"Most people practicing in the alternative medical business offer supplements or herbs. Those kinds of patients don't come to me," says Dr. Bruce Semon. "I have a different approach. Because I take foods away, I'm last on the list."
Dr. Semon found his calling while at a post-nutrition doctorate research position at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Maryland focusing on nutrition and cancer prevention. But the source was unexpected: his 4-year-old son's sudden loss of developmental ground. The doctor tapped into his nutrition background and the NCI research library to delve into potential dietary connections, and found the yeast Candida albicans. His nutrition-based research approach drew on all of his past education, and created an anti-yeast diet that brought major improvement to his son's behavior and abilities. "It was self-taught under tremendous stress, trying to do something for my son. He got a lot better, and he is now a grad high school," he says. "The anti-yeast diet approach to treating Candida has since helped many other children and people."
The Wisconsin native graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, earned a PhD in nutrition from the University of California-Davis and privately studies homeopathic remedies. For a time, Dr. Semon dedicated himself to treating Candida patients with the anti-yeast program. Continuously offering nutrition guidance to patients, he embarked on a child psychiatry residency in Milwaukee at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Today, Dr. Semon's treatment of Milwaukee-area psychiatry patients frequently taps into his nutrition expertise, particularly when addressing conditions such as attention deficit disorder and autism. He is a member of professional organizations including the American Holistic Health Association, the American Society for Nutrition, the National Center for Homeopathy and the American Academy for Child and Adolescent Psychology.
He offers dietary treatment options to help both his psychiatry and nutrition patients address mental and physical health challenges. To reach others who could be helped by his the anti-Candida diet treatment approach, Dr. Semon co-authored the books Feast Without Yeast, 4 Stages to Better Health, An Extraordinary Power to Heal, and a cookbook, Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen. He self-publishes and promotes his work through his publishing company, the Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition, LLP.
You have a medical background in psychiatry, cancer prevention and nutrition. What inspired you to seek to provide healthcare opportunities beyond traditional western medicine?
I had a mother who was interested in nutrition and those kinds of things, so that led to my initial interest. I'm very good at chemistry and sort of figuring out what toxic chemicals might do, so it's not very hard for me at all. I have academics, nutrition, research world, cancer and cancer prevention, I learned the yeast thing because I had to develop my own diet, I've studied homeopathy. I'm running a research project right now, looking at what's in food, to try to predict what might be important.
At the time I was at NIC, my 4-year-old son became extremely ill, he lost much function, and nobody knew what to do. He was losing everything, speech, function, it was pretty bad. The only glimmer of an insight that we had was that he was having severe headaches, chronic migraines; I don't know how he stood up. The way I grew up, a headache was a food thing, so I started studying what could be in the foods that could be causing the problems. We tried some different things, and not only did the headaches get better, but he got better. The causes all had something to do with yeast and germination, and that led me from the headache diet to the issue of Candida and creating a diet specifically to treat Candida. It turned out to work exceedingly well for Candida, and it worked exceedingly well in treating all kinds of disease.
You are the co-author and self-published the books Feast Without Yeast, 4 Stages to Better Health, An Extraordinary Power to Heal, and a cookbook, Extraordinary Foods for the Everyday Kitchen. How did you get involved with these types of educational efforts and establish your publishing company, the Wisconsin Institute of Nutrition?
As I was treating people for Candida yeast, I would give them the list of foods to avoid, and eventually, we wrote down all of our recipes. They would say, "You make a lot of sense." Because we felt we could help more people through a book, we put it all together and we tried to publish it. There was some interest; but publishers only want a book if they can sell 10,000 copies a year.
At that time, as a fellow in child psychiatry, I wrote the research protocol with five cases for the Medical College of Wisconsin, and it turns out anti-yeast works well. I sent the protocol to a man named William Shaw with a children's hospital in Kansas City, thinking he might be interested. He got in touch with me, and wanted the cases for his own book; he told me "This is possible to do." He wrote about half of the book, and then included contributions from others, including doctors. I wrote a short chapter explaining the diet, and he included it as one of the chapters in his book. He put a chapter of mine in his book. After that, I decided to self-publish and formed our little company.
What unique rewards come from treating your patients with anti-yeast therapy and homeopathic remedies?
