Nutrition Above the Neck: Why is This Topic Met With Hostility?


Jerome Groopman is a physician and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also a very good writer, and his occasional essays in The New Yorker are well worth reading. On September 15 he wrote about a new approach to the treatment of cancer that looks very promising (‘The Transformation’).

Obviously cancer treatment falls outside our expertise, but bear with us as we explain why we mention it. The basics of the new cancer treatment are these. Many types of cancers involve immature cells that fail to develop into mature cells, but instead multiply rapidly and swamp our normal cells. Whereas chemotherapy works by poisoning and destroying the cancer cells, the new approach coaxes those immature cells to develop into normal, mature cells. Interestingly (but not the point of this blog), the first ‘drug’ developed to do this is a derivative of vitamin A (ATRA: all-trans-retinoic acid). And of course, unlike chemotherapeutic agents, ATRA has few side effects.

We are not describing Groopman’s article just because some of the drugs being tested are nutrient-derived. We are mentioning it because it presents such a contrast to research on nutrition and mental health in terms of receptivity by scientists, clinicians and the public. When the first case series of patients with leukemia was presented at a scientific meeting in April this year, showing that 5 of 10 treated patients had gone into complete remission, the audience was interested. Two months later at another scientific meeting, another research team reported 9 remissions (and 5 others showing benefit) out of 35 patients. Now everyone is interested, The New Yorker thinks the topic is worthy of a major article, and research and development are proceeding.

Now let’s look at receptivity of scientists and clinicians to the early data showing remission of psychiatric symptoms with multinutrient formulas. Bonnie’s presentation of 10 adults with bipolar disorder was first presented in December 2000 at a national conference; it resulted in a reporter covering the findings in national Canadian news.  What happened next is amazing, and painful to summarize: Media coverage ridiculed the results. Most psychiatrists told their patients not to take multinutrient formulas. In spite of publishing a case series of adults in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2001 and 2003, and case studies and case series in children in Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology in 2002 and 2004, there was a wave of hostility that lasted several years.

The constant media coverage dismissing all the early publications meant that when an RCT finally began in 2004, not a single psychiatrist in her city of one million would refer a patient to the study, and the primary bipolar clinic in the city’s largest teaching hospital told patients to stay away from the study.

Julia began publishing treatment effects of multinutrient formulas in 2009, and experienced some of the same attacks and hostility — interestingly emanating from North America, not her country of New Zealand. But some of the reactions that the two of us have continued to receive for > 15 years when trying to present, publish, and fund research that shows remission of symptoms of mental problems with multinutrient treatment have continued along these same lines: ridicule, ad hominem attacks, accusations that we are poisoning people, etc.

And we are sorry to say that even with this blog, some of the anger (and misinformation) of some of the people writing comments on our posts has startled us.

Because we don’t want to dwell on the attacks and the hostility, for the rest of this post we want to analyze WHY so many of us readily accept the data showing that nutrients and changes in other lifestyle factors like exercise and quitting smoking are good for our hearts, and for prevention and (now perhaps) treatment of cancer . . . but we find it so hard to accept the use of nutrients to make us feel better mentally.

Here are a couple of reasons why we need to take nutrition seriously:

  1. As we have described in previous posts, the brain is the MOST metabolically active organ in our bodies. Therefore it needs more nutrients than any other organ.
  2. There is >50 years of animal research on all the vitamins and minerals, showing their functions in the brain.  Zinc is essential for at least 100 enzyme systems; omega-3s are required for every mitochondrion and every cell wall in every cell in our bodies; various B vitamins are required for synthesis of key neurotransmitters; and so on.

Here are some of the dynamics that we think influence people who find it challenging to accept the role of nutrition in optimizing brain function:

  1. People who have suffered much and lost much during their periods of poor mental health feel angry and ‘cheated’ when they learn that all of it might have been prevented by the nutrients that are now making them symptom-free. Why? What we both often hear is that people cannot believe that “JUST” nutrition could have solved their problem. This attitude that nutrition is ‘JUST’ a trivial thing is the result of the post-WWII dogma that all we need to do is eat a balanced diet and we will be fine, that we should avoid supplements because we don’t need them and that supplements are potentially dangerous. This advice is wrong, outdated, and harmful. Nutrients are fundamental for optimal brain function, and some of us need more than others.
  2. Psychiatrists in this century are primarily psychopharmacologists, trained in drug treatment from their medical schools and later by the pharmaceutical companies that make the medications. Other mental health professionals also get minimal training in nutrition. We all tend to rely on the knowledge that we receive in our education. And nutrition is not traditionally taught in medical schools, outside of 1-2 hours on metabolism relevant to physical disorders that are inherited. We all tend to rely on things we know. We can also testify that we struggled with the concept initially but once we engaged with the science and the research, the potential of the approach became evident.

We will continue to write about this resistance, and we will continue to read the comments in response to our posts, even if they are hostile. But isn’t it time for all of us to be open to the possibility that lifestyle factors, just as they are so relevant to physical health, are also relevant to mental health? As the head of NIMH Thomas Insel discussed in his TEDx talk, whereas globally there has been a reduction in mortality from stroke, heart disease and AIDS, we have had no impact on the rates of suicide. And it wasn’t new drugs that had the huge effect on reducing rates of some of these physical illnesses, it has been the focus on lifestyle factors, especially reduction of smoking.

We appreciate that there is much work to do to assess the impact of micronutrients as a viable way forward to improve mental function. And we also appreciate the complexities associated with the development of mental health problems and that it isn’t just about eating well or receiving more nutrients — there are many other factors at play that we don’t want to minimize, like poverty and trauma. And we also wonder whether, even though the nutrients won’t erase our past, they might provide us with the fuel to cope better with the challenges life throws at us.

Julia demonstrated this additional resilience offered by nutrients in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. But the good news is that it would not take a lot of money to discover the magnitude of potential benefit from micronutrient treatment. People do not drop out of our studies very often, because nutrients do not cause adverse events. The lack of turnover means that micronutrient formulas can be studied fairly quickly and efficiently.

Every one of us wants to solve the terrible problem of the epidemic of mental problems. With no new psychiatric drugs on the horizon, and growing concerns about the value of currently-available medications, the time is ripe to invest in assessing the extent to which micronutrient treatment may improve mental health in our society. And that’s all we are trying to do.

