I’ve had chronic health issues as an adolescent and had to figure out the solutions myself, since no one could help. These issues weren’t serious enough that I needed drugs or that I could be diagnosed with a disease, but they took a serious toll, especially cognitively.
My story is unique when it comes to improving my own cognitive function. I grew up in unusual circumstances and never really got an education. In addition, I had all sorts of cognitive problems from inflammation.
I grew up in a ultra-Orthodox Jewish family of 7 and was relatively poor. My mother was a single mom who wasn’t very proactive as to which school I went to, and so I ended up in a religious school that was meant for kids with behavioral issues or delinquents, even though I didn’t have these issues.
I remember being bright growing up, picking up reading, multiplication and division at a very early age. I picked it up myself from some educational game. However, my education at school was horrible to non-existent, since it was geared for kids who had problems. I remember being bored to death by learning the same thing a million times. I decided to mentally check out.
By 8th grade, my reading and mathematical ability barely improved from earlier grades. In all of elementary school, I had never studied for a test, read a book, did a piece of homework or wrote an essay. Not once.
Come high school, the situation was better but still far from good. My mom’s financial situation improved thanks to benevolent relatives who made lots of money. Orthodox high schools cost a lot of money (usually about 15,000 dollars a year). I chose one with the best education that we could afford (6000$ a year, with lots of breaks). Little did I know, the education was horrible.
Not going to a Jewish school was out of the question for my family. At least this school was geared for normal kids, but it still didn’t provide a decent education. To give you an idea of what this school was about, they told us not to study for the SATs because they didn’t want us to go to college and get a secular education. I had 6 hours of religious education and prayer and 3 hours of secular education, most of which didn’t actually take place as the class was filled with boisterous students.
For high school, I never did homework and studied a total of 10 hours for tests a year. This wasn’t because I was brilliant, but because it was a joke. On the rare occasion that I did study for a test I would do it the day of. I still never read a book in my life and maybe wrote two essays in all of high school. It was a joke.
By the age of 18, I had a fourth grade ability to read and write and the focusing capacity of a 6 year old. I could barely understand half of what newspapers would write. I didn’t have a clue about what any SAT passage was talking about. I was what’s called functionally illiterate (half of the US is).
This was partly because I grew up without ever having read a book or writing a paper and had overall little mental stimulation. The other part was as a result of physiological issues such as brain fog and inflammation.
Fast forward, the situation now is entirely different. I either score perfectly or in the 99th percentile in writing and verbal on a variety of standardized tests and score highly in math and a variety of other intelligence tests. I do best on tests of reasoning.
I have probably gained around 40 IQ points. Sounds surreal, I know, but I’m not making it up.
At 15, I took a PSAT and scored an equivalent of about a 400 on the verbal section (less than the 50th percentile for my age group).
At 23, I took the SAT twice and both times scored a perfect 800 on the verbal. Both scores weren’t a result of practice effects, since I didn’t study for it at 15 or 23.
At 27, my reading (and writing) ability is significantly better now than it ever was. I was still having a lot of cognitive problems at the age of 23.
Although it’s a fair point that verbal ability isn’t completely indicative of IQ, I subjectively feel as though my general cognition improved in lockstep with my verbal abilities. So while I can’t know exactly how many IQ points I have gained, 40 points seems to be a reasonable and even conservative guess.
I exercise for about 2 hours a month, excluding walking. No sit-ups.
Previous Health Problems
My biggest improvements came in fixing my body. These are the problems I have dealt with in the post, but no longer do.
Some of these are closely related. For example, generalized anxiety will be correlated with test anxiety, performance anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, nail biting, insomnia, etc…
I don’t have these issues anymore to any degree (as long as I keep to a strict diet)..
|OCD- Cognitve…Nail biting, Lip biting|
|GAD- Generalized Anxiety Disorder|
|Chronic Stress – even if I wasn’t busy|
|Nervous tension and energy|
|Chronic fatigue – physical and mental|
|Insulin resistance/metabolic issuesHypoglycemia|
|High liver enzymes|
|Higher end of blood sugar range|
|Continual loss of vision even after 21|
|Bad circulation in hands feet and in general (cold extremities)|
|Phlegm and Mucous|
|Getting exhausted and nauseous quickly from exercising|
|Migraines – exercise induced|
|Slowed wound healing|
|Lowered immunity – got sick after lifting weights and frequent sickness – colds, flu, strep, bells palsy.|
|Needing more than 8 hrs of sleep|
|Needing to drink a lot – like a gallon a day|
|Dry lips, hands|
Again, all of the issues listed have been fixed. I can’t say that issues won’t resurface and tweaking will need to be done here and there, but I have built many firewalls for this purpose. If one firewall fails, I have the necessary back-up systems to stem the bleeding
Why Didn’t I Go to Doctors?
I did. They were useless. Also, nothing was markedly wrong with my blood tests, so they just thought I was making everything up. Even if they did believe me, there was nothing they could do.
The only person that enlightened me a bit was a psychiatrist I saw for attention problems at the age of 23. He diagnosed me with dysthymia (a low grade, long term depression) and generalized anxiety disorder, in addition to “probably having OCD” and “possibly having ADHD.”
Looking back, I had severe OCD. Popular culture makes you believe that OCD is a disorder that manifests itself by chronic handwashing, etc… I consider OCD as simply an inability to let go of thoughts or possessions. I couldn’t let go of either. Accordingly, hoarding, perfectionism, nail biting, various minor obsessions and elevated anxiety are common manifestations of OCD.
So What is Life Like Now?
I forgot what it feels like to be anxious, for one. I’m never stressed (even under pressure or deadlines) and I barely ever get in bad/dreary moods.
My OCD has vanished. Brain fog and fatigue are a thing of the past. My brain is working twice as good as ever.
I don’t suffer from chronic inflammation and all of my GI problems are gone.
I have lots of endurance and I feel great after intense bouts of exercise instead of feeling nauseous.
I don’t get sick and I have no phlegm or mucous.
My Regimen and Diet
It turns out that I’m sensitive to almost everything that people eat. This includes:
- All grains
- All potatoes
- All nuts
- All dairy
- All legumes (except tempeh)
- Yeast (in all breads)
- Some fish
- Some fruits
- Various food additives
- Mildly sensitive to seeds
When my health problems were at their peak, I lived on gluten, dairy, yeast, whole grains/plant based foods, eggs, fish, in addition to alcohol, caffeine and food additives. It’s no wonder why I had all of those problems.
Genetics is Also a Critical Factor
I’ve found many polymorphisms in my DNA that predispose me to many of the problems that I experience. See me genetic data.
Specifically, I have mutations related to the gut that predispose me to Crohn’s, Th1 dominance and issues with important antioxidant genes (SOD2, PON1), which results in increased oxidative stress and a variety of others. I’m also homozygous for MTHFR.