Mental Health
It's Not Just In Our Heads
by Michael Lesser, M.D.

Michael Lesser, M.D. is a psychiatrist and president of the National Orthomolecular Medical Society. He divides his time between private practice and hospital work with the State of California.

"Ortho" from the Greek, means right, straight, or correct. Thus, orthomolecular means "right molecules in the right amounts" or as Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling defined it, Orthomolecular Psychiatry means, "the preservation of good mental health and the treatment of disease by variation of the concentrations in the human body of substances normally present in the body."

So we're talking about nutritional chemistry, and the orthomolecular therapist uses vitamins, minerals, amino acids and diet to treat so called "mental disorders".

Along with providing optimal molecular concentrations of nutrients, orthomolecular physicians are concerned with removing toxic molecules from the body. Toxic molecules include heavy metal pollutants, such as lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, etc.: chemicals to which a person may be hypersensitive or allergic, even normal nutrients in cases where a particular chemical pathway where a particular chemical pathway necessary to metabolize the nutrient is generally absent. An example of the latter is Coeliac Syndrome; persons with this defect don't have the enzyme necessary to metabolize gluten. For such individuals, eating any food that contains gluten (wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat) destroys their intestinal villi causing malabsorption, which may appear as mental illness.

Sometimes it's hard to grasp why nutritional chemistry has so much to do with psychiatry. We are used to thinking if someone has something wrong with their mind, it's "mental". Most psychiatrists practice psychotherapy, operating on the premise that the problem is "all in your mind" and can be talked away. For much "mental" illness this is not true. The brain is part of the body, and this physical organ requires proper molecular chemistry in order to work right. Since the brain houses our thoughts and emotions, and is the coordinator for our senses, a chemically imbalanced brain will express itself by disordered thoughts (delusions) and emotional upsets, as well as disturbances in sensory perception (hallucinations).

Less than forty years ago, ten percent of the population of some mental hospitals was discovered to be suffering from pellagra, a B-vitamin deficiency disease, caused by eating a high corn, low protein diet, inadequate in niacin. Until it was discovered these persons were suffering from malnutrition, they were considered schizophrenic. When they were placed on a corrective diet their sanity returned. Today we know that "mental" illness can result not only from deficiencies of niacin, but also from deficiencies of thiamine (B-1), pyridoxine (B-6), cyanocobalamin (B-12), folic acid, biotin (H), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), deficiencies of certain amino acids and minerals as well as from inadequate blood sugar.

The orthomolecular psychiatrist is also concerned with brain poisoning from pollutants ( lead, mercury, aluminum, fluorine, cadmium, etc.) because he knows that "nervous illness" is often the first sign of such poisoning. He is concerned about food additives, preservatives and the concepts of allergy because he knows "mental" illness can be a symptom of an allergic reaction of the brain, cerebral allergy.

"O.K., Doctor Lesser," you say, "So maybe severe mental imbalance can be caused by poor diet, poisoning or a food allergy, but what about me?" "I've never seen devils, I don't think the CIA is after me, I'm an honest businessman, nervous and exhausted from my work. It keeps me up at night, worrying. What can this orthowhatever do for me?"

Well, Mr. Tired Businessman, before you shell out sixty bucks an hour to talk about your problems, let's look at your diet. Do you drink coffee?

"Of course, I drink coffee. I have two or three cups in the morning to wake up, and more through my busy day to keep me going. But I don't drink too much because if I do I get coffee nerves."

"Well, Mr. Businessman, if you don't jump out of bed raring to go, chances are good your draggy feeling in the morning is a withdrawal symptom from your coffee addiction. Though coffee is a short-term stimulant, in the long run it's tiring you out, wearing out your adrenals. Your coffee nerves are probably a thiamine (B-1) deficiency, as caffeine creates such a deficiency.

What about alcohol?"

I generally have a couple of cocktails with lunch. My work puts such stress on me that I have a stiff belt as soon as I reach home to help me unwind. Wine with dinner, and a drink or two in the evening helps me relax enough to fall asleep."

"Heavy alcohol consumption such as yours, causes B-vitamin deficiencies, and because alcohol destroys antidiuretic (vasopressin) hormone, your body fluids pour through your kidneys causing dehydration and mineral loss.
[va·so·pres·sin n. A hormone secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland that constricts blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and reduces excretion of urine. Also called antidiuretic hormone.]