* * * * *


Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

Popper CW: Do vitamins or minerals (apart from lithium) have mood-stabilizing effects? (2001,62, 933-935.)

Kaplan et al.: Effective mood stabilization with a chelated mineral supplement: an open-label trial in bipolar disorder (2001, 936-944)

Simmons M: Nutritional approach to bipolar disorder (2003,64, 338)

Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology

Kaplan et al.: Treatment of mood lability and explosive rage with minerals and vitamins: two case studies in children (2002,12(3), 203-218)

Kaplan et al.: Improved mood and behavior during treatment with a mineral-vitamin supplement: an open-label case series of children (2004,14(1), 115-122.)


  1. I’m very grateful you’re both here, as part of the MIA community.

    I find it fascinating that many of the folks who are justifiably angry at psychiatry for a one-size-fits-all approach – with psychiatric drugs, are the same ones who are convinced that all suffering comes from trauma… referring to nutrients and supplementation as bogus, while they embrace their new one-size-fits-all approach, namely overcoming trauma… Go figure.


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    • Good point Duane! Some individuals may identify trauma or grief as the chief source of the mental distress, others may identify with having a nutritional deficiency. Yet others may identify with having a combination of both, or neither. That is why is it so important for individuals in the mental health system to have real choices so they can find the treatment modality that suits their needs.

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      • Not mentioning the vicious cycle – people with psychological issues, whether caused by trauma or anything else, often have eating problems (sometimes “diagnosed” as such) in that they lose weight or overeat on junk food or both in alternating phases (speaking from experience here). That is likely to bring about general malnutrition and make any preexisting problem worse.

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  2. Keep writing and posting – you are good company.

    Abram Hoffer MD, PhD (1917-2009) used orthomolecular medicine instead of pharmaceuticals to treat more than 5,000 people with schizophrenia. In most cases he was able to restore their lives. In Harold Foster’s words: “Doctor Abram Hoffer ‘cured’ several thousand schizophrenics over the last 50 years. He uses high dose niacin and vitamin C and a few other nutrients like selenium. The effect is enormous. Many of his patients start taking nutrients regularly and then go on to university and become physicians, lawyers, politicians, etc.…….. For his successes, Abram has been attacked relentlessly by the medical profession for half a century.”

    Canadian medical geographer Harold Foster (1943-2009) developed a micronutrient protocol formula to reverse the symptoms of AIDS and free people from their pharmaceutical cocktails and side effects. He was denied a clinical trial in Canada. However, an American doctor, backed by a pharmaceutical company, was granted a Canadian clinical trial for a micronutrient formula developed to provide nutritional support to people living with HIV/AIDS and taking pharmaceuticals. Foster was devastated.

    Foster once wrote: “The market for truth is very small.”

    And, yes, people often get livid when nutrition and mental health are mentioned in the same sentence.

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  3. Great title. I agree that there is a double standard at work when it comes to taking vitamins and minerals seriously for mental health concerns. Still, I would add a third point to your list about why people resist the idea of optimizing brain function with proper nutritional support.

    As an aside, how does anyone prove what optimal brain functioning should look like? Shouldn’t we be talking about cure, or complete remission of symptoms? I think most people would opt for sub-optimal brain functioning, whatever that may be, if they could hold a job, go to college, and not attract undue attention from others.

    To that end, (bullet point no. 3) my relative did not experience much success in symptom reduction using both Dr. Hoffer’s protocols and very intense nutritional support. At one point he was swallowing 35 supplements a day, and this went on for a couple of years. Pills, liquids, powders. During this time, he slowly tapered off his meds, and he was going great guns for about four months. And then the symptoms of psychosis returned, despite the fact that he continued to take the supplements as advised by his doctor. Yes, he was looking good for a while, but it was not sustainable.
    I want sustainability. I can’t put all my hopes in one basket. I see nutritional support as useful, perhaps, better than meds for sure, but questionable as to whether it can hold up in the long haul.

    I believe that there is resistance to the idea of nutrients because many have tried this route, and they don’t get long term symptom relief. It is possible that should doctors start embracing the idea that nutrients will lead to complete recovery, the placebo effect will kick in.

    There is also a lot of mainstream resistance, (not at MIA, of course, I mean “mainstream”) to the idea that mental illness is a spiritual emergency, a spiritual awakening, or the result of trauma. To talk about mind and brain matters in the context of “mental illness” provokes controversy no matter what.

    I do like reading your posts, and I continue to be open minded about nutrients. Just wish I could find the magic bullet here.

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    • hi Bonnie and Julia. Thanks for contributing to MIA. I also think that nutrition is a key to greater mental health and I see how the Standard American Diet (SAD) contributes to deteriorating physical health but also contributes to severe emotional distress. Downing Big Macs, microwave TV dinners and 72 ounce Mountain Dews is going to make even the most mellow person feel unstable. If you have any susceptibility to extreme states, the modern diet can promote severe disfunction.

      That being said, my first tack would not be towards supplementing diet with nutritional additives (vitamins, mineral supplements) but would be towards

      First: avoiding processed and refined food and returning to a whole foods diet.
      Second: cooking from scratch as much as possible, with an emphasis on nutrient dense foods.

      As an herbalist, I promote supplementation, but I am very nervous about what I call quick-fix herbalism…the idea that we can just take supplemental vitamin, mineral and herbal pills and just feel better. This seems like just a replacement of one form of drug therapy to another form of pill therapy that promises resolution of symptoms.

      Instead, I think we have to be honest and say that it takes work to become more emotionally and mentally resilient. It takes time in the kitchen, cooking real food. It takes effort to avoid buying food at 7-11. It takes time to slow down and begin the process to deeply nourish yourself.

      I also acknowledge that deep nourishment with nutrient dense food can’t solve it all. Working through trauma, examining social conditions, relationships, where a person lives and where they work, are all part of a complex puzzle.

      In any event, I appreciate your words and I hope I don’t sound too critical because I really support examining the relationship between diet and mental health and that is important work to do. Thanks much!

