I'm 24 and have spent the last 11 years of my life living with schizophrenia. After trying 20 different medications (including severe side effects, such as a 150 lb. weight gain) and years in psychotherapy, I still wasn't progressing.
I learned that people with schizophrenia in less developed societies (tribes in africa, etc), people with schizophrenia fare significantly better than they do in the developed world. This completely baffled me because people in the developed world are seeing the best medical doctors in the world so I assumed they would be much better off. I decided that I needed to look into why tribal people with schizophrenia in africa would fare so much better than people like me in the USA.
There are of course many differences between american society and a tribe in Africa, so I figured there wouldn't be an easy answer to my inquiry. I've always had an interest in healthy eating so I decided to look into the diet of hunter-gatherers and that is how I found out about the paleo diet and the WAPF.
I wouldn't say I had a miraculous change, but the longer I stay with the paleo diet, the better my mental health becomes. I don't think the paleo diet is a "cure" for severe mental illness, but I feel like it can be a substantial augmentation to medication and psychotherapy.
Most people with severe mental illness eat horrible diets. It kind of bothers me that doctors don't think that maybe the fact that this person with severe depression is eating nothing but breakfast cereal is why he isn't responding to treatment. The more we learn about the body and the mind, the more we realize how interconnected they are. How could eating like crap NOT cause people with mental illness to deteriorate? I hold no illusions that the paleo diet can help everyone with severe mental illness, but I can only see it helping.
Has fixing your body through the paleo diet help fix your mind? I would love to read your stories! Thank you.
First of all, your story is remarkable and I wish you well.
I don't have a story to share, but related to this, my recommendation would be that you read the blog of Dr Emily Deans - http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/
She has written a lot about schizophrenia and more generally the Paleo mind-body connection. I think that she the go-to person on this subject in the Paleo community.
Best of luck to you!
Wow, what a journey for you! I've been very curious about the dietary link to mental disorders myself, so it's fascinating to me that you've come across this topic intuitively for yourself.
My brother is schizotypal, and, you guessed it, eats crap. Granted, we were all raised eating crap and so I'm sure that food is just what's normal to him. He, too, has been on various meds for much of his adult life and been diagnosed with everything under the sun by psychs, to his detriment, including drug-induced diabetes and weight gain. Things are better for him now, for which I'm very grateful.
As for me, I'm introverted and had to root out some maladaptive behaviors/personality traits in order to become a healthy, productive adult. Mindfulness and yoga were extremely helpful to this end and I felt like I was in a great space for several years. Then, after having my daughter just over two years ago, something just changed. In addition to not being able to get my weight back down, I had horrible bouts of anxiety (also runs in my family). It felt like I was constantly trying to keep a bomb from exploding in me. During these times, social events were particularly difficult. Needless to say, Paleo has helped tremendously with both the weight and the anxiety.
I think that this diet can be particularly helpful for (or cure) what we consider the run-of-the-mill type mental disorders: anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc. I have no doubt it can be beneficial or helpful with more organic types of mental illness like schizophrenia. Our brains need fats to operate optimally and we have to give it what it needs. I have a vegetarian friend who is on meds for depression and I just want to give her a big, fat ribeye. I also think the relationship between our gut flora and our brains will be getting more and more attention over the years as we learn more about these vast universes inside of us.
Best of luck to you! I'd love to hear how this WOE has helped you.
I know everyone's really excited about the paleo diet, and the wheat-schizophrenia connection, and all of it (trust me, so am I!), but not even dear Emily Deans herself is 100% sure that eating wheat causes schizophrenia. http://evolutionarypsychiatry.blogspot.com/2011/10/slam-dunked-and-wheat-belly.html
This isn't to say diet isn't hugely helpful, it most certainly is. But another big reason that schizophrenics often fare better in the developing world has to do with community and community psychotherapy. In a lot of older cultures, people who suffered these kinds of reality-altering mental illnesses would be guided by community elders/shamans and have a special place in the community, etc. That's essentially the loving support of a free therapist and widepsread community acceptance.
Also, a lot of research has been done into cultural disconnects and schizophrenia. For example, immigrants are vastly more likely to suffer from the disease than either the home population or the immigrated-to population. Also, the rate between cities and countryside is dramatic. So, some of that may also help to explain why people suffering from schizophrenia suffer worse in the Western world, where cultural alienation is par for the course for everyone, and most people live in cities.
Disclaimer: my mother is an immigrant who suffers from schizophrenia, and refused therapy/medication of any kind, and is basically withering away (it's degenerative if you can't get it under control). But, that being said, she certainly does much better in China, were she grew up, than in the US. And, of course, I always wonder whether eating a better diet, free of gluten and inflammation, wouldn't have gotten her just better enough that she could have taken the next step into psychotherapy and then remained as smart and together as the poster here. Makes me tear up a little to think about.
There is no body-mind "connection". The bodymind is all that there is. You are very wise. Wise beyond your years. But...... You are underestimating the power of the Paleo Diet. Stay with it and the mental illness will fade . It will prove to be much more important than any of the meds and psychotherapy. The huge infusion of saturated fat from the Paleo Diet has done wonders for my "bodymind".
