I attended my first Walsh Research Institute Physician Training Program in October and am very excited to have learned about several frequently occurring biochemical imbalances that are present in many people who experience many different types of mental health conditions. This information was brand new to me, and was never taught in either medical school or in my residencies. Dr. Walsh has had decades of experience and has been involved in the assessment and treatment of tens of thousands of people with one or more of these imbalances. Often his treatments result in a significant reduction or even elimination of the need for prescription psychiatric medications and a great deal of improvement in the mood, behavior and functioning of people who previously had very serious mental health problems. Examples of the conditions the Walsh Protocol has addressed include Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia; it has also been helpful for people developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions.
There are several common biochemical imbalances that appear to be an underlying cause of many mental health conditions. The determination of which imbalance(s) are present in any person is a multiple step process. The first phase is generally done through an interview. The person is asked about a series of traits, both related directly to mental health but also to physical traits or symptoms or even personality characteristics. Each imbalance has a large number of traits that are often present in people who have that imbalance. Although few people have all of the common traits, it is considered significant if a person has 40% of the traits for that imbalance. A Walsh practitioner, Dr. Heermann, has developed a computerized screening questionnaire that I have purchased and use to gain the information that the interview provides. The benefit of this Screening Test is that it can be completed outside of the limited time during a session, scores the answers based on an algorithm that ranks the importance of each trait, and provides a physical report that can be charted and referred to in the future to compare how someone is progressing with their treatment.
The second phase in the diagnostic process is obtaining specialized laboratory testing. This includes some of the commonly gotten tests such as a Metabolic Panel, TSH, Vitamin D, CBC, Homocysteine, Hemoglobin A1c, and C-Reactive Protein. In addition, some unusual test are also obtained – a serum copper, plasma zinc, ceruloplasmin and whole blood histamine. A test for Urinary Pyrroles is sent to a Specialty Lab.
The Common Biochemical Imbalances are as follows:
- Methylation Problems – This biochemical process, which occurs constantly in all of the cells in our bodies, is the result of a combination of our genetic makeup interacting with our environment. Thus stressors as well as positive situations can turn genes on or off, and thus help or hinder the body’s natural ability to repair. Methylation is involved in many of our most vital bodily functions, by offering support and/or managing, such processes as: 1) Detoxification; 2) Controlling inflammation; 3) Maintaining DNA; 4) Immune function; 5) Energy production; 6) Mood balancing.
- Undermethylation – (i.e. not enough methylation occurring in the cells); clinical features include depression, obsessive-compulsive (OCD), perfectionism, seasonal allergies, competitiveness, and internal anxiety.
- Overmethylation – (i.e. excessive methylation occurring in the cells); there is a tendency for high anxiety, panic disorder, depression, chemical and food sensitivities, music/artistic ability, and empathy for others.
- Copper Excess – Copper is an essential trace element but excessive levels are toxic to the body. Copper overloads tend to lower dopamine levels and increase norepinephrine in the brain. Imbalances in these important neurotransmitters have been associated with anxiety, postpartum depression, ADHD, autism, violent behavior, paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
- Copper/Zinc Imbalance – both copper and zinc are important minerals for proper functioning of biochemical processes; however, they must be in proper amounts relative to one another. Copper and zinc levels are regulated by metallothionein, a short linear protein composed of 61 amino acid units. When this protein fails to perform its necessary functions, abnormal levels of nutrient metals (such as copper, zinc, and manganese) and toxic metals (such as cadmium, mercury, and lead) can result. Nutrient treatment to eliminate these overloads must be cautious and gradual to avoid worsening of symptoms and kidney damage. Zinc enhances resistance to stress and help maintain intellectual function, memory and mood levels. More than 90% of persons diagnosed with depression, behavior disorder, ADHD, autism and schizophrenia exhibit depleted zinc levels. Zinc deficiency has been associated with delayed growth, temper control problems, poor immune function, depression, poor wound healing, epilepsy, anxiety, neurodegenerative disorders, hormone imbalances and learning problems.
- Pyrrole Disorder – Pyrrole disorder (or pyroluria) is detected by the presence of elevated kryptopyrroles in the urine. During the synthesis of hemoglobin, particularly in the bone marrow and spleen, there are waste products generated called kryptopyrroles. Kryptopyrroles don’t really serve any useful biological purpose and are normally excreted by most of us uneventfully. In someone with pyroluria, however, these kryptopyrroles don’t get excreted and will tend to build up–even more so under stress of any kind. Kryptopyrroles have a tendency to bind very strongly with nutrients such as zinc and vitamin B6, making them largely unavailable to the body…which is a very big problem. Zinc and B6 are nutrients critical for the functioning of your entire body and mind–including your digestion, immune system, cognitive functioning and emotions. Over time deficiencies can majorly affect way you feel and function and have serious consequences. Often people will go for years suffering the effects of pyroluria regardless of what therapies they try or how well they eat. Pyrolurics also have a greater than normal need for omega-6 fatty acids, particularly dietary arachidonic acid (AA–found readily in eggs, butter, red meat and liver) and the essential fatty acid GLA (gamma linolenic acid– found in supplements like black currant seed oil and evening primrose oil). This test represents a marker for functional deficiencies of Vitamin B-6 and zinc, and elevated oxidative stress. Symptoms include: poor tolerance of physical and emotional stress, poor anger control, frequent mood swings, poor short term memory, reading disorder, morning nausea, absence of dream recall, frequent anger and rages, depression and high anxiety.
- Heavy Metals and other toxins – proper brain function requires the complex interaction of chemicals; it is well established that certain toxic substances have the potential to disrupt normal brain physiology and to impair neurological function. As well as headache, cognitive dysfunction, memory disturbance, and other neurological signs and symptoms, disruption of brain function may also manifest as subtle or overt alteration in thoughts, moods, or behaviors. Over the last four decades, there has been the unprecedented development and release of a swelling repertoire of potentially toxic chemicals,such as heavy metals, pesticides, plasticizers and other endocrine disrupting or neurotoxic compounds, which have the capability to inflict brain compromise.
There are other causes as well for Mental Health symptoms and conditions, so if a person does not have any of these imbalances, there are still helpful treatments available. It is just wonderful to have another way to both understand and treat some of the issues that previously either did not or only partially responded to conventional treatments. Treatments for the imbalances vary depending on the person’s situation, and responses vary form within a few weeks to taking many months. As these imbalances are generally a combination between an inborn, genetic issue interacting with the person’s environment, the need is often for the person to remain on the nutrient therapy indefinitely. The treatment is not a “cure” but instead a treatment for a problem with handling metals, vitamins, detoxificant, etc. The risk of stopping the therapy because of feeling well is relapse.