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      • I agree that nutritional supplements and vitamins are no more of a quick fix than taking pharmaceuticals. That is probably why many people are hostile towards those selling vitamins to the mentally ill. After the drugs failed to help my son, we tried many expensive vitamins and supplements and they didn’t help either. It is very disappointing to spend a lot of money on false hopes.

        I believe that eating real, healthy food has helped my son more than anything else but he still relapses frequently. It could be that he has absorption problems or that he damaged his gut by eating very poorly for a long time. I am sure that there is a strong link between poor nutrition and mental illness and I am grateful for researchers like Bonnie and Julia who are doing research in this area. Unfortunately, most doctors do not take this seriously and will not do any tests for vitamin deficiency, celiac disease or other nutritional problems for the mentally ill.

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        • Sorry to hear your son is “relapsing” frequently. You mentioned gut absorption problems…perhaps due to eating poorly for a long time. Psychiatric drugs can also cause cascading deleterious effects on the digestive system. Serotonergic agents can lead to complex vague ailments such as Chrohns disease, IBS, fibromyalgia and a host of autoimmune related diseases.

          This can lead to serious challenges in absorbing nutrients and is one of the reasons I steer away from pill/capsule based vitamin and mineral therapies. When the digestive system is compromised, the body will not properly absorb the nutrients found in those supplements.

          Shifting towards a long term plan of deep nourishment can improve things dramatically. Monica really outlines that work at her web site “Beyond Meds”.

          At the same time, “relapsing” can be due to so many other factors not related to nutrition…environment, stress, relationships and the many pressures of modernity.

          Anyways, I hope that your son feels better and gets stronger. Best wishes to you.

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          • Guess what also causes gut problems – chronic/acute stress (fear, worry, anger, etc. – emotional upset). You must also know that stress compromises the immune system. I believe that may people who see a connection between digestive/nutrition problems and “mental illness” of various kinds infer a causative relationship but it’s the wrong one. At least in the vast majority of cases, probably, the long-term emotional stress comes first, causing damage to the gut and the poor absorption is a result of that – not the other way around. Again, stress and trauma (including and maybe especially attachment trauma, which is very little understood & acknowledged in our society) are passed over and their extensive effects on the human body and spirit are not recognized.

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        • I don’t want to play doctor google here but maybe you want to try testing him for vitamin K deficiency. I’ve heard some convincing talks recently taht suggest GI may lead to vit K deficiency (it’s produced mainly by the gut microbiota) and the mental and cognitive problems. It’s not proven science but blood work is not very invasive and who knows, maybe that could help.
          I don’t know what your son’s problems are but testing for blood iron can also help in case of “depression” – low levels are associated with it in some people.

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      • I don’t know for how many people malnutrition is the underlying cause or part of it but it certainly can make the problems worse. When I had anxiety problems (including major panic attacks) I had to almost give up on anything with caffeine, especially in the evenings. Now that I’m better I can drink my tea and coffee again but while I was having emotional troubles adding stimulants into the mix made things much worse.

        People are complex beings and the job of a real good doctor should be to look at the whole picture, which is sadly what 99% of doctors are unable and/or unwilling to do. There are no magic bullets, everyone is different, even for real physical conditions, not mentioning so-called “mental illness”. That is probably why the whole idea of large scale clinical trials for nutrients is a bad idea unless you can have some real diagnostic criteria other than bs DSM. In case of some nutrients that can be possible – for instance low blood iron is easy to detect in simple blood work. I don’t think people should be popping supplements any more than I think they should be doing so with psych drugs, unless of course you can show some cause-effect relationship or a real deficiency.

        “It takes time in the kitchen, cooking real food. ”
        That in fact itself can be healing. Taking your time to care for yourself and give yourself something good. A wonderful “placebo effect”.

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        • Btw, a fun fact – they actually did full blood check on me why in psych ward (probably the only useful thing that happened there even if it was non-consensual which is abusive and even offensive – they screened me for STDIs). Problem is they’ve ignored it completely just as if it was not done at all (I guess they have it in their guidelines but what they don’t have is that they should maybe at least look at it).

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  4. yes, thank you. We need more of this everywhere. Not just in mental health circles.

    Diet with dense nutrition is critical for all well-being. It’s a foundational part of my healing protocol and given the iatrogenic damage incurred by the psych drugs impacted far more than just my mind, I know in an intimate and immediate way how critically important everything I put in and on my body is.

    It’s not just about mental health…people are generally resistant to the fact that diet matters and that the highly processed crap that most people eat is killing them.

    We are profoundly holistic beings. Everything matters. Blah, blah blah…this is my spiel for those who don’t know.

    This is a little mantra/post I often repeat:

    “EVERYTHING matters. The body you were born with. The body you have today. Your relationships with others and the planet, the food you eat, and the air you breath…. how often you move your body and the thoughts you nurture in your mind and soul.

    That is what understanding ourselves as holistic beings entails. Understanding our relationship to EVERYTHING in our environment, what we’re born with and how it’s all connected. It’s not some sort of new age hogwash. It’s just plain and simple reality.”

    so, yes…lets keep on spreading the news…there is certainly far too much resistance to this vitally important fact.

    and YES! I’m with Jon Keyes as well…DIET is far more important than supplements…supplements should only be targeted when necessary with a goal to not need much of them really..and certainly the further I move along in my healing journey I find my body does a fine job letting me know exactly what I need. If one needs supps that’s fine, but you can’t cover up a crap diet with supplements…that will not work.

    thanks again.

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  5. How do you get a correct diagnosis when your blood panel tests come out “normal” and antibody tests “normal” but you keep getting strange immune system reactions, repeat oral thrush infections, etc. and are eating as healthy as possible, etc. ? Can someone please comment because I have been suffering for several months, losing weight, blood spot on arm appearing, aching legs after walking, exhaustion, must sleep with a med and when tried to skip it had debilitating panic attack like rapid cortisol rush in my body (tried to walk it off, it was totally physical manifestation and used all my willpower to make it leave), face flush episodes. Now, I have red spot on tongue with circle around it (read it could be erythmatous candidiasis; why won’t it stay away?). Dismissed by my family MD since “normal” blood panel test. Don’t know where to turn, body flipping out with what seems like estrogen/thyroid/cancer/immune????? I don’t have a clue……Please comment with suggestions.

