Orthomolecular Medicine – Hope and Help for Mental Illness

Most of us know at least one person who has been treated for mental illness. While treatment of the mentally ill has come a long way, there are many pathways yet to be uncovered. Due to mental illness in our family, and having seen the suffering of too many people, in the late ’80’s, I decided to search for alternative/complementary methods that would enhance outcomes. I was intrigued when I learned about Orthomolecular Medicine and glad I found the health professionals that use it in their practice.

I discovered from the Canadian Society of Orthomolecular Medicine (CSOM) and the International Schizophrenia Foundation, (ISF), www.isfmentalhealth.org, that a diagnoses of mental illness doesn’t have to mean the end of a patient’s life as he or she knew it. It was good news.

What is Orthomolecular Medicine?

Orthomolecular medicine, a term coined by Linus Pauling, double Nobel Laureate involves treatment by optimizing health and treating disease by providing correct amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, essential fatty acids and other substances which are natural and essential to the human body.

Your body is powered by your dietary intake – nutrients. We can get these nutrients though high quality food and through supplementation. The brain is living tissue and must receive nutrients to do its work. The brain is a ‘nutrient hog’ taking 25% of all nutrients you eat to sustain itself. The brain is 60% fat and it needs quality fats, vitamins and minerals to thrive. The quality of your food will influence the quality of your brain and its functioning. For example rancid fats from French fries on a repeated basis can get lodged in our bodies in places where healthy fats should be to power the body – especially the brain.

Why Don’t You Know About Mental Health and Nutrition?

Vitamins, minerals or other natural substances can’t be patented. No vitamin sales people knock on physicians’ doors with free samples. Also, nutrition is low on the list of subjects in medical schools. However, those who practice orthomolecular medicine – evidence based medicine, check for nutrient deficiencies as possible causes for mental disturbances. Every other branch of medicine does lab testing, why not psychiatry?

What Physical Problems can Affect Mental Illnesses?

  • High or low blood sugar levels cause mental symptoms to peak.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency causes confusion, fatigue, weakness and severe mental symptoms. Other B vitamin deficiencies including folic acid can contribute to many forms of mental disorders.
  • Anemia (low iron levels) is sometimes confused with dementia.
  • Low thyroid has been shown to be common for those with schizophrenia.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D stores directly relate to depression.
  • Those with mental illness often have food allergies or digestive problems.

Orthomolecular psychiatrists also use medications since they were traditionally trained psychiatrists. They found that adding nutrients to patients’ protocols reduced medication side effects and enhanced both mental and physical health. Many medical doctors, naturopaths, registered nutritional consultants or other health professionals use these adjunct orthomolecular treatments for both mental health and physical problems. Abundant Information is available about nutrition health benefits.

Are Vitamins/Minerals Safe?

Some fear that vitamins in high dosages are “not safe”. View testimony before the Government of Canada, House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, regarding nutritional supplement product safety (Ottawa, May 12, 2005) by Andrew Saul PhD, at: www.doctoryourself.com/testimony.htm

Ignorance abounds on the subject of vitamins. Using orthomolecular treatments can help people recover, enjoy life and become productive members of society. Other therapies that are helpful include: exercise, relaxation techniques, having adequate housing, social support. Like all people, those with mental illness cannot spend endless time alone unattended. Stigma of mental illness still abounds and must be countered.

CSOM provides peer to peer doctor and other health professional training programs on this subject of therapeutic nutrition. ISF promotes the wide use of orthomolecular medicine and provides public seminars, hosts an annual professional conference, publishes the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine and a quarterly newsletter.

If you suffer from mental illness or know someone who does, check out www.isfmentalhealth.org. You’ll be glad you did. My topic Orthomolecular Nutrition for Mental Health focuses on ways to bolster mental health through diet and