Friday, September 13, 2013

Low levels of healthy gut bacteria could be the cause of mental health issues such as 'anxiety and schizophrenia'

Personal Notes:

The inspiration was from an article I read (see below) about the correlation between gut flora and anxiety due to the seratonin levels in the gut - how the stomach is considered the body's 2nd brain and how the gut flora can determine anxiety, depression, autism, OCD, schizophrenia and immunity. I figured if I can just cut the bloating, any psychological benefits would be gravy.

The primary factors of change I have incorporated:
  • probiotic
  • digestive enzyme (major factor)
  • cut sugar intake
  • regular exercise
My notes on stomach digestion strategies

The probiotic I use is typically recommended for Crohn's disease or irritable bowel syndrome - though I've not been diagnosed with either, I've never been assessed. My stomach is still really sensitive but, I'm no longer bloated, and cutting the sugar has leveled out my energy. 

I've always had a screwy stomach. After reading the article posted below, I chose a probiotic to maximize the bacteria count without using yogurt - dairy is not super friendly on my stomach and I now use almond milk instead of skim. A friend recommended also using a digestive enzyme which proved to be an important game changer. I was aware that my sugar binges were bombing my energy levels, so I was very interested in all forms of relief.

I eat raisin bran almost daily which gives me fiber and carbs - yes, it has wheat, but I am otherwise particular about the carbs - I eat a 2nd carb in the afternoons - maybe Ezekiel bread (toast) with sugar free jam, rice, or sweet potatoes.

I have overall eliminated dairy and mostly avoid sugar - I get some fruit juices and dried fruits - I eat a big chunk of prunes at night once a week and that really works well, of course (and I love prunes).

The article I read was a great motivator for me to cut sugar apart from the fruit/juice. I cut up gala apples as a sugar substitute. Seeing the results keeps it going and I never thought I'd not crave, but I guess substitution is the key.

I get a drink from Trader Joe's called 'Green Plant' which is a nice juice blend, along with a banana/orange juice (Simply Orange is the brand).

I use salad dressings on some foods that probably have more sugar than what would be ideal (Ken's Steak House light sesame ginger and sun-dried tomato), but it makes the food (baked chicken, broccoli slaw) a lot more palatable.

I eat beef and fish maybe once a week. I am aware that digesting meat is hard on my stomach - I have baked chicken daily.

For stomach strength, I do push ups (for the plank) and there's one contraption at the gym I use for doing sit ups - everything else hurts my lower back. This is a nice complement to the inside of the stomach feeling better, plus the cardio to lean out. Now, I need to run on a track so I can experience more of the actual feeling of the stomach changing and engagement. I've already noticed greater core strength when I do squats.

2 Recommended supplements

Digest Gold - the digestive enzyme I bought at a local vitamin store to avoid shipping - $70 with tax, will last probably 4-6 mo. This makes a huge impact on bloating:
The probiotic I'm now taking is VSL3 from the pharmacist at Walgreens/CVS (no prescription, needs to be refrigerated, costs around $50, should last 2 mo., 150 billion count - need at least 15 billion count, more with age).

Additional considerations about digestive enzymes

I questioned whether there are any negative side effects of a digestive enzyme and found this article that advocates not taking them and recommends other ways to improve digestion. I will likely cycle the probiotic - see how a 6 mo. treatment affects me, and maybe give my body a break. The digestive enzyme may be something to cycle as well.

Article about gut flora and mental health

By Daily Mail Reporter
  • The average adult carries up to five pounds of bacteria
  • Healthy bacteria are known as probiotics, commonly found in yogurt, soy yogurt or as dietary supplements
  • Probiotics are also delivered in fecal transplants, in which stool from a healthy donor is delivered like a suppository to an infected patient
  • Strep bacterium is linked to OCD
  • Gut bacteria regulate dopamine levels
  •  A build-up of dopamine causes agitation and stress on the body
  • Gut bacteria ‘talk to the brain' through the immune system or parts of the nervous system
People suffering from anxiety, might just need to eat more 'healthy' bacteria.
Some scientists think there may be a link between our digestive tract microbes and disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia and autism.

They are beginning to recognise the power of healthy gut bacteria, especially seeing that the average adult carries up to five pounds of bacteria - trillions of microbes - in their digestive tract. 

Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures, such as in yogurt, soy yogurt or as dietary supplements.
Probiotics are also delivered in fecal transplants, in which stool from a healthy donor is delivered like a suppository to an infected patient.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience from The Great Plains Laboratory, has shown that HPHPA levels - the chemical byproduct of the clostridia bacteria - are much higher in the urine of autistic children. 

Those treated with antibiotics effective against clostridia show a decrease in symptoms of autism.

Dr James Greenblatt, a Boston-area psychiatrist, treated a teenager with severe obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an array of digestive problems. 

Greenblatt first did a simple urine test for the metabolite HPHPA and found that it was elevated. 

He put the patient, Mary, on a course of high-powered probiotics to boost her good bacteria, followed by antibiotics, and her levels began to ‘dramatically’ go down, he told ABC News

After six months, Mary's symptoms began to disappear. And by a year, they were gone. 

Today, three years later, Mary is a senior in high school and has no sign of either mental disorder.

In some patients, the strep bacterium has been linked to OCD in a condition known as PANDAS - an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. 

PANDAS, which is a rare disease that usually appears in children, is hypothesised to be an autoimmune disorder that results in a variable combination of tics, obsessions, compulsions, and other symptoms that may be severe enough to qualify for diagnoses such as chronic tic disorder, OCD and Tourette syndrome.

A 10-year-old from Virginia was treated with probiotics after being incorrectly diagnosed with PANDAS after he developed compulsive symptoms following a strep infection and a lengthy course on antibiotics. 

‘He had no gut flora,’ said his mother, Robin, who did not want to use her last name.
‘He had been healthy and athletically coordinated and then developed these compulsive behavior and tics. It didn't seem like it was in his control.’ 

After probiotics, ‘it was like night and day’, she told ABC News. ‘His symptoms went away and he was totally fine.’  

A recent study in the journal Science shows that thin and fat people have different bacteria -- a discovery that could lead to weight-loss programmes. 

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.

Scientists are so far unable to identify every strain of bacteria, but they can test for the chemical byproducts that they produce, according to Greenblatt. 

He said he checks every patient for HPHPA with a simple organic acid urine test before moving ahead with medications to treat symptoms. 

'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. 

'We know elevated levels in the dopamine gene cause agitation,' he told ABC News.
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 behaviour. 

Researchers compared the behaviours of normal 8-week-old mice and those whose guts were stripped of microbes. 

Those without bacteria showed higher levels of risk-taking and the stress hormone cortisol. 

They also had altered levels of the brain chemical BDNF, which has been linked to anxiety and depression in humans.

Jane Foster, associate professor of neuroscience and behavioral science and part of the McMaster University & Brain-Body Institute, says gut bacteria ‘talk to the brain in multiple ways through either the immune system or the enteric nervous system’.
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.