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    • You’ve asked for a suggestion: Immune system issues could be associated with autoimmune illness…and autoimmune issues are pretty much at an epidemic high and often simply not recognized by the medical establishment. Autoimmune issues are also often implicated when people are sick and typical doctors don’t know what to do. You might want to google autoimmune illness and start learning about what that means. Chronic illness circles in general might be helpful too…you might take a look at Chris Kresser who has a website that helps folks with chronic illness. There are actually a lot of websites like that if you start looking.

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    • askye ,
      You can fully check out their web site Google Paracelsus Klinic (yes with a K) they are in Switzerland. they are the best healing team I’ve heard of in one place in the world with a team of 80 of various disciplines. You can e-mail questions to them . Take the time to study what they are all about.
      They treat 5000 people a year that arrive with various issues. Initially for everyone that arrives they remove with advanced protocols all metals from the mouth , all root canals, find if cavitations are there and correct. All restorations are made of high tech inert ceramics. After the advanced dental work is completed out of 5000 patients 3500 go home with problem solved. At Paracelsus Klinic they have found the conventional dental work most all people get interferes with arriving at an accurate diagnosis besides causing health problems over time or immediately . The remaining 1500 people are treated after proper diagnosis is made.

      Traditional Naturopaths (Richard Schultz ND) or Linda Page ND her book Healthy Healing

      Gerson Clinic run by Charlotte Gerson in Tjuana Mexico Her father was Max Gerson Google it
      Here’s to regaining your health,

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    • “must sleep with a med and when tried to skip it had debilitating panic attack like rapid cortisol rush in my body”
      That can be a withdrawal from a sleeping aid, not a pert of the original problem. Many drugs which are used to help sleep or as general sedatives present with anxiety and panic attack on withdrawal (speaking from experience here).

      As for weird immune reactions that’s tough. I had personally some of that (“diagnosed” as chronic fatigue syndrome which means not really diagnosed as anything) and it went away after a few months and a monthly dose of Prozac (which also caused massive anxiety as a side effect) but my symptoms were quite different from yours and I’d not give you advice based on my experience.
      Some people get strange immune reactions which don’t present on a blood work from:
      a) allergies (there are many types and the screening tests often miss them if they don’t involve histamine based reactions for instance)
      b) chronic localised inflammation which does not affect the overall blood picture (or at least that’s what some people claim – I’m not sure how much evidence is there for that)
      c) chronic viral infections.
      The best way for looking for allergies is to observe oneself and try to identify what factors correlated with the onset of symptoms and eliminate them one by one. As for hidden inflammation I’d try looking at your teeth first but that’s a tricky one. Chronic viral infections also depend on a virus, I’ve heard some researchers associate chronic fatigue with EBV or other viruses which can persist in a body in a latent state.

      I understand your blood work included hormones? If not that’s another way to look.

      I hope you manage to find a reason for your problems or that they will go away by themselves soon as happens to some people.

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    • Yes,
      See what I posted below, { October 8, 2014 at 5:20 pm }
      I don’t have enough information about your condition you’re describing, but it sounds like a newly emerging disease called morgellons. I believe that this disease is not fatal physically, but Emotionally. I could stress a person out to no end. I have developed ways to treat my condition that inexpensive and effective. I wish someone had caught me at the stage where you are at (if that’s the case), Because I believe you can reverse it. But stay away from the Doctors because the will not help you. They will make it only worse.

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  6. A well-nourished body/brain is better able to withstand stress. Often people cannot afford supplements. As far as getting what you need from your diet? You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb. Supplements are only part of the solution. Lifestyle, environment, stress, trauma – all need to be addressed. The young man whose mother says he is not getting better from the Hoffer protocol admits that he is still using marijuana and LSD. The woman who stopped hearing voices – for a full year – for the first time in 14 years when she stopped eating gluten relapsed when a doctor suggested she needed more fiber in her diet and told her to eat bread. Perhaps the authors will write about pyroluria and the genetic glitch MTHFR.

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  7. I don’t have any suggestions about getting more people to take nutritional treatments seriously, but as they have worked for me after extensive medical treatments failed I certainly do and I’m also very glad for the information you share here. What doesn’t work for one person could very well be the magic bullet for another. This is the nature of all types of medicine.
    I cured myself of a year long bout of severe antibiotic induced clostridium difficile (CD) by drinking kefir, after doctors had extensively failed to treat it. I did the same for the CD induced interstitial cystitis (IC,) which doctors also extensively failed to treat, by drinking dandelion tea. In both cases I took “doses” daily over an extended period of time, ultimately resulting in a “cure,” where “doses” were no longer needed.
    I have also extensively experimented with nutritional treatment for mood disorder (however you want to put it, altered and improved my diet in order to feel better) and find much of what people are saying here to be true; you must being with eating a healthy diet and avoiding junk food. This is more easily said than done considering the state of our food economy. I also take a particular type of omega 3 supplement every day, which I swear by. For me, there is something about this particular supplement. I have tried others with no noticeable effect.
    Thanks again for sharing the intel!

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  8. I don’t think anyone disagrees that eating healthy, whole foods has an impact on your overall wellbeing. That’s common sense. The hostility comes in response to the claim that healthy foods and supplements alone will cure everything and make your life wonderful and grand. I think that people whose emotional distress started purely 100% due to lack of vitamins and minerals are extremely rare. It’s like people whose emotional distress started due to a physical disease. Rare as well.

    Yes, everyone should eat as healthy as possible and I think this will help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression etc. but that’s the thing: nutrition helps reduce negative symptoms and helps you feel fine. it does not create a sense of deep, spiritual or inner joy, only you can do that through reflection, positive relationships and so forth.

    On another note, why there is a hostility towards the trauma explanation of distress… I believe people scoff at the childhood trauma theory because they either a) have not experienced trauma when young, or b) they think of adverse childhood experiences through the point of view of an adult or c) they believe time alone heals all wounds and no other support is required. They think ‘Oh a bit of criticism or name calling or even getting the belt once or twice couldn’t have created such problems for you! And anyway if it did time should’ve healed that by now.’

    They forget what its like to be a child. To be small, vulnerable with absolutely no defences or strength. Being hit or humiliated even once can be traumatic for a young person because of this. People who deny the trauma theory forget this. They forget how frightening an adult can be to a child. But not only verbal/physical abuse traumatises children. Neglect and ignoring does as well as the loneliness and rejection is overwhelming to a little child.

