Mental Health Disorders and the Walsh Protocol

According to the World Health Organization, mental health disorders primarily include depression and anxiety, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders, including autism [2]. Additionally, depression alone affects more than 300 million people of all ages globally, and is the leading cause of disability worldwide [3]. Unfortunately, depression is predicted to be the leading cause of disease burden by 2030 [1].

For many years, the treatment of mental illness has centered on trying to balance chemicals in the brain by altering the activity of neurotransmitters, or our “chemical messengers.” Pharmaceutical drugs have been commonly recommended in the medical community to help manage conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and more. In the last 30 years, however, research has progressed the understanding of the complexity of the brain, as well as the relationship between our biochemistry and our environment. Though there isn’t one single cause to any given mental health disorder, there are many contributing factors. 

Science has made great advances in the understanding of complex brain processes, and we are approaching an era in which psychiatric medications may no longer be necessary. An under-appreciated fact is that the primary raw materials for the synthesis of many neurotransmitters are nutrients – amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other natural biochemicals that we obtain from food.

William J. Walsh, PhD, FACN, president of the non-profit Walsh Research Institute

Dr. Walsh is an internationally recognized expert in the field of nutritional medicine and a key scientist paving the way for nutrient-based psychiatry and nutritional medicine.  Over the past 30 years, Dr. Walsh has developed biochemical treatments for patients diagnosed with behavioral disorders, attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, autism, clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease that are used by doctors throughout the world. 

Biochemistry and the Walsh Protocol

Biochemistry is the branch of science dedicated to understanding chemical processes that occur within a living organism. In other words, it’s the study of the ways our brain and body can be influenced through chemical reactions inside our bodies. Nutritional biochemistry takes it a step further by including the knowledge of nutrients, their chemical properties, and the way these nutrients influence various functions in the body. What’s powerful about nutrition is that each person has their own unique biochemistry, meaning we all have different nutritional needs. According to Dr. Walsh and his colleagues, our biochemistry, which influences our personality, behavior, mental well-being, immune function, allergic tendencies, and more, can be regulated and optimized, largely based on our nutrition [4]. Though it can sometimes be easier to understand the connection between nutrition and physical illness, there’s also a significant relationship between nutrition and mental health. 

This notion led to the development of the Walsh Protocol, developed by Dr. Walsh. In his extensive research and book, Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain, he discusses the science-based nutrient therapy system that can be used to help people diagnosed with mental disorders [4]. Dr. Walsh has studied thousands of cases of autism, depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and other behavior problems, seeking to find out what these conditions have in common. He has since presented his findings to the American Psychiatric Association, the U.S. Senate, and the National Institute of Mental Health. The Walsh Protocol assumes that many mental illnesses stem from imbalances inside the body which can cause extreme fluctuations in mood, behavior, focus, and cognition.

Commonalities in Mental Illness

After more than 12 years of research alongside Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD and Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, Dr. Walsh and his colleagues have observed a few biochemical commonalities in mental illnesses: [6]

Zinc Deficiency

Studies have shown that many people with mental illness are deficient in zinc, or that there’s an imbalance between zinc and copper, which are important trace minerals.

Methylation

You can think of methylation as “on and off” switches that control nearly everything in the body, including the stress response, detoxification, energy production, immune responses, and more. When there’s a malfunction in methylation pathways, people can become over- or under-methylated, meaning each of these processes can become disrupted, which has been observed in many cases of mental illness.

Pyrroles

Elevated levels of pyrroles in the urine have been linked to emotional mood swings, poor short-term memory, explosive temper, depression, digestive conditions, anxiety, bipolar disorder, autism, learning disabilities, alcoholism, and also results in deficiencies in zinc and Vitamin B6 [7].

Advanced Nutrient Therapy

The Walsh Protocol incorporates advanced nutrient therapy as an alternative treatment approach, providing a natural method to correct the imbalances affecting neurotransmitter activity [8]. Clinically, it’s important to identify what nutrients an individual may be deficient in, and from there, design a treatment plan aimed at normalizing brain chemistry [6, 8]. A major advantage of advanced nutrient therapy is the absence of the serious side effects associated with psychiatric medications. This therapy uses natural chemicals rather than molecules that are foreign to the brain and induce an abnormal condition. Advanced nutrient therapy can used together with medication and counseling providing great flexibility to the mental health practitioner.

