Orthomolecular nutrition (ON) is a term
which, when we first hear it, sounds cultish like gangsta rap or media elite. Like most
unfamiliar expressions though, we get comfortable with it after we have heard it
frequently and know what its all about. Our purpose in this short monograph is to
tell you what orthomolecular nutrition is, how it evolved, how it relates to traditional
medicine and how it is becoming a very popular and effective adjunct to traditional
Orthomolecular is a synthetic term made up of ortho, which is Greek for
"correct" or "right" and molecule which is the simplest structure that
displays the characteristics of a compound. So it literally means the "right
molecule". Linus Pauling coined the term in 1968 to help him express his belief that
disease could be eradicated by giving the body the "right molecules" of
nutrients through good nutrition.
Basically, a doctor of nutrition (the polite name for orthomolecular nutritionist)
believes that individuals and infirmities are unique. Each of us eats distinctly different
foods grown in varying soils yielding differing nutrients. Each of us has a unique body
shape which we exercise differently in varying work and play environments. And each of us
has different physical and emotional stresses. So, while everyone has the same list of
required natural substances such as vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids,
enzymes and hormones, the healthy amounts are determined by lifestyle and environment. It
is the relative amount of "right molecules" that is important to each of us as
individuals. When they get out of balance, disease results.
Turning this around, disease results from excesses and deficiencies of the natural
substances our bodies need so that they can grow and replace tissue. Treatment of disease
by doctors of nutrition, then, is aimed squarely at bringing these natural substances into
This differs from traditional medicine which assumes one disease (the presenting illness)
originating from a single cause and solved by one (or few) treatments. Where a doctor of
nutrition tries to bring many nutritional factors into balance, traditional health care
practitioners often treat with toxic drugs. Introducing these alien chemicals into our
bodies can alleviate symptoms but has two drawbacks: drugs often erase valuable clues as
to what the real problem is and they create dependence.
Despite these fundamental differences, orthomolecular and traditional medicine are not in
opposition to one another. They can be practiced simultaneously. Traditional primary
health care practitioners are beginning to embrace orthomolecular nutrition as an
enhancement to their practices. There are at least three forces at work promoting this
First, there is a surging demand by health care consumers for alternative health
solutions. One need only look at the dramatic increase in spending in this area for proof.
Second, the number of primary care physicians is growing faster than the populace. Coupled
with the push for managed care this is forcing traditional health care practitioners to
work harder to distinguish themselves. They are responding to this challenge by doing a
better job of marketing their practices. One means of "product differentiation"
is to offer conjunctive nutrition programs as an alternative to traditional diagnosis and
treatment. Third, alternative health solutions are becoming increasingly eligible for
medical reimbursement by insurance companies.
Doctors of nutrition believe that by concentrating and
balancing the "right molecules" in the body they can achieve optimal health.
Traditional medicine also has optimal health as its goal. This goal compatibility will
foster conjunctive nutritional programs between orthomolecular nutritionists and
traditional medical practitioners.
Our Web site is dedicated to the premise that, as stated recently by an anonymous Irish
doctor, "The evidence for nutritional therapy is becoming so strong that if the
doctors of today dont become nutritionists, the nutritionists will become the
doctors of tomorrow."