I’d like to reintroduce Dr. Robert McLean a graduate of Howard University’s College of Medicine with an undergraduate degree majoring in Physics form Dartmouth College. He has been practicing complimentary and alternative medicine for the past twenty years and has formed The Preventive Medical Center in Newport News, Virginia.
Sornberger: Dr. McLean continues to answer the question: What supplements would you prescribe to the anorexic or bulimic that has been prescribed Prozac or other antidepressants?
Dr. McLean: A very recent review in The Journal of the American Medical Association (1/6/10 issue of JAMA) of an analysis of the efficacy of antidepressant medication (including the SSRI class) suggests that while these medications have significant benefit in severe depression, there is little if any benefit, compared to placebo, in mild to moderate depression. Serotonin, however, is one of several neurotransmitters that regulate our mood, behavior, and mental function.
A better approach to increasing serotonin (and other neurotransmitters) rather than interfering with its reuptake is, I think, to supply the body with the right precursor molecules to produce more of what is needed.
In the case of the neurotransmitters there are amino acids as well as other nutrients which are needed to produce the end products. Unfortunately, in anorexia and bulimia, we are cutting off the production by reducing the supply of nutrients.
Sornberger: What other supplements would you suggest for the treatment of anorexia or bulimia?
Dr. McLean: In addition to amino acids, there are B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and chromium, and essential fatty acids that play critical roles in glucose and carbohydrate metabolism.
Sornberger: How would you approach treating bulimia and anorexia?
Dr. McLean: My approach would be to do an analysis of nutritional deficiencies, in particular an analysis and correction of amino acid deficiencies and imbalances. There are many supplements which enhance brain, mood, and neurologic function.
In addition, toxins and food sensitivities and intolerances can have profound influences on our health and mental state. Hormonal imbalances can also be involved.
While there is no doubt, psychological issues may need to be addressed; however, we need to do everything possible to produce good physical health.
Sornberger: Are you aware of research into the benefits of supplements as compared to drugs?
Dr. McLean: Most research in this country has been done to show the safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical medications, which are then marketed for great profit. Supplements, however, are increasingly finding their way into mainstream use as more studies have substantiated their benefit.
Fiber, probiotics, omega 3 fatty acids, and most recently vitamin D are a few examples of substances and supplements that have been embraced by mainstream medicine.
Sornberger: Would you like to add anything more about preventative medicine and the American health care system?
Dr. McLean: The American health care system is considered by many to deliver the best quality of care in the world, yet our outcomes in terms of chronic diseases and life expectancy are far from the best. In terms of cost, it is unsustainable.
We are currently in the process of reforming our health care system. Unless we can reform our personal attitudes toward health, however, and shift the paradigm from simply treating disease after it develops, our efforts will not be successful.
If individuals take more responsibility for health promotion and disease prevention, and government supports this effort instead of promoting more pharmaceutical dependence, our outcomes in terms of health and the cost of health care delivery will improve.
Thank you Dr. McLean for sharing your knowledge on the difficult topic of how to best treat eating disorders.