Schizophrenia is a devastating mental illness that usually strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood but can crop up at any time in life. The signs and symptoms vary from individual to individual but all people with the disorder show one or more symptoms including auditory hallucinations paranoid or bizarre delusions or disorganized speech and thinking. It is also accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.
While schizophrenia appears to be a rare condition the numbers say something different. Each year 100000 people will be diagnosed with the illness in the United States alone while in total over 2 million in the U.S. suffer with schizophrenia. That's more than the number of people who are ill with multiple sclerosis muscular dystrophy and insulin-dependent diabetes combined.
It is important to note that contrary to popular belief and perhaps certain stereotypes propagated by the film industry a person with schizophrenia does not have a split personality. Schizophrenia is a psychosis in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined.
Organically abnormalities in the hippocampus region of the brain are among the most consistent findings in schizophrenia research. Interestingly these same abnormalities are implicated in bipolar disorder.
What triggers schizophrenia?
While there appears to be a strong genetic aspect in the etiology of the condition that increases the risk of its manifestation environmental components may also play a role.
Could those who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia have as an environmental trigger an immunological response to gluten? While it may be too early to tell the science seems pretty conclusive that at the very least there is some connection between the two as schizophrenics have significantly higher rates of gluten sensitivity than the general population.
Additionally according to research the oxidative stress marker hydroxyl radical is also dramatically higher in these individuals when compared to their healthy counterparts.
Conventional treatments which include use of antipsychotic medications come with a bevy of potential side effects (as do most medications).
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor is a glutamate receptor and has a primary role in controlling synaptic plasticity and memory. Dysfunction of the receptor whether it is of the receptor itself or an associated enzymatic catalyst can increase one's susceptibility to the condition. The calming amino acid glycine when given in high doses works as an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonist and has been shown to reduce some symptoms associated with the condition.
Schizophrenia may not be a mental disorder that many of us will see or treat in practice but this clinical rarity belies the actual numbers of individuals suffering with the condition. Like many disease processes and conditions look beyond the obvious and address what you find based on a comprehensive examination and patient health history.
by Michael Fuhrman D.C.