The 2017 Integrative Medicine for Mental Health Conference


With each passing year full of conferences and seminars I gain new perspectives and solutions to the challenges we face in the field of medicine.  I also note trends from conference to conference on current concerns and emerging treatments.  As with most new concepts, it is good to approach some of these treatments with skepticism, but once I see the same treatment or concept mentioned several times in a row by different authorities in different realms of the health industry I sit up and take more notice.

My final conference of the year, the 2017 Integrative Medicine for Mental Health Conference further reinforced topics that were discussed in detail at the Ancestral Health Symposium earlier this year and at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine Conference at the end of last year.

Here are a handful of common takeaways I’ve gleaned throughout the year.    

1.    We live in a toxic world
2.    The uses of heat stress
3.    Mold and mycotoxins
4.    Too much bacteria, too many antibiotics
5.    Are your salads hurting you?  The role of oxalates

  1. Life in a toxic world
    Toxicants are everywhere. No wonder they keep showing up in conference presentations as well! The effects of pollution were highly stressed at AIHM last year, popped up during AHS and were hammered home at IMMH. This is a concern that we cannot afford to ignore, for the sake of both our planet and our personal health.

  2. The uses of heat stress
    Sitting through all these lectures on our current bombardment with toxicants would be a little depressing if we didn’t also have some form of solution. If Billy Mitchell’s (The Robust Human) presentation at AHS piqued your curiosity about the use of sauna for detoxification, you would have also loved listening to Dr Genuis speak on the same topic at IMMH this year. Stay tuned for Billy’s ebook on the use of sauna therapy!

  3. Mold and mycotoxins
    Most people are aware that mold in the house is not conducive to wellbeing. The relationship between a moldy environment and poor health has been described in detail at multiple conferences this year. But take a moment to consider how much mold you are eating! This includes the blue-green fuzz on leftover bread but it also includes less obvious sources of mycotoxins such as nuts and cereal grains. Related health concerns include memory loss, depression, anxiety and insomnia. If that sounds like you, it may be time to give your diet a tune-up!

  4. Too much bacteria, too many antibiotics
    Just like houseguests, bacteria are great in the right amounts and the right places. But the party is officially over when the guests accumulate beyond the capacity of your guest rooms and start taxing your resources. This is a tricky situation. Our poor lifestyles and overuse of antibiotics have led to a common situation in which people develop an intestinal overgrowth of bacteria or fungi. To correct this, we then turn again to antibiotics. Botanical medicines may provide an alternative route to conventional antibiotics, but these too must be used carefully. To learn more about botanical medicine research, follow my research partner Guillermo Ruiz (3030 Strong) and I for our latest publications.

  5. Are your salads hurting you? The role of oxalates
    Your body can take in oxalates, make oxalates and excrete oxalates. What happens if you eat too many high oxalate foods (such as spinach, almonds, chocolate) or can’t process the oxalates appropriately? A low oxalate diet was mentioned at both AHS and IMMH as a beneficial therapeutic intervention for unresponsive pain conditions, autism spectrum disorders, kidney disease and several others. While oxalates may not be your specific problem, diet is an important consideration in achieving a state of wellbeing.

Next up is a series of posts on the trifecta of mental health supplements: vitamin D, fish oil and probiotics!  All are very popular, but are all of them effective?  Stay tuned to find out, the results may surprise you!

Content and images in this post are copyright of Beyond20Questions.

Botanical mythbusting: Are botanicals are more selective than conventional antibiotics?

A phrase that my friends and I throw around jokingly once in awhile is “the plant knows”.  The phrase refers to a commonly held belief that plants have the power to determine what your body needs and provide just that – no more, no less.  The reality is that, although I deeply respect the power of plants, they are not that discriminatory.  This is the idea behind adaptogenic herbs, but not all plants are adaptogens.  Some plants are even toxic.  You can’t expect to consume a toxic amount of castor seed and not see some negative effect.  

However, this idea has been applied to antimicrobial botanicals, which is very concerning.  I was very surprised one day to read an article from 2004 in which the author said:

The herb can actually kill only the bad bacteria while not harming the good; the drug does not have the wisdom to differentiate. [1]

Now let’s consider this myth logically.  If an herb is killing bacteria, it is acting like an antibiotic. 
There are only so many ways that antimicrobials target bacteria.  The plant could target the cell wall, inhibit protein synthesis or inhibit DNA replication, etc. Just like an actual pharmaceutical antibiotic! Or maybe the plant can attack the bacteria in mechanisms that we have not discovered, which makes the study of botanical antimicrobials very exciting.

So now you have this plant that’s attacking bacteria in the same ways a conventional antibiotic is.  Moving on to the second idea in this quotation, we ponder the possibility of plants being able to distinguish between good and bad bacteria.  Of course, there are many types of bacteria with varying features that set them apart from each other.  Essentially though, they have a similar make up.  It’s like saying people have unique personalities, but we’re all human.

Continuing with the human analogy, will diseases, poisons and weapons target us differently based on whether we are “good” or “bad”?  No, they will act in the same way upon all of us because we are essentially the same material.  Returning to our plants and the question of bacteria – can plants distinguish between good and bad bacteria?  No.  They cannot.

Using an antibacterial plant rather than a conventional antibiotic does not have the benefit of preserving your good bacteria.  If the plant kills bacteria by targeting the cell wall, it will kill all bacteria sensitive to that mechanism of action – whether it be a good bacterium or a bad bacterium.

Our botanicals are an amazing resource that can help us to combat infections.  Understanding their power but also their limitations will help us to use these plants more effectively.

1. Foley, C. "Herbal antibiotic alternatives." New Life Journal, 2004.