The onset and severity of schizophrenia might be related to dietary factors. While the condition has genetic causes, environmental factors, including diet, might influence if, when and how intensely the symptoms present. Current thinking postulates that a person is born with a predilection or vulnerability toward schizophrenia, and diet, among other factors, can evoke the illness. Dietary factors might contribute toward the emergence or severity of symptoms, depending on the particular genotype. For those who already have schizophrenia, altering your diet might reduce the symptoms or prevent relapse.
For decades, researchers have noted a link between dietary factors and the prevalence of schizophrenia in different cultures. For example, gluten was identified early on as a possible precipitating cause of schizophrenia. A 1984 study published in "Biological Psychiatry" examined anthropological reports gathered in prior decades in Papua New Guinea, Malaita, Solomon Islands and Micronesia, cultures that at the time did not include grain in the diet. The prevalence of chronic schizophrenia was a fraction of the rate in Europe before the use of neuroleptics to treat schizophrenia. As grain has been introduced into these cultures, the prevalence of schizophrenia has risen to match rates in gluten-consuming societies.
Eliminating gluten from the diet may help improve schizophrenia symptoms. An early study, published in the 1969 "British Journal of Psychiatry" found that hospitalized schizophrenic men randomly assigned to a milk- and cereal-free diet upon admission to a locked psychiatric ward, progressed to an open ward far more quickly than patients who were not on a gluten-free diet. Currently, orthomolecular practitioners employ individually customized nutrition plans to modify intake of foods, vitamins and nutrients to prevent the onset or treat current symptoms of schizophrenia. A 2009 case study published in "Nutrition & Metabolism" illustrates the potential value of careful diet in the treatment of schizophrenia. The case involved a woman in her 70s who had been having visual and auditory hallucinations daily since the age of seven. For the purposes of helping her lose weight, she was placed on a gluten-free, low carbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat diet. After hallucinating daily for nearly seven decades, her hallucinations spontaneously went into permanent remission.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The World Health Organization conducted a survey of eight countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, as reported in 2007 in "Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica." The WHO survey found that countries with diets characterized by a high intake of vegetables and fats from fish, as opposed to meat, had a lower prevalence of severe, chronic schizophrenia. Occurrences of schizophrenia were less severe and ended sooner when the diet contained more omega-3 fatty acids. Experimental studies, such as the 2010 study published in the "Archives of General Psychiatry," suggest that persons at risk of developing psychotic symptoms may benefit from taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil, along with their antipsychotic medication. Eat fish twice a week, or take 2 to 4 g of fish oil, the website Schizophrenia.com recommends.
Vitamin C deficiencies can contribute to mental health problems and possibly even to vulnerability to hallucinations, according to FoodfortheBrain.com. Include foods rich with vitamin C in your diet, including citrus fruits; dark, green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, cooking greens, and Brussels sprouts; bell peppers; citrus fruits such as oranges and tangerines and strawberries.
Stable Blood Sugar
Improve your blood sugar balance. Avoid sugary foods such as candy, pastry, cookies, fruit juice, full-sugar soda and foods that contain refined carbohydrates. Rather than eating one or two large meals, eat five or six small meals throughout the day.
Avoid stimulants, such as coffee, tea and energy drinks. Drink alcohol infrequently and moderately. Consult with your physician before making significant changes to your diet. Investigate, with your physician, if you have food intolerances or allergies that might contribute to your symptoms.