Some 30 years ago Dr Carl Pfeiffer began measuring the nutritional status of his schizophrenic patients. He found that most were zinc deplete and many had abnormal functioning of their methylation pathway. This is an important biochemical reaction where methionine is converted to homocysteine. The methyl group thus generated is crucial to many neurotransmitter pathways. The other metabolic anomaly in some was a high urine excretion of pyrrole metabolites which in turn caused high zinc excretion.
He recognized 3 distinct groups of imbalance that he called “overmethylation” , “undermethylation”, and “pyrroluric”. These different groups exhibit different traits that are listed separately.
An integral part of the Pfeiffer approach is a lengthy history aimed at identifying these traits and making a clinical diagnosis as to which biochemical imbalance is most likely. Similar imbalances are often found in depression, BPAD, OCD, ADHD, ODD and Autism. The clinical diagnosis is hopefully confirmed by the biochemical results. Whilst any individual will probably exhibit some traits of all groups in most cases one group will predominate.
Treatment is via high dose, targeted nutritional supplementation. The supplementary protocol is very different for the 3 clinical groups. No change is made to the prescription medication unless there is clear clinical improvement following the addition of the nutritional supplements. It is estimated that less than 10% of patients will remain well controlled if prescription medication is withdrawn.
The program was introduced to Queensland in March 2004 and patients from all the above conditions have been assessed, identified and treated. About 70% of compliant patients have made varying degrees of clinical improvement. A more formal followup has been done when each patient had completed one year into treatment.
There is mounting opinion that some have a genetic predisposition to develop schizophrenia given an appropriate trigger. A common trigger is thought to be illicit drug use, especially marijuana. Patients are not accepted into this program unless their use of these drugs has stopped or likely to stop in the near future. It is probable that other triggers like medical illness, parental separation, domestic violence, relationship or scholastic failure may trigger the illness in some patients.