The Role of Nutrition in Schizophrenia Management
A healthy lifestyle can promote improved management of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that can involve debilitating symptoms that make it difficult or even impossible to manage basic activities associated with daily living, such as working, attending school, or caring for family. The main symptoms of schizophrenia include delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking. Still, it’s important to know that lifestyle and schizophrenia can impact each other, and there are treatment approaches that can help.
At the Alter Behavioral Health™ network of California mental health treatment facilities, we feature licensed mental healthcare providers with the experience and expertise to treat severe mental health disorders, including schizophrenia. Our treatment facilities for mental health promote the recovery and well-being of our patients. We treat all patients with the respect and dignity they deserve.
During treatment for schizophrenia, we counsel patients about the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices that enhance their treatment plan and help minimize symptoms of their illness. Some lifestyle practices can negatively impact mental health disorders like schizophrenia. Drinking, for instance, can counteract medications. Not getting enough sleep can put stress on a person’s central nervous system, which leads to a worsening of schizophrenia symptoms.
If you are living with schizophrenia, you can benefit from meeting with clinicians at Alter Behavioral Health™. We can help you get relief from symptoms with medically sanctioned treatments for mental health and help you manage your condition for the long term. We can also counsel you about what factors of lifestyle and schizophrenia are negatively impacting your condition and which can promote better management of your mental health disorder.
Diet and Schizophrenia
Good nutrition supports mind and body health. An unhealthy diet can place stress on the body, which causes inflammation. Medical studies have shown that there is a connection between inflammation and schizophrenia. By eating an inflammation-reducing diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, you can more effectively reduce symptoms of the disorder.
Researchers have not concluded that inflammation triggers schizophrenia onset but haven’t ruled it out either. They also know that inflammation plays a role in the disease. Making healthy food choices can reduce inflammation, which also benefits overall health. Inflammation is associated with many conditions that can affect physical health. Researchers believe that adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can ease severe symptoms of schizophrenia.
To adopt an inflammation-reducing diet, avoid processed meats like bacon and lunch meat, snack foods such as chips, fried foods, and refined grains like white bread. Foods that combat inflammation include leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, fatty fish such as salmon, and blueberries.
At Alter Behavioral Health™, we help patients assess their diet. Many patients aren’t aware that their diet may trigger symptoms or detract from the effective management of their condition. Unhealthy food choices can also compromise physical health. Fortunately, lifestyle choices with diet can improve the management of schizophrenia in many cases.
Changing one’s diet is easier said than done, especially when dealing with severe symptoms. At Alter Behavioral Health™, we support patients and also help their families with psychoeducation so that they can support their loved ones in healthy ways. Our clinicians can recommend specific diets that will help patients manage their condition. Meal plans should include inflammation-busting foods like fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Fatty fish and other foods like olive oil and walnuts reduce inflammation by fighting free radicals. A poor diet that’s high in sugar and fats can cause inflammation. A healthy diet is a positive choice that will impact lifestyle and schizophrenia for many people.
The Power of Physical Exercise in Schizophrenia Management
Another way to promote improved management of mental health conditions like schizophrenia is with exercise. Exercise is a healthy lifestyle choice for patients because it supports overall health and fitness. However, it can also reduce feelings of anxiety or depression that can impact schizophrenia. Exercise is a great way to manage stress, which can exacerbate schizophrenia symptoms.
When performing any exercise, whether walking, running, swimming, or yoga, the body releases ‘feel good’ endorphins that ease physical and mental stress. Making regular exercise a part of every day or week can help schizophrenia patients manage their focus–and manage their condition. Our clinicians can help patients develop exercise routines that suit their fitness level and interests. Even incorporating a slight increase in physical activity can benefit patients.
The Best Exercises for Individuals with Schizophrenia
Exercise can ease schizophrenia symptoms and improve cognitive function, but which activities are most beneficial? According to some medical research, aerobic exercises like aerobics, running, and swimming offer many benefits schizophrenia therapy. This exercise can enhance the brain’s processing speed, attention span, and memory — interesting news because pharmacological treatments haven’t been shown to improve cognitive function. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, stimulating growth factors and supporting improved brain function. Aerobic exercise is characterized by continuous movement. So, walking or dancing for 20 minutes or more can provide aerobic and cardiovascular health benefits.
Schizophrenia patients can benefit by incorporating aerobic exercise into their weekly fitness routines. Daily walking, for instance, can positively affect schizophrenic symptoms and overall management of the disorder. Alter Behavioral Health™ clinicians can help patients develop a healthy exercise routine.
Mental Exercises: Strengthening the Mind Against Schizophrenia
Like physical exercise, mental exercise can also support a healthy approach to lifestyle and schizophrenia, especially for patients whose disorder has been, thus far, treatment-resistant. Mental exercises, known to mental health providers as targeted cognitive training, offer cognitive support for schizophrenic patients. These exercises involve computer games designed to promote changes in specific neural pathways. These changes can lead to some degree of symptom relief.
Certain games, such as video games, have shown promise in clinical settings. Some video games promoted improved physical functioning in schizophrenic patients, a surprising outcome. In addition to improving cognition, they also helped to minimize symptoms of the disorder. For this reason, many mental health clinics are incorporating video game play into treatment plans for some patients.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Impact of Lifestyle on Schizophrenia
How does lifestyle affect schizophrenia management?