    Unfortunately these issues have become parodied in the media as mummy/daddy issues. In many films and TV shows therapy clients are portrayed as neurotic control freaks instead of real ordinary people with real pain and that really really doesn’t help.

    Do I believe every single person who is in emotional distress has childhood trauma? No. But I do believe that its a lot more prevalent than the average person realises.

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    • I absolutely agree. Thank you. Childhood and social/stress issues are I believe still the big underrecognized causes of distress (both physical and emotional/mental) in our society. I see this with physical illness too – the corrosive effects of emotional stress – which includes things like attachment trauma and isolation & loneliness which are on the rise – are not given the recognition they deserve in terms of the ravages they exact on the human body. Our society is fundamentally ignorant about key human interpersonal and emotional needs – as fluffybunny said, if you have not experienced something like attachment trauma and have had no reason to really learn much about it, you will not be able to imagine what it feels like and the devastation it wreaks on a human mind/body/life. None at all. It is vastly underrecognized and passed-over as a cause of illness both physical and mental.

      I find the last paragraph of this piece oddly telling –

      “Every one of us wants to solve the terrible problem of the epidemic of mental problems. With no new psychiatric drugs on the horizon, and growing concerns about the value of currently-available medications, the time is ripe to invest in assessing the extent to which micronutrient treatment may improve mental health in our society. And that’s all we are trying to do.”

      It sounds as if you are switching out one magic bullet for another (as if psychiatric drugs are the only real way we have of approaching these problems currently?), and continuing to focus on where the real problem (at least the vast majority of it) does not lie. I agree with fluffybunny. My prediction is that this focus on nutrition is exaggerated and that if anything, it might account for only a very small proportion of what gets called mental illness. The most important and widespread causes are still going neglected and simply not known or understood, or purposefully avoided, as usual.

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      • Thank you both for your kind and interesting replies 🙂 there are two really good resources on dealing with effects of trauma and negative patterns due to trauma. One is “Self-compassion” by Kristin Neff and the other is “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli. They don’t deal specifically with childhood issues but are thought provoking none the less and describe how trauma affects our self image and body.

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        • I post very minimally on here these days, only when something really sticks out to me that has not been said before, as so much gets repeated—repeatedly! To my mind, what you brought up, fluffybunny, is key to healing, and as you both say, what gets avoided, for many reasons having to do with family and social indoctrination.

          Nourishing my body in a way that balanced my energy, uplifted my spirit, and which contributed to my clarity, was an important part of my healing. But the family healing was the vital part, without which I would not have healed and gotten on with my life in a way with which I’m aligned, healthy, and happy, fulfilled.

          Main thing was to once and for all forgive them for the toxic dynamic by which they insisted in operating, while I disentangled from it (they don’t make it easy, that’s for sure). I also had to heal these dynamics within myself. When they weren’t around to demean, judge, and double-bind me, I’d either to the job myself, or I’d, somehow, find for someone else to do it.

          Really and truly forgiving them and taking over from there, calling it my path of healing and doing the work from that perspective, allowed me to know my voice separate and distinct from that of my family. For my own well-being, I let go of resentment and owned my issues entirely. I had to stand alone in my light of truth, and not doubt it, stick to it, follow that path and walk that talk. That’s where I could finally own my life, not as a victim, but as a spiritual being having a human experience. It’s where I found emotional freedom, lightness in my heart and soul, and clarity.

          One family member still functions the same way, and I keep him at arm’s length because he can’t seem to help but to be demeaning. He still has his troubles, never owned them, stayed in blame. But the others got it, and did their healing work as a result of my doing mine, and speaking my truth in the family.

          What I discovered is that when insidious toxic family issues go unrecognized and unaddressed, we simply repeat those toxic patterns in our relationships—including with ourselves, in our minds–as it continues to be part of our neural programming, from habit. Doesn’t matter what else we do, this one sticks if we don’t address it. I had to own what I had picked up from them, which I did not like, and then change this within in myself. Has nothing to do with expecting them or anyone else to change.

          Doing this work shifted my self-perspective, and my world entirely. That was the key to not only my mental health, but to having a healthy relationship with myself and the world. This is how I healed childhood trauma from toxic family dynamics and cleared my head.

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          • That’s awesome Alex! I agree 100% with everything you said. I believe that basically toxic families teach their children that they are defective humans in some way or other. Maybe they get treated as selfish or lazy or ugly or are given the message that failure and mistakes ARE an option and if you fail theres something wrong with you. Sometimes they even get blamed or held responsible for things outside their control. The list of how children are demeaned can go on and on. And as you say children internalise this and carry it through to adulthood. Its not until you stand up and say no, I’m perfectly fine the way I am, I am not defective, I am just like everyone else, no worse no better can you heal, not until you put the lies to bed!

            What I have also come to realise is that most mental illness diagnoses can be symptoms of trauma: OCD, social phobia, generalized anxiety, depression etc. I’m sure people who come from abusive backgrounds can recognize themselves in many diagnoses descriptions. All these ‘disorders’ can easily connect to trauma. For example, social phobia can clearly be the result of having extremely critical or demeaning parents/family members. generalized anxiety disorder as well. If you were constantly expected to be perfect with the threat of punishment you may have a constant state of worry about everything, like being hypervigilant about anything that can go wrong in any situation. I could go on…

            I wish people would see these ‘disorders’ not as discrete occurrences but the branches of the same tree, or the symptoms of an underlying issue that needs to be healed.

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          • I could not agree with you more, fluffybunny. It really does snowball until we address it one way or another, and it does amount to our self-perception, in the end. If we’ve been force-fed such negative messages repeatedly as our minds, hearts and spirits are developing, only we can correct this ourselves, by consciously practicing a more compassionate and fully validating self-perception. In time, it shifts our neural pathways, and that’s transformation. We navigate life very differently and make different choices when we live with internal positive reinforcement and self-support, rather than self-bashing.

            I got the same messages you did, be perfect or else. All this double-binding and emotional straight-jacketing, crazy-making manipulation and shaming, totally fear-inducing.

