Nutrition and Mental Health

I just finished reading a good book, it’s called, Manic: A Memoirby Terri Cheney. Terri tells her story episodically rather than chronologically. She says when she looks back she rarely remembers events by dates or sequence. Instead she remembers what emotional state she was in – depressed, manic, suicidal, euphoric. Each chapter details Terri’s experience in one of those emotional swings. It was a wild, page turning story with a bird’s eye view into the world of mania and depression. I thought it was a great book! However, I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh, how I’d love to get her to a functional medicine doctor right about now!”

Last month I completed 16 hours of continuing education credits in the class, Molecules of Behavior: Diagnosis & Treatment of Neurotransmitter Imbalances. Rogar Billica M.D. and Catherine Willner M.D. taught the course.

Dr Billica is board certified in family practice and is a Fellow through the American Academy of Family Physicians. He served as the NASA Chief of Medical Operations at the Johnson Space Center during the 1990s. I think Dr. Billica is one of the best doctors in the country. I refer people to his busy private practice in Fort Collins, Colorado all the time.

Catherine Willner M.D. is a brilliant neurologist who completed her residency at the Mayo Clinic. She also runs a busy private practice in Durango, Colorado.

Both Billica and Willner specialize in nutrition and functional medicine. They have amazing results with patients who suffer from addictions, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, schizophrenia, manic depression, phobias.

High levels of histamine or copper, low B-vitamins, minerals, or amino acids can all cause symptoms of; paranoia, thought disorders, anxiety, addictions, obsessive compulsive disorder, insomnia, depression, hyperactivity, etc.

Psychiatrist I am not, and I don’t want to simplify mental disorders, but balancing missing co-factors like vitamin B6, taurine, zinc and magnesium (which 30% of schizophrenics and 40% of alcoholic patients are low in) can make a profound difference for suffering patients! High sugar and processed foods, lack of sleep, heavy metal toxicity, drugs and alcohol, essential fatty acid/nutrient deficiencies, and more can all mimic “mental-illness-type-symptoms.”

Terri wrote about her daily cocktail of anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety drugs combined with an episode of electroshock therapy that didn’t help. I’m not “anti-pharmaceutical drugs” and I’m not “all about natural medicine”, the quality doctors I study with use both if and when necessary. This is what made me wonder: What results would Terri receive if she incorporated nutrition and functional medicine with some of her prescription drugs? My nutritional mind believes she would reap huge benefits.

Here are some functional medicine resources for mental health that Dr. Billica and Dr. Willner shared in their lecture:

1. Eric Braverman M.D. Braverman has an excellent neurotransmitter questionnaire in his book, The Edge Effect: Achieve Total Health and Longevity with the Balanced Brain Advantage. It evaluates the dominant and deficient neurotransmitters, whether you are dealing with mild anxiety, extreme addictions, or anything in between, this questionnaire is very useful! Braverman gives exercise, supplement, diet, and environmental recommendations in this book. His clinic is in New York. Braverman has made very important contributions to the field of brain chemistry.

2. Joan Mathews Larson Ph.D.- The founder of the Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis. The HRC treats alcoholics and drug addicts with biochemical repair through nutrition. Her book, Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life details many of the biochemical imbalances that Billica and Willner look for and treat in their Colorado clinics.

3. Daniel Amen M.D.- Dr. Amen just finished a lecture series with PBS this spring. His clinic is in Newport Beach, California. His book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsivenessrecommends supplements, cutting edge brain scans, and medication when necessary. Amen is another pioneer and useful resource when it comes to treating addictions, depression, OCD, ADD, and anxiety.

4. Julia Ross M.A– Author of , The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions–Today. This book gives important information about thyroid, adrenal, hormone, and food allergy tests. Imbalances in any of these areas can mimic depression and other mental disorders.

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