A part of medicine that is constantly left behind is the lesser-known orthomolecular medicine. But what is it exactly? In this episode, Dr. Timothy J. Hayes talks to Dr. Albert H. Mensah, the Co-founder of Mensah Medical about orthomolecular medicine. Dr. Mensah gives an overview on orthomolecular medicine and how it can help treat mental health issues, discussing its mechanism and shares examples of patients undergoing the treatment with success. Tune in to this episode if you want to learn more about this discipline along with diagnosis and assessment services, nutrient therapy, and the molecular model.
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Treating Mental Health Issues Through Orthomolecular Medicine With Dr. Albert Mensah
Dr. Tim, how are you?
I am doing quite well. My first question will be to ask you to tell us a little bit about how you got involved in this. What was the start of your career and how it got into orthomolecular?
That’s a loaded question and I’ll try and make it very brief. I’m the biggest skeptic you’ll ever meet. I didn’t believe in any of this. I was a traditional family practice and medicine physician. My specialty involved everything from pediatrics to obstetrics, to gynecology and to internal medicine. As we would say, “From the womb to the tomb.” That’s what we did. I always required hardcore evidence. I felt into this, Dr. Tim. I was not looking for it. My business partner, Dr. Judith Bowman, became rather disgusted by the use of traditional medication in children who are 3 and 4 years of age at four times the adult dosage for disorders like childhood bipolar, schizophrenia, behavior disorders, things like that. She found herself at an institution at the time, the original Pfeiffer Treatment Center.
She was amazed by what happened there. Within a month’s time of her starting, she called me to come and see this. I was totally skeptical. I didn’t believe in this so-called nutrient therapy thing that we were told in our first week of med school, it simply did not work. As an open-minded person, I decided I would go there and being an ace neuroscience student in med school, I figured, “In the worst-case scenario, I would grace these people with my brilliance.” Dr. Tim, visiting for a few hours, my ego shrunk down to the size of smaller than a pinhead. That’s an ego that could barely fit through the door at the time of entering.
What I saw was so cutting-edge and unbelievable, I was perplexed and I said I had to either take a look at this field and take it seriously or miss out on a boat totally. It didn’t help at five, ten minutes after I left, I got a call from them wanting to offer me a job. I said, “I didn’t come there for an interview. I wasn’t interviewing.” They said, “No, we like you. We want to talk to you.” That’s how it all began. I took a chance. I wasn’t a believer. I wasn’t the great called Pfeiffer. I was not that guy. I was simply a very skeptical practitioner of medicine. It’s because of that, that I do what I do now, which is I spread the word as much as I can because I was that skeptical person. People need to know differently. That’s how it all began.
It’s a very common experience for people that I’ve interviewed in these fields that I would term holistic mental health and holistic physical health. How do you explain to people what orthomolecular medicine is?
That’s one of my favorite parts because I tried to tell people, this is the part of medicine that we’ve left behind. The part that was there 50 to 100 years ago. I go back and I say, “This is comprehensive medicine.” At a certain point in time, Dr. Lister of Listerine’s fame, he talked about bacteria. We began to worry about the outside invaders. Viruses coming into the system, bacteria coming into our bodies from the outside environment, and we began to turn the medicine outward. That’s when we developed antibiotics. That’s when we develop antivirals and the big pharmaceutical boom around that. What we left behind was what happens when something goes wrong biochemically in the human body when molecules don’t work right, when they don’t align or they don’t communicate properly, they don’t attach properly. What happens then?
That’s what orthomolecular medicine does. It goes back to asking the question, what are the molecules in your system doing? Based upon testing, you can figure out how to design a program to treat and correct those deviations. What we found out was that those deviations have far more to do with mental health that neurotransmitters do. What we say is we work at the molecular and DNA level because molecules are affecting not just your enzymes, hormones and proteins, they’re affecting literally DNA and what DNA does. Very simply, the word orthomolecular, ortho being the other side of medicine, but molecular meaning we’re dealing with actual molecules not larger picture pieces such as traditional physiology. Dealing with how your chemistry is moving, shifting and problematic or normal is the key to what we do.
