Mental Health | June 21, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality.
Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.
Schizophrenia is sometimes confused with delusional disorder, but someone who has other diagnostic symptoms of schizophrenia can’t be diagnosed with delusional disorder because delusions can also be a symptom of schizophrenia.
Experts believe that problems begin during the time of brain development in utero which may lead to faulty connections. The brain also undergoes major changes during puberty. These changes could possibly trigger psychotic symptoms in people who hare genetic vulnerabilities or brain differences.
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between the age of sixteen and thirty. In rare cases, children can have schizophrenia too. The symptoms of schizophrenia fall into three categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.
These are psychotic behaviours not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may lose touch with some aspects of reality.
Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviours.
For some patients, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more severe and patients may notice changes in their memory or other aspects of thinking. Symptoms include:
Schizophrenia often presents itself due to a genetic predisposition and has several common biological markers and/or risk factors
Examples such as:
It affects men and women equally; however, men tend to present symptoms earlier.
There are also many people who have schizophrenia that do not have a family member with the disorder and conversely, many people with one or more family members with the disorder who do not develop it themselves. Scientists believe that interactions between genes and aspects of an individual’s environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop.
Whilst there are many issues and symptoms that schizophrenic patients live with on a day to day basis, the drugs used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia come with an extensive range of side effects which are both dangerous and very serious.
Side effect of psychoactive drugs include:
Various psychotropic drugs are also associated with the following dangers:
Due to the extensive side effects of psychoactive drugs, scientists have studied many natural therapies in order to find alternatives that work for those suffering with schizophrenia. Natural remedies for schizophrenia do exist, and they may actually work as well as, if not more effectively than the conventional drug treatments used with the additional advantage of having no side effects.
Some of the most researched alternatives for the treatment of schizophrenia have been conducted on the ketogenic diet.
A review published in 2017 recounted the use of the ketogenic diet in a large number of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia. They share a small, uncontrolled study in 10 women completed in 1965 (before the introduction of antipsychotic drugs) in which all of the women experienced a statistically significant decrease in symptomatology after two weeks on a ketogenic diet.
After results like these, researchers began to focus on testing the ketogenic diet as one of the natural remedies for schizophrenia. A study released in 2015 looked at animals on a ketogenic diet and in this study all animals weighed less than those on the standard (control) diet. Results showed that all animals experienced a decrease in pathological behaviours common to those of schizophrenia.
The most impressive find from this study showed that the ketogenic diet works against the weight gain, cardiovascular issues and type-two diabetes that are seen as a common side-effect of drugs given to control schizophrenia.
Researchers believe that the ketogenic diet helps schizophrenic patients to normalize the pathophysiological processes that are causing symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, lack of restraint and unpredictable behaviour. Another study found that the ketogenic diet lead to elevated concentrations of kynurenic acid (KYNA) in the hippocampus and striatum, which promotes neuroactive activity. Some studies even point to the elimination of gluten under the ketogenic diet as a possible reason for improved symptoms, as researchers observed that patients with schizophrenia tended to eat more carbohydrates immediately before a psychotic episode.
At the centre of the ketogenic diet is the severe restriction of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates).
These foods are broken down into sugar (insulin and glucose) in the blood once they are eaten, and if these levels become too high, extra calories are much more easily stored as body fat and results in unwanted weight gain.
When glucose levels are cut off due to low-carb dieting, the body starts to burn fat instead and produces ketones that can be measured in the blood.
When an individual is following a ketogenic diet, the body is burning fat for energy rather than carbohydrates, so in the process most people lose weight and excess body fat rapidly, even when consuming lots of fat and adequate calories through their diet.
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Other natural therapies that have been researched for the treatment of schizophrenia include eating a diet particularly high in omega-3s and healthy fats for optimal brain function as well as good quality probiotics in order to keep the gut healthy and immune system functioning correctly.
J. Firth, B. Stubbs, J. Sarris, S. Rosenbaum, S. Teasdale, M. Berk and A. R. Yung, The effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation on symptoms of schizophrenia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Psychological Medicine, 47, 09, (1515), (2017).
Shuichi Suetani, Sukanta Saha, Darryl W Eyles, James G Scott and John J McGrath, Prevalence and correlates of suboptimal vitamin D status in people living with psychotic disorders: Data from the Australian Survey of High Impact Psychosis, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 51, 9, (921), (2017)