Schizophrenia is a serious mental condition which is characterized by problematic thought processes and unbalanced emotions. People suffering from schizophrenia may experience hallucinations and realize false events. Schizophrenia can affect one’s personal and social life because it affects behavior. It can also lead to suicidal thoughts and early death. Such people may also develop cardiovascular and infectious diseases. People with schizophrenia are discriminated against in society. Schizophrenia can be managed with modern medicine, alternative therapies, natural remedies and yoga. This article describes what schizophrenia is and how it can be managed without the use of modern medicines which can have severe side effects.
Introduction to Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is an uncommon mental condition which affects very few people. It is considered the most severe mental disorder. It is capable of affecting many spheres of an individual’s life, especially social life, friendships, education and work. People who are going to be affected by schizophrenia are likely to have symptoms in their teenage or early twenties. Some children may have unusual activities or behaviors but they may go unnoticed till they become older. Such children may be uncomfortable in interacting with other people. Therefore schizophrenia is said to have a great impact on a person’s behavior, personal and social life. Schizophrenia cannot be completely treated, but it can be managed. Modern medicine uses antipsychotic drugs to minimize symptoms of schizophrenia, but these medications have side effects that cause many ailments including metabolic syndrome. Therefore, special care at home accompanied by yoga and natural remedies is recommended and safe for schizophrenia.
Symptoms of Schizophrenia
Symptoms of schizophrenia may be present in childhood but they may not appear until an individual enters early adulthood. The symptoms of schizophrenia may not be felt by the individuals themselves. They may not be convinced that they are unwell. Common symptoms are
- Feeling odd one out
- Easily distracted
- Unable to convey feelings by words
- Jumping from one topic to another
- What they say is difficult to be understood
- Unable to make facial expressions
- Unable to express emotions properly
- Little or no motivation
- Lack of concentration
- Feeling that false events are real
- Feeling that people follow them
- Feeling that people want to control them
- Feeling that they have supernatural powers
- Hearing voices and sounds which are not real
- Having hallucinations
- They do not want to do regular activities
- They do not want to communicate
- They are not able to clearly communicate
- They have a fast thought process which makes them difficult to be understood
- They feel that the events and delusions they experience are real.
Causes and Risk Factors
An imbalance in the brain fluids and chemicals, and their exchange between brain cells causes schizophrenia. This can be due to genetic inheritance, trauma during being delivered or nutritional deficiencies faced by the mother before giving birth; however, these are factors that are beyond control.
Psychological stresses can also pile up in such a way that cause aggravation in other factors and hence cause schizophrenia to become severe from mild. It especially happens during the shift from teenage to adulthood, that’s why schizophrenia is commonly observed to worsen during this shift. Some medications and drugs can trigger the onset of schizophrenia even if mild symptoms are present.
Schizophrenia doesn’t get eliminated completely from a person’s health but it can be minimized to the extent that it doesn’t affect the person’s activities and day to day life. Some medications that are commonly used for minimizing symptoms are very powerful and affect the whole body processes. This class of drugs used for schizophrenia is called ‘antipsychotics
The Most Common Symptoms of Schizophrenia are
- Unintended weight gain.
- Shaking of hands.
- Shaking of voice.
- Unintentional movements of the lips, the tongue and the jaw.
- Loss of sexual interest and sensitivity.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Diabetes and thyroid imbalance.
- Excess dryness of the mouth.
- Blurred vision.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Severe restlessness.
- Disturbance of menstrual cycle in females.
- Reproductive system diseases in both males and females.
- Higher risk of developing heart diseases.
Therefore it is recommended that natural and safe methods be used for managing schizophrenia that is not severe or critical.
Best Natural Foods for Schizophrenia
Food makes up our body and some foods have specific benefits for specific parts of the body. The following foods are recommended for individuals with schizophrenia to boost their brain health.
- Nuts: Nuts are the best foods for boosting brain health and restoring its function. Nuts like almonds and walnuts are used as brain tonics. Consumption of nuts not only prevents decline of cognitive function but also improves nervous coordination.
- Seeds: Seeds of some fruits contain powerful antioxidants that remove oxidation from the brain. Pumpkin seeds are the most beneficial for this purpose because pumpkin seeds are not only rich in brain healthy antioxidants but also provide it with minerals which are essential for the brain to function normally.
- Turmeric: This condiment has many benefits for the whole body, but for the brain it is especially helpful because of its high Curcumin content which prevents and may even reverse mental decline. It even supports growth of new, healthy brain cells.
- Citrus Fruits: citrus fruits are rich sources of vitamin C which is essential for our brain to get proper iron via blood and also for oxygen supply. Citrus fruits, especially oranges reverse brain damage and can also reverse symptoms of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.
