Depression and Anxiety: It's All In Your . . . Stomach?
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Susan James believes that anxiety may actually come from digestive problems. James refers to how psychiatrist Dr. James Greenblatt had a challenging case where a teenage showed symptoms of severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This client also had a large array of digestive problems. The client had a poor response to psychotropic medications, which raised a red flag to the doctor. The doctor completed a simple urine test for the metabolite HPHPA, the chemical byproduct of the clostridia bacteria, and he discovered that HPHPA levels were elevated - A signal that she was having some stomach problems. He put her on a course of high-powered probiotics to boost her good bacteria, followed by antibiotics, and her levels of HPHOA began to "dramatically" drop, he said. After 6 months, the clients digestive issues had been resolved, and her mental health was restored.
Dr Greenblatt does not practice alternative medicine. His expertise is in psychopharmacology, and he is a clinical faculty member at Tufts Medical School. He explained to ABC News, "I start with integrative medicine, but I have my prescription pad right by my side.". Many doctors are beginning to link metal health issues with physical ailments. Specifically, Greenblatt, like many others are beginning to recognize the power of healthy gut bacteria. The average adult carries up to five pounds of bacteria -- trillions of microbes -- in their digestive tract alone. James reports that “A recent study in the journal Science showed that thin and fat people have different bacteria -- a discovery that could lead to weight-loss programs. Doctors have also been using fecal transplants to seniors when their gastrointestinal health is compromised in nursing home living."
Research shows that there may be a connection between the bacteria in our stomach and mental health issues. This suggests that what is in your stomach may affect what's in your head, indicating that gut bacteria may play a major role in disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia and autism. “Neuroscience from The Great Plains Laboratory, has shown that HPHPA levels are much higher in the urine of autistic children. Those treated with antibiotics effective against the bacteria clostridia show a decrease in symptoms. Babies are born with a sterile digestive tract and first acquire their bacteria while traveling through the birth canal and get more in breast milk and in the world outside the womb through contact with other people. “
Dr. Greenblatt has treated hundreds of patients for dysbiosis, a condition of microbial imbalances on or inside the body, and he reports that it vital to test every patient for HPHPA before prescribing any psychotropic medications. According to Greenblatt, "Eight out of 10 people are fine," he said. "But in the two patients where it's elevated, it can have profound effects on the nervous system. I don't know why this test isn't done on every psychiatric patient," he said. 'I question that every day. HPHPA causes deactivation of an enzyme so that dopamine cannot be converted to the neurotransmitter neuroepinephrine, Greenblatt said, and that causes a build-up of dopamine. Elevated levels in the dopamine can cause such responses as agitation, aggression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
In one 2010 study at McMaster University in Canada, published in the journal Communicative and Integrative Biology, scientists found a link between intestinal microbiota and anxiety-like behavior. Research into the importance of gut bacteria is "well-established," and two other later studies have reaffirmed the McMaster study, according to its co-author Jane Foster, associate professor of neuroscience and behavioral science and part of the McMaster University & Brain-Body Institute."The gut bacteria talk to the brain in multiple ways through either the immune system or the enteric nervous system," said Foster. "It's sort of like if you imagine a mesh network and you took your intestinal tract and wrapped that like a hot dog bun outside a hot dog. There are more neurons that directly surround your GI tract than in the whole spinal cord." However, while using probiotics may help a "subset of patients," she said, it's not a "magic bullet." Early life stresses, nutrition and building a strong immune system all play an important role in a person's mental health, she said.
Probiotics can help many people, and there are also times when there may be even a stronger connection between the stomach and the brain such as adolescence or menopause. It is reasonable to take a quick urine test to determine if mental health issues could stem from GI issues. Then a determination if probiotics can be helpful. If you or a loved one has a mental health issue concern, it is reasonable to ask your doctor for a urine test to determine if you have elevated metabolite HPHPA. You may be a candidate for probiotics that can alleviate GI issues, but also mental health issues.
Conclusion: Gut bacteria may play a role in the development or prevention of mental health disorders.
- Kim B.
I have often felt that my depression, anxiety, and stress issues caused me to eat far too much and especially far too much stuff that wasn’t very good for me. I mean really, when I stress eat, I never eat fruit or vegetables. I have never binged on bananas : ) However, until I read this article I never would have thought that my eating might be the cause and/or affect of my mental issues. I always thought that my mental issues caused me to over eat.
I have never been average in my body-scape. When I was a little child I was very, very skinny, almost that unhealthy looking skinny. The summer between the end of my first grade and the beginning of my second grade school years, the doctors recommended that I have a tonsillectomy. Which my family agreed to, and I said "so long" to a fun summer vacation. Following a small complication and brief set back, I was on my permanent road to recovery and a life of enjoying food like never before.
I went from being the sickly looking skinny kid to the fat kid in short order. The mental anguish caused by the extreme physical change was very painful, but no one really understood it at the time. The anguish grew over the years, as I remained the ‘Pugsly-like’ pudgy kid that became the brunt of jokes and pranks, even from so-called adults.
I fought their teasing by swallowing more and more food on route to becoming bigger and bigger. Eventually my angst grew along with my body and I took matters into my own hands. I began to desire to participate in sports and chose physical fitness as a new habit and outlet that helped me to reduce my weight. However, when I went to college my desire to exercise remained in high school. I again began to grow obese.
All these years later, at least a quarter of a century, I still struggle with my weight. However, I have now realized that my weight seems to fluctuate, up or down, depending on the struggles that I am facing in life. I have much to learn about myself, as I am sure most of us do, but now I have gained a new perspective to investigate on the question of emotions and the stomach.
James, S. (2013, September 12). Anxiety In Your Head Could Come From Your Gut. Retrieved December 19, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/anxiety-head-gut/story?id=20229136