Alternative Treatments for Schizophrenia

Written by Dale Kiefer & Jaime Herndon | Published on October 20, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 20, 2014

Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder. It can cause multiple symptoms, including:

  • breaking from reality
  • hallucinations
  • flat affect
  • paranoia

Treatment for the condition typically includes antipsychotic medications. Other than medication, treatment may include therapy, groups, psychoeducation, and rehabilitation. In addition to these standard treatments, there are also other treatment options.

The terms “complementary” and “alternative” treatments are often used interchangeably. However, the truth is that they are actually two different types of treatments. Complementary treatments are non-mainstream treatments used in conjunction with traditional treatments. Alternative treatment is when traditional medicine is not used and non-mainstream approaches are used instead.

Medication is important in controlling schizophrenia, so supplemental or complementary treatments should not replace care from a psychiatrist or doctor. Before using any complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) or treatment, talk with your doctor to see if it’s safe.

Vitamin Treatment

A process called methylation helps maintain the correct chemical balance in the brain. If there are high levels of the amino acid homocysteine, this process may be abnormal. According to Food for the Brain, patients with schizophrenia have shown high levels of homocysteine and low blood levels of folic acid. Vitamin B12 and methyl B12, which is easier to absorb, may show benefit in those with schizophrenia.

Vitamins A, C, and E may also alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia.

Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, studies have noted that certain brain processes in people with schizophrenia may be fueled by fatty acids. For this reason, fish oil is being studied as a treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI), one study found that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may mitigate psychosis in young adults. More research and studies need to be conducted to definitively establish any value.

Glycine

Glycine is a protein building block, or an amino acid. It works with glutamine, which aids in brain function. Some studies have found that high doses of glycine supplementation can increase the efficacy of antipsychotics for schizophrenia. However, a notable exception is if it is used with clozapine, in which case it actually decreases the effectiveness of the drug.

Glycine may decrease negative symptoms of schizophrenia, like flat affect or depression. More research needs to be done to verify its benefit in treating the disease.

Diet Management

A gluten-free diet has been found to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia in some studies. A ketogenic diet showed the same results. A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that also includes high-protein foods. This should not be used in place of medication. More research needs to be done on the relationship between diet and schizophrenia. Always talk to your doctor before making significant changes to your diet.

Talk to Your Doctor About CAM Treatments

Complementary and alternative treatments are certainly options you can choose to help treat schizophrenia. If you choose complementary treatments, tell your doctor what you are planning on taking. Even natural supplements can interfere with medications. Alternative treatments are not always evidence-based and can be dangerous. Talk with your doctor about alternative treatments. Ask about their effectiveness and safety, and discuss your reasons for pursuing alternative options. 

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