Half a year ago, I came across and studied the work of a brilliant researcher and scientist, William Walsh, PhD who has been researching and working with patients with mental disorders for more than 38 years. While he was working with them he regularly collected blood and urine samples from more than 30,000 patients and examined the samples, which allowed him to get to the bottom of the nutritional imbalances found in psychiatric, mental and often depressed patients.
For this multi-part blog, I’d like to focus on re-telling the work of Walsh and how, in this series, Depression is closely related to a number of nutrient imbalances in the body, which can affect the overall function of the brain and in the end, may lead to mental illness. At the end, we’ll take a look into simple nutritional recommendations helping the 5 most common nutritional causes of depression.
Biochemical Classification of Depression
For more than 20 years, Walsh collected 300,000 chemical samples from 2,800 depressed patients. When he analyzed his data, it was revealed that the 2,800 individuals could be re-classified into 5 main subtypes:
Cause: Low serotonin and dopamine
We’ve found that Undermethylation Depression is a type that has an abnormal methyl and folate (vitamin B9) balance. Walsh’s data shows that these patients show low calcium, vitamin D and magnesium. They would benefit from an increase in serotonin production through nutritional support providing tryptophan, vitamin B6, 5-HTP, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.
Cause: High serotonin and dopamine
In this subtype, individuals are non-responsive to primary medications called selective-serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These patients show low folate (B9) levels and benefit from supporting their overall nutrient status through increasing B3, B5, B6, B12, choline, manganese, zinc and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.
Cause: High norepinephrine
Dr. Walsh’s analysis showed that 96% of samples came from women and that copper is found to alter the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. As dopamine and norepinephrine levels change so do the person’s symptoms of mood and anxiety. Patients report that their mood usually responds to serotonin improving medications but at the same time have worsening of anxiety. Copper is controlled through a protein called metallothionine, which may be nutritionally augmented with adequate levels of zinc, manganese and antioxidant nutrients glutathione, B6, vitamin C and E.
Cause: Low serotonin and GABA
Pyrrole type is found to have low serotonin, dopamine and GABA leading to depression and anxiety. Patients with this type were those who had experienced severe emotional or physical trauma. Low zinc and vitamin B6 status was the predominant nutrient imbalance and recovery of these along with improving antioxidant status through increased selenium, glutathione, vitamin C, E and other phytonutrients.
Toxic Overload Depression
Cause: Altered neurotransmitters and nerve damage
In 5% of Dr Walsh’s 2,800 patients he found toxic metal poisoning. His team was able to detect high levels of mercury, lead, cadmium or arsenic. The metals reduce the brain’s ability to function by inhibiting mitochondrial energy (power plant of the cell) production, the main source of energy in each cell of the body. Heavy metals alter neurotransmitter levels, destroy nerve sheath, increase damage causing chemicals called reactive oxygen species and deplete antioxidant stores of glutathione, vitamin A, C, E and selenium.
In our following blog we’ll take a look into the specifics of each cause to help provide a solid nutritional plan to help alleviate depression.
Remember that understanding the root cause is the most important part of combating chronic disease and that with enough study, patience and a strict adherence to nutrition, even mental illnesses can be cured!
Your partner in health,
Walsh, William J. Nutrient Power Health Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain. Skyhorse Publishing. New York 2012.