Every time I see the anti-yeast therapy work on someone, it's amazing to me that it works. I'm getting a little further out from my first days. There's a big part of me that says I don't ever stop wanting to be amazed by this. I find homeopathy very interesting; matched with psychology, it works for me because I have the basic skill overlap and I enjoy that ability to try to understand people better.
It's difficult to tell people to change their diets in a very restrictive kind of way; on the other hand, the rewards are tremendous. People are taking toxic, very expensive drugs, and I can make it better with a special diet. It saves people from toxic treatments, it's much less expensive, it's much more benign, and that's why I keep doing it. Even if I'm not the most well-known person in the world, I love to make it available to people. I've seen people with multiple sclerosis and people with chronic, major illnesses that get better; I was on phone earlier today with someone with ulcerative colitis who got rid of the steroids. Another thing it helps with is Tourettes syndrome.
In my homeopathic and nutrition work I have a stronger interest in mental health than in, say, the ins and outs of rheumatology. I'm getting much better at utilizing the remedies, and I've come up with remedies for my son and my patients. I had a 13-year old boy, who was terribly depressed, sleeping all the time, nobody could do anything for him, and I saw in the record that he was born to a drug-abusing mother with syphilis. That doesn't mean anything to a regular doctor, but in homeopathy, you treat that; I got a call that he is doing better, and he is sleeping less; the remedy costs one penny per dose and he's doing better. Another recent case is a developmentally disabled woman who cuts herself, is very up and down with her moods, has some sexual issues and is very upset with her adopted parents. I gave her platinum, and it took her out of a suicidal depression; it was four cents a dose. You can also treat the biologic part of deep depression quite easily with the anti-Candida therapy.
What is a typical week of work like for you?
I mostly do psychiatry for a variety of practices, and I do some of the anti-yeast treatment. I'm always looking for remedies to give to people, and I try to apply homeopathy to regular psychiatry. I teach some psychotherapy, where I supervise therapy done by students and offer input on how to improve treatment of the patients.
On a basic level, what skills does your job demand?
It's mostly a people skills kind of thing. Listening is critical; I see a lot of people who haven't gotten better elsewhere, so I have to be really thinking about what is wrong. I start with regular psychiatry, a lot of times they haven't responded to medications, I have to be able talk to them, and understand that maybe a medication worked, but it had intolerable side effects. I listen. There are a lot of doctors that don't listen to these things, because they don't have any other options to offer. I have options, even if the patients don't want to try them. Most people in the alternative medical business offer supplements or herbs; those kinds of patients don't come to me, I have a different approach. Because I take foods away, I'm last on the list. I have seen people who have MS get better, psoriasis, get better, but they have to be willing to follow a special diet. I warn people that the diet is difficult, but that it will get results.
What are some common misconceptions in nutrition-based approaches to healthcare?
High does of vitamins are typically recommended for autistic kids, and they don't get better. I have a caseload of autistic kids I started myself that hadn't taken supplements, and they do much better then the autistic kids who are referred to me who are on all kinds of supplements. I realized the supplements were interfering with health; difficult kids get much better with the anti-yeast therapy than they ever do with the vitamins. Vitamins and supplements feed yeast; so if you want to treat yeast, don't take them.
The question I so commonly get is, "Why doesn't my doctor know about this?" It's because somehow, someone made a non-decision that no one was ever going to know the cause of so many of these chronic health issues, and that we would treat with medications on a symptomatic basis. For instance, ADHD responds to anti-yeast therapy exceedingly well; you can take a kid who can't concentrate and make him concentrate exceedingly well. Yeast makes chemicals that put the brain to sleep, and malt feeds the yeast, and malt is in everything. If you take away the malt only, the kid can concentrate better. But instead, we have a medical model gives him a medication every day. I don't understand why. When I look at the kinds of things people do for MS, very toxic medicines and injections vs. what's possible with more natural means, to me, the choice is obvious. It's too bad people don't do it that way.
Tell us about your education as a medical doctor specializing in psychiatry, nutrition and homeopathy.