What’s the most common way that patients get in touch with you or get referred to you?
It’s usually word of mouth. They dive into us because we refer to them in a book. It’s oftentimes the internet now. People are very much Googling anything that involves their condition, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s. Any of those considerations, people go into the internet and eventually at some point in time they find us. Sometimes it’s right away, sometimes it takes a few steps but it’s usually word of mouth or internet referrals.If you listen enough and take the time with a given patient, they will tell you what's wrong with them. Click To Tweet
What’s the most common type of issue that is referred to you? You mentioned the mental health having far more to do with this orthomolecular level than we had suspected even the neurotransmitters. What kinds of referrals are most common for you to get?
Almost any doctor would say the two biggest mental health complaints that they ever get involve anxiety and depression. Those are probably the most common themes no matter what the mental health condition is overall. You still see anxiety and depression as some components. I would say anxiety and depression are the most common. Bipolar and schizophrenia are also up there. Brain disorders like autism for example, is extremely big. One of my favorites, which is what got me into this field and made me a believer in this field is schizophrenia. These are some of the most difficult constructs that we deal with in traditional medicine that we have actual treatment for and great understanding around without using pharmaceutical drugs.
That sounds a bit sketchy. Does insurance pay for the treatment that you’re referring to?
No, insurance doesn’t pay for it primarily because they don’t consider it to be founded with traditional medical evidence. They want the double-blind studies and they want all these things that quite frankly, the pioneers in this field thought would simply not be appropriate to do. It means that while you provide treatment for one group, you withhold the treatment for all. Morally and ethically, Dr. Pfeiffer found that to be very challenging. His studies were not those double-blind studies, but empirically they’re all there. Everything we’ve seen since that point in time has turned out to be very true. Insurance companies, on the other hand, was very understanding. Depending on the insurance company, they can get two people to ask them for reimbursement or payment. Both of them come to the clinic, both the same day. One person gets covered by 100%. The other person gets turned out flat, the same insurance company. It happened to us. For the most part, we say it’s not covered by insurance, but many insurances will cover some aspect of it and perhaps not the whole thing.
What is a course of treatment that looks like? What’s the initial intake and assessment process to begin there?
We spent quite a bit of time with patients. In medicine, it’s very clearly understood that if you listen enough, take the time with a given patient, they will tell you what’s wrong with them. We spend anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half with our patients, doctor to patient. Before that, the patients have an intake with a nurse and the nurse spends anywhere from half-an-hour to 45 minutes with them. We’re talking about a process that involves a good 2.5 to 3 hours of gathering information and data before we look to do any testing. There’s the testing process where based upon the history that the patient has given us, we determine which labs we want to order.
We have objective evidence of any issues that are going on and support that we understand how to target the imbalance in chemistries that will hopefully lead to improvement or resolution of the patient’s condition. Once we have that information, we put together a nutrient program. We hand-design very specifically for each patient, the actual milligram dosage, the actual nutrient that’s necessary. We put together the frequency and we put together all the combinations. We made sure that nutrients are not going to be contradictory to the person’s chemistry. In other words, you get what’s designed for your needs, not some general construct that’s out there in some store somewhere sitting on a shelf. It’s hand-designed for you.
Is the process of treatment taking a series of supplements?
It is correct. I like to call them molecular targeting agents. Each nutrient is geared towards shifting another molecule into its proper place. One analogy I often use is a billiard game and a billiard table. Everybody’s played pool at one point in time or another. After the initial break, when I mean break, somebody becomes depressed or schizophrenic or whatever have you. Systems and chemistries are not moving properly. When you see the balls on a billiard table in different places, your goal is to take your targeting agent, the cue ball, targeted towards a particular ball in order to drive it in a particular direction to get it in one of those holes.
