The traditional medical treatment for schizophrenia and severe depression consists of medication and counseling, and perhaps, dietary improvements along with exercise. Alternative practitioners take a vastly different approach. They often investigate causes of illness that traditional physicians might debunk, such as: leaky gut syndrome, brain allergies, chemical sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, candidiasis and parasites. Their treatment plans avoid pharmacological drugs, which are a cause of concern for many consumers.
In lieu of drugs, remedies include major dietary changes; herbal, mineral or hormonal supplements; acupuncture; homeopathy; and detoxification. Other alternative therapies include meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, reiki, Ayurvedic medicine, chiropractic adjustments, and reflexology. Both the traditional and alternative practitioners point to scientific studies to prove the benefits of their practices, so how can a consumer tell which treatment style is “safer” or better?
Both sides have sparred over the safest and most productive means to health and healing for years. For instance, in the area of diet and supplements…
Over 150 years ago, John Kellogg invented cereal that would promote health. Kellogg, a medical doctor who avoided use of medications, believed tea consumption contributed to insanity. He emphasized daily yogurt enemas and hydrotherapy (hot and cold water therapies)* as part of his regimen for a healthy life. Everyone, he believed, should eat a whole grain vegetarian diet and wear “sensible clothes.” In his quest for a healthy diet he invented a breakfast granola and in 1894, Wheat Flakes™. Corn Flakes™ soon followed. Doctors today still promote healthy cereals, but most traditional physicians will advise against daily enemas.
In 1968, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling founded the field of orthomolecular psychiatry along with Abram Hoffer. Pauling was a renowned scientist and chemist who discovered the cause of sickle-cell anemia. In the 60s he came to the belief that high doses (grams) of vitamins and minerals could correct metabolic deficiencies which led to schizophrenia and mental retardation. The American Psychiatric Association and the National Institute for Health both disagreed with Pauling and still do, citing risks and questionable results.
Two decades later, in 1987, Eric Braverman (with Carl Pfeiffer and others) released a book which promoted the use amino acids as a form of nutritional medicine. Braverman cited success using GABA, a neurotransmitter, to treat a patient suffering from anxiety. At the time of the book’s release the authors suggested the use of GABA for depression also. Later studies advised against use for depression. Studies within this decade have considered a link between GABA and schizophrenia.¹
How Will You Decide?
What should you do, considering that health debates still continue? (Eggs are good, eggs are bad. Hormones therapies are good, hormones therapies are bad. Mammograms are…). Should you discontinue medication to try an alternative remedy or add alternatives to what your doctor prescribed? Your doctor will no doubt agree with an improved diet, which is advised for most major illnesses anyway. He or she might not approve of a substitute for prescribed medication, especially if you have severe symptoms of schizophrenia or depression. Consider the following also:
• Health, healing, recovery, or renewal is an ongoing process that takes effort, no matter how much you’re suffering and want relief now.
• Your doctor might choose not to work with you, which is his right, if you do not agree to take the medication he prescribes. An osteopathic physician (D.O.) might agree to alternatives along with medication.
• Herbal remedies combined with pharmacological drugs can cause adverse effects—think of it as potentially doubling up medication. Don’t mix the two without discussing your choice with a pharmacist or your doctor.
• Any treatment plan takes time before you see results, whether traditional or alternative. If you feel suicidal, prescribed medication will help you more quickly than other treatments. Please, take the pill. You can change your treatment plan later.
• Mainstream physicians agree that spiritual activity affects us physically.
Religious and spiritual activities are considered an alternative therapy by the American Public Health Association (APHA).²
So, how will you choose? In my opinion, you’ll need to sort through the remedies in both categories to develop a course of action. Pursue solutions from every angle. Test what works best for you. In a book released this year, Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right For You, the authors (both doctors) state, “The unsettling reality is that much of medicine still exists in a gray zone, where there is no black or white answer about when to treat or how to treat.”³
The medical debates, the supposed “proofs,” and the uncertainties and risks, leave all of us in a gray zone. Perhaps that is the result of living in the valley of the shadow of death. We are not guaranteed clarity or perfection. Like the psalmist, though, we can walk the valley believing the goodness and mercy of God will follow us. We can believe God will restore our souls. We trust him while we research, pray, and seek wise counsel.
In the coming months this site will offer discussions about various ways to live healthier, spiritually and physically, when facing symptoms of schizophrenia and depression. Overarching it all, we believe God heals. We believe God sanctifies. Ultimately, as we trust God with our life and health he brings us closer to himself, something neither yogurt nor neuroleptics can do.
*Freezing water therapy was used in mental institutions in the early 1800s as a way to shock the patient into a sound mind.
² The activities of prayer, worship meetings, and religious reading showed benefits for adults diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447289/
³ Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right For You by Jerome Groopman, M.D. and Pamela Hartzband, M.D. (The Penguin Press, 2011).