THE Weather is changing in Nigeria, from the cool or cold of the rain fall months to the searing heat of the interlude days between the rains and the harmattan season in December or January. Already, these seasonal changes are ushering a season of Seasonal Affective Disorders (SAD). In the SAD season, the behaviour and health of many people change negatively, mildy or adversely. Many people are aware that mental illnesses relapse in certain seasons or that bone fractures or ulcers that had healed long ago have a way in certain seasons of reminding people who once experienced them of these conditions. But people tend to notice SAD in people other than themseleves, whereas almost everyone exhibits one form of mood or health discomfeiture one season of SAD after another.
Thomas Osuji Ozodi made my day when I thought of this subject two weeks ago for this column. And that’s why I recommend his article in www.nigerianvillagesquare.com for anyone who is interested in this matter.
November has given way to December, 2016. The weather is hot, everyone is sweating hard and many cannot sleep easily or think straight unless they are priviledge to live and work in air conditioned settings and drive or ride in airconditioned vehicles. Back home from a hard day’s work in the office and a tortous traffic, one naturally wishes to have a sumptous dinner, have a good bath (warm or cold) and then, enjoy a beautiful night rest in sleep, to revive tired blood and muscles for another day’s task. But, back home, there is no electricity to run the airconditioner or pump water into the storage tank for bathing. Everywhere is hot. Everyone is pulling off the top dresses. The sweating persists in the evening and at night as it did all day hours. Many men are afraid they have a prostate challenge or the other because they are making less urine, and this urine may be heavily coloured and smelly. Even women, too, notice this. Some people experience foamy urine, which may be caused by infection or protein presence (proteinuria). Proteinuria may be a sign of kidney problem. This kidney problem may come from insufficiency of fluid in the kidney, a feature of this season, or some other far more serious cause(s). People who make less urine at this time may panic until they are advised that, in hot weather, the body tries to lose excess heat by inducing sweating. Sweating takes away otherwise inimical excess heat. The water lost reduces the amount of water the kidneys would normally excrete, thereby reducing the quantum of urine made and voided. But as the kidneys are water organs, they need more water than is available to them in this season to thoroughly flush out toxins and germs. Such an inadequacy may express in the heavy colour of the urine and other urinary markers. Lost in the sweat are also mineral salts and vitamins. Sodium tops the list of substances lost in sweating which should be replaced. According to https://en.m.Wikipedia. org:
“The composition of sweat is about…
“Sodium… (0.9 grams/liter)
When perspiration is much, as in this season, the body naturally calls, through the thirst signal for a re-stocking of items lost from its stores. And that is why the water industry makes a lot of money at this time. Unknown to many people who buy sachet or bottle (table) water to re-stock, either in buses, in offices, at home or on the dinning table, they probably lost about two to four liters of water per hour or about 10 to 14 liters per day. This suggests that we may have to gulp water like horses to maintain the balance. Much as we may gulp, however, we may never be able to achieve this balance, which means something is giving way each time we sweat and try to restock lost water and minerals. To worsen matters, many people redress the imbalance by drinking either sugar-stuffed so-called “soft drinks” or low sugar drinks which are worse for health because of the Aspartame replacement for sugar. Sugar in the blood worsens the need for water and increases the problems post by losses of minerals and electrolytes in the body. These problems lead to an unbalanced system, especially in the brain. And that is why many people may behave like unbalanced people, irrational, weak, agitated or aggressive, short tempered, inefficient and heat compulsively among other features of this malaise. What is ideal to restock with are minerals rich greens especially those “moon” fruits and vegetables provided by Mother Nature.