If you’re good, you call out your shot. You say, “Here’s the cue ball. The six-ball goes in the corner pocket.” That’s pretty much what we do. We see, for example, your zinc level is low. We’ve got to get your zinc level to 120, here’s the agent we’re going to use. We’re directing it by design to do that. This is how we create our nutrient programs. We first see what’s wrong. There’s the table. We designed a targeting mechanism to get nutrients, to get molecules to move in the right direction and increase or decrease appropriately.
How much of it then is done in concert with recommending a whole rework of someone’s diet?
Dr. Tim, when we first started this back in the days of Carl Pfeiffer and Dr. Walsh and the original Pfeiffer Treatment Center, we did not deal with diet. We had people go see a nutritionist. In fact, we had one on staff, but we ourselves do it. They were consultants. The medicine medical method involved here, we look at diet quite intimately, but it’s diet after we’ve tested your chemistry. We now know, for example, if you’re an undermethylated person, you can’t eat tons of dark green leafy vegetables. We know quite the opposite if you’re an over methylated person, tons of dark green leafy vegetables are exactly what you need to eat. If you’re a person who is toxic in copper, you need to cut down on foods like avocados or cut down on foods that are rich in copper such as certain shellfish. Once we’ve tested your chemistry and we know who you are, we can design a dietary program to help you achieve your goals. We’ll certainly not allow you to hurt yourself because you’re eating a general diet or maybe an extreme diet in the wrong direction. Diet becomes one of the key pieces that we work with them.
Is there a range of costs for an assessment through treatment for an average depression and anxiety and a very common diagnosis?
We have one set fee for the chemistry aspect of this. Our fee is generally speaking the same for everybody. No matter what your diagnosis is, whether it’s autism, whether it’s anxiety, depression, whether it’s schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or maybe you’ve got several different disorders in play. Maybe you have a visual processing disorder as a child or an auditory processing disorder, it’s all going to be the same fee. There’s no rate that changes by way of diagnosis that’s presented.
The fee you’re talking about is for your assessment and diagnosis services. Does that include the supplements that people have to take in the course of treatment?
No, we keep ourselves separate. We don’t have a compounding pharmacy that we own. What we do is we send a prescription to a compounding pharmacy and they charge their own fee for those supplements. We design it and we send that design for somebody to put it into production.
Compared to the fees of some of the pharmaceuticals that some of my patients are taking. I’ve been witnessed the complaints about the price of these things and how they couldn’t even come close to affording them if they didn’t have insurance. The kinds of nutrition compounds that you have constructed, are they in the same price range as pharmaceuticals?
They’re generally cheaper. We tend to average what would be basically about $100 a month for your entire nutrient program.
If you have any, I’m sure the audience would love to know a success story or two or three.
We’ve got plenty. Pick a category, Dr. Tim. Let me tell you about autism, for example. One of my favorite stories is a four-year-old autistic child who had never spoken a word in life. It was 2 to 3 months after he started our nutrient program. The mother from Michigan called us and she was in tears. We said, “What’s going on?” She said, “My four-year-old walked up to me and said, “Mommy, I love you.”” Her child did not say, “Dada or Mama.” This four-year-old that had never said a single word spoke a sentence to his mother that showed emotion, understanding, relationship and caring. She never knew her child had that. That was based upon our treatment protocol. It’s one of my favorite stories.
One of my other favorite stories is a young gentleman who has bipolar disorder. He’s a young guy. He was in his early twenties. He could hardly deal with stress for anxiety. He could hardly talk to anyone. One year after starting the program, he was running his parent’s company. He had a definite bipolar disorder diagnosed by traditional medicine on traditional medications. All of a sudden, he’s doing so well that he was running his parent’s company. As a matter of fact, he encouraged them to open up a second branch of the company and he’s running it all.