Though we each have a unique set of genes, some of which can be predisposing to different conditions, this doesn’t mean our genetic destiny is set in stone. It’s often said in functional medicine that “genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.” Our overall mental health is dependent on having the right nutrients in the right amounts to positively influence the ways these genes are expressed. It’s also crucial that the nutrients from our food are absorbed and made available to the body, meaning a healthy gut is key.

The Gut's Role in Mental Health

Though we often think of the brain as a major chemical factory, producing serotonin (“feel good” hormone), dopamine, norepinephrine, etc., the gut houses 90% of the serotonin in addition to storing dopamine, GABA (a “calming” neurotransmitter), and more. The gut-brain-axis (GBA) consists of two-way communication between the gut and the brain [9]. This means that the state of the gut can influence the brain and vise-versa, so having a healthy gastrointestinal tract is vital for the whole body. 

Have you ever felt changes in your stomach during times of stress? That’s because of the GBA. In fact, certain psychiatric symptoms and gastrointestinal disorders have been linked, a well-known example being anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) [10].

Considering that the gut is the first place of contact with the outside world, it makes sense that the majority of our immune cells are also found in the gut. Whenever the body senses a threat, whether a foreign chemical or offending food, the immune system responds, creating a state of inflammation throughout the body. Think of it like an army of cells preparing for battle and self-protection. Because of the two-way connection between the gut and the brain, the brain can become inflamed, too [11]. Coming full circle, research has found that inflammation in the body can contribute to symptoms of depression and other psychiatric conditions [12]. We can experience a range of symptoms emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually, and each part of our body is intricately connected, always communicating in an attempt to keep us going. We might not always connect the dots between the food we eat, an injury, or emotional stress, but the reality is that the whole body responds to each experience we have. Without proper balance inside the body, the mind, body, and spirit aren’t able to function optimally. 

Toxins, Inflammation, and Mental Health

Every single day we’re exposed to hundreds of different chemicals, from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath, and the products we use. With the influx of toxins, our immune system works to differentiate what’s harmful from what’s not. While an inflammatory response can be normal, and actually beneficial in the case of a skinned knee or a fever, prolonged inflammation can wreak havoc in the body. Toxins like heavy metals and other man-made chemicals can have a significant impact on the brain, both by contributing to inflammation and disrupting normal biochemical processes. This is especially true in the developing brain of a child [14, 15]. Chemicals such as phthalates, that are found in food packaging, personal care products, cosmetics, nail polish, lotions, and perfumes, have been associated with worse aggression, poorer conduct, attention difficulties, depression, anxiety, and emotional control in children [16]. This is just one of many chemical toxins that might find their way into the body, so it’s increasingly important to support natural detoxification. Incorporate several servings of vegetables each day, especially foods like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and even lemon and ginger. Stay active and keep your body in motion by exercising regularly. For more information about the products you use, visit the Environmental Working Group website where you can check a safety rating for your personal care products and find more information about food and water safety.

Treatment Options for Mental Health Disorders

Functional Medicine

Our functional medicine providers work collaboratively to ensure that our patients are receiving the personalized, holistic care and treatment needed to help bring about optimal health and healing. We incorporate western, integrative, functional, natural, and energy medicine into our recommendations as well as genetic, epigenetic, nutri-genomic, nutrition, and holistic healing modalities.

Our practitioners have a special interest in, and experience with, helping individuals overcome mood, mental health and stress-related disorders such as adrenal fatigue, anxiety, bipolar, depression, grief, stress-related disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, and more. As part of your care, you will receive a comprehensive written treatment plan that addresses your goals and is tailored to your body’s unique needs. Your specially trained provider will discuss your mental health history and work to identify areas of potential biochemical imbalance, nutritional needs, and offer specific recommendations to support your brain and body’s ability to restore balance. 

