Q&A: Determining the gut microbiome’s impact on psychiatric disorders
Recent research has supported the theory of a connection between the gut and brain.
Bacteria in the gut can impact mood, postpartum conditions, autism and stress. Patients with psychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia compared with those without these conditions have significantly different gut microbiomes.
Healio Gastroenterology spoke with Sabine Hazan, MD, creator of ProgenaBiome and founder of Ventura clinical trials, about her recent research in the gut-brain connection and the role the gut microbiome plays in overall heath.
Healio: Why is this study important to understanding the gut and brain connection?
Hazan: Every disease begins in the gut. Hippocrates said it 2,500 years ago, and we're proving it because we are seeing markers in the gut in every disease. So, it's important to look at the microbiome. We are looking to include patients with an anxiety disorder or OCD to join our research. I am currently doing the study with University of California, Los Angeles.
Healio: What are some things that people can do to improve their mental health through their gut?
Hazan: It's a loaded question, we are not there yet. We are barely finding markers. We have no idea what those bacteria are doing or what they're doing with each other, or what food interacts with it. We’re at the first part of the experiment or the research looking at what is in the microbiome. We are nowhere near able to tell patients what to eat, what to drink. Sure, you can do anecdotal cases, you could tell patients stop the stress, stop heavily drinking alcohol, stop heavily drinking coffee, stop eating fatty meals. Common sense that we know about nutrition and health, certainly what natural paths, herbalists, functional medicine have shown but on a scientific basis there are no data to show right now.
There is incredible research out there on nutrition, probiotics etc but it’s important to realize that all research needs to be done in large clinical trials, be valid, verified and reproducible. The process to make something accepted is very tedious and happens only when all doctors and scientists see eye to eye and the data is so clear that it cannot be challenged. This is why we are at ground zero of the microbiome. We first needed a valid accredited lab that shows a reproducible assay which is what ProgenaBiome developed. From there doctors and scientists bring patients and their knowledge and data is written and accepted.
From that foundation, we can build and discover nutrition hints, impact of certain meds and most importantly common microbes that exists in similar diseases.
Healio: What is the gut microbiome’s role in overall health?
Hazan: Well, it all starts in the gut microbiome. We are born with good microbes, and we die with zero good microbes, and the bad stuff takes over the body and decomposes our bodies back to the earth, it's in my book “Let's Talk Shit.” The process of dying is essentially good bacteria die and bad bacteria takeover. Then, the body starts getting decomposed by the bacteria in your guts. That's why when you bury someone in the dirt, a couple of months later, you won't see the bodies anymore because they've been decomposed by the bacteria in their gut. The same bacteria we’re born with eventually ends up killing us and putting us back into the dirt. Morbid way to look at it but unfortunately that's the reality of life and the process of aging. Morbid but at least gives us possibly a better understanding of life, the aging process, disease, health. It’s the Holy grail, the abyss of the unknown and an exciting adventure for me as this was my whole purpose to becoming a physician. To Understand LIFE.