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Living wth Schizophrenia

By Liz Barrington, Natural Body Healing

Schizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental illnesses in society, affecting around 3% of the population at some point in their lives.  Schizophrenia describes a variety of mental health problems that occur when the parts of the brain responsible for thoughts, emotions and feelings stop working properly.  Doctors describe schizophrenia as a psychotic illness, which means that sometimes a person becomes ‘detached’ and ‘aloof’ and may not be able to distinguish their own private thoughts and ideas from external reality. 

Each person’s experience of schizophrenia is different, and the problems, or ways of coping with them, are never exactly the same.  People living with schizophrenia often experience:

  • Hallucinations (the sensation of an experience that isn’t actually happening).
  • Delusions (holding unusual beliefs that aren't based on reality and often contradict the evidence).
  • Muddled thoughts that may be based on the hallucinations and delusions.
  • Changes in behaviour.

There's no cure for schizophrenia but it can be managed and helped through a combination of medication, diet, psychological therapies, physiotherapy, counselling, social and environmental factors and support from family and friends.

It’s not easy to identify the causes of schizophrenia, but research suggests that there are several physical, genetic, psychological, dietary and environmental factors that interact and make people more likely to develop the condition. The current thinking is that some people may be prone to schizophrenia, but sometimes a stressful or emotional life event might trigger an initial psychotic episode.

Other factors can include altered biochemistry in the brain, genetic enzyme deficiency, dietary and nutritional deficiencies ie. excess levels in the body of some minerals such as copper, deficiency of some vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B (mainly B3, B12 and B6), zinc and manganese, plus body toxicity such as heavy metal poisoning (lead, metal or copper), recreational drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, LSD), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels and excessive insulin levels), and regular exposure to pesticides and chemicals.

Other considerations that may contribute to schizophrenia can include allergic reactions to food that affects brain behaviour or levels of perception, gluten intolerance, dairy product intolerance, alcoholism, glandular imbalances (affecting the pineal, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands), spinal imbalances, stress, nervous exhaustion, and destructive and self-condemning thoughts.

Every person’s experience of schizophrenia is different, and the symptoms differ between individuals.  The earlier the symptoms are identified and treatment is started, the better the outlook.

The illness may develop slowly, and the first signs of schizophrenia, such as becoming socially withdrawn and unresponsive, or changes in your sleeping patterns can be hard to identify. Because the first symptoms often develop during adolescence, the changes can be mistaken for an age-related 'phase' or ‘growing pains’.

The first acute episode of psychosis can be very difficult to cope with both for the person who's ill and for their family and friends.  Drastic changes in behaviour may occur, and the person can become upset, anxious, confused, angry or suspicious of those around them. They may not think that they need help, and it can be very hard to persuade them to visit a doctor.

Statistics show that people living with schizophrenia are much more likely to harm themselves than others.  Another common perception is that people with schizophrenia have a ‘split personality’, but this is not the case.

It’s important for those suffering from schizophrenia to work together with their families and carers and develop a supportive relationship that will help them with their physical, social and mental needs.  Schizophrenics and their families and carers should be encouraged to join self-help and support groups.

If you’re a sufferer, learning to recognise the signs that you're becoming unwell can help you manage your illness. Symptoms can include losing your appetite, feeling anxious or stressed or having disturbed sleep.  You may also notice some of the milder symptoms developing, such as feeling suspicious or fearful, worrying about people’s motives, hearing voices quietly or occasionally, or finding it difficult to concentrate.  You may also want to ask someone you trust to tell you if they notice your behaviour changing.

You can help reduce or indeed eliminate your symptoms through:

1. Changing your diet by:

  • Keeping your blood sugar levels constant by AVOIDING refined foods, sweets, pastries, canned foods, fizzy drinks, fast foods etc.
  • Greatly reducing your intake of fatty foods and foods containing hydrogenated (trans) fats eg pies, pizzas, crisps, confectionery etc.
  • Drinking 2-3 litres of filtered water a day (preferably not tap water).
  • Eating plenty of fresh salads and vegetables and lean protein.
  • Eating a gluten-free diet.
  • Eating a dairy-free diet.
  • Reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Increase your fibre intake through your diet or through supplementation such as LOCLO.

2. Taking useful nutritional supplements daily such as:

3. Improving your lifestyle by:

  • Undertaking complementary therapies that help rebalance the body and its emotions, such as Aqua Detox, Kinesiology, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Emotional Freedom Technique.
  • Discussing the possibility of reviewing the use of medication with your doctor to try to reduce dosages wherever possible.
  • Avoiding the use of social drugs and cigarettes.
  • Increasing your exercise.
  • Undertaking regular detoxification treatments and dietary regimes.
  • Going for long walks, along the beach etc.
  • Getting exposed to the sunshine, and having periods of peace and quiet every day.
  • Undertaking deep breathing and stress-relieving activities such as yoga, guided meditation, tai chi, pilates, swimming etc.
  • Establishing close relationships – giving plenty of kindness and love to others each day.
  • Having regular body/spinal massages and spinal manipulation treatments.
  • Looking at your home environment and try to avoid any unnecessary ‘internal’ stresses.

In the long term, one in five people who develop schizophrenia will fully recover within five years of their first episode of schizophrenia.  Three in five will get better but still have some symptoms.

Not all cases of schizophrenia are nutritionally-related as there are always other factors to consider.  It is however, in the best interest of the sufferer to seriously try the nutritional and lifestyle approach prior to drug therapy being relied upon completely.

The above information should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.








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