The voices that people with schizophrenia are hearing are probably their own inner thoughts

This is kind of breaking news — new news: A research scientist, with the aid of a powerful microphone, was able to record a patient with schizophrenia speaking to themselves in a sub-vocal voice. The patient was not aware that they were speaking at the time.

The research is very early, a first in its field perhaps, but the theory seems to suggest that the patient’s with schizophrenia symptoms may have some disconnect with the normal ability to identify internal thoughts and sub-vocal speech as being self generated and instead are interpreting the internal thoughts as coming from some external source of whatever type the person might think.

(Example of my interpretation of sub-vocal speech: the almost silent muttering under your breath that you don’t notice yourself doing, until suddenly you do notice that you’re talking to yourself, and then you stop because you don’t want anyone to notice. The brain of a someone with schizophrenia may no longer recognize the voices of self-talk, or those of voices in memories or in imagined conversations, as being internally self-generated and instead probably tend to make up some explanation for  whatever or whoever might be doing the talking that is being heard — hearing voices. Our internal chatter can get busy and sometimes pretty mean, it would be scary to not realize that it is just yourself. )

Read more, of the actual article:  [http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2016/03/schizophrenia_and_subvocal_speech_why_schizophrenics_hear_the_voices_of.html]

This seems like very important news — patients with schizophrenia may be able to be gently reminded that those voices are just brain mumbles, and to try to ignore them.

People with schizophrenia are generally not associated with violence unless there is also a history of violent behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, or more persecutory fantasies. [citation missing, I don’t remember where I read that recently, but I posted it in a comment somewhere.]

Mental health symptoms sometimes may be due to underlying issues that could be easily fixed, rather than considering the patient as being ‘mentally ill’ for the rest of their life and likely being placed on medications that tend to have severe side effects. Effective health care would seek for any underlying causes that can be returned to a state of normal function with the simplest solutions possible, “Let food be thy medicine,” the first part of the quote by Hippocrates may be the most important part.

There are several different nutrient deficiencies that can cause symptoms similar to schizophrenia or may be involved in an underlying cause for the condition, this information was from an older post of mine but it was not grouped together:

Regarding trends seen around the world in rate of schizophrenia, it has been dropping in South Korea and increasing in Japan. North Korea has the highest rate for the region: http://global-disease-burden.healthgrove.com/l/58241/Schizophrenia-in-South-Korea

Malnutrition in North Korea is more likely involved in the increased rate for the nation than cat ownership due to the many years of sanctions against the country. B12, folate, zinc and vitamin D deficiencies and excess copper may be involved in risk of developing schizophrenia like symptoms. Folate and calcium are considered to be potentially deficient for the typical Korean diet. Fortified milk products aren’t typically consumed so extra vitamin D from that source wouldn’t be available. Iodine is also a nutrient that may be deficient in the diet. http://adoptionnutrition.org/nutrition-by-country/korea/

Low thyroid levels have been associated with schizophrenia in early treatment of the disease and has been used in more recent care of patients by an alternative physician. The following link includes excerpts from many older research articles and one mentions kryptopyrroles being elevated in some patients so a genetic cause may be involved for some patients that would cause low zinc and low B6 levels (pyroluria). http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2001/articles/2001-v16n04-p205.shtml

Schizophrenia treatment and other psychiatric care in Russia does not seem to be an ideal to follow anywhere else – or there: http://www.sras.org/snezhnevsky_schizophrenia_soviet_psychiatry However Russians on average do own a lot of cats, especially in comparison to residents of South Korea: https://www.statista.com/chart/10267/which-countries-have-the-most-cat-owners/?utm_content=buffer35f5b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer 

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause long term nerve degeneration

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin):

Neurological symptoms of B12 deficiency may include:

  • numbness and tingling of the arms and legs; problems walking; disorientation; memory loss; mood changes that may resemble schizophrenia; and dementia.  Damage may occur to the myelin sheath which surrounds and insulates nerves like the plastic coating around an extension cord.  Nerve damage and mental health symptoms may become permanent with long term deficiency of vitamin B12.

Digestive symptoms may include:

  • loss of appetite, a painful tongue, and constipation.  The reason for there to be digestive symptoms associated with B12 deficiency is not well understood.  One theory suggests that undiagnosed digestive problems might have been an initial cause of the  B12 deficiency.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may also include:

  • pernicious anemia and megaloblastic anemia which are hemoglobin deficiencies that have symptoms of tiredness.  Folate deficiency symptoms are also possible because B12 is necessary in folate metabolism.  Increased heart disease risk from elevated homocysteine levels may result from B6,  B12, or folate deficiency.

