Part 1 – Food
In 1944, during World War 2, the Dutch had what came to be known as the Hunger Winter. It was a famine that took place because of Nazi occupation and caused the death of around 22,000 people. And if you think that sounds like fun, search the Siege of Leningrad sometime. The Russians had to create a temporary police force just to stop roving gangs of cannibals for that one. Apparently when the Germans wanted to starve people they went all out. Yeah, the Nazis really did suck.
However, following this, babies were born. Some women were pregnant when the famine started, others became pregnant shortly after it began. The babies of women who at some points were on 600 calorie a day diets, where fat all but disappeared from the diet and, it being the Netherlands, where people started eating tulip bulbs just to survive, those children turned out to have some interesting health problems which formed a pattern.
Something called “The Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study”, cohort meaning ‘born around the same time’, was carried out by the departments of Clinical Epidemiology, Gynecology, Obstetrics, and Internal Medicine at the Academic Medical Center of Amsterdam, together with the Environmental Epidemiology group at U of Southampton in England. They discovered that the kids of women pregnant during the famine had higher rates of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and a host of other problems. They also had lower birth weights, which isn’t surprising, but that low birth weight persisted into second and third generations.
Their results were published in September of 2008 under the intensely boring title “Transgenerational Effects of Prenatal Exposure to the Dutch Famine on Neonatal Adiposity and Health in Later Life”. A Dutch pediatrician by the name of Dr Willem Dicke even found increased risk of Celiac disease because the kids grew up with bodies that didn’t know how to handle wheat products. I can’t give you the title of his paper because I don’t speak Dutch, but he did publish and if the other articles are any indication I’m sure it was a veritable cornucopia of medical-ese.
Hollywood even got into this because screen star Audrey Hepburn was a kid in the Netherlands during the famine. Throughout her life she battled anemia, respiratory illnesses, and edema. There was even suggestion that her bouts of clinical depression may have been connected. Elaine Walker and Dante Cicchetti gave that argument some pretty hefty backing in 2003 in their succinctly titled “Neurodevelopmental Mechanisms in Psychopathology”. If that wasn’t enough, researchers Alan Brown and Ezra Susser published in 2008 the no more poetically but longer titled article “Prenatal Nutritional Deficiency and Risk of Adult Schizophrenia”, which gave the argument yet more support. They also found other schizotypal personality and neurological defects in malnourished children and by extension babies of malnourished mothers. Meaning anxiety, schizophrenia, and mood disorders generally can and have been demonstrated to be related to the overall health of the body.
Part 2 – Environment
Most people have never heard of Frederick Winslow Taylor, but most people in the United States have been a victim of him. He was an interesting guy. Taylor was a mechanical engineer in the late 1800s who figured out that the main reason industrialists weren’t making enough money was because of the inefficiency of their work force. Some people have referred to him as a father of ‘Scientific Management’ but really he was a guy who created what are now called ‘Time and Motion Studies’.
Those studies were a little stroke of genius. Taylor did things like tie glowing balls to women’s hands while they worked at their desks and then put a camera in front of them with the shutter open for several minutes. What that did was give him a trace for where their hands moved throughout the process of doing their normal jobs. He could then find the stray hand movements and write up guidelines to eliminate them. Father of Scientific Management perhaps, but what he’s truly the father of is “Every Second Counts”. Literally, Every … Second … Counts. And for anyone who has worked a desk job for a few decades, we could also call him the Father of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or the Father of Degenerative Joint Disease. Not surprisingly people like Henry Ford loved the guy.
The problem is, machines break down and the parts have to be replaced. When we’re talking about a bolt in an engine that’s one thing, but when we’re talking about someone’s hip, well that’s kind of abusive. So much so that when unions first formed they weren’t for equal pay or better hats, they were for 40 hour work weeks and mandatory lunches. We in the US are still constantly debating whether or not it’s justifiable to legislate off-time.
Those unions weren’t alone in their objection to trying to squeeze the human body into the smallest box possible. It didn’t take long for the medical community to realize that what Taylor was doing was trapping people in the same condition as what was once called ‘Muscle Binding’.
Muscle binding as a definitive medical issue was first established in the late 1800s (huh, how’s that for a coincidence?). Binding generally involved people who exercised excessively with their large muscles, like their bicep, but not their small contrary muscles, like their triceps. So they could flex like crazy, but they couldn’t do a pull-up to save their life. The harder they worked to build their big muscles, the more the contraries atrophied, and the more the large muscles grouped together and ‘bound’ until they were virtually useless. It could even lead to nerve damage permanently reducing function.
