias, trials with short‐term interventions (up to 4 weeks), and trials involving individual preferences for exercise. Subgroup analyses revealed comparable effects for AE across various settings and delivery formats, and in both outpatients and inpatients regardless symptom severity. Notwithstanding the small number of trials reviewed, AE emerged as an effective antidepressant intervention.

Aerobic exercise for adult patients with major depressive disorder in mental health services: A systematic review and meta‐analysis

Personal Observations

My ADHD symptoms are reduced with exercise, I feel better with massage – I am not going to deny there’s an underlying neurological difference in my brain. But couldn’t it be partially explained by blood flow or iron homeostasis?

Want to know how my ADHD/Depression/Anxiety and OCD get worse – especially when seasonal depression kicks in? This happens:

  • It’s winter / I have anxiety / I have no motivation to do exercise / I am stigmatised in life / I have no time to exercise as I am overloaded with sensory stuff or emotional stuff at work from bullying
  • I reduce my exercise by withdrawing from this activity
  • My blood flow decreases
  • I start getting asthma issues
  • My blood oxygen transportation and iron transportation levels probably decrease
  • My body gets fat – I feel society judging me for this
  • I end up with massive amounts of unknown muscle pain from sitting incorrectly most likely
  • There’s no release of this stress so it constricts blood flow
  • Winter finishes / I start exercising / I get therapy that’s useful / I start to exercise again with a partner / I am scared of looking awful for summer because body standards are ridiculous
  • My symptoms reduce as I increase exercise – I feel good about myself – positive neurochemicals start being absorbed
  • I feel way more anxious in Winter than Summer…

Why do we have to complicate it with neurochemistry? This seems like an atomization of science – an attempt to reduce things down to a level that is not needed – and Occam’s razor could provide one reason why these apparently different things work.

The reason I ask is that genes significantly impact the role of neurochemicals. I had serotonin shock syndrome for over 10 years due to the fact I think that I am Autistic and there’s a high level of hyperserotonemia (ie. I have a higher than normal level of serotonin in my blood). When I was put on different drugs for treatment of “depression” all of them gave me lasting side effects – but no improvement – some of these made me want to kill myself – blocking my norepinephrine in combination with my serotonin caused the worst of all of these – Venlafaxine almost killed me.

This is not guaranteed for all people but the risk of trying to treat Autistic people especially as though we have the same brains is utterly wrong.

This is just one of the theories I have for mental health – I will be going through them in a series – they need to be addressed at the same time – combination therapy.

Supporting Evidence:

IRON

MASSAGE/BLOOD FLOW

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism/OCD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am training in 2021 to become an ICF Accredited ADHD coach. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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