Someone asked me about supplements and mood, so I decided to re-post an interview I conducted with Dr. William Walsh, a nutritional medicine guru and founder and president of the Walsh Research Institute. The original interview was published in the Alternative Mental Health Newsletter, but I asked Dr. Walsh if he minded if I re-posted it here, and he did not. Whatever you do, READ this interview. It’s fascinating, offers a brand new perspective and is evidence-based.
Who is Dr. Walsh? Well, I shamelessly lifted his biography from his website, The Walsh Research Institute and am pasting it here. It’s a little long, but at least skim it so you get an idea of who he is.
“William J. Walsh, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized expert in the field of nutritional medicine. He is president of the non-profit Walsh Research Institute in Illinois and conducts physician training programs in advanced biochemical/nutrient therapies in Australia, Norway and other countries. His book, Nutrient Power (Skyhorse Publishing), which describes an evidence-based nutrient therapy system, was recently published. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and scientific reports, as well as been granted five patents. He has presented his experimental research at the American Psychiatric Association, the U.S. Senate, and the National Institutes of Mental Health.After earning degrees from Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, Dr. Walsh received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Iowa State University. While working at Argonne National Laboratory in the 1970s, Dr. Walsh organized a prison volunteer program that led to studies of prisoners and ex-offenders researching the causes of their violent behavior. A collaboration with Carl C. Pfeiffer, M.D., Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of nutritional research therapy, led Dr. Walsh to the development of individualized nutrient protocols to normalize body chemistry and brain chemistry. Over the next 30 years, Dr. Walsh developed biochemical treatments for patients with behavioral disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease that are used by doctors throughout the world.Dr. Walsh has studied more than 25,000 patients with mental disorders. His accomplishments include (a) groundbreaking studies reporting reduced violent behavior following nutrient therapy, (b) the 1999 discovery of undermethylation and copper/zinc imbalances in autism, (c) the 2000 finding of metallothionein protein depletion in autism, (d) the 2007 published study linking copper overload and post-partum depression, (e) the identification of five biochemical subtypes of clinical depression, (f) the 2011 development of the Walsh Theory of Schizophrenia, and (g) the direction of the Beethoven Research Project that revealed that the composer suffered from severe lead poisoning. Dr. Walsh has conducted chemical analysis of more than 25 serial killers and mass murderers, including Charles Manson, Richard Speck, James Oliver Huberty, Patrick Sherrill and Arthur Shawcross. He has assisted medical examiners, coroners, Scotland Yard, and the FBI in these forensics studies. He has designed nutritional programs for Olympic athletes, NBA players, major league baseball players, a heavyweight boxing champion, PGA and LPGA golfers, and others.”
Dr. Eeks: Can you tell us what the Walsh Research Institute does and why you created it? Dr. Walsh: I formed the Walsh research institute three and a half years ago after leaving the research institute at the Pfeiffer Treatment Center. I had given up my power as head of the institution to focus on research and developing new therapies. One of the things we do is train doctors. The Walsh Research Institute has an international program and we now have trained 110 doctors around the world. Our goal is to get to 1000 in the next five to six years. In fact, I’m about to go to Australia, where we have 40-50 doctors signed up, including psychiatrists. To train them, we teach them how to help mentally ill people without drugs. Overall, I’ve been involved with the treatment of 25-30,000 patients. I have a huge, chemistry data base on these patients, and I’m sure it’s the world’s largest chemical data base on people with mental illness: People with depression, anxiety, autism and schizophrenia. Our work is based on the earlier work of Abram Hoffer and Charles Pfeiffer. We’ve carried their work further and have advanced it. Now, we are able to provide really effective treatments using natural supplements rather than drugs, though we are not not anti-drug. I’ve also spent the last two and a half years writing a book. The title is Nutrient Power. Dr. Eeks: What do you think causes mental disorders?