One of our favorite issues though, I have to talk about females and depression. They’re oftentimes in a similar spectrum as females with postpartum depression. We’ve had several young ladies who have postpartum depression and depression do extremely well. One young lady has written a book. That book is called I Cu Copper. She’s an exemplary individual. She’s battled with depression for over 40 years. After moving through our treatment protocols, she now lives a virtually depression-free life. Her life has changed so much that she wrote a book about it. We are pleased because she has done so well that she became inspired to help other women. I’ve given you one in every category. We have a male. We have a child with autism. We’ve got a female with depression and we’ve got a major psychiatric disorder called bipolar disorder, all of which have done tremendously. That’s not an exception to the rule. This is typically what we see.The mind operates within the construct of the brain and outside the construct of the brain. Click To Tweet
Before we move past it, the title of that book is I Cu Copper?
The molecular verbiage for copper, the molecular construct is a C and a U in chemistry terms that’s why the book is called I Cu Copper.
What percentage of people that get referred to you have good results through the orthomolecular program?
It’s somewhere between 75% and 85% across the board.
I was doing an interview with Dr. James Colwall, who does the QEEG neurofeedback. He was talking about results they’re getting with people who have autism and other things that are without any of the side effects of the medications. They can work with people who are taking the medications and as they work with people, they find they don’t need as much medication or people work with their doctor to discontinue the medication. Do you find the same thing with your work?
What we do works in parallel with people who are taking medications, so it’s their choice. Some people feel very secure on their meds. They don’t want to get rid of them yet, but they want to go down to the lowest effective dosage due to side effects. We work with that. Some individuals don’t want to be on medication at all. We work with them and some individuals say, “I want my meds on board until my nutrients are up and I can take myself off of them.” We say, “That’s fine but work with your doctor to take yourself off the medication. Don’t do it alone.” We have those three categories of patients that we generally work with.
As you review, you’re working out of Warrenville, Illinois. At that site, what facilities do you have?
Our main clinic is here. Lab core facility that we use for drawing blood and so forth is down the street. We’re pretty well self-contained.
Who’s involved in your clinic? What kind of clinicians are you working with? You’ve mentioned a partner, Dr. Bowman.
Dr. Bowman and I run the clinic. We are the primary practitioners here. When people come in, they see us. We’re the ones who do the work. We have a team of nurses as well. Those nurses become clinical support managers. We have three nurses, who are the most experienced in the field. There was no training program in what we do for nurses. We grabbed these people from the same original center where we used to work. We’ve got literally the most experienced nurses on the planet in the orthomolecular field as it was put forth by Carl Pfeiffer. We also have outreach clinics. Our clinics in Florida, we’ve got two. One is in Fort Lauderdale and we started this one in Tampa. We have an outreach clinic in Michigan, in Maryland, the Northeast Coast. We have outreach clinics in Northern and Southern California as well as Arizona. We literally travel to different sites throughout the course of the year to share this process and to help people who otherwise have difficulty finding help.
Are those outreach clinics staffed by other doctors or are they only open when you go out to do a presentation?
They’re only open when we go out to do a presentation. We literally see patients in those areas. We are licensed in those states.
You mentioned one out in Northern California. What area of Northern California is that?
Burlingame area is where we have our clinic.
Are the outreach clinics listed on your website?
Yes, they are. All of our locations are on the website, address how to get to them, how to contact them. All that information is there.
The primary website that I’ve used for your work is MensahMedical.com. Is that the primary website you’d have us refer people to?
Do you often, if at all, refer your patients to other professional support, for instance, Dr. Colwall or any other?
We do. For example, we talk about diet. We have a nutritional expert in California whose name is Samantha Gilbert. She’s wonderful because she understands the chemistry in how to create a dietary regimen, including meal plans to help people with particular chemistries. One of the most important things we’re doing is to build a bridge between traditional medicine and fields like psychology. We can have individuals who are trained to talk to people and to understand them. We work with them as they go through the nutrient protocol as they go through the nutrient process, to help support them and their families as people go to the road of recovery. Also, we’re building bridges with social therapists and individuals who can help with some of the other challenges that people have as they move this process.
