William Walsh, PhD

Nutrient Therapies in Mental Disorders

date aired: August 11, 2017

Episode Description

Each human being has unique biochemistry which results in diverse nutritional needs. Individuals may be deficient in certain nutrients and overloaded in others. Advances in epigenetic science have sealed the powerful impact of nutrients on gene expression and have enabled improved treatment for mental disorders. Neurotransmitters, which are instrumental in mental disorders, appear to be epigenetic in absorption , metabolism and storage of key nutrients. For example we now understand that methionine and SAMe act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and folates and niacinamide depress neurotransmission at dopamine receptors. For the first time we are able to adjust gene expression of enzymes that may be a improper levels. Dr. Walsh has accumulated a data base of over 10,000 patients and shares his nutrient supplementation to patients with mental conditions such depression, schizophrenia, autism and Alzheimer’s Disease.


book:  Nutrient Power


  • A natural process set up in nine months of gestation involving methylation of DNA.
  • This determines which genes would be turned on or off.
  • These regulates which nutrients interact with body
  • The turning on or off of genes are altered by environmental insults and traumatic experiences after birth
  • Walsh believes that cancer is an epigenetic process where environmental insults overwhelm DNA
  • He believes that schizophrenia, autism, and PTSD are epigenetic diseases as well.
  • Epigenetics explains how nutrients impact brain
  • For example, epigenetics determines how folate and serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants affect the brain.


Working with Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, Dr. Walsh found that children born with a powerful tendency for behavioural problems had a combination of three inborn chemical disorders:

  • An excess of trace metals
  • Methylation difficulties
  • Pyrrole disorders

A. Antisocial behaviour/ sociopaths

  • Under methylated
  • Oxidative stress
  • Low copper and zinc levels
  • Pyrrole disorders

B. Metal metabolism disorders

  • Cannot regulated copper and zinc
  • High copper levels, zinc deficient
  • Jeckyl and Hyde reactions
  • Reaction when stressed


  • With mild moderate problem, one can accomplish a lot with diet alone
  • With more serious problems, medical tests and an understanding of brain chemistry are needed to identify chemical imbalances. In many cases, these conditions can be improved with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
  • Ideally, the doses of pharmaceutical medications can be reduced. In some cases, they can possibly be eliminated.


  • Depression is not a single disorder involving low serotonin activity
  • Like Prozac, methionine and SAMe are methylating compounds that inhibit serotonin reuptake activity
  • SAMe and methionine can reduce anxiety and depression and normalize the brain
  • Drugs such as Prozac are foreign molecules which can reduce anxiety and depression, but they do not normalize the brain.


  • Walsh posits five different types of depressive disorders
  • Each has different transmitter disorders and needs different therapy
  • Hence Dr. Walsh recommends assessing what s wrong with brain transmission.
  • The controlling factor is serotonin reuptake The important factor is not how much serotonin in brain but how quickly returns to the original brain cell once in the synapse
  • This is controlled by epigenetics.

A. Undermethylation Type of Depression

  • Largest group of depressives comprising 38 % of depressions
  • These people suffer from low serotonin activity so thrive on anything that increases serotonin
  • Cannot give these people folates because epigenetically folate acts as a serotonin reuptake promoter.
  • Lab values
    • High blood histamine levels (> 70 ng/ml)
    • Low SAMe/SAH ratio
  • Responds to
    • SSRIs,
    • SAMe,
    • methionine,
    • tryptophan,
    • vitamin B 6,
    • Folate can improve methylation but lowers serotonin and dopamine activity
  • Responds poorly to
    • Folate, choline, pantothenic acid as they increase chromatin acetylation and SERT levels

B. Overmethylation Type of Depression.

  • 20 % depressed people fall into this category.
  • They have severe anxiety along with depression’
  • They tend to have too much serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine activity at synapses
  • They have low levels of MNDA
  • Treatment response
    • Goal: increase folate stores and increase acetylation of chromatin
    • They respond to folate and vitamin B 12
    • Niacinamide, choline, DMAE and manganese to lower dopamine synaptic activity
  • Poor treatment response to
    • SSRIs and substances that increase serotonin (such as tryptophan, and SAMe.)
    • antihistamines
  • Lab Values
    • Low folate
    • Low histamine (< 40 ng/ml)
    • Low absolute basophil count (<30)
    • High SAMe/ SAH

C. High Copper Type of Depression

  • Mostly females
  • Effects Norepinephrine and dopamine levels
  • They have depression and anxiety
  • Low dopamine levels
  • 95 % of folks with post partum depression
  • metallothionein system, which clears copper, does not function well
  • This might not show up until pregnancy.
  • During pregnancy copper levels go up and are supposed to go down after birth.
  • These women don’t have this ability to lower copper levels after birth
  • Can lead to post partum depression and post partum psychosis
  • There is a high success in treating this group.