Dr. Walsh: Well, they used to think depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and others were a result of life experience. Then in the 1960s, there was the biochemical revolution of psychiatry. After that, they realized the greatest reason for these mental problems wasn’t life experience but had to do with brain chemistry. Then when researchers tried to work out the brain pathways, they were disappointed to find how complicated it was. Psychiatrists had a tough time back in the 1960s: They were trained to have patients talking on couches,and suddenly the profession changes and they’re told, “Sorry! what is wrong is inborn and has to do with brain chemistry, neurotransmitters, synapses.” The problem is that no one knew how to correct brain chemistry. The only way they knew how to adjust chemistry was with drugs, so that’s how it started. And drugs had a good beginning. There were thousands of people who were in terrible shape and drugs had some benefit, although usually, really nasty side effects. That’s going on until the present. What my book, myself and colleagues are saying is brain science is now advancing to the point to where we are on the threshold of a new era: a new era where greatly improved treatments, and in some cases cures, for mental illness will be possible without needing drugs at all. That is because of the advances and recent knowledge of the science of epigenetics. We are now creating a road map for this new future, and I think that’s extremely exciting. We already learned so much just in the last several years and our treatments are getting more focused. For example, we now know that there are several new natural treatments for schizophrenia that were unknown just 3-4 years ago. They have a lot to do with growing knowledge about the NMDA receptor. We’re still doing research and our organization is growing. We’re also a public charity. I just came back from Norway where we trained hundreds of doctors. That was my third trip to Norway. We’ve started programs in Ireland, the Philippines and have received invitations from several other countries including Egypt, England and Mexico. I’m building a team, that I like to call medical missionaries.Dr. Eeks: So in the future, are you saying we will be able to cure many of these mental disorders with nutrient therapy alone and without drugs?Dr. Walsh: It might be. We really don’t know yet. What we now know is that most of these disorders are epigenetic in nature. And what that means is that environmental insults, whether in the womb or afterwards, have altered gene expression. It turns out that is what schizophrenia is, and that is what different forms of depression are. The good news about all that is we used to think these things were genetic: that they run in family. For example, schizophrenia runs in families. That’s been known for a long time. However, we also know that the nature of schizophrenia violates the classic laws of genetics. It violates Mendelian genetics, and that’s always been sort of a puzzle. Now we know why. What happens is that identical twins have a sort of predisposition for schizophrenia, but environmental illnesses or even traumatic experiences can change gene expression. All your genes do is make proteins. Proteins include all the enzymes that are important in brain function. There’s brilliant work going on in this area. For example, with depression, we now know that most people with depression (around 60% of them) have low serotonin activity. But now we know why. The most powerful, dominant factor in serotonin synapses is reuptake, or the ability of serotonin that is released into the synapse to come back. The way it comes back is through transport proteins that are in the original cell’s membrane. What drugs, like the SSRIS, do is disable these proteins. We now know why SAMe and theanine (an amino acid) help a lot of people. It’s because they are also serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The bottom line for me is that drugs have helped millions of people, but they have a fundamental flaw: they involve foreign molecules in the brain and they result in an abnormal condition.Dr. Eeks: So that would be the basis of nutrient therapy? Taking in substances that body is designed to take in normally?Dr. Walsh: I think that brain science has advanced to the point where we are entering a new era and treatments are coming that will be able to normalize the brain. The foreign molecules, the drugs, may ease the symptoms but they inevitably effect hundreds of other genes and basically cause side effects.
Dr. Eeks: And a nutrient treatment wouldn’t do that? You don’t see side effects with a nutrient treatment?
Dr. Walsh: You don’t see it at all if you do it right. If you are normalizing the brain, and making your blood levels and brain levels of these molecules, to function normally, there won’t be any side effects. The major side effects we see are only if we do it wrong. For example, I had a patient contact me just yesterday who had gone to a well-known clinic in the USA, where they misdiagnosed him. They gave him folic acid when he was under-methylated. This was a bipolar patient. He got dramatically worse and nearly committed suicide. It was just a misdiagnosis. But if he had been given the proper diagnosis, it wouldn’t have happened. The only potential side effects you can get are transition side effects. For example, if a person has too much of something, like copper, or toxins, like lead, cadmium or mercury – if you treat those patients too rapidly with nutrient therapy, you may see temporary side effects if these toxic substances are removed from the body too quickly.
Dr. Eeks: Can you use me as a practical example for how this works? I suffered from major depression some years ago. Say, I came to you for treatment. What is your initial workup or tests you would run?
Dr. Walsh: The first thing we need to have is solid knowledge about the patient. We would want to know everything about you, including your early history, family history, and more. Half of what we need for a diagnosis comes from that. Then we would want to do some special lab tests to tell us if you have a methylation disorder, a severe oxidative stress problem, a metal metabolism disorder, a pyrolle disorder, a malabsorption disorder, if your fatty acids are imbalanced or more. There are a number of possible reasons for depression. You know, I’ve subscribed to the two major psychiatric journals for the last 12 years. They do beautiful work in many areas, but one thing I don’t understand is how they continue to regard depression as a single disorder. They think that the types of depression are just variations of a central theme. It’s so wrong. I have a very large chemistry data base for more than 3000 depressives, and basically depression is a name given to several completely different disorders with completely different causes,requiring completely different therapy. They are beginning now to talk about the different phenotypes, but my understanding is that DSM V is about to come out in a year and a half, and it looks like they are going to continue to regard both depression and schizophrenia as central disorders, instead as variations on a central theme.That is one of the key errors. For example, with depression, we’ve now been able to divide it into 5 chemical classifications.