            Yes, it’s at the core of so many diagnoses, to me that rings totally true, and I can trace it to my own experience. It can also be the hardest thing to see for ourselves. Family healing is not an easy journey, but I agree with you, that it’s way more often than not the at the heart of the matter.

            I also agree with ssenerch that physical issues result from childhood toxic family trauma. When we carry this stuff around, it manifests in so many ways that we often don’t attribute to old wounds, but I’ve always seen the connection, to me it’s clear.

            Regarding the initial post, for me, how I nourished my body was, indeed, a significant layer in my healing. I created a whole new inner ecology that shifted my energy tremendously into well-being. But I never would have gotten to that had it not been for the work I did around my family issues, that was the most important thing. Not only was it the key to my peace of mind as far as my own identity is concerned, but I found that doing the heart healing just naturally led me to work harder in other areas, to regain balance and maintain well-being. At this point, it’s what I most attribute to emotional freedom. My life, my rules, whatever works for me.

            I’m so glad you brought this up. It is central to my healing and to my work as a healer. There is a lot to be discovered in the area of family trauma and healing that I feel will clear up a lot of this mess.

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          • “most mental illness diagnoses can be symptoms of trauma: OCD, social phobia, generalized anxiety, depression etc.”
            In a neuroscience conference I’ve attended lately the whole panel was dedicated to the issue of chronic social stress and trauma as potential causative (judging from the degree of correlation) of all “mental illness” save for ADHD. So it’s not like the research backing us up is not out there – it just fails to be acknowledged by the drug pushers.

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  9. Bonnie & Julia –

    I so appreciate the work that you do. I echo many of the sentiments noted above. My own path to health has probed the use of some supplements, but I’ve mainly focused on nutrient dense foods, good exercise and keeping my joy pocket full.

    I wonder if either of you have investigated the different metabolic pathways in the liver? I’ve heard some about this from neurologists I know and want to know more.

    Regardless, thank you for your work and for speaking out. Tremendously important!

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  10. Exercise too it seems to be something overlooked.

    One thing I’ll bring up too is that it’s a sign of the times that people almost have to be careful when talking about something that might work because if it becomes too popular it might get banned or become too expensive.

    These days even if something is good, and athletes start using it, it might get banned.

    There’s many possibilities out there, when you look at doctors treating epilepsy with marijuana for instance, I mean there’s really a lot more options these days with supplements than just using high doses of vitamins.

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  11. The discussion surrounding Bonnie and Julia’s article reminded me of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt’s pyramid of healing, which I have used to inform myself about finding a healing path for schizophrenia. Many health issue, Klinghardt maintains, can be cleared up at the base levels of the pyramid. Level 1 of the base is physical – where medications and supplements often clear up a health problem. Level 2 is the electromagnetic, so relief can be found with perhaps acupuncture or homeopathy, or aryurvedic medicine. Level 3 is psychological and here’s where you find that psychotherapy can be helpful. Level 4 is the intuitive and this is the level of trance, shamanism, Family Constellation Therapy, etc. Klinghardt maintains that most schizophrenia is found at level 4, and you have to deal with the issue at this level in order to effect healing at the levels below it, the same as you would if your problems were psychological and you had physical problems (Level 5 is spiritual – only you can find it, no one else can teach you.)

    I noticed that level 1 vitamin and supplements (while helpful in many respects for my son’s mental alertness) did not “cure” him. His troubles persisted. 5 Point acupuncture, (level 2) one level up, did nothing for him. Psychotherapy (level 3) has gone on for years. I maintain that it wasn’t until he started doing therapies at Level 4 that his healing could really begin. He has recently started taking more of an interest in his health and physical fitness, and even seems to be deriving benefit from acupuncture, which he didn’t before. No quick fixes, but what happens is the trickle down effect by taking care of business higher up the pyramid.

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  12. Authors and responders: Pacifica Radio aired a piece on nutrition and Alzheimer’s this week which will be picked up by Public Television. The author of the research advocates against low fat diets, for controlling blood sugar through low refined sugar intake, and for the inclusion of fats such as Olive and coconut oil. Researcher sees high correlation between high blood sugar and diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Also are consumption of gluten has increased sharply-this is another culprit. The problem for me is competing, conflicting, and ever changing dietary guidelines. Will try to add for fruits, vegetables, and nuts to my diet and cut down on skim milk and cereal. I also eat very little red meat.

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    • I think the general ideas should be:
      – everything in moderation, unless one has some metabolic deficiencies (lactose or gluten intolerance being most common)
      – don’t exclude any type of nutrient (we need sugar and fats just as much as protein)
      – avoid processed food
      – eat mostly vegetarian (especially fresh veggies and fruit) and only small amounts of meat and other animal derived products (fish would also be good if you could get your hands on one which is not contaminated with heavy metals…)
      – be careful with vege diets to make sure you structure your meals to contain iron in a form your body can absorb (combine high iron veggies with vit C sources) and other nutrients that are low or badly absorb-able from plants (take supplements if necessary but of course it’s better to just pay attention to what you eat)
      – eat different things (don’t go the whole months alternating 2 food products)
      – if possible eat dairy or honey which has not been pasteurised – it help your microbiota (but not everyone tolerates it)
      – don’t eat sugar/fat-free foods and beware of sweeteners etc., if you want to lose weight – eat less and exercise
      – don’t drink sodas but a lot of water or natural juices (teas, coffee and herbal teas are also OK but not for everyone
      – exercise
      That’s a list that seems most reasonable, everything else is in or out depending on where the “fashion” goes. I also believe that your body tells you what to eat if you learn to listen to it (and get rid of the junk food which tricks the natural system and is addictive).

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  13. I’m seriously surprised that you’ve experienced so many attacks. The concept of nutrition in “mental health” is very obvious, starting with the discovery of vitamin C and it’s role in preventing/curing scurvy. I was personally helped with magnesium and iron supplements against drug-induced restless leg syndrome (iron for instance is important for dopamine signalling, which gets screwed up by drugs like Zyprexa or Seroquel). Also there are studies showing that low iron levels (often before development of anaemia) are associated with depressed mood (which may be an effect of general lack of energy) and vegetarians often have low blood iron unless they really take care of their diet. I think that use of omega-fatty acids has some data to back it up too.

