Q & A with Dr. Greenblatt
Q. Dr. Greenblatt, it’s an honor to speak with you today. You are a pioneer in integrative medicine; can you give us an idea of how that differs from traditional medicine for mental health?
A. The traditional model for psychiatry focuses on symptomatic relief of disorders using medications. If one medication doesn’t have enough benefit for the patient, another is added. This is known as polypharmacy, which doesn’t address the underlying causes of mental health disorders. The integrative approach focuses directly on those underlying causes.
Q. What sparked your interest in nutritional medicine and adjunct therapies?
A. During medical school I had an interest in nutrition and its affect on brain function. But what was most striking to me was the very limited success that I saw from prescribing medications. Patients kept coming back with side effects from the medications or their symptoms were not being relieved. With the traditional approach using medications only, there are a lot of residual symptoms, and research supports that these patients rarely find a cure or go into remission.
Q. What motivated you to write your books: “Answers to Anorexia” and “The Breakthrough Depression Solution”?
A. Academic research finally began supporting what I had been talking about. I really wanted to get the information out there, that research shows nutrition affects brain function and depression.
Q. With respect to your most recent book “The Breakthrough Depression Solution”, can you describe what is novel about this approach?
A. There are two important things. The first is the referenced EEG method. If medications must be prescribed, the referenced EEG method predicts which are most helpful for each patient. The second is using the academic research that supports the nutritional and hormonal causes of depression.
Q. What are some of the physical problems that might cause or exacerbate depression?
A. There are many that are commonly missed including sleep apnea, thyroid issues, and nutritional deficiencies. Low cholesterol, vitamin B12, folate, and zinc are the most common deficiencies.
Q. Are there any co-morbid conditions that most physicians don’t explore?
A. Mainstream physicians very rarely look into possible food allergies or neuroactive peptides from food sources. This is most commonly seen in the incomplete digestion of the dairy protein casein and a protein in wheat called gluten. These neuroactive peptides called casomorphin and gliadorphin can be detected in urine and I have found elevated levels of these peptides in anxiety disorders, particularly obsessive compulsive disorder.
Q. Is it possible to recover from mental illness?
A. Absolutely, I believe psychiatric illnesses are treatable and people can recover.
Q. You have recently done a lot of very important work on suicide prevention. What patient populations are the most vulnerable and why?
A. People who are at the highest risk of suicide are those with mental illness and a substance abuse problem. These patients typically have profound nutritional deficiencies that increase the risk of suicide, such as low Omega 3 fatty acids, cholesterol, and lithium.
Q. What can society do to help prevent suicide?
A. The most important thing is to spread awareness of the physiological causes to all mental health disorders. Once the underlying causes are identified, treatment is much more successful.
Q. Do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share with our readers?
A. We must understand the causes of depression and anxiety to develop a model of prevention. This is the most neglected area of psychology and psychiatry, the prevention aspect.
Q. Thank you for taking the time to educate our readers on this novel treatment method. Can you please share any resources that are available to practitioners and patients who wish to explore more about integrative medicine for mental health?
Comprehensive Psychiatric Resources
Free Webinar: Nutritional Factors in Suicide Prevention
IMMH Conference: September 17-18, Sedona, Arizona
Order Dr. Greenblatt's books