Many of you who appear to have life under control are simply great actors. Underneath you live with inner tensions, anxiety or panic states, feelings of hopelessness or paranoia, racing thoughts, ongoing anger, bone-weary fatigue. . . . The good news is that all this is fixable.
What is the best treatment for ongoing depression, mood swings, exhaustion, and anxiety? Psychotherapy? Prescription drugs? Or is there a natural way that works better...
Many of you who appear to have life under control are simply great actors. Underneath you live with inner tensions, anxiety or panic states, feelings of hopelessness or paranoia, racing thoughts, ongoing anger, bone-weary fatigue. . . . The good news is that all this is fixable.
What is the best treatment for ongoing depression, mood swings, exhaustion, and anxiety? Psychotherapy? Prescription drugs? Or is there a natural way that works better and is safer, faster, and cheaper? There is, and now Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D., the brilliant nutritionist who founded Minnesota's esteemed Health Recovery Center, offers her revolutionary formulas for healing your emotions—biochemically. Twenty years of working with both addicted and nonaddicted patients has shown Larson that unhealthy and unstable moods are the result of the chemistry of our physical brains and are not psychological in origin. When you feed your imbalanced brain what it craves—the key essential fatty acids (EFAs), natural mind-body hormones, and the right amino acids—most mood swings, depressions, anxiety, and other upsets will disappear, even if they have a genetic basis.
Through proven all-natural formulas, Seven Weeks to Emotional Healing will help you find the emotional stability and well-being you've been missing your entire life. Inside you'll discover how to
- Screen yourself for emotional and behavioral symptoms
- Recognize the mental and physical clues that indicate biochemical imbalances
- Find an open-minded health practitioner
- Eat the right foods for optimal mental fitness
Dr. Larson also provides her unique anti-aging formula that restores sexual function,rejuvenates the immune system, elevates mood and energy levels, reduces stress, and expands your life span!
Seven Weeks to Emotional Healing is both responsible and effective—and gives you the tools you need to find lasting emotional health and contentment for the first time in your life.
"... explains how to combat depression and anxiety with vitamins and minerals, sharpen thinking with amino acids, stabilize emotions with fatty acids, and rejuvenate the body with key natural hormones."
Larson, author of the bestselling Seven Weeks to Sobriety, believes that many doctors misdiagnose nutritional imbalances as psychological disorders. She argues that most people who are depressed, fatigued or addicted to food, cigarettes or alcohol suffer from a deficiency of vitamins or amino acids that is only exacerbated by drugs like Xanax, Prozac and lithium. Larson provides checklists of symptoms, possible disorders and corrective formulas along with simple but thorough explanations of how the biochemistry works. She plausibly links biochemical emotional problems with the gradual shift in the American diet over the past 60 years toward sugary, carbohydrate-laden and processed foods, which disturb the body's insulin production and deprive the brain of much needed vitamins and nutrients. The author urges readers to seek out doctors to run lab tests in order to identify possible deficiencies, blood-sugar abnormalities and food allergies. Occasionally, Larson's advice gets lost in her sales pitch for her Health Recovery Center in Minnesota ("The nutrients used at Health Recovery Center are the best quality we can find"). Still, anyone who has suffered from mental lapses, mood swings and stress will find plenty to mull over here. Author tour. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Larson, a nutritionist and director of the Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis, contends that an imbalance of body chemicals often causes emotional problems and that making appropriate dietary changes will restore the brain's equilibrium. In addition to suggesting which foods to avoid or to eat, Larson provides lists of supplements to be taken on a daily basis and numerous questionnaires for detecting deficiencies. The long list of recommended supplements promotes extensive pill-popping, and there are regular reminders that those available from the Health Recovery Center at their 800-number are "the best quality." Larson's advice about the value of nutritional repair for depression and other emotional woes is sound, but with no clarification, her jargon is often confusing, e.g., "Symptoms indicating tyrosine or 1-phenylalanine is needed to increase norespinephine levels." The final chapter on anti-aging hormones seems somewhat out of place. Appropriate for larger public libraries.--Ilse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 1.24 (d)
Meet the Author
Joan Mathews Larson, Ph.D., is the author of the national bestseller Seven Weeks to Sobriety. She holds a doctorate in nutrition and is the founder and executive director of the highly esteemed Health Recovery Center in Minneapolis. It was the loss of her seventeen-year-old son to suicide that fueled her search for more effective solutions to emotional healing. Her clinic has now successfully treated several thousand people over a twenty-year period. She lives in Minneapolis.
