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Schizophrenia

Mental Health | June 21, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

mental health

Schizophrenia

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.

Signs and Symptoms

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.

Positive Symptoms

These are psychotic behaviours not generally seen in healthy people. People with positive symptoms may lose touch with some aspects of reality.

Symptoms include:Schizophrenia

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thought disorders (unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking)
  • Movement disorders (agitated body movements)

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms are associated with disruptions to normal emotions and behaviours.

Symptoms include:

  • Flat affect (reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone)
  • Reduced feelings of pleasure in everyday life
  • Difficulty beginning and sustaining activities
  • Reduced speaking

Cognitive Symptoms

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:

  • Poor executive functioning (the ability to understand information and use it to make decisions)
  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Problems with ones working memory (the ability to use information immediately after learning it)

Genes and Environment

Genes and EnvironmentSchizophrenia often presents itself due to a genetic predisposition and has several common biological markers and/or risk factors

Examples such as:

  • multiple gene encoding errors or malfunctions
  • smaller total brain matter
  • disrupted immune system function
  • white matter abnormalities

 

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.

Environmental factors may involve:

  • Exposure to viruses
  • Malnutrition before birth
  • Problems during birth
  • Psychosocial factors

Treating Schizophrenia

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:Treating Schizophrenia

  • suicidal thoughts
  • weight gain or loss
  • tardive dyskinesia (stiff, uncontrollable jerks in the face or body)
  • dangerously low blood pressure
  • a sluggish “walking through concrete” feeling (particularly with antipsychotics) and many others

Various psychotropic drugs are also associated with the following dangers:

  • Heart problems
  • Pregnancy and birth complications
  • Violent behaviour
  • Worsened mental illness
  • Car accidents due to reduced mental clarity
  • Poor immune function
  • Drug abuse/addiction
  • Sexual dysfunction

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.

The Ketogenic Diet for Schizophrenia

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.

The Ketogenic Diet Explained?

At the centre of the ketogenic diet is the severe restriction of all or most foods with sugar and starch (carbohydrates).

The Ketogenic Diet Explained?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.

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References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235919264_Kombucha_microbiome_as_a_probiotic_a_view_from_the_perspective_of_post-genomics_and_synthetic_ecology

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874111004788

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2652467/

https://www.schres-journal.com/article/S0920-9964(17)30063-4/abstract

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/201709/low-carbohydrate-diet-superior-antipsychotic-medications

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00043/full#h9

https://www.jcu.edu.au/news/releases/2015/december/high-fatlow-carb-diet-could-combat-schizophrenia

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26554370

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)

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0447.2010.01551.x

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