Orthomolecular therapy is one type of alternative or complementary medicine that tries to prevent disorder or disease or even cure various ailments by using proper nutrition and nutritional supplements. Very large doses of supplements may be prescribed where required.
The term “orthomolecular” means the right molecules in the right amounts, and was coined by biochemist, activist and author Linus Pauling. This therapy aims to fit the treatment to the individual and their particular biochemical requirements.
Orthomolecular therapy is also sometimes referred to as Megavitamin Therapy. This is because orthomolecular prescriptions could include dosages of mineral and vitamin supplements in excess of standard dietary recommendations.
How does it work?
The understanding behind this therapy is that when a person has any nutritional deficiency, this could lead to some serious health issues. Prescriptions may include not only vitamin and mineral supplements but also certain pharmaceutical drugs. A person may be told to refrain from certain foods and maintain diet restrictions as well.
According to proponents of orthomolecular therapy, this can be effective treatment for various disorders and diseases. It may help with common problems such as acne, insect bites, colds and bruises to serious problems such as pneumonia, heart disease, cancers, Parkinson’s and psychiatric illnesses.
Therapists believe that pharmaceuticals are harmful for the body whereas supplements including vitamins, minerals and enzymes are more natural and better for the body. Typically, treatments involve high doses of niacin, Vitamin C and other minerals and elements. Patients may also be asked to cut out intake of refined flour and sugar.
Blood urine and other tests may be performed to assess deficiencies or levels of certain minerals in the body.
What do critics say?
Critics have termed this therapy as pseudo science or even quackery. Certainly there is reason to believe that good nutrition can help prevent a range of illnesses, but there is also valid reason to doubt the efficacy or even the safety of overdosing on supplements of all sorts.
There is the charge that orthomolecular therapy may not be able to cure ailments as claimed; and may in fact cause problems due to overdose of supplements. Studies have not been able to demonstrate that orthomolecular treatments can prevent cancer.
There is also the fact that supplements are not as well absorbed by the body as nutrients that reach the body through food. This is often put forward as an argument by opponents of orthomolecular therapy.