Natural Treatment of Psychological Disorders:
A series by Dr. Chris Jackson, PhD, DOM (FL)
Non-compliance is a major issue for patients prescribed antipsychotics, and understandably so. That's right, understandably so. The fundamental issue of the toxicity of these drugs is often omitted with funding of studies focused on improving compliance, rather than side-effects that may inherently dissuade compliance. A more humanitarian goal would be to find alternative, potentially better solutions. Psychiatrists could meet the needs of a greater portion of the patient population by presenting these alternative solutions to their patients, who could opt for them if they wished to remain non-compliant with the pharmaceutical solutions.
Unfortunately, study explanations tend to emphasize the psychosocial part of the biopsychosocial model, often suggesting more therapeutic approaches that can be taken to lull the patient into compliance despite fatigue, sleepless nights, suicidal ideation, visual disorders, sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular abnormalities, or declining white blood cell counts.
An additional concern that needs much more research is the growing use of pharmaceutical solutions to treat children. The array of side-effects, including anorexia (and potentially death), insomnia, dizziness, nausea, and somnolence, combined with their effects on school performance, present risks of many sorts, both short-term and longer-term. The ramifications of the effects on school performance can, of course, affect many aspects of life and lifestyle in the future of a child, as can the toxic effects of the drugs on a child's metabolism, potentially leading to metabolic syndrome later in life.
Adressing the Problem
A very beneficial solution avails itself for many of the psychological conditions treated biomedically with toxic chemicals. The treatment of psychological disorders using natural substances offers a great alternative to drug therapies for patients who may need more than psychotherapy, as well as pediatric patients. Such treatment is typically directed more toward underlying causal factors as opposed to symptoms, using the “right” molecule for the specific disorder (the basis of orthomolecular medicine as defined by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling).
Significant relevance regarding orthomolecular medicine and psychiatry lays fundamentally in the fact that substances that are normally used or produced by the body are applied during treatment. Unlike biomedical approaches that often use substances that are foreign to the human body, and therefore often quite toxic, orthomolecular approaches use health improving, beneficial substances that support normalized physiological and psychological function.
Many nutritional minerals and vitamins are helpful for management and treatment of psychological disorders. An interesting example is magnesium, which is directly correlated with serotonin generation and receptivity, as well as GABA, noradrenaline, and dopamine production. Deficiencies in any or all of these neurotransmitters are associated with depression. The calming characteristics of magnesium and its ability to improve treatment efficacy suggesttherapeutic applications as a mood stabilizer and anti-depressant.
A naturally-occuring mineral in the body, many benefits are evident with magnesium administration, including a strong anti-inflammatory effect, reducing C reactive protein levels, and assistance with improvement of sleep patterns. Although magnesium is certainly an important and interesting treatment option for depression, other natural substances can help with this condition as well.
Tryptophan can help to raise serotonin levels through natural processes that use tryptophan to form serotonin. Dopamine and norepinephrine are made from phenylalanine or tyrosine, both of which are amino acids that may be supplemented. As a dose-specific treatment, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) may be supplemented directly for treatment of depression or converted in the body from essential amino acid methionine and energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Fish oil (omega 3) offers anti-depressant effects, as well as anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefit, but may be contraindicated for patients on blood thinners. Also, the B vitamins folate and B12 have shown efficacy in treatment of depression.
There are also important herbal medicines that can be used for the treatment of depression, such as Hypericum perforatum (St. John's Wort), which has been demonstrated to be as effective as tricyclic antidepressants with fewer side-effects. However, St. John's Wort can diminish the effects of pharmaceuticals, including contraceptives, and has interactions with several anti-cancer drugs. Additionally, Rhizome Chuanxiong, Radix Scutellaria (Skullcap) and Radix Phellodendri (Phellodendron) are found in Chinese herbal formulas and have demonstrated anti-depressant effects.