Wow, it's so encouraging to hear young adults like yourself seeking answers through diet. My brother is institutionalized with schizo, my mother, if tested, would be on the continuum, the 2nd eldest brother is also on the continuum (paranoid) un-dx, and my younger sister of 45yo has started to exhibit extreme paranoid tendencies and severe anxiety. My older sister and I often talk about how it runs in the family. Very difficult for any of us to trust but no one other than my one brother has delusions. I have been off grains for one year now and I handle stress 75% better. Noise, crowds and people don't aggravate me physiologically the way they used to. I'm no longer paranoid like I used to be (although now studying Applied Behavior Analysis for my dog behavior modification biz has helped me understand people more healthily). Things just are so much better now. Booth my other brother and younger sister have ex-communicated themselves from our lives due to their paranoia. Unfortunately, there is no way I can even suggest removal of grains, or better yet, the Paleo diet.
I think it's great you are exploring this. Stick to it. I've been doing this one year now and although the scale went up and is now back to my pre-paleo weight, I'm sticking with it because the tape measure keeps telling me things are getting better and my mind sure feels a heck of alot better.
Good on ya!
Have you read GAPS by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride???
She is a neurologist focusing on schizophrenia and other mind diseases (autism) and heart disease, and a nutritionist. Recently WAPF had a conference Wise Traditions and she was a speaker (as she often is).
BOTH dairy (casein) and wheat (gluten) are offenders for mental illness and require avoidance and 120% discontinuation for a full recovery and 'cure'. Strict autoimmune paleo approaches help a lot (e.g. Robb Wolf and Mathieu Lalonde style).
The capacity to reverse depends on the damage and the person. It is possible and the internet is littered with stories especially from Campbell-McBride and those who do GAPS with schizophrenia patients.
Consider the below: http://bodyecology.com/articles/schizophrenia_depression_dietary_link.php http://gapsdiet.com/uploads/GAPS.pdf http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gapsjourney/2011/04/02/success-on-the-gut-and-psychology-syndrome-diet-with-founder-dr-natasha-campbell-mcbride
One needs a comprehensive tune up and therapeutics. Personally my experience is that paleo alone is rarely enough: http://www.nutritional-healing.com.au/content/articles-content.php?heading=Laboratory%20testing%20for%20schizophrenia%20and%20bipolar%20disorder
GAPS and other experts advises (and my family and I do all of these to improve our health and for optimality):
--bone broths (accessible amino acids, bioavailabe collagen, bone marrow, fatty acids, minerals, etc)
--fermented foods vegetables, etc
--digestive enzymes until the intestinal lining heals, seals and recovers. Enzymes help further 'digest' peripherally to break down and eliminate the autoimmune complexes (CICs = circulating immuno complex) which are binding to brain and 'attacked' organs, causing disturbances in normal function)
--raw and juiced vegs and fruits
--raw egg yolks and braised meats in bone broths
--immune support -- omega-3 fish oil (high dose), essential fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin A (I don't do CLO because it has some mercury)
--mineral support (zinc, magnesium/calcium, trace minerals, iodine, etc)
--oral chelation (lipoic acid, melatonin, probiotics, healthy gut, zinc, EDTA, DMSA, cilantro, herbs, psyllium, etc)
--bridging hormone function until things improve (thyroid, adrenal, etc). Yes even kids have sh*tty thyroids and adrenals.
--healing the gut (including identifying and eradicating parasites and excessive pathogenic species)
We avoid as much as we can dairy and gluten (wheat, rye, barley and all grains --except white rice).
(my blog also has a lot of helpful links on the blogroll -- I recently updated).
I completely believe in the mind/body connection. Going Paleo definitely helped my depression and anxiety, and it just made me a more positive person overall.
I'm pretty sure Dr. Davis's book 'Wheat Belly' talked about how eliminating gluten/wheat helped schizophrenic patients. Here's a link to his blog, and I highly recommend reading his book too. Good luck, and keep up with this lifestyle! http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/
Nora Gedgaudas is also a neurofeedback therapist and talks quite a bit about the body mind connection. http://www.primalbody-primalmind.com/?page_id=1260
I have worked through issues with depression and anxiety through embracing a paleo diet and nourishing my body and spirit. My daughter's adhd symptoms have greatly improved on a not totally paleo but close diet. I believe we can heal anything if we are persistant enough. I've had schizophrenic friends, and all ate horrible diets. Best of luck to you on your journey, may you find healing and peace.
I have a good friend who used to have wild rages when she was still eating wheat on a WAP diet. She chalked it up to hormones. She is 28.
My friend was inspired to drop the wheat from reading my many posts on FaceBook and her rages are a thing of the past!
there's a book called "the second brain" by michael d. gershon m.d. and he talks about how the gut has it's own brain-like nervous system and reacts to food (and whatever else we ingest) in its own ways; also, there are dedicated nerve pathways solely traveling between the gut and the brain. here's an excerpt:
there are more than a hundred million nerve cells in the human small intestine, a number roughly equal to the number of nerve cells in the spinal cord. add on the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach, and large intestine and you find that we have more nerve cells in our bowel than in our spin. we have more nerve cells in our gut than in the entire remainder of our peripheral nervous system..... The multiplicity of neurotransmitters in the bowel suggests that the language spoken by the cells of the enteric (gut) nervous system is rich and brainlike in its complexity.