Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist, coined the term orthomolecular to define the use of finely tuned quantities of substances, such as vitamins, to prevent and treat disease. Pauling's initial 1960s paper spoke of orthomolecular psychiatry, and practitioners continue to explore specific mental health applications. Other uses range from HIV and cancer treatment to the extension of life. Many of orthomolecular medicine's aspects are not integrated with traditional medicine, though Pauling's emphasis on the health benefits of vitamin C continues to influence mainstream practice.
Orthomolecular medicine's goal is to restore the body's optimal functioning by providing substances thought to be out of balance or deficient. These substances may be vitamins, minerals, trace elements, or amino acids. The theory maintains that some of these therapeutic supplements can be consumed in high doses. As with many forms of alternative medicine, there is considerable controversy about the safety and effectiveness of this approach. Numerous journals have published related articles in the area of aging.
Proponents explain that orthomolecular medicine fits within the problem-solution model of traditional medicine as a form of chemoprevention. The major difference between the two models centers around the matter of balance in the body rather than a corrective approach to disease and out-of-norm test values. Orthomolecular medicine often takes longer to produce results, relying on the body to take advantage of a restored nutritional balance and improve health on its own terms.
A typical supportive regimen for the immune system during the winter might include vitamins A, B2, B12, C, D, E, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, folic acid, biotin, and niacin. The rationale for these includes addressing free-radical buildup, supporting mucous membranes, and encouraging immune cell development and response.
An orthomolecular approach to mental health for seniors use micronutrients to help brain functions and tackle degradation that has occurred over time. Other protocols support recovery from stress and gut health, and specific approaches for other conditions, such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes, also exist. As research into the causes of these and other conditions continues, protocols evolve to address the underlying mechanisms.
Since the underlying principle of orthomolecular medicine is balance, prevention is often similar to the treatment of conditions. The important difference lies in using additional support for the body's recovery from an existing condition, such as adding antioxidants to support immune system-based processes. Much of the antiaging work in orthomolecular medicine provides findings that help to prevent specific conditions.
This type of medical care focuses on understanding how bodily processes work at a cellular level and restoring balance to support these processes. Diseases indicate imbalances, and supplements can help the body restore balance and return to health. Practitioners work to prevent disease and seek optimum functioning of the body's systems. They place emphasis on creating a state of general, holistic health.
Both medical tests and a general evaluation of the patient help the practitioner create a profile of the person's general state of health and bodily function. Although standard protocol experiences are useful, they can be modified for specific needs, stages of life, or goals. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements, and other substances help to provide a custom treatment plan.
Orthomolecular medicine is closely linked to a deep understanding of the body, especially the functioning of cells and their requirements. As research provides more insight into these processes, this field of practice will also evolve to provide specific orthomolecular responses to challenges, such as cancer development, the endocrine system's response to stress, and brain health.
Dr. Linus Pauling's early research brought vitamin C applications for immune system health into common use. Since then, orthomolecular approaches have been drawing particular mainstream attention for applications in aging. This is an area where the correction of imbalances can make an important difference. However, the typically slower results achieved by this corrective technique may keep the practice in the background or in a preventive role for now.
Many physicians who include alternative medicine strategies in their practices accept orthomolecular approaches. Alternative medicine practitioners can address concerns and provide orthomolecular treatment plans. It is important to coordinate medical care through a primary care physician or another broadly trained medical professional. This ensures everyone involved is considering the most effective approaches.
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