This loss is especially crucial for potassium, which makes you weak when it is low, and magnesium a deficiency of which makes your nervous system hyperirritable. Further chronic drinking upsets your gut and interferes with its ability to absorb nutrients. Now tell me what you eat."

"Doc, I've got a cholesterol problem, so for breakfast I have these egg substitutes they advertise on T.V., a couple of slices of toast with margarine, again to keep cholesterol down."

"Stop right there.   Cholesterol is not a poison, in fact it makes most of the hormones your body needs. You need cholesterol in your diet. It's not butter and eggs causing your problem. Those are two of nature's best foods. Your problem is in not metabolizing the cholesterol, so it sticks around in your arteries forming cholesterol plaques, which causes hardening of the arteries. What you need is exercise, vitamins and minerals to metabolize the cholesterol so it can be formed into hormones to keep you youthful, vigorous and sexy. The toast you have is made from refined flour. The act of refining flour removes 80% of its minerals and most of the vitamins. A scientist once placed rats on an "enriched" white bread diet. Two-thirds of the rats were dead within three months from malnutrition.

"Now you say you need a few drinks at night to get to sleep. But the alcohol is causing a magnesium deficiency, which keeps you awake. We orthomolecular psychiatrists sometimes give magnesium to insomniacs to help them sleep. Remember how Grandma suggested a glass of warm milk at bedtime when you were too excited to get to sleep. Well Grandma was right!   Milk contains high amounts of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, which will calm a racing brain and allow a person to fall asleep.

"Inositol is another B-vitamin which allows safe gentle sleep for insomniacs. You understand none of these nutrients will knock you out; they're not drugs. They just calm the mind sufficiently to allow you to fall asleep naturally."

"Doc, that sounds great, but I wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I have the worst nightmares."

"You know, Mr. Businessman from the diet you've described, high in refined flours and refined sugar, and lacking in protein and whole fruits and vegetables, I'm not surprised. I'm willing to bet you have functional hypoglycemia, a little malady so widespread, most doctors don't even recognize it as a disease. Nonetheless, fatigue is the most common symptom of low blood sugar. And I've observed hypoglycemics frequently wake during the night, and have nightmares. I think that happens because their blood sugar gets low, the brain gets starved for nourishment and they have nightmares and wakeup. Try having a high protein bedtime snack, such as a dish of cottage cheese and see if you don't sleep more soundly.

"Now let me see your fingernails please ... Ah hah, I see you have a number of white spots on your fingernails. Dr. Carl Pieiffer, an orthomolecular physician, believes those white spots are due to a zinc deficiency.   Zinc is another mineral, which can have a mellowing effect on the nervous system.

"The United States government has reported the soil of thirty-two of our states is deficient in zinc, and commercial fertilizers don't replace the zinc, so it's not surprising many people have zinc deficiencies. On the other hand, with the widespread use of copper plumbing, copper excess has become common, and excessive copper can cause depression, feelings of alienation, irritability, even paranoia."

[Doctors at Loyola University Medical School in Chicago and the Carl Pheiffer Treatment Center have reported that violent males between the ages of 3 and 18 commonly have elevated copper and reduced zinc blood levels when compared to nonviolent males. Depression and schizophrenia also have links to high copper levels.]

"Gee, Doc, those minerals are pretty interesting. How can I find out if I have the right amount of minerals in my body?"

"Orthomolecular doctors use a new test, the hair analysis to measure your mineral levels. A specimen of your hair is examined by an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, which measures the level of normal minerals. Just as important, your hair is measured for the level of toxic heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium present. Heavy smokers usually have a significant amount of cadmium; a known cardiac poison, since cadmium plus several other additives are regularly used in the manufacture of commercial cigarettes. Baked beans and eggs are good foods for ridding the body of excessive heavy metals. Both these foods contain sulfydryl compounds, which attach to the heavy metals and drag it out of the body.   Vitamin C does this too."

"Golly, is there anything else I can do to set myself straight nutritionally?"

"A high potency B-complex covers the most common deficiencies likely to cause fatigue and 'nervousness'. Taking supplemental vitamin C is also a good idea, [1 gram per 25 pounds of body weight] as both the Bs and Vitamin C are quite perishable, and if food is processed, stored or heated, as much of our food is, the B and C vitamin content is greatly diminished. The B and C vitamins are also the safest to take by supplement as they are water-soluble and if you take an excess it will pass out harmlessly in your urine.

