A New Meaning to “Gut Feeling”

        The relationship between gut bacteria and Bipolar Disorder brings a new meaning to “gut feeling.” What does your gut have to do with your brain? The gut has the ability to communicate with the brain through the nervous system, hormones and the immune system. Microorganisms work in sync with the body and the enteric nervous system connects the gut with the brain and can act independently by influencing the central nervous system (LaBouff, 2017). A sort of domino effect can arise because our mind and body are connected through the chemistry of our body.

        In a study conducted by Evans et al., there were significant differences between microbiome communities in individuals with bipolar disorder compared to controls as well as self-reported burden of disease measurements (Evans, 2016). While focusing on a particular bacterium, Faecalibacterium, they saw that a higher presence of Faecalibacterium in the gut correlates to a healthier state in both mental and physical illnesses (Evans, 2016). A decreased occurrence of Faecalibacterium was observed in participants who were bipolar. More interesting, they saw that lower gut levels of the bacteria may be associated to a depressed state while higher levels may be associated to psychiatric outcomes. Faecalibacterium was also negatively associated with self-reported burden of disease measures in bipolar individuals and overall positively associated with bipolar illness (Evans, 2016). These associations suggest Faecalibacterium can be therapeutically used in bipolar patients, however more studies would have to be conducted to test this hypothesis.

        Rather than bacteria, Mangiola et al. focus on the physical behavior of the gastrointestinal system. They saw that when the gastrointestinal system was inflamed which is apparent in disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, this reflected alterations in the microbiota. Therefore, the gastrointestinal system has an important role in neuropsychiatric disorders and the microbiome that makes up this system has a key role in the development of mood disorders (Mangiola, 2016). But how can your gut influence your mind? Alterations in intestinal permeability can influence pro-inflammatory factors such as lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Molecules like LPS are important influences in the communication to the central nervous system. This altered modulation can increase factors that change physiological brain activity and activity of the amygdala, the emotional controls of the brain (Mangiola, 2016).

        There’s also evidence that stress can affect the microbiome and in some cases, the effects can be long term influences on the helpful bacteria in the gut. This brings up the idea of benefiting our gut, but how? First and foremost, those who eat refined foods have a different microbiome than those who eat more whole foods (Deans, 2014). Using the gastrointestinal system for therapy for individuals with bipolar disorder is a conversation that might be beneficial for those with this mental illness. Although the research is still in a preliminary stage, Mangiola et al. suggest potential therapeutics. Antibiotics can be used to manage the gastrointestinal tract, ingesting probiotics which will modulate the immune and inflammatory response and fecal microbiota transplantation (Mangiola, 2016). Fecal microbiota transplantation has been shown to influence depression or mood after altering the microbiota.

        Having a gut feeling has a whole new meaning. The associated between the mind and body reminds us that our minds are in sync with our bodies and opens doors for new therapeutic possibilities for mental illness. With more research and investigation into the matter, the gut can be a revolutionary way to treat bipolar disorder.



Deans, E. (2014, April 4). The Gut-Brain Connection, Mental Illness, and Disease. Retrieved March 14, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201404/the-gut-brain-connection-mental-illness-and-disease

Evans, S. J., Bassis, C. M., Hein, R., Assari, S., Flowers, S. A., Kelly, M. B., & … McInnis, M. G. (2016). The gut microbiome composition associates with bipolar disorder and illness severity. Journal Of Psychiatric Research, 8723-29. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.12.007

LaBouff, L. (2017, January 3). Gut Bacteria May Affect Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-laid-bare/2017/01/gut-bacteria-may-affect-bipolar-disorder-schizophrenia/

Mangiola, F., Ianiro, G., Franceschi, F., Fagiuoli, S., Gasbarrini, G., & Gasbarrini, A. (2016). Gut microbiota in autism and mood disorders. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 22(1), 361–368. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v22.i1.361



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