Sun and moon
It was from Millie Uyldert’s THE PSYCHIC GARDEN that I first learned about “sun” and “moon” plants. The sun is fiery, charging us up, but the moon is cool, calming our nerves. This idea has a familiar ring with the Chinese “ying” and “yang”. So, in this hot season, what we are being advised is that we go more for “moon” plants and herbs to maintain a balance with the scorching sun. Says Millie Uyldert:
“…all water-rich plants are true children of the moon, such as the cucumber, pumpkin, melon and those living in and on the water such as the water-lily, Brandy-bottle, etc. And on the bank such as the Willow. And the plants with half-moon-shaped leaves or oval leaves-composed of two half-moons. Like a person, a plant never, of course, belongs to one heavenly body or sign alone; they are named after the sign or star which clearly predominates in form and habit. In man, moon plants promote the creation of flow of fluids, such as the operation of glands, menstruation, the excretion of urine and sweating. That is why cucumber juice is good for promoting better circulation during a woman’s menopause. Climbing moon-plants twist to the left (yin) and can be recognised by that (e.g., Thunbergia alata). Those that turn to the right are of the sun (e.g., hops). In man, moon plants can be used for ailments (e.g., chickweed against convulsions), for the memory (cashew nut, as curved as the horned moon) and for children at school. Climbing papilionaceae can be a great tonic to the nervous system and, as a food crop, extremely nutritious (beans). Vetches can be used against in fantile paralysis and, NUX Vomica to strengthen the nerves.”
Water, Water, Water
Water isn’t all that we need when we feel like replacing the fluid we lost to sweating or perspiration. We need to replace Sodium and Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium, Zinc and Copper, among other substances. If we do not, deficiencies may occur which may predispose us to particular problems in this SAD season.
Listen to this from www.nutristrategy.com
“The body needs a small amount of sodium to help maintain normal blood pressure and normal function of muscles and nerves.”
“Potassium is a very important mineral”, says www.umm.edu/health/medical, “for the proper functioning of all cells, tissues, and organs in the human body. It is also an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body along with Sodium, Chloride, Calcium and Magnesium. Potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function. Many foods contain potassium, including all meats and some types of fish, (such as Salmon, cod), and Flounder, and many fruits, vegetables and legumes.
Having too much potassium in the blood is known as Hyperkalemia; having too little is known as hypokalemia. Keeping the right potassium balance in the body depends on the amounts of sodium and magnesium in the blood. Too much sodium, common in Western diet, that use a lot of salt, may increase the need for Potassium. Diarrhoea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, malabsorbtion syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, can also cause Potassium deficiency. Use of a kind of heart medicine called Loop diuretics can also cause you to be short on potassium. Most people get all of the potassium they need from a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Older people have a greater risk of hyperkalemia because their kidneys are less efficient at eliminating potassium as they age.
What to do
As stated earlier, many people are gulping only water to overcome their thirst this SAD season, and this may be the cause of the symptoms of many cases of mental illnesses one finds around these days. Many people who go to work, earn good income, settle their bills and appear normal in one way or the other may be mentally ill without knowing it. I believe some degree of mental illness was exhibited in Lagos about three weeks ago by those men who beat a seven-year old boy to pulp and then threw a car tyre over him which they set ablaze to kill him in a bonfire! What was his crime? He stole cassava grains (gari) worth not more than #100 in the market stall. Same people would know this boy was hungry. same people would liken him to their own child. Same people will pay for the gari if the owner does not let go. Same people may even hand him over to the police to be taken to a borstral, a reformatory (home) for Juvenile people. Same people would not jubilate, as shown in the video of this gory event, as this boy was burning in agony. Same people would remember they, too, have committed far grievous “sins” for which it has not pleased the Ruler of All the Worlds to brutally take their lives!
As mental illness may begin with deficiencies of substances which balance the biochemistry of our bodies, particularly in the brain, what Mother Nature expects of us at this time is the consumption of those foods, vegetables and herbs which restock our bodies with lost items, not just water or, worst still, with sugar drinks. We get lots of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and iron and many more from fruits such as Orange, Carrot, water melon, Golden melon, Banana, Plantain, Pineapple, Pawpaw, Cucumber etc, all of which are in season now. We can get lots of them also from our familiar greens…Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Chlorella, Liquid chlorophyll and Kale. As a breakfast starter on some mornings these days, I take half a teaspoonful of Blackstrap molasses in a glass of water to which I add half a teaspoonful of any of these greens. It gives me the confidence that I have, for that morning in my diet, good amounts of the B vitamins, some sugar for energy and Potassium, Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, other minerals and all amino acids. To the bargain I add 1 capsule of Strese B with Zinc which provides additional B vitamins and 25mg of Zinc.
