Around two million Americans suffer from schizophrenia, and it’s a frustrating chronic mental illness that is marked with disabling symptoms like delusions and hallucinations. Unfortunately, the antipsychotic medications that are often given to address these problems come with their own set of risks. Now, scientists have discovered that certain nutrients could help to fight the illness safely, potentially paving the way for more effective treatments without side effects.
Researchers from the University of Manchester looked at data taken from eight different clinical studies examining nutrient supplementation in hundreds of young people during the early stage of psychotic illness. They found that supplements like the amino acid taurine and vitamin C could help alleviate the condition if taken early. They believe it works because it can address the oxidative stress that occurs when the body is unable to process oxygen normally.
Shellfish like clams, shrimp and scallops are excellent sources of taurine, with raw shrimp containing nearly 50 milligrams per ounce of taurine. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it is destroyed in cooking. Other fish that offer taurine include tuna, sardines, and salmon. Taurine can also be found in foods like Brussels sprout, seaweed and beef. A clinical trial in Melbourne involving 121 people with psychosis revealed that 4 grams of taurine a day could reduce psychotic symptoms in just 12 weeks. Past studies have shown that it can protect organs from injury or oxidative stress, and it can be particularly beneficial to heart health.
Vitamin C, which has also been shown to reduce symptoms, can be found in a wide variety of foods. Some of the best sources include red pepper, kiwi, guava, oranges, strawberries, pineapple and papaya.
Alternative treatments showing increasing promise in fighting schizophrenia
Past studies, meanwhile, have shown that folate and vitamin B12 can both help alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia in some patients. Folate, which can be found in folic acid supplements, plays a vital role in the DNA methylation that regulates gene expression; B12 increases its effects. This particular finding built on earlier studies linking a folate deficiency during pregnancy with a higher risk of schizophrenia among offspring and other research linking low blood folate levels with more severe negative symptoms in schizophrenic patients.
Another recent study found that holistic therapy that includes one-on-one talk therapy and intense family support yielded better results than the drug regimen typically prescribed for the illness.
These latest findings from the University of Manchester are not quite conclusive, but they do point to some areas that are worthy of further investigation. Next, the team would like to combine these beneficial nutrients into one supplement and see if it has any effect on young people who are suffering from psychosis. A study is expected to get underway this year investigating this approach.
Schizophrenia is a disabling disease, and the last thing sufferers need is to deal with the side effects caused by anti-psychotic drugs, which can include tremors, emotional numbness, serious weight gain, nausea and vomiting. Most patients abandon these drugs less than two years after starting them, so the prospect of supplements and other holistic treatments that can make a difference could be a game-changer.
Sources for this article include:
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