Schizophrenia is a psychiatric pathology in which hallucinations, delusions, unpredictable behavior, and personality deterioration are noted. The patient is forced to take medications throughout his life to stabilize his condition. However, taking such medications can lead to weight gain. The patient needs to arrange a proper diet. Let’s find out what kind of diet is suitable for schizophrenia and the contraindications.
We Are What We Eat
It has long been proven that the foods we eat directly and indirectly affect our mental condition. They can both cause disease and make the body healthier. “We are what we eat” is a well-known phrase that directly reflects the relationship between our eating habits and our state of health. This statement becomes twice as relevant in the case of serious illness, including mental illness.
It is known that in our body, cells are regularly renewed. For example, epidermis cells renew every 2-3 weeks, and blood cells renew every 120-150 days. The liver is a unique organ. It cleans the body all its life from all the food garbage we eat; it can even recover from losing 75% of its cells. If you give up junk food (fried food, sugar, alcohol), the liver will be completely clean in 6-8 weeks.
The continuous taking of medicines is a heavy load on the liver, which has to eliminate them all the time. A normal person rarely takes medicines that do not affect the liver cardinally, but chronically ill people must take them constantly. That is why we should pay special attention to correct nutrition in diseases requiring constant medication.
Even a healthy person’s state of mind, mood, and reactions to events around him depends largely on his health—all the more important for people with mental disorders. Schizophrenia is a multifactorial disease that requires a certain lifestyle to maintain a stable state without exacerbations. Long-term medication and poor diet can lead not only to weight gain but also to the development of some systemic diseases.
Illnesses in schizophrenia
Scientific studies in psychiatry have shown that patients tend to change their eating habits and have a habit of unhealthy, fiber-poor foods. And it is not necessarily associated with taking neuroleptics – such phenomena can be observed without medical treatment.
An unbalanced diet, alcohol and nicotine intake, lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, and preference for fatty foods poor in fiber lead to the development of metabolic syndrome. The patient often develops cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. In addition, taking atypical neuroleptics causes hormonal imbalance and an uncontrollable increase in appetite. But after all, taking medication is necessary in any case. That’s why it is so important to control the nutrition of a schizophrenic patient. According to statistics, mortality in this population is 2-3 times higher precisely because of the side effects of taking medications and an inappropriate lifestyle.
An effective method of combating overweight in schizophrenia in children and adults is to follow a diet. In medical institutions, patients have been prescribed a special diet, but at home, the patient’s relatives need to pay special attention to this.
Popular diets for schizophrenia
There have been many scientific theories in which scientists have justified the relationship between a person’s diet and the state of his psyche. Here are some of the most popular theories.
It is worth noting that gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly popular not only among those with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) but also among people who do not have chronic disorders. Some consumers are convinced that the absence of plant protein helps improve overall health and maintain intestinal health.
The fact that gluten intake is associated with various human health disorders, including neurological pathologies, is actively discussed in the scientific community. A gluten-free diet is especially recommended for autism, schizophrenia, depression, and other borderline conditions.
Celiac disease is a pathology of the small intestine in which gluten in foods is not completely broken down. It accumulates on the walls of the intestine and glues the villi, which prevents the normal absorption of food, eventually leading to a deficit of useful elements. As a result, an autoimmune reaction develops – the body begins to destroy its cells.
The connection between gluten and psychiatric disorders, particularly juvenile schizophrenia, was first identified in the mid-20th century. A few years later, American endocrinologist Francis Dohan presented his theory, in which he estimated the risk of morbidity depending on the diet. He noted that during World War II, there was a significant reduction in hospitalizations for exacerbations of schizophrenia in countries deficient in cereal crops.
In another study, Dohan cited the results of his experiment. They established a diet with the usual content of cereals for a group of patients on medication. During this period, there was a decrease in the effectiveness of the medication. When they returned to a gluten-free diet, the medication effect increased.
There is no single scientific evidence base for the effect of gluten on the course of schizophrenia, and only anecdotal studies exist. It probably also depends on the medications taken and the individual characteristics of the patients. When treating the disease, neuroleptics, and other drugs, doctors consider a gluten-free diet an effective addition to standard therapy.
Omega-3 fatty acids
These substances are known for their positive effect on the human body, indispensable for proper brain function and cardiovascular activity. The body does not synthesize omega-3. These fatty acids must come from the outside, along with the food.