I'm from Wisconsin, and I went to UW-Madison. I originally went to law school there for a year, and I did not like it, so I finished up pre-med classes; my interest at that point was in how nutrition and what we eat affects our health. The advice I received from the nutrition people at UW-Madison was the best way to go into that field was to be a doctor, so that's what I did. I did an internship in California, and there was some ambiguity about which graduate school nutrition PhD would be best. I had a false start at a graduate school in Omaha, I left after a month, and then I went to graduate school in nutrition at the University of California-Davis, which is regarded as one of the best universities to go to for post-graduate studies in nutrition. It's a three-year research degree.
What factors should students interested in psychology, nutrition or homeopathy consider when choosing a medical school?
If you are going to go to medical school, you must understand that it's going to be brutal. People get screened out, it's the culture. It's a standard hands-on experience, it's not holistic; you can't be a creative person and go through that.
Homeopathy is holistic, looking at the whole person and using the power of plants, their ability to heal and how they affect health; that's not what they do in medicine. It is better to study alternative medicine formally if you are interested in practicing, but there are some big challenges to that. The big problem is that they got rid of much of the homeopathic education in this country 100 years or so ago. There are various institutes, but with kids, it's hard to travel, so I do lot of reading. There are a lot of different approaches, and it's hard to aggregate. It is only recently that I've been able to integrate it, and been able to understand it better. Rajan Sankaran in India is probably the foremost teacher in homeopathy; he does at least one naturopathic seminar a year in the United States and has written several books. It took him a lot of thinking over 20 years, four or five books, to figure out how to teach what he was doing, so that has helped me.
I am interested in how food affects us, but when I was looking for schools there wasn't much for the study of food. Today, for people interested in food, there is some knowledge out there, but it's hard to put together. There is no "Department of the Diet" when you walk into a university, and that's exceedingly unfortunate. There is food science, but that is focused more towards "how long can I leave out egg salad before it's a problem?" The problem with graduate school nutritionists is that they ignore that food has positives and negatives. Positive is what we need to survive; it fuels body process, and includes vitamins and minerals. Then there are negatives in food which affect us adversely, like mercury in fish. So how much does this affect us? We don't really know, because nutritionists don't worry about that, or look into that; there is no "Department of Dietary Toxicity."
How do you feel that the healthcare educational system could be changed to better serve society?
The best thing is to understand that there used to be all sorts of schools of thought about curing people. Back in the 1800s, there was lively discussion, and unfortunately only the orthodox method went on, while the eclectics in naturopathy and homeopathy lost out. None of the other viewpoints are taught, and it's too bad, because they had interesting viewpoints. If you can put treatment in perspective, it can help you understand that we don't have to use all of these toxic injections and medicines and that it doesn't have to be this way.
To change the system, I would fill in some of those gaps. Every doctor should learn something along the lines of "this is not the only way." They should at least teach the basic tenets of alternative practices for an hour or two, so people understand medical treatment hasn't always been this way. Unfortunately, the influence against that (from the medical establishment) would be tremendous.
What topics are emerging as hot issues in the overall healthcare field that will impact homeopathic and nutrition-based healthcare?
The insurance industry is very dominated by doctors, so even though it saves them money, insurance companies don't want to pay for homeopathic and nutrition-based types of treatment. Meanwhile and unfortunately, most research foundations are dominated by regular academics, so there isn't much funding going toward different thoughts or treatment alternatives; they get the high-power academics who always want to do the same types of studies. I've tried to hard to find remedies to help autistic kids; it's so scary and difficult. I wanted to get to the point that I could run a research project on autism, but it turned out that no one would fund such a thing. There's a good case for it, but there's no academic interest.
Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about alternative healthcare specialties in order to be successful as a practitioner?
The regular medicine system pulling the other way is a major influence. I had someone who wrote to me for help who I was trying to treat with a special diet, and her regular doctor referred to me as someone who is "engaging in witchcraft." All I did is suggest a diet. It's so easy for the doctor to say, "Don't listen that person, he's crazy, he doesn't know anything." You have to really believe in what you are doing, and be willing to stand up for it.
Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the homeopathic and nutrition-based healthcare fields that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to succeed in the field?
If you are thinking about medical school and are also interested in homeopathic or nutrition-based approaches, there are ways to learn before you get to medical school or while you are there. I would encourage people to at least learn there are other ways of thinking about healthcare. I hate to see people re-invent the wheel, so I'm glad to talk to people interested in schooling in the field.
Editor's Note: If you would like to follow-up with Dr. Bruce Semon directly, click here.