"Eating whole foods, and brewer's yeast or yogurt, the way nature made them, preferably organically grown, will assure your system of ample minerals. Dr. Miller of Chicago has discovered that the right minerals protect you against heavy metals pollution, as a body deficient in trace minerals is more likely to pick up lead and mercury, than it would if you're already saturated with the normal trace minerals.

"If you want to locate an orthomolecular physician, you can contact "The Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research." 114 First Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021, or "The Academy of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, 1691 Northern Boulevard, Manhasset, N.Y. 11030.

"My book, "Love and Chemistry" goes into detail about orthomolecular psychiatry and other new age therapy for "mental illness". However, all the psychiatrists and books in the world will not help you – be you butcher, baker or housewife, if you do not make the changes necessary in your lifestyle. It's a new world, with you in the driver's seat. Full speed ahead!"

Allergy and Alcoholic Addiction

William H. Philpott, M.D. (Psychiatrist)

Several years ago (Rinkle, Randolph, Zeller 1951) observed that food allergies could change from the immediate reaction to that of a delayed reaction occurring several hours or days later. The delayed reaction could be temporarily relieved by eating again the food to which the person is allergic. This was given the term "masked food allergy". The evidence that masked food reactions are indeed allergic in nature can be demonstrated by withdrawing the food for five days and feeding it as a single meal on the fifth day.

Later Randolph (Randolph) applied the term "addiction" to the masked food allergy. It seems evident that allergy and addiction are the same thing, but have been described as separate phenomena simply because of the difference in the timing of symptoms. Allergic reactions occur within seconds, minutes, or at maximum about two hours after contact with the allergic substance, whereas the addiction reaction develops as a delayed withdrawal symptom at varied time intervals in terms of hours or days. Minor withdrawal symptoms may begin at two or more hours, but usually reach maximum symptomatology at fifty to seventy-five hours.


1. In the majority of cases the strongest driving force in maintaining alcohol addiction is an allergy to foods from which the "alcohol" has been made.

2. A minority of alcoholic addictions are maintained by alcohol's ability to give temporary relief to allergic reactions unrelated to the foods from which the alcohol is made.

3. A total understanding of the alcoholic must consider conflict, interpersonal relationships, personality development, and so forth. However, when an attempt is made to weigh the varying strengths of the driving forces behind maintaining the alcoholic addictions the evidence places allergic reactions as the strongest driving forces.

4. Allergic reactions are caused by chemical defectiveness, which can be either inherited or developmental. The more defective the person's chemistry the more likely there is to be allergic reactions (or similar hypersensitive, toxic, or idiopathic reactions).

5. The alcoholic needs to stop using his favorite alcohol because he is allergic to foods from which the alcohol is made. He also would not use these foods to which he is allergic since eating these foods will maintain an addiction to these foods, thus maintaining a driving urge to use alcohol.   After three to four months abstinence from these allergic foods it can sometimes be returned to the diet with a frequency no greater than every five days without evoking an allergic reaction. Some will have allergic reactions to a food no matter how infrequently they use it. Alcoholized foods have four times the allergic-addictive value of non-alcoholized foods, and therefore it is unsafe to ever return to alcohol no matter how infrequently it is used. Some are fooled into false security because one drink may not set off the allergic-addictive response. However, two, three, or four drinks taken during a week's time will routinely reinstate the ad­dictive state again.

6. The role of allergic-addictive forces other than that involved, as a food addiction to foods in the favorite alcohol must be taken seriously. The desire to use alcohol for relief can be maintained by such seemingly unrelated allergies. High on the list are allergic-addictive reactions to tobacco, coffee, cola, chocolate, but may also be what may appear to be an innocent favorite food such as milk, wheat, or corn, and can indeed be any food or chemical to which the person has a chemical intolerance (allergic, hypersensitive, or idiopathic).

7. The origin of the "dry drunk" symptoms is due to allergic-addictive reactions to foods or commonly met chemicals for which the person has a specific intolerance.

8. Besides honoring the specific allergies there also needs to be an honoring of any disturbed nutritional imbalance or metabolic errors. Laboratory procedures are making it increasingly possible to make such determinations.

