Inflamed Gut and Psychiatric Illness

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: The human immune system wraps around the 33 feet length of our intestines like an insulation blanket wraps around a water pipe to prevent freezing. In the case of vigilance around our gut, the reason the immune system focuses there is simply because that is the most common entry point for pathogens to try and enter our blood stream. Incompletely digested food fragments, pesticides, herbicides and other pathological agents (heavy metals, RoundUp™ glyphosate) all assault the gut membrane seeking to create “leaky gut” and GI inflammation in order to take you down.  Antacids create symbiosis (the wrong critters colonizing your guts) and dietary dairy products also act as antacids and tear down your health.  So once your guts are symbiotic – on the fritz – the brain becomes inflamed as well and since inflammation drives all psychiatric ailments, it is no surprise that conventional psychiatrists are starting to connect symbiosis and mental illness.  Remember what Abram Hoffer, Ph.D. MD taught: psychosis  is a TOXIC response to excessive adrenalin converting to a naturally occurring hallucinogen, adrenochrome.

Treat the guts – all illness begins in the gut.


It takes guts to be mentally ill: Microbiota and psychopathology

Here is a clue: It is also the largest immune organ in humans!

Still scratching your head? Here is another clue: This organ also contains a “second brain,” which is connected to big brain inside the head by the vagus nerve.

Okay, enough guessing: It’s the 30-foot long gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is generally associated only with eating and digestion. But it is far more than a digestive tract. It is home to about 100 trillion diverse bacteria, including 1,000 known species, which together are known as “microbiota.” Its combined DNA is called the “microbiome” and is 10,000% larger than the human genome. Those trillions of bacteria in our guts are a symbiotic (commensal) organ that is vital for the normal functions of the human body.1

While this vast array of microorganisms is vital to sustaining a healthy human existence, it can also be involved in multiple psychiatric disorders, including depression, psychosis, anxiety, autism, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Humans acquire their unique sets of microbiota as they pass through the mother’s vagina at birth and while breastfeeding, as well as from exposure to various environmental sources in the first few months of life.2

The microbiota in the GI tract are an intimate neighbor of the “enteric brain,” comprised of 100 million neurons plus glia-like support cell structures. This “second brain” produces over 30 neuro transmitters, several of which (dopamine, serotonin, γ-aminobutyric acid [GABA], acetylcholine) have been implicated in major psychiatric disorders.3

The brain and gut have a dynamic bidirectional communication system, mediated by neural, hormonal, and immunological crosstalk and influences. The GI tract secretes dozens of peptides and other signaling molecules that influence the brain. The microbiota also interact with and are regulated by gut hormones such as oxytocin, ghrelin, neuropeptide Y, cholecystokinin, corticotrophin-releasing factor, and pancreatic polypeptide.4 The microbiota modulate brain development, functions, and behavior, and maintain the intestinal barrier, which, if disrupted, would result in the gut becoming “leaky” and triggering low-grade inflammation such as that associated with depression.5

But don’t overlook the importance of diet. It is a major factor in shaping the composition of the microbiota. What we eat can have a preventative or reparative effect on neuroimmune or neuroinflammatory disease. An emerging body of evidence suggests that the diet and its effects on the gut microbiota can modify a person’s genes by epi­genetic mechanisms (altering DNA methylation and histone effects). Probiotics can exert epigenetic effects by influencing cytokines, by producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), by vitamin synthesis, and by producing several well-known neurotransmitters.6

The bidirectional trafficking across the microbiome-gut-brain axis includes reciprocal effects. The brain influences the microbiome composition by regulating satiety, the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and with neuropeptides.7 In return, the microbiome conveys information to the brain about the intestinal status via infectious agents, intestinal neuro­transmitters and modulators, cytokines, sensory vagal fibers, and various metabolites. Failure of these normal interactions can lead to a variety of pathological processes, including inflammatory, autoimmune, degenerative, metabolic, cognitive, mood, and behavioral adverse effects. Therapeutic interventions for these adverse consequences can be implemented through microbiome manipulations (such as fecal transplants), nutritional strategies, and reinforcement of the enteric and brain barriers.

Alterations in the microbiota, such as by the intake of antibiotics or by intestinal inflammation, can lead to psychiatric disorders.8 The following findings link gut microbiome disruptions with several psychiatric disorders:

Schizophrenia prodrome.Fecal bacteria show an increase in SCFAs, which can activate microglia (the initial step in triggering psychosis).9 These bacteria have been shown to lead to an increase in choline levels in the anterior cingulate, a known biomarker for membrane dysfunction, which is one of the biological models of schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia—first-episode.A recent study reported abnormalities in the gut microbiota of patients with first-episode psychosis, with a lower number of certain fecal bacteria (including bifidobacterium, E. coli, and lactobacillus) and high levels of Clostridium coccoides. After 6 months of risperidone treatment, the above changes were reversed.10

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