Dr. Eeks: So to chemically classify someone, would you do a blood test, urine test? Hair sample?
Dr. Walsh: A urine andblood test is all you need to get it done. If toxins look like they are going to be a severe problem, you may also want to do a hair analysis. One of the biggest problems is patients who gets involved in illegal drugs. It’s very hard to help people if they’ve been abusing cocaine or heroin, so once in a while I use the RIA test – a radioimmunoassay hair analysis that will tell you what drugs a person is taking, how much and when they are taking them. It’s so hard to help people with those problems. But we’ve gotten better at analyzing these lab tests, too. I want to give you one example. Niacin treatment for schizophrenics was one of the central themes of Abram Hoffer’s work. Now we can explain how it works. It worked beautifully, but Hoffer had the wrong explanation to why it worked. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to find out what’s really going on. What happens is it has an epigenetic effect. It has a dramatic effect on the reuptake of dopamine because of its impact on chromatin. We know exactly what it does. It deactivates something called the dopamine transporter, and causes the dopamine activity to drop, which in schizophrenia can help a lot. We now know why zinc works and why methylation works. And the sad part is, it hasn’t made its way into mainstream medicine.
Dr. Eeks: Of course, and for anyone reading this who doesn’t know, epigenetics is the study of things that affect gene expression rather than the genetic code, itself. There’s a lot of research being conducted in that area. You mention it hasn’t made its way into mainstream medicine. Why is that?
Dr. Walsh: A couple of reasons. No one’s ever done successful, double-blind, controlled studies, except the very early work of Hoffer. One reason is the studies are extremely expensive. It’s unfortunate, because that’s always used as an excuse for not even considering it. The other thing is people can’t believe that nutrients can have power. They think disorder like schizophrenia or depression require a powerful drug. That’s why I’m calling my bookNutrient Power. Because I want people to realize that nutrients can be extraordinary powerful and just as powerful as drugs.The key is biochemical individuality.
Dr. Eeks: So my depression would have been a result of my biochemical individuality, and you then would have given me a specific nutrient therapy based on that?
Dr. Walsh: After we got to know all your symptoms and traits, plus your basic chemistry and lab tests, we’d be able to tell you your biochemical type. Then we’d give you a specific nutrient therapy. By the way, the biggest problem involving nutrient imbalance is not deficiencies but nutrient overload. That’s something people just don’t realize. A lot of people who do nutrient therapy are stuffed with vitamins, amino acids, etc.,but the problem is not a deficiency. It’s usually overloads. Because of genetics, epigenetics, diet, whatever…some people are strikingly overloaded in key nutrient factors needed for proper brain function,and so that’s why multivitamins usually don’t work at all. You can do as much harm as good. And we now know what kind of nutrients can cause the greatest mischief at high levels.
Dr. Eeks: What would be an example an excess nutrient hurting someone?
Dr. Walsh: For example, postpartum depression. That basically is a disorder of excessive amounts of copper in the brain, especially free radical unbound copper. We know that. We’ve proven that decisively. So if a woman with postpartum depression takes a multivitamin with copper in it, she’ll get worse. In fact, they do get worse. Another example is folic acid. There’s a lot of talk about people needing folic acid and now they are putting it in breakfast cereals to try to increase it. There are nearly millions of Americans who have excessive folic acid in their system, and that has an epigenetic effect that can really harm people. For example, it harms low serotonin depressives. Say you are a depressed person and had low serotonin activity, so you try Prozac or Paxil. If you also take folic acid, it will make the side effects dramatically worse. So the key is to find out what nutrients are in overload, which ones are in deficiencies and to normalize them. And you have to do it with incredible precision. We have thousands of cases where we have done that successfully. The biggest issue for me is to how to get this into medical schools and how to convince the psychiatric world that this is real. My book is probably the first book that shows the science and convincingly explains how these things can be powerfully effective. A lot of my book is about epigenetics.
Dr. Eeks: I know in epigenetics there’s a lot of talk about methyl groups vs. acetyl groups. Can you tell me more about that?
