Medical Mainstream Perspectives on Nutrient Deficiency and Toxicity Diseases 

Medical doctors can and do diagnose clear nutrient deficiency diseases that are well known including phenylketonuria, (phenylalanine inborn error of metabolism), kwasikor syndrome (starvation state), beriberi (B1 deficiency), iron deficient anemia, and pernicious anemia (B12 deficient state). Medical doctors have a common respect for therapies that correct these overt nutrient deficiency diseases and supplement by means of nutrient-correcting therapy to support and/or prevent these problems.

Practitioners that go beyond the scope of assessment and treatment of the obvious nutrient deficiency diseases include naturopathic doctors, functional medicine specialists, and orthomolecular practitioners. These practitioners endorse nutrient-correcting therapeutics that are dependant on comprehensive assessments that go deep into the biochemical trends of deficiency states. Some of the tactics implemented in the treatment of schizophrenia for example are covered well in my 2008 review on schizophrenia.

Medical doctors also assess and treat obvious toxicity states such as wilson’s disease (inherited copper toxicity state). Toxicity states are also assessed by naturopathic doctors, functional medicine specialists, and orthomolecular practitioners. Such practitioners can pick up on non-inherited copper toxicity states by assessing lab findings with respective copper toxicity symptoms presentations common to for example depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADD, and OCD.

Similar Medically Defined Paradigms of Treatment

The following definitions may help us understand further the similarities between mainstream conventional pharmaceutical based medicine and naturopathic , functional, and orthomolecular medicine.

Functional Medicine

Medicine that assesses and intervenes with the aim of improving biochemical physiology to enhance emotional, cognitive, and physical health. Metabolic function is considered from an evidence-based scientific perspective. Systematic assessment covers key areas including environmental influences, mitochondria and oxidation energy states, mind-body connection, digestive health, inflammatory states, hormonal imbalance, and detoxification pathways. Functional medicinal treatment is considered a first-line of treatment in many countries. Treatment includes nutrients, herbs, natural non-synthetic products, and dietary intervention.

Naturopathic Medicine

Medicine that covers several methods of medical treatment but includes among other modalities, clinical nutrition and botanical medicine. Naturopathic assessment can cover all body system assessment and treatment modalities mentioned above in functional medicine.

Orthomolecular Medicine

A medical approach that looks foremost at nutrient- and diet- correcting aspects of assessment and treatment.

Functional, naturopathic and orthomolecular medicine are nutrient correcting therapies that consider genetic predisposition and environmental disease risk factors.

Mainstream Conventional  Medicine

Medicine that endorses the view that symptoms, lab findings and genetic histories can assess and diagnose a condition (or risk factors for a condition) which is then often treated with a synthetic drug or nutrient with a degree of specificity aimed at combating the disease state.

Laboratory Results are considered key in mainstream conventional (pharmaceutical-based) medicine as well as naturopathic, functional, and orthomolecular medicine

Laboratory results help us confirm and differentiate biochemical problems or to diagnoses conditions. Lab results can also dictate treatment. Here there is a solid common ground between mainstream, functional, naturopathic and orthomolecular medicine. The Symptoms Picture begins to make sense when you factor in the lab findings. Treatments based on symptom and laboratory findings have a clear aim to target the mechanism directly or indirectly as best they can to improve the quality of life of the patient.

The mainstream approach has a solid common ground with nutrient-correcting lab-based therapy. 


Table 1.  Commonalities between Mainstream Medicine & Functional, Naturopathic, and Orthomolecular Medicine.
       Symptoms dictate treatment

  • If symptoms are clear, treatment can be initiated
  • Lab tests need not be done to diagnose a condition if it is obvious
  • When symptoms do not tell the whole story you need to consider several possible reasons for the imbalance and rule out which one is culprit
       Lab results dictate treatment

  • Above or below range lab findings are pertinent
  • Low ‘normal’ and high ‘normal’ reference range results carry weight in terms of interpretation especially when more than one result confirms the biochemical trend
  • Provincial or state covered tests carry weight in terms of interpretation and more elaborate testing can be ordered when indicated
       Treatment targets the condition

  • Endogenous Deficiencies and Toxicities are Assessed & Treated
  • Direct targeting of the biochemical imbalance is key
  • Supporting secondary aspects of the condition are also key
  • Rehabilitation into society is strongly endorsed

Separable and Inseparable Aspects

These approaches are inseparable but also with clearly distinct advantages.  For example:  potent drugs may be needed to abate overt ingrained chronic symptoms quickly when functional, naturopathic, and orthomolecular therapies can not;  nutrient-correcting therapy in first-episode schizophrenia can be pivotal in achieving profound symptom alleviation;  and nutrient deficiency aspects considered by functional, naturopathic and orthomolecular medicine are usually assessed and treated by looking at deficiency trends before they become ingrained.