There are also options for supportive services, such as health/nutrition coaching, in order to help you be successful in implementing your treatment plan and making necessary lifestyle changes. We also recommend participation in our classes, support groups and question and answer sessions, in order to make the most of your health and healing journey.

Integrative and Functional Nutrition

Integrative and Functional Nutrition differs from other approaches to nutrition because of the emphasis on treating the whole person. Instead of looking at a symptom and changing your diet to heal the symptom, an integrative and functional nutritionist will look for the root cause of the symptom(s). After taking a careful and detailed history, the nutritionist will create a personalized advanced nutrition therapy plan as well as help you to be the most effective at implementing your nutritional treatment plan, avoiding common pitfalls, and optimizing your health outcomes. 

A nutrition plan could include: 

  • Therapeutic meal plans
  • Recipe suggestions
  • Conventional and functional labs
  • Mind and body practices
  • Dietary supplements and clinical protocols
  • Meal planning resources, tips and tricks  

Alpha Stim

Alpha Stim electrotherapy is a safe, effective way to rid your body of anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain. 

The Alpha Stim device uses cranial electrotherapy stimulation to send microcurrents to your brain. These microcurrents stimulate groups of nerve cells, which results in positive brain activity. The microcurrents are delivered to you through two earpieces that are attached to your earlobes. Alpha Stim is painless, and only takes 20 minutes to feel results. 

Conditions Alpha Stim Treats:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Pain

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping

EFT Tapping is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture points. These points follow energy pathways, or meridians, in your body. Tapping these nine points while focusing on an emotion, such as anxiety, will activate and release the flow of energy throughout the body. It will also release the stress inside the body through regulation of the nervous system. Tapping is easy, painless and can be done anytime, anywhere. 

Conditions EFT Tapping Treats:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Phobias
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Addiction

Neurotherapy

Neurotherapy is a combination of two individual therapies, neurostimulation and neurofeedback, to treat a variety of neuro-related conditions. Prior to starting neurotherapy, we do a Quantitative Electroencephalogram (QEEG) to measure brain activity. This is done by using electrical brain waves, which are then interpreted to see how the individual’s brain activity compares to the normative database of others who are the same age. 

Neurostimulation uses pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation (pEMF), transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), transcranial direct current, and/or transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS). Neurostimulation increases the blood flow to the brain, which allows for a 90 minute period of neuroplasticity after the treatment. 

  • The purpose of pEMF and tACS is to train the brain by showing it how we want it to act through administering a current. When exposed to this current, the brain then mimics this stimulation.
  • The purpose of tDCS is not to train the brain, but rather to simultaneously up-regulate and down-regulate specific areas of the brain.
  • tRNS uses white noise to administer photons and electrons directly to the brain to promote healing.

Colorpuncture

Colorpuncture is a system of bio-photonic therapy involving the application of specific frequencies of light (color) applied to reflex points and zones on the skin. Colorpuncture is very gentle, non-invasive, and subtle in effect. During a Colorpuncture treatment, a handheld light pen (similar to a small flashlight) with interchangeable glass rods is focused directly onto the skin, using a predetermined set of points and color sequences based on the energy diagnosis of the patient. Each color produces a different wavelength or frequency that when applied to the body, sends specific information that is transmitted deep within, stimulating intra-cellular communication. This “communication” supports our physical health and emotional wellbeing. 

Scientists are now discovering that light is actually the medium by which cells communicate and is at the very basis of many body functions. In addition to the application of light frequency, Colorpuncture incorporates crystal therapy and induction therapy of the brainwave frequencies to body points as well. Colorpuncture serves as a wonderful adjunct therapy for patients to address the non-physical origins of illness that exacerbate the physical symptoms.

What Conditions Does Colorpuncture Treat?

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Digestion
  • Insomnia

Our Walsh Protocol Provider

Cathy Dolan, MD

Catherine Dolan, MD

Catherine Dolan, MD has been practicing Family medicine for 30 years, and added holistic/functional medicine practices for the last 20 years. She has a special interest in mental health challenges, the Walsh Protocol, gut health, and Lyme Disease.

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Our providers have extensive knowledge and experience with mental health and the Walsh Protocol. Book an appointment to get started today!