As far back as he could remember, Peter had been fearful, but he covered
it up extremely well. Now married, he supported his family adequately but
felt shy and joyless most of the time. He drank beer occasionally to
offset those feelings. Still, he seemed to become more of a loner with
each passing year. Peter never considered himself a candidate to see a
psychiatrist. He was simply living out his life of quiet despair until we
Meg was an excellent attorney with a very bright mind. Her facade was
take-charge aggressive, and few crossed her. Yet at our first meeting she
was in tears because of her angry, erratic behavior. She had no idea why
she seemed to exist in a state of such high arousal. . . . This trait was
hurting those she loved the most. She wanted to mellow out but knew her
career couldn't afford the fog prescription drugs created.
An exceptional designer, musician, and musical director, Eric didn't have
the emotional staying power to ignite his career into high gear. Despite
his brilliance, his heart pounded with anxiety during performances. He
drank a lot of caffeine and was a heavy smoker. His mood swings left him
exhausted when he desperately needed extra energy. Ongoing psychological
counseling did not change any of this. . . . Now he was considering taking
prescribed drugs to relieve his depression and anxiety. He summed it up
the day we met, telling me, at age forty-two, "Some days my life feels
Donna usually felt scattered. Her thinking was foggy, and her problems
concentrating were affecting her job. Memoriesof her childhood were of a
pale, listless little girl who had never felt the world was a friendly
place. She had had frequent childhood illnesses—earaches, strep throats,
and colds. Now as an adult, she still felt fragile. She told me she needed
help to overcome her muddled thinking and get some joy in her life. But
her number-one priority was finding relief from her fatigue, which made
her tired right down to her bones. For Donna, life was an uphill
battle—and she was slowly losing the war.
It is part of the human condition that we keep taking our own inventory
and continually come up short, but it becomes a calamity if the missing
pieces prevent us from enjoying a fulfilling, stable life. If, like Peter,
Meg, Eric, and Donna, you are saying, "I wish I could feel better, think
better, perform better," it is time to stop wishing and take heart! This
book will change your life.
Like the case studies just cited, you, too, may be coexisting with an
erratic nervous system or brain, and lack the energy, verve, joy, and
confidence that are your birthright. Yet you may be hesitant about seeing
a therapist. And, in fact, the idea that a good therapist can solve these
problems by simply talking to you has been the great bane of the twentieth
century! Untold millions are filling the coffers of psychologists and
counselors who listen to the tales of misery that such lives produce but
aren't able to effect real, positive, lasting changes in their clients.
Fortunately, in the last few decades, biochemists and medical doctors have
begun to pinpoint scientific explanations for behavior that used to be
labeled "psychological." These researchers have noticed that:
* many "psychological" symptoms often cluster in families.
* certain physical changes in the brain (and body) can create mayhem
* an internal invasion of yeast parasites may create full-blown mental and
* food intolerances strongly affect our emotions.
* airborne chemicals can alter our brains.
* angry outbursts are predictable from a brain in a chemical state of high
arousal all the time.
* dozens of biochemical mistakes can result in bleak depression or anxiety.
All of these are fixable, if we can identify them!
A New Direction
In 1896, Sigmund Freud predicted that "the future may teach us to exercise
a direct influence by means of chemical substances upon the amounts of
energy and their distribution in the apparatus of the mind." By 1927 he
had become "firmly convinced that one day all these mental disturbances we
are trying to understand will be treated by means of hormones or similar
substances." How right he was! Science now knows it can address such
"mental disturbances" biochemically. It is no longer believed that talk
therapy and good counseling advice can relieve the agony emanating from a
chemically disrupted brain.
In fact, science has now taken off at a gallop in the direction of
biochemical repair. One of the leaders in the field is a brilliant
Canadian named Abram Hoffer who is both a biochemist and a psychiatrist.
In the 1950s, he began to apply pellagra research to psychiatric patients.
Earlier, vitamin B3 (niacin) deficiency had been established as the cause
of pellagra, a disease that causes confusion, disorientation, and memory
disturbance. So here was a classic example of a natural substance that
prevents a psychotic state. In fact, the prolonged absence of niacin in
our bodies will ultimately result in death!
