This blog was written for Village Green Apothecary by Dr. Kevin Passero, ND, who has worked closely with us for a number of years.
Science has made many great advances in the understanding of complex brain processes, especially when it comes to treating mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. Using natural methods such as advanced nutrient therapy for balancing brain chemistry is becoming a very promising alternative to conventional treatments. By determining the unique biochemistry of each patient, clinical practitioners experienced in nutrient therapy (vitamins, minerals and amino acids) can maximize outcomes without side effects commonly associated with psychiatric medications.
As a Naturopathic doctor, I am passionate about uncovering the root cause of illnesses and providing personalized medicine. Each individual has innate biochemical factors that influence personality, behavior, mental health, as well as immune function. And, it is this unique biochemistry that results in diverse nutritional needs. Genetic differences influence the way our bodies process foods and certain nutrients, causing some people to have nutrient deficiencies while others have an excess of nutrients. Both can cause problems in neurotransmitter balance. Testing patients allows me to determine if a person has abnormal absorption, metabolism, or storage of key nutrients. With this knowledge, I can tailor treatment plans based on individual needs.
My interest in utilizing nutrient therapy for mental illnesses led me to train with the internationally recognized expert in the field of nutritional medicine and a key scientist paving the way for nutrient-based psychiatry and nutritional medicine, William Walsh, PhD, FACN. Dr. Walsh is president of the non-profit Walsh Research Institute, and he has developed biochemical treatments for patients diagnosed with behavioral disorders, attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, autism, clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease that are used by doctors throughout the world. His very informative book, Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012), describes the evidence-based nutrient therapy system.
Because many chemical imbalances are genetically inherited, they are often seen in other family members (immediate and distant) who also display similar behavioral or mood disorders. But they can also be acquired, so family history is not always present. Fortunately, testing is available to evaluate a person’s individual biochemistry using simple blood and urine tests. A trained practitioner can see patterns in one’s results that are contributing a person’s biochemical imbalances. A customized nutrient program is then initiated which allows for better, more focused treatment options with improved outcomes and fewer side effects.
Let me take a moment to review some of the most common chemical imbalances.
Methylation – Methylation is a critical biochemical pathway necessary for the production of neurotransmitters such serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Genetic abnormalities in methylation can result in either the overproduction or underproduction of these important brain neurotransmitters. People that overproduce neurotransmitters (over-methylators) often have high anxiety, panic disorders, and chemical sensitivities. Individuals who under-produce neurotransmitters (under-methylators) often exhibit depression, compulsive behaviors, and perfectionism. Methylation can be effectively assessed by measuring histamine levels.
Metal Metabolism – The balance of zinc and copper play a critical role in brain chemistry balance. Zinc is one of the most important nutrient cofactors needed for the production of brain neurotransmitters. Without it, the enzymes that convert amino acids into active brain chemicals cannot carry out their task. Zinc deficiency can be quite common in the general population due to the amount of highly processed food typically consumed in the developed world. A simple blood test is all it takes to evaluate for low zinc levels.
Copper imbalances can alter brain chemistry in several ways. Most issues related to copper and brain chemistry alterations are related to elevated copper levels. The vast majority of people who have high copper levels have it due to genetic factors, not from ingestion of copper from the food or water supply, although consumption of high copper foods and drinks can make the problem worse. Elevated copper levels can lead to states of over-excitation, as well as anxiety.
Pyrrrole Disorder – Pyrroles refer to ring structures produced in the body as a byproduct of hemoglobin synthesis. At this time, they have no known function in the body and are normally excreted in the urine. Pyroluria is a genetically acquired chemical imbalance that results in an abnormally large amount of pyrrole production. These rings have a high affinity for binding both zinc and vitamin B6. In people with pyroluria, the excessive concentration of these rings results in significant deficiencies of zinc and B6, as these nutrients are bound and then excreted in the urine attached to the pyrrole. Common symptoms include explosive temper, emotional mood swings, poor short-term memory and frequent infections. The decisive laboratory test is analysis for kryptopyrroles in urine.
By carefully evaluating a person’s individual biochemistry, a properly trained health provider can create a customized nutrient program. Because some people have abnormalities in all areas, while others might only have an imbalance in one, it is important to identify the specific imbalances for better, more focused treatment.
The nutrient therapies involved in correcting these biochemical imbalances are considered safe to use with most prescription medications commonly used for mood disorders. This allows for a very safe and gradually reduced dependency on the medication while the nutrient therapies have time to balance the biochemistry. In some cases, prescription medications may continue to provide added benefits to the nutrient therapies, in which case both can be continued indefinitely.
At this time, there is no other non-drug treatment strategy as well researched and documented through case studies as the one developed by Dr. Walsh and his 35 years of research. Even many prescription therapies for biochemical imbalances are considered to be not much more effective than placebos. Again, understanding individual biochemistry and genetics allows for tailored treatments, which often yield better results with fewer side effects than medications.
Testing Information: If you experience anxiety, mood swings, depression, learning problems, addiction, or other emotional issues and are interested in laboratory tests to uncover the root cause of your symptoms, then we are here to help. The tests mentioned above (methlyation, zinc, copper, and kryptopyrrole) are all available through Village Green Apothecary for a special package price of $235. Please contact Margo Gladding by email or by phone (301-530-0800 x1025) to get started.
Photo from here, with thanks.