Schizophrenia And The Bacteria in Your Gut
This research may lead to new treatment options
Researchers have found new evidence that our gut bacteria may be related to schizophrenia and mental health. Studies have already shown altered gut bacteria are correlated with anxiety and depression. This new study evaluated a possible link between schizophrenia and changes in gut bacteria. Schizophrenia is a serious medical condition that causes hallucinations, an abnormal sense of reality and disordered thinking. It can greatly affect one’s ability to function. It is a life-long condition and often severely disabling. Treatment can be challenging. It may include therapy and multiple medications. Even then, improvement can be less than desirable. This study may signal a much-needed change in how schizophrenia is treated.
In this study, the stool of patients with schizophrenia was analyzed. Stool samples provide a snapshot of the gut microbiome. The microbiome is the genetic material of all the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses in and on the human body. The organisms in the microbiome have over 200 times more genes than the persons own genome. What this means is that the DNA of the organisms in the microbiome may have more power to control health than a person’s own DNA.
When evaluating the stool samples of the schizophrenic patients, very specific changes in the gut bacteria were seen. The changes were so specific in fact, the schizophrenic patients could be identified by their stool samples alone.
The following findings were even more surprising. In the second part of the study, the researchers used mice with no bacteria in their gut. They transplanted the stool of the schizophrenic patients into the mice (fecal transplant). The mice then developed symptoms similar to schizophrenia. This means they caused schizophrenic behavior by giving gut bacteria from schizophrenics to the mice. The investigators also checked levels of glutamate in the brains of the mice. Glutamate is a chemical messenger that does not work normally in schizophrenics. The animals with gut bacteria from the schizophrenic patients showed abnormal glutamate in their brains. The gut bacteria appear to have changed the brain’s chemicals.
The future of treatment
This is groundbreaking research in the field of schizophrenia. The possibilities for future therapies is exciting. Fecal transplants, in lieu of or in addition to, medications- encouraging! I truly feel this signals change in the treatment of schizophrenia and I pray this gives hope to the millions affected by this disease.
Looking to understand
If you are interested in a unique perspective on schizophrenia, I recommend the new bestseller ” The Collected Schizophrenics: Essays” by Esme Wang, a Stanford graduate, a schizophrenic and now a best-selling author.
THIS ARTICLE IS COPYRIGHTED BY AMY BURKHART, MD, RD.
Dr. Amy Burkhart is a doctor (M.D.), Registered Dietitian, R.D., and fellowship-trained in integrative medicine. She specializes in treating chronic digestive disorders from an integrative/functional medicine perspective.