I recently attended the 8th annual Integrative Medicine for Mental Health conference in Orange County. Health care practitioners from many disciplines converged to learn about new and integrative approaches to treating mental health disorders such as ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar, dementia, pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANDAS), autistic spectrum disorders and Alzheimer’s.

The general theme of this conference is that many of the attending providers are frustrated with conventional drug therapy models for treating these disorders. This is based on clinical outcomes provided by single or multiple drug prescriptions. There is also increasing demand driven by the public’s growing interest in science-based, non-drug alternative approaches.

Integrative treatment of mental health disorders involves utilizing multiple modalities including nutritional supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, toxin avoidance and detoxification, addressing gut health and the gut-brain axis, brain mapping with neurofeedback and psychotherapy.

Diagnosing mental health disorders from an integrative perspective involves volumetric laboratory testing including urinary organic acid testing (OAT test); IgG food allergy testing; plasma amino acid testing; urine testing for toxic chemicals including plastics; pesticides, herbicides, heavy metal testing; genetic testing; and functional MRI and SPECT scan imaging of the brain.

Mental health disorders are increasing at an alarming rate. Currently, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older or about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Doctor visits for American youth with bipolar disorder increased 40-fold or 3,900% from 1994-2003. Emergency department visits and inpatient hospitalizations for mental disorders have increased by 45 percent among children between 2007 and 2014. According to Stephen Genuis, MD, a Canadian physician and researcher with over 100 published articles in science-based and medical journals, the dramatic rise in chronic disease including mental health problems is the result of the following determinants:

  1. Widespread, chronic exposure to adverse environmental chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. Environmental toxicants affect human physiology by disrupting cellular function, especially mitochondrial function, resulting in oxidative stress and free radical generation. Also included in this category is electrical toxicity associated with cell phones, wi-fi, and high voltage power lines.
  2. Infectious agents including spirochetes/lyme, parasites, bacteria, mold and mold toxin, and viruses.
  3. Widespread nutritional deficiencies, including magnesium, zinc, amino acids, COQ10, vitamin D, B complex vitamins, antioxidants, and most importantly DHA (omega 3 fatty acids). 
  4. Widespread disruption of the human microbiome including yeast overgrowth and clostridia infections, food allergies, autoimmunity, and leaky gut syndrome.
  5. Social and psychological factors such as the opioid epidemic, other forms of substance abuse and increased family breakdown.
  6. Genetic factors, particularly variants in those genes pertaining to an individual’s ability to metabolize environmental toxins and synthesize neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).

Although no single factor has been implicated for the dramatic rise in mental health problems, there is mounting scientific evidence implicating synthetic organic chemicals. Rates of autistic spectrum disorders, for example, have closely mirrored the production and use of these chemicals, rising from 1 in 5000 in 1975 to 1 in 68 by 2010. Considerable evidence links many persistent pollutants with autistic spectrum disorder and many other chronic diseases.

Dr. John Dixon can be reached at the Natural Medicine Group (760) 345.7300.

Sources: 1) Dialogues Clin Neuroscci. 2011;13:55-62; 2) Epidemiology 2009; 20(1): 84-91; 3) Nature 479,22-24 (2011); 4) Toxicol Mech Methods 2017: 1-24; 5) Nature reviews 2016. 73:32-40; 6) Toxic causes of mental illness are overlooked, Neurtoxicology 2008; 29(6) :1147-9; 7) Integrative medicine mental health conference, 2017, conference notes; 8) www.stephengenuis.com 9) www.greatplainslaboratory.com

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