Early psychosis is associated with nutritional deficiencies, according to new research

The relationship between proper nutrition and health has long been established. Unfortunately, many people still suffer from nutritional deficiencies because they fail to acknowledge the role that different nutrients play in different body processes. These conditions increase the risk of many health problems such as rickets, scurvy, anemia, depression, and psychosis. A study, which was spearheaded by The National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) at Western Sydney University, found that nutritional deficiencies contribute to the early stages of psychotic disorders.

Psychosis is a symptom experienced by people suffering from serious mental disorders like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This symptom causes a person to have trouble identifying what’s real and what they’re just imagining. These often come in the form of delusions or hallucinations, which are two very different symptoms that are often interchanged with each other. One thing that these two have in common is that they seem real to whoever is experiencing them.

Delusions are false ideas that a patient with psychosis firmly believes in even if reality states otherwise. There are different forms of delusions. One is paranoia, where the patient believes that other people are out to get them. It can also come in the form of an exaggerated sense of importance called grandiose delusion or somatic delusion, which is the belief that a person is ill even if they’re not. On the other hand, hallucinations trigger the different senses even if there are no stimuli, meaning the patients see, hear, feel, or smell things that aren’t present.

The exact cause of psychosis isn’t easy to identify. However, some factors that can contribute to this health problem include dementia, brain tumors, drug use, lack of sleep, and other environmental factors. To treat psychosis, most healthcare professionals recommend taking antipsychotic medications along with therapy. However, these drugs come with side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, seizures, and a low number of white blood cells, which can increase the risk of infections. Because of these, researchers are constantly looking for alternative treatments and recently, nutritional interventions were observed to have potential for this application.

How are nutritional deficiencies associated with psychosis?

In a study, published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin, researchers reviewed a total of 28 studies that examined the nutritional profile of 2,612 patients with psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. Six vitamins and 10 minerals were assessed immediately after the psychotic disorder manifested for the first time, prior to antipsychotic treatment, or during the early stages of treatment. Unlike previous studies, which have shown the relationship between nutritional deficiencies and long-term schizophrenia, this research aims to look at nutritional deficiencies present during the first episode of psychosis.

From their analysis, the researchers found that during early psychosis, there are low levels of critical nutrients in the blood. This is especially true for vitamin B9, also called folate, and vitamin D. Moreover, they also observed that patients with folate and vitamin D deficiencies during early psychosis had worse mental health. Unfortunately, the small number of studies included in the review limited the results of the study and they were unable to find significant differences for other vitamins and minerals. However, this doesn’t mean that they are not involved in early psychosis. It just means that more studies are needed to verify their importance.

“Although just one of many factors, it is important to recognize that nutritional deficiencies could certainly be contributing to the poor physical and mental health outcomes often observed in young people with psychosis,” said Dr. Joseph Firth, a postdoctoral research fellow at NICM and the lead author of the study.

From the results of their study, the researchers concluded that there is a possibility of using nutritional interventions as treatments for patients with early psychosis. (Related: Early stages of schizophrenia can be treated with nutrients found in Brussels sprouts, shellfish, and oranges.)

For more articles about how nutrition affects mental health, visit Mental.news.

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