In 1962, Dr. Hoffer published the first double-blind study in the field of
psychiatry. He found that, of ninety-eight schizophrenic patients
receiving megadoses of niacin, the hospital readmission rate was 10
percent over three years with no suicides, while the placebo group had a
50 percent readmission with four suicides. Also in the 1960s, Dr. Hoffer
treated about twenty-five former prisoners of war who had been imprisoned
in Japanese concentration camps during World War II. He found that, in
order to be free of the many physical and psychiatric symptoms (i.e.,
fears, anxieties, insomnia, depression) they developed during their
internment, 90 percent of the former prisoners had developed a permanent
need for large doses of niacin.
The Canadian Department of Health and Welfare also conducted a study to
determine if the general chronic illnesses seen in the men held in
Japanese POW camps, who underwent starvation and excessive stress, were
present in their brothers who had served in Europe. The differences were
remarkable! The men incarcerated by the Japanese suffered from serious
ongoing psychiatric and neurological diseases throughout life, as well as
heart disease, premature blindness, arthritis, and a high death rate. None
of these symptoms was present in their brothers. Clearly, the starvation
and stress endured in the Japanese camps had created chronic illness.
Fortunately, Dr. Hoffer was able to treat some of these men, extending
their lives and saving their sanity with niacin (B3).
How Nutrient Deprivation Cripples Us Emotionally
You may not see a connection between starving prisoners and our own poorly
functioning health, but as you read on you will begin to understand how
physical deprivation can trigger uncontrollable emotional behavior, all
the way to madness. I expect many of you are protesting that you are not
starving, by any means! But because of your unique, individual biochemical
requirements or because of some glitches in how you absorb nutrients, or
the fact that you live on junk food and colas, your brain may never get
enough of what it needs. Then you are in the same boat as the young men I
am about to describe:
During World War II, scientists in the United States also pondered the
effects of starvation on captured GIs living in Japanese POW camps. To
provide some answers, a six-month study was launched at the University of
Minnesota using healthy young male conscientious objectors. This study
produced incredible results (although, of course, this kind of study would
not be conducted today).
The young men were deprived of more than half their normal food intake.
Over the course of six months, many suffered severe physical and
psychiatric changes, and most of these disturbances lingered long after
the experiment had ended.
In the beginning, the men showed a high degree of tolerance and
sociability with each other. But gradually they began to avoid group
activities. There were frequent outbursts of anger and irritability, and
many grew deeply depressed. Some finally required hospitalization in a
psychiatric ward. One chopped off three of his fingers in response to
stress; another became uncontrollably violent. Many expressed the fear
that they were going crazy; others talked of suicide. They all cried a lot
and displayed wild emotional disturbances. Because they felt increasingly
socially inadequate, they now preferred to isolate themselves.
Concentration and ability to comprehend became severely impaired even
though IQ tests showed no drop in their intellectual abilities.
After the study ended, the emotional symptoms continued. In fact,
researchers noted that some of the men grew even more negative, depressed,
and argumentative, directly after the conclusion of the project!
What both the U.S. and Canadian studies show is that "emotional" symptoms
develop as a direct result of the unavailability of brain and body
chemicals. These important chemicals create our stable emotions,
behaviors, thoughts, and sanity.
Of course, back in the mid-twentieth century, scientists were only
beginning to discover the many natural vitamins, minerals, amino acids,
essential fatty acids, enzymes, endorphins, and neurotransmitters needed
for sanity and well-being. Even today, many people do not seem to grasp
the concept that our emotional and physical health depends on having the
proper concentration of the natural substances the human body needs to
sustain life and normal emotional balance.
In fact, until only the last few decades, little was known about how brain
chemicals influence emotions. Only a few scientists were dedicated to
resolving chemically induced "emotional" problems by restoring adequate
levels of the needed natural chemicals.
The growing awareness that natural substances are needed to create optimum
brain functioning should have aroused tremendous interest in the
scientific community. Unfortunately, the concurrent worldwide development
of the drug industry, with its promise of far more lucrative rewards, lead
researchers in another direction. Drug companies give university
scientists generous grants to invent new, artificial, patentable
chemicals. There is no profit for them in developing promising
nonpatentable natural brain/body chemicals. And many of these artificial
drugs have toxic side effects, because our bodies regard them as foreign
invaders. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association,
prescribed drugs cause 140,000 deaths yearly, yet no drug has ever been
able to totally duplicate the role of natural body chemicals.