Originally back in the old days, we did what we did. We looked at chemistry, we’ve put together a nutrient protocol and that was it. People had to go out and find new ways to help with support. With the Mensah Medical Protocol, we’re engaging other specialists to help with the support. We’re beginning to build bridges in other directions so that our patients can get the help they need. Not the chemistry, but emotional support, supportive direction from therapists. Their family members can also go to these individuals to gain help. We’re excited because that’s the thing we think is necessary and it’s not happening in the United States. We’re building these bridges globally. We’ve met with psychologists from around the world. We’re literally helping to bridge the gap and to build these new dynamic steps for the patient and personal support.
What’s the wait time to get in for an initial assessment at your clinic?What we've been calling mental health is not about the mind; it’s about the brain. Click To Tweet
Usually, it’s about a few weeks. It all depends on the season. It all depends on how busy we are. We’re in Chicago because we do a lot of traveling and we do a lot of speaking. If we’re not often in Australia or Ireland or somewhere along those lines, you’ll like to be seen sooner rather than later. If we’re on one of those trips where we’ve got to stop here and there, it might be a bit of a longer wait. On average, it’s probably at least a few weeks to a few months.
What’s the area of your practice, if there is one that we haven’t even touched on yet, that you want to make sure we’re expanding people’s awareness of?
I would have to talk about our research institute. The work that has been done before us is wonderful. We’ve come to understand that there is much more applicability to what we do in just mental health. For example, fields like cancer, breast cancer in particular, continuing the work that’s been done. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, physiological challenges, cardiac issues, kidney issues, all those types of challenges are being researched in terms of how chemistry fits into this and how as we manipulate and provide nutrient therapy, things may also change. That’s why and how we created the Mensah Research Institute. We’ve got a great executive director, Mr. DJ Wells. We’ve got a wonderful researcher. We’re looking to build and expand that model. We’re having our first fundraiser, which is coming in. Our research institute is a not-for-profit institution.
We’re taking the work that has been done before us and we’re expanding it tremendously. We’re looking at bridging the gap between mind and body. Most importantly, we’re seeing the crossover benefits that nutrient therapy has on issues such as cardiomyopathy, on issues such as what most people would say would be a fatigue or often illogical challenges. We’re seeing even specialists in these areas using nutrients. Our goal and one of my major passions is to help people with cancer. We can support individuals to do better. The doctors that we’ve trained in the Mensah Medical Method for helping to support cancer overseas have come to us and said, “Thank you.” I’ve said, “Why?” They said, “Because our patients have done extremely well.” Some of them mentioned, “We lost some, we lost one or two.” I said, “I’m sorry to hear that.” They said, “No. Dr. Mensah, we don’t want you to be sorry because you don’t understand. These people when they passed away, they were vibrant. They had energy. They were not bedridden. They were not emaciated. They were not feeble. These were people who are dynamic. We’ve got to them too late.”
Dr. Tim, that was one of the most impressive testimonies I ever heard from a physician. Not a testimony to me, but a testimony to what can be done in areas where we thought we had very little capacity like cancer. It’s not true anymore. Nutrient therapy can be very helpful, very supportive and provide an entirely different process in conjunction with traditional approaches to cancer therapy. That’s one of the things that I’m excited about and that’s one of the major areas that Mensah Research Institute is involved in, in addition to carrying on research with regard to mental health and all that’s come before us. We’re taking it to the next level.
Something that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the area of concussion or post-concussive syndrome. Do you have any experience applying the nutrient therapy to that?
Here we target what’s called the inflammatory model or oxidative stress model. It’s one of those areas that we’ve been talking to individuals who are former professional athletes, for example. Working with them on helping to decrease that inflammatory process that happens after concussions, that happen after multiple head traumas. Even going way back, there are some very famous athletes that have gone through our program. It’s one of those things where it is a very real construct. There can be helpful for that, but we have to get that process moving because the longer you wait, the more inflammation happens. The more challenge in detriment that patient goes through, the harder they are to recover. It is possible. People can do very well.
