The Paleo diet has gained popularity as of late, but can it be the ideal diet to treat schizophrenia as well? The Paleo diet is a style of eating similar to our ancestors – cavemen so to speak. This involves a hunter-gatherer mentality – what could previously be hunted and gathered by ancient civilization is what is allowed in the diet. Therefore, you won’t see any processed or refined foods.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness which affects how a person acts, thinks and feels. Schizophrenia is often confused with multiple personality disorder, but this is not the case. A person with schizophrenia may have a hard time distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary. They may become withdrawn and act inappropriately in social situations.
Diet can play a large role in many different aspects in our health. Food can help us sleep, reduce stress and even promote cardiovascular health, so it should be of no surprise that food and diet can play a role in mental well-being also.
There are a few recommendations for those with schizophrenia in regards to food. These dietary changes include:
Essentially, the Paleo diet consists of all things natural, so if it’s processed, packaged or contains added sugars, it is not allowed in the Paleo diet. Foods to completely avoid when you’re on the Paleo diet are dairy, grains, processed foods and sugar, legumes, starches and alcohol.
There is a hypothesis known as the glutamatergic hypothesis which refers to an issue with glutamatergic transmission. People with mental illness have shown a deletion of the SLC1A1 glutamate transporter gene. In regards to schizophrenia, the glutamatergic theory explains the ability of N-methyl-aspartate receptor antagonists to induce schizophrenia-like symptoms.
Essentially, diet can play a role in cognitive improvements. It has also been shown that many schizophrenics have celiac disease, which outlines a gut-mind connection as well. Because the Paleo diet does not allow for grains – which contain gluten – it is recommended for those with schizophrenia. Furthermore, the Paleo diet contains many other essential “brain foods” which can help promote cognitive function.
Recommended foods for the Paleo diet include:
Meat: Grass-fed beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork, etc.
Fish and seafood: Salmon, shrimp, trout, shellfish, etc.
Vegetables: Kale, peppers, onions, etc.
Fruits: Avocados, tomatoes, apples, bananas, berries, etc.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.
Healthy fats and oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
Salt and spices: Sea salt is best
Schizophrenics are recommended to consume the following:
As you can see, many of the recommended foods for schizophrenics are also the same foods which appear on the Paleo diet’s approved food list. Furthermore, even the foods which schizophrenics should avoid – sugar, processed food, alcohol and carbohydrates – are the same foods to avoid on the Paleo diet. Therefore, the Paleo diet would be a suitable diet for a person with schizophrenia to embark on.
Bernice Royal wrote about her experience with schizophrenia and how dietary changes helped improve her condition. Royal was diagnosed with schizophrenia back in 2002 and was determined to find alternative means to treat it.
Royal acknowledged she had a poor diet prior to their diagnosis, consuming pasta, coffee and sandwiches. Since her diagnosis she changed her diet to consume minimal sugar, reduced the amount of coffee she drank, and primarily sticks with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Even though Royal is on medication she believes her diet changes help maintain her health and help control negative symptoms related to schizophrenia. You can read more about Royal’s journey here.
We are continuously reminded that food can have a large impact on our health – and often for the better if we make the right choices. If you’re unsure how to eat healthy or need assistance in doing so, you can always speak with a doctor or dietician.
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