Published: 01/14/2015 - Updated: 04/20/2016
Orthomolecular medicine consists of treating illnesses by means of substances commonly found in the body, in specific concentrations. These substances are biomolecules, some of which are vitamins and minerals that, according to the proponents of this medicine or nutrition, could correct imbalances in the body, causing healing to occur.
A little bit of history
It was in the 50’s when psychiatrists began to use high doses of vitamin B3 to treat certain mental illnesses. Later on they included other vitamins, and even minerals, to this type of treatment. It was known as “Megavitamin Therapy”, and was also generally combined with pharmaceuticals and other methods.
During the 80’s this treatment was recommended for several different ailments, like migraines, hypertension, depression, arthritis, headaches, allergies, metabolic problems, skin problems, and mental diseases, etc.
How does it work?
According to orthomolecular medicine or nutrition, illnesses can be treated with biomolecules if applied in appropriate amounts, which are usually higher than the daily recommended doses.
These biomolecules are basically nutriments, vitamins and minerals, as well as amino acids or proteins, which are generally ingested dietetically. But, according to orthomolecular nutrition, if used in large doses they can help correct imbalances in the body, creating a therapeutic effect. This means that as a result, it leads to health.
Orthomolecular medicine supports the belief that the body can use vitamins, minerals and amino acids, up to a certain extent. This means, in a limited amount. This is a real fact, but once this limit is surpassed, these vitamins and minerals tend to function similar to pharmaceuticals, which means one could anticipate a positive result. According to this therapy, this could product a cure for our diseases, as a result.
While its defenders claim that orthomolecular medicine is effective, this therapy is still not considered to be so, because according to experts, it is still not founded.
Certain cases have been studied that show improvement when treating schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. The treatment’s effectiveness on general health with different applications has also been studied, as possibly being useful for reducing cholesterol levels. In spite of the fact that several studies had positive results, experts still doubt its efficacy.
In 1979, the Research Assessment Committee at the National Institute of Mental Health concluded that this is an ineffective therapy that could even cause counterproductive results, because regardless of how harmless biomolecules may appear, they could have toxic effects if consumed in excess. These effects could be anywhere from mild to severe.
In spite of the fact that several illnesses have been reported to improve with this therapy, several criterion are still under debate, which could discredit this therapy. That is why currently it is not considered a safe or approved treatment.
One of the primary pieces of information that makes orthomolecular medicine so controversial, is because some of the therapeutic effects that are associated with using orthomolecular medicine have been primarily because the patient could have been deficient in said nutrient, and by covering this deficiency, a positive effect was acquired. However, this is not a guarantee that high biomolecule doses are truly effective, because the daily recommended dose could create essentially, the same effect.
Its efficacy is also highly debated because the majority of studies performed to prove this medicine have had very small sample groups of individuals, and some believe that a conflict of interest could have possibly existed when the tests were performed. Undoubtedly, more evidence is needed to know if this therapy is trustworthy and effective.
Risks involved with Orthomolecular Medicine
Although nutrients are usually seen as harmless because we consume them daily, it is important to be aware of the fact that this is not always the case. Especially when taking doses that exceed or surpass that which has been proven to be safe. This is probably the most worrisome aspect for experts, because often times, the dose is triple the recommended dose, and greatly surpassing the vitamins or minerals dosage that is related to toxic effects.
Some vitamins, when taken in excess, are toxic and far from helpful with improving, they can even cause illness. Therefore, in regards to proteins or amino acids, these can affect the kidneys, sometimes irreversibly and permanently. That’s why if you chose this medicine as a form of treatment, it’s best to discuss the risks with your doctor to know if it is appropriate for you.
It is also recommendable to be up to date regarding the side effects or symptoms related to consuming each nutrient if choosing orthomolecular medicine, to be able to recognize any symptom if, indeed, one does occur.