Nutrition is an oft-ignored — yet incredibly effective — way to manage mental illness, including schizophrenia.
Mental health is not all in our heads. Nutrition is an oft-ignored — yet incredibly effective — way to manage mental illness, including schizophrenia.
Robert Hedaya tried everything in mainstream psychiatry’s toolbox to treat a patient with panic disorder, including cognitive behavioral therapy and a series of prescribed medications. She was still having attacks after a year, though, so Hedaya went back to the lab to look at her case from a different perspective.
“Early in my training in psychiatry at Georgetown, I figured out that the way things look depends on the lens you use,” says Hedaya, MD, ABPN, DFAPA, founder of the National Center for Whole Psychiatry and clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “If you use a low-powered lens to look at mental illness, you look at communities and culture. If you use a medium-powered lens, you look at family systems. If you use a high-powered lens, you look at molecules.”
He revisited the patient’s blood work and saw that her red cells were larger than normal. He did a literature search and found that a deficiency in B12 could be the cause, so he began a series of B12 injections. Within days, the panic attacks were over.
Now, Hedaya practices what he calls “whole psychiatry.” New patients undergo a four-hour workup, in which Hedaya examines all the factors that have combined to cause a break in a person’s mental health. Unlike his colleagues in mainstream psychiatry, he conducts extensive lab work to look for disruptions in basic body systems that might manifest as mental illness, while also looking into psychological, social, and spiritual factors.
“These are the same [disruptions] that underlie the chronic illnesses of Western society,” he explains. “Take inflammation, for instance: In one person, it might show up as diabetes, in another person as cardiovascular disease, in someone else as depression.”
Integrative psychiatrist and author Hyla Cass, MD, concurs. “Psychiatry is the only specialty that doesn’t test the organ involved, namely the brain,”
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