Bipolar Disorder can be Treated using Probiotics

Psychological disorders are perhaps the most dangerous ones as they largely go undiagnosed. People tend to treat a psychological problem as a routine matter and avoid it. These disorders can be stressful for the person experiencing them or the ones around him. A recent study by the Baltimore Sheppard Pratt Health System has pointed towards a potential cure for a very common psychological disorder; the bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is rampant in the US. With more than 3 million reported cases annually, it falls under one of the most common disorders. The disorder is associated with rapid changes in the energy and activity levels of an individual and strong mood swings. The patient can go from being extremely elated to being very depressive in a short span of time.

Psychologists have administered medications to treat bipolar disorder, these included mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants. For fuller recovery psychologists practice psychotherapy along with medication.

The elated episodes are termed as the manic episodes while the periods of hopelessness are called depressive episodes. These unusually intense emotional phases can upset the sleep patterns and can directly affect the behavior of the individual.

Sometimes the patients do not have extreme manic and depressive episodes and the disorder can then go undetected because psychological disorders do not give any physical symptoms.

In extreme conditions, bipolar disorder can get coupled with anxiety disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Studies have shown that there is a key link between the intestinal tract and the central nervous system (CNS). This connection is dubbed as the ‘gut-brain axis’ (GBA). GBA allows for the two systems to effectively communicate. It lets the immune system maintain a healthy number of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract.

The gut-brain axis is also responsible for the smooth communication between the endocrine system, the immune system, and the automatic nervous system.

A microbial imbalance may cause the gastrointestinal tract to become inflamed and it has been linked to a number of allergies and psychiatric mood swings. Having the right number of probiotics present in the gut stops any imbalances that may arise. This, in turn, helps with avoiding psychiatric sessions.

The research carried out by the Baltimore Sheppard Pratt Health System has successfully identified a probiotic supplement which restricts the inflammation of the digestive system. Inflammation in the gut has been known to worsen bipolar disorder.

Probiotic organisms are nonpathogenic or ‘good’ bacteria. Dr. Faith Dickerson, a renowned clinical psychologist, said, “Previous studies have identified correlations between immunological abnormalities and mania, and this may contribute to the acute mood state.

With increasing evidence about the potential benefits of probiotics to regulate mood through the gut-brain axis, we saw an opportunity to further explore the use of probiotics as there have been no published trials with mania.”

Dr. Faith Dickerson also serves as the Director of Stanley Research at Shepperd Pratt Health System, Baltimore. Her team researched the rehospitalization rate among the patients. They prescribed adjunctive probiotics 33 of 66 patients after discharge. These were to be taken over a course of 24 weeks.

The patients under study were kept in contact via weekly phone calls and monthly in-person visits. The other 33 were given a traditional placebo treatment.

According to a press release of the 33 who were taking placebo 24 were rehospitalized. On the contrary, only 8 of 33 were rehospitalized from the group that was prescribed the probiotic treatment.

While selecting the patients who were to receive the probiotic treatment, to prevent any bias, their selection criteria were random. They randomly allocated discharged patients to receive 24 weeks of adjunctive probiotics — Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis strain Bb12 – or adjunctive placebo to investigate the effect of treatment on the risk for rehospitalization.

Dr. Faith in her press release said, “Our study provides evidence that the administration of probiotic organisms can alter the clinical course of individuals discharged following hospitalization for mania. The adjunctive use of probiotics might represent a major addition to the therapeutic armamentarium for the management of mania and other mood disorders.”

Our understanding of the psychiatric disorders was limited up to the point where we could only administer antipsychotic drugs to control the effects from the disorders. Findings like these can prove pivotal. It is intriguing that something as simple as a probiotic could be the nature’s way of tackling psychiatric problems.

According to Dr. Faith, this finding could prove to be a step in the right direction. It could pave the way for a new medication that are based on natural substances. It will also enable us to better understand the disorders and their causes.

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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