- Broccoli: broccoli is a wonderful vegetable because of its antioxidant content being higher than all other vegetables of its family. The high vitamin K content of broccoli makes it a super brain food since vitamin K is responsible for the formation of a fat called ‘sphingo-lipid’ which makes up the density of the brain cells.
- Eggs: Eggs provide us with vitamins B6, B9 and B12 along with choline, which is said to improve brain functions such as decision making, memory and expression.
- Cocoa: cocoa is a rich source of flavonoids which are plant compounds that boost brain health and function. Flavonoids help prevent degenerative brain disorders and also boost memory. Cocoa can be consumed with milk or as dark chocolates.
- Green Tea: Green tea boosts brain health directly because it contains L – theanine, which is an essential amino acid that regulates the activity of neurotransmitters. It reduces mental fatigue and promotes relaxation of the brain cells.
- Berries: berries are delicious little fruits with plenty of anti inflammatory compounds and antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Darker berries are a very powerful solution for nervous and degenerative disorders.
- Fatty Fish: Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardine etc. are excellent sources of omega – 3 fatty acids which are responsible for proper formation of brain cells. These acids help reduce memory loss and depression.
Yoga for Schizophrenia
Yoga has earlier been used as a supplementary therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia.  A combination of Asana and Pranayama can be very beneficial in managing the symptoms of schizophrenia. Yoga has been effective in reducing psychosis and depression in patients. It has also improved cognition and improved the overall quality of life. It has improved the hormonal secretions in patients, thus improving nervous health. The following yoga practices are suitable for people with schizophrenia
1. Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
Also known as alternate nostril breathing; Anuloma Viloma pranayama is an excellent practice to restore health of the brain. It should preferably be performed outdoors where the air is fresh and there are pleasant sounds of nature all around.
- Sit with the legs crossed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- The back should be straight and relaxed.
- The wrists should rest on the knees in the default position.
- Put the index finger and the ring finger of the right hand on the forehead on top of the nose.
- Use the thumb to close the right nostril.
- Inhale with the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with the ring finger.
- Exhale with the right nostril.
- Now inhale with the right nostril and close it with the thumb.
- Exhale with the left nostril.
- Practice thirty respirations in this
2. Bhramari Pranayama
Also known as the humming bee practice; bhramari pranayama improves nervous coordination and hence helps relieve the hallucinations of schizophrenia. It can be done anywhere and anytime
- Sit with the legs crossed.
- The spine and the back should be straight and relaxed.
- Close your eyes gently.
- Gently plug both the ears with the thumbs of both hands.
- Put the fingers on each eye.
- Inhale deeply, and with exhalation, make a deep humming sound like a bee.
- Practice thrice.
3. Surya Namaskara
Also called sun salutations, Surya Namaskara is a great combination of various poses which are to be done one after the other. This can be used as a workout itself or can be used for relaxation. It is also helpful in reducing the psychotic symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Natural Health Supplements for Schizophrenia
Some health supplements can eliminate the initial causes that usually contribute to the development of schizophrenia. Such supplements can be given to people who have mild schizophrenia.
- Vitamin Therapy: Everyone knows that a balanced diet is important for health and prevention of diseases, but for some people this requirement is more than others. A vitamin therapy where special care is taken to give adequate amounts of vitamin B6, B9 and B12 is recommended. Vitamins C and E are also recommended.
- Omega – 3 Fatty Acids: these are essential for reducing the effect of neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. They reduce inflammation of brain cells and make an individual a lot less likely to develop schizophrenia. The omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish oil and flax seeds.
- Glycine Amino Acids: it is a unit of proteins that is essential for normal brain function. It can be already administered to people whose brain performance needs to be improved. Glycine is also known to reduce the symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Allergen free diet: some individuals feel an increase in severity of symptoms when they eat foods that are considered as allergens, for example, wheat, milk, nuts, etc. Such individuals benefit from cutting out foods containing these items in addition to refined carbohydrates and sugars. Such a dietary modification cannot treat schizophrenia on its own. It is only recommended for supporting other measures taken to manage schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is considered the most severe mental condition because it can lead to other life threatening conditions in an individual. People suffering from schizophrenia feel emotional disturbances and have suicidal thoughts. They need our psychological and emotional support. Schizophrenic people are not mad and they should not be considered abnormal or sick. Instead they should be treated with love and care. A combination of yoga and the natural health supplements mentioned above can bring about great improvement in an individual. However, a yoga therapist should be consulted for developing the most suitable programme for a person, depending on their conditions and individual symptoms.
Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.