Treating Mental and Behavioral Disorders with Nutrient Therapy - Part 4
An Interview with William J. Walsh PhD by Jennifer Handy, PhD
Jennifer Handy, PhD: Has nutrient therapy also been effective for ADHD?
William Walsh, PhD: Nutrient therapy works quite well with ADHD, though it’s not quite as successful as with depression. I would estimate the success rate for ADHD to be about 75 to 80 percent, based on the thousands of families that reported back to us.
ADHD is actually a name given to several completely different disorders. The primary characteristic of ADHD is inattention, but psychiatrists have broadened the diagnostic criteria to include three major types: people who are predominantly inattentive, those who are mainly impulsive or hyperactive, and those who exhibit a combination of hyperactivity and inattention. I’m finding that, for some reason, many people with behavior disorders are now being diagnosed with ADHD. When you think of attention deficit disorder, the implication is that there is a problem with learning or attention. I’ve met perhaps hundreds of bright kids who were doing great in school academically but had bad behavior, so they were diagnosed with ADHD and put on medications. I think the diagnostic criteria are off.
If the problem is hyperactivity alone, it is often just a metal metabolism disorder involving zinc deficiency and copper overload. If there is an element of oppositional defiance, which you often see in ADHD now, that’s usually undermethylation. If you have a person with a conduct disorder (which includes extreme behavior problems, such as bullying people and destroying property), the major problem is usually a pyrrole disorder. The smallest group diagnosed with ADHD consists of those with antisocial personality. They are the most troublesome group, and many end up in the penitentiary. Their signature is a combination of imbalances. Almost all of them are undermethylated, have a pyrrole disorder, and are somewhat hyperglycemic. It’s a nasty combination. This was discovered by Carl Pfeiffer, not me.
JH: What kind of work have you done with autism?
WW: In 1999, at the Pfeiffer Treatment Center, we were the first to discover that nearly all autistic children had low metallothionein (MT) levels. MT is a protein, found in the brain, that has a lot to do with regulating metals and protecting against toxics such as mercury and lead. It plays an important role in brain development. When you start life, you have a lot of dense, undeveloped brain cells. Beginning in infancy, the brain has a large number of short, densely packed neurons that have not yet developed. MT is essential to all three phases of early brain development: the pruning of brain cells to make space for others to grow; the growth process; and growth inhibition when the brain cell is fully mature. It seems logical that low MT levels in autism might help explain why autism brains are different, compared to the rest of the population.
I developed an MT-Promotion formulation, which is a combination of 22 nutrients, each of which either increases the genetic expression of MT or the functioning of that protein in the body. I patented this therapy for autism. When we started using it, we had dramatically better results in the huge numbers of autistics we were seeing in our clinic.
About 85 percent of our autism families report significant improvement, although the opportunity for a full recovery depends on the patient’s age. It has been quite exciting to see some severely autistic children become leaders in the classroom, go on to college, and have a family. However, I’ve only seen that happen when we started treatment before the age of four. Autism is a developmental disorder, and if there’s no treatment early on, the child’s brain develops differently, since the majority of the brain’s organization happens in the first few years of life. We can make more progress with a two-year-old autistic child in one month than with a six-year-old in six months.
JH: Can a teenager or an adult with autism benefit from your treatment?
WW: Let me give you one example that surprised us. We put a 17-year-old girl on our MT-Promotion therapy, and her mother said that after six weeks, she began to talk, although she still had severe autism. Whatever their age, we usually can improve an autistic person’s behavioral control and make them happier. If there is any element of depression, we usually can successfully treat that as well. Three primary problems in autism are deficits in cognition, speech, and socialization. Of these, the easiest to resolve is usually speech, which is often the first thing that improves with nutrient therapy. Progress in cognition and socialization requires gradual improvements in brain organization, which take longer to achieve.
We’ve learned that autism is neurodegenerative. Without antioxidant therapies, autistic persons lose brain cells and IQ year by year. Most autistic children are clearly very bright. If you evaluated ten typical 25-year-old autistics who had never received antioxidant treatment, you would find that most of them exhibit some degree of mental retardation. The reason is that autism is a condition of oxidative stress, which can cause rapid death of brain cells. This usually doesn’t become evident in autism until after puberty, but then mental functioning can gradually degenerate unless you provide antioxidant supplements. That terrible fate can be completely avoided just with antioxidants. People with Asperger’s disorder are an exception, as they usually retain their cognitive abilities throughout life.