By pursuing these "patentable" avenues, the pharmaceutical industry today
comprises some of the most powerful and profitable businesses worldwide!
Mind and Body—Intertwined
Luckily, in every generation there are a few truly dedicated geniuses who
care more for science and humanity than for building their fortunes. Linus
Pauling will be remembered as one such giant. He had already won two Nobel
Prizes (in 1954 for chemistry, in 1962 for peace) when, in his sixties, he
began studying mental disorders, focusing on underlying biochemical
dysfunctions. This new interest grew out of his compassion for humankind:
I like human beings. I like to think about the possibilities of decreasing
the amount of their suffering. When I remember that 10 percent of the
American people spend some part of their lives in a mental hospital and
that half of all hospital beds in this country are occupied by mental
patients, I do believe that it will be possible to get an understanding of
the molecular and genetic basis of mental disease [and] therapeutic
methods that will lead to the effective control of a very large part of
Dr. Pauling's interest in disturbed mental function focused on physiology,
not psychotherapy. He was the first to call mental disorders "molecular
diseases," the result of a biochemical abnormality in the body. And he
said, "The mind is a manifestation of the structure of the brain itself."
His involvement in brain research led him to coin his famous definition of
orthomolecular therapy: "Orthomolecular psychiatric therapy is the
treatment of mental disease by the provision of the optimum molecular
environment for the mind, especially the optimum concentrations of
substances normally present in the human body."
With that statement, Dr. Pauling gave a scientific identity to the role of
nutrition in psychiatry. He challenged doctors to become aware of the
overwhelming amount of information that was pouring in from all over the
world, documenting the vital role natural chemicals play in brain function
and other medical disorders. This book is based on those principles.
I bet you think Pauling's advice to medical doctors is obvious. Yet a
recent study showed that while 74 percent of first-year medical students
believed that a knowledge of nutrition is important to their career, by
their third year of learning how to match drugs to symptoms, the number
drops to 13 percent!
What Pauling is telling us is that the human mind cannot operate in a
vacuum because it is totally dependent on the brain and its molecular
function to create your emotional health. In the world of science, where
two plus two always makes four, a sane and stable mind is possible only
with an organically healthy brain.
Balanced Brain Chemicals 5 Emotional and Mental Health
The reward of getting the right chemicals into the brain at "optimum
concentrations" is a joy to witness. Last year a friend complained to me
that his three-year-old autistic son, Seth, refused to welcome him when he
came home each evening. Instead, Seth sat there self-involved, shutting
out the world. A therapist visited them twice weekly, but progress was
I encouraged him to start Seth on B6 and magnesium, both of which have
been shown to work well for autistic children. Within two weeks I received
an excited call: Seth was waking up to the world around him and starting
to interact much more with his folks. Then, weeks later, his family
stopped giving him the supplements, thinking perhaps the therapist was
responsible for the breakthrough. It took very little time before Seth's
autistic behavior reappeared. His parents ran for his nutrients.
For this child, B6, which prevents the loss of dopamine from the brain, is
critical, as is the magnesium. This is true for most autistic children.
(It is speculated that the high upsurge of autism may be related to a
modern medical practice; see Chapter 8.)
A number of years ago, a group of neuroscientists meeting at a Johns
Hopkins symposium released a joint statement that I love: "Workings of the
mind become scrambled when brain chemistry goes awry." They noted that
specifically affected are:
How can we hope to act and feel normal if our "mental" balance is askew?
Another genius, the late Roger Williams, Ph.D., a University of Texas
biochemist, discovered that actual optimal levels of natural brain
chemicals can differ widely from person to person. This was an astonishing
idea—that any two persons' requirements of these molecular chemicals might
be vastly different, and so, on the same recommended daily allowance
(RDA), one person stays healthy while the other limps through life never
The Safety of Our Natural Chemicals—and the Healing Power of Our Bodies
Dr. Pauling devoted much time to determining ideal doses of vitamins and
other natural chemicals in the body. He concluded that there was great
misrepresentation by some medical and scientific journals and by the media
about the toxicity and harmful side effects of nutrients taken in greater
quantities than the RDA. He called it "a bias based upon a lack of
knowledge." An example he cited was about a toddler who swallowed the
entire contents of a bottle of vitamin A and began to feel nauseous and
headachy. The toddler was treated and then released from the local
hospital. Newspapers across the country carried the headline poisoning by
vitamin a. Yet every day children die from aspirin poisoning—and these
deaths go unreported.