As late as 1994 medical scientists were still publishing how muscle binding and not working the total body could cause paralysis. In their even more jargon-heavy titled article “Role of muscle insulin-like growth factors in nerve sprouting: suppression of terminal sprouting in paralyzed muscle by IGF-binding protein 4″ P. Caroni, C. Schneider, M.C. Kiefer, and J. Zapf found, among other things, “these findings suggest that IGFs are major signaling factors from inactivated muscle to promote local restorative reactions, including interstitial cell proliferation and nerve sprouting”. Note that last phrase, ‘nerve sprouting’. Damage to the muscles can actually cause paralysis.
Which dovetails nicely with the malnutrition issue I’ve already discussed, starve a kid and not only do their muscles suffer but so do their nerves. More importantly it points out that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Time and Motion and all of that are destructive not just to the bones and soft tissue, but to the nervous system. Guess what your brain is made of?
Part 3 – Mind / Body
So, damage to the food supply damages the body, damage to the body damages the brain. But the Time and Motion studies had two components, Motion yes, but also Time. The Motion obsession hurt people. It caused physical damage. But the brain is an organ, just like your kidneys or your femur. Throughout the history of humans, whether you believe we’re 6000 years old or not, clocks are new as hell. The concept of 1 minute hasn’t been around for more than a few hundred years. In fact, the very concept of a ‘clock’ originated with the Catholics in Medieval Europe. As both Michael Foley in his book “Why Do Catholics Eat Fish On Fridays: The Catholic Origin To Just About Everything” and James Burke discussed in his television series “Connections”, the word clock originates from the Latin ‘clocca’ which means ‘bell’.
Why do we say it’s four o’bell? Because that’s how time was originally marked, ‘four of the bells’. Or, Four Bells, 4 o’clock. Just like the Muslims, Medieval Catholics had to pray at specific times of the day. So they invented a machine to ring a bell to remind them. Before that the last civilization that developed anything like what we would consider a modern clock was the Greeks and the Egyptians. They used a water-bowl with a hole in it. It was more like an egg timer than a way to divide the universe into totally artificial incremental bits.
Before that, astronomical phenomena were used. And rather than shoehorning those phenomena into our fake system, we lived by their cycles. Which is why the Chinese New Year falls on a different day every year (as does the Jewish and Muslim New Year), and why we have to occasionally add an extra day to February and the date of Easter is always up for grabs. Those events are all based on the moon. Our western calendar was originally kinda based on the sun, but we don’t even do that anymore (explain Daylight Savings Time logically, g’ahead, I dare you).
In fact, time wasn’t even ‘universalized’ until the railroad was invented. Before that people were still using sundials even in major cities like St. Louis or London. Even the idea of a clock with a face is relatively new. The oldest surviving clock in England, as Foley points out, is a bell tower with no read-out what so ever. The human body is absolutely horrible at gauging the length of a minute. Try this experiment: get a stopwatch, start it, close your eyes, and then stop it when you think a minute is over. You’ll be wrong.
Minutes in our brain’s world have absolutely no meaning. Now tell your boss that there’s no fundamental difference between 8:59am and 9:02 am.
Part 4 – Conclusion
Bipolar Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder, and so many of these anxiety related neurological disorders are the natural outgrowth of a more and more compartmentalized society. As the human body is forced into closer and closer confined movements, more and more segmented and dissected bits, more and more artificial and referent-free chunks, it starts to disintegrate. So too does the nervous system. Some people’s brains come through the process relatively unscathed. Just like some people can eat candy all day and not get fat.
But, now that the West has become obsessed with ‘progress’ and the ‘future’, what’s the end game? Okay, so we figure out time to the micro-milisecond. So what? The brain is the single largest cluster of nerves in the human body. Chronic Spinal Inflammation can happen with only a few decades of working a desk. We train babies to clocks almost from birth. And for those poor few for whom that system never really makes sense, their brains are perpetually on alert.
Can it really be any surprise then that medications used to treat Bipolar are also used to treat Anxiety, and to treat Schizophrenia, and to treat other psychotic disorders? Depakote, Abilify, Lithium, all are anticonvulsants also used to treat epilepsy. That’s just disturbing. When muscle and nerve fiber has been damaged patients experience numbness and uncontrolled spasms. There’s no reason to suspect those moments of numbness, those spasms, that lack of control, somehow stop at the neck. When the danger is being 1 minute late to work, then everything becomes dangerous. Anxiety is the natural outgrowth of an obsession with Time, anxiety is an inflammation of the mind. We don’t have to keep doing this to ourselves. Because if the children of those famines are any indication, not only will their conditions persist throughout their lives and be passed on to their children, but it will only get worse with repeated exposure.
Part 1 – Food