Serious mental conditions like psychosis is extremely difficult to treat and anti-psychotic medications have serious side effects.

For people who don’t want to take medication, don’t respond to medication, can’t tolerate medication or can’t afford medication, nutritional intervention can offer real hope and empowerment, says psychiatrist Georgia Ede.

For people diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, even the most potent antipsychotic and mood stabilizing medications available often don’t bring sufficient relief, and those medications come with a significant risk of side effects, writes Ede at Psychology Today.

There is light ahead in this very dark tunnel and its source is a diet change.

What is schizoaffective disorder?

Where people with schizophrenia have psychotic symptoms, people with schizoaffective disorder have to cope with psychosis in addition to overlapping periods of severe mood symptoms, says Ede.

“Signs of psychosis include paranoia, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, intrusive thoughts/images, and/or disorganized thinking. Mood episodes may include depression, euphoria, irritability, rage, suicidal thoughts, and/or mood swings.”

The surprising effect of a ketogenic diet on two people with schizoaffective disorder

Ede reports on two cases presented by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Chris Palmer, participate at the recently held International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (ISNPR) conference held in Bethesda, Maryland.

The first patient’s story is shocking in so many ways.

After eight years, 12 different medications and 23 electric shock treatments a 31-year-old woman had not experienced any relief from her serious symptoms. She started on a ketogenic diet to lose some weight.

Then something most unexpected happened.

“After four weeks on the diet, her delusions had resolved and she’d lost ten pounds. At four months’ time, she’d lost 30 pounds and her score on a clinical questionnaire called the PANSS (Positive and Negative Symptom Scale), which ranks symptoms on a scale from 30 (best) to 210 (worst), had come down from 107 to 70,” reports Ede.

Another stunning result.

A 33-year-old single man diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder 14 years ago had tried 17 different psychiatric medications with limited success. Weighing 322 pounds, he embarked on a ketogenic diet to lose weight.

Within three weeks he reported “dramatic” reduction in auditory hallucinations and delusions, as well as better mood, energy, and concentration. His PANSS scores fell from 98 to only 49 and he could resume a normal life, moved out of his father’s home, began dating, and started taking college courses.

Here’s the interesting thing.

Every time either of these individuals went off of the ketogenic diet, their symptoms worsened, and when they went back on the diet, their symptoms improved again.

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is an ultra-low-carbohydrate diet (maximum 20 grams of carbohydrate per day) that is typically much higher in fat than other diets.

Ede explains that this diet is designed to lower and stabilize insulin levels, allowing the body to burn fat more easily. Fat is broken down into ketones, which most cells in the brain can use for energy instead of glucose. Ketones burn more cleanly and efficiently than glucose, resulting in less inflammation and oxidation throughout the brain and body.

Ede experienced similar results her own practice – how mood is stabilized by switching to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, whole foods diet.