D. Toxic Metal Type of Depression

  • Lead intoxication decreasing lead was taken out of gasoline
  • More than a million people in US
  • Are successful treatments that tae three to four months


E. Pyrrole Disorder of Depression

  • Extraordinary oxidative overload
  • Overload of oxidative radicals
  • Low zinc and vitamin B 6
  • Easy to diagnose and treat


Schizophrenia can be viewed as having subtypes corresponding to methylation status

Undermethylation Type of  Schizophrenia 

  • Symptoms
    • Thought disorder (20 % of schizophrenics  )
    • Catatonic; tend to shut down
    • Have delusions
    • Obsessive compulsive tendencies
    • Only 5 % hear voices
  • Lab values
    • High blood histamine (> 70 ng/ml)
    • High blood basophil
    • Low SAMe/ SAH

Overmethylation Type of Schizophrenia

  • Anxious, panicky, agitation,
  • Sensory disorder: hears voices, sees things, feels things tactically
  • Typically diagnosed as chronic paranoid schizophrenia
  • Has excessive activity at the dopamine and norepinephrine receptors
  • Low MNDA, high levels of norephinephrine
  • Lab Values
    • Low blood histamine levels ( <40 ng/ml)
    • Absolute basophil levels ( <30)
    • High serum copper (> 120 meg/dl)
    • High SAMe/SAH ratio
  • Treatment
    • Aim: to lower dopamine activity and enhances MNDA activity
    • respond well to lithium, benzodiazepines,
    • Respond poorly to SSRI, tryptophan, tyrosine, SAMe
    • Respond well to folate and vitamin B 12

Pyrrole disorder Type of Schizophrenia

  • Overload of oxidative stress
  • Voices and delusions


  • Nice
  • Wonderful neighbours; volunteer for activity
  • Might be nurses; they care about other people
  • Not competitive
  • Prone to high anxiety, food sensitivities
  • Underachievers
  • Not detail oriented,


  • Born with obsessive compulsive tendencies
  • 75 % have seasonal allergies
  • Competitive; driven to succeed
  • Are some of the world’s greatest athletes
  • Tend to be slimmer
  • Have interior anxiety under their calm exteriors


  • Night people; have trouble getting to sleep
  • Don’t do well in morning
  • Tend to skip breakfast
  • Have poor short term memories and dream recall (both of these involve the hippocampus which needs vitamin B 6)
  • Love salty, spicy foods
  • Have mood swings
  • Have pale skin
  • Are zinc and vitamin B 6 deficient


  • Involves a genetic predisposition and environmental insult
  • Most are undermethylators
  • Many are normal until around age 20 months
  • Then they tend to have a divergent gaze, isolate, have repetitive movements; difficulties in socialization and speech
  • Tend to have food sensitivities
  • They have different brain structures
  • Early intervention is everything


  • The disease typically manifests around age 20 with recurrent. Episodes of mania
  • Walsh believes this is due to a “channelopathy” where the ion channels in nerve cell membranes malfunction.
  • This results in an inability to maintain ionic levels inside the neuron and an inability to regulate potassium ions
  • Walsh believes that this explains both the manic and depressive episodes


  • Involves an oxidative overload and inflammation
  • It involves the glial cells which nourish every brain cell and participate in memory
  • Glial and neurons ae partner in neurotransmission
  • There are just as many glial cells as neurons

Why brain neurons die so early in Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Average person loses 400,000 brain cells per year
  • We have 80 billion brain cells so this is less than a ½ % loss over 20 years.
  • In Alzheimer’s Disease, they lose tens of millions brain cells per year
  • The cause of this brain cell loss is apoptosis
  • People who die of Alzheimer’s Disease have less than one-third of normal levels of metallothionein
  • They also have low glutathione and high oxidative stress
  • A protective protein in brain and in blood brain barrier