Schizophrenia can dramatically impact a person’s lifestyle, but their lifestyle can also affect their schizophrenia. Diet, for instance, can play a distinctive role in symptom onset and exacerbation. A diet that is high in inflammation-causing foods like fried foods and highly processed foods can trigger schizophrenia symptoms or make them worse. Researchers have found links between inflammation and schizophrenia. Patients who adopt an inflammation-reducing diet rich in leafy green vegetables and fatty fish may benefit from this change of approach to lifestyle and schizophrenia.
Exercise can also positively impact schizophrenia. Patients who want to reduce symptoms and improve cognitive function should add aerobic exercise to their days or weeks. Studies have shown that training is more effective than medications for enhancing cognitive function in schizophrenic patients. To include exercise as part of your lifestyle, discuss activities with your mental health provider. A person doesn’t have to be athletic to improve their fitness level. Simply walking can provide this benefit for schizophrenic patients.
What is the importance of a proper diet in managing schizophrenia?
Diet is vital, as mentioned, for promoting improved management of schizophrenia. The disorder is a lifelong condition, but reasonable control of schizophrenia can lead to fewer episodes with severe symptoms. A healthy diet that’s low in inflammation-causing foods can reduce symptom severity and improve disease management.
It’s not uncommon for patients to be unaware of the links between diet and schizophrenia. Clinicians at Alter Behavioral Health™ can discuss inflammation’s role in the disease and how to reduce it with diet. During family psychoeducation sessions, therapists help families find the best ways to support their loved ones. A healthy diet can support their loved one’s need for a healthy lifestyle.
How can physical exercise help an individual with schizophrenia?
Physical exercise is crucial for promoting improved management of schizophrenia. Patients with the disorder can benefit from increased physical activity because it improves memory, cognitive function, and mental processing. According to medical studies, aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming, or biking offers the most benefit for schizophrenic patients.
What are some recommended mental exercises for schizophrenia management?
Patients with schizophrenia can benefit from aerobic exercise even if they do not have an advanced fitness level. Patients can increase their fitness level by incorporating running, walking, or biking into their daily or weekly routine. At Alter Behavioral Health™, we encourage patients to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes fitness activities, especially aerobic exercise. Not only does this type of exercise benefit mental processes like memory and cognition, but it also enhances physical health.
What are the best physical exercises for individuals with schizophrenia?
Patients with schizophrenia should incorporate more aerobic exercise into their lifestyle. That isn’t to say that non-aerobic exercise, such as weightlifting or yoga, doesn’t benefit patients, but aerobic exercise has been shown to offer the most positive effects. Patients should consider adding activities such as walking, swimming, jogging, or cycling to their fitness plans.
Overall, exercise can benefit both physical and mental health because movement causes the body to release feel-good endorphins that soothe muscles and increase feelings of well-being. Consequently, even non-aerobic exercise can provide some benefits for mental health patients. Patients who exercise may experience a reduction in symptom severity or feel calmer after exercising.
How can diet and exercise improve the mental well-being of someone with schizophrenia?
Someone with schizophrenia should improve their lifestyle by focusing on diet and exercise. Adopting an inflammation-reducing diet alone can positively impact a patient’s ability to manage their condition. Still, diet and exercise together can help minimize symptoms and improve an individual’s mental and physical functions. Clinicians at Alter Behavioral Health™ can help patients adopt lifestyle changes that benefit condition management. Families can sign up for family psychotherapy and Existential Therapy at Alter Behavioral Health™ to learn how to support their loved ones.
Families can promote improvements in diet and encourage loved ones to maintain their fitness plans. Healthy lifestyle changes can reduce schizophrenia symptoms and promote better management of the condition overall.
Can lifestyle changes alone effectively manage schizophrenia?
Some patients have treatment-resistant schizophrenia and do not respond well to current medications or therapies designed to treat the disorder. Lifestyle changes like increased physical fitness have been shown to relieve symptoms and improve the condition’s management. The extent to which lifestyle can be deemed ‘effective’ depends on each patient. In most cases, lifestyle changes alone cannot alter the disorder to the extent that it can always be effectively managed. Together with medical treatment, however, lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the management of schizophrenia for many patients.
Are there any specific food items to include or avoid in a diet for schizophrenia management?
Patients with schizophrenia should avoid foods that cause inflammation, as inflammation has been linked to the disorder and can exacerbate symptoms. For example, patients should avoid processed meats such as bacon and lunch metal. Sugary foods like refined grains can also have a poor effect on schizophrenia. Patients should also avoid eating fried foods or foods high in cholesterol and fats.
To reduce inflammation in the body, schizophrenia patients should add more green leafy vegetables to their diet, along with tomatoes, blueberries, almonds, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna. With reduced inflammation, patients may experience fewer symptoms or less severe symptoms. They may find that they have fewer symptom episodes.
Making lifestyle changes may be challenging, but Alter Behavioral Health™ clinicians can help patients adopt a new diet and fitness plan that enhances their health and improves how they manage their condition. Contact Alter Behavioral Health™ to learn more about our mental health facility and treatments.