Natural substances that belong in our bodies have remarkably low toxicity,
especially when compared to drugs, which, in general, are highly toxic and
sometimes prescribed in doses close to lethal levels. For example, a
registered nurse in her forties came to my office recently to discuss her
fear that she was becoming disabled from prescribed drugs. Between her
physician and her psychiatrist, she was taking nine different drugs. Some
of them were addictive; others were combining to create an unsafe level of
toxicity. I couldn't believe it when she told me that her doctors were
treating the side effects of her prescriptions with more drugs!
Furthermore, I was horrified that even a registered nurse had unwittingly
found herself on a regimen where she ingested enough toxic substances
daily to systematically worsen her health!
Fortunately, there was another way to treat this woman's health problems,
and it involved giving her body the nutritional means to heal itself.
That's a very important concept: Our bodies are supposed to heal
themselves. When we get an infection, the body is supposed to cure it.
When we are injured, the body is supposed to heal. It does this
innumerable times each day of our lives.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer put it eloquently: "We doctors don't do anything
except help the doctor within." Our bodies are hardwired to be
self-healing, but to do so they must be given the optimum natural
substances needed. And compared to drugs, these natural chemicals are
quite safe. So, you may wonder, why did the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services set the RDA levels so unrealistically low? Dr. Linus
Pauling also asked that question, and answered it himself. After studying
the RDA standards thoroughly, this famous Nobel Prize winner concluded
that the RDA's daily nutrient allowances are "enough to keep people barely
alive in ordinary poor health."
Once in a great while, a researcher with a doctorate in chemistry decides
to become a medical doctor as well—a lucky break for mankind! Carl
Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D., was such a scientist. In the sixties, Dr. Pfeiffer
discovered that blood histamine levels were elevated in the lab tests of
obsessive-compulsive individuals. As these patients improved, their
histamine levels dropped and their depression lifted. In patients with
very low levels of brain histamine, Pfeiffer found that they were likely
to be paranoid and have hallucinations. Thus, individuals with either high
or low levels of histamine showed some degree of thought disorder and
overarousal. True to his chemistry background, Pfeiffer then began the
search to determine which natural substances could make or block histamine
in the brain. (Chapter 7 applies his valuable discoveries to your own
So, thirty years later, are psychiatrists systematically testing the
histamine levels of their patients? Not yet! (You will see the array of
abnormal histamine symptoms when you do the written screening tests for
low/high histamine levels on page 219. You'll also learn what lab tests to
take to confirm what you suspect, and last, how to repair this biochemical
It makes much more sense to restore the natural levels of biochemicals, to
re-create optimum balance. This organic equilibrium is called homeostasis.
From that state you have the best shot at reaching your potential in life!
And this is what we will try to achieve in Seven Weeks to Emotional
Healing. The role of drugs in your emotional health should be short-term—a
bridge until proper natural balance has been achieved.
In the seventies, Carl Pfeiffer confirmed the presence of what he called
the "mauve factor." Sometimes the urine of normal individuals under stress
or individuals suffering from mental illness changes to a mauve color
after lab tests. He named this kind of anxiety disorder "pyroluria." A
cluster of psychological and physical symptoms are identifiable in these
people, not the least of which is a high level of inner tension and
anxiety that steadily worsens with age. Pyroluria appears genetic, as it
seems to run in families. Here is a description of an extremely pyroluric
Ted brought his mother with him to our appointment. His shyness was almost
painful to behold as he let her answer my questions. This man was a
computer whiz and a gifted writer. Still unmarried in his mid-fifties, he
had never had a sexual experience because he was just too fearful to date
women. He had worked at the same job all his life and kept a low profile.
He still lived at home.
Ted had been separated from his family as a toddler, and blamed his
deep-seated fears on that circumstance. But my thoughts went immediately
to pyroluria. Judging by Ted's pale complexion and his answers to a list
of symptoms, I was sure of it. He seemed so miserable that it was hard not
to blurt out right then and there that there was probably a biochemical
answer to his anxiousness.
Two weeks later his lab results confirmed my suspicions. (You'll find out
more about pyroluria and how to treat it in Chapter 5.)