I was thinking as you’re talking about it that it would be a wonderful synergy between people like Dr. James Colwall and the QEEG neurofeedback and Dr. Zelinsky, who does functional ophthalmology, both are seeing quite a bit of progress helping people with a concussion and post-concussive syndrome. That would be wonderful to see the targeted nutrient therapy added to that in a team approach.
It’s very important for us to all understand that when we are talking about help, it’s not about us versus them. It’s not about this is all you do. The question is what does the individual person require? How do we help and who can we also bring into the fold as a global approach to each patient? That’s a model that they have at John H. Stroger Cook County Hospital in Chicago, at Mayo Clinic in terms of traditional medicine. We have to look at a similar model of acquiring direct professionals to help a given patient who’s got a particular issue and putting all of them together. Sometimes it’s about the right time and the right sequence. People who’ve got chemical imbalances often don’t do as well with neurofeedback until those imbalances are corrected. They sit as a wonderful line slate for that neurotherapy to do tremendous work.
We often see failure or shortcomings with individuals who still have prominent chemical imbalances, who try to do things like neurofeedback and other modalities including brain timing techniques and what it’s called, the interactive metronome. There’s always a timing. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s usually where do we start, where do we go next? There are programs that operate and develop the cerebellum that should be done before nutrient therapy comes on board for a given type of patient. We’re not saying it’s always nutrient therapy first, but a bit of the time it’s a good idea. There is a specific timing for each patient. First knowing your patient is the key. Designing the protocols and talking about which therapies that comes second.
I used the term holistic, but I believe you used the term comprehensive medical or comprehensive mental health treatment. Is there a range of specialists that you like to refer to people to make sure that the people you’re working with are being supported in that comprehensive way?
I use the term comprehensive medicine because what we are saying here is that what we’ve been calling mental health is not about the mind. What we’ve been calling mental health is about the brain. The mind operates within the construct of the brain and outside the construct of the brain. What is it that influences the mind and its capacity? It’s like you getting in your car and driving somewhere. You are you and your car is your car, but if there’s a problem with the engine and it doesn’t start, you don’t go anywhere. The brain sits there and if it’s dysregulated, the mind can’t function properly. We talk about brain disorders. When we’re talking about mental health, what we’re referring to is brain health. We call it comprehensive because it’s looking at more than neurotransmitters, pharmaceutical agents and the traditional stuff of traditional medicine.
It’s looking at the molecular model, which helps us to be more inclusive and expand all that. Part two to your question, once we’re dealing with these issues, we can determine whether or not somebody requires a specialist that’s separate and distinct from us. Which specialists they would want to be involved with? Quite often because it’s regional, they might have to find on their own who that specialist might be, but at least we’re able to target for them which specialist they need to see. What type of specialist they need to see? We work in synergy in that direction. There are therapists who are cognitive specialists. How do you now reshape how you approach a given situation? How do you undo past traumas? How do you undo these things now that your chemistry is normalized? Those are the kinds of directives that we typically want to shape for our patients.
Thank you so much.
About Dr. Albert Mensah
Albert H. Mensah, MD is the co-founder of Mensah Medical in Warrenville, IL, a clinic that specializes in the treatment of biochemical imbalances, and the cognitive (and physical) disorders caused by those imbalances. As a physician in this specialized field since 2005, Dr. Mensah has treated over 30,000 patients using all-natural, non-pharmaceutical, targeted nutrient therapy. His practice focuses on the management and treatment of cognitive disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, behavior/learning disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndromes, childhood and adult schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as family medicine. More recently, Dr. Mensah co-founded the Mensah Research Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to conducting, supporting, and presenting research that provides scientific evidence of the efficacy of targeted nutrient therapy and other natural approaches to improving brain function, and to enhancing and optimizing mind/body health and balance. Dr. Mensah regularly presents at conferences internationally, participates in physician training programs, and consults with other health care professionals. Dr. Mensah received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) and his medical degree from Finch University of Health Sciences-Chicago Medical School. He is board certified in integrative pediatrics by the American Association of Integrative Medicine (AAIM).
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