Dr. Walsh: It’s really a competition between acetyl and methyl in most mental illnesses. We know the methyl comes from SAM-e and the acetyl comes from Acetyl Coenzyme A. Both of those molecules are in in every cell in high concentrations. And then there are the histone tails. Histones are linear proteins that form balls that DNA wraps around. They used to think that histones were just involved in structural support for fragile DNA, but now we know that depending on what chemicals react on those tails, it dictates gene expression- it can either turn on or turn off a gene. For example, folic acid causes chromatin to be showered in acetyl groups. And what SAM-e does is it causes methyl groups to win out the competition between acetyl and methyl. This knowledge really hasn’t hit the popular press yet, but at some point, it’s going to be a major breakthrough throughout the world.
Dr. Eeks: You see a lot of these supplements sold in natural stores. Would you recommend taking them without first being evaluated? I know they have things like 5HTP, and SAM-e marketed as natural antidepressants, but it sounds like unless you know what you are missing or what you have in excess, you could be hurting yourself?
Dr. Walsh: You’re absolutely right. SAM-e and methionine and 5-HTP…, they are terrific if you have low serotonin activity. But that’s only about 45% of depressives. There is also a smaller group , 25%, who have too much serotonin activity. So if those people take an SSRI, they’d get dramatically worse. If they take SAM-e, they’d get dramatically worse. You have to know what’s going on with your neurotransmitters. You have to have knowledge of what the imbalances are and act accordingly.
Dr. Eeks: Where could someone find a doctor who does nutrient therapy?
Dr. Walsh: There may be a dozen or so in the US. Mensah Medical in Chicago does this really well. There’s also the Wyndgate Health Clinic in Saint Paul. Unfortunately, there are very few others. If you lived in Australia, I could give you the name of 80 doctors. Norway, Singapore, the Philippines, Ireland…, but not the US. We’ve had this physician training program for 10 years now, but we’ve never done it in the USA, and that’s the next step. I have many US doctors who want to do this training, and I hope to start that this fall.
Dr. Eeks: What’s your percent of efficacy?
Dr. Walsh: I’ve done a number of outcome studies. In an outcome study, I take hundreds to thousands of people who were on nutrient therapy, and we track them down and find out what happened to them. Were there any benefits? To what degree? Are they still taking the nutrient therapy? We’ve done many outcome studies for behavior disorders, like violence, and what we discovered is that patients who complied with our nutrient therapy for at least a month- and this is published data-had a 90% decrease in the incidence of assaults and more than 50% saying that the violent incidents had completely stopped. We found that 10 % failed to improve. Compliance is the biggest problem with any kind of medical care, and we learned ways of improving compliance, but in that particular study, I think we lost around 20 percent of the patients. But we had spectacular results in those who complied for a month. Behavior is about the easiest thing for us to help. In postpartum depression, our outcome studies show really striking improvements. And the compliance with postpartum depression is easy for some reason. Our success rate is at an 80-90% level. Our outcome studies in depression are in that level ( 80-90%), schizophrenia is a little lower ( around 70%) and our success rate in schizophrenia really depends on how quickly we get them, how long they’ve have they been ill. … are you aware of the published articles showing that antipsychotics shrink the brain?
Dr. Eeks: Yes, I did read that.
Dr. Walsh: That’s scary…even to a psychiatrist. Now the psychiatrists are trying really hard to lower the dose as much as they can, because they know the amount of brain cortex shrinkage is proportional to the dosage of the drug and how long they use it. The results I’ve seen for nutritional therapies are better than anything I’ve seen for drugs. Psychiatrists are a very frustrated group now. They can’t spend the time they used to with their patients, and it’s not a good situation.We plan on going to the American Psychiatric Association and telling them that there are blood tests that can guide them. For instance, for depression, there are blood tests that can tell them who will do better on an SSRI. Our problem is big pharma is a natural enemy for us. If people were to use effective nutrient therapy, they wouldn’t need drugs. For example, 80% of our depressed patients, after nutrient treatment, were fine, and they didn’t need any medication. Pharm companies would lose billions of dollars if people really started using our therapies. On a positive side, insurance companies are our natural ally. We save insurance companies huge amounts of money for medication, reduced hospitalizations and such. One Australian doctor treating schizophrenia patients with nutrient therapy showed the government how much more money this therapy was saving. Better treatments and fewer side effects equals everyone wins.
Fifty years from now people are going to look back on this time in mental health and just ridicule the use of these really powerful drugs and their side effects.
To purchase Dr. Walsh’s book, Nutrient Power, to find out more about The Walsh Research Institute or if you’re a medical professional interested in signing up for a training session in nutrient therapy, please visit his website at The Walsh Research Institute. His book will also be available on Amazon. If you have any questions about this interview, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.