    I have not heard about nutrition in cancer so far but it’s a well known phenomenon that obesity and general poor nutritional status correlates with incidence of cancer. I’d be surprised if dietary change could cure cancer alone (cancer cells unfortunately usually mutate and escape treatment after a while, which is a problem for any drug/supplement) but it surely could help conventional therapy and/or to extend remission.

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    I Have EXACTLY this same skin condition on my fore arms and lower legs, believe it or don’t.
    I did not post this to Scare anyone. Nor, am I motivated to explain this openly for sympathy. I feel sorry enough for everyone who is a victim of our culture in any form or another.
    According to “DOCTORS”, This Proves The Fact That I Need Yet Another Psychiatric Diagnosis. “PARISITOSIS”.
    It’s ODD because As Soon As I My “Primary Care Physician” told me I was diabetic in 2008, I Quit Sugar almost completely and totally reversed it. I checked My Blood Sugar Levels 3x Daily.
    This lady does not have “Diabetic Neuropathy” as the “AMA GUN FOR HIRE” claims in this scene I posted. It’s important to me that I shed light on this subject because the sores on my arms and leg are something I wouldn’t wish on most psychiatrists, even.
    I’m 49 and I Took on “Triple Max Doses of Psychotropics” for 20 years. Iv’e Been on Almost Every Psychotropic Imaginable, except those that have been developed in the last 10 years. Why was I was on triple max doses? I’m what’s referred to as a “high metabolizer”. In short, they gave me Lithium Poisoning, which is pretty fun for Six ½ years. Then, my Psychiatrist took a $100 out of his own pocket, and sent a Seroquel blood level test to a special laboratory in slc, UT. Then he announced, “I have some good news and some bad news for you today.” “The good news is that the reason you have been Harassed by the Mental Health(what?) System as a “NON COMPLIANT” is because you are a high metabolizer.”
    “This means that somehow your liver and kidneys have the ability to dump off toxic substances at such a rate, that you will need to take 3x the max Dose of That A Large Man Should Take from now on, in order for you to respond at a therapeutic level. The bad news is, taking that much psychotropics could have serious and unknown repercussions for you years from now. It could eventually lead to a shorter life for you, but, because your Psychosis is so Severe, Taking the Therapeutic Ammount will save your life now because we both know you’re very Etremely Suicidal.

    What Does This Have To Do With Nutrition??? Everything. I would not be here to post this if someone had not taught me nutrition.

    I avoided trying to sort out nutrition my whole life. I’m a Baker. That means I love to make baked Cookies, Cakes, Pies, You Name It, It Tastes Good!

    After all, why would a person worry about “what should I eat”, when neither does anyone seem to have an answer thats simple enough a Individual to grasp and apply. Really? Doesn’t the average Victim Of Psychiatry Fight Minute by Minute for “RELIEF”. Let alone, what does the $100.00 in Food Stamps Buy Me That I Can Use? Doesn’t a Survivor of Sorts have SO MUCH CRAP ON THEIR PLATE ALREADY? Why Add To It!!!!!!!!

    I only learned about “Basic Nutrition” and “Body Function” because I was a “Dead Woman Walking”.
    When people complicate things and try to Force Their Crap on People who Are Like A Drowning Individual Grasping For Straws, No One’s Listening. “OH BOY LOOK AT ME, IM ILLUMINATI”

    “Complicate This! Complicate That! Complicate Life. Enslave The Meek. Take Away Lives and Spirits, Keep People Sick To Pay For Your Range Rover, Ignore Pain and suffering, when it’s the ELEPHANT in the room!”

    Goooooooofys if you want to add complication to my Plate Of Shit. EAT THAT!!!

    If anyone who happens to read this, and You Have These Kind of Issues, I’d love To Talk To You. If You Have Anything You Want To Ask Me Please Feel Free. Be Yourself ! But, if you think you’re better than anyone else. Gooofys! ~Sarah Blair

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  15. The authors leave off the most salient reason for the ad hominem attacks. The clue is that they came from America even if the published results are in New Zealand. What that suggests is that there are people in the psychiatric world LOOKING for anything that might affect their bottom line, and that they have an intentional strategy of suppression via ad hominem attacks and other tried-and-true methods of discrediting of opponents in what is really an economic war. The more serious the threat to their dominance, the more vicious their response will be. It is not accidental or the result of bruised egos – this is mob warfare, where the boss has any competition in the area wiped out by whatever means are necessary.

    You must be doing good work if they are threatened enough to go on the attack!

    —- Steve

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  16. Thank you so much, to everyone, for the kind comments and the interesting discussion! Yes, we shall soldier on, because nutritional treatment of mental disorders is the core of our academic research programs, and because we have seen transformations that are breathtaking, and because we know that lots of people reading our posts do, in fact, enjoy reading them. And thank you for further helping us understand the basis of some of the hostile comments — that helps too. And we shall cherish the one by Steve McCrea on October 9: “You must be doing good work if they are threatened enough to go on the attack!”

    We will address some of the remarks together………
    1. Madmom made an interesting point: “some people may identify trauma or grief as the chief source of their mental distress, others may identify with having a nutritional deficiency.” And of course, both (and other factors too) can be true. But what is interesting about nutrition is that it can serve as a buffer to enhance our resilience to trauma. There is tons of research on this topic (perhaps we should make it the subject of a future blog), but one *could* even say that optimal nutrition accounts for much of our resilience and ability to cope with the many hard knocks that life presents. (And thank you, Amnesia, for commenting on this later in the posts.)

    2. Thanks to Amnesia for the comment about Abram Hoffer, a true giant in the field and a pioneer denied the honour he deserved in life. We do not acknowledge his contribution often enough! But as Rossa Forbes mentioned in the very next comment, not everyone benefits from the eclectic approaches proposed by Dr. Hoffer and his orthomolecular followers. (Of course, there is NO treatment, nutrient or otherwise, that provides benefit to everyone — we are all too individual!).