People who may be more at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include:

Those with malabsorption problems, or people with chronic use of antacids and those who are over age 60.  A specific protein cofactor called the intrinsic factor and normal stomach acidity levels are necessary for B12 absorption to be able to occur.  Some individuals receive monthly injections of B12 after reaching older age and some people need to receive them monthly throughout life due to having chronically low vitamin B12 for other reasons than normal aging such as a genetic issue with their production of the intrinsic factor protein.

Sublingual tablets of the supplement are also available which are absorbed in the mouth, bypassing any problems with the rest of the digestive system.

A genetic difference may exist that causes some individuals to require the methylated active form of B12 rather than being able to benefit from the more commonly available supplement which is an unmethylated and therefore inactive form.  [More about methylcobalamin.] A genetic screening test would need to be ordered to find out if there were any differences in the gene that might cause an inability to methylate vitamin B12 or folate/(folic acid is the commonly used supplement which is also in the unmethylated form, and therefore inactive for someone with a genetic inability to perform the methylation reaction – meaning an enzyme is malfunctioning somewhere in the complex chemical chain of events.)

A problem with lower digestive acidity in the stomach could also be managed simply by adding a side dish or condiment to meals that contains vinegar or acidic ingredients. Examples from around the world include chutneys, pickles, lime or lemon juice/fresh wedges, vinegary salad dressing, salsa or Tabasco Sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

  • What is Worcestershire Sauce? (thespruce) (and how do you spell it?)- It is an interesting story – featuring the chemists Lea and Perrins. (Lea & Perrins is still the best selling brand of Worcestershire Sauce). Who knew chemistry could be so delicious?

Schizophrenia may also be associated with an increased risk for low levels of vitamin B12. Read more: (askdrgonzalez.com/deficiency-of-vitamin-b12-and-schizophrenia/)

Low stomach acid may be an underlying issue with symptoms of schizophrenia and in other mental health disorders. The balance and variety of microbes living within the gastrointestinal tract also may be involved in symptoms resembling mental illness. (Digestion & schizophrenia /PMC4437570/)

Pickles that are made fresh and need to be refrigerated  can be a source of healthy intestinal microbes, in a similar way to the healthy bacteria found in yogurt with active probiotics or Kefir drinks.  A variety of traditional products with live cultures are listed here – and a new one, probiotics are being added to chocolate in some products: (health.com/probiotics & chocolate) Scientists studying the microbiome tend to recommend the live culture foods rather than supplements of probiotics – based on my overview impression of multiple sources. An overview regarding the current recommendations about probiotic supplements is available here: (washingtonpost/people-love-probiotics-but-do-they-really-help/2017/05/19)

Probiotics refers to products that contain actual good guy bacteria, while prebiotics refers to foods that contain fiber or other nutrients which the good guy bacteria need to eat in order to survive and flourish – in competition with the more negative strains of bacteria or with yeasts or other microbes which might be found within our gastro-intestinal tract.

Eating vegetables and other foods that are good sources of some types of fiber also helps support healthier intestinal microbes, a few foods that provide the types of fiber that our intestinal microbes need to eat in order to flourish and protect us from more negative types of microbes, are listed here: (pcrm.org/seven-foods-to-supercharge-your-gut-bacteria)

It is a very good idea to get adequate fiber in the daily diet – because starving microbes will start breaking down and consuming edible portions of the intestinal cells for nourishment – if forced, and it may leave the body more at risk for infection (labblog.uofmhealth.org/gut-bacteria-eat-colon-lining-when-starved-for-fiber) – but why starve your good guy microbes? Our intestinal microbes may also help prevent anxiety. (neuroscienceresearch.wustl.edu.pdf)

Food Sources of Vitamin B12 include: 

  • shellfish, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, dairy products, Nutritional or Brewer’s yeast.  Vegetarians who don’t eat dairy, eggs, fish or other meat products may need a supplement or nutritional yeast, a vegan food source of vitamin B12. (nutritional yeast/pubmed/11146329)
  • See the post on Vitamin B6 for more information about how the group of B vitamins work together in energy metabolism and cell growth.

Reference for more information:

An Evidence-based Approach to Vitamins and Minerals:  Health Benefits and Intake Recommendations, 2nd Ed., by J. Higdon & V. Drake, (Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2012)

  • A description and source for purchasing the text: (thieme.com)
  • A review of the text: (ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/892.full)
  • The text is produced in cooperation with the Linus Pauling Institute. He is a researcher who used large doses of vitamin C to cure cancer tumors. His work was met with skepticism. More recently research supports his work in that a specific type of cancer cells is very susceptible to vitamin C – while to the rest of the body it is water soluble and non-toxic at the level that was toxic to the cancer cells. (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213231716302634)

Last reviewed and revised on 9/30/2017.

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)