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All of us want to be healthy in body and mind. We also like to be well. Wellness builds upon the health of body and mind with positive spirituality and hope for self-realization. Wellness is a prerequisite for reaching our full potential as human beings, and the key to being healthy and well is to have a soundly developed, personalized nutrient program.

Modern Western society as a whole talks the talk about health and wellness but doesn’t walk the walk. In these societies the food supply is controlled by big business, not primarily in order to support wellness but to generate profit. Similarly, the profit-driven health care industry mainly pushes drugs. Together, the bad qualities of our food combine with the toxic aspects of most of our pharmaceuticals to undermine health and wellness.

Most of today’s pharmaceuticals are synthetic and, therefore, are foreign to our body’s bio-chemical makeup and life processes, and they have toxic effects on the body. Today’s highly processed foods, which carry synthetic additives, do little more to support life than provide calories. But these are not the means to health and wellness.

There is another, practical and achievable path to health and wellness. This is to follow the body’s natural ways, its biological workings. The body’s biology thrives on clean, naturally produced and cleanly grown foods, supplemented by nutrient concentrates and medicinal herbs, as necessary. Those who follow this path have a chance at wellness and long life.

Human populations have long practiced wellness—such practices are even seen in pre-human primates. Early human populations sampled plants and animals as foods, as well as the minerals in the nonliving environment. Those that were the safest and worked the best became common foods and spices.

As the centuries went by, science emerged. The early organized societies systematically investigated foods for their healing properties. Specific mushrooms and flowering plants were recorded as medicinals. The next big step was for individual medicinal nutrients to be discovered.

In the 18th century, the physician James Lind observed that certain foods could ward off scurvy, the awful disease that plagued those on long sea voyages. The factor common to anti-scurvy foods was subsequently proven to be vitamin C. The 20th century saw classic deficiency studies that established the dietary essentiality of the other vitamins and the essential minerals.

The next great advance in recognizing the power of nutrients came from one brilliant scientist: the two-time Nobel Laureate Professor Linus Pauling.

Pauling’s Nobel Prize for chemistry was earned for having figured out protein structure (his other Nobel was for peace). He knew that life revolves around natural protein enzymes that make energy from foods and use this energy to drive the thousands of other enzyme activities that keep us alive (called “metabolism”). He also knew that enzymes are naturally regulated by the types and amounts of substances available to them for processing (“substrates”).

The natural substrates for our enzymes are directly or indirectly derived from the nutrients of foods. To specifically describe these Pauling developed the term orthomolecule, meaning molecule orthodox to the body. Orthomolecules are those chemicals that are naturally required for the body’s normal and healthy metabolism. Without sufficient supplies of orthomolecules to drive them, our enzymes slow down and our health suffers.

Pauling knew that it is enzymes that keep us alive and healthy. Our overall health is only as good as our weakest enzymes. Pauling reasoned that weak enzymes could be made to work better by supplementing the diet with the orthomolecules they need to pull off their catalytic reactions. His reasoning was solidly based in enzyme biochemistry.

Pauling's 1968 orthomolecular hypothesis was clinically verified by orthomolecular physicians. Recently, the famed Berkeley professor Bruce Ames and his colleagues verified the orthomolecular principle for a large number of human enzymes. Ames’ group publicly acknowledged Pauling’s correctness and the validity of the orthomolecular principle.

Along with the vitamins and essential minerals, the orthomolecular nutrients are essential to anyone’s nutrient program. Just think, none of us is likely to have perfect enzymes since we don’t have all-perfect genes. The proteins of our enzymes are coded for by the DNA in our genes. Among the 30,000 or so genes that we inherit from nature’s random shuffling of our parents’ genes, pure chance dictates that we get some bad genes. Bad genes generally code for bad enzymes.

The vitamins and essential minerals are orthomolecules, and so are many other nutrients. Orthomolecules are usually safe to take, are life sustaining, and build health and wellness. Conversely, many pharmaceuticals interfere with our enzymes’ natural use of orthomolecules. Some drugs even block enzymes that make key orthomolecules, thereby depleting them from our tissues. Shortages of life-supporting orthomolecules inhibit cell-level survival. One example is chemotherapy drugs that deplete folate; another is statin drugs that deplete ubiquinone (“coenzyme Q10”).

Besides being central to our life processes, orthomolecular nutrients have another convenient property: they are safe to take, even in high quantities. It seems that because the body is so used to having these substances around, it knows how to safely use them. In terms of benefit-risk profile, orthomolecules are far superior to pharmaceutical molecules.

Consider the benefit-risk profiles of some orthomolecules:

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). A major protective antioxidant, enzyme cofactor for making nerve transmitters and an essential cofactor for the connective tissues. Provides major immune system support (hence its use in fighting colds). Can be safely used intravenously as well.

Ubiquinone (coenzyme Q10). A good antioxidant and irreplaceable substrate for energy enzymes. Indispensable for making ATP life energy. Used clinically to save kids who inherit very bad energy enzymes. When depleted from the heart by statins or other agents, death can occur. Safe up to very high intake levels.

Alpha-lipoic acid. An essential enzyme “prosthetic group,” structurally integral to at least two complicated enzyme systems that make energy from foods. Very good antioxidant. Clinically beneficial for peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) and for blood sugar control. Better to take only the natural R form, which is safer and works better than the synthetic R+S forms.

GlyceroPhosphoCholine (GPC). Occurs naturally in very high concentrations in mother’s milk. A major dietary source of the vitamin-type nutrient choline. A unique osmotic protectant for the brain, kidney, liver, and other organs. Used to build cell membranes for cell growth. Mental performance enhancer in the young and healthy, the elderly, and patients afflicted from stroke or brain injury. Important for fertility. Premier mind-body orthomolecule.

Omega-3 EPA and DHA. These long-chain fatty acids are practically vitamins. Crucial to fetal brain development. Proven to protect against heart attack and stroke. Anti-inflammatory, protecting all the organs. Also clinically promising for mood control and for children with attention deficit or autistic problems. Everyone should take these daily.

This list goes on and on: the B vitamins, too often taken for granted. Vitamin D, also previously underrated and now found to be cancer-protective. The vitamin E complex, currently under attack from bad science. Glucosamine, better for arthritis than any drug. Phosphatidylserine (PS), to “turn back the clock” on memory loss. Acetylcarnitine, superb energy orthomolecule. S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), for depression and arthritis AND liver support. Many other nutrients, all more powerful than drugs.

The better our nutrient program, the better our enzymes will perform and the more healthy and well we can be. For people who have disease or are otherwise unwell, the nutrient program would be further strengthened by medicinal herbs. It’s most prudent to purchase these as standardized preparations from reputable sources. Medicinal herbs that never became traditional foods are best used with the help of a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Example: shiitake mushroom is a traditional food; Chinese club moss is not.

Ultimately, our health and wellness rest on our life energy. Enzymes generate our life energy from the foods we eat. Our enzymes depend on the vitamins, essential minerals, and other orthomolecules to function. That’s why we all need a systematically organized nutrient program. A good nutrient program is the foundation of health and wellness.

Doctor Parris Kidd

Dr. Kidd has been a contributing editor and science advisor to Total Health magazine since 1996. His columns include interviews with Dr. Andrew Weil, cancer treatment pioneers Drs. Nick Gonzalez and Linda Isaacs, Dr. Dharma Khalsa, Dr. Barrie Tan, and environmentalist Erin Brockovich. Other columns such as Why You Should Take Vitamins became instant classics. Dr. Parris Kidd’s website provides detailed information on his professional reviews, seminars, books and other career accomplishments.