Brain and other disorders
LISTENING to psychiatric doctors, one learns that it isn’t everyone who pulls off his or her dress in public, crosses a major highway without caution or lies in a drain, mistaking it for a bed, or picking food from a refuse dump who has a mental disorder. Many of us seemingly brain-healthy people do when over stressed, for example, exhibiting unnecessary anger or eating or drinking compulsively or when we are over excited over nothing tangible.
When water and minerals are lost and are not well replaced, the body comes under stress sooner than later.
As the website http://bebrainfit.com/effects-chronicstress-brain tells us:
“…when stress becomes chronic, it changes your brain’s function and even its structure down to the level of your DNA.
“Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine are stress hormones produced on as needed basis in moments of extreme excitement. They help you move fast and think in an emergency. In the right situation, they can save your life. They don’t linger in the body, disipating as quickly as they were created. Cortisol, on the other hand, streams through your system all day long, and that’s what makes it so dangerous.
“This hormone has been called public enemy number one. Excess cortisol leads to a host of health problems, including weight gain, osteoporosis, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Chronic stress takes a toll in adrenal gland. It can leave you feeling exhausted and tired. Weight gain, poor sleep, mood swings, short attention span, and memory issues are common signs of stress due to elevated cortisol.
“While stress and cortisol take a toll on your body, they take an equally high toll on your brain. Some of these brain-related stress symptoms would be obvious to you, like memory problems, anxiety and worry. But most of these effects of stress on your brain are “behind the scenes”. You don’t notice they are happening but you would notice the side effects eventually.”
The website mentions twelve ways in which it says “chronic stress affects your brain health and mental well being”. It lists them as follows…
“ONE: Stress creates free radicals that kill brain cells. Cortisol creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter Glutamate. Glutamate creates free radicals-unattached oxygen molecules-that attack brain cells much in the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust. Free radicals actually punch holes in the brain cell walls, causing them to rupture and die.
“Stress also indirectly contributes to other lifestyle habits that create more free radicals. If stress causes you to lose sleep, eat junk food, drink too much alcohol or smoke cigarette to relax, these are contributing to your free radical load.
“TWO: Chronic stress makes you forgetful and emotional. Memory problems may be one of the first signs of stress you will notice. Misplaced keys and forgotten appointments have you scrambling further adding to your stress. If you find all this stress is making you more emotional too, there is a physiological reason for this. Studies show that when you are stressed, electrical signal in the brain associated with factual memories weaken while areas in the brain associated with emotions strengthen.
“THREE: stress creates a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety. Stress builds up an area of your brain called the AMYGDALA. This is your brain’s fear center. Stress increases the size, activity level and number of neural connections in this part of your brain. This makes you more fearful, causing a vicious cycle of even more fear and stress.
“FOUR: Stress halts the production of new brain cells. Everyday you lose brain cells, but everyday you have the opportunity to create new ones.
‘Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a protein that is integral in keeping existing brain cells healthy and stimulating new brain cell formation. It can be thought of as fertilizer for the brain BDNF can offset the negative effects of stress on the brain. But cortisol halts the production of BDNF resulting in fewer new brain cells being formed. Lowered level of BDNF are associated with brain-related conditions including depression, OCD, Schizophrenia, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
“FIVE: Stress depletes critical brain chemicals, causing depression. Your brain cells communicate via chemicals called Neurotransmitters. Chronic stress reduces levels of critical neurotransmitters, especially SEROTONIN, and DOPAMINE. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can leave you depressed and more prone to addictions. Serotonin is called “HAPPY MOLECULE”. It plays a large role in mood, learning, appetite control and sleep. Women low in Serotonin are prone to depression, anxiety and binge eating. Men, on the other hand, are more prone to alcoholism, ADHD and impulse-control disorders. Dopamine is the “motivation molecule”. It’s in charge of your pleasure reward system. Too little dopamine can leave you unfocused, unmotivated, lethargic, and depressed. People low in this brain chemical often use caffeine, sugar, alcohol and illicit drugs to temporarily boost their dopamine levels. Serotonin-based depression is accompanied by anxiety and irritability while dopamine-based depression expresses itself as lethargy and lack of enjoyment of life.