The basis for the development of orthomolecular medicine, was the understanding based on clinical experience that a great deal of ill health had at its roots a deficiency of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
While classic deficiency diseases were very uncommon in industrialized countries, there were a large number of individuals suffering from insufficiency of nutrients, which were contributing to ill health.
These deficiencies meant that the system was not functioning optimally and that various enzyme systems and other metabolic processes would be compromised.
Ill health can be the result of a real nutritional deficiency, because the diet may be inadequate, or a deficiency resulting from various inherited enzyme abnormalities leading to nutrient deficiencies. Especially in the latter case, very large doses of vitamins or minerals are often necessary to compensate for this enzyme problem. This is often referred to as Megavitamin therapy, and is associated with Orthomolecular Medicine.
Dr Abram Hoffer, a Canadian psychiatrist, is one of the doyens of Orthomolecular Medicine, and introduced the use of high doses of vitamin B3 to treat Schizophrenia successfully. He was able to show that his combination vitamin and mineral therapy doubled the natural or spontaneous recovery rate of chronic Schizophrenia. More than 100,000 Schizophrenic patients have been treated by Dr Hoffer and his colleagues since 1960. Dr Hoffer is still editor of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Kryptopyroluria is an inherited condition where an excessive amount of kryptopyroles in the blood, consumes large amounts of Vitamin B6 and zinc, leading to a range of mental-emotional-psychiatric states. These can range from schizophrenia and bipolar states to emotional withdrawal and temper outbursts. There is a simple urine test now available to detect this condition. Treatment with the appropriate vitamins and minerals for life, can be life-changing.
Even Conventional Medicine recognizes the value of Niacin to lower cholesterol. The use of high doses of vitamin C to prevent viral infections and even treat cancer is however still controversial. The use of high doses of vitamin A to treat Acne is more popular and Vitamin D in high doses is being advised to treat a whole range of chronic conditions.
Clearly a good diet is recognized as being of prime importance, and that excessive amounts of single nutrients, if carried on for a prolonged period without medical supervision, can cause problems. On the other hand, appropriate high-dose supplementation can resolve many conditions, without having to be subjected to suppressive drug therapy.