    3. We are sorry to hear of Rossa Forbes’s relative who relapsed while taking lots of nutrients. Relapse is something that both of us keep watching for in all of our studies, and when it does happen, we try to figure out what might have changed to explain it. Julia documented the relapse of a young woman who did well on the micronutrients and then suddenly her symptoms returned. In that case, it was determined that a yeast infection had likely resulted in inflammation and as a result poor nutrient absorption. Once the yeast infection was aggressively targeted with probiotics, olive leaf extract and change of diet, both the yeast infection and the psychiatric symptoms disappeared. We have seen other people show a re-emergence of symptoms when taking an antibiotic (which affects health of the gut), getting sick (which means the body needs more nutrition to recover from illness and stay well), starting a new exercising programme (it has been hypothesized that exercising can release medications that have been stored in fat cells), or being inconsistent with taking the nutrient pills. But we also have documented people staying well for years — indeed, our early work was not even submitted for publication until we had two years of follow-up information.

    4. One of Rossa Forbes’s other comments made us chuckle. We so much appreciate your final words of encouragement and your insistence on staying open-minded. But what we find is one of the biggest obstacles to opening people’s minds is that they are searching for what you referred to as a magic bullet! There is none. That is precisely the reason we favour studying (and using) a broad spectrum of all the vitamins and minerals that we have evolved to need.

    5. Jon Keyes raised an incredibly important point, and we agree 100%: work on diet first. And Monica Cassini also weighed in this. We cannot imagine a world in which everyone is solving their nutritional problems with pills — or at least we do not WANT to imagine it!! We must learn to cook and eat healthy food. But Jon and Monice: there is good reason to believe that there are some people who have inborn metabolic needs for unusually high amounts of nutrients — so there is also a place for supplements. (And we know you both agree.)

    6. MadinCanada describes a son who relapses frequently, and is taking various ‘expensive vitamins.’ But I wonder if your son has tried the broad spectrum formula that is most supported by scientific data?

    7. To Ted Chabasinski we say: yes, yes, and yes! Drug companies are a major force and an obstacle. But we can’t spend our time worrying about them. We feel quite determined to reach the public — they are the ones who will lead the way.

    8. Askye, you are suffering and some of the others have offered suggestions to you. We think your situation illustrates the unfortunate fact that there is no way lab tests can accurate reflect what is happening in every part of our bodies — especially the brain! Some of Julia’s publications address this topic and show that nutrient levels are poor predictors of response to treatment.

    9. To Amnesia again: perhaps we will address pyroluria and the genetic variant MTHFR in the future – thanks for the suggestion – Julia is collecting data on this in her current study.

    10. Fluffybunny seems to be over-interpreting our meaning, so obviously we need to communicate better (‘hostility comes in response to the claim that healthy foods and supplements alone will cure everything and make your life wonderful and grand’). Actually, this is one of the reasons we never use the ‘C’ word (Cure) that one of the other commentators suggested. But optimal nutrition to promote optimal health, with healthy eating and supplements as needed, can do a great deal to remit mental health symptoms and to improve resilience and coping skills for some people. It is then up to individuals to seek counselling to learn those coping skills, and to develop an understanding of the dynamics important in their own lives. (And by the way, we do not scoff at the importance of childhood trauma. As someone else said, everything matters —- everything.)

    11. Ssenerch endorses some of fluffybunny’s comments and refers to diet and broad spectrum supplementation again as a magic bullet, implying that we are excluding everything else. We are not! Please keep in mind that we cannot address every topic in every blog (childhood trauma, stress reactions, need for psychotherapy and support, etc, etc, etc). But it has been known for decades in both laboratory animals and humans, that better nutrition results in better resilience and coping.

    12. And finally, a comment to all of you. Thank you again for your support and interest. We do not always have time to reply to every comment, but we are delighted that you are helping and supporting each other. If you are interested in the nutrition issue for yourself, we recommend that you: a) do all that you can to improve your diet, and b) if you want to take supplements for mental health, we urge you to take one of the ones that has been studied. There are zillions of people who want to sell you pills, and most have not been scrutinized by any government or by any scientist. A study done by one of Julia’s graduate students documented the very low doses of nutrients in supermarket variety vitamin pills as compared with those used in research studies. Not all pills are created equal!

    Some additional references:
    • Rucklidge, J. J., Harris, A., & Shaw, I. (2014). Are the amounts of vitamins in commercially available dietary supplement formulations relevant for the management of psychiatric disorders in children? New Zealand Journal of Medicine, 127, 73-85.
    • Rucklidge, J. J. (2013). Could yeast infections impair recovery from mental illness? A case study using micronutrients and olive leaf extract for the treatment of ADHD and depression. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, 27(3), 14-18.

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    • Bonnie, Pertaining to #8 There are absolutely ways to do diagnosis more accurately then with lab tests and with far more precision see You want to find cause if possible then strengthen as pertains not just cover over symptoms . Traditional Naturopaths are the real in depth teachers on the relationship between diet , health, and supplements , herbs, cleanses, and many other first do no harm strategies . Its hard for someone like me to give a thumbs way up to nutritionists or any medical people who do not tip their hat to Traditional Naturopathy where a fuller comprehensive first do no harm wisdom resides. A nutritionalist partial picture can’t compare. Your hearts are in the right place I thank you for your efforts.

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  17. Thank you so much Bonnie and Julia for your work. I discovered when looking at people’s recovery stories (particularly bipolar) that everyone seemed to have done something major with their diet. When I started titrating down my meds I looked at this more closely as I wanted something to help me when I finally stopped my mood stabiliser. I saw Julia’s latest research on micro nutrients and ADHD and was very interested and contacted Julia directly to find out more on this and bipolar. I could not afford the micro nutrients she recommended but my research on food led me to opting for a wheat free diet, and using fish oil and possibly vitamin b supplements. The wheat free diet has been so successful in stabilising my mood that I stopped the supplements after a month. I have now been medication free for 6 months. I am fascinated by gut health and this interview I did with Dr Tim Ewer summaries some of this topic quite well. I found it fascinating especailly the study of the mice who had their stomach contents replaced and low and behold their behaviour/characteristics changes. here is the link
    Yes truama and other causes have to be addresses but we have to look after our gut as it makes the chemicals for our brains.
    Thanks Julia and everyone on this site for changing my life to being one free of meds. I would like to know if others agree with the Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis? He claims that wheat “fogs the brain” and can trigger psychosis and mania. He has just released a second book that takes this further into all grains. Here is a link to his facebook page

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