9. Frequently-evoked responses do become learned. These highly learned responses serve as a driving force behind the desire to continue the use of alcohol. These can best be dealt with by behavioral therapy techniques.

Darkness–Induced Drinking Phenomenon

Reported in the July 30, 1971 issue of "Science" — Dr. Irving Geller, Chairman of the Department of Experimental Pharmacology at the Southwest Foundation for Research and Education in San Antonio, Texas, was subjecting laboratory rats to various types of stress in an attempt to induce them to drink alcohol.

The rats, however, clearly preferred plain water except on weekends when they would go on real alcoholic binges. This was perplexing at first but it was noted that the automatic time switch on the lights was out of order and the rats were being left in continuous darkness over weekends. Another group of laboratory rats was kept in total darkness without subjecting them to any anxiety stress and their preference also switched from plain water to water with alcohol added. In his article, Dr. Geller refers to this "darkness–induced drinking phenomenon" and relates it to the work reported in 1963 by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Julius Axelrod, who found that the rat pineal gland produced more of the enzyme melatonin during the dark nighttime period than when it was light.

Dr. Geller then gave injections of pineal melatonin to rats kept on a regular light-dark cycle and without being subjected to any anxiety. The injections alone turned these rats into alcoholics.

Read more about   "Health and Light"

Drinkers' "kids" Show Attraction to Scent of Alcohol

Star Tribune – Wednesday, March 18, 1998

Health Notebook
Gordon Slovut

By Peter Aldhous
New Scientist

Children of heavy drinkers may be primed to follow their parents' example from the first few months of life, suggest researchers in Philadelphia. They have found that babies whose parents are potential alcoholics spend more time mouthing toys with a whiff of alcohol than those with no smell.

Julie Mennella and Gary Beauchamp of the Monell Chemical Senses Center gave 62 breastfeeding mothers and their partners standard questionnaires designed to identify drinkers who are at risk of becoming alcoholics.

About 35 percent of the fathers and 19 percent of the mothers showed a potential drinking problem.

The infants, ranging in age from 6 to 13 months, were given a selection of plastic toys to play with. Each toy had a handle that was easy to grasp and a perforated base. Inside each toy was a cotton wool hall dosed with distilled water, ethanol or vanilla.

In the latest issue of alcoholics Mennefla and Beauchamp report that children from homes where one or both parents were at risk for alcoholism mouthed the drink-laced toy more than the other children.

This wasn't the case for the unscented toy, nor the toy dosed with vanilla – an odor that is chemically similar to ethanol.

The effect seems to be caused by a general preference for familiar odors, as infants whose mothers frequently used vanilla-scented air fresheners or other products showed more interest in the vanilla-dosed toy.

But many questions remain unanswered, Mennella says. For instance, the study did not reveal whether the sex of the drinking parent influenced the results. "Women who drink tend to live with men who drink heavily," she says.

She also stresses that a range of genetic and social factors may contribute to a familial tendency toward alcoholism. To further investigate the effects of the early experience of odor, Mennella is starting a study of 4- and 5-yearold children. She hopes to find out whether those with heavydrinking parents have unusually positive emotional responses to the smell of alcohol.

The latest animal research provides a further hint that sniffing alcohol early in life may be the start of some people's problems with alcohol.

In a paper due to appear next month in the journal Alcohol, researchers led by Norman Spear of Binghamton University in New York say that rats reared in cages with ethanol-scented litter have a greater liking for alcohol after they are weaned than those raised away from the smell of drink.

— Questions, comments? Call Star Tribune medical writer Gordon Slovut at 673–9083. Please leave your name and phone number.

Back to the Basics
Understanding the relationships between food, behavior, and learning ability.

Low Blood Sugar  —  Hypoglycemia

Malnutrition and The Criminal State of Mind

Allergy And Alcoholic Addiction

Stress and Stress Management

The Art of Healing Ourselves

Health and Light
The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man and Other Living Things.

When winter falls, many find themselves in need of more light.

Using Hydroponics to Understand the Earth's Life Processes
On the Atomic Level

Children Need More Protection From Toxins

Symptoms of Elemental Toxicities
Many toxic elements can cause extreme mental symptoms.

Tommy's History of Western Technology

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