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How to Use Diet As a Treatment for Schizophrenia

| By Eliza Martinez
How to Use Diet As a Treatment for Schizophrenia
Someone with schizophrenia suffers from delusions and hallucinations. Photo Credit tragic role image by Andrey Kiselev from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Schizophrenia is characterized by paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, disordered thinking, social withdrawal and cognition problems, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you or someone you love suffers from schizophrenia, you know first-hand how this serious mental illness can affect life. Typically, schizophrenia is treated through the use of medications and psychotherapy. However, people with the condition have found relief from many of their symptoms through changing their diet. Talk with your psychiatrist if you would like to try treating your schizophrenia with diet alterations.

Step 1

Reduce sugar, carbohydrate and caffeine intake. This will help your blood sugar stay balanced. Many drugs prescribed to treat schizophrenia can mess with your blood sugar, so avoiding excess stimulants can help keep it at a desired level. A study published by Nutrition and Metabolism has indicated an alleviation of many symptoms associated with schizophrenia by following a low-carbohydrate diet. Foods to avoid include candy, soda, bread, crackers, some fruits and vegetables and coffee.

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Step 2

Add foods containing essential fatty acids. According to FoodForTheBrain.org, people with schizophrenia have reduced amounts of these fatty acids in their brains, so adding foods that contain them can help treat the illness. Good sources include fish, nuts and olive oil. Incorporating them into the diet can help you feel better and provide more control over your schizophrenia.

Step 3

Increase your antioxidant levels. Antioxidants are responsible for counteracting oxidation in your body that can cause other health concerns, such as cancer. Specifically, people with schizophrenia experience increased oxidation in the brain. Adding foods that contain vitamins A, C and E can help treat this issue. In addition, avoiding burnt and fried foods reduces the amount of oxidation likely to occur in your brain. Antioxidant foods include beans, berries, apples, plums and pecans.

Step 4

Take a daily multivitamin. Niacin deficiency can produce thought disorders, hallucinations and depression, so taking a megadose of niacin daily can help you reduce these symptoms associated with your schizophrenia. Your doctor will work with you on how much you should get daily. In addition, adequate intake of B vitamins and folic acid is responsible for maintaining the chemical balance in your brain. Increasing your intake can help you achieve this balance, thereby alleviating the severity of your schizophrenia symptoms. Finally, many mental illnesses result in a zinc deficiency, so your doctor may recommend taking a multivitamin containing zinc. In some cases, you may have to take these nutrients separately in supplement form because a traditional multivitamin might not have the high levels of the vitamins that you need.

Step 5

Cut gluten out of your diet. Mental illness often produces a sensitivity to gluten, which can result in many of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Eliminating gluten sources from your diet will reduce these issues. Gluten is present in foods that contain wheat, rye, barley and their byproducts. Read labels to be sure you are completely avoiding foods that aren't gluten-free. Common foods you will need to avoid include bread, crackers, many cereals, soy sauce, baked goods, beer and some other alcoholic drinks.

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author image Eliza Martinez
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.
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