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Nutritional Therapy for Mental Health

I recently spoke at the International Conference on IV Nutrition.

One theme resonated again and again throughout the 4 days, which is “A Healthy Cell Means a (Mentally) Healthy Person.”

Whether we are talking about patients with fatigue (nutrient deficiencies), infections (like Lyme’s), mental health issues (like depression), or inflammation (like heart disease), as physicians we need to be aware of the intimate connection between what we eat and how that affects our health (both positively and negatively).

In fact, traditional medicine has not made much headway into the above areas, especially when they become “chronic.” Let’s be clear, “chronic” means that the patient isn’t getting better. This implies that as physicians we are not doing what needs to be done to overcome the underlying etiology of the problem.

  • Fatigue becomes “Chronic Fatigue”
  • Infections become “Chronic Infections”
  • Inflammation becomes “Chronic Inflammation”
  • And Mental Health Issues become “Chronic Mental Health Issues”


So, what are we as physicians missing?

The facts!

When discussing Mental Health, here are “The Facts”:

  • 70% of Americans are on 1 Prescription drug
  • 50% are on at least 2 prescribed drugs
  • One in four women 50-64 are on an antidepressant
  • 13% of the overall population is on antidepressants
  • 88% of people over 64 take at least one prescribed medicine
  • Every day 290 people are killed by FDA approved prescription drugs
  • 20% of U.S. patients are on 5 or more drugs a day


Pfeiffer’s Law: “We have found that if a drug can be found to do the job of medical healing, a nutrient can be found to do the same job. When we understand how a dug works, we can imitate its action with one of the nutrients.”

Whether we are talking about anxiety, depression, stress, mania we are talking on some level about nutrient deficiencies.

Research shows that many of the mental health problems which we face can be treated with nutrition.

In fact, recent meta-analyses have shown that antidepressants have no clinically meaningful advantage over placebos and that the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs has probably been overstated.

Having been an Emergency Room doctor for the first 10 years of my career, I had the opportunity to see firsthand patients in crisis. The sedatives I prescribed at the time of crisis weren’t for the patient, it was to ensure the safety of the crew in the ER and make sure that we could transport that patient without problems to a more appropriate unit.

Still, in medicine, is there a place for anti-depressants and sedatives?

There is no evidence whatsoever that antidepressants reduce the risk of suicide or suicide attempts in comparison with placebo in clinical trials. On the contrary, in a recent analysis of the data that compensated for erroneous methodologies, Dr. Grace Jackson found that antidepressants increased the risk of suicide by two to four times in adults, and by three times in children.

It has also been demonstrated that recent sharp increases in antidepressant use have been accompanied by increased prevalence and duration of depressive episodes and rising levels of sickness absence (Patten 2004).

Naturalistic studies have also shown that depressive episodes are more frequent and last longer among antidepressant users than among nonusers, and that sickness absence is more prolonged (Moncrieff 2006).

Finally, long-term follow-up studies show very poor outcomes for people treated for depression with drugs, and the overall prevalence of depression is rising despite increased use of antidepressants (Fombonne 1994)

What is clear as glass is that evaluation of a patients nutritional status (especially the amino acids from which all neurotransmitters are derived) in conjunction with stress management, sleep therapy and group therapy all have profound effects on patients suffering from any mental illness.

The facts!

All neurotransmitters are derived from amino acids (protein building blocks).

GABA is derived from the amino acid Glutamine. GABA is the “brake” in the brain, slowing the electrical impulses down. Without enough GABA, we feel “wired.”

Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Epinephrine are derived from Phenylalanine. Dopa, Nor and Epi are the neurotransmitters with “speed” things up.

Serotonin and Melatonin are both derived from Tryptophan. Whereas Serotonin improves your mood, Melatonin helps you sleep.

Not only do you need to get enough of these healthy amino acids into your diet, you need to be able to absorb them from the GI tract as well as be able to convert them into the proper neurotransmitters.

People with unhealthy guts, for whatever reason, are often amino acid deficient.

Vitamin B6 (Pantothenic acid) is one of the most important vitamins required in converting these amino acids into neurotransmitters.

For those patients interested in discovering if they are getting enough amino acids, vitamins and required nutrients into their body, I recommend highly the NutrEval by Genova Labs. Check out this link to read more about the test, NutrEval FMV®

Nutrition and how that body absorbs, metabolizes, and utilizes all the required components of what you eat, makes you who you are!