If doctors looked for such biochemical mistakes before writing
prescriptions for benzodiazepine tranquilizers, treatment centers across
this nation would not be full of miserable patients powerfully addicted to
Librium, Ativan, Valium, and Xanax and struggling to endure the painful
and long-lasting symptoms of withdrawal.
The Fats Our Brains Depend On
In the 1970s, another door opened to our understanding of the substances
that are vital to our sanity and health: prostaglandins, which are made in
the brain from omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) and which
regulate the neurocircuits throughout the brain and body.
According to researcher David Horrobin, M.D., "the level of prostaglandin
E1 (PGE1) is of crucial importance to the body. A fall in the level of
PGE1 will lead to a potentially catastrophic series of untoward
consequences including increased vascular reactivity, elevated cholesterol
production, diabeticlike changes in insulin release, enhanced risk of
auto-immune disease, enhanced risk of inflammatory disorders, and
susceptibility to depression." At Health Recovery Center, we have
consistently seen suicidal depression completely lift in only one week by
normalizing PGE1 levels in the brain! (I'll explain how in Chapter 6.)
Hyperactive children have long been involved in studies with the EFAs.
Richard Passwater, Ph.D., describes one such study by Dr. Horrobin, at the
Institute for Innovative Medicine in Montreal:
About 20 children were treated with substantial benefit in about
two-thirds of them. Some responses were dramatic! In one case a boy who
had been threatened with expulsion from school because of his impossible
behavior was put on primrose oil (gamma-linolenic acid) without the
knowledge of the school authorities. After two weeks on GLA, the teacher,
who was unaware of the treatment, contacted the parents and said that in
thirty years' experience she had never seen such a dramatic and abrupt
change for the better in a child's behavior [emphasis added]. Some
children do equally well no matter whether the oil is given by mouth or by
rubbing into the skin. In others, there is the distinct impression that
skin absorption, which will bypass malabsorption problems, may have a
In the last decade, we have seen an avalanche of exciting studies on
essential fatty acids. During that time I heard molecular biologist Donald
Rudin, M.D., present his research at a Huxley Institute training session
in New York City. He spoke passionately about the connection between
omega-3 fatty acid deficiency and mental illness. omega 3 is vital because
it provides the base from which the powerful prostaglandin hormones are
created. These hormones regulate every neurocircuit throughout the entire
brain and body.
Rudin particularly urged using omega-3 fatty acid in the form of linseed
oil to treat schizophrenia. Immediately he had my attention, as I was then
attempting to stabilize a middle-aged man who was an alcoholic
Carl had been referred to our clinic by our county's chemical and mental
health unit, and was busy terrorizing my staff to the point where we were
ready to part company with him. As soon as I returned from the New York
conference I began giving him large doses of omega-3 fatty acid in the
form of linseed oil (as per Rudin), along with megadoses of certain other
What emerged was a soft-spoken, brilliant minister, who told me that, as a
young man, his bishop had chosen him to study advanced theology in
Switzerland because of his exceptional gifts. I could not believe the
personality change! At this point in time he lived on welfare, but said he
was going to approach his bishop to ask for support to reenter his chosen
To make a long story short, the bishop knew Carl had had schizophrenia for
many years, and turned him away. With his spirit crushed, and having no
money or support, Carl stopped taking the omega-3 fatty acid replacement
therapy. A year later he had regressed into his schizophrenic world.
Since that time we at the Health Recovery Center have pondered on much of
the omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids research, and we have applied it
to those clients who showed marked deficiencies. The results have been
rewarding, as you will see.
The Role of Amino Acidsin Our Well-being
The eighties brought another explosion of exciting nutrient knowledge.
Thanks to researchers like Eric Braverman, M.D., and Richard Wurtman,
M.D., amino acids emerged as powerful tools for psychiatry because they
convert to, or are our, brain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters
create the chemical language of the brain, enabling it to function, to
have memory, emotions, thoughts, feel-ings. They stimulate the mind,
control depression, produce sleep, and create energy, excitement, and all
manner of human responses.
I know this must seem somewhat complex, but it's important to take in the
full meaning of that statement. These natural brain substances are
creating sanity and well-being. And now, in many cases, the levels of
these substances in our bodies can be measured by lab tests and
supplemented as needed.
The impact of amino acid research on psychiatry should be monumental. But
once again they have the misfortune of being created by Nature, not man;
drug companies cannot patent and sell them at exorbitant prices. So there
is little monetary reward for researchers who pursue the secrets of amino
NATURAL SUBSTANCES VS. DRUGS:POLITICS FOR PROFIT?
