Orthomolecular/Functional Medicine

“Uh, ortho . . . what?” The patient had just said a very long word that went in one ear of mine and out the other. I was embarrassed to have to ask her to repeat it again, since she found me somehow through this ortho-whatever and was interested in me because of my connection with it. Well, if doctors didn’t know it, the medical schools didn’t teach it, and residency programs didn’t use it, then no wonder that left the patients with the task of introducing it. In a few more sentences, the patient helped me to understand that my use of nutritional supplements had placed me with a group of doctors called orthomolecular psychiatrists. It was news to me. But, thankfully, I was not slow to appreciate my newly discovered connections. At least I had the internet.

Orthomolecular psychiatry is a scientific approach for healing mental illness that aims to correct underlying biochemical dysfunctions and imbalances, and to reestablish an optimal biochemical milieu within the mind and body. Therapeutic dosages of nutritional supplements, appropriate diet, and safe detoxification are the primary tools used in orthomolecular psychiatry to support the body’s own ability to heal.

Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time winner of the Nobel Prize, coined the term “orthomolecular” to express the idea that the right amounts of specific molecules can correct disordered thoughts and emotions. Many psychiatrists and physicians have found to their surprise that when they focus on supporting the patient with nutritional supplements and detoxification, the signs and symptoms of mental illness melt away. Besides being far less likely to create negative side effects compared to prescription medications, nutritional supplements support the entire body’s health and stamina, and help toward preventing future health problems.

Over the years, I have refined my knowledge about the myriad of factors which affect the way nutrition can ultimately heal the mind. My understanding of absorption and digestion in the role of nutrient delivery to the cells in the body allows me to help those with gastrointestinal difficulties to heal. My knowledge of the vast array of supplements available, and my ability to integrate muscle testing to help guide the selection of supplements used, have allowed me to carefully tailor the treatment to the patient’s unique needs.

Since I began integrating orthomolecular psychiatry and energy medicine, patients have remarked that their recovery seemed “miraculous.” One man who recovered from his anxiety disorder within a week told me that he nicknamed me “Miracle Doc.” (An endearing term, even if I have to say so myself.) Certain patients were able to eliminate their psychotic symptoms, panic attacks, depression, or mood swings in record time. Other patients were able to find relief from their suffering for the first time, after failing to gain relief through prescription medications. Many patients were able to significantly lower their total dosage of psychotropic medications that they had taken for decades. The power to heal mental illness through these innovative methods was truly profound and far reaching.

Although I felt that I was a “good doctor” as a traditional child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist, it wasn’t until I became familiar with orthomolecular psychiatry (and energy medicine) that I had patients break down in tears in my office out of joy, or bring bouquets of flowers to thank me for helping them after just a few sessions of working together. It wasn’t until I went into alternative medicine, that I found myself clapping in delight at the fantastic recoveries the patients were reporting to me with wide grins on their faces . . . And it wasn’t until I opened myself to these new fields that I had hope for my patients’ long term outcome.

Orthomolecular psychiatry is part of functional medicine. Functional medicine looks at the underlying biochemistry and physiology of the body and uses the latest knowledge from the fields of nutrition, genetics, and environmental and social sciences to create rational, scientifically sound approaches to healing underlying causes for illness. Functional Medicine stresses the healing of physical functions rather than ridding of diagnostic labels. It is possible, for example, to apply the principles of functional medicine and find that several diagnostic labels and “diseases” resolve spontaneously and simultaneously. Obviously, in such situations the healing response would suggest that diseases are often not separate and distinct packages of illnesses, each requiring it own prescription medication, but are interrelated occurrences.

As a doctor, my personal health plan is to first prevent illness. However, if I ever get sick, I would want treatment from a doctor who has taken the time to learn something more than how to dose prescription medications, and who has spent extra time and effort to learn about how to heal the functions of the body naturally and harmlessly. Nowadays these doctors are in the alternative medical field–a group of brilliant and courageous men and women who work at the cutting edge of medicine.