Gut Bacteria and Its Impact on Depression and Schizophrenia
It’s easy to think of gut health and mental health as separate, but research is beginning to show that’s not the case. Since 50% of people are diagnosed with a mental disorder at some point in their life, correlations between gut bacteria and depression should be taken seriously 1.
As more research about the gut brain connection comes to light, more in-depth analyses are beginning to take place in the mental health sphere. Now, scientists are determining the impact gut bacteria has on specific mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is an overwhelming mental health disorder that affects about 21 million people worldwide 2. This mental illness causes people to interpret reality abnormally. Therefore, schizophrenia can have a crippling effect on someone’s life.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Hearing Voices
- Mood Swings
- Manic Episodes
- Delusional/Rambling Thoughts
- Stuttering/Speech Impediment
- Askew Perception
- Impaired Functioning
Battling schizophrenia may cause hallucinations, as well as extremely disordered thinking and motor behavior.
This mental health condition is treatable. So, if you believe you showcase symptoms of schizophrenia, please contact a mental health specialist.
Gut Bacteria and Schizophrenia
Studies about gut bacteria, autoimmune disease, and schizophrenia date back to the 1960s.
A meta-analysis on the topic noted,
“First epidemiologic study of wartime admissions for schizophrenia showed that populations in countries whose consumption of wheat had decreased during the war saw a decrease in hospital admissions for schizophrenia, whereas those populations in countries with an increase in consumption of wheat during the war had an increase in hospital admissions for schizophrenia 3.”– Schizophr Res.
With that being said, this epidemiological research has only identified correlations. Only now are we beginning to understand the differences in the microbiomes of healthy people and those affected with schizophrenia.
Gut Biome Diversity and Schizophrenia
New research shows that there are a few key commonalities in the microbiomes of people with schizophrenia. The first similarity is the lack of bacterial diversity in the gut biome of those diagnosed with this mental health disorder 4.
The study noted that these findings took into account if the healthy controls or patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were on medications.
Even with the medications, results stated,
“Patients with SCZ (schizophrenia) exhibit altered gut microbiota. To determine whether the microbial composition of patients with SCZ was substantially different from that of HC (healthy control) subjects, we carried out β-diversity analysis and found obvious differences in gut microbial composition between the two groups. We also performed analyses to determine whether the global microbial phenotypes were substantially affected by potential confounding variables (i.e., sex or antipsychotic drugs). The patients with SCZ or HCs were not clustered on the basis of these variables, suggesting that global microbial phenotypes were not greatly influenced by sex or medication status 4.”– Science Advances Magazine
These findings are astonishing. After all, it’s well-documented how medications can alter gut bacteria. Yet, even these medications couldn’t wipe out stomach bacteria associated with schizophrenia.
That must mean these stomach bacteria are pretty influential.
Luckily, the scientists who published the study in Science Advances took a closer look at the gut bacteria involved.
Let’s take a peek at microbes associated with this mental health disorder.
Microbes Associated With Schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia showed a significantly lower overall microbial diversity in the gut biome. However, research indicated that these subjects had an increase in four types of stomach bacteria.
Stomach bacteria prevalent in the gut biome of people with schizophrenia may include:
These results show us that there is indeed a link between the composition of the microbiome and mental health. While schizophrenia is common, there is a mental health disorder that which many of us are more familiar. Let’s take a look at the connection between gut bacteria and depression.
Gut Bacteria and Depression
Depression is another more common mental illness that affects many people. Approximately 7.1% of adults have had at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime 5. Like schizophrenia, research has begun to form a correlation between gut health and depression.
Microbes That Boost MoodFaecalibacterium and Coprococcus were both found in higher quantities in people who had higher quality of life indicators 6. 4.
“The researchers found that two groups of bacteria, Coprococcus and Dialister, were reduced in people with depression. And they saw a positive correlation between quality of life and the potential ability of the gut microbiome to synthesize a breakdown product of the neurotransmitter dopamine, called 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid. The results are some of the strongest yet to show that a person’s microbiota can influence their mental health 8.”– Nature
It is becoming evident that gut health and mental health are closely related. Luckily having a healthy gut is not unattainable.
How to Improve Gut Bacteria
Gut health is something that can be improved with the decisions you make every day. The first step is to make sure you are eating healthy whole foods to nourish not just yourself, but all of your good gut bacteria also 9.
According to the Journal for Agriculture and Food Chemistry,
“Whole plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, and whole grain cereals, protect against chronic human diseases such as heart disease and cancer, with fiber and polyphenols thought to contribute significantly. These bioactive food components interact with the gut microbiota, with gut bacteria modifying polyphenol bioavailability and activity, and with fiber, constituting the main energy source for colonic fermentation.”– Journal for Agriculture and Food Chemistry
By eating a balanced diet of whole foods, you can help alter the gut bacteria in your microbiome for the better. In turn, you will experience less inflammation in the system. As a result, the gut-brain-axis won’t send negative signals that may trigger mental health episodes.
Microbiome Testing for Mental Health
Another step is to supplement with probiotics to make sure your microbiome is diverse and full of helpful microbes 10. At. Ombre, we offer strain-specific probiotics clinically backed to target your symptoms.
Learn if you're lacking the bacteria you need for optimal mentall wellness with our at-home gut microbiome test. We implement safe and secure microbiome testing in order to help you achieve the most health benefits quickly and effectively. The science is clear; taking care of your mental health means taking care of your gut health.
- 1 “Learn About Mental Health – Mental Health – CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Jan. 2018, www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm.
- 2 “Schizophrenia.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 25 Nov. 2014, www.who.int/mental_health/management/schizophrenia/en/.
- 3 Severance, E. G., Yolken, R. H., & Eaton, W. W. (2016). Autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders and the microbiome in schizophrenia: more than a gut feeling. Schizophrenia research, 176(1), 23–35. doi:10.1016/j.schres.2014.06.027.
- 4 Zheng, Peng, et al. “The Gut Microbiome from Patients with Schizophrenia Modulates the Glutamate-Glutamine-GABA Cycle and Schizophrenia-Relevant Behaviors in Mice.” Science Advances, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1 Feb. 2019, advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/2/eaau8317.
- 5 “Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Feb. 2019, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml.
- 6 Valles-Colomer, Mireia, et al. “The Neuroactive Potential of the Human Gut Microbiota in Quality of Life and Depression.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 4 Feb. 2019, www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0337-x.
- 7 Belkaid, Yasmine, and Timothy W. Hand. “Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and Inflammation.” Cell VOLUME 157, ISSUE 1, P121-141, MARCH 27, 2014, 27 Mar. 2014, www.cell.com/fulltext/S0092-8674(14)00345-6.
- 8 “Links between Gut Microbes and Depression Strengthened.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 4 Feb. 2019, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00483-5.
- 9 Tuohy, Kieran M., and Lorenzo Corterno. “Up-Regulating the Human Intestinal Microbiome Using Whole Plant Foods, Polyphenols, and/or Fiber.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 21 May 2012, pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf2053959.
- 10 Markowiak, P., & Śliżewska, K. (2017). Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients, 9(9), 1021. doi:10.3390/nu9091021.