The emphasis today seems to be on creating artificial drugs that mimic
amino acids. For people who are depressed because of too little serotonin,
the rush to artificially duplicate the work of the amino acid tryptophan,
which converts into serotonin, has resulted in many SSRI-type* drugs that
fail to increase serotonin but do play with it in the brain. What the SSRI
drugs do is hot-wire the serotonin's neurotransmitter firing mechanism to
artificially speed up the pumping of serotonin into the brain. In
addition, they block serotonin from being reabsorbed back into the
neurotransmitters, as it was designed to do. This results in serotonin
accumulating within the brain, artificially creating what humans generally
create naturally—that is, enough serotonin to avoid depression. The human
body normally does this by supplying enough of the natural amino acid
tryptophan, which then converts to serotonin, fully loading all our
serotonin neurotransmitters. This is nature's design. Unfortunately, it is
almost always true that our firing mechanism works fine, but there is just
very little serotonin to fire in certain brains. (And many SSRI drugs
can't increase the amount.) What depletes it? Ongoing stress, genetics,
poor nutrition, alcohol, and drugs shortchange our natural supply of
tryptophan to serotonin. And studies have correlated the depletion of
tryptophan, and the decreased ratio between tryptophan and other amino
acids, with suicide, depression, and even violence.
SSRI drugs cannot make serotonin. Nor can they supply serotonin. They can
only play with the brain's uptake mechanisms—even though it is almost
always true that the mechanism that fires serotonin into the brain is
Taking SSRI drugs can lead to a myriad of unfortunate results, including
severe agitation, violence, and suicide (such results were made public in
hearings conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September
1991). To better understand the SSRI drugs and their possible effects, I
recommend Talking Back to Prozac by Peter Breggin, M.D. (St. Martin's
Press, 1994). Dr. Breggin suggests another sinister outcome as a result of
ongoing use of these antidepressants: To overcome an SSRI-induced glut of
serotonin, the brain compensates by down-regulating, or shutting down,
excess serotonin receptors. Dr. Breggin documents animal studies that show
the numbers of receptors drastically diminished. The most likely
explanation is that they have died off, but no one really knows if these
serotonin receptor losses are permanent. Drug companies will not
* Serotonin-stimulating receptor inhibitors; for example, Paxil, Prozac,
undertake this testing—undoubtedly because a finding of irreversible
receptor loss could generate a rash of class action lawsuits.
The choice American consumers might have had to relieve depression was a
$12 bottle of L-tryptophan capsules or a $200-a-month
Prozac-type drug. But very shortly before Prozac made its debut, the FDA
removed tryptophan from the U.S. market—because a limited supply of
tryptophan had been contaminated by its manufacturer, Showa-Denka. While
the rest of the world can still readily buy tryptophan, in the United
States it has remained available only by prescription and is only
dispensed from a few pharmacies in certain cities. The cost has increased
to close to $55 per bottle as of this writing—plus your doctor's visit.*
This is an example of politics played for profit. It also sheds light on
why you may have little awareness of what science really knows about the
natural chemicals creating your emotions. The good news is that we can
measure our amino acid levels with lab testing—and once we attain a proper
balance, we will experience huge improvements in terms of our emotional
Discovering the Chemistry of Emotions and Behavior
To sum up, many dedicated researchers have been burning the midnight oil
for you. You'll get to know their work and apply their findings to your
own problems in the pages ahead. While we all live with a neurosis or two,
some are serious enough to interfere with our happiness. In Seven Weeks to
Emotional Healing I'll help you to identify the clues that point to
chemistry, not personality, as the cause of your emotional woes. The
actual studies and the formulas we have tested at the Health Recovery
Center are in the chapters ahead. You will soon have the tools you need to
help yourself back into balance so that you are emotionally content,
extremely well-balanced, and full of energy and vigor.
* A supposedly "safe" form of tryptophan, 5HTP, is now available over the
counter, but while 5HTP raises the serotonin levels in the body, little is
admitted to the brain unless another drug, carbidopa, accompanies it. (In
Europe, 5HTP is used with carbidopa.) And too much serotonin around the
heart will do the same damage as we saw with fen-phen (fenfluramine, diet
pills), which raised serotonin levels in the body, causing serious heart
damage and death! Warning: Use tryptophan, not 5HTP, to be safe.