Scientific studies have proven that omega-3 acids can reduce the risk of schizophrenia and other mental disorders. And the positive effect lasts for several years after taking omega-3 supplements. An experiment conducted in Australia showed that even after six years, patients who had taken supplements with fatty acids were less likely to suffer exacerbations than patients who participated in the study as a “placebo.” In the former group, 10% of participants had acute psychosis, whereas, in the group that took the placebo, 40% had acute psychosis. In some countries, omega-3 preparations are recommended as a supplement to the diet of patients with schizophrenia but are not mandatory.
It is the name of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, moderate-protein diet. It was developed in the 1920s to treat epileptic children and helped raise ketone bodies in the blood. In the 1970s, also used this diet for weight loss.
The essence of this dieting method is as follows: the body begins to use as an energy source not carbohydrates (they are believed to be only 20 g per day), but fats, which are broken down into ketone bodies: beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetone, acetoacetic acid. Acetone is eliminated from the body, and the remaining compounds circulate in the blood and serve as fuel sources for cells. Using ketone bodies can reduce insulin resistance, keep blood insulin levels low, and reduce cholesterol. Several studies confirm that the keto diet promotes the reversibility of type 2 diabetes. All of these factors are important for patients with schizophrenia prone to metabolic syndrome and predisposed to developing diabetes.
Specialists should monitor all changes related to eating habits. For example, if the keto diet contains very few carbohydrates in the diet (less than 15 g per day), they can affect the effectiveness of the drugs.
Theories about the effect of some food components on mental state and brain function have no official confirmation. Still, the negative effect of some of them, even on healthy people, is quite proven. For example, some flavor enhancers provoke the excessive release of histamine, adversely affecting brain activity. It has been noted that gluten intolerance increases the risk of schizophrenia. Should understand that all the described diets are not a panacea but only an aid.
Can I use coffee and caffeinated drinks with schizophrenia?
Caffeine is an alcoholic found in many plants: coffee, tea, cocoa, and cola. It is a legal psychostimulant, the consumption of which is not regulated in any way. As is known, after drinking a drink with caffeine, there is a short-term effect: sleepiness disappears, reaction improves, and concentration increases. But drinking large quantities of coffee makes no sense: after a certain amount of caffeine in the body, it ceases to refresh but can cause a state of psychosis in healthy people, as well as provoke some brain pathologies, particularly schizophrenia.
In addition, experiments have proven that an excess of caffeine increases the likelihood of hallucinations – visual and auditory. So, excluding caffeinated drinks from the diet is recommended when treating mental disorders.
Useful foods for schizophrenia
It is difficult to give the same recommendations for all patients because initial conditions vary. It is difficult to give the same recommendations for all patients because the initial conditions differ. Even national differences play a role. For example, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork. All peculiarities must be considered when developing a diet for the patient. A balanced diet is especially important during periods of exacerbation since often the person refuses to eat at all or tries to eat unsuitable foods.
Foods containing B vitamins, magnesium, nicotinic acid, and other substances that are useful in disorders of brain activity should be present without fail.
- Vegetables fresh, boiled, steamed: potatoes, beets, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, including juices from them, as well as mushrooms.
- Fruits, berries – fresh, in the form of juices, dried fruits.
- Boiled eggs, omelets.
- Dairy products: cheese, cottage cheese, and others.
- Fish, seafood.
- Lenten meat: rabbit, turkey, chicken.
- A variety of nuts and seeds.
- Cereals: buckwheat, rice, beans, and millet.
Special emphasis should be placed on foods containing protein and foods rich in fiber and healthy fats. It is important to maintain a vitamin balance: the menu should include vitamins C, E, and PP – even in healthy people, their deficiency leads to the appearance of symptoms similar to schizophrenia. Vitamin PP is enough in vegetables: broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes. Vitamin C is rich in citrus fruits, berries, onions, and garlic. We get B vitamins from nuts, egg yolk, and legumes. It is important to drink plenty of clean water daily-at least 1.5 liters.
We have given only basic recommendations, and the daily diet for the patient is made, taking into account individual characteristics. Proper nutrition will help curb the development of related diseases and keep physical health in order.
What foods are contraindicated in schizophrenia
should avoid some drinks and foods not to exacerbate the mental state? For example, tea, coffee, alcohol, and sugary sodas are prohibited. Smoked foods, sausages, and other prepared meat products are also better to avoid.
You should avoid fried foods, semi-finished products, and confectionery products, and limit bread consumption, preferring rye. Avoid whole milk, but dairy products are welcome.
It is necessary to remember that schizophrenia is not only a mental health disorder but also an emotional breakdown in the body. A balanced diet will help stabilize the condition, reducing the risks of exacerbations.