Why I Practice Orthomolecular Medicine


By Richard P. Huemer, M.D.
Medical Advisor, The Nutrition Reporter™ newsletter

I didn't set out to be a great healer. My first love was science. As a youth, my imagination was fired by a book called The Microbe Hunters, which described in heroic proportions the exploits of men like Ehrlich, Koch and Pasteur - warriors against the ancient enemies of all men. I determined to become a research scientist.

My resolve lasted a few years past medical school, until I came to understand the importance of organizational hierarchy and politically correct thinking in modern-day science. So I opted for independence over science, and joined a friend in medical practice.

Medicine wasn't satisfying, as I knew it wouldn't be. Patients were generally assumed to have one disease, originating from a single cause, amenable to one or a very few treatments. Diagnose the disease, and the treatment was automatic. I missed the opportunity for analytical thinking.

I missed the satisfaction of a job well done, too. Patients usually had vague and seemingly unrelated complaints; hardly a one had a textbook case of anything. The medications I prescribed for the complaints often didn't work. Patients kept returning with unresolved problems. I dreaded the words, too often pronounced: "Doc, that medicine you gave me just made me worse!"

Why couldn't one translate the in-depth analysis and critical thinking of the research lab into the clinical area? Why couldn't each patient become a research project?

A little before then, Linus Pauling had written his seminal paper titled "Orthomolecular Psychiatry." He proposed using optimal amounts of substances normal to the body for treating disease and maintaining health. I knew Linus was on the right track. But several years passed before I realized how to apply his ideas in practice.

My understanding dawned while I was working with the late and great Joseph D. Walters, M.D. My perceptions shifted dramatically over a short time, as when one is looking at the figure in an optical illusion: one moment it's a solid cube, the next it's inside out and upside down. Finally I understood.

What I understood, and based my subsequent practice upon, is that everyone's infirmity is unique, just as each person is unique, and that every infirmity (other than physical trauma) originates in disturbed body chemistry. Because body chemistry is complex, illnesses are complex. They are mosaic entities, big pictures made of many little pieces of deranged chemistry.

To heal, then, we need not to ask what the big picture is, but what it is composed of. What natural substances are deficient? Which are excessive? How can we bring the body chemistry into a state of balance to compensate for the deficiencies and the excesses?

I began running a lot of lab tests and prescribing a lot of natural substances. I used all kinds of things: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, hormones, metabolic intermediates. And the more I did and the more I gained confidence in the technique, the more I was rewarded with those words I longed to hear: "Doc, those pills you gave me sure did the job!"

I've been recommending nutritional therapies for 20 years now and practicing orthomolecular medicine almost that long. It's an ancient art, however. The first doctor who fed a lime to a scorbutic sailor was practicing it; so was the first doctor who treated a goitrous patient with thyroid. Now surgeons are replacing deficient brain hormones with neural-cell transplants - that's orthomolecular. The genetic engineers are coaxing cultures to produce missing hormones-that's orthomolecular too.

Abram Hoffer, M.D., a pioneer in orthomolecular psychiatry, once expressed the view that someday we wouldn't need a word like "orthomolecular," because all of medicine would embody the orthomolecular principle. Abe was right. Orthomolecular medicine is the medicine of the future.

Note: Dr. Huemer practices medicine at 1739 West Ave. J, Lancaster, CA 93534. The phone number is (661) 945-4502.

updated 12